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August 17, 2010

Two new five-star prospects in the Rivals100

MORE: The Rivals100 | Rivals100 expert chat

The new Rivals100 has been released and our analysts have been on the road since the initial version in early June.

With huge events such as the Top Gun Camp and Gridiron Kings, 7-on-7 tournaments in Texas, Oregon and Alabama as well as big-time college prospect camps, there are many moves in the rankings.

Two new five stars have been named, pushing the total to 13. A year ago, we had 20 at the same stage. Will players such as Jeff Driskel, the nation's No. 1 quarterback, make the move to five stars soon?

Nothing has changed when it comes to the top three players in the nation. Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney remains at No. 1 followed by St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez linebacker Tony Steward and Tampa (Fla.) Plant athlete James Wilder Jr.. The first real change is at No. 4 where Baton Rouge (La.) Redemptorist offensive tackle La'El Collins leapfrogs two California stars, Gardena Junipero Serra receiver George Farmer and Los Angeles Crenshaw athlete De'Anthony Thomas. Collins jumps both after a stellar performance at the LSU summer camp.

"Even with some added weight in the offseason, Collins showed phenomenal athleticism at the LSU camp," said Rivals.com Southeast analyst Barton Simmons of the LSU commitment. "In one-on-ones he was dominating defenders who had been dominant themselves the rest of camp. His feet and pass set are so advanced, there just aren't many linemen nationally who are even close to where he is right now."

In addition to Collins' move up, the two California five stars swapped places, mainly because Thomas was dominant at the BadgerSports Elite 7-on-7 Championship while Farmer was simply above-average at the Nike 7-on-7 in Oregon.

"Farmer was exceptional at times in Oregon but not as consistently dominant as we would have liked," said Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney. "He had no problem getting open and he caught everything thrown his way but others were more consistently productive. We would have liked someone so highly rated to really dominate especially in an event like the NIKE 7on and Farmer had his moments but not as many as other top players."

In the meantime, Thomas did enough to surpass his fellow Californian.

"For a kid who didn't start playing cornerback until after his junior season was over, Thomas looked extremely polished and effective at the Badger national championships," said Simmons of the USC commit. "Everyone knows about Thomas' speed which is what makes his physicality that much more impressive. He's great at the line of scrimmage in press coverage and he was arguably the top cornerback at a very talented event."

The other big moves among the five stars include a bump for the nation's No. 1 running back and the addition of two new five stars. Cibolo (Texas) Steele big back Malcolm Brown did so well at the FBU Top Gun Camp in July that he jumped two slots from No. 10 to No. 8.

"Malcolm proved it's possible for a big punishing back to have soft hands as a receiver," Rivals.com analyst Barry Every said. "That's something he will need to become elite at the next level and he showed it at the Top Gun Camp."

Elsewhere, Florida safeties Hasean Clinton-Dix from Orlando Dr. Phillips and Karlos Williams from Davenport Ridge were so dominant at the Gridiron Kings Tournament that they earned five-star status. Clinton-Dix, an Alabama commitment, jumped from No. 28 all the way to No. 11 while Williams, a Florida State pledge, jumped from 37 to 12.

"Clinton-Dix and Williams were in the same defensive backfield for the Southeast at the Gridiron Kings 7-on-7 Tournament and it was hard to determine who was better," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "Clinton-Dix gets the nod simply because he is better in single coverage and looks like he could play cornerback if needed in college. But Williams is so big, moves so well and has such great instincts that he's not far behind at all. He could be a huge safety or a speedy linebacker in college and the versatility of both was impressive. Each had superior ball skills as well."

Three of the remaining five stars, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Russellville, Ala. linebacker Brent Calloway and Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance linebacker Lawrence Thomas, were not re-evaluated since the last ranking and Richmond (Va.) Hermitage linebacker Curtis Grant was at FBU Top Gun and Gridiron Kings but was limited by injuries.

"Grant came into Top Gun and was dinged up the first day and never really recovered," Farrell said. "At Gridiron Kings he re-aggravated the injury playing tight end of all positions so it was hard for us to really re-evaluate him. He slipped one slot only because Brown moved up. In the time he participated, you could see how much upside he has. He's a huge linebacker and can move very well."

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

With only 13 five stars heading into the season, the numbers are clearly down from last year and previous years. So what is holding back some of the highest-ranked four stars? Punta Gorda (Fla.) Port Charlotte running back Mike Bellamy participated at Friday Night Lights but didn't get enough action to make the jump and he checked in at No 15.

"Bellamy showed his quickness and suddenness, but he just didn't take enough reps to really dominate at the camp," said Farrell of the Clemson commitment. "But you can tell he's going to be a kid who will be fighting for the No. 1 running back slot all year long and has five-star potential."

Others who were re-evaluated and remain poised to make the move include Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty quarterback Jeff Driskel, Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew, Fontana, Calif. athlete Devon Blackmon, Monroe (Ga.) Monroe Area defensive end Stephon Tuitt and West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer tight end Nick O'Leary.

Driskel was the best quarterback at the EA Sports Elite 11 and made the jump from No. 31 to No. 17. Gorney was especially impressed with Driskel's improvement since the Gainesville NIKE Camp in the spring.

"Driskel looks and throws like a college quarterback," Gorney said of the future Gator. "He has a great frame, a strong arm and he delivers the ball with precision. One of the best things about Driskel is that he knows he doesn't have it all figured out yet.

"He was at the Elite 11 and was clearly the top quarterback there and he remained competitive all week. He listened to the instructors, took pointers from the college quarterbacks working out and wanted the MVP trophy. It was clear he was the No. 1 guy there."

Drew dropped from 15 to 18 because others moved ahead. The talented defensive end was injured for much of the FBU Top Gun Camp so his re-evaluation is similar to Grant's. Fellow Georgia stud Tuitt was exceptional at the same camp and moved from No. 59 to No. 22. It will be interesting to see who ends up as the highest-ranked defensive end in the state by Signing Day. As for Blackmon, he was outstanding for the West squad at Gridiron Kings and made a big move from No. 41 to 20.

"Drew was really limited at Top Gun so we decided not to move him either way, he just slipped a bit because others moved up," Farrell said. "He's very gifted physically and when he was healthy he was hard to handle but you could tell he was hampered by injury."

Tuitt impressed Every, cutting the gap between the two defensive ends.

"Tuitt has a massive athletic body and showed he was a defensive end all the way after some thought defensive tackle," Every said. "He works hard, is very coachable and is only going to continue to get better. His combination of size and athletic ability is extremely rare."

Blackmon was the best prospect not on the Southeast squad at Gridiron Kings.

"He played both ways at Gridiron Kings and was exceptional," Farrell said. "As a wide out he was so quick and very good after the catch and as a corner he was physical and closed fast. The issue is that he plays quarterback in high school so he's a projection, but he's very athletic."

O'Leary probably received more hype from fans as far as a potential five-star ranking than anyone else. However, while he moved from 36 to 26 in the rankings and is now the No. 1 tight end, it's a tough position to name a five star.

"O'Leary wasn't himself at Friday Night Lights as he had a few drops, but it was still clear how talented he is," Farrell said. "But at Gridiron Kings he dominated. He caught everything thrown his way, showed good body control and agility and he outmuscled people for the football in every game. The last five-star tight end was Kyle Rudolph in 2008 and he was longer, faster and got better separation. O'Leary is a lot like some of our other top tight ends in recent years like Gerald Christian and Aaron Hernandez. He's closer to five stars now than he was though and it wouldn't shock me to see him continue to move up."

OTHER BIG MOVES

In addition to players such as Clinton-Dix, Williams, Blackmon and Tuitt, many others made big jumps in the latest Rivals100. Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Marcus Roberson made a huge move from No. 105 to No. 30 based on a stellar performance at Gridiron Kings.

"Roberson is a big corner who can move like his smaller counterparts. He was able to blanket every receiver he faced at Gridiron Kings and ended up with several interceptions," Rivals.com Florida analyst Brian Perroni said. "He was the one player who opposing receivers and quarterbacks raved about after the tourney."

A few others who made a large vault include Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra athlete Marqise Lee, Batesville (Miss.) South Panola athlete Nickalos Brassell, Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault tight end A.C. Leonard, Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman wide receiver Charone Peake, Brownwood, Texas receiver Jaxon Shipley and Raleigh, Miss. receiver Donte Moncrief.

"No one had a better showing at the NIKE 7on in Oregon than Lee and not only in one or two games," Gorney said of the player, who moved from No. 87 to No. 39. "He had multiple interceptions, made plays on both sides of the ball and has emerged as one of the best players on the west coast. Lee is also a standout basketball player and those skills translate to the football field. He jumps high to deflect passes and has soft hands to pick passes off. He's an overall great athlete that has the potential to have a huge season at Serra."

Simmons saw Brassell, Peake and Moncrief.

"After watching Brassell compete at Ole Miss earlier this summer, it became clear that he is one of the most explosive athletes in the country," Simmons said. "He showed terrific change of direction and start-stop ability and you just don't find many athletes who are as fluid and natural as he is. Peake is a fun receiver to watch because he is so long, so strong and so polished. He was very good in the Hoover 7-on-7 and was also dominant at Clemson's camp earlier in the summer. With his big hands and long arms his catch range is huge and he'll be a favorite target for college quarterbacks. Finally, Moncrief really worked hard in the offseason and impressed at almost every venue he competed in. With Moncrief, you've got a kid that is a strong, tall possession receiver with the speed of a homerun threat. He's got great hands, can jump with anyone in the country and loves to compete."

Brassell moved from 76 to 45, Peake, a Clemson commitment, moved from 91 to 51 and Moncrief, an Ole Miss commitment, moved from 196 to 88.

Perroni was impressed with Leonard while Farrell was enamored with Shipley.

"Leonard actually looked like a college player because he wasn't dressed at Friday Night Lights with a number or anything, he looked like one of the current Gators," Perroni said of the Florida commitment who moved from 76 to 45. "He is a great route runner, very quick for a big man and has good hands. He's not the tallest tight end in the world, but it doesn't matter."

"Shipley is as polished a wide receiver as you'll find in the 2011 class, the most college-ready right now," Farrell said of the Texas pledge and younger brother of former Longhorns star Jordan Shipley who moved from 183 to 61. "He's not big and he's not super fast, but he does everything well and catches everything. He's an accomplished route-runner, gets separation because he's so precise, has very good body control and makes tough catches. He was hard to stop at Gridiron Kings."

PASSING GRADES

The Elite 11 usually impacts the rankings a bit more than it will this year because of a weaker crop overall, but in addition to Driskel, two other quarterbacks made moves into the 100.

Not only did Miami (Fla.) Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater lead his team to another NIKE 7on title this summer, but he impressed Gorney with many parts of his game.

"People are not blown away by his throwing motion and he doesn't have the best arm strength in the 2011 class but Bridgewater is a big-time competitor and winner," Gorney said of the Miami commitment, who moved from No. 140 to No. 68. "The kid just simply gets it done. He led Miami Northwestern to two straight NIKE 7on championships and he vastly improved throughout the week at the Elite 11. Jacory Harris said at the Elite 11 that he loved Bridgewater's toughness and competitiveness and that definitely was evident at multiple events this summer."

And Oklahoma State commitment J.W. Walsh from Denton (Texas) Guyer was also impressive at both events and moved from No. 114 to No. 74.

"Walsh was excellent at the Nike 7 on and that's most important in such a competitive environment to excel that way," Gorney said. "Walsh was an outstanding leader, communicated well with teammates, and took control of his team when needed. He didn't have a consistent week at the Elite 11 but still made a lot of quality throws. We evaluated him more in the 7-on-7 competitive environment because it shows field vision and decision-making and he stood out."



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