The #RivalsChallenge Stock Report: Running backs
ATLANTA – Five running backs were selected to compete in this year’s Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas – one more than the traditional four that are typically selected to the annual showcase. The event gave every prospect a chance to show off their talents against some of the best in the nation on both sides of the ball. With such a tight number at the position, it was easy to see which players took advantage of the opportunity - and which ones may have left something to be desired.
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Sanders might not ultimately see much of a change in his ranking after the Five-Star Challenge, as he was already inside the top 10 players in the nation overall. He was still the most impressive running back there by a long shot, both in his desire to take as many reps as he could as well as in what he was able to show of himself while taking them.
He showed up looking trimmer from when Rivals analysts last saw him much earlier this spring, and it seemed to pay dividends when it came to his burst and acceleration. For such a big guy, he looked good when working to juke defenders in open-field tackle simulation reps and was consistently productive in creating separation and getting open in the 7-on-7 tournament later in the afternoon. Perhaps the most surprising thing about his performance overall was how frequently he found himself open on deep seam routes for touchdowns en route to his team's 7-on-7 championship win.
Dollars’ day ended early after a taking a knock trying to make a catch early in the 7-on-7 tournament, though he seemed to be alright. Earlier in the day, during open-field tackle simulation, he started a bit slow, but showed quick feet and started to win reps with a series of jukes that left linebackers frozen or diving as he squeezed away down the sideline.
Dollars’ best work really came during the 1-on-1 reps against covering linebackers in the passing game, as he was able to get behind most of his defenders to make an assortment of catches downfield. Although he might have been the smallest back at the event, he was of thick enough build to not get jostled out of running his routes and covering ground quickly.
An argument might be made for Ford to be a Stock Down candidate, since he wasn’t overly successful in one-on-one work against linebackers in pass coverage or a heavy influencer for his 7-on-7 team, relative to his lofty ranking. In the open-field tackle simulation, however, he had the most convincing look of a running back capable of picking his spot, sticking a foot in the ground and moving with power to evade pretend tacklers. In that regard, Ford looked like he ran with natural lean and pad-level awareness.
Had there been some sort of true inside-run drill, in which all the prospects put on their pads and went full-bore, Ford had the look of a guy that would be the most likely to find success running up the gut or bouncing one outside without any wasted movement.
If stats were kept on the afternoon, Evans would be an easy Stock Down candidate as well, but that really wouldn’t tell his complete story for the day. In the open-field tackle simulation, in each of his first two reps he slipped and thought it better not to continue at risk of dealing with more of the same results.
After coming back in the one-on-one pass reps against linebackers, he was finding much more success before Justin Flowe rolled up on his ankle from behind in a diving attempt to defend an incoming pass. After that, Evans’ day was done and his ankle was left a bit tender.
Richards’ physical appearance and style of play was reminiscent of former Five-Star Challenge participant SoSo Jamabo. Although he’s an all-purpose back, in the open-field tackle simulation he just had a natural inclination to play high and bounce around rather than look to juke or burst his way by defenders. In the one-on-one reps against linebackers in coverage, he was better – maybe that was to be expected, as he is built closer to a wide receiver than a traditional running back – but on the move and in space he was a more effective player.