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Five-Star Geography: Breaking down five trends at athlete

There have been plenty of five-star athletes in Rivals history dating back to 2002. Today, we ask National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell five questions about the position after analyzing some surprising numbers and breaking down the states:

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CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State

1. Could California make an argument for having the best athletes in the country?

Bru McCoy
Bru McCoy (Nick Lucero/

Overview: Not only has the state of California produced more five-star athletes than any other state but there have been some tremendous players among the group along with some who definitely didn’t pan out as well. Adoree’ Jackson is one of the more dynamic players in the NFL and De’Anthony Thomas was a fourth-round pick and has been a fantastic return specialist. A second-round selection, Robert Woods has had an impressive NFL career, too. After one of the most wild recruitments in Rivals history, Bru McCoy could be special at USC. C.J. Gable, Whitney Lewis and Patrick Hall also had five-star status.

Farrell’s take: I think there have been some great athletes to come out of the state of California and you could even argue JuJu Smith should have been ranked as an athlete since he was ranked as a safety but ended up as a star wide recovers. Adoree' Jackson and De’Anthony Thomas were dynamic in so many aspects of the game and Robert Woods has put together a great career. California is definitely up there for skill athletes.

2. Would Derrick Williams have been a star if he chose Florida over Penn State?

Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams (AP Images)

Overview: Derrick Williams was the top-ranked prospect in the 2005 class who was reportedly leaning toward Florida before it fired Ron Zook and then hired Urban Meyer and the five-star ended up picking Penn State because then-coach Joe Paterno promised Williams he could turn the Nittany Lions around after a few losing seasons. Meyer ended up having phenomenal offenses in Gainesville, pumping out players to the NFL left and right. Williams had a decent career at Penn State and ended up as a third-round pick but he had a short-lived pro career.

Farrell’s take: I think he would have been Percy Harvin before Harvin got there. I loved the way Penn State used Williams in his first year but then they went back to their traditional offense and didn’t utilize his talents enough. When Michael Robinson was at quarterback and Williams was doing his thing Penn State was fun to watch. But you could argue that Williams would have had a better career in Gainesville.


3. What could Colt Lyerla have been?

Colt Lyerla
Colt Lyerla (AP Images)

Overview: Colt Lyerla was a five-star in the 2011 class, a freakish, do-it-all athlete who was rated second at his position that recruiting cycle behind only De’Anthony Thomas. He played all over the field and he had tremendous athletic ability. But Lyerla also had many serious off-the-field issues that no doubt hindered his potential in football. The former Hillsboro, Ore., standout played at Oregon but quit the team during the 2013 season. There were lots of reasons why Lyerla was a five-star talent but he could never get it together.

Farrell’s take: He could have been a superstar on offense or defense he was that much of a freak. He was one of the best jumbo athletes I’ve ever seen and it’s a shame he had so many off-field issues. He could have been a dominant tight end or linebacker or even a hybrid on defense or a big wide receiver.


4. How does Georgia lock down all its athletes?

Mecole Hardman
Mecole Hardman (AP Images)

Overview: In one way or another, Georgia has had its hand in every one of the five five-star athletes in Rivals history and some have had great careers in Athens. Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin were NFL Draft selections a couple months ago and then Josh Harvey-Clemons (who’s also in the NFL) started his career at Georgia before transferring to Louisville. Demetris Robertson started his college career at Cal before coming to play for the Bulldogs. And Richard Samuel was the fifth five-star athlete from the state.

Farrell’s take: Georgia has a great in state recruiting advantage and skill position kids gravitate that way, even more so under Kirby Smart now. The Bulldogs have done a good job landing guys like Godwin and Hardman and when guys get away like Robertson they come back. Georgia does a great job recruiting.


5. What do you make of the four five-stars from Florida?

Ray-Ray McCloud
Ray-Ray McCloud (AP Images)

Overview: There have only been four five-star athletes from the state of Florida in company history and there have been some mixed results. Ray-Ray McCloud had a surprisingly average career at Clemson but he was still a sixth-round pick. Ray Ray Armstrong went undrafted but he’s carved out a nice NFL career that’s continuing with the Cleveland Browns. Chris Davis from the 2002 class had a solid career at Florida State and then Eddie Williams, one of the most physically-impressive five-star athletes, had off-field issues that sidetracked his career. It ended up being a decent group of players but there wasn’t a lot of wow moments from them.

Farrell’s take: Its surprising that these guys didn’t have more of an impact. Florida is known for great athletes but I think we’ve done a good job choosing their positions so we’ve had only a few athletes. I expected more from McCloud and Armstrong for sure and Chris Davis was a great talent but never translated well to wide receiver. Williams is probably the biggest surprise but off-field issues are hard to predict.