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Rivals Recap: Five-Star Challenge 7-on-7 tournament highlights

ATLANTA – The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge Presented by Under Armour concluded Saturday night with the 7-on-7 tournament, won by Team Armour which fielded two of the five skill position MVP’s.

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WE WERE IMPRESSED BY...

Najee Harris
Najee Harris

The Five-Star Challenge has featured running backs the likes of Leonard Fournette and Joe Mixon, but the analyst team was in agreement that the group of four ball carriers this year was the deepest in the event’s five-year history. Physically the collection of Cam Akers, Najee Harris, Stephen Carr and D’Andre Swift all look the part, and they backed it up with their play. Running backs do not always factor in on 7-on-7, but each of the four recorded multiple touchdowns on the day with Harris leading all players scoring six times. The Alabama commit also took home position MVP honors, which was hard-earned considering the depth at the position.

In the morning session it appeared Clairton, Pa., cornerback Lamont Wade might have tweaked his knee. He just did not look his normal self in the one-on-one session, but when the lights turned on and the competition heated up for 7-on-7 play the five-star came alive and took home the defensive back MVP trophy after just missing on the award at the 2015 Five-Star Challenge. Wade led all defensive backs with nine pass break-ups, including two on the final series that sealed the win for Team Armour. Wade also recorded an interception and was the emotional leader of his championship squad.

The running back and receiver MVP awards are both heading to California, with Harris winning at the running back position and Corona Centennial’s Tyjon Lindsey winning for receivers. Lyndsay scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the championship for Team Armour. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder’s most impressive touchdowns came earlier in the day with runs after catch that displayed his explosiveness and creativity.

The Midwest accounted for two of the eight quarterbacks in this year’s Five-Star Challenge, and by night’s end Brownsburg, Ind., five-star Hunter Johnson and Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier four-star Sean Clifford tied for the most touchdowns thrown during 7-on-7 play with eight apiece. Johnson, a Clemson commit, ended up taking home position MVP honors after a consistently impressive performance from start to finish, but Clifford, who is committed to Penn State, led Team Armour to the championship win.

WE WERE SURPRISED BY...

Desoto, Texas, four-star wide receiver K.D. Nixon was a late addition to the Five-Star Challenge roster and took a little time to get acclimated to the big stage. By day’s end, however, the Tennessee commit came up big for the victorious Team Armour, scoring four total touchdowns on the day. At just 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, Nixon is not the biggest wide receiver, but he is particularly adept at getting separation in the short and intermediate passing game, where he was a favorite check-down option of his quarterbacks.

After a standout morning session in which he was deemed by the Rivals analyst team to have posted the most impressive wide receiver performance, Deerfield Beach, Fla., wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had a very quiet 7-on-7 performance. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound wideout usually thrives in 7-on-7 setting and has the perfect game for that set up, but a couple untimely drops derailed his momentum from the morning and he was largely a non-factor for Team Highlight.

It takes a special underclassmen to stand out in a setting as talented as the Five-Star Challenge, and the defensive back position provided three of the most impressive underclassmen performances of the event. Houston (Texas) Lamar 2018 cornerback Anthony Cook was a standout in the morning portion of the event, then came back with a solid 7-on-7 showing. Fellow Texas rising junior B.J. Foster, meanwhile, came up with one of the most clutch plays of the day, intercepting a pass in the end zone that was key to elevating Team Spotlight to the championship game. The most impressive underclassmen defensive back, though, was Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas’ Asante Samuel, who was in strong consideration for the defensive back MVP award.