Six new five-stars highlight latest Rivals100
The early-offer trend in college football has rendered senior high school seasons less of a factor in the recruiting process, but it is still extremely important to prospects' development.
Class of 2014 prospects around the country utilized their senior seasons to improve their games and boost their stock, including 23 who earned a fourth star and sit just outside the top 250.
Kentucky commit Mike Edwards of Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods was one of those who took his game to the next level as a senior, and was the only safety to earn a new fourth star in the post-season update.
"I just worked real hard, improved my skills and this was my best season," Edwards said. "Vocally and physically I got better. Physically I improved my game and verbally I got better as a leader."
While big statistics make headlines, prospects moving up in the Rivals.com ratings had to show they had improved as college football prospects on the field. USC commit Shay Fields put up the big numbers, while also improving as a player and is one of six new four-stars at the wide receiver position.
"Fields is having a tremendous senior season as he leads the Bosco receiving corps with more than 1,300 yards," said West analyst Adam Gorney, "and Bosco is still steamrolling through the playoffs.
"A coach at Bosco once told me that Fields reminds him a lot of former standout Bryce Treggs and it's a very fair comparison. Fields has super speed to get down the field and break away from cornerbacks and then he basically catches every pass thrown his way. He's a little lean and undersized, but it doesn't seem to hurt him at all."
Size has never been an issue with 6-foot-3, 215-pound Missouri commit Nate Brown, who joins Fields as one of the six new four-star wide receiver prospects in this update.
"Nate Brown is a guy who has impressed on the offseason camp circuit, even winning the MVP at the Rivals Camp Series stop in Charlotte," Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "While we always knew he was going to be a productive college receiver, we didn't expect him to become his team's go-to option while often being the focal point of the opposing defenses. He's a sharp route-runner who is not a burner but has great in-game quickness. He'll be a QB favorite at the next level."
The offensive skill positions once again dominate the list of prospects moving into four-star territory. While wide receiver posts the most new four stars, the running back position saw three prospects get the four-star nod in this update, and two hail from the East Coast.
"Jonathan Hilliman made a ton of progress this year," East analyst Adam Friedman said. "The Rutgers commit worked hard in the offseason to reshape his body and slimmed down, which resulted in improved lateral quickness and better overall agility. Those were the track star's two glaring weaknesses last season and now he has improved those enough to earn a fourth star.
"Taiwan Deal is a big back that will pound the ball between the tackles and wear down a defense. While there is some concern about a little bad weight, it doesn't seem to have an effect on Deal's speed and quickness. The best thing about Deal is the aggressiveness with which he runs. He is a very physical ball carrier and will fit in well at Wisconsin."
The influx of off-season camps and combines have allowed colleges and analysts alike to evaluate prospects at an earlier age, but many prospects still need the entirety of their high school tenures to grow into their bodies and develop physically.
That is especially the case for Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary athlete Parris Campbell, who only turned 16 years old this past summer and is younger than most of the top class of 2015 prospects. The Ohio State commit did not use his age as an excuse, and was a catalyst on both offense and defense for a team that will play for the Ohio Division 3 state title on Thursday.
Campbell has always had outstanding speed, but now the rest of his game is starting to come along. He has polished up his play on both sides of the football and will be an explosive weapon for the Buckeyes whether he plays wide receiver, running back or defensive back at the next level.
Like Campbell, Tustin (Calif.) Foothill linebacker Bobby Okereke could project to multiple positions at the college level. He moves over to the outside linebacker position after being listed as an inside linebacker entering the season, and moves up from a 5.7 to a 5.8 Rivals Rating.
"We weren't sure whether Okereke was a tight end, an outside linebacker or a weak-side defensive end," Gorney said, "but after watching his senior film and seeing how well he played this season it doesn't seem to matter. The Stanford commit is fantastic on both sides of the ball and he's a phenomenal athlete who changes games. He is so versatile and athletic and we felt a bump was absolutely necessary."
While Florida accounts for the highest number of players in the Rivals250 for the 2014 class, just two Sunshine State prospects are new four-stars who rank outside the 250. Miami defensive end commit Demetrius Jackson out of Booker T. Washington is an especially intriguing prospect, bursting onto the radar just this past spring.
"The basketball player turned sack machine showed up on the radar after a breakout spring game," Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington said. "Jackson has played like a seasoned veteran this season even though it's his first full season on the gridiron. He has utilized his exceptional speed and first-step quickness to rack up 11 sacks and over 50 tackles. When he doesn't get to the quarterback, he does a great job of using his long wingspan to get his arms in passing lanes to deflect passes and alter accuracy on passes downfield."
A fellow new four-star Jackson expects to see in future ACC play is Florida State commit J.J. Cosentino of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Central Catholic. One of just two, new four-star quarterbacks, Cosentino made his case for a bump with his play as a senior.
"While Cosentino doesn't play in a pass-heavy offense, the Florida State commit has shown the ability to make all of the throws with great accuracy," Friedman said. "His footwork is getting better and he is deceptively mobile. One of the best parts of Cosentino's game is that he makes very few mistakes. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season and his team is playing in the Pennsylvania state semifinals on Dec. 7."
Other new four-stars in the post-season update include Pittsburgh running back commit Chris James, UCLA wide receiver commit Alex Van Dyke, Arizona State wide receiver commit Jalen Harvey, Virginia Tech wide receiver commit Cameron Phillips, Kentucky wide receiver commit Dorian Baker, Penn State tight end commit Mike Gesicki, Maryland offensive guard commit Jared Cohen, Alabama offensive guard commit Montel McBride, Roseville, Calif., offensive tackle Kolton Miller, USC defensive end commit Olajuwon Tucker, Tennessee defensive end commit Joe Henderson, Bellevue, Wash., defensive tackle Marcus Griffin, Washington State linebacker commit Chandler Leniu and Richmond (Va.) Benedictine School athlete Raymon Minor.
With the 23 new additions, a total of 93 prospects are rated four-stars and sit just outside the Rivals250. Senior season play may not be crucial for adding scholarship offers in this age of college football recruiting, but in terms of projecting prospects to the college ranks, it still holds a ton of value in their development as players.