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Rivals Camp Series in Houston: What to watch for this weekend

Jordan Whittington
Jordan Whittington (Rivals.com)

HOUSTON - For the first time in years, the Rivals Camp Series presented by adidas returns to Houston, and the event will be nothing short of a star-studded affair. With plenty of big-name talent expected to come out and compete, there are a number of players and storylines that Rivals.com will be keeping a close eye on during the camp. Below are some of the themes that will be most interesting to watch play out.

RELATED: Full Rivals Camps Series schedule & FAQs

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

1. Players with a big opportunity to make a big jump in rank.

Marcus Banks
Marcus Banks (Marcus Banks)

Jordan Whittington and Erick Young are both on the cusp of five-star status. In the last rankings update, it was determined that Rivals.com was going to get a good chance to see them both at least a few more times over the offseason - including at Sunday’s event - and both are in a group of players expected to make a strong case to win an invitation to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas this summer. Other players that have an opportunity to jump from three- to four-star status with a strong showing include Javonne Shepherd, Joshua Ellison, Kori Roberson and Marcus Banks. In some cases, Sunday’s camp will be the first time that Rivals.com analysts have been able to put eyes on several prospects, so the opportunity is a big one for many of the players coming out.

2. Can Arjei Henderson continue to stir the pot in the race for top WR?

Arjei Henderson
Arjei Henderson (Rivals.com)

Two of the nation’s top-three receivers are from Texas and all three are in the top-six players overall. Arjei Henderson is ranked lowest, with Theo Wease and Jadon Haselwood in front of him, but Sunday will give Henderson his first chance to change the minds of Rivals.com analysts since the last rankings update. Both Henderson and Wease were at the Future 50 camp in January preceding the Under Armour All-America Game, but early in one-on-one competition, Henderson rolled an ankle and didn’t have a chance to go toe-to-toe with Wease, who was outstanding.

At one point, Henderson moved in front of Wease in the rankings, but the Future 50 camp put some decent separation between the two. Henderson is a special talent - he makes the acrobatic seem like second nature and is as athletic as they come - but in order for him to move back in front of Wease and Haselwood he may need to dig in and dominate the camp at an even higher level than what’s expected.

3. Top linebacker spots are there for the taking.

Marcel Brooks
Marcel Brooks (Rivals.com)

Is Texas devoid of linebackers, or have the best ones simply not been discovered yet? Outside of Dallas-area prospect Marcel Brooks, who is expected to participate in the Houston camp, there aren’t a great deal of other prospects that command much attention at the position. Local product David Gbenda is another prospect that is on the shortlist of players looking to make an impression and snag a fourth star, and he has seen his recruitment take off in a short period of time since the camp season has begun this spring.

In the month of March, Gbenda has picked up offers from Colorado, Kansas State, Nebraska, SMU, Texas and Utah. Other players that have been on the recruiting radar but have yet to see things take off in a big way include Spencer Jones, Tyrique Matthews and Zach Zimos. The linebacker group projected to show up next week in Dallas is also on the lean side, so a big performance this week by a Texas linebacker could make a huge difference in the next state rankings.

4. Wide receiver vs. defensive back one-on-ones will steal the show.

Elijah Higgins
Elijah Higgins (Rivals.com)

Henderson might be the highest-ranked player at wide receiver, but he won’t be the only big-name wide receiver at the camp by a longshot. Devonta Lee, Elijah Higgins, Garrett Wilson, Jalen Curry and Whittington are all top 2019 prospects that will help Henderson headline the group, while Collin Sullivan, Demond Demas, and Troy Omeire are among the 2020 names that are expected to be in attendance. Lining up across from them, Bobby Wolfe, Dwight McGlothern and Jevin Murray join Banks and Young as guys that should be big playmakers at defensive back.

Some players whose names may not be as familiar as the ones mentioned, but could make a push for MVP honors at the camp include Kealon Jackson, Corey Williams and Nathaniel Beal at wide receiver, while Ja’Corey Benjamin, Kaymen St. Junious and Kevric Wiggins could make a quick name for themselves going up against some of the top receivers throughout the afternoon.

5. Which quarterbacks will separate themselves?

Jacob Zeno
Jacob Zeno (Jacob Zeno Twitter Profile)

Outside of Rivals100 quarterback Grant Gunnell, there is plenty of time and room for other quarterbacks to file in behind him and Allen quarterback Grant Tisdale. Texas quarterback commit Roschon Johnson is not expected to be at Sunday’s camp, and seems to be losing ground to passers like Chris Herron, Jacob Zeno and Terrence Gipson, who are all expected to participate this weekend. Intriguing quarterbacks in the 2020 class will have the chance to show off in a big way on Sunday as well, and Chandler Galban, Hunter Dunne and Malik Hornsby top the list of underclassmen.

Gunnell will be looking to earn a second consecutive invitation to the Five-Star Challenge, and he will be the most seasoned quarterback at the event. Tisdale is expected to be the top passer at the Dallas event next week, but players like Levi Williams, Sam Saxton and TJ Goodwin have the sort of physical tools that many programs search for in a quarterback, and they could be the next wave of prospects to start catching offers in bunches.