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With the spring evaluation period wrapped for the Rivals.com analysts, national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell takes a look at 10 burning questions heading into the rankings release. At the top of the list? Will Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand hold on to his No. 1 spot nationally?
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1. Will there be a new No. 1?
Hand is a very strong No. 1, but this year is top heavy when it comes to talent and there are many prospects pushing for that spot. This isn't 2011, when it was clear that Jadeveon Clowney would go bell to bell. Positional rarity is a key when it comes to naming the top player in the country, and prospects such as cornerback Jabrill Peppers from Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic, running backs Leonard Fournette from New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine and Sony Michel from Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage, safety Quin Blanding from Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside and fellow defensive end Lorenzo Carter from Norcross, Ga., can be considered rare at their spots. We'll find out Monday in our Rivals100 release whether Hand hangs on.
2. How many new five-stars will there be?
Last year when we finished our May evaluation, we added six five-stars to push the number to 17 overall, including big names in linebackers Jaylon Smith and Matthew Thomas, running back Derrick Green and defensive lineman Carl Lawson. This time there will be four new five-stars, pushing the number to 18 total, so we are on a similar pace in 2014 as we were for the 2013 class. We also have a rarity in here, a prospect who earned a fifth star back after losing it previously, something that doesn't often happen and is beyond rare in May. That's the only hint you'll get until our release of the new five-stars Monday with the new Rivals100 presented by Under Armour.
3. Which players are poised to make big jumps based on their spring performances or new film?
There are many prospects who have had new film evaluations since our last ranking in February or have had outstanding performances at camps during the spring to boost their stock. Oakley (Calif.) Freedom running back Joe Mixon, Red Bank (N.J.) Red Bank Catholic offensive tackle Quenton Nelson, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen and Montgomery (Ala.) Carver linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton are just a few who were standouts on the camp circuit, while Nederland, Texas, defensive tackle DeShawn Washington and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln defensive tackle Thomas Holley are good examples of guys whose film came in after our February release.
4. And who is in store for a big drop?
Getting kicked out of school is one way to drop in the rankings because there are more questions than answers now about former Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman running back Nathan Starks. There are also a couple of prospects whose weight has become a concern, a few with injury question marks and some who simply looked poor at in-person evaluations. With plenty of prospects moving up the ranks, that means many will drop.
5. Will we have a new No. 1 quarterback?
The quarterback position is obviously the most important on any team, and this year's crop is top heavy so the scramble for the best ones will be fun to follow. Gainesville, Ga., dual threat DeShaun Watson holds the No. 1 slot overall and is the only five-star quarterback on the board, but will he be pushed? The previously mentioned Allen had a great spring, and dual threat Will Grier from Davidson (N.C.) Davidson Day and pro style Keller Chryst from Palo Alto, Calif., were in range to challenge. There will be four quarterbacks ranked in the top 35 in the country on Monday, but will there be a new top gun?
6. Which position group is shaping up as the best?
The obvious answer to this in February was cornerback with five-stars Peppers, Adoree' Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, as well as a few others pushing toward that elite range, but watch out for the running backs. This group is very deep, deeper than the cornerbacks, and it is loaded with top-end talent. And offensive tackle and strongside defensive end don't look too shabby, either.
7. Which position group had the most shakeups?
OK, so we know that cornerback and running back are the lead dogs when it comes to position talent, but which position had the most changes this time? While many position groups saw major shakeups, I'd say defensive tackle is the group that had the most movement overall. In fact, one defensive tackle took the biggest plunge of anyone in the rankings, another dropped nearly 100 slots and a few moved from outside the Rivals250 into the rankings. It was quite a discussion when it came to that group.
8. Which state is threatening the big three of Florida, Texas and California with top-end talent?
Last year, it was clearly Georgia playing the role of a big three state with Robert Nkemdiche, Lawson, Montravius Adams and Alabama transplant Reuben Foster, among others. This year, it's clearly Virginia with Hand, Blanding, Andrew Brown and others. But keep an eye on Alabama after Monday's Rivals100 release and Tuesday's Rivals250 release. Just saying, keep an eye on that state.
9. Will there be a five-star wide receiver?
This is a great question but normally not one that needs to be asked at this time of year. In previous years, we always seemed to have a five-star wide receiver either out of the gate or by the end of the spring evaluation period. However, last year prospects such as Ricky Seals-Jones, Derrick Griffin, Marquez North and Robert Foster threatened but never reached that elite status. Laquon Treadwell ended up being the only five-star at wide receiver when all was said and done, and this year seems to be a similar one at the position. However, Urbandale, Iowa, wideout Allen Lazard has all the tools and was a standout at our Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour stop in St. Louis. Is he one of our four new five-stars?
10. Which player made the biggest jump overall in the rankings?
We're obviously teasing to our rankings release, but we can at least answer one question straight up, right? Our Rivals.com fans deserve that at least, right? Well, I'll compromise and play "Who Am I?" to give you a hint regarding our biggest riser. Here goes -- "I play quarterback and defensive back in high school and am being recruited as both by different schools. I play for a small school that doesn't get a lot of recruiting attention. I can also play slot receiver in college, and the two big in-state programs are currently my leaders. I also had a tremendous performance at the Rivals Camp Series, which pushed me from three-star status to top 75 in the country." There, if you can't figure that one out, I can't help you.
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