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The spring camp and combine season was an opportunity for three-star prospects across the country to prove they were worthy of a move to four-star status. Prospects on the defensive side of the football were among those who fared best in that pursuit.
Of the 13 new four-stars who reside outside the Rivals250, nine play defense or are listed as "athletes."
The outside linebacker group places two new four-stars in that range, including fast-rising Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School's Richard Yeargin III, who lists 40 scholarship offers.
"Yeargin's offer list is impressive, to say the least, but it's his play on the field that saw him earn his fourth star," Southeast recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington said. "We've seen him this offseason in the camp and 7-on-7 setting cover well in space and close on ball-carriers with above-average speed. He has the ability to rush the passer on third-down situations to go with his solid coverage skills."
The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour was also a stage for Longview, Texas, defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, a TCU commit, to stake his claim for a fourth star.
"Henderson went to the RCS Dallas, and while he did not claim MVP honors, he gave a valiant effort," said Southwest recruiting analyst Jason Howell. "He was all go from the start and used a variety of moves to get through and around his opponents. His technique and power make him hard to handle for even the best offensive linemen and his performance at the camp reinforced a lot of what we saw on tape."
A total of four defensive tackles went from three-stars to four-stars in the latest update to the Rivals.com rankings. Joining Henderson in the group just outside the top 250 was Fresno (Calif.) Central East's Tashon Smallwood.
THE NEW FOUR STARS
OT Aaron Ruff
DT Zaycoven Henderson
LB Jimmie Swain
ATH Tyler Whiley
ATH Derek Barnett
"I saw Smallwood at the NLA in Las Vegas and he is a massive kid, broad shoulders, thick torso and thick legs," West Coast analyst Adam Gorney said. "Someone who looks like him is usually slow and plodding, but on film Smallwood shows off great strength and surprising speed to attack the quarterback or the running back in the backfield. He can track people down and is really light on his feet for someone so big."
The safety position was the third position on defense to boast two players making moves into the four-star range, outside the top 250. San Antonio (Tex.) Roosevelt's Arrion Springs and Vanderbilt commit Emmanuel Smith of Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Oakland both go from a Rivals Rating of 5.7 to 5.8.
"Smith is a tough customer at the safety position who showed that he's also a terrific cover man at the Atlanta RCS stop," Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "He was very active this cycle despite his early commitment to Vanderbilt and his competitive streak paid off with him getting a bump to four-star status.
"The thing about Springs that really sticks out in my mind is how dedicated he has been to improving," Howell said. "He was viewed as a safety-only prospect but he wanted the chance to work at corner so he went to work on his feet. That work really showed at the RCS Houston. He has always tested really well but he showed improved footwork and was a more fluid athlete. Colleges have also taken notice as many are now giving him a look at both safety and cornerback."
[ MORE: Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge roster ]
Of the four prospects on the offensive side of the football making moves into four-star territory, two do so after earning MVP awards at one of the Rivals Camp stops this spring.
Cleveland Glenville offensive guard Marcelys Jones earned his MVP award at the Pittsburgh RCS.
"We knew watching position drills that whomever won the offensive line MVP in Pittsburgh earned it because the group was loaded with top talent," said Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt. "Jones took home that award by showing a combination of strength and athleticism uncanny for a 6-foot-4, 335-pound prospect. He also answered questions about his competitive drive by jumping in for a total of 24 repetitions in one-on-ones."
The other offensive player to move into four-star territory after an MVP performance was Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek wide receiver Adonis Jennings, who also earned his award at the Pittsburgh RCS. He is one of two wide receivers from New Jersey -- along with Englewood Dwight Morrow's Juwann Winfree -- to move up to four-star status.
"Jennings came to the Pittsburgh RCS and looked totally different than he did last season," Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said. "He grew a few inches and had clearly been working hard in the gym. Once Jennings stepped on the field, it was easy to see he had worked on his route-running and overall speed. It was impressive to see how much more crisp his route running had become.
"Winfree was on a warpath this spring. He was dominant at every camp and 7-on-7 tournament he attended. Winfree's best attribute is his explosiveness and dependable hands. He gets off the line so fast and is able to create a lot of separation when he comes out of his breaks. Unfortunately, Winfree hurt his shoulder toward the end of the camp season and wasn't able to keep up his blazing pace."
Other new four-stars who land outside the Rivals250 after this update include Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy athlete Derek Barnett, Plantation, Fla., cornerback Chris Lammons, Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep offensive guard Aaron Ruff, Lee's Summit, Mo., outside linebacker Jimmie Swain and Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral athlete Tyler Whiley.
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