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April 6, 2012

Adidas Invitational: Story lines to follow

MORE ADIDAS INVITE: Preview

The location has changed, but the story lines remain the same for this weekend's Adidas Invitational in Michigan. The event will now be held at Concordia University in Ann Arbor instead of the Silverdome in Pontiac, but the roster of expected participants has not changed. Here are five topics we are looking forward to covering Saturday in Detroit.

Five-star performers?

Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris and Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers linebacker Jaylon Smith were right on the cusp of five-star status when we released our first class of 2013 rankings in February. Their performances on Saturday could help their cause for earning those fifth stars in the next rankings update.

We have seen both prospects this off-season. Smith was dominant at the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis in February, looking longer, stronger and more athletic than the previous time we saw him. Morris, meanwhile, did not have his best day throwing the football at the Elite 11 in Dallas last month, but still outperformed all but a handful of quarterbacks at the event.

Commits still willing to test themselves

Morris, a Michigan commit, is one of several prospects who have already made their college selections, yet plan to compete in Saturday's Adidas Invitational. He will be joined by fellow Michigan commits Jourdan Lewis and David Dawson of Detroit Cass Tech and Khalid Hill of Detroit Crockett. Michigan State four-star linebacker commit Jon Reschke is also expected to attend, as is Notre Dame athlete commit James Onwualu of St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall and Central Michigan commit Josh Cox, a teammate of Morris' at De La Salle. Looking back over the years, the prospects who were never afraid to test themselves even after making commitments had a higher rate of success at the next level.

Encore for Malik McDowell

Detroit Loyola 2014 defensive end Malik McDowell had a breakout performance at Midwest Elite Big Man Camp in February. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound sophomore beat every offensive lineman he faced at the event, including several who are among the best in the 2013 class. The defensive end position looks especially deep in 2014, with prospects such as Da'Shawn Hand of Virginia and Gerald Willis of Louisiana already boasting impressive offer lists. McDowell's offer list is starting to grow as well, with tenders from Michigan, Ohio State and Syracuse. Saturday's Adidas Invitational will give the rising junior another chance to raise awareness of his game, and show where he fits in the national discussion.

Out-of-region prospects come to compete

When Tampa (Fla.) Catholic wide receiver Zach Benjamin took part in the IMG Madden 7-on-7 in Bradenton, Fla., two weekends ago, the three-star prospect was surrounded by kids from his own state, his own town and even his own high school. That level of familiarity will not be present when the 6-4, 186-pound Benjamin he makes the long trip up to southeast Michigan for the Adidas Invitational.

Benjamin will not be the only player in attendance Saturday looking a little lonely. Upland (Calif.) defensive end Joe Mathis also plans to take part in the camp. His recruiting travels this week have taken the Rivals100 prospect to the Ann Arbor area, and he plans to test himself against some of the best the Midwest has to offer while in town.

Building their buzz

Uncommitted prospects expected to compete Saturday such as Jaylon Smith, Joe Mathis, Canton (Mich.) offensive guard Cameron Dillard and Akron (Ohio) Firestone wide receiver Kevin Gladney already have well-developed offer lists. There are several additional highly qualified prospects, however, who are either just starting to see offers come through or are still awaiting that first big offer. With the spring evaluation period set to start in just over a week, a strong performance this weekend for several prospects could kick-start a very important month.

Three prospects to watch on Saturday who are probably undervalued at this point in the process: Grand Blanc (Mich.) linebacker Luke MacLean, Akron (Ohio) Copley running back Aregeros Turner and Walled Lake (Mich.) Western safety Joshua Jones. MacLean is somewhat of a 'tweener - stuck between linebacker and defensive end - but he has proven time and again he can play. Turner is coming off a broken leg, and teams appear to be holding off while waiting to see how he responds. Jones, meanwhile, is simply under the radar, but we have seen plenty of him to know he is a BCS-caliber safety.

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