BRADENTON -- A slew of top-notch football recruits will be in town this weekend for the third annual IMG7v7 National Championship.
And there's a new wrinkle to this year's tournament; the Future STARS division was added to accompany the high school and club divisions.
The Future STARS is comprised of players in the seventh and eighth grades.
"It's about skill development," said Blake Ulrich, director of events for IMG Performance. "Yes, it helps them to play on a stage like this. And it will be great to play with their counterparts in the high school ... but it just shows that the sport is really growing."
But the real bread and butter of the tournament are the marquee college prospects who play each year.In the past, players such as Amari Cooper (Alabama), Dennis Norfleet (Michigan), Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida), Leon McQuay III (USC), Alvin Bailey (Florida) and Tre'Davious White (LSU) have played at the national 7-on-7 tournament at IMG.
This year, Tarpon Springs East Lake High wide receiver/safety George Campbell (consensus five-star prospect with 26 offers), Immokalee High's J.C. Jackson (consensus four-star recruit committed to Florida) and East Lake's Artavis Scott (four-star prospect with 34 offers) are prized recruits from aroundthe Sunshine State who are expected to attend.
But this tournament is a national one, and there are 40 teams arriving from roughly 17 states as well as Canada.
Guys like Tuscaloosa, Ala., native Bo Scarborough (consensus five-star running back committed to Alabama) and Bassfield, Miss., native Jamal Peters (five-star safety prospect in Class of 2015) are headed here, too.
"It's an opportunity for them to harness their offseason skills with competition play in preparation for their upcoming seasons in high school football," Ulrich said.
The tournament is open to the public and is free. The action starts with Friday's Cam Newton Skills Challenge at 4 p.m.Games begin with pool play at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The knockout elimination phase of the tournament concludes with championship games in three divisions (High School, Club, Future STARS) on Sunday.
To qualify for the event, teams had to finish in the top four in their regions. Now in its third year, the tournament has grown immensely.
"Leaps and bounds," Ulrich said. "From what we started three years ago, we had no regional tournaments, no local qualifiers, and it was trying to reach out to the few teams, quite frankly, somewhat tough to find to come here to play. ... And this year, we'll have 40 teams."
In addition to Friday's skills challenge, an NCAA rules seminar is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday and is also open for free to the public.