The first numerical Rivals100 for the class of 2012 has been released and many key questions on the minds of recruiting fans have now been answered. Most importantly, fans wanted to know who Rivals.com would anoint as the initial No. 1 prospect in the land for the class following Jadeveon Clowney's bell-to-bell reign as top dog last year.
For those who have seen him, it should come as no surprise to see Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham at the top of the charts.
As a junior, Green-Beckham caught 78 passes for 1,706 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging an amazing 21.87 yards-per-catch despite constant attention and safety coverage over the top. This followed a sophomore season in which he caught 66 passes for 1,616 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"On April 28, both A.J. Green and Julio Jones were selected No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, in the 2011 NFL draft and both were five stars coming out of high school back in the class of 2008," said Rivals.com national analyst Barry Every. "Green-Beckham has the same skill set as both of these gridiron warriors but is a bit taller. I really think right now he is the safest bet for a surefire five-star player that will produce immediate results in college."
Rivals.com is the first recruiting website to label Green-Beckham as the No. 1 player, something that surprises national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell.
"After last year, people are searching for a surprise or someone not quite as high-profile or maybe simply looking to be different," Farrell said. "Clowney was so obvious from start to finish that maybe everyone else wants to go with someone less obvious than Green-Beckham. But that doesn't make much sense to me. He's 6-foot-6, 220 pounds with room to play at 240-plus, he runs in the 10.7 range in the 100 meters, triple jumps 45 feet and is dominant in every aspect on the football field. What more do you want? Sometimes you have to go with the obvious rather than search for something else."
However, despite the lofty ranking for Green-Beckham, Farrell said that he is not a lock to go start to finish at No. 1 as Clowney last year.
"Jadeveon Clowney was a freak big man who had the wingspan of a condor, ran like a cheetah and has the agility of a gazelle," said Farrell. "I have never seen a defensive end like him in high school and might never see another as good in my career. Wide receiver is a different animal. Green-Beckham is special but so were guys like Patrick Turner, Harvin, Jones, Green and Prater. Wideouts aren't as rare as some other positions and this year there are some who will challenge Green-Beckham before all is said and done."
Based on the first Rivals100, Denton (Texas) Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards (No.2), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (No. 3), Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (No. 4), Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep defensive end Darius Hamilton (No. 5), Monrovia (Calif.) defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy (No. 6) and Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive tackle John Theus (No. 7) could all make a push.
"They are all bigs who are super athletic, dominant and rare at their positions," said Farrell. "So sure, any one of them can make a push because big, athletic prospects are all the rage nowadays. And there are guys further down the line that could push as well. There might even be someone we haven't even given a fifth star to yet that could end up at No. 1. That's what makes rankings exciting."
While Green-Beckham checks in at No. 1, this is clearly the year of the big men as 11 of the first 17 five-stars for 2012 play along either the offensive or defensive line in high school. While Rivals.com came out with its initial 12 five-stars in March, five more have been added for this first release, led by McCarthy, who is joined on the list by fellow California defensive tackle Aziz Shittu from Atwater (Calif.) Buhach. Rivals.com West region analyst Adam Gorney breaks down what makes each a five-star addition.
"When McCarthy wants to go, he is unstoppable because he has the size, strength and determination to get in the backfield," said Gorney of the 6-foot-5, 311-pounder. "I doubt many offensive linemen can block McCarthy one-on-one in the country. He has a lot of skill but also just uses natural ability and strength to dismiss linemen who get in his way. McCarthy has a lot of special ability."
As for Shittu (No. 12), Gorney loves the way the big man plays with leverage.
"Shittu is one of the best-looking defensive tackles in the country. He has a low power base, a broad, barrel chest and he's not just a bull rusher. He can spin and move and he has plenty of speed to make plays in the backfield," said Gorney of the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder. "We loved Shittu's film leading up to the Los Angles NIKE Camp but he looked like he played a bit high on tape. At the camp, he proved to be one of the best in the country with his ability and his pad level. He is also a well-spoken, thoughtful person who carries himself well. Shittu is very impressive on and off the field."
Joining the two California big men as new five-stars are two superior athletes from the Sunshine State in athlete Nelson Agholor (No. 9) from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 11) from St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood. Rivals.com Florida analyst Chris Nee first talks up Agholor.
"Agholor is a versatile athlete who can name his position on either side of the ball. One look at his highlight video and you realize why schools coast-to-coast are aggressively pursuing him," said Nee of the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder. "He is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands on offense and defensively he has the athleticism and instincts to dominate in the secondary."
As for Fowler, it's an interesting battle between the 6-foot-3, 232-pounder and Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence (No. 13) for the title of the best pure edge rusher in the class.
"Fowler is an exceptional speed rush defensive end. He has a quick first step, knows how to use his arms and hands to shed blockers, and displayed an advanced technical ability when attacking off the edge in multiple camp settings recently," said Nee. "Fowler doesn't only perform at a high level in camps; he is also a playmaker under the lights on Friday night."
Rounding out the new additions at five-star is a prospect who could surprise many but has a ceiling as high as any. Shelby (N.C.) Crest defensive end Jonathan Bullard (No. 16), a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, checks in at No. 16 in the country for good reason.
"Bullard is a freak and even he doesn't know how good he can be but once he figures it out, he will be even more of a handful," said Farrell. "Here's a kid who has great size at defensive end, is a sub 4.7-second prospect in the 40, uses his hands and arms so well to keep linemen off him and has the ability to hone in on the quarterback and change direction with him easily. From his end position he had more than 100 tackles as a junior, 25 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks and he hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. The fact that he has less than 15 offers right now is a joke. He's a 40-plus offer kid and we'll just sit back and watch him blow up."
The other prospects earning five-stars not previously mentioned are Olney (Md.) Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs (No. 8), Sacramento (Calif.) Grant safety Shaq Thompson (No. 10), Aledo (Texas) running back Johnathan Gray (No. 14), Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol offensive tackle Andrus Peat (No. 15) and Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety Landon Collins (No. 17).
With 17 five-stars named, that means there were a few who were discussed but just missed such lofty status. In fact, 10 players earned a rating of 6.0, falling just shy of five-stars this time around. Leading the way are two Midwest standouts in Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward tackle Kyle Kalis (No. 18) and Columbus (Ind.) East quarterback Gunner Kiel (No. 19). Puyallup (Wash.) offensive tackle Joshua Garnett (No. 22) also came close while the rest hailed from the big three talent-producing states in California, Texas and Florida. They are safety Eddie Williams from Panama City (Fla.) Arnold (No. 20), Austin (Texas) wide receiver Cayleb Jones (No. 21), Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove defensive end Arik Armstead (No. 23), Spring (Texas) Dekaney running back Trey Williams (No. 24), Miramar (Fla.) cornerback Tracy Howard (No. 25), Brenham (Texas) defensive tackle Malcom Brown (No. 26)and Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian cornerback Tracy Howard (No. 27).
Other notables in the first numerical Rivals100 include The Villages (Fla.) linebacker Noor Davis, who checks in at No. 30 overall and is the top-ranked outside linebacker in the country, Encino (Calif.) Crespi big man Jordan Simmons (No. 45), who ranks as the nation's top offensive guard, Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston (No. 52), the top dual-threat signal-caller in the country, Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook standout Keith Marshall (No. 55), the top all-purpose back in the land and Land O' Lakes (Fla.) star Kent Taylor (No. 68), the nation's top tight end.
The top 10 NFL talent-producing states are well represented in the Rivals100. McCarthy is the top player from California and is one of 16 prospects from the Golden State in the 100. Edwards is the top player from Texas and heads up 14 prospects from the Lone Star State while Theus is the top player from Florida and is one of 18 prospects from his home state.
Other talent-producing states are also well represented. Kalis is the top dog from Ohio (seven) and Collins leads the way for Louisiana (two in a down year) while Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor is the top player from Georgia (seven). Hamilton leads the way for New Jersey (three), Spence leads Pennsylvania's (three) charge and Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas Institute defensive tackle Jarron Jones is tops in New York (one). Michigan, 10th on the list for states producing NFL talent, is led by Detroit Cass Tech linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, the only player in the 100 from his state in a down year.
Rivals.com will release the Rivals250 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Rivals will take a look at the four-stars that didn't make the list and Thursday, it'll be a few of the high three-stars that fell short of four-star status.