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August 29, 2011
The second edition of the 2012 Rivals100 has been released and at a quick glance, especially at the top, one would think there wasn't much movement. However, while the top five players in the country remain the same, there are four new five-stars added to the mix, plenty of player movement within the Rivals100. Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston leads the charge of new five-stars but the Florida State commitment has some talented company.
Winston, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who committed to the Seminoles over Alabama and others, impressed at the Ohio State Elite 11 as well as the final Elite 11 battle in Malibu. Rivals.com had three different analysts watch him throw live in the past few months and they obviously came away impressed.
"Winston was the best overall quarterback at the Elite 11. He was consistent all week, showed great poise in the pocket, made all the passes and really proved that he is the nation's most complete player at his position," said Rivals.com West Analyst Adam Gorney. "It is hard to believe that Winston might forego playing college football for a baseball career because he is so extremely talented he definitely has legitimate NFL potential."
Not only does Winston make all the throws, but he carries himself like a quarterback.
"The first thing you notice about Winston is the presence with which he carries himself on the field. He has natural leadership qualities and is a player others will follow," said Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt , who saw him at the OSU Elite 11. "Winston's athleticism and ability to make plays with his feet increases his value, but strictly from a passing standpoint he still ranks as one of the top signal callers in the nation. He throws a beautiful ball with velocity and accuracy."
And he's clearly more than just an athlete playing quarterback.
"I sort of expected Winston to be an athlete learning the quarterback position but he surprised me in how complete a passer he is already," said Rivals.com Southwest Analyst Brian Perroni, who also saw Winston at Ohio State. "He is very comfortable in the pocket and did a very good job of making progressions. With his running ability also factored in, it would have been really tough not to make him the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country."
Winston moved up 45 spots to No. 7 in the country this time around and is joined by another quarterback as a new five-star. However, Columbus (Ind.) East gunslinger Gunner Kiel made a smaller jump of four slots (up to No. 15) to earn his coveted fifth star. Like Winston, he impressed at Ohio State and out in Malibu.
"Kiel is the quintessential, All-American quarterback with a big-time arm who makes playing the position look effortless. There were times at the Elite 11 where Kiel went through the motions but for the most part he showed off outstanding skills," said Gorney of the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder who is committed to Indiana. "When Kiel wants to be the best there aren't any pro-style quarterbacks in the 2012 class who can compare."
Helmholdt and Perroni agree.
"Kiel has an unconventional throwing motion, but his release is quick and he gets excellent velocity on his throws. Kiel never looks rushed and is always in control of his mechanics," Helmholdt said. "He has an easily repetitive motion that consistently puts the ball on its mark. His movements from snap to throw are efficient and he is far ahead of most quarterbacks his age in the little aspects that are necessary to achieve greatness at the position."
"Kiel was the most consistent quarterback at the Columbus Elite 11 workouts," Perroni said. "He is a big kid in the pocket with very good arm strength and he does a good job of limiting his mistakes. He is not afraid to take some chances though and was able to fit the ball through small windows for his receivers."
The other two new five-stars, Miramar (Fla.) cornerback Tracy Howard and Austin (Texas) wide receiver Cayleb Jones, impressed against the best and also made minor moves upward to earn their fifth star, already in striking range from our previous rankings. Howard moved up eight slots to No. 17.
"Howard has long been considered the top cornerback in this class and he was dominant at the Heath Evans 7-on-7 showing he is a shutdown corner who has great athleticism and technique," Rivals.com Florida Analyst Chris Nee said of the 6-foot, 170-pounder who is uncommitted. "He is aggressive at going after the ball when it is in the air but doesn't give up the big play by gambling too often."
Gorney saw Howard dominate at The Opening in Oregon.
"Howard is the perfect combination of physical, tough, athletic and competitive. He loves talking to get in the heads of receivers but doesn't go overboard with his chatter," Gorney said. "He's great at the line jamming guys and does just enough to force them off their routes. Once the ball is in the air, Howard is like glue on defense and does a great job spotting the ball and usually knocking it down."
As for Jones, the 6-foot-3, 198-pounder moved up just one spot to No. 20 but earned that fifth star with his size and agility.
"Jones looks like he's 6-foot-5 on the hoof and 210 pounds, but he moves like a smaller receiver," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell of the Texas commitment. "I saw him only during the drills, one-on-ones and during the first half of a game at Gridiron Kings before he broke his finger, but I know what a five-star receiver looks like. He snatches the ball, uses his huge body to shield off defenders and showed some wiggle and the ability to make people miss in the open field. He has a chance to be special."
Gorney saw him earlier at The Opening and was equally impressed.
"Jones has outstanding size and a great, smooth frame which allows him the ability to run solid routes, be athletic and create space with cornerbacks in the open field," he said. "Jones is very good catching jump balls and he has the speed to break away from cornerbacks."
While the five-stars obviously get most of the attention, there were many prospects that moved way up within the Rivals100 or made their debut on the prestigious list. Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast running back Mario Pender, an FSU commitment, moved up 25 slots to No. 28 overall while fellow back T.J. Yeldon from Daphne (Ala.) an Auburn commitment, jumped 24 slots to No. 34.
"A dominant spring game performance was followed by a good showing at the Jimbo Fisher Football Camp during the summer months," said Nee of Pender, a 6-foot, 185-pounder. "He possesses an excellent combination of speed and size, continues to show that he is a homerun hitter capable of taking it to the house on every touch no matter where the ball is spotted on the field. He is also a very good receiver out of the backfield."
"Yeldon is a player who has the potential to become a complete back at the next level. Not only does he possess excellent speed and cutting ability, he's already fairly refined as a pass receiver," said Rivals.com Southeast Analyst Keith Niebuhr of the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder. "He reaches top-end speed rapidly, and is so physical he's not easily brought to the ground."
But the biggest jump among the running backs was from Miami (Fla.) Norland speedster Randy Johnson who dominated at The Opening and at Gridiron Kings. Johnson, a Miami commitment, jumped 78 slots to No. 67 in the nation.
"Johnson is arguably the most electric prospect in the 2012 class. Johnson can line up and carry the ball in a traditional sense, but what separates him from his peers is his ability to line up as a slot receiver or act as a receiver out of the backfield and make plays in space," said Nee of the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder. "His quick acceleration and ability to cut on a dime makes him a playmaking elusive back who provides a lot of versatility for an offense."
Many wide receivers made nice jumps as well including two moving inside the top 50 as Dallas (Texas) Skyline wide out Thomas Johnson jumped 20 spots to No. 30 overall and Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast pass catcher Chris Black jumped 26 slots to No. 31.
"Johnson was dominant at Gridiron Kings for his team, especially when Jones went down with an injury," said Farrell of the 6-foot, 180-pounder who is committed to Texas. "He instantly became his team's go-to guy and he consistently got open, made some great adjustments in traffic and showed very reliable hands. He's the real deal."
"Black had a strong spring season and then turned in a good performance at the Jimbo Fisher Football Camp which allowed him to move up the charts at the wide receiver spot, where he is now considered the top pure widout in his class from the Sunshine State," said Nee of the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder who is committed to Alabama. "He has the ability to play inside or outside at the next level, but is likely a slot receiver. He will settle into that spot well with his ability to create separation from defenders, quickly accelerate, consistently make the catch and then shake defenders while producing massive amounts of yards after the catch."
Four other wide receivers made nice jumps as well. Miami (Fla.) Northwestern wideout Amari Cooper came from outside the 250 to move to No. 58 while fellow receivers Germone Hopper (No. 70), Deontay Greenberry (No. 72) and Bryce Treggs (No. 100) all made nice moves as well.
"Cooper came off his junior season as a relative unknown due to a lack of opportunity to show what he could do. He ended the summer as one of the fastest rising prospects in the Southeast," said Nee of the uncommitted 6-foot-1, 175-pounder. "Cooper is a wide receiver with good size, excellent speed, great footwork, and consistent hands. He started his offseason with a strong showing at BadgerSports 7-on-7 and the streak continued at Florida State, Alabama and other subsequent camps he participated in."
Farrell and Gorney both saw Hopper and Greenberry at different all-star events this summer and came away impressed. Hopper moved up 32 slots while Greenberry jumped 43 spaces.
"Hopper is a technician at wide receiver, he is a great route runner, is very sudden in and out of his cuts and he always creates separation," said Farrell of the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Clemson commitment from Charlotte (N.C.) O'Berry Academy of Technology. "He could play slot or outside and he will be a headache for ACC defensive coordinators."
"Greenberry started to become a national name at the Badger Sport 7-on-7 in Las Vegas and continued to show off his skills throughout the summer," Gorney said of the 6-foot-3, 187-pound Notre Dame commitment from Fresno (Cali.) Washington Union. "Greenberry always plays like he has something to prove and goes with a lot of intensity."
As for Treggs, Gorney is a big fan. He moved up 33 slots to just squeeze into the Rivals100.
"Treggs is undersized but there are few receivers that were as productive all summer. His shining moment came at The Opening where he was simply the best receiver there, hands down, and at times was unstoppable," Gorney said of the 5-foot-11, 171-pound California commitment from Bellflower (Cali.) St. John Bosco. "He went to Oregon to prove himself and he definitely succeeded."
While Winston and Kiel earned their fifth stars at quarterback, a few other signal-callers made huge jumps as well following a busy summer. Eagle (Idaho) quarterback Tanner Mangum, a BYU commitment, came from outside the Rivals250 and jumped to No. 39 in the country while Denver (Col.) Mullen dual-threat Cyler Miles (Washington commitment) and Houston (Texas) Klein Forest standout Matt Davis (Texas A&M commitment) each made huge jumps as well.
"Mangum missed most of his junior season because of injury but rebounded in a huge way this summer. He doesn't wow anyone physically but he is such a great decision-maker, so smart in the pocket and he rarely forces anything," said Gorney of the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder. "He was great wherever he went whether it was the Stanford NIKE Camp, The Opening or the Elite 11. Consistency, moxie and discipline are three words that describe Mangum's game."
With Miles, his performance at the Elite 11 moved him up 119 slots to No. 41, just behind Mangum.
"Miles looked really good at the Seattle NIKE Camp but he was exceptional at The Opening. Not only is he a good athlete but he has a strong arm and can really zip the ball down the field," said Gorney of the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder. "He is an impressive decision-maker, too, who was decent in drills but his best during 7-on-7 action."
Finally, Davis showed he is fully recovered from a knee injury as a junior and dominated at Gridiron Kings in leading his team to the title. He moved up 90 slots to No. 54 in the country.
"Davis was so poised in the pocket and saw the field so well you'd never know what a dual-threat danger he is on the field," said Farrell of the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder. "He went through his progressions, didn't force the ball and was very accurate throughout. He threw a nice, catchable ball and looked very confident as a pocket passer."
Rounding out the offensive moves, offensive guards Curtis Riser (Texas commitment) and Isaac Seumalo (Oregon State commitment) moved into the Rivals100 with strong performances. Riser jumped 152 slots to No. 92 in the country while Seumalo improved 82 places to No. 93.
"Riser was hampered by injuries for most of his junior season as well as in the spring, but this summer he showed the interior lineman he can be when completely healthy," said Perroni of the 6-foot-3, 283-pounder. "He has a strong upper body and gets a great punch in pass protection."
"From a technical standpoint, Seumalo is far and away one of the best offensive guards all summer. He has a great power base, is strong in the upper body and once he gets his hands extended on a defensive lineman the drill is pretty much over," said Gorney of the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from Corvallis, Ore. "Seumalo rarely gets beaten because he has such great fundamentals."
Other notables at different positions that made huge jumps include defensive ends Chris Casher, Channing Ward and Alex Balducci, defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins, safety Marcus Maye and linebackers Kwontie Moore and Reggie Ragland.
"Casher looks like a college defensive end already. He has outstanding size packed full of muscle plus he moves well for a player his size," said Gorney of the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Mobile (Ala.) Davidson who is committed to Florida State "He was especially impressive during one-on-ones at The Opening against some really outstanding offensive linemen."
"Ward is a physically gifted and ultra-competitive player who brings much to the table. Once he decides where he wants to go, Ward uses his great explosiveness and quickness to get there in a hurry," said Neibuhr of the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder from Aberdeen (Miss.) who is uncommitted. "He's an intense athlete with a big-time motor who is relentless in his pursuit of whoever has the ball in his hands. His first step is one of the best in the South."
"Balducci is old school, he's a big kid who moves well and he can play any of the four defensive line positions in a 4-3," said Farrell of the 6-foot-4, 262-pounder from Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic who is committed to Oregon. "He can bull rush you, go around you or counter you. He was very impressive at Top Gun and didn't wear down in the extreme heat."
The tackle in the group impressed both Helmholdt and Perroni.
"Pipkins was impressive when we saw him at the U.S. Army Junior Combine in January, but he had trimmed some of the bad weight by the time he showed up at the Ohio State NIKE Camp and looked to be in much better shape," said Helmholdt of the 6-foot-3, 325-pounder from Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill who is committed to Michigan. "He is explosive off the snap and once he gets that big frame moving up field offensive linemen have trouble slowing him down. Pipkins uses his hands well and is a potent combination of quickness, power and technique."
"Pipkins has added some muscle since the U.S. Army Combine in January," Perroni agreed. "He has an extremely strong lower body and uses it to overpower most opposing offensive linemen. He proved that he can play the pass just as well as he stuffs the run on film."
Nee was impressed with Maye, the Florida commitment from Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity.
"Maye is a fast-rising safety who had a strong summer, capped off by a great performance at the Tampa Under Armour Combine. Maye, who is physically built like a linebacker, exhibited his ability to play the pass down the field," he said of the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder. "He also showed his high-level athleticism by testing well and performing well in the combine portions of the event."
Finally, the two linebackers made big moves as Moore jumped 41 slots to No. 75 overall based on a great summer showing and Ragland jumped 136 slots to No. 81 after some additional film was reviewed.
"With Moore, he's a huge linebacker who is outstanding in coverage and reads the play very well," said Farrell of the 6-foot-2, 243-pounder from Norfolk (Va.) Christian who is committed to Virginia. "For a big guy to move the way Moore does and be able to turn and cover as well as run to the sideline is impressive. For Ragland it just came down to getting more game film to check him out. We got it right after our last rankings and it was impressive, he's huge and he can move."
"Ragland is a big, physical player with prototypical SEC inside linebacker size and athleticism. He covers a ton of ground and is a terrific tackler," he said of the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder from Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones. "His versatility is a major key to his success and he can do just about everything well, from rushing off the edge to sticking with backs in coverage."
Rivals.com will release its full 250 on Tuesday.