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April 4, 2013

Rivals Camp Series Birmingham: Getting defensive

(1-on-1 drills from RCS Miami and Orlando presented by Under Armour)

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

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

On Saturday, the tour stops in Hoover, located outside of the Birmingham metro area, and will wrap up with a visit to the Peach State on Sunday in Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta.

Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington tells us what we can expect on Day 1 of the star-studded weekend.

1. Marlon Humphrey wants Hoover to be known as Humphrey Island

We had a chance to see Humphrey at the Under Armour All-American Combine in January and he didn't disappoint. He is well-built at 6-feet, 179 pounds and he has superb linear speed to go with it. During one-on-ones, Humphrey was in trail technique a few times because of double moves, but he used his speed and quickness to recover nicely without getting beat.

Humphrey is the son of Alabama tailback and former Denver Broncos running back, Bobby Humphrey. His mother is an ex-college track standout and his brother played wide receiver at Arkansas.

When Humphrey was officially named a five-star, Hoover coach Josh Niblett told Rivals.com that what makes him special is his ability to understand route concepts and playing with the proper technique. In addition to his mental makeup, he is also a special teams asset in the return game or blocking kicks.

Humphrey's recruitment has seen little fanfare as he is taking his time with the process. Most feel the 'Bama legacy is a lock to the Crimson Tide, but look for Auburn, Florida, and South Carolina to do their best to sway him. In the end, it may be tough for him to pass up playing for Nick Saban because of the defensive scheme and fit. Factor in Saban's reputation as a defensive back guru, which can't hurt either. The only disappointment might come in not seeing Humphrey. He wants to attend the Rivals Camp Series, but is working on a scheduling conflict.

2. Oxford (Ala.) Racean Thomas out to prove he is among nation's best

The "Roc," as he is well known in the Twitterverse, is one of the top prospects in the Yellowhammer State. Thomas has an excellent combination of speed and power. He has playmaking ability as a feature back.

It's a deep year at the position, so a good showing may help him move up the Rivals.com ladder. The four-star athlete looks to be SEC bound come Signing Day. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Ole Miss are in the mix.

The 'Tide already have a commitment from the state's No. 2-rated player, Bo Scarbrough, and space is a premium down in Tuscaloosa. Either way, Thomas figures to be one of the most heavily recruiting players from the Southeast for the 2014 cycle.

3. Linebacker U

Running backs beware during one-on-ones as a stellar group of second-level defenders will make it hard to get open on Saturday afternoon.

Tre Williams is a physical inside 'backer that can cover sideline-to-sideline and closes on the ball extremely well. When it comes to pass coverage, Williams does a good job taking his drops without false stepping and uses his eyes to locate the ball. He isn't a liability in passing situations and can turn an interception into a score.

Auburn (Ala.) outside linebacker Rashaan Evans offers great scheme versatility. Evans has great range, length, and uses his hands well to avoid the trash and would-be blockers. The camp setting will be interesting because he is better known right now as a rush end/outside linebacker. If he can adapt and cover quicker running backs, then it will help cement his value to the recruiting experts and college coaches evaluating him.

Also keep an eye on Shaun Dion Hamilton. Hamilton is a heat-seeking missile from his linebacker spot. The Rivals250 member is a tackling machine and is always around the ball. He has a great motor to go with solid instincts and toughness. The Montgomery, Ala., product isn't the tallest, but that doesn't stop him from making plays.

Petera Wilson is another big name scheduled to be in attendance. Wilson hails from Memphis and is a national recruit. The Rivals250 star is a big, hard-nosed defender who can lay the wood from anywhere on the field.

[ MORE: Rivals Camp Series Orlando: Five Things to Watch ]

4. Battle of the Bigs

Kentucky commit Denzel Ware recently moved to Alabama from Florida where he attended Crestview. Now he is one of the state's premier recruits and a Rivals250 standout.

On the field, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound weakside defensive end is solid against the run. Ware knows how to set the edge and disengage blockers to get to the ball. He has outside linebacker size, but plays with a defensive lineman mentality.

Fellow four-star Justin Thornton will show everyone why he is the No. 112 rated prospect in the Rivals250. At 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, Thornton is long and athletic. He is a mismatch against slower tackles because he can bend and get around the edge with ease.

Recent Auburn pledge Joshua Casher will look to slow down the speedy rushers during drills. Casher is a nasty drive blocker who lines up at right tackle and guard for his high school team. He explodes off the ball and provides a powerful punch. The three-star also sustains his blocks and is quick enough to pull and trap.

Massive offensive guard Jordan Sims likes to run block and it shows on his tape. Sims can reach the second level with his quickness. He drives defenders back once he gets inside and doesn't do a lot of wrestling with guys.

Although one-on-ones typically favor the defensive side of the ball, look for Casher and Sims to make it tough for Thornton and Ware once the competition gets going.

5. Magnolia State represents

Class of 2015 wide receiver Malik Dear could be one of the top skill players at the camp, regardless of grade level. Last season, Dear accounted for 2,262 all-purpose yards while scoring 32 touchdowns. He is instant offense and a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Major college programs will be heading to Murrah (Miss.) to check him out this spring.

The trio from Jackson (Miss.) Callaway consisting of Dayall Harris, Ronald Walker, and Rod Taylor make up some of the top talent in Mississippi for this year's class. Both Harris and Walker are committed to Ole Miss, giving Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze another splash in recruiting circles coming off the 2013 efforts.

Taylor has yet to commit, but he could be the most sought-after recruit of the three. The mammoth tackle gets good extension on his punch and he can sit and anchor in pass protection. We are looking forward to seeing him stack up against some other competitors from outside the state.

Rivals250 defensive back C.J. Hampton is a good cover safety. Hampton has above-average ball skills and instincts. He can also help in run support with his physical style of play. The Ole Miss target will be looking to take home the defensive skill MVP award from the heavy favorite, the aforementioned Humphrey.



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