football Edit

Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge: The Farrell Awards

ATLANTA -- The Rivals100 Five Star Challenge Presented By Under Armour is in the books, so it’s once again time for the Farrell Awards. After observing these elite prospects for four hours of drills and skill work on Saturday morning and then a 7-on-7 tournament plus Big Man Challenge on Saturday night, here is what stood out from field level at the Georgia Dome.


This goes to the player who looks the best getting off the bus (or in this case coming through registration), and no one looked better on the hoof than Vandarius Cowan. You can’t build a better looking at linebacker. Cowan is the kind of kid when playing linebacker you wonder why he’s not rushing off the edge with his hand on the ground because he’s so big and long. But aside from hating any talk of playing along the line, he can run well for a huge ‘backer and covers a lot of ground.

Honorable Mention: Offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood looks mean and is very put together and Jaelan Phillips looks great for a rush end/hybrid kid. Cam Akers is a beast at running back and Baron Browning looks great for a linebacker, similar to Cowan although not as long. There were many others as well, pretty much too many to name.


This goes to the smallest player who made the biggest impact and that was clearly Tyjon Lindsey, who took home wide receiver MVP honors. It’s not easy to make people miss when it’s one-hand touch 7-on-7 play, but that’s exactly what Lindsey did on a few occasions. He may not be tall or big, but he’s explosive.

Honorable Mention: Cornerback Trajan Bandy was very good in the morning and evening sessions despite giving away size at his position, and the same can be said for 2018 corner Asante Samuel Jr. Wide receiver KD Nixon had a big impact on his team and helped lead them to the title, and Jaylon Redd played both ways and showed off his speed that helped overcome a lack of size.


The winner of this award is the prospect who plays with the most passion and anger. There were many who fit that description among the big men, especially the offensive linemen. But Alex Leatherwood came with a purpose and was really not only showing power, passion and fury, but he had a nasty edge to his game as well.

Honorable Mention: Fellow offensive lineman Cade Mays always plays with anger, and he showed some of it during the one-on-ones. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was also very vocal, but that could be because he got frustrated at times when he was called for bull rushing when he felt he wasn’t simply plowing over kids. Obinna Eze has an edge to his game as well for a player new to football, and in the 7-on-7 portion, linebacker K.J. Britt often showed some anger and aggression.


This award goes to the player who showed off the best straight-line speed and looked like he had rockets on his back. The IllSpeed winner, Jaylon Redd, can run with everyone and anyone. This award usually goes to an offensive player, but Redd is the fastest cornerback you’ll find in the 2017 class.

Honorable Mention: Wide receiver Mike Harley ran away from everyone in the one-on-one portion, and the same can be said of fellow receiver Tyjon Lindsey. Jerry Jeudy was also very quick in and out of his breaks and AJ Terrell showed good closing speed. Running backs Najee Harris and Cam Akers were in their own category when it came to speed as a running back.


This award goes to the prospect that hurt his ranking the most and the tough choice here is James Robinson, who looked out of sorts from the beginning. The big wide receiver was awkward in his route running, didn’t gain much separation and really struggled catching the ball in the 7-on-7 portion in the evening.

Honorable Mention: Defensive lineman Martin Andrus struggled to look like he belonged with all the four- and five-stars numerous times. Linebacker Dylan Moses still hasn’t looked elite as a linebacker compared to the others in the country, and cornerback Jermani Brown showed very few signs of being a top-50 prospect. Wide receiver Henry Ruggs is near the end of the top-200 range, but he didn’t show it and was invisible much of the day, and defensive lineman Greg Rogers was overmatched more often than not.


This goes to the player who raised his stock the most, and this is tough because there were so many. Since he’s just inside the top 200 but was, to me, one of the most impressive offensive linemen on hand, I’ll go with Marquis Hayes, who showed that he would be a 40-offer kid if he played in the Southeast. His initial punch is excellent and he has surprising quickness after first contact.

Honorable Mention: Offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, the MVP at his position, is quickly putting his name in the mix for five-star discussion. Fellow offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson also impressed me as a potential top-50 player. I think linebacker Jacob Phillips, the MVP at his position, is making a case for the Rivals100, and running back Cam Akers also made a push for a fifth star.


This goes to the prospect that showed the most energy and pep in his step, for those who don't remember the greatest soda ever created. After struggling in the morning session, Lamont Wade roared back to life in the evening with double-digit pass breakups, an MVP award at defensive back and helped lead his team to the 7-on-7 title. He was, like last year, a ball of energy.

Honorable Mention: Marvin Wilson took a ton of reps as always and pulled double duty for his team. it’s rare when a quarterback is shot out of a cannon, but Chris Robison came out fired up and had a ton of energy. Linebacker Vandarius Cowan was also all over the place and was also cheering on future teammate Alex Leatherwood in between sessions as he went over to the OL-DL one-on-ones. Tyjon Lindsey became more and more energized as his team began to click. Cornerback Trajan Bandy was also fired up to take a ton of reps, as was Thomas Graham. 2018 defensive end Micah Parsons had boundless energy and was even running races with players in the evening, and running back Cam Akers did double duty on offense and defense for his team in impressive fashion.


This goes to the quarterback who throws the prettiest ball and "spins it" better than anyone else. Hunter Johnson throws a pretty ball. While he was up and down in the morning session, the ball still came out quick and catchable and in the evening he threw some darts en route to taking home the Quarterback MVP award.

Honorable Mention: Davis Mills throws a nice ball with a smooth and effortless release, and Chris Robison can also zip it a bit and has excellent touch downfield. Lowell Narcisse throws a really nice ball despite some accuracy problems.


This isn't an award you want to win, as it goes to the quarterback who locked in on his targets way too often. The recipient was clearly 2018 quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who stared down way too many targets and was a bit slow in his release even when he stuck on his first read.

Honorable Mention: Lowell Narcisse tends to lock onto his initial target at times. Chris Robison can as well, especially when his first read is to his right, because he has some trouble throwing across his body with accuracy and zip.


This award, if you can call it that, goes to the quarterback with the most deliberate delivery -- not a good thing. The only underclassmen quarterback at the event, Phil Jurkovec, has a deliberate delivery, which often leads to the ball coming out a tick too slow. As a 2018 prospect, he has plenty of time to work on it, and as a dual-threat it doesn’t hurt him in games as much as it would if he were a statue in the pocket.

Honorable Mention: The only other quarterback who could afford to speed things up a bit would be Jake Allen, who is inconsistent not only in his footwork but also in the speed of his release.


The quarterback that doesn't get rattled gets this award, and to me that was Sean Clifford. I was impressed because his arm was a bit tired after the morning session -- he came out for the 7-on-7 session and hung some balls and threw some ducks -- but somehow found a second wind and made some of the nicest passes of the evening. He dropped more than one dime in the perfect spot for key touchdowns for his team.

Honorable Mention: Mac Jones never feels pressure and heated up at the same time as Clifford, which is why his team won it all. Davis Mills looks like nothing bothers him at all - everything he does is effortless. Hunter Johnson was the best quarterback from start to finish and showed a lot of poise in the evening session.


This goes to the prospect with the best footwork, regardless of position, and wide receiver Mike Harley cuts on a dime and just sets up defensive backs so well. He’s not very big, but try dealing with his change of direction or even his ability to make you miss after the catch even in 7-on-7. He’s a blur.

Honorable Mention: For an underclassman, Al Blades has great feet and is very smooth in his backpedal while big man Jedrick Wills is always in position and moves his feet with ease depending on his opponents moves. Jacob Phillips, for a big linebacker, has very light feet, and wide out Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Thomas Graham are fun to watch with their footwork as well. Tyjon Lindsey, Jamire Calvin and others also showed some nice feet on offense, and Asante Samuel Jr. has flawless footwork for a 2018 prospect.


This award goes to the player with the best hands, and there were many who made great catches, including the running backs and tight ends. I’ll go with running back Najee Harris, who caught the ball like a wide receiver, bailed out his quarterbacks a few times by snatching the ball away from defenders and had very few drops.

Honorable Mention: Wide receiver K.D. Nixon looks like a running back, wasn’t targeted that much early but really made some big catches down the stretch. Tyjon Lindsey made a lot of nice catches, running back D’Andre Swift, Stephen Carr and Cam Akers all showed soft hands. Wide receiver Tarik Black was very steady. Tight end Matt Dotson showed good hands as did Ortre Smith on a couple of sideline catches. He's a kid who looks like he could grow into a tight end.


We could call this award "the blanket," but it doesn't sound as cool. This is for the defensive back who provided the best overall coverage at the event and was all over wideouts. You may think the defensive back MVP (Lamont Wade) would win this award, but I’m giving it to 2018 cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. In the morning and evening sessions, he was all over everyone, showing great instincts, elite closing speed and the ability to cover bigger guys. He’s a natural at corner.

Honorable Mention: LaMont Wade won the MVP at his position for a reason -- he’s always around the ball. While he may not be as natural or fluid as Samuel with his footwork or instincts, he closes as well as anyone, is physical and has that knack for being around the pigskin you just can’t teach. Cornerback AJ Terrell wasn’t targeted much but when he was he held strong in the 7-on-7 games, while Thomas Graham was solid and consistent overall. Jeffrey Okudah is a special player, a safety who can solo cover as a cornerback, and he got off to an amazing start in 7-on-7 play. Trajan Bandy and two 2018 studs from Texas, Anthony Cook and B.J. Foster, had some big-time moments as well.


This goes to the player who had the most interceptions over the weekend and was the biggest threat to pick off a pass. Once again the award goes to Asante Samuel, who had at least two interceptions I saw, including one where he dove and tipped the ball in the air, recovered and dove and caught it before it hit the ground.

Honorable Mention: Jaylon Redd was a threat for an interception often and had at least one. LaMont Wade had a pick and dropped a couple others he should have had. Class of 2018 linebacker Matthew Bauer had a nice interception, as did Jeffrey Okudah and Trajan Bandy at defensive back. Linebackers K.J. Britt and Drew Singleton each had interceptions I saw as well, although they were rare moments of impact for each.


This award goes to the player you look at during warmups and simply assume plays a position other than his own. AJ Terrell looks too big to be a cornerback and has a frame where he could be a small linebacker if he continues to grow. At the very least he has a safety body, but he could be that rare tall, big corner who can stay out there or at least start off at safety in college and move to corner a la Jalen Ramsey.

Honorable Mention: Jake Lawler looks like a linebacker, at least compared to the huge defensive linemen in attendance, and I’ve already mentioned how Cowan looks like a rush end. You could easily mistake Najee Harris for a lean, long linebacker if you didn’t know he was a star running back. The second you look at Jedrick Wills you think he’s a guard until you watch him play outside. Also, once you see Jaelan Phillips in person it’s hard to believe he plays all of his time standing up. OrTre Smith could easily pass for a tight end as well and tight end Jimmy Jaggers is big enough to be an offensive tackle on many high school teams I’ve seen.


This award goes to the prospect that looked great one moment and simply overmatched at other times, and that has to be wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. The Jeudy I saw in the morning session looked like a five-star as he was toying with defensive backs. But by the evening session he wasn’t getting the separation we saw earlier, he dropped a few passes and simply had very little impact on his team with only a couple of touchdowns all night.

Honorable Mention: D’Andre Swift fought the ball in the morning session and had some big drops, but in the 7-on-7 games he seemed to catch everything within his reach and made some big plays. Wide receiver Mike Harley was excellent in the morning, caught a bomb for a touchdown on the second play of 7-on-7 and then wasn’t heard from much thereafter. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson didn’t look like his normal No. 1 self in the morning, but he kept churning out rep after rep in the evening, never tired and carried the load for his team down two players in the Big Man Challenge.


The future is so bright ... you get the message. This is about the underclassman prospect who has the highest upside. It was a really tough call because there were many. I absolutely love the potential that Al Blades has. I think he has a five-star future and will be a superstar in college based on his size, length, speed and attitude. Those bloodlines don’t hurt either, huh? Asante Samuel Jr. had the better day overall, but Blades has more upside with his size.

Honorable Mention: Defensive lineman Trevor Trout impressed even more than he did in the Kansas City Regional, at least to me. Micah Parsons needs to add size and some pass rushing moves, but he can flat out get off the snap. The two Texas defensive backs, Anthony Cook and B.J. Foster, will both be stars and will continue to be names to watch in the 2018 class, and Jaiden Woodbey played both ways and showed great athleticism.


This is for the player or players who, unfortunately, got bit by the injury bug at the event. Defensive back Isaiah Pryor was out very quickly with a sprained ankle which ended his day before any one-on-ones started. Luckily it’s not a serious injury.

Honorable Mention: Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones missed the evening session with a hamstring, as did linebacker Tyler Taylor. Linebacker Tadarian Moultry went out pretty quickly as well. By the end of the day, there were many banged up players but nothing serious, just the attrition of a very competitive day.


This award goes to the player who fought through the biggest injury to excel. Wide receiver Trevon Grimes is a gamer, playing on some bad and bloodied feet and was clearly hobbled, which limited his effectiveness. But he kept going out there and giving it his all, whether he was used as a decoy or for short catches.

Honorable Mention: Offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, was poked in the eye pretty badly by defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and missed only one rep. But what do you expect from a kid from Camden, N.J. right? Baron Browning was another of many players who was injured and could have packed it in but played through the pain


This is a tough award to hand out, but every year it seems there is a big-time wide receiver who disappoints. Last year it was Darnell Salomon, a five-star at the time who struggled badly. this year it was James Robinson, who also hails from Florida. Robinson really struggled in his route running and fought the ball often and just didn’t look like the same guy we saw on film his junior year.

Honorable Mention: For the No. 13 player in the country, Dylan Moses wasn’t talked about much when it came to making big plays, and he struggled in solo coverage against the great group of running backs on hand. Linebacker Drew Singleton didn’t get too many mentions from our group as well, and Lowell Narcisse struggled with his overall accuracy, as did 2018 quarterback Phil Jurkovec.