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March 7, 2013

Rivals Camp Series Phoenix: Things to watch

MORE: Rivals Camp Series

The Rivals Camp Series Presented by Under Armour is a new series of invitation-only regional camps for selected participants who are considered among the best in the country at their respective positions.

It kicks off Saturday in Phoenix, and Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy tells us what we can expect.

Who's the man at tight end?

They'll come from all over to make things interesting at one of the thinnest positions in America. The Phoenix leg of the Rivals Camp Series will feature three of America's top tight ends, a group that already holds a combined 12 scholarship offers.

Derby (Kan.) standout DeAndre Goolsby is thought to be the cream of the event's crop, but there will be plenty of players attempting to prove that theory wrong. Goolsby is head-and-shoulders above most prospects he competes with in the Sunflower State, but Kansas this is not.

Fellow four-star Chase Blakley, who made a serious splash at the U.S. Army National Underclassmen Combine a few months back, will push Goolsby in Phoenix. As will Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral tight end Trevor Wood. Wood, who holds five scholarship offers already, looked to be on the fast track to a four-star rating and serious recruiting buzz before an injury ended his junior season in its early stages.

If healthy and in top shape, Wood is capable of competing at the same level as Goolsby and Blakley. What takes place in the desert will likely have a serious effect on the top of the position rankings.

Allen's personal proving ground

Quarterback Kyle Allen is ranked as the No. 136 player in the nation and slotted behind just nine prospects at his position. But when the initial 2014 rankings were released, the four-star prospect with 14 scholarship offers to his name felt slighted by his standing.

Immediately following the release, Allen unleashed a series of bewildered tweets and vowed to show people what they overlooked. His chance has arrived.

At Saturday's event, Allen will be measured against elite 2014 signal-caller Brandon Dawkins, who sits just two spots ahead of him in the rankings. A host of other touted quarterbacks, including Washington-based 2015 standout Brett Rypien, will also be vying for top billing.

If ever there was a place to make a statement, this is certainly it. Reporters and evaluators will be watching.

The floor is yours, Mr. Allen.

Teammates clash. Who comes out on top?

Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton, the event's host school, boasts a Rivals100 defensive end as well as a Rivals100 offensive lineman. So who comes out on top when USC-bound tackle Casey Tucker is asked to block his teammate, Qualen Cunningham, the No. 80 player in America and the recipient of 11 scholarship offers?

It's a question that will be answered soon enough. The matchup probably happens all the time in practice, but never before has it unfolded in front of a large audience.

Man of Mystery

Falcon (Colo.) athlete Kalen Ballage has seen his stock soar in recent weeks and has gobbled up nine scholarship offers. He looks great on film and college coaches are taking notice. Until now, though, few have seen him in person. His climb onto the national radar is just beginning.

The Phoenix-based camp will be Ballage's first event of the circuit. He's signed up to compete as a running back, the position at which he has been most heavily recruited. There's probably a reason Michigan, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and others have invited Ballage to join their football programs at the position.

Now, he'll get his chance to share that reason with everyone else.

Surprise, Surprise

High-level camps such as the one set to take place Saturday almost always produce buzz around a previously little-known player.

A monster performance against top competition at an invite-only setting has the ability to chip a diamond out of its rough and into the mainstream. It's nearly impossible to predict a breakout performance, but there are certainly a few candidates.

Undersized quarterback Luke Rubenzer is coming off a spectacular performance at the Las Vegas NLA 7-on-7 event, and another shining moment, especially against this level of competition, could force many to ignore his 5-foot-11 frame and send his stock hurtling through the roof.

Defensive end Caleb Peart, a 2015 prospect, is said to be one of the top players in his class and could also shine on the big stage. New Mexico-based defensive lineman Desmond Branch, Las Vegas-based safety Armand Perry and Derby (Kan.) running back Tyler West are also candidates to cause a shakeup.

But the day's surprise performance is just as likely to come from another, even less predictable source. And that's the beauty of the offseason circuit.



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