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June 2, 2004The debate continues.
After Rivals.com released its national top 10 on Tuesday many questions were raised about why one blue-chip player made list over another highly-qualified prospect. With the release of the players ranked No. 11 through 20, more of the national picture takes shape. More five star players and the rest of the Rivals100 will be unveiled 10 at a time throughout the month of June.
Proving that it's one of the strongest offensive tackle classes in quite some time, Plainfield, N.J., standout Eugene Monroe headlines the next group of players named to the Rivals100 team. Monroe, the 6-foot-7, 320-pound five-star selection, is a freak of nature with his ability to put up 345 pounds in the bench and squat 560 pounds. Those physical attributes, along with an amazing ability to understand what is asked of him on every down, make him Rivals.com's No. 11 player in the nation.
"I'm a great pass blocker," Monroe, who is already fully qualified, said. "I set my feet well, I get on my guy and I didn't give up any sacks this season. I also dominate in the run game."
Cleveland Glenville cornerback Jamario O'Neal comes in as the nation's No. 12 player. With a solid senior season, which would see him bounce back from only playing in the final four games of his junior season because of transfer complication, there is little doubt that O'Neal could skyrocket up the charts.
On his sophomore film, O'Neal displays amazing game-changing ability at cornerback and as a special teams' performer. O'Neal, who is already committed to Ohio State, will get plenty of opportunities to shine in his senior season as he takes over the reigns at Glenville with Ted Gin Jr. departing for Columbus.
"When he hits you, you know it," Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. said. "He also has speed like a sprinter and can cover the field like a cornerback. He's such a great kid, too. He is a coach's dream."
When you get a scholarship offer from Michigan after your sophomore year, you know you're really good. When you rush for 2,075 yards and 43 touchdowns as a sophomore you know you're one of the best around. And when you back that up with 2,507 yards and 39 scores as a junior, you know you're special and worthy of a five-star ranking.
That's the story with East Grand Rapids, Mich., running back Kevin Grady, who is ranked as the No. 13 player in the land. Grady, who is already committed to the Maize and Blue, is a rare combination of explosiveness, size and bruising ability to blow through holes in the line of scrimmage. Grady might not have the blazing speed that some other running backs do, but neither did Maurice Clarett when he came out of Warren (Ohio) Harding back in 2002. Argue all you want to, but there is little doubting that Grady is one of the nation's truly elite prospects.
"You almost have to pinch yourself, because he's so good," East Grand Rapids coach Peter Stuursma said. "The biggest thing about KG is that he wants to be great, and he has made himself into the real deal. He's an elite player and worked hard to get to that point, but he is such a humble kid."
Dallas Kimball is home to the nation's No. 14 player. That's where DeMarcus Granger roams the field, terrorizing quarterbacks with his explosive first step and a non-stop motor. Granger racked up 68 tackles and 17 sacks as a junior, earning all-state honors and recognition as the top defensive player in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.
"There is no doubt in my mind, he's the best defensive lineman in the nation," Kimball coach Darrell Jordan said. "I hate to be blunt, but there is nobody better out there. The thing that really makes DeMarcus special is that he comes to work every day with his lunch pail and goes to work with only one sandwich in there. He's a big guy and he's always hungry because of that. You'll never see him take a play off."
After seeing Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edwards offensive tackle Alex Boone in person twice - once in the state playoffs and again at the Columbus NIKE Training Camp - it was impossible to think that there would be better tackle prospects out there. However, after scouring the nation, Dan Doering, Reggie Youngblood and Monroe popped up and showed they are worth of a high national ranking, too.
In the end, Boone ends up ranked as the nation's No. 15 player, a worthy ranking for an exceptional prospect.
Not only is Boone big at 6-8 and 296 pounds, but he also has great footwork and has been clocked as fast as 5.1 seconds in the 40-yard dash. The Ohio State commitment fielded a load of recruiting calls in the month of May, but in the end it's going to be hard to keep Boone from being the best Buckeye offensive tackle prospect in quite some time.
Maryland is one of the most overshadowed talent pools in the entire nation, but with players like Derrick Williams and Melvin Alaeze stepping into the limelight it's hard to keep the state from getting the props that it deserves. Williams was named Rivals.com's No. 1 prospect on Tuesday and Alaeze comes in at No. 16.
And honestly, it might be tough to keep Alaeze from climbing the charts even higher. Alaeze draws comparisons to former Maryland superstar Victor Abiamiri, but one college coach says there is a major difference.
"The biggest difference is that Melvin is better," one ACC recruiting coordinator said. "Not only is he fast and big, he dominates in everything he does. Alaeze's speed is too much for most linemen and, for those who can stay with him off the ball, his power is also tough to match. He's the nation's best defensive end."
With the vast amount of prospect video that Rivals.com has collected so far this year, one defensive player's film stands out above all the others. That player is LaGrange, Ga., linebacker Tray Blackmon. Honestly his film alone is worthy of a high national ranking, but when you combine his amazing playing ability, along with a great 6-foot, 200-pound frame, and a motor that doesn't stop, Blackmon ends up with the nation's No. 17 ranking.
"He's got great instincts no matter where you put him," LaGrange coach Steve Pardue said. "He's always in the middle of things, making something happen. And when he hits somebody, they usually go backwards."
Blackmon is also a great leader, helping LaGrange to a 14-1 record and the Class 3A state championship in his junior season. His stats were also off the wall with 116 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks.
Luck has nothing to do with why North Hollywood, Calif., running back Marlon Lucky is ranked as the nation's No. 18 player overall. Lucky (5-11, 202-pounds) is a rare combination of size, speed and agility. Lucky earned most valuable player honors at the San Diego Nike Training Camp, with a performance that included a 4.44-second 40, a 4.27-second shuttle, a 36-inch vertical leap and 24 reps in the bench.
But when you evaluate Lucky on film, that's where he really pops out at. In crucial situations and time after time in big games, Lucky would take over and make the big play that his team was looking for.
"Marlon is a winner," North Hollywood coach Brad Ratcliff said. "When the game is on the line, he's money."
Take your pick - running back or cornerback? That's the choice facing Highland Springs, Va., standout Victor Harris. The 6-foot, 185-pound Harris is ranked as the nation's No. 19 player mainly because of his ability to project at both positions. He's listed as a running back now and he wants to play running back in college, but some college coaches are whispering that he could be a future NFL cornerback.
"He has great speed, great bounce, great vision at running back, great hands, and he makes everything look easy," Highland Springs coach Scott Burton said. "He is just a very gifted kid that can do almost anything he wants to on the football field."
He's 6-2, 315 pounds, runs a 5.12-second 40-yard dash and he can bench-press a house. Meet the nation's No. 20 player, Callahan Bright of Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Harriton. Bright looks incredible on film and was just as impressive at the Virginia NIKE Training Camp, where he couldn't be blocked.
Bright has an amazing first step and is also well put together and looks like he's ready to step on the football field for any college team right this minute.
Along with feedback and support from the Rivals.com network of high school and college publishers, the actual player rankings are compiled after hours of film evaluation, personal observations and input from professional, college and high school coaches.
Rivals.com recruiting analysts Jeremy Crabtree, Bobby Burton, Mike Farrell, Brian Gates, Jon Kirby, Bill Kurelic, Tim O'Halloran, Jeremy Patterson, Brian Stumpf, Rick Kimbrel and Greg Biggins compiled the list.