MORE: Class of 2014 Rivals100
It's just an extra little gold star on a prospect's profile page, but it has become the ultimate status symbol in high school football recruiting rankings. It's the fifth star and Rivals.com innovated the ranking, which means receiving it from Rivals.com National Recruiter Director Mike Farrell and his staff means more to prospects than it does anywhere else.
For the final rankings of 2014, six players earned that coveted fifth star, led by West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman wide receiver Travis Rudolph, a Florida State commitment who moved up 31 spots to No. 11.
"Rudolph earned it because he has taken his game to the next level," Farrell said. "He emerged as the No. 1 wide receiver in the country because he's so sudden in and out of his breaks, he's great after the catch, he has reliable hands and he can work the middle of the field as well as down the sidelines. Rudolph isn't that big but he's tough, he's athletic and he's sneaky strong so he can break tackles. He's going to be special at the next level."
While Rudolph moved up to the No. 1 slot at wide receiver, Auburn, Ala. linebacker Rashaan Evans moved up to No. 1 at that position as well. He checked in at No. 14 overall and made the biggest move of the five-stars, jumping 55 spots.
"Evans is that pure, quick twitch linebacker you look for who can run things down sideline to sideline as well as get skinny when he needs to as well as take on bigger blockers," Farrell said. "He simply dominated at Alabama-Missisippi and then he was all over the place at Under Armour. He's so physical but also so quick. The hit he laid on Cameron Robinson in practice was simply amazing and he was just playing at a higher level than the rest of the linebackers all week."
Also cracking the top 20 as a new five-star is running back Dalvin Cook from Miami Central, who checks in at No. 18.
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"Cook is just electric in the open field and he's so fast turning the corner," said Farrell of the Florida State commitment who jumped 12 spots. "He has great feet, he can run between the tackles and he's a nightmare to handle in space. He can also catch the ball well and will be a threat in the passing game. All-purpose backs are more important than ever in college football it seems and he's a dynamic one. He's a home run threat every time he touches the ball."
Speaking of electric and dynamic, New Orleans Edna Carr wide receiver Speedy Noil checks in as a new five-star at No. 21 overall.
"Noil has been rising steadily over the last several ranking periods and after a strong week at the Under Armour All-American game he made the decision for a fifth star an easy one for us," said Rivals.com Southwest/Midlands Recruiting Analyst Jason Howell. "He is a dynamic weapon from the receiver position. His explosion and quickness make him incredibly hard to handle in the open field and allow him to be a slippery target in tight spaces."
Farrell agreed about the Texas A&M commitment, who moved up 13 slots.
"There's something about Speedy," Farrell said. "Every practice, he made a play or two that made you just shake your head and he's not even a natural receiver yet. And in the game, he once again made everyone jump out of their seats with his long touchdown catch. He's just such a dangerous player and he's going to make some highlight reels in college."
The biggest of the new five-stars is defensive end Malik McDowell from Detroit Loyola, who is ranked No. 26 and moved up seven slots.
"When McDowell first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, it appeared the sky was the limit. Here was a kid 6-foot-6, 290 pounds running a sub-5.0 40 and he was dominating older Division I offensive line prospects. But McDowell did not progress during that first year and a half," said Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "It wasn't until his senior season that he started to realize his own potential and played to it, and by the time he arrived at the Army Bowl, he had solidified himself as elite defensive linemen."
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Farrell has also watched the development of McDowell.
"He's a kid who had the body and skills of a five-star from a young age, but never really put it all together, especially with consistency," Farrell said. "He would show flashes, but then he'd fall back into inconsistency. Now he's starting to put it all together and is becoming that special prospect we expected a bit earlier. And his ceiling is still very high."
The last of the new five-stars is Homestead, Fla. wide receiver Ermon Lane, who moved up 16 spots to No. 28 overall.
"Lane is one of those guys who is unstoppable when he turns it on," said Farrell of the former Florida commitment. "He has a really high ceiling because he's a big guy, he can run well, he plays physically and he shows amazing hands when he's focused. He made some great catches during Under Armour week, showing how he can not only adjust to bad balls but also beat some tremendous cornerbacks. He can be a star if he continues to work hard and develops consistency."
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