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June 29, 2013
Underclassmen Challenge raises profiles
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
The next KD Cannon is out there, and he will be spotted.
Now the No. 53 player in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour, Cannon entered the inaugural Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge presented by Under Armour not yet a household name at wide receiver, but he left with an overall MVP Award and an incredibly elevated recruiting profile.
"I honestly wasn't expecting to do quite as well as I did," Cannon said at the time. "I have a lot of confidence, but there were a lot of really good DBs."
As the event at DeSoto (Texas) High approaches, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said the second-year camp has become the premier place for young talent to shine.
"This is a camp that gives guys an opportunity to separate themselves," Farrell said. "There is another level of player going to be there, and there are guys who can elevate to it and those who shy from it.
"We are inviting players we believe have been identified early as real FBS-level prospects, and the ones who have a good performance can carry that into their regular season and blow up with offers nationally."
Cannon was one of those players in 2012.
From Mount Pleasant (Texas) High, he made the quick drive to the camp and used his performance not only to bolster his already high confidence but his game. Cannon added dozens of offers in the weeks that followed and earned a trip to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour, where he was named the No. 2 player among the wide receiver group.
Farrell said the ability for players to see similar competition is good for them as well as his team of analysts.
"For the kids, it is like competition," he said. "A lot of these young guys are the best kids at their age on their team or in their area, and now they will see there are a lot of people just like them.
"From an evaluation perspective, this is really the first great opportunity we have to see these guys. We have some freshman and sophomore film and maybe we saw them in a game or at an RCS (Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour) event, but now we have a live, focused opportunity to see them."
Of the nearly 200 prospects from the class of 2014 who participated last season -- another 50 were in the classes of 2015 and 2016 -- 12 have been rated in the Rivals100 and another 19 in the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour.
Farrell said those numbers were surprisingly good -- and he expects them to be duplicated.
"To be able to identify that level of player early in the process is important for the viability of the camps," he said. "With the recruiting process speeding up it is a little easier to know who should be invited, but we still have to make sure the field is full of true, major-level prospects.
"I would say that having more than 10 percent of the Rivals250 -- a year out from its initial ranking -- coming from that one event is impressive, but that is what it is designed to do: identify the best and start to separate them early."
Last season, players such as New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr teammates Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis III, Beaumont (Texas) Ozen defensive back Tony Brown, Lewisville (Texas) Hebron cornerback Jamal Adams and Mansfield (Texas) Timberview safety Edward Paris made the top performers list and cemented their places in the Rivals100.
Farrell said this is just one step in the process and that the players who make the trip all should take away a positive experience.
"I think the guys who come from farther away take away something that the local guys don't," Farrell said. "I mean they are all coming here to compete, but they don't see any of these players in the regular season or the playoffs and it is an entirely different level of competition for them.
"Last year, I think about Dillon Bates being a big name from Florida but his game went to the next level from this and then the National Combine and then on to the Rivals100 event. Josh Malone got to go against an absolutely loaded group of defensive backs that he would never see in Tennessee. He was a little better than we expected, but since then his game has improved tremendously."