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May 20, 2013

Four new five-stars highlight updated Rivals100

MORE: Rivals100 presented by Under Armour

The spring evaluation period is over at Rivals.com for football recruiting, and with that comes our second numerical class of 2014 Rivals100 presented by Under Armour. With plenty of new film evaluations and thousands of prospects scouted in person, numerous changes are reflected in the list. Led by new five-star Damian Prince, an offensive tackle from Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara, here's a breakdown of the elite list.

"This spring was unlike any other since I've been at Rivals.com because of our Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "The series, known as the RCS now in the recruiting world, gave us exclusive scouting access to numerous prospects that no other website or publication had the chance to analyze. That's a big difference maker in this industry and just makes our rankings, already regarded as the most respected in the industry, that much stronger."

This edition of the Rivals100 boasts four new five-stars but no changes in the top four slots.

"We still feel, after all the film and in-person evaluations, that Da'Shawn Hand, Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Fournette and Quin Blanding (Virginia commitment) are the top four players in the country -- in that order," Farrell said. "But this is a really great year at the top, one of the best when it comes to rare talent at certain positions that I've seen in a few years, and plenty could change moving forward. There are probably seven or eight guys in our top 10 who could make a push toward No. 1 in the end."

One such player is Prince, who showed a new dedication to football this offseason and cracked the top 10 with a shiny fifth star next to his name.

"With Prince, we knew he had the talent but it was the dedication we were looking for," Farrell said of the 6-foot-5, 292-pounder. "When we first saw him, he was around 330 pounds and just wasn't an elite athlete. Now that he's dropped the weight, and it wasn't really bad weight but it just slowed him down a bit, his footwork and athleticism are in that elite range."

The other three new five-stars rank in order with Oakley (Calif.) Freedom running back Joe Mixon checking in at No. 15, Red Bank (N.J.) Red Bank Catholic offensive tackle Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame commitment) at No. 16 and Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County linebacker Raekwon McMillan, a previous five-star, at No. 17.

"With Mixon, it became clear at many different camp settings that he was too athletic, versatile and hungry to keep off our five-star list," Farrell said. "He's 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, but he could be a scat back or slot receiver, he's that athletic and has those kinds of receiving skills. He's an upright runner on film and a big target, but you see much less of that now and I think that's one of the things he has been working on.

"Nelson is just a beast of a left tackle. He's 6-foot-5 and 301 pounds, he has long arms and a great frame, and he has one of the things many tackles at this age lack -- patience. He doesn't lunge or guess in pass pro; he just gets out of his stance, kicks back and reacts and does it as well as anybody this year. He's obviously been working hard and he's still very new to a high level of football, so his potential is sky high.

THE NEW FIVE-STARS
Name: Damian Prince
Position: Offensive tackle
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 292
High school: Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara
Rank: No. 10
College: Undecided

Name: Joe Mixon
Position: Running back
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 207
High school: Oakley (Calif.) Freedom
Rank: No. 15
College: Undecided

Name: Quenton Nelson
Position: Offensive tackle
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 301
High school: Red Bank (N.J.) Red Bank Catholic
Rank: No. 16
College: Notre Dame

Name: Raekwon McMillan
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 235
High school: Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County
Rank: 17
College: Undecided
"Finally, with McMillan, we took away that fifth star because he got complacent and allowed himself to gain some bad weight and slow himself down. I'm not sure if someone got into his head that he needed to be 250 pounds to be an elite linebacker or what, but the most impressive thing about him is that he didn't whine or complain or pout. He took it as a challenge, got rid of the excess weight and became the player we fell in love with on film again. He's a prospect for others to emulate honestly because he could have reacted like many others have and stood back and counted his offers."

While Mixon and Nelson made jumps of more than 50 slots since our last ranking, Prince moved up a respectable 21 slots to No. 10 overall and McMillan actually dropped to No. 17 but earned that coveted fifth star. Many other players made huge moves in the Rivals100, with many of them pushing up more than 100 slots. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen is one of them, jumping 109 spaces to No. 27 and, more important, to No. 1 at pro-style quarterback.

"Allen has grown an inch or two since the start of his junior season. And while that certainly helped his case to take the top spot at quarterback, it wasn't the reason he got the bump," Rivals.com West analyst Rob Cassidy said. "In the past the only knock on Allen has been his arm strength, but he showed off the ability to throw an effortless deep ball on the camp circuit. Allen's mechanics are nearly flawless, and the way the ball jumps out of his hands separates him from the other elite options."

Allen was the only quarterback to make such a significant jump in the rankings, and Mixon was alone at running back when it came to making a huge jump. However, at wide receiver Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp standout Josh Malone moved up 34 slots to No. 38 overall with dominating performances.

"We already knew Malone was a very talented wide receiver and that's why he was already in the Rivals100, but he made a big leap this time around on the heels of his offensive skill MVP showing at the RCS Atlanta stop," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "Going against a loaded group of defensive backs, Malone made a ton of plays, while also looking stronger and faster than the last time we saw him."

The other big offensive jumps came from the offensive linemen, and there were plenty of them. Jackson (Miss.) Callaway offensive tackle Rod Taylor, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood offensive guard Isaiah Wynn, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe offensive guard Natrell Curtis, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco guard Damien Mama and Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab offensive guard Garrett Brumfield (LSU commitment) made major moves.

"Taylor was stellar at the RCS Birmingham event, and he proved he belongs in the Rivals100. His versatility at right tackle and right guard is invaluable for college coaches. In addition to his inside and outside ability, he has great size and strength to be able to be an all-League performer at the next level," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington said of Taylor, who moved up 102 slots to No. 64. "Wynn has been superb this spring on the camp circuit. We had a chance to see him twice in person, and each time he got better. He has worked at center, guard, and tackle, and he has shined at all three. Although he doesn't have elite tackle height, his foot speed and athleticism allow him to handle speed rushers with good quickness."

Wynn went from outside the Rivals250 as a three-star prospect to No. 89 overall.

As for Curtis, he surprised Cassidy this spring and jumped 50 spots to No. 93.

"Curtis blocked like a man possessed at RCS Phoenix. The fact that he showed up a bit out of shape was a little worrisome, but the way he dominated the competition despite carrying some extra weight was beyond impressive," Cassidy said. "He has quick feet for his size and finishes every block with a bit of attitude. Curtis isn't a superstar in one area, but his combination of top-level strength, footwork and technique makes him a special player."

Mama stood out to Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney for many reasons, and he moved up 128 spots to No. 99 overall.

"Mama is massive. That's the first thing that stands out about the offensive lineman from St. John Bosco, one of the power programs in California for next season. What's surprising, though, is that he moves so well for someone who's about 360 pounds," Gorney said. "He's so light on his feet that some schools have recruited him to play offensive tackle, although we feel he'll end up inside. Mama has broad shoulders and tree-trunk legs, and once he gets his hands on a defensive lineman, it's pretty much over."

Finally, Brumfield stood out to Rivals.com Midwest analyst Jason Howell and jumped 40 spots to No. 91.

"Going into RCS Houston, we already had a pretty good idea Brumfield was a special prospect. He is more of an interior prospect who is powerful, and he loves putting opponents on the ground," Howell said. "At RCS Houston, he did just that as he showed that strong punch and the feet to go with it to anyone who wanted a piece of the action. At the end of the day, he walked away with the offensive line MVP."

While the moves on the offensive side of the ball are impressive, the defensive moves are more plentiful and a few of them are more astonishing. Three three-star prospects moved all the way into the Rivals100, led by Quitman (Ga.) Brooks County defensive back Malkom Parrish, who debuts at No. 73.

"It's rare for a guy to come from three-star status all the way into the Rivals100, but if anyone deserved it this time around it was Parrish. He was terrific at our RCS in Atlanta, the first extended look we've had of him at cornerback," Wommack said. "He plays all over the field for his high school team, including quarterback and safety, but he went against some high-level wide receivers and was virtually a lockdown defender when we saw him"

Nederland, Texas, defensive tackle DeShawn Washington (Texas A&M commitment) and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln defensive tackle Thomas Holley also jumped into the Rivals100 at No. 82 and No. 84, respectively, from three-star status.

"Washington is a guy we liked when we saw him during the season, but he played most of the game at defensive end and tight end. However, it was easy to spot his size his feet, and his explosiveness, and on his film it is easy to spot his intensity," Howell said. "He is the kind of prospect who can come in and become an impact player on the interior of the defensive front in a very short time."

When it comes to Holley, he's the latest in a long line of New York prospects who emerged a little later than the rest.

"Holley is relatively new to football, but everyone was really looking forward to his performance at the Newark RCS. He was slightly bigger than expected, and his play on the field showed that he had clearly been working hard to improve his game," Rivals.com Mid Atlantic analyst Adam Friedman said. "Holley was the best defensive lineman at the camp, and the skills he showed warranted a high national ranking and really synched with his film, which was also excellent."

Other defensive linemen who made big moves included Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic defensive end Connor Humphreys and Olney (Md.) Good Counsel defensive end Jesse Aniebonam.

"Humphreys was unstoppable at two camps, including RCS Los Angeles, and he's bigger than we realized. He has a nice mixture of speed and power where he can quickly get around slower offensive tackles or overpower smaller players to rush the quarterback," Gorney said of the big lineman, who moved up 154 spots to No. 78. "Humphreys also uses an array of moves to the inside and the outside that makes him a terror in one-on-one drills. It was easy to name him the defensive line MVP at RCS Los Angeles because no one could stop him."

Aniebonam hails from one of the top talent-producing programs on the East Coast.

"Far from unknown, Aniebonam plays at Good Counsel and over the past few months he has shown a lot of progress. He has put on more muscle while staying quick and explosive," Friedman said of the versatile prospect, who moved up 88 spots to No. 94. "The versatility of the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end makes him incredibly valuable. A player of that size with that much quickness can do so many things on the football field and is a very highly valued commodity."

Rounding out the defensive group are two linebackers -- Montgomery (Ala.) Carver star Shaun Dion Hamilton (Alabama commitment) and Memphis (Tenn.) White Station stud Petera Wilson, who both jumped more than 100 slots, and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John Smith, better known as "JuJu."

"Although Hamilton is a touch sawed off from fellow four-star and in-state 'backer Tre Williams (Auburn commitment), he makes up for it with excellent instincts and closing speed," Codrington said of Hamilton, who jumped 136 slots to No. 37 overall. "He is well built with a barrel chest, and he showed great lateral ability at RCS Birmingham. He is a complete second-level defender and deserves his lofty bump."

"Wilson was a little overshadowed on the field last fall while playing with 2013 Rivals250 defensive end Jason Carr (Tennessee signee), but he had the stage all to himself at our RCS in Birmingham and he looked terrific," Wommack said of the Memphis 'backer who moved up 160 spots to No. 85. "We already knew about his ability to fly to the ball and make big hits, but he showed the ability to cover and move terrifically in space. The big jump into the Rivals100 puts Wilson into position to be the state of Tennessee's top defensive player in the class of 2014."

Finally, JuJu impressed on film and backed it up in the endless 7-on-7 circuit in California. He moved up 62 spaces to No. 49 in the country.

"Smith had an excellent junior season to establish himself as one of the top players in California, and he's continued that on the 7on7 circuit this spring," Gorney said. "He's outstanding at both wide receiver and safety, and that versatility is one of the things that makes him special. He has great size, he's so smooth, he makes so many plays on both sides of the field, and he's a smart player who seems to know where the ball is going before it gets there."



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