With the release of the initial Rivals250 for the 2014 class comes the first debates about prospects who could make a move into that territory in the next year.
Among those prospects are 43 players who have earned four stars but sit just outside the R250.
Not surprisingly, wide receivers make up a large number of those four-star prospects. In the class of 2013, 45 wide receivers rated four-stars or better. A total of 40 wide receivers start out rated four-stars in the 2014 class, with just eight outside the R250.
"Pack possesses exceptional size, speed, and body control," said Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington. "On tape, the wideout attacks the ball in flight and has a wide catch-radius. He has above average speed, but he will need to refine his route-running. His body type and big-play ability will make him highly coveted on the recruiting front throughout the Southeast."
As for athletes, there are 17 within the initial R250 and eight with four stars who just missed the 250.
Iowa commit Jay Scheel is one of the new four-stars ATHs who is on the cusp of the 250 ranking.
"The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Scheel had a standout junior campaign playing the quarterback position," Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said, "but he is likely headed toward the wide receiver position in college. Scheel is an explosive playmaker who also brings good size to the field."
While wide receiver and athlete have placed a large number of prospects in the four-star range, the offensive center position has just one early four-star and that is 6-foot-4, 310-pound Trenton Noller of Windsor, Colo., who is among those just outside the R250.
"Trenton Noller is a player generating buzz for good reason," West analyst Rob Cassidy said. "He certainly has the size to play along a college offensive line and has a knack for finishing plays as well. The bonus when it comes to Noller, though, is that he is a rare 'true' center prospect. There will be no moving him on the college level, as he's shined in the middle during high school."
Noller's position appears pretty well set in college, but where St. John (Ind.) Lake Central's Gelen Robinson will play at the next level has been a much-discussed topic over the last year. Robinson primarily played linebacker as a junior, but he has been dominant at the defensive end position at several offseason camps.
Robinson measured in at just over 6-foot-1 and weighed 224 pounds at the U.S. Army Junior Combine last month, but he keeps his weight down for wrestling. There is not an ounce of fat on his frame, and considering his father, former NBA star Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson, was 6-foot-7, there is a chance Gelen has more height gain in his future. Even if he stays at his current height, though, Robinson could be a star.
"Teams have been slow to offer Robinson because of a question about his position in college," Helmholdt said. "I had those same questions when I first saw him as a sophomore, but now having seen his junior season and watching him live at four or five camps, I'm convinced this is a kid who will play defensive end in college, and will play it at an extremely high level."
With five defensive backs ranked in the top 13 players in the country, it is obviously a deep position in 2014. The depth of the class is highlighted by seven additional defensive backs coming in the four-star category but outside the 250 range. Bellflower (Calif.) John Bosco cornerback Jaleel Wadood and Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph safety Kiy Hester are two notable names in that group.
"Wadood is active all over the field on offense, defense and special teams," West analyst Adam Gorney said. "He's still very lean but has a lot of toughness so his frame has not been a problem yet. He's best at cornerback but could also be utilized as a slot receiver or return specialist."
"Safety Kiy Hester is one of those players who could definitely make the jump into the Rivals250 later in the evaluation process," East analyst Adam Friedman said. "Hester is a big, physical and athletic safety who just needs to react to the ball more quickly. The playmaking abilities that he possesses allow him to be a difference-maker on defense."
One of the more noteworthy four-stars outside the 250 is quarterback Michael O'Connor. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Canadian played last fall at The Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., as a sophomore, but transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in January and reclassified as a 2014 prospect. O'Connor will now graduate next winter and be eligible to enroll in school for 2014 spring practices.
O'Connor started picking up scholarships last offseason, and now sits at a total of seven from the likes of Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Florida and Vanderbilt. He has stood out at several camps in the last 10 months, most recently the Under Armour Junior Combine in January.
"O'Connor is a quarterback who has piqued our interest," Codrington said. "Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke will tutor the talented signal-caller [at the IMG Academy] and groom him to be a more complete quarterback. The 6-foot-5 transplant has a solid arm and sneaky athleticism. He has the frame and tools to be a good field general down the road."
Another interesting prospect who has snuck up on college coaches recently is Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, tight end Chase Blakley. The state of Idaho is not known as a prominent football talent producing state, and it did not have a player with a Rivals Rating over 5.6 in the 2013 class. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Blakley, however, is out early as a 5.8 four-star.
"It's easy to forget about Chase Blakley," Cassidy said. "Thing is, the tight end is making his presence known. He showed up at the U.S. Army National Combine last month and stole the show with his combination of size and speed. His performance against other top-flight players was enough to get him noticed and more buzz seems to be growing around his name by the day.
"Blakley is a long, physical tight end who loves to compete. There will be no shortage of chances to see him in action, as he's a bit of a camp rat," Cassidy said.
The next chance for this group of prospects, and all those in the class of 2014, to improve their ranking and break into the Rivals250 will be the spring camp scene. Thousands of evaluations will take place over the next year at camps, combines and high school football fields, before the final rankings for the 2014 class are finished next January.