Before the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta, Detroit Loyola defensive end Malik McDowell spent much of the spring and early summer dominating camps against competition from the Midwest. He burst onto the scene with the Midwest Elite Big Man Camp in February, and continued to impress at each subsequent stop.
In Atlanta, however, the bar was raised for McDowell. Not only would he be facing older players, but many of those players were ranked among the top offensive linemen in the country.
McDowell, however, didn't miss a beat.
"This is great; I've gotten to work," he laughed. "I've worked a lot harder than I usually have to at one of those camps. I did pretty well, though. I know that I'm not that far behind them even though they're older than me."
Ultimately, McDowell showed that his early hype - he has been mentioned as a national top-100 prospect in the 2014 class - was warranted. Even against older players, he showed he has what it takes to be a difference-maker in college.
"McDowell is a massive junior prospect on the defensive line," said Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Chris Nee. "The 6-foot-6, 292-pound defensive end has the versatility to contribute on the end or interior of the defensive line. He gets a good push off of the snap and moved offensive linemen into the backfield regularly. He does a good job of making a second move to get free from offensive linemen and into the backfield."
McDowell worked exclusively at defensive end at the camp, going against some of the country's top tackles. Unfortunately, that also meant he didn't get to go against one of the top prospect from his own city. Detroit Cass Tech offensive lineman David Dawson worked exclusively on the interior of the line at the camp.
"I did not get to go against Dawson," McDowell lamented. "He would not come to the outside [of the offensive line]. He's my roommate down here, and I'm going to talk some stuff to him about it tonight."
One thing that McDowell likely heard at the challenge was a recruiting pitch from his roommate. Dawson is a year older than McDowell, and already committed to Michigan. You can bet he was in McDowell's ear about joining the Maize and Blue.
Tim Sullivan is the Football Recruiting Editor of The Wolverine magazine and TheWolverine.com. He is also a contributor to national football recruiting coverage on the Rivals.com network.