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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour has made its turn up the Eastern Seaboard, and at the Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek event it shifted
focus to the next class of players.
A day after a group of Class of 2014 defensive linemen battled for the top spot in the nation, members of the same position group for 2015 took their turns jockeying for places in front of a host of recruiting analysts.
Orangeburg (S.C.) Wilkinson strongside end Albert Huggins was joined by Bluffton (S.C.) High prospect Shameik Blackshear and Ridgeville (S.C.) Woodland player Michael Barnett as three players who knew of one another walking into the event.
"Me, Shameik and Mike are ready to blow up," Huggins said. "That's what I am ready for, is to blow up."
Huggins said he has been working in the weight room and bulked up since the season ended. He weighed in at just less than 280 pounds -- which was up from 253 at season's end -- and said he figures to be playing at 265 this season.
Huggins has offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and Georgia, as well as two in-state programs, Clemson and South Carolina.
He said he loves Clemson but he uses a player on South Carolina as inspiration: former five-star recruit and No. 1 player in the country Jadeveon Clowney.
"He is like a mentor, in my mind," Huggins said. "I use him to push myself every day in the weight room and push myself when I go out onto the field."
Huggins is a junior and is not ranked by Rivals.com. He said his goal is to break Clowney's records and be the next big thing to come out of the state.
Both are goals that Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said are attainable.
"He's a four-star at the minimum," Farrell said. "We will have to see how he develops, but right now he looks like he is built to play strongside or weakside defensive end with the ability to slide inside if he needs to."
For Farrell, it was another prospect from the class of 2015 who made a more natural comparison to Clowney.
"I think Shameik has the highest upside of the three," he said. "Out of those guys, he is the longest and has the frame to do what Clowney did.
"He is a natural to rush the passer and has the technical skills to make the plays. I don't think anyone is going to be as good as Clowney was because he was the best player I have seen in high school, but Shameik could get the closest."
Blackshear moved to South Carolina from the Bronx, N.Y., to play football and get an opportunity to better his situation.
He is determined to take advantage of that chance.
"There is no doubt I would be into trouble if I was still in the Bronx," Blackshear said. "I have a tremendous opportunity right now, and I have to take advantage of all of the things I have been blessed with."
At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, he is the closest of the prospects to Clowney's measurable. The current South Carolina player was 6-foot-6 and 247 pounds in high school.
Blackshear said it wasn't the first time he has heard the comparisons but it isn't something he focuses on.
"I don't really like being compared to anyone," he said. "I play my own style."
Barnett was the one who most embraced the comparisons.
"I believe I can be up to Jadeveon Clowney's par," Barnett said. "I can be the best defensive end in South Carolina."
At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Farrell said, Barnett has the body type of a pure outside rush end.
With offers from Virginia Tech and N.C. State, Barnett is starting to gain notice. He plans on holding to that pattern.
"I wear No. 77 because I plan to be two times better than Jadeveon Clowney," he said.
The Rivals Camp Series event was the first chance for Rivals.com analysts to see the trio together. It is a battle for position that still has another 18 months to go.
"It was a great group," Farrell said. "There is five-star potential and it is great that they all emulate one of the best out there, but I don't think another Jadeveon Clowney is going to happen for at least another decade."
Raleigh (N.C.) Leesville Road wide receiver Braxton Berrios entered the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour with plenty of hype.
The generously listed 5-foot-10 prospect has made a name for himself with acrobatic catches, trash talk and his four-star ranking.
The pair lined up for one-on-one reps as a tandem most of the afternoon, and it is something that each hopes will continue after high school.
"I have been recruiting him nonstop," Grier said. "I have to get him down to campus and he will commit."
Berrios has offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Oregon and Tennessee are believed to be close. But not Florida.
He said Grier has been active in selling him on the product.
"I don't blame him," Berrios said. "If I was committed somewhere, I would want all my boys and my friends at my school, too.
"We have been talking about it for awhile, and we have more than just a recruiter/recruitee relationship. We are friends."
Berrios plans to be a December graduate and enroll early at whichever school he chooses, so he must decide soon.
He didn't go as far as saying he would immediately commit Florida, but he would strongly consider the Gators if they offer.
"It's a huge offer and an offer that I'd love to have," Berrios said. "It'd be hard not to say yes."
Farrell said he was not shocked that the pair formed a bond.
"They are two guys who are way better than you expect them to be when you first see them," Farrell said. "Both of those guys are special football players, but they aren't guys you would see standing around in warm-ups and think too much of.
"I am sure they got comfortable with one another because they have been proving people wrong for so long. Will has one of the most impressive highlight tapes of anyone in the country, and Berrios doesn't drop passes. In fact, he usually will make an acrobatic catch or two that there is just no way he should come down with."
If Florida extends an offer to Berrios, he knows Grier will amp up the pressure.
"Will would be at my doorstep," Berrios said. "I honestly think he'd be there and saying let's go back down because you're going to commit."
Rivals100 invitations extended
The circuit-ending Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour added three players from the Charlotte location of the Rivals Camp Series.
Five-star athlete Elijah Hood from Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic will be joined by Grier -- the No. 18 player in the Rivals100 -- and returning participant Kevin Crosby of Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
Hood, who has offers as a running back and linebacker, impressed Farrell.
"He is an animal," Farrell said. "He reminds me a lot of (former five-star) Ernie Sims. He is a physical runner who is a load to bring down but is also fast enough to run by you.
"Ernie was the same way and chose to play linebacker, but I think Elijah will be an elite running back."
Grier became the second quarterback in the country to be selected to the event.
Farrell said his film is as good as any player's at the position.
"The film on Grier is better than Deshaun Watson, and he is already a five-star," Farrell said.
Crosby, like Hood, is listed as an athlete and is ranked No. 132 in the Rivals250.
Farrell said his versatility is what can make him special.
"He is a halfback, flex tight end," Farrell said. "He is a perfect tweener for the two and is a really polished kid. Last year he floated around the field playing tight end and linebacker, so this year he will likely focus just on offense."
The three bring the total of players invited to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge to 39. With five stops left on the Camp Series tour, there are plenty of spots left to fill.
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