MORE: The Farrell Awards
It's appropriate that for the inaugural Rivals Underclassmen Challenge in DeSoto, Texas, Rivals.com debuts new awards. While nobody does it like Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell, Josh Helmholdt and Brian Perroni handed out their own awards. For argument's sake, let's call them the Helmerroni Awards.
Packing a punch
This award goes to the position group that was strongest top to bottom. The tight end group was by far the smallest at the event with just four total players, but each one proved he will be heavily recruited. Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood's Daniel Helm took home MVP honors.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder was outstanding on Sunday, but the race was closely contested. Westlake (La.) rising junior Jacory Washington (6-5, 210) and Westerville (Ohio) South's Darryl Long (6-4, 220) are both impressive physical specimens who proved to weapons in the passing game, while class of 2015 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei's Kyle Penniston backed up his early offer from Florida State by being every bit as good as the 2014 tight ends.
Making the sacrifice
This award goes to the player who made the greatest effort to participate in the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge. Saint John (Ind.) Lake Central's Gelen Robinson spent the latter half of last week cutting 20 pounds so he could make weight for his wrestling tournament on Saturday in Ohio. He went 5-0 in that tournament, then drove four hours back home and had flown down to Dallas in time for Sunday's noon start. The sacrifice paid off, as Robinson was one of the top defensive line performers at the event. Runner-up goes to running back Mikale Wilbon, who drove 16 hours from his home in Chicago to attend Sunday's showcase.
This award goes to a prospect who exceeded expectations. A total of 15 defensive backs in the state of Texas' 2014 class already boast scholarship offers and most were in attendance at the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge. San Antonio Roosevelt's Arrion Springs was not one of those Texas defensive backs who came in with an offer, but by day's end he proved to be one of the top five performers at the position, outplaying several at his position who already hold scholarship offers. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Springs has an ideal safety frame, with the size to come up in run support and the speed to close passing lanes in coverage.
This award goes to a prospect coming off injury who showed they are back to playing at a high level. Broken Arrow (Okla.) class of 2014 linebacker Gyasi Akem lost his sophomore season to a torn ACL and showed up at Sunday's event with a brace on his knee. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Akem showed absolutely no lingering effects of the injury, however, and by day's end had clearly established himself as the top performer among the linebacker group. Akem was arguably the most physically impressive linebacker prospect in attendance, and he showed good speed and athleticism whether he was moving laterally, backpedaling or coming downhill.
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This award goes to a class of 2015 prospect who showed great potential. A large portion of the rising sophomores could have qualified for this award, but one prospect we have not spoken much about who deserves mention is Tampa (Fla.) Sickels running back RayRay McCloud. McCloud appeared all of his listed 5-foot-9, and he has a frame that should be able to play at 180 pounds or more in college. Despite being one of the youngest prospects in attendance, McCloud was one of the most explosive players at the event. Whether running out of the backfield or at wide receiver, defenders had trouble handling's McCloud's quickness and agility.
Lightning in a bottle
This award goes to a prospect that is not just fast but incredibly as well, dominating in space. The winner is the aptly-named Speedy Noil of New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound high school quarterback projects to play wide receiver at the next level and he gave the defensive backs fits all day long. Noil gets up to speed very quickly and is able to make cuts to change direction that oftentimes leaves the defensive backs flat-footed. He needs more reps at the wide receiver position to work on his hands a bit but he has the potential to be very highly-ranked next year and already has four big-time offers under his belt.
This award goes to a smaller player who made a big impact. There is no question that McKinney, Texas, wide receiver T.V. Williams fits that description. Probably the least assuming prospect at the camp at 5-foot-8, 145 pounds, Williams played much larger than that on Sunday. He is incredibly quick off the ball and was able to get behind the defensive backs pretty easily in one-on-ones but he also showed very good leaping ability to go up and get high balls despite his lack of height. His size will certainly scare some teams away but Baylor has already offered and Texas A&M came close to doing so after a camp this summer.
This award goes to the player who was incredibly physical and played with a mean streak. It is most obvious among the linemen and it is no surprise that Palm Bay (Fla.) Bayside defensive tackle Travonte Valentine takes top honors. The 6-foot-3, 283-pound defender was nearly impossible to stop in the one-on-one drills as he used both speed and strength to his advantage. After every victory he was incredibly fired up and calling another offensive lineman out to take him on next. Two players on the offensive side -- Demetrius Knox and Jacob Bragg -- could both be considered runners-up for the award.
This award goes to the receiver who showed the best hands on the day. KD Cannon of Mount Pleasant, Texas, was not only the best all-around player regardless of position on Sunday but he also had the best hands of the wide receiver group. It was obvious in drills when the coaches were throwing blind comeback routes behind dummies and he was able to reach out and snag them all but he put on a show when it came to one-on-ones. Taking 30-40 reps on the day, only one ball thrown his way touched the ground. It is one thing to beat the defender but you still have to make the catch. Cannon certainly did just that. T.V. Williams and K.J. Williams also impressed with their hands.
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