Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe's Bobby Carroll has coached a lot of talent in his 25-plus years as a high school football coach. But nothing could have prepared him for Jadeveon Clowney.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound defensive end has a 4.53-second 40-yard dash time, a 300-plus-pound power clean, a 36-inch vertical leap and has one of the most impressive highlight films seen at the position in quite some time. So when the Rivals.com recruiting analysts were asked who the best player in the Class of 2011 was, the debate lasted a total of about 30 seconds. Clowney ended up as the choice.
Carroll agrees with the decision.
"I have coached five NFL football players in my 27 years of coaching high school football," Carroll said. "We had two Parade All-Americans, two Under Armour All-Americans and two Shrine Bowl players here last year. I also coached Ben Watson when I was at Rock Hill. I thought those guys got a lot of mail in regards to recruiting. That was until I saw Jadeveon Clowney.
"Clowney is an incredible football player and a good guy to have around. He is not some juiced up 6-foot-4 dude, though. He is a legit 6-foot-6. He looks like Jevon Kearse."
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every sees the upside with Clowney.
"Clowney has the rare combination of size, speed and athleticism that's rarely seen at the defensive end position," Every said. "We all saw how special Ronald Powell was last year, but he was 6-4 and 240 pounds. Clowney is 6-6 and 245 pounds and is one of those rarest of rare playmakers."
Clowney has South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama atop his offer list. Where does Clowney end up playing his college football? The consensus seems to be that South Carolina is the team to beat for multiple reasons: Clowney might want to stay closer to home, the Gamecocks have developed good relationships and former South Pointe standouts Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman play there.
NO. 2 A TOUGH CALL
As easy as it was to name the nation's best, the No. 2 spot sparked a lengthy discussion. In the end, Rivals.com gave the nod to St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez linebacker Tony Steward over Tampa Plant athlete James Wilder Jr..
"It was an agonizing decision," Rivals.com analyst Barton Simmons said. "We're splitting hairs here because Tony and James are among the elite of the elite. I know you can make a great argument either way for either player and not be wrong. I'm sure it'll be a discussion we have throughout the year."
THE NO. 1s
Saint Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall OT Seantrel Henderson was No. 1 in the first Rivals100 for 2010, but Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde DE Ronald Powell was at the top in the final release. Here is a look at Rivals100 No. 1 prospects since 2002:
In many years, Steward and Wilder would likely rank as the nation's best prospect. In fact, they would be elite in any recruiting class. Wilder was named Rivals.com's Junior of the Year after he dominated at the U.S. Army All-America Combine and rushed for 940 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. Steward finished his junior season with 123 tackles, five sacks, and two interceptions - which were returned for touchdowns.
"Tony is just the complete package," Simmons said. "He has good size. Everything he does, he does it low. In the open field, Steward closes in a flash and then sinks his hips and breaks down to mirror the running back. In coverage, Steward runs with running backs and receivers like a corner.
"Freakish is an adjective that should be used sparingly when describing college football prospects, but if anyone fits the bill as a freak athlete, Wilder does. He looks like he was born in a weight room, and has an imposing physical presence. Despite being big and muscled up, Wilder is not stiff at all. He can easily run with running backs and tight ends, changes directions well and has great hips."
It's no surprise to those that follow recruiting to see Florida is the top state for talent in this first edition of the Rivals100. But the overwhelming talent in the state this season is still something that's quite noteworthy.
Florida has 20 players in the Rivals100. What's even more staggering is that 12 of those 20 players are in the national top 50. Without question, this is one of the deepest and best years for talent in Florida in a long time.
"The Florida speed cliché is proving true once again this year," Simmons said. "The group of running backs really punctuates a strong year in the state. The depth at that position - along with the talent at the top with Wilder and Steward - make this Florida class one of the better groups we've seen from top to bottom."
Texas and California are the next highest in numbers in the Rivals100 with 12 and 10, respectively. After Brown in Texas, the top ranked players in the Lone Star State are outside linebacker Steve Edmond at No. 14, running back Aaron Green at No. 21 and receiver Trey Metoyer at No. 24. Behind Farmer and Thomas in California are running back Brendon Bigelow at No. 26, defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. at No. 35 and athlete Devon Blackmon at No. 41.
Behind Thomas and Brown at running back are Mike Bellamy at 13, Kenny Hilliard at 16, Isaiah Crowell at 17, Green at 21 and Mike Blakely at 22. All in all there are seven running backs in the top 25, making it the strongest position in this year's class. Linebacker is right behind the backs with six in the top 25.
There are no quarterbacks in the top 30. The first quarterback is at No. 31, where Jeff Driskel of Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty lands. Braxton Miller of Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne was the second-ranked quarterback at 56. All in all, there are only six quarterbacks in the Rivals100.