Roundtable: Which 2014 recruit missed the fifth star?
The initial Rivals.com recruiting rankings for the class of 2014 were released last week. Here's the analysts' insights from their early evaluations.
• Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: There were plenty of them, but I'll say running back Jalen Hurd was probably discussed the most. He's a great athlete and a terrific running back, but he has that upright style that makes you wonder if he'll be a star at the next level. Five-stars are projected as surefire talents at their positions, and Hurd could enter a discussion similar to the one we had regarding Derrick Henry in 2013.
• Jason Howell, Southwest: I honestly don't remember much argument, but it seems like there was quite a bit of discussion surrounding athlete Bo Scarbrough, wide receiver Allen Lazard and offensive tackle Braden Smith. Scarborough can do so many things on the field, and he already looks like a grown man. Lazard has a chance to really vault up the list as he puts his talents on display. Then there's the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Smith. He's another player who has the drive and potential to really push himself up the rankings. From my region, linebacker Hoza Scott was the guy who was debated more than any other. I think there's a good possibility that he receives a fifth star before all is said and done.
• Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: There was certainly a long discussion about linebacker Raekwon McMillan, because he had started as a five-star when the Watch List was initially released.
• Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic: There was a long talk about whether McMillan should be a five-star. We decided against that; for now, he is the second-highest-rated four-star player in the country. Depending on his performance during the camp season, I'd say there is a good chance he could regain his fifth star.
• Kynon Codrington, Southeast: Lazard came closest to earning a fifth star. A few of the analysts made a strong case for him, and he narrowly missed the cut. Lazard is the No. 1 receiver in this class, and he has a chance to move up to coveted five-star range. We are looking forward to seeing him in person against some premier defensive backs during the camp circuit this spring and summer.
• Woody Wommack, Southeast: It was Hurd. He's currently ranked as the No. 1 four-star prospect in the country -- and for good reason. But because of his size, there's some question as to whether he'll translate as a college running back. I think he is, and I think he's on par with some of the top backs in the country. He'll have his opportunity to go head-to-head with the five-star backs during the upcoming camp season.
• Adam Gorney, West: Smith was a guy we had a lengthy discussion about for five-star status. He has outstanding film, and his offer list is definitely impressive. Still, we decided to hold off for a little while. The highlight tape is tough to read because it's not against top-level foes. We really want to see him on the national stage to compare him to other top offensive linemen.
• Rob Cassidy, West: On my end, it was Smith -- his build is unparalleled in this class. Body-wise he's college ready right now, and both his film and motor are impressive. Ultimately, he fell short because he plays out of position (at guard) for his high school team, an attack that rarely passes the ball. In my opinion, however, it's only a matter of time. Smith has shined in every situation he's seen, and there's no reason to think he isn't the dominant force he appears to be.
• Farrell: Cornerback, running back and defensive end all look strong. It's a down cycle for offensive tackles aside from a few at the very top, and linebacker appears to be a very weak position overall -- both inside and outside.
• Howell: Cornerback is flat-out loaded, and if you throw in safeties it should be a feeding frenzy for secondary coaches across the country. There are already four five-star cornerbacks and several more sprinkled throughout the Rivals100. I also like the defensive ends I have seen in my region; it seems like they're starting to pop up everywhere. Finally, it feels like a bit of a down year for defensive tackles. There is only one defensive tackle in the top 35. In the Southwest, only two made the Rivals250. DeShawn Washington is a guy to keep an eye on from the state of Texas, and a few more Texas guys have made noise recently. But overall it's a bit light.
• Helmholdt: With five defensive backs ranked among the top 13, there is top-end talent and depth at that position. Defensive end is another group that is talented at the top. But where are all the sure things at pro-style quarterback?
• Friedman: Secondary coaches should be excited again this year. As in the 2013 class, the cornerbacks in the 2014 class are exceptional. The group is led by five-stars Jabrill Peppers, Adoree' Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown. The class is deep as well, with high four-stars Jalen Tabor, Damon Webb and Michiah Quick. There aren't nearly the amount of quality defensive tackles in 2014 as there were last year, though. There were four five-star defensive tackles last year. As of now there is only one five-star defensive tackle, Andrew Brown.
• Codrington: I'm going with cornerback. There are four five-star corners among the 14 five-star prospects in the Rivals100. Top to bottom, the position is loaded. On the other end of the spectrum, inside linebacker is down across the landscape. One guy at the top of the list is Kain Daub, but he is learning the position and is raw at this stage. Daub could move to defensive end down the road. There isn't a Reuben Foster-type 'backer in this year's class.
• Wommack: It could be another great year for defensive ends, with Da'Shawn Hand, Lorenzo Carter and Kentavious Street earning five-star status in our initial 2014 rankings. Linebacker is a position we're watching closely, as not many of the guys have separated themselves from the pack.
• Gorney: Defensive back is absolutely loaded again. When Brown is a five-star and the third-best cornerback, that makes a statement about the position. I've never seen him in person, but Peppers has a great tape. Jackson is a human highlight reel and also a track star, while safety Quin Blanding looked great last summer at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge. Wide receiver looks a little down, however. Only two receiver prospects -- Lazard at No. 24 and Ermon Lane at No. 29 -- are in the current top 50.
• Cassidy: It's another good year at cornerback. The position includes four early five-stars, including Peppers, the No. 2 player in the entire class. The depth is there, too. On the flip side of that sit the linebackers. I'm not sure what is happening to the position, but for a third straight year it seems to be slim pickings.
• Farrell: I'd say LSU is in good shape because Louisiana looks loaded and Les Miles usually keeps kids home. I'd also say Virginia Tech and Virginia have a great advantage because there's so much local talent to recruit from. Aside from the big three of Texas, Florida and California, I would say Louisiana and Virginia seem to be the two states that are the most packed with prospects.
• Howell: It's hard not to notice that Virginia is flat-out ridiculous at the top this year. If Virginia and Virginia Tech can't capitalize on the 2014 crop, it's going to be bad news. The nation's No. 1, No. 4 and No. 6 players hail from Virginia, and the nation's top two defensive tackles can also be found in the state. In the Southwest, Louisiana is stacked. Leonard Fournette and Cameron Robinson are five-star talents and the region's top two prospects, but there are also guys like Laurence Jones, Malachi Dupre and Gerald Willis III, who lead a strong group of four-stars.
• Helmholdt: It is an exceptionally deep cycle in Virginia and Tennessee, which should help the Hokies, Cavaliers, Volunteers and Commodores.
• Friedman: Virginia and Virginia Tech should be salivating over the 2014 class. Their state is loaded with three top-10 players and nine who fall in the top 250. The Hokies have made excellent progress with Hand and Brown, while the Cavaliers should be feeling good about their chances with Blanding because he attends the same high school as 2013 five-star running back Taquan Mizzell. Both of those schools should watch out for North Carolina, however. The Tar Heels made Brown's and Blanding's top 10 lists and are considered the sixth favorite for Hand.
• Codrington: Geographically, you have to start with the Commonwealth of Virginia: Three of the top 10 prospects in the Rivals100 are from the Cavs' and Hokies' backyard. The ACC should have an early advantage among the BCS conferences, particularly with Hand, the early No. 1 overall recruit in the 2014 class. Sprinkle in Blanding, Brown, Tabor and Jalyn Holmes, and the Beltway area is ripe with elite talent.
• Wommack: It's another great year for talent in the Southeast, positioning the usual suspects -- Alabama, Florida and Georgia -- to have great years. South Carolina also has a nice crop of talent, and Clemson and South Carolina should reap the benefits if they can keep the top talents in state.
• Gorney: I don't think geography really matters. Sure, some players prefer staying closer to home, but there are numerous examples from the 2013 class -- Laquon Treadwell and Kenny Bigelow come to mind -- of players who decided geography wasn't a factor. Maybe the ACC schools have an edge with the Virginia kids and LSU with the top Louisiana prospects, but I'm not entirely sure location plays as big a role as it used to.
• Cassidy: This is a bit of a copout, but how about Texas A&M? As always, there is serious talent in Texas, and the Aggies are suddenly a recruiting hotshot. The draw of the SEC is alive and well in College Station, as it's the only place where Texas players can stay in state and compete in the nation's best football league. A&M is in perfect position to get yet another recruiting bump in 2014.
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