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November 28, 2011
The latest edition of the Rivals100 is out and there is plenty of movement near the top of the list with the addition of seven five-stars while another lost his fifth star. Led by running back Trey Williams from Spring (Texas) Dekaney who checks in at No. 13, the Rivals.com analysts break down the new additions and explain the one subtraction.
"The five-star status is something that has become synonymous with excellence and is something every recruit strives for," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell. "At Rivals.com we don't hand them out easily, we have always been the stingiest because we want five stars to mean something special. These new additions are special players."
While Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham remains at the top of the Rivals100 and there was only a bit of slight shuffling amongst the top 12 players in the nation, Williams debuts on the list higher than some previous five stars. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder who is committed to Texas A&M made it impossible to keep him out of the elite group.
"Williams was close to five-star status last time and has backed up his billing with a huge senior year. In arguably the toughest district in the state of Texas he rushed for over 3,000 yards in his first 12 games," said Rivals.com Southwest Recruiting Analyst Brian Perroni. "He is compact but he can hold up to the workload of 30 carries a game. He has fantastic vision that allows him to find holes others would not. He will play early and often next year."
While programs and NFL teams continue to covet bigger running backs, Farrell sees no issue with Williams' size.
"He's a thick kid," said Farrell. "He is very strong for his size and he is hard to get a shot at, so while we consider size an issue with some backs he's so dynamic, productive and sneaky strong that it wasn't an issue."
Yet another running back, Daphne, Ala., Auburn commitment T.J. Yeldon also made the jump to five stars and checks in at No. 24 overall in the country. Yeldon is a different back than Williams, but is impressive in his own ways.
"Yeldon can really do a little bit of everything. He possesses thick, powerful legs that never stop moving and is terrific in between the tackles because of his great strength. Even when plays seem stuffed, Yeldon has the determination and overall power to get positive yardage," said Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst Keith Niebuhr of the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder. "For a player his height, he also has excellent one-cut ability. He shows good patience and nice speed once in space to create big gainers. Yeldon also is hard to corral because of his tremendous overall athleticism. It isn't uncommon to see him hurdle would-be tacklers. The last plus is that he also can catch the ball very well out of the backfield."
Williams and Yeldon join a strong running back group that already boasts five-star Johnathan Gray from Aledo, Texas who remained at No. 6 overall in the country.
The talent at the running back position in this class is strong, but no position in the country appears to be deeper than offensive tackle. With prospects like D.J. Humphries from Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek, John Theus from Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles, Andrus Peat from Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol already earning their fifth stars, the group swelled by three more this time around.
Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward tackle Kyle Kalis, a Michigan commitment, checks in at No. 21 overall and is closely followed by San Clemente, Calif., big man Kyle Murphy and Encino (Calif.) Crespi giant Jordan Simmons (USC commitment) at No. 22 and No. 25 respectively. Kalis and Murphy were already on the verge of five-star status while Simmons was moved from guard to tackle this time around.
"In 10 years of covering recruiting, Kalis is one of the most college-ready offensive linemen I have seen. Physically he appears able to step on a college field right now, and his technique is advanced beyond his years," said Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "The other thing that sets Kalis apart is that he is a very versatile lineman. He can play right or left tackle but also bump down to guard if his college team needs him there."
Farrell, who also saw the 6-foot-5, 302-pounder in person against one of the nation's top teams in Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, agrees.
"The thing that originally held Kalis back was that he played right tackle and looked like he was limited to right tackle at the next level," said Farrell. "But after seeing how he moves his feet, how athletic he is for a massive tackle and how technically sound he is in pass protection, he was a guy we had to give that fifth star to. It's easy for massive guys to run block against smaller prospects, but pass protection is key and he is very good at it against quick players."
Murphy caught the eye of Rivals.com West Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney this season.
"Murphy has been impressive every time we've seen him over the last year and has never really had even a questionable performance in a game. He has great size, a great frame with very little, if any bad weight and he is more athletic than most other offensive tackles in this class," said Gorney of the 6-foot-7, 275-pounder. "What also impresses me about Murphy is his demeanor because he probably doesn't care much that he's being bumped to five-star status. He's all about dominating on the field and being the best offensive lineman he can be and he cares very little about being a personal hype machine. Murphy has all the tools and intangibles to be a starter in college early on and he definitely has a chance to play in the NFL as well."
Gorney was also impressed with Simmons who has slimmed down since his spring and summer evaluations and shown he can stay at tackle.
"There were numerous discussions about whether Simmons should earn five-star recognition since he was listed as an offensive guard but since he plays offensive tackle for his high school and could very well play there in college we decided to move him to that position and bump him up a star," said Gorney. "Simmons has dropped some bad weight that had been a concern and we saw him control a four-star defensive tackle this season with ease. He has never disappointed and even though he's probably topped out at 6-5 and 333 pounds, that's fine because he's the size of a player in the NFL. Simmons is humongous and probably doesn't get the credit he deserves from an athletic standpoint."
In addition to the running backs and offensive linemen, a safety and another prospect that could play numerous positions in college made the leap to five stars. Panama City (Fla.) Arnold defensive back Eddie Williams, an Alabama commitment, remained at No. 23 in the nation but earned his fifth star while Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes star Josh Harvey-Clemons was moved from linebacker to athlete and made the biggest jump of any of the new five stars, up 18 slots to No. 19 in the country.
"Williams is an elite athlete who has the ability to be a dominating safety prospect at the next level. He is an incredible athlete with great size at around 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and he has the ability to come down in run support and hit like a linebacker or provide coverage underneath from sideline to sideline. But he can just as easily stay back and play centerfield providing help over the top," said Rivals.com Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee. "Williams, who has great instincts, is good at playing the ball in the air and getting between it and the intended receiver. He is also physically intimidating showing the capability to crack a receiver across the middle or blow them up along the sidelines, doing an excellent job of planting and driving downward to play the role of enforcer welcoming contact. His length and explosiveness make him an excellent tackler in space and a player that can make up for the mistakes of those in front of him in a defensive scheme. If he was forced into early duty in his college career, the transition would be an easy one for him to make."
As for Harvey-Clemons, Niebuhr explains the bump.
"Harvey-Clemons is an exceptional athlete who has excelled at three different positions - outside linebacker, safety and wide receiver. The fact he has offers from major programs to play at each spot says an awful lot about his abilities," said Niebuhr. "At this level, Harvey-Clemons has done his best work on defense. He began the 2011 season as a big-hitting safety, but later was moved to outside linebacker where he was equally dominant. Right now, Harvey-Clemons is a tad thin, and if he is to play linebacker in college he certainly will need to add weight, particularly in his lower body. However, nobody can doubt his skills He's a true sideline-to-sideline player who has the agility and quickness to stick with receivers and act as an enforcer over the middle, or play up at the line of scrimmage and either generate a pass rush or get physical versus the run."
Farrell chimes in on the Harvey-Clemons debate.
"He was a guy we talked about for quite a while," Farrell said. "There was concern that he was too thin to be a five-star linebacker but because he is so athletic and he could be a safety, linebacker, tight end or even a wide receiver in college, we moved him to athlete and we'll see where he ends up in college. He was just too good to leave off the five star list and we didn't want to punish versatility."
While seven prospects earned their fifth star, one lost his lofty status. This is a difficult situation in the rankings business but a necessity.
"I've been doing this a long time and it happens but it's always tough and I think it's something that is needed when a player isn't living up to that lofty status," Farrell said. "Fan bases get upset, players often take it personally but you have to do it. Heck, I know of players in the NFL who are still ticked off that they didn't get that fifth star or lost it, that's how important it has become."
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., a Florida State commitment, dropped 22 slots down to No. 35 overall in the country and lost that fifth star. Nee explains the reason for the drop.
"Fowler's ceiling is very high at the defensive end position, but nobody that has watched him in action as a senior can justify that he deserves five-star status at this stage. Fowler, who missed multiple games during the season after a dispute with his coach, returned out-of-shape and lacking a great effort level in multiple games that were viewed," said Nee. "He has the measurables needed at defensive end (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) and the athleticism desired at the spot, but what he lacked was a great level of effort or desire on the field that would help separate him from a lot of other great players and put him in the elite class of a five-star prospect. He quit on plays that went away from him and regularly failed to combat the first effort put forth against him by blockers."
With one more ranking cycle left for the class of 2012, Fowler Jr. has a chance to re-gain that fifth star but he would be the first to lose it and gain in back based on Farrell's memory.
"I can't remember that happening," he said. "I've seen prospects earn it and keep it and seen them earn it and lose it, but I can't remember a player gaining it, losing it and getting it back again. Dante will have that chance at the Under Armour All-American Game so we'll see."
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