While the five stars get much of the attention in any release of the Rivals100, there is also much movement amongst the four-star players either within or onto the elite list. While Rivals.com doesn't have him as highly rated as some others, Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back Keith Marshall is one of many prospects that made a nice jump in the rankings.
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Marshall, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, is still ranked as the nation's No. 1 all-purpose back but he made a jump of 34 slots to No. 31 overall in the nation based on senior evaluation and is now within five-star range.
"In space, few high school prospects are as dangerous as Marshall. Not only is he very fast, but he reaches top-end speed in a hurry," said Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst Keith Niebuhr. "When Marshall, who is still a bit lanky at this stage, plants his foot and makes a cut, more often than not he freezes the defender. In the past, ball security has been an issue, but that wasn't the case in 2011."
In addition to Marshall, two other running backs made big jumps in the latest rankings with Miami (Fla.) Norland all-purpose back Randy Johnson continuing his rise and Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson running back Mike Davis making his debut.
"Johnson is an electric player who has the ability to change a game every time he touches the ball, whether it is on offense or on special teams. He plays top-tier competition throughout his season and is the focal point of opposing defenses but continues to rack up huge plays, consistent yardage, and most of all has led his team to a deep playoff run," said Rivals.com Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee of the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Miami commitment who checks in at No. 39. "He is a great offensive weapon that can make a dent in both the running and passing game. He is arguably one of the top skill position players in the Sunshine State for the 2012 class."
As for Davis, a monster senior year impressed Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst Keith Niebuhr.
"Davis is a compact back that displays great vision and patience with the ball. Once he sees a crease, he explodes through it and often then utilizes his excellent one-cut ability in the open field," Niebuhr said of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Florida commitment who moved into the 100 and debuts at No. 95. "If there is no running lane, Davis is very good at still making something out of nothing. While he might not have track-star speed in testing, he is football fast and is blessed with terrific feet that never stop moving."
Receiving a bump
The offensive side of the ball was also well represented by three wide receivers that made big jumps. Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco playmaker Bryce Treggs continues to rise up the charts while Franklin (Ga.) Heard County wide out JaQuay Williams and Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison speedster Aaron Burbridge are making their debuts in the Rivals100.
"We saw Treggs twice this season and both were memorable performances. In the game against Los Angeles Loyola, Treggs out-jumped Boise State commit Chaz Anderson near the end zone to come down with the touchdown catch and in a close loss to Anaheim Servite, Treggs ran under a deep pass for one of his other scores," said Rivals.com West Analyst Adam Gorney of the 5-foot-11, 171-pound Cal commitment who moved up to No. 73. "Treggs is a constant threat on the field because he has the route-running ability and intelligence to find open spots and then the speed to do something after the catch."
Niebuhr commented on Williams.
"The big-bodied receiver is an incredibly difficult matchup for opposing corners. Not only does he have great size, but he's reasonably quick, runs solid routes and has terrific hands," he said of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Auburn commitment who checks in at No. 78. "He can make the circus catches and is tough enough to go over the middle. After the catch, Williams is very good at using his size, strength and speed to get even more out of a play."
Finally, Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt talks about the rise of Burbridge, a Michigan State commitment, up to No. 100 on the list.
"We had not seen Burbridge since last December because he was completely absent from the off-season camp and combine scene, so we were not sure what to expect when he stepped onto the field as a senior. It took one quarter to realize Burbridge had taken his game to another level in those nine months," said Helmholdt of the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder. "Burbridge is a playmaker and almost always the best athlete on the field. He has the ideal size and body for the wide receiver position, but is also one of the top defensive back prospects in his region. Wide receiver is definitely his future, however, and he should step right into that lineage of great receivers at Michigan State when he arrives in East Lansing next fall."
Rounding out the skill players that made big moves in the Rivals100 is athlete D.J. Foster from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder simply had a monster senior season and moved up to No. 53 in the country.
"Foster is putting up such mind-boggling numbers this season that it was hard not to move him up even further after film evaluation," said Gorney. "He doesn't play the greatest competition in Arizona but we cannot penalize him too much because of that. Through 13 games this season - 11 of them wins - Foster has 2,837 yards and 52 rushing touchdowns. That is not a misprint. Foster is having an outrageously strong season and his Scottsdale Saguaro team is still in the playoffs."
The rest of the big movers and shakers within the Rivals100 played in the trenches or at linebacker. Offensive linemen Max Tuerk from Santa Margarita, Calif. and Joey O'Connor from Windsor, Colo., made two of the biggest moves overall.
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"We saw Tuerk twice this season against some heady competition and he dominated both times. Tuerk is so fundamentally sound and so strong throughout his body that he drives players in the ground, loves to play tough and physical and the coaching staff is so good at Santa Margarita that he's advanced beyond his years," said Gorney of the 6-foot-6, 294-pound USC commitment who moved up 74 slots to No. 48 overall. "It seems like every time Tuerk is on the field, every play, he wants to impose his will on the defensive linemen. He almost always has success as he's a great run blocker and a fantastic pass blocker."
Gorney has been equally impressed with what he's seen of O'Connor, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound former Penn State commitment.
"O'Connor has earned the reputation as a mauler and his father likes to describe his son as a hockey player on the football field and both describe his game perfectly. The small-town Colorado prospect seems to love to drive people into the ground and to never give them a chance to overpower him," said Gorney of the tackle that moved 151 slots to No. 87 overall. "O'Connor joked during a recent interview that he tries to not hurt his teammates during practice but that he's going to go 100-percent at all times. He's the kind of offensive lineman who has played inside and outside and almost always succeeds at being the toughest, meanest player on the field."
On the defensive side of things, defensive ends Adolphus Washington from Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft and Eli Harold from Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes made nice jumps inside the 100.
"You want to see big time prospects dominate on the field, and no one I saw this fall was as dominant for his team as Washington," said Helmholdt of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Ohio State commitment who checks in at No. 36 overall. "His 25 sacks on the season only begin to describe the impact he has on a game. The scary thing about Washington is that he is only just now starting to tap into his potential. He is also the best power forward in the state of Ohio and plays basketball from November to July. When Washington can dedicate himself to football year-round, his game is going to really take off."
As for Harold, he has been on the radar of Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell for quite some time.
"I've obviously known about and see Harold since he first started playing in high school, but each time I see him he continues to make a jump athletically," said Farrell of the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Virginia commitment who checks in at No. 44. "This year he's taken things to a different level on both sides of the ball. He could be an amazing wide receiver or tight end if he wanted to at the next level and he can be a rush end or linebacker in any system. He dominated this season and is so strong despite lacking great size."
Rounding out the big movers is Miami commitment Raphael Kirby, a teammate of Davis at Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson. Kirby jumped from outside the 100 to No. 89 overall.
"Kirby always seems to be where the action is. He's an explosive linebacker with long arms who shoots the gaps incredibly well, and is a tackling machine that is as fundamentally sound as they get at this level," said Niebuhr of the 6-foot-0, 208-pounder. "Kirby might not be the biggest 'backer, but he has excellent speed and even better footwork. He played inside in high school but is expected to move outside in college."