CINCINNATI -- The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour will head to Cincinnati this weekend and many top story lines are expected to emerge. Here are five things to watch for this weekend.
1. Air Patrol
California and the Southeast might be known as the big producers of defensive back talent in the country, but the Midwest will state its case for respect in Cincinnati this weekend.
The group of cornerbacks and safeties headed to Lakota West High School on Saturday is very deep with talent.
Headlining the group is Ohio State cornerback commit Damon Webb of Detroit Cass Tech, ranked as the No. 32 overall prospect in the country and the No. 6 cornerback. He will be joined by fellow four-star defensive backs Darius West of Lima (Ohio) Central Catholic and Nilijah Ballew of Cincinnati (Ohio) Walnut Hills.
In total, more than 15 defensive backs attending on Saturday already have garnered Division I scholarship offers. But they will not find easy matchups. The wide receiver group headed to Cincinnati is also packed with top-end talent, including four-stars Derek Kief and Travon Hudson. The one-on-ones between these two position groups promises to be among the day's best.
2. Fighting for a fourth star
The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour is an opportunity for top prospects to test themselves against the other top players in the region, but another stated goal by many of the upcoming participants is to increase their Rivals rating.
Those players who sit on the cusp of four-star status seem to be most motivated, and Saturday's event in Cincinnati will feature a number of prospects who are in the high three-star range, including Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods safety Mike Edwards, Minster, Ohio, tight end Ethan Wolf, Elizabethtown (Ky.) John Hardin defensive tackle Matt Elam, Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista defensive end Jalen Jelks, Southfield, Mich., defensive end Lawrence Marshall and Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne linebacker Dorian Hendrix.
Several from Rivals.com's team of analysts will be on hand for Saturday's camp, evaluating all players and seeing their offseason progression.
3. Talented tight ends
The 2014 class might feature the deepest group of tight end prospects the Midwest has seen in the last decade, and that has translated into a very strong group of tight ends who will be at Saturday's Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour in Cincinnati.
The tight end position is rarely very deep at any showcase camp, but Saturday's group will be an exception. Among the touted tight ends who will be participating are Tennessee commit Ethan Wolf, Louisville commit Micky Crum, Western Michigan commit Lucas Bezerra and Westerville (Ohio) South three-star Darryl Long.
Additionally, Middletown, Ohio's, Chance Sorrell, Rochester (Mich.) Adams' Matt Sokol and Lapeer (Mich.) East's Kyle Rachwal each boast their own early scholarship offers, rounding out a strong collection of talent at the position.
4. Sleeper Saturday
Every stop on the Rivals Camp tour thus far has seen lesser-known names outperform prospects with more offers. The Cincinnati camp is expected to be one of the most talent-rich events on the circuit, but the expectation is that sleepers will emerge as they have at previous stops.
The quarterback group boasts big names such as Drew Barker, DeShone Kizer and Reggie Bonnafon, but don't be surprised if some less-heralded signal-callers without BCS offers end up performing on par with those bigger names. A few to keep an eye on are Ithaca's (Mich.) Travis Smith, Louisville (Ky.) Valley's Robert Jones and Cincinnati (Ohio) Indian Hills' Matt Thompson.
The defensive end position also features heavy-hitters such as Southfield (Mich.) pass rusher Lawrence Marshall and Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista phenom Jalen Jells, but keep an eye on Clayton (Ohio) Northmont's Terry Ramsey, Fort Wayne (Ind.) South Side's Nathan Braster and University of Detroit Jesuit's Jacari Faulkner as guys who could contend for top honors at the position.
Running down the list, a few other sleepers who could break out on Saturday include Detroit King athlete Avonte Maddox, Lima (Ohio) Central Catholic athlete MyKale Rogers, Clarksville (Ohio) Clinton-Massie running back Bayle Wolf and Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) safety Kieran Winn.
5. Underclassmen watch
Prospects from the classes of 2015, 2016 and even 2017 have placed themselves on the radar at earlier Rivals Camp Series' stops, and that trend should continue this weekend in Cincinnati because there is a strong group of underclassmen who will take the field Saturday.
There are several underclassmen -- such as Detroit Cass Tech defensive end Joshua Alabi, Cincinnati St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard and Saginaw (Mich.) Heritage athlete Brian Cole -- who have already started to draw BCS scholarship offers. Many more are likely to start their offer runs in the next few months.
The linebacker group, in particular, features several underclassmen who have shown tremendous promise. Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic's Chris Green was a catalyst for his team's state finals win this past December. East Grand Rapids (Mich.) sophomore Carter Masek and Jackson (Ohio) sophomore Reagan Williams are also drawing strong early BCS level interest.
Two underclassmen who could challenge to be among the best at their position are Athens, Ohio, 2015 quarterback Joe Burrow and Columbus (Ind.) East 2015 running back Markell Jones. Burrow already holds an offer from Ohio University and the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Jones has some of the best sophomore running back film out there.
There will be a strong class-of-2016 presence with Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers quarterback Noah Wezensky and his wide receiver teammate Austin Mack expected to make noise for sophomores. We are also looking forward to seeing ultra-athletic Hamilton, Ohio, cornerback A'shon Riggins and bruising Springfield, Ohio, freshman tailback Xavier Garland.
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