H.S. football recruiting roundtable
Given his size and athleticism, TE O.J. Howard is the most uncommon '13 prospect
After Dorial Green-Beckham was ranked No. 1 in 2012, this is down year for WRs
Tyrone Swoopes, Thomas Tyner are players with something to prove this season
With the high school football season drawing near, Rivals.com's analysts sound off about their impressions from camp season and which prospects to watch as games kick off.
Mike Farrell: To me, without a doubt, it's Autauga (Ala.) Academy tight end O.J. Howard. In all the years I have been evaluating and ranking prospects, I've never seen a tight end with his combination of size, athleticism and ball skills. In fact, I think he's the only prospect at the top of his position ranking who has a skill set we haven't seen in the last decade.
Josh Helmholdt: You could certainly go with O.J. Howard or Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers linebacker Jaylon Smith, guys that are pure physical specimens. In my opinion, however, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic running back Ty Isaac is more unique. He is legitimately 6-foot-3, and while taller running backs have struggled in the past because they present larger targets, Isaac is able to run small and rarely takes solid shots. He boasts uncanny agility for a player his size and is as unstoppable in space as he is between the tackles.
Woody Wommack: After seeing O.J. Howard at Gridiron Kings this year, he has to be my answer. He has great size, amazing athletic ability and terrific hands. He reminds me of a No. 1 receiver, but with a tight end's skill set. I'm not sure if I can remember ever seeing a tight end as polished and developed as he is at this point in his career.
Adam Gorney: O.J. Howard is the most uncommon player at his position in recent memory -- I believe he's that special. He stands at 6-feet-6 and 220 pounds, but he moves so fluidly that it's probably not outlandish to think that he can play some wide receiver in college. There are few players like Howard at the high school level. He's the complete package of physical size and football ability, running great routes and catching every ball thrown near him. He's also humble and hardworking.
Rob Cassidy: It's almost as if this question was thought up with O.J. Howard in mind. His physique alone is enough to get him noticed at tight end spot, but the instincts and athleticism he showcased at The Opening simply stunned those in attendance. It's been five years since Rivals.com last listed a five-star tight end, but Howard's unique blend of size and speed has a real chance of ending that streak. History says it will be quite some time before we see another player like Howard at his position.
Mike Farrell: I think it's wide receiver. We have had so many great wideouts over the years, and we've never gone into the preseason without a surefire five-star at the position. We have some very good ones the 2013 class -- and it's likely that one or two five-stars will emerge during their senior seasons -- but this is a rare down year when it comes to top-tier talent.
Josh Helmholdt: A wide receiver has been ranked among the top four prospects in nine of the last 10 classes, but the highest ranked receiver in the 2013 class currently sits at No. 18. There is a decent amount of next-level-type wide receivers in this class, but very few true blue-chippers at the position.
Woody Wommack: With just one offensive lineman ranked in the Rivals.com top 30, this year's class is down compared to 2012. Will any others prove they deserve to join Lake City (Fla.) Columbia tackle Laremy Tunsil in the top 25? That's just one of the many questions facing a largely untested crop of offensive linemen in 2013.
Adam Gorney: It's a down year for wide receivers. There are no five-stars at this point, and while that could change, there aren't really any top-level guys like in previous years. Sealy's (Texas) Ricky Seals-Jones is still a work in progress, particularly since he doesn't play that position in high school. The player who really helped himself this summer was Crete (Ill.) Monee's Laquon Treadwell, who was great in three straight weeks at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, the B2G Elite Camp and The Opening.
Rob Cassidy: There's talent at wide receiver in this class, but the position group seems to be lacking a can't-miss prospect. Maybe that feeling is related to the run of truly elite wideouts in recent years. Ricky Seals-Jones, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek's Marquez North, Laquon Treadwell and Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany's Steven Mitchell all impressed on the camp circuit this summer. Still, no one was anywhere near in the realm of Dorial Green-Beckham from last cycle.
Mike Farrell: I'd say Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow reminds me of Mario Edwards. Both are massive prospects with the athleticism to play defensive end, but both will likely excel on the interior by the time their college careers are over.
Josh Helmholdt: I keep seeing Shaq Thompson every time I turn on film of Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta's Su'a Cravens -- and I've turned that on several times because it's fun to watch. They're both safeties from California who are similarly sized. Still, it's the breakneck speed with which they play the game -- and the devastation they wreak upon meeting a ballcarrier -- that's truly striking to me.
Woody Wommack: Tampa (Fla.) Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III from this year's class and Tracy Howard from the class of 2012 have similar attributes. Both are talented defensive backs from Florida, and both have similar size. I expect both to make an immediate impact for their respective college teams.
Adam Gorney: This might be a stretch, but Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage running back Greg Bryant and Trey Williams have similar qualities. Bryant is taller and weighs more, but both are hard-nosed runners who are incredibly shifty in open space. Bryant was exceptional at the Rivals100 Challenge, and Williams impressed scouts on numerous occasions during last year's recruiting cycle.
Rob Cassidy: The similarities between Penn State quarterback commit Christian Hackenberg and Oregon's Jake Rodrigues aren't strictly physical. Both look great in warm-ups. Both have coveted frames. But, perhaps more significantly, their strengths and weaknesses are seemingly mirror images of each other. Hackenberg and Rodrigues possess top-level arm strength, but both face questions surrounding periodic lapses in judgment.
Mike Farrell: I would say Whitewright (Texas) dual-threat quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Though he committed to Texas in February and will remain of great interest to Longhorns fans, he faces a number of pressing questions. Will Swoopes move to the athlete designation? Will he remain ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback? After an inconsistent summer, is he truly a five-star prospect? His play will certainly be worth monitoring in the coming weeks.
Josh Helmholdt: Alliance (Ohio) Marlington safety Dymonte Thomas is a prospect fans often complain is underrated. He is an extraordinary athlete, and he currently checks in at No. 95 in the class of 2013 rankings. But he played close to the line of scrimmage and we never got a feel for his coverage skills -- a major component of the safety position. Thomas looked good at a 7-on-7 competition this summer and will have a chance to boost his stock as a senior. Until he addresses some technical concerns, however, he is liable to fall out of the Rivals100.
Woody Wommack: Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha running back Thomas Tyner is likely to continue his tumble down the rankings, primarily because of growing injury concerns. Could the former No. 1 running back in the class drop out of the top 30 altogether? With so many other running backs coming on, his position is anything but secure. Tyner will need to put to rest nagging hamstring concerns to reassert himself as a bona fide blue-chipper and the crown jewel of Oregon's class.
Adam Gorney: Tyrone Swoopes is the obvious answer here, especially since he didn't have a strong summer. But I'm going with Vernon Hargreaves III. There are many people who believe he's the top cornerback in this class, but he didn't prove it at The Opening, where he was sidelined with what appeared to be a mild ankle injury. There may be an argument for Hargreaves to supplant Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel's Kendall Fuller, but he needs to make it with a standout senior campaign.
Rob Cassidy: Tyrone Swoopes' situation is multifaceted enough to stir up some controversy. A possible position change from dual-threat quarterback to athlete might keep him as the No. 1-rated prospect at his position, but his overall ranking would likely fall. There's also the question of whether he should remain a five-star prospect. Change usually brings uncertainty. Entering Swoopes' senior year, there's lots of potential for both.
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