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January 16, 2011

Top 10: All-star surprises

MORE: All-star coverage | Army coverage

The all-star period in high school football runs from early December and ends in mid-January. In this week's Top 10 list, Rivals.com analysts come up with their top 10 biggest surprises from the all-star season, led by a little known defensive end, who will make the conversion to linebacker in college.

Top 10 all-star surprises
Williams interview
School: Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln
Buzz: There was some question as to how Williams would fare against top-tier talent after playing his high school career in talent-deprived Brooklyn, but those questions were answered early in the Army Bowl week. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Williams looked thicker than expected. He had no strength issues going against offensive tackles, and his speed off the edge was too much for them to handle. What gives Williams that additional boost is that he is relentless in his pursuit of the football and he was the most consistent of the defensive ends in stringing out the run at the Army Bowl as well. He is athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker but also strong enough to play with his hand down.

Beckham highlights
School: New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman School
Buzz: Beckham is undersized at 5-foot-10 and roughly 175 pounds but the LSU commit knows how to get open and has a knack for sneaking behind defensive backs and getting separation. He also catches everything thrown his way and uses his hands well, not allowing the ball to get to his body at all. The four-star prospect was one of the most consistent big-play receivers on the West squad at the Army Bowl and showed he not only has good straight-line speed but also has good football quickness and great change of direction.

Lyons interview
School: Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard
Buzz: The 6-foot, 190-pound Lyons came into the Army Bowl considered a safety prospect, but he spent the majority of the week at cornerback and earned the start at that position for the East squad. Lyons quickly proved why the East coaching staff went with him to start the game when he tallied two solo tackles and broke up a pass in the first quarter. Besides good size, Lyons also possesses great instincts and turn-and-run ability. He could be a ball-hawking free safety or a lockdown cover corner at the next level.

Johnson interview
School: Philadelphia (Miss.)
Buzz: The big linebacker emerged as a national prospect at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, where he finished with 17 tackles. Although he wasn't as good in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Johnson still proved himself as one of the nation's top inside linebackers. He has good size, moves very well, has excellent instincts and simply gets to the football.

Walker highlights
School: Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville
Buzz: The East defensive line dominated Army Bowl practices, but Walker more than held his own against that group. He was the only East offensive lineman who could handle the speed and size of the East defensive line on a day-to-day basis, and was the only one to beat defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan in one-on-ones. There may not be an offensive lineman in the country stronger than the 6-5, 355-pound Walker, and he plays with the footwork of a lighter man.

Simmons highlights
School: McKeesport (Pa.)
Buzz: Simmons was a late addition to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but he did not look out of place amid an ultra-talented defensive line group on the East squad. The first clue that Simmons would have no problem fitting in alongside Ray Drew and Stephon Tuitt was when he walked into the lobby for registration. The 6-5, 265-pound prospect has a commanding presence and he carries little bad weight. In practices, he showed a quick first step and the strength to battle with interior offensive linemen. He was very productive throughout the week and in the game.

Mitchell highlights
School: Valdosta (Ga.)
Buzz: Ranked as a four-star safety, Mitchell played receiver at the Under Armour Game and was consistently good at that spot throughout the week. Facing a group of elite defensive backs in practice, Mitchell's speed and solid route running allowed him to get nice separation at times in one-on-one drills. And he caught just about every pass thrown his way during the week, including a terrific game when the TV cameras were rolling. An outstanding athlete who could play many positions in college, Mitchell boosted his stock as much as anyone during the all-star period.

Lynch interview
Lynch highlights
School: Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast
Buzz: Lynch isn't as fast off the ball as top-rated prospect Jadeveon Clowney (who is?) and he doesn't play the run as well, but the big rush end is very quick and was one of the biggest difference-makers at the Army Bowl. Lynch is tough and fearless and, although he sometimes overruns plays, his intensity was unmatched on the East team. His first step was the best throughout the week and his outside move couldn't be stopped even when everyone knew it was coming.

Chickillo highlights
School: Tampa (Fla.) Alonso
Buzz: Chickillo entered the Under Armour All-American Game as a well-known prospect, checking in at No. 205 in the Rivals250. But his performance throughout the week of practice and in the game was of a player who was possessed. The soft Miami commitment was among the most impressive defensive players at the event. When the lights came on at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., Chickillo turned in an MVP effort, dominating off the edge and showing his non-stop motor throughout the game.

Councell highlights
School: Asheville (N.C.) A.C. Reynolds
Buzz: Councell entered the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas as a guy rumored to be underrated as a mid-level three-star guy. He left it as one of the top prospects in the nation. Playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 set required of the defenses at the game, Councell flourished and likely should have been named the Defensive MVP for his team with 13 tackles. He's more instinctive than he is athletic and more of a hustler than he is a speedster, but regardless Councell knows where he needs to be and is always in the right position to make a play. That made him the surprise of surprises.



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