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August 18, 2013
Rivals rankings: 10 burning questions
With the August release of the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour, the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour and position rankings set for this week, there have been many burning questions from fans, coaches and prospects alike. Without giving away the rankings, of course, we take a look at 10 of those questions that have come up the most, led by who will be No. 1 on Monday?
1. Who will be No. 1 overall?
The field certainly has gained ground on Da'Shawn Hand's top spot in the Rivals100. Cameron Robinson, Quin Blanding, Marlon Humphrey, Leonard Fournette, Adoree' Jackson and a few others had solid and sometimes spectacular offseasons to make a strong case for No. 1. Jabrill Peppers is firmly in the mix and did not help or hurt his case by not participating in any offseason camps. While all of these players are sure to have very productive senior seasons, Hand's grip on No. 1 is slipping, and he could have lost the slot during the summer. Stay tuned.
2. Who will be the top running back?
The running back group in the 2014 class is so strong that all these players are interchangeable in some ways. Fournette did not have his best performance in Chicago at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour because he struggled catching the ball, but his junior film is so impressive it will be hard to knock him off his top spot. However, that doesn't mean he's not being significantly pushed by the other three. Sony Michel showed such suddenness and burst in Chicago that he can get to the end zone at any time, Elijah Hood is a mix of speed and power, and Joe Mixon is the best receiver of the group. All four running backs provide something special, and that's why all of them are so highly rated. The order will be greatly anticipated in the new release.
3. Will Jalen Hurd earn that fifth star?
There's probably not a more polarizing player in the country right now than Hurd when it comes to rankings. Numerically, we're very high on Hurd. He's been the highest four-star in each of the first two rankings cycles. After taking the spring off to heal injuries, Hurd made a camp appearance during the summer session before shutting down his offseason to prepare for his senior year. The question now is, did Hurd do enough at his one camp stop to earn that fifth star? That was a heavily debated issue during this round of rankings meetings.
4. Who will be the top quarterback?
Arizona quarterback Kyle Allen made his statement on one of the biggest stages. Bringing home the offensive skill MVP at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge got everyone's attention. As things stand, though, dual-threat Deshaun Watson, the only five-star player at the position, is the top quarterback in America. Allen's performance at the year's marquee event -- an event that Watson also attended -- was enough to start discussion about who should be No. 1 and whether Allen is a five-star. Two days in the summer may or may not have been enough to get Allen over the hump, but the race is certainly tightening.
5. How will the cornerback rankings shake out?
New Jersey's Peppers held the top spot in the cornerback rankings going into the summer, but four of the next five highest-rated cornerback prospects on the list -- California's Jackson, Alabama's Humphrey, Washington D.C.'s Jalen Tabor and Detroit's Damon Webb -- battled head-to-head at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in June. Each solidified his spot among the nation's best at the position with an outstanding performance. As a group, they confirmed that this is one of the deepest classes at the position in the last decade. The discussions about who should be in which order were fairly long.
6. Will there be a five-star wide receiver?
In previous rankings sessions, the consensus was that, while there may be a five-star receiver or even a few in the class, we had not seen him yet. In Chicago at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, there were a few guys who made strong cases for five-star status. Throughout the summer, we have had a chance to see each of the guys at the top of the list. New Baylor commit KD Cannon turned heads with his quickness and ball skills, Josh Malone had a tremendous summer effort, Allen Lazard did not disappoint, and neither did Ermon Lane. Louisiana standouts Malachi Dupre and Speedy Noil made a lot of noise, and each made a strong case to move up. There will be shuffling at the top, and a few guys made us re-visit the five-star receiver conversation.
7. Who will be the biggest riser?
The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, along with other summer events, allowed several prospects to improve their rankings. Chad Thomas, Curtis Samuel, Demetrius Knox and Damien Mama are a few who took advantage of the opportunity. Thomas showed he is an elite-level defensive lineman against top-tier competition in Oregon, winning DL MVP honors. Mama and Knox impressed at the Five-Star Challenge, and Mama earned the OL MVP. Knox was in the discussion for the award, displaying an excellent punch and good hand placement while losing only one rep in one-on-ones in the Windy City. Samuel has a wide catch radius to go with great linear speed, and he proved he is one of the top wideouts in the nation. All deserve their stock to rise, but don't count out speedy pass catchers Travis Rudolph and Cannon from sneaking into the mix for the biggest-riser moniker, either. Or it could simply be someone coming from three- or even two-star status all the way into the Rivals100 or Rivals250.
8. Who will fall the farthest?
There were quite a few candidates to slide in the rankings, and there were definitely guys who slid far for one reason or another. The summer allowed us to see many of the nation's top prospects, and as some rose in the rankings other guys had to slide. It is the nature of the beast. Some guys did not have great summers, and others are sorting through off-the-field situations that cause concerns. Some guys were the topic of long conversation, including Hoza Scott, Saeed Blacknall, Jacory Washington and others who are definitely ones to watch. However, they are not the only ones with the potential to fall and there could be some stunners this week.
9. Which position is the deepest?
The running back and cornerback positions are undoubtedly talented in the 2014 class, but this summer highlighted the depth of the safety position nationally. The stocks of Jamal Adams, John Smith, Nick Harvey and Steven Parker are on the rise after their performances at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. Budda Baker is another who had a strong summer, and three-star Trent Sherfield of Danville, Ill., was a late addition to the Five-Star Challenge who made an early impression by recording an interception on the first play of the 7-on-7 tournament.
10. Which position lacks the most depth?
There are three positions where a lack of depth is glaring: offensive guard, weakside defense end and outside linebacker. At guard, Knox came into this rankings meeting as the highest-ranked player at the position but stood at just No. 87 overall in the country. At weakside defensive end, five-star Lorenzo Carter stands No. 5 overall but struggled at marquee summer events and may be in line for a slip. At outside linebacker, Scott looked like the nation's top prospect, but now his career appears to be in jeopardy due to off-field issues. There will be a few risers at each of these positions, but when it comes to elite 6.1, 6.0 and 5.9 prospects, there will be fewer here than other places.
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