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May 31, 2013

WRW: Setting the stage for the #RivalsChallenge

Last year's inaugural edition of the Rivals Five-Star Challenge was an unquestioned hit from the perspective of Michigan fans. Four commitments - David Dawson, Chris Fox, Mike McCray, and Jourdan Lewis - participated, along with eventual commitment Derrick Green.

In fact, Green's presence in Atlanta helped him strike up a friendship with Dawson, one of the many factors that led the country's No. 8 player to Ann Arbor. Several other players with Michigan interest were also in attendance - including several who were underclassmen.

This year's Challenge isn't quite as loaded with Michigan commitments - St. Clairsville (Ohio) linebacker Michael Ferns is the only one - but the uncommitted prospect list could be even more exciting than 2012's event, thanks to the continued upward trajectory of the Wolverines' Recruiting.

Ferns, Recruiter

While this year's Michigan contingent is just one man strong, Michigan fans would likely prefer no other player at the event from a recruiting perspective than Ferns. He has spearheaded Michigan's "recruits as recruiters" movement for the 2014 class, including his famed "Project 135" t-shirts.

Ferns will have plenty of players to talk to who are already interested in Michigan. That includes a few that he's already been in touch with, and some new players for him get in contact with.

From a competition perspective, it also allows Ferns to regain his standing in the recruiting rankings. He dropped from No. 84 nationally to No. 128, but will get the opportunity to show off his skills in a variety of settings. From 7-on-7 to a strength challenge, this is a better fit for his skill set than the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp Series was.

Top Prospects, Round 2

With Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic cornerback Jabrill Peppers, in the fold, Wolverine fans are excited about reeling in a big roster of five-star players in the 2014 class. A few of the options on the table will be at Soldier Field next weekend.

Rivals.com No. 1 player Da;Shawn Hand, No. 3 Leonard Fournette, No. 7 Andrew Brown, No. 9 Adoree' Jackson, and No. 23 Malik McDowell are all repeat attendees of the Five-Star Challenge, and all hold Michigan offers. Each of them except Hand is ranked a five-star prospect.

Other Offers

Although some other top Michigan prospects haven't participated once already in the Five-Star Challenge, they still hold offers from the Wolverines, are high in the national rankings, and will be in Chicago next week.

Norcross (Ga.) defensive end Lorenzo Carter isn't really considering his Michigan offer, but Oakley (Calif.) Freedom running back Joe Mixon certainly is. So are Cleveland Glenville defensive back Marshon Lattimore, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John "Juju" Smith, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe wide receiver Jalen Brown, Gardena (Calif.) Serra linebacker Dwight Williams, La Mirada (Calif.) athlete Tyler Luatua, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway safety Montae Nicholson, and Falcon (Colo.) athlete Kalen Ballage.

One player of extreme interest is Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver Artavis Scott. His teammate, offensive lineman Mason Cole, is already a 2014 U-M commit. Scott has strongly considered Michigan throughout the process, and it will be a great chance to hear his thoughts on the Wolverines.

Underclassman Flair

Michigan has offered just a handful of 2015 players, but five of them will make it to Chicago for the Challenge.

Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen, Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek running back Jacques Patrick, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive back Iman Marshall, Pittsburgh Baldwin offensive lineman Sterling Jenkins, and East St. Louis (Ill.) defensive lineman Terry Beckner have all heard good news from U-M already.

Evaluating their performances - and gauging their interest in the Wolverines - will be a huge part of the Five-Star Challenge. Some of them have older teammates who have considered Michigan (linebacker Kyron Watson committed to Kansas, and is an ESL Flyer along with Beckner) or still are (Juju Smith is on Marshall's squad). That's another interesting dynamic.

Last year's top players turned into a who's-who of top U-M targets - see above - so this group should be the same.

Unoffered, but Interested

A couple senior prospects have received interest, but no offers, from Michigan. El Cerrito (Calif.) defensive back Adarius Pickett and Virginia Beach (Va.) Bishop Sullivan wide receiver Jamil Kamara have both been waiting to hear good news from the Wolverines. An exceptional Rivals Challenge could be what pushes them over the hump to earning an offer.

Several other players - primarily underclassmen - could also earn Michigan offers. Offensive lineman Zach Okun, wide receiver Christian Kirk, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, and linebacker Ricky DeBerry could all be on the verge of offers.

Evaluating these players - and even several others who have yet to publicly state that Michigan is interested - should give an impression of those who are more and less likely to end up as serious Michigan prospects.

Coverage

Stay glued to TheWolverine.com all next weekend for exclusive coverage of the event. From prospect evaluations, best-of lists, and video of the action, to updates from recruits in print, video, audio, and more, there will be plenty going down on the site to pay attention to.

Thanks for visiting TheWolverine.com, and get your refresh button ready… the #RivalsChallenge is only a week away.


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