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May 28, 2013
Rivals.com, the nation's leader in football recruiting coverage, is bringing more than 100 of the country's top prospects to participate in the second annual Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour. The free, invitation-only camp for the nation's elite will feature top prospects at all positions from the classes of 2014 and 2015. Each position is loaded with talent, and today we take a look at the running backs.
Leonard Fournette, New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine; Elijah Hood, Charlotte (N.C.) Charlotte Catholic; Sony Michel, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage; Joe Mixon, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom; Nicholas Brossette (2015 understudy); Baton Rouge (La.) University Laboratory School; Jacques Patrick (2015 understudy), Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek
When it comes to running backs in the 2014 recruiting class, Fournette sets the bar. His size, speed, agility, and versatility are a rare combination, and everyone with a scholarship to offer has put one on the table. To put it plainly, he does it all from the running back position and he is a solid blocker and receiver as well as a runner. He is at the top of a group of five-star running backs heading into Chicago, and Fournette will have an opportunity to show what separates him from the rest of the pack.
Mixon moved up to five-star status after an outstanding showing at the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour event in Los Angeles and a seven-on-seven in Southern California, but the running back position at the Five-Star Challenge is loaded so he's still the lowest-rated player in the group. The Oakley (Calif.) Freedom standout has the tools to be a dominant player during the weekend in Chicago and to further improve his ranking entering his senior season. Mixon is put together as well as any running back in the country, and he has surprising speed for a player his size. Plus, he can legitimately be a wide receiver because he has such soft hands.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Michel can push for the No. 1 spot, but he will have to earn it. Fournette isn't going anywhere, barring injury, and Mixon and Hood are coming off big spring performances. Now that he is committed to Georgia, Michel can put recruiting aside and focus on his game. He has an elite second gear to go with excellent vision and quickness. We've seen him at the seven-on-seven tryouts, and he has reliable hands. Many recruiting experts want to see if he can return to his eighth grade form that saw him lead Broward County in rushing with more than 1,700 yards after he missed his sophomore year with a knee injury.
MOST TO PROVE
In recent months Hood finally shifted from athlete to full-blown running back, and that's where Notre Dame sees him having a major impact at the next level. Now, Hood, who for a time preferred linebacker, will have to prove that he's on the same playing field as fellow five-stars Michel, Mixon and Fournette, who have been focusing on the position longer. There's no doubt Hood is an elite athlete, but his time in Chicago will be about showing that he belongs among the country's elite at the running back position.
BEST CHANCE TO BOOST STOCK
Mixon moved all the way to No. 15 in the 2014 class, but this will be his chance to prove himself against the best in the country. He has the tools to do it. At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Mixon is physical, tough, fast and difficult to defend in one-on-one situations. Mixon's biggest advantage might come in the passing game because he's a solid receiver, proving that with many highlight-reel catches this spring, and that's what might separate him from the rest of an outstanding pack.
Brossette, like Fournette, is a big Louisiana back, and he has emerged as one of the top running backs in the 2015 class. He is a hard charger out of the backfield and has been a three-year varsity starter for University Lab. In 2012, he posted 2,118 rushing yards on 240 carries. Meanwhile, Patrick has great size to go with deceptive speed. This spring we've seen him line up at wide receiver in seven-on-seven action, and he is a more than capable pass-catching threat split out wide.