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Rivals Roundtable: Memories of 2018 class

National Signing Day arrives Wednesday, and the recruiting analysts use today's Rivals Roundtable to talk about some members of the 2018 class and how they will be remembered perhaps beyond athletic ability.

CLASS OF '18 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | State | Position | JUCO

1. Who has been the most charismatic, personable prospect you've gotten to know in the 2018 class?

Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence

Rob Cassidy: Miami commit Al Blades is a funny, likable kid. I always enjoy interacting with him. Honorable mention to Auburn commit Shaun Shivers, who is also a pleasure be around. Both rarely stop talking and keep the people around them smiling. I’m a big fan of anyone that makes me laugh and makes the job less monotonous.

Mike Farrell: I really liked the way Trevor Lawrence handled the process. As the clear No. 1 player in the country he could have been difficult to deal with, he could have ignored media requests and avoided any events but he was always pleasant, responsive and always wanted to compete and did so with a smile on his face. He has a laid back demeanor for sure which is why he’s so cool and calm in the pocket, but he’s also a funny kid who had a lot of fun with the process itself. There were others that were more outrageous, but I really liked the way he handled himself.

Adam Friedman: This is a tough answer because I really liked dealing with a lot of players in this class. I have to single out Micah Parsons, K.J. Henry and Teradja Mitchell. I've known all three of them for upwards of three or four years, have gotten to know them and their families on and off the field, and we've had conversations about so many things not related to football or recruiting. These guys are thoughtful, decisive, and always have something interesting to say.

Adam Gorney: No doubt in my mind it's five-star cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles. He has been fantastic to deal with over many years, is always thoughtful in his answers and always responds to text messages and phone calls, which I always appreciated. The funniest thing about Bookie is that everyone - and I mean everyone - knows him. He talks to everybody, learns from everybody and it seems every kid I run across knows the kid and has something good to say about him. After his football career, politics could be in Bookie's future.

Josh Helmholdt: Rivals100 defensive tackle commit Trevor Trout. He is one of the most unique individuals I have met in life, not just covering college football recruiting. Trout has that wise-beyond-his-years element to him and is a very worldly young man with serious opinions on serious topics. But, he's also a fun-loving kid with a unique sense of humor that I do not think everyone always understood.

Nick Krueger: A couple of strong choices come from my region in Leon O'Neal and Bobby Brown. While he's been more elusive as of late with everyone hoping to get the story on his recruitment ahead of Signing Day, when I have had the chance to speak with O'Neal, he's always made as much time as I've wanted to talk with him. He gives you the whole story and is cocky in an endearing way. New Edition references aside, Brown has a great sense of humor and isn't afraid to call people out on things that strike him as crooked. Other than those two, I'm always surprised how willing and often Tommy Bush gives interviews to media - and is gracious for all the coverage he gets while many others in his situation would have tapped out to recruiting reporter fatigue at this point.

Chad Simmons: Marquez Ezzard is that guy for me. I have been covering him for three years and he has opened up and really allowed me to get to know the person, not just cover the recruit. He is a great young man, who has worked extremely hard to get where he is at a student-athlete. He will announce his decision to be a Miami Hurricane or Ole Miss Rebel on Signing Day, so his recruitment is still not over.

Woody Wommack: We have been following several of the prospects in the class of 2018 for years so we got to spend quite a bit of time with them. I always enjoyed my time with Trevor Lawrence, who is laid back but has a good sense of humor. The same goes for James Cook. But in terms of all-around outgoing personality it has to be Al Blades. He’s the type of player that other players love to be around and he’s always making everyone laugh.

2. Who in this class physically should not be an elite recruit but his work ethic would not let him fail? 

Asante Samuel
Asante Samuel (Nick Lucero/

Rob Cassidy: I’ll go with Florida State commit Asante Samuel. I’m sure his genes help him, but he’s possibly the best cover corner in this class despite being woefully undersized. That didn’t happen by accident. I’m constantly impressed by how impressive he is despite the lack of length.

Mike Farrell: Brendan Radley-Hiles is an easy answer here because he’s not a tall kid at all but his attitude, aggressiveness and work ethic have made him an elite prospect and one of the can’t miss kids in this class. Radley-Hiles is listed at 5-foot-10 but he could be a tick shorter than that but he’s proven to be every bit as effective as taller guys like Patrick Surtain, Olaijah Griffin, Tyson Campbell and Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Adam Friedman: NC State signee Devin Leary was always a little short for a quarterback but luckily he hit a (small) growth spurt over the last year and a half that pushed him a shade over 6-foot-1. He has worked so hard to be as polished a quarterback as possible so that he could erase whatever doubt there was about his height.

Adam Gorney: Although Florida State signee Jaiden Woodbey is impressive physically, his work ethic over the years has really propelled him to be one of the best prospects in this entire class. Woodbey lived in Upland, Calif., and then drove to Bellflower, Calif., every morning and if anybody knows Los Angeles morning traffic, that is a nightmare. It's about 40 miles from his home to his high school and that could take well over an hour on good days sitting in traffic. He would get to his dad's barber shop early, then go lift at St. John Bosco, go to school all day, then go to practice and then sometimes head to a workout later in the day as well. Woodbey wants to be really good and he's worked for it.

Josh Helmholdt: You could say this about Jaeveyon Morton out of Detroit. In an era when tall cornerbacks are all the rage, Morton did not get the attention his play should have generated because he lacks the ideal size for the position and because of that Iowa State ends up with a steal. What he lacks in height, Morton makes up for in playmaking ability and football IQ and I expect he is locking down one side of the field for the Cyclones in short order.

Nick Krueger: Verone McKinley is a player that many analysts have backed off on since his recruitment caught fire after his sophomore season. He's not a big guy, he's not the fastest corner, and he might lose a jump-ball or two, but he's a willing tackler in run defense, a crafty player in coverage, and an overall smart guy. In fact, he's also a solid choice for the first question.

Chad Simmons: This is a hard one because each kid I cover has tools to be a top recruit. When talking four- and five-star kids though, one that comes to mind is Christopher Smith, a Georgia signee. Some call him small. Some question his speed. Some did not rank him as high as, but every time he showed up, he was ready to compete, and he won much more than he lost. Smith has that quiet confidence about him and he is going to put in the extra work to put him in the best position to be successful on and off the field.

Woody Wommack: I think one of the guys who has benefited most from a strong work ethic is Brendan Radley-Hiles. He does have great size but he’s evolved as a prospect as his career has moved along and I think a lot of that has to do with the work he’s put in.

3. What's your favorite memory of this 2018 class?

Trey Dean
Trey Dean (Nick Lucero/

Rob Cassidy: Don’t let anything distract you from the fact that I defeated Al Blades in a one-on-one rep at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. Video of this exists on my phone, but I promised Blades I wouldn’t release it until he’s in the NFL. Oh, I also witnessed two reporters get dangerously close to getting in an actual fist fight over some kid's ranking. That incident simultaneously ranks among the lamest and funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Mike Farrell: I’d say it was the end of the Five-Star Challenge when Justin Fields his Amon-Ra St. Brown for a touchdown with no time left to beat Trevor Lawrence and his team in the 7-on-7 finals. Two of the best quarterbacks in the last five years going head to head and the last one with the ball won.

Adam Friedman: I love identifying players before they get offers and become known commodities in the recruiting world. I did it with Josh Kaindoh and Isaiah Wilson in last year's class and the big one for me in this year's class was Eyabi Anoma. I saw him dominate a game early in the 2016 season before he had any offers and no schools were really on him and included him in a piece recapping the series of games I saw that weekend. Shortly thereafter his offer sheet exploded and he ended up in the top ten of the Rivals100.

Adam Gorney: Watching Amon-Ra St. Brown has been really memorable. The five-star receiver has literally not been bad at an event in at least three years and I have seen him completely dominate camps, 7-on-7 events and games for years. It's been pretty incredible that the kid shows up every weekend, never mails it in and has been unstoppable on the high school level. I've said for a while that St. Brown is the best receiver in California in at least 10 years and I'll stand by that. If he doesn't star at USC and if he's not an early NFL Draft pick I'd be really surprised.

Josh Helmholdt: There is a lot I will take from this class and probably most noteworthy being the inaugural early signing period. But, that would not be my favorite memory. The battle for the No. 1 quarterback ranking between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, with a late entrance from JT Daniels, was a really special subplot to this 2018 class. It is the kind of recruiting rankings storyline you hope for, but rarely get.

Nick Krueger: Not that either has had meaningful success doing this, but watching Chad Morris and Kevin Sumlin immediately go after players that Texas A&M had been recruiting in this class and next has been pretty funny to me. Morris over the disappointment that he wasn't seriously considered for the Aggies' job and Sumlin obviously because he was let go following the season. We're sure to see a more spirited battle between the Longhorns and Aggies going forward, but having the X-factor of Arkansas and Arizona specifically negatively recruiting against A&M because of sour grapes adds a little comedy to the equation.

Chad Simmons: Covering Florida signee Trey Dean was very entertaining. First, he was at many camps and 7-on-7 events and nobody, I mean nobody talked more trash than him. So, he was entertaining in that aspect first of all. That is far from the only thing that stood out though. When talking his recruitment, he almost committed multiple times to multiple schools and I had multiple stories ready to go at different times that never were published. Then after he did go ahead and commit to Tennessee, he almost decommitted on about three or four different occasions before going through with it. I think he told me "today will be the day I decommit" at least three times. His recruitment was wild with a lot of ups and downs. Many different favorites, numerous "almost" commitments and it was never boring covering this Rivals 250 defensive back. It had a lot of twists and turns in it from start to finish.

Woody Wommack: I really enjoyed the way Justin Fields kept people guessing during the offseason, especially when he would tweet where he was. So many schools and fan bases thought they had a chance and it was enjoyable to see it all play out.