Posted: Fri February 15, 2013 11:43AM; Updated: Fri February 15, 2013 11:43AM

Class of 2014 loaded with star cornerback recruits

By Rob Cassidy,, Special to

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Jabrill Peppers, a standout from Paramus, N.J., leads a highly touted class of 2014 cornerback recruits.
Jabrill Peppers, a standout from Paramus, N.J., leads a highly touted class of 2014 cornerback recruits.
Michael LeBrecht/SI

Didn't get enough cornerback hype in last year's recruiting class? Don't worry. The tank has been refilled. There's more length, more speed and more instincts to be found in the 2014 cycle.

For coaches who missed out on highly touted defensive backs on Signing Day, there's likely a comparable one coming down the chute at any moment. Everyone deserves a second chance, after all.

A year ago, a group of cornerback prospects stole the national spotlight: Vernon Hargreaves III, Kendall Fuller, Jalen Ramsey and Tre'Davious White each maintained five-star ratings. Twelve months later, here we go ... again.

"Last year was a very special year at cornerback and might have had more depth, but this year is equally top-heavy and we already have four five-star kids, so I'd say this year is even more talented at the top in the early going," national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "It will be interesting to see which class emerges as the better one.

"I would say the 2014 class is more athletic overall, but the 2013 class has more technicians and guys with more polish at the same stage."

Rivals: Alabama, Ohio State lead 2013 team recruiting rankings

It's never to too early to make an impression, and several young corners have already emerged as stars. Five-star talents Jabrill Peppers (No. 2 overall in the 2014 class), Adoree' Jackson (No. 8), Marlon Humphrey (No. 10) and Tony Brown (No. 13) are all regarded as blue-chip recruiting targets, and the initial Rivals100 features eight cornerbacks in total. There's no doubt about the strongest position group in the 2014 class; in fact, it's not even close.

Comparisons to the 2013 class are inevitable. So why not make some now?

"Jabrill Peppers reminds me a little bit of Vernon Hargeaves III in build and ball skills, but Peppers is more explosive as an offensive player," Farrell said. "On defense, however, both are exceptional. Adoree' Jackson reminds me a bit of Tre'Davious White."

For now, at least, Peppers is the crop's headliner. The Paramus, N.J., product is one of the biggest threats to steal the No. 1 overall ranking from Woodbridge, Va., defensive end Da'Shawn Hand. And make no mistake, that's one of Peppers' goals.

"It's an honor to be ranked the #2 player in the Nation!" he tweeted. "But in my eyes, if your (sic) not first your (sic) last. Extra motivation!!"

And so the chase begins.

"Peppers' instincts, athleticism, speed and playmaking ability are very similar to former Florida All-American cornerback Joe Haden," Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said. "He is the type of cornerback who can lock down one side of the field and is not afraid to come up hard to stop the run. Peppers is almost at that same level as Kendall Fuller and Vernon Hargreaves and would push for the top spot in the 2013 cornerback class. The three of them have a lot of the same qualities."

As for the battle to lock down the No. 1 spot at the position heats up, plenty of other contenders could make a case with their play. Jackson could move up with a big senior year. Humphrey could do the same. The jostling starts now and will continue at every offseason camp and every Friday night this fall. The next 11 months also present an opportunity for a player not among the early frontrunners to rise.

"I like Damon Webb quite a bit; he could be a guy who pushes near the top before all is said and done," Farrell said. "He's another in a long line of Cass Tech corners, but he has better size than most of them over the years."

One thing is clear: No matter who's the best of the bunch, this class of corners is supremely talented. And after a historic year at the position, get ready for more defensive back debate throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle.

For more coverage, check out Rivals' college football recruiting hub.

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