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June 8, 2013
Challenge: Battle in trenches steals show
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
CHICAGO -- When offensive guard Demetrius Knox won three consecutive reps against five-star defensive tackle Andrew Brown during one-on-one drills in the morning session of the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour, it upped the intensity on the day.
It was what the 6-foot-4, 287 pound Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints Episcopal player did after the series of victories that cost him the next rep -- and fired up his opponent.
"He told me he watched film on me and that he knew all my moves," Brown said. "It made me mad that he learned my game and then used it against me.
"He got me there, but I came back from it and I learned from it."
Brown came into the event at 6-foot-3 and 298 pounds from Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith. After the defeat, he showed his intensity and secured an easy victory the next time the pair went against one another.
A fifth rep was cut short by the whistle and left Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell in disbelief.
"I was slack-jawed," Farrell said. "I had never seen Brown get beat like that in a camp, and then I never saw him get that angry."
The two were scheduled to go against one another before they arrived at Soldier Field. The battle was dubbed the No. 7 most anticipated match-up entering the event by the Rivals.com analysts.
When the pairing was made public, Knox got to work -- and it was not all in the weight room.
His Twitter timeline proves it wasn't just mental warfare on the field. A post Knox made on June 1 read, "Treating this like an actual game. #1 OG vs #1 DT #Film Session."
Knox didn't just take the time to learn about Brown. He studied all of the defensive tackles, as well as the top player in the country, Da'Shawn Hand.
He said he expected his toughest match-up to be Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes prospect Derrick Nnadi -- if Hand didn't slide inside to take reps.
Knox added that he could have been more discrete about his time in the film room.
"I probably shouldn't have said anything about it," Knox joked. "I could have just kept beating him -- but it's all good. I already know what he is going to do tomorrow. He thinks he is going to change it up, but I am ready."
With a full day to relive the moment, Brown said Knox will not have an advantage on Sunday during the Lineman Challenge.
"I have a new mindset now," Brown said. "It really upped my intensity, and I am going to be bringing something that I know he hasn't seen.
"After he beat me, I dug in and went after him. I just went straight through with no jab step, no counter step; I just went. I came back, and that was important to me. Tomorrow is going to be more of me. I won't tell you what I have coming, but I know he won't stop it."
Knox was not worried by the talk. He said film doesn't lie and players tend to fall back on what has worked in the past.
"He is going to come with two moves tomorrow, and I will get him," Knox said. "I know he will go to a jab step inside and try to spin by me, or he will go hard inside, try to pull my shoulder and rip past me. I will be ready."
HAND IS ON
The battle between Knox and Brown was the talk of the first day, but it did not quell the whispers of how well Da'Shawn Hand performed.
The top storyline entering the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour was the Battle for No. 1 and which of a handful of players could take the top spot from the Woodbridge (Va.) Senior defensive end.
After the first day of competition, the answer is no one.
His closest positional competitors were pushed away as No. 5-ranked Norcross (Ga.) High prospect Lorenzo Carter was unable to get the best of Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy offensive tackle Alex Bars and No. 7-ranked Brown was turned away by Knox.
The top offensive lineman, Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara standout Damian Prince, was No. 10, but he had his claim for the spot dampened when he lost all his reps in one-on-one against Hand.
Neither of the top running backs in attendance -- No. 3 New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine back Leonard Fournette and No. 6 Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage athlete Sony Michel -- was named to the top offensive performers on the first day by Rivals.com analysts.
Hand has maintained that he is not concerned with what other players do and that if he plays well the rankings will work out.
He was impressed with his own performance Saturday, however.
"Honestly," Hand said with a smile, "I was ballin' today."