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May 15, 2012
All eyes on QB at R100 Five-Star Challenge
The field for the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, being held June 22-24 at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta, is incredibly loaded.
The quarterback position, however, will draw the majority of attention.
The event is being broken up by region into four teams, so only four passers will have the chance to compete. Two of those four are five-star prospects: Max Browne of Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline and Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright (Texas).
"Max Browne is the best pro-style quarterback in the country and could be the best since Matt Barkley," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "Tyrone Swoopes is a freak athlete, being compared to Vince Young."
Rivals.com West Region recruiting analyst Adam Gorney feels the event should provide an environment for Browne, a USC commit, to thrive.
"Browne was exceptional last year at the Stanford Elite 11 and was probably the best quarterback I had seen all offseason," Gorney said. "He has an incredibly smooth and strong arm, can hit receivers all over the field and has a calmness and charisma about him that's rare at this stage.
"Plus, he plays in a fast-paced, intricate offense and has put up huge numbers in high school, which is just another sign that he can handle difficult schemes and thrive within them."
Swoopes, a Texas commit, is the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country. Many see him as simply an athlete that is playing quarterback but Rivals.com Southwest recruiting analyst Brian Perroni cautions that it is not as simple as that.
"It is definitely true that Swoopes dominates against small-school competition by using his legs quite a bit and is definitely a mismatch," Perroni said. "However, he has shown this spring that he is a very capable passer as well. He looked good at the Dallas Elite 11 event and then was named Quarterback MVP the next day at the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp.
"Swoopes still has some maturing to do as a passer but I think he will go a long way toward proving his doubters wrong at the Five-Star Challenge. He has a much better and more accurate arm than many give him credit for and I think he will back up his lofty ranking."
Though Johnathon McCrary of Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove is overshadowed by his five-star counterparts at the event, the nation's No. 80 overall prospect and No. 2 dual-threat quarterback is no slouch in his own right. The Vanderbilt commit is looking forward to competing against both Browne and Swoopes.
"They're great athletes," McCrary said. "Browne has a really good arm and Tyrone Swoopes is big and fast. They certainly deserve to be ranked where they are.
"It gives me a little extra motivation for sure though. When it comes to rankings, that's not really a big deal to me because I know my work ethic matches up with anybody in the country."
Rounding out the group of passers and leading the way for the Midwest/Northeast team is Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. The Penn State pledge is currently ranked as the No. 153 overall prospect in the country. Browne sees some very good players among the group.
"I know Tyrone Swoopes is a great quarterback," Browne said. "He's top notch, a great athlete and a five-star prospect. He's drawn comparisons to Vince Young and is committed to Texas just like Vince. I've heard nothing but great things about him.
"The same thing goes for Hackenberg. I remember he got the Alabama offer when I did when they kind of decided the guys they were going after. He's a big-time pro-style quarterback. I've never seen him in person but I've heard great things about him. I don't know too much about McCrary yet but I'm ready to check him out for sure."
The quarterback will be facing some tough competition in the secondary. The cornerback position is just as top-heavy with five-stars of its own in Kendall Fuller of Olney (Md.) Good Counsel and Cameron Burrows of Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison.
"It's hard to single out any one position when it comes to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge," Farrell said, "but when you have two five-stars at quarterback and at cornerback, you have to look at those two areas.
"At corner, Fuller is the best cornerback I've seen since Patrick Peterson, who was Patrick Johnson back in 2008. Burrows has great size and is a special prospect as well. Those two positions really stand out because you have four of our 11 five-stars in that group alone."
While Farrell has had numerous opportunities to see Fuller in action, the same goes for Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt and Burrows.
"We often hear about wide receivers who cause match-up problems for cornerbacks, but Burrows is that rare cornerback who causes match-up problems for wide receivers," Helmholdt said. "At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds he has the ability to run with the fastest receivers in the game, and the fluidity needed to play the position. He is too big for wide receivers to be physical with at the line of scrimmage and too fast for speedy wide receivers to outrun."
Browne is certainly aware of the talent that will be lining up across from him.
"I think there will be some good competition," the five-star quarterback said. "I think one of the things that makes us all top recruits is that we love to compete. When you put us all on the same field, we're going to go at it. All the guys that are there will want to win. I know [the cornerbacks] will have their sights set on us so I'll be aware of them too."
MORE RIVALS100 FIVE-STAR CHALLENGE:
A big target: Prospects will want to face Bigelow
Incredible roster: Talent flocking to Challenge
Top junior: Hand brings advanced game