DeMarcus Milliner is goal-oriented.
So when Milliner, a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback from Millbrook (Ala.) Stanhope Elmore, said he would do whatever it took to earn a five-star ranking by Rivals.com, he put in the extra hours training in the weight room, on the track and on the football field. Milliner knew Sunday's Elite Action Combine was a chance to show he's one of the nation's best prospects, and he didn't disappoint.
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Milliner ran back-to-back 4.18-second 20-yard shuttles. Then he wowed onlookers when he stepped onto the track and ran a blistering 4.33-second hand-held timed 40-yard dash. He was even faster on his second attempt, running a 4.31. He also recorded a 36-1/2-inch vertical leap, the highest at the camp.
"A five-star is a completion, the most stars you can get," Milliner told Rivals.com on Sunday. "If they had a 10-star, I'd try to get that. I just tried my best on everything and hopefully I'll get that last star."
Rivals.com released its newest Rivals100 list for the month of May today, and Milliner is a newly minted five-star prospect. He climbs up from the No. 30 spot to the No. 9 spot and is also ranked as the top cornerback in the nation.
"It's so rare to find a cornerback with the mix of size and athleticism that this guy has," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons said.
"At 6-1, Milliner puts up freakish combine numbers and has elite corner speed. He's not just a workout warrior, though. He played well at two different 7-on-7 events this spring, showing natural cover ability and fluidity."
DEFINITELY NOT A STRONG YEAR FOR QBS
After struggling at a recent Elite 11 Regional Camp, Wichita (Kan.) Bishop Carroll quarterback Blake Bell tumbled down the Rivals100 from No. 25 to No. 88. Bell, a recent Oklahoma commitment who was previously ranked as the nation's No. 1 pro-style quarterback, admittedly didn't have a strong day and it hurt him with the rankings.
Simmons, however, said there's still a lot to like with Bell.
"Blake has worlds of potential based on his big frame, a good arm and unique physical tools, but if you're going to be the No. 1 quarterback in the nation you've got to come strong every time out," Simmons said. "He had trouble putting good spin on the ball, was very erratic with his accuracy and his arm strength didn't shine through like it does on film."
Bell's drop isn't just a reflection on him, but of the depth of the entire class at the position.
In the Rivals100 there are only six quarterbacks, none ranked in the top 50. The 2007 class had six passers in the top 50, the 2008 and 2009 classes had four quarterbacks in the top 50 and the 2006 class had four in the top 60. You have to go back to the 2005 class to find a similar group to this year, as only four quarterbacks ranked in the top 100, but one of those was recent NFL draft first-round selection Mark Sanchez.
Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith quarterback Phillip Sims is now the top quarterback in the nation, ranked No. 58. He's ahead of Austin Hinder of Steamboat Springs, Colo., Bell, Joe Boisture of Goodrich, Mich., Paul Jones of McKees Rocks (Pa.) Sto Rox and Jesse Scroggins of Lakewood, Calif. Scroggins is a new entry to the Rivals100 after an amazing performance at a NIKE Camp and further analysis on film.
"There has not been a stellar performance at a camp this season," Rivals.com analyst Barry Every said. "People may say, 'Hey, it's just a camp.' I say if a quarterback struggles throwing to still targets or to uncovered receivers, then he is really going to struggle at the next level when elite defensive [players] are covering the wideouts."
Every said there is one big reason why quarterbacks might be struggling to develop in the high school ranks.
"The spread offense is killing quarterbacks' ability to take snaps under center," Every said. "At every camp I have been to, quarterbacks are being asked to do three-, five- and seven-step drops. Those are things they're not used to because of the spread offense because they're in the shotgun on every play."
CHANGES IN CALIF.
After several trips to California after the previous rankings were released by Rivals.com recruiting analysts, including a visit to the Los Angeles NIKE Training Camp, there was some readjusting in the order of the top prospects from the Golden State.
Ronald Powell moves up one slot and is now a five-star prospect after a dominating performance at the recent NIKE Camp. Powell, a strongside defensive end from Moreno Valley Rancho Verde, takes over the top spot ahead of Chris Martin, a weakside defensive end from Oakland Bishop O'Dowd.
Many observers cried foul when Robert Woods, the talented athlete from Gardena Serra, was ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the state last time. After new evaluation of game film, he leaps up the charts to the No. 3 spot in the state and the No. 17 spot in the nation. He's just ahead of talented running back D.J. Morgan of Woodland Hills Taft at No. 18 and gifted athlete Anthony Barr of Los Angeles Loyola at No. 20.
Malcolm Jones of Westlake Village Oaks Christian was previously ranked as the best in the state, but he slid down to No. 7 and No. 32 overall. Jones is still ranked among the top 10 athletes in the nation, and he could star as a big back in the right offense or even as a linebacker on defense.
GREAT YEAR IN INDIANA
Indiana has always been thought of more as a basketball state than a football state, but this year's crop of talent has several big-time players. This includes Roderick Smith of Fort Wayne Harding. The four-star running back makes his debut in the Rivals100 at No. 48. Smith is ranked as the nation's No. 5 running back overall.
"Some say Smith may be too tall for a running back at 6-foot-3, but he runs low to the ground with great power, vision and speed for a big back," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Greg Ladky said. "He reminds me of Chris Wells, and he may be headed to the same school [Ohio State]. If running back doesn't work out, he could be a terror at outside linebacker."
Smith joins five-star offensive tackle James Hurst of Plainfield in the top 50 nationally. Ladky said both players are special and have a chance to make an immediate impact on the next level.
"James Hurst is just so good at tackle," Ladky said. "He is great in pass protection, and he will put defenders into the ground run blocking. While Seantrel Henderson has the most upside at tackle, I think Hurst is the surest thing at the offensive tackle spot. Given how important left tackles are, Hurst is Indiana's most valuable prospect.
"Then if Smith continues to improve and does the things as a senior we expect him to do, then there's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a very special college player. He's got the athletic ability to be doing this for a long, long time."
• The Rivals250 will be released Wednesday and once again the Sunshine State will dominate the rankings. After having 42 players in the first edition, May's top 250 rankings will feature 44 players. Right behind Florida are Texas (35) and California (30). Texas had 35 players in the previous ranking, while California added two more players to its total on the updated list.
• Other states of note that racked up high numbers in the upcoming Rivals250: Georgia with 14, South Carolina with 12, Ohio with 11, Mississippi and North Carolina with nine and Louisiana with eight. Pennsylvania, a usually strong state for talent, is down somewhat with only six players on the Rivals250.
"Georgia over the last five years has produced the fourth most D-I players, and this year is no different," Every said. "Football in Georgia is taken as serious as it is in Texas, and the coaches are paid a lot of money to develop players and win football games or they are fired. Also, football is still king in Georgia over any other sport."
• One of the biggest movers up the list was Da'Rick Rogers of Calhoun, Ga. He went from the No. 98 spot all the way up to the No. 22 spot. Every said the jump is well-deserved. "He is a huge receiver that is built like a linebacker," Every said. "But he has great ball skills and body control. We got film that reflected everything that we saw of him in a recent 7-on-7 tournament. He's the real deal."
• Another high climber was Brennan Clay, a running back out of San Diego Scripps Ranch. He was ranked at No. 112 overall previously but is now the No. 41 player in the nation and the No. 2 all-purpose back. "He is very similar to Christine Michael last year," Every said. "He may be a tad smaller, but his effort level, change of direction, ball skills and explosiveness in a camp situation were so like Michael's efforts at FBU Top Gun last year. He has the skills to be a five-star, but does it show up in the game? Will he run someone flat over? That's something we'll look hard at during the season."