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The latest release of the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour features many changes from top to bottom, and because it is early in this recruiting cycle, national analyst Mike Farrell said there is a lot of movement to come.
"There is so much attention paid to the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour, but since we started to do the Rivals250 back in 2006 the number of prospects who have come from the 101 to 250 range to finish near the top of the rankings by our last edition has been impressive," Farrell said. "Many of the players you see highlighted today will be in our Rivals100 before all is said and done, and if history is any indication one or two of them could end up as five-stars."
Big jumps began right after the top 100 with O'Fallon, Ill., strongside defensive end Dewayne Hendrix moving up 128 spots to No. 103. Hendrix's performance at the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour event in St. Louis paid huge dividends for the 6-foot-4, 264-pound prospect.
"The St. Louis RCS was our first chance to see Hendrix live," Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "We loved his film, but he exceeded even our lofty expectations in winning defensive line MVP. There are few weaknesses in Hendrix's game. He can rush the passer with speed and agility, and he has the size and strength to hold up in run defense as well."
The Rivals Camp Series was crucial from an evaluation standpoint. It was also an outstanding opportunity for exposure, and Plaquemine, La., strongside defensive end Davon Godchaux took full advantage, moving up 57 spots to No. 151.
"There may not have been a guy who improved his stock more by attending an RCS event than Davon Godchaux," Rivals.com Southwest analyst Jason Howell said. "He looked the part from beginning to end. He dominated one-on-one drills, and his performance, combined with his film, made a compelling argument for him to make a move up the rankings."
Other big movers early in the rankings included Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's center Joshua Casher, who moved from unranked to No. 106, and Fontana (Calif.) Summit wide receiver Erik Brown, another prospect who was not ranked last time but jumped to No. 111.
"Joshua Casher owned RCS Birmingham, taking home the offensive line MVP award," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington said. "The Auburn pledge manhandled all challengers and got the best of much bigger two-way lineman Charles Mosley in a few one-on-one matchups. On tape the Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's standout lines up at tackle and guard, but he left no doubt that he is the top center in the nation, thus his big jump in the latest rankings."
Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney said: "Brown has been dominant and unstoppable at every 7on7 tournament this spring, and he showed off again at RCS Los Angeles, where he was undoubtedly the best wide receiver there. All indications are that Brown will continue to impress, and there is a chance he could continue moving up the rankings because no cornerback has had any success against him."
There are many more "problems" in the upper portion of the Rivals250 who have made significant moves up. Minneapolis (Minn.) Washburn running back Jeff Jones jumped 54 spots to No. 115, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall wide receiver Curtis Samuel went from unranked to No. 116, Burlington (Ky.) Conner quarterback Drew Barker leaped 36 spots to No. 117, El Cerrito, Calif., cornerback Adarius Pickett went from No. 189 to No. 122, and West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West running back Mikel Horton moved ahead 78 positions to No. 131.
"The Midwest is deep with running back talent in the class of 2014, and after the spring period Jeff Jones and Mikel Horton have separated themselves as the region's best," Helmholdt said. "Despite a 30-plus-pound difference, both are all-around backs who can run between the tackles and be assets in the passing game."
Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic analyst Adam Friedman said: "With an offer list like Samuel's, we needed to make sure we could thoroughly evaluate him. We were fortunate enough to see him at the Newark RCS, and he did not disappoint. We really liked his length and explosiveness in the open field. Samuel's frame and athleticism could allow him to play multiple positions, but he looked very good as a receiver with the ball in his hands. Going forward, he needs to continue to work on making crisper cuts but, with his speed, Samuel is a very difficult assignment for any defensive back."
One of the biggest movers in the Rivals250 was Long Beach (Calif.) Cabrillo receiver Rahshead Johnson, an early commit to Washington who had an exceptional spring in numerous 7on7 events and at RCS Los Angeles. Many more top programs have offered Johnson -- he could play receiver or defensive back -- and Gorney said it's easy to see why he's such a hot commodity this spring.
"If Erik Brown was not on the scene, everybody would be talking more about how Johnson has been incredible this spring," Gorney said. "There are so many opportunities to see top players in California because of 7on7 tournaments almost every weekend, and Johnson did not disappoint once. He's a little undersized, but that doesn't seem to matter. He's fast, shifty, a great route runner, and maybe Johnson's biggest asset is he can catch passes even when he's really well covered by cornerbacks."
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Another prominent theme in the Rivals250, especially this early in the recruiting calendar, is the proliferation of unranked players moving up drastically in the rankings.
That is the case again as Falcon, Colo., athlete Kalen Ballage checked in at No. 136, Savannah (Ga.) Calvary Baptist tight end Milan Richard moved to No. 148, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman wide receiver Travis Rudolph went to No. 153, and Derby, Kan., tight end Deandre Goolsby was listed at No. 171.
"Ballage is not only one of the most impressive prospects you'll see physically on the hoof, but he is also very athletic and versatile," Farrell said. "He could play running back or linebacker in college, or he could be a dominating H-back because he has good ball skills. As he adds even more strength and mass to his game to go with increased speed, he could be an elite big back or a tackling machine on defense at the next level."
Other previously unranked players making it into the 200 included Needham (Mass.) St. Sebastian's Country Day linebacker Connor Strachan (No. 179), Detroit (Mich.) Country Day quarterback Tyler Wiegers (No. 180), Bossier City (La.) Parkway quarterback Brandon Harris (No. 186), Imperial, Calif., running back Royce Freeman (No. 187), Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy quarterback Michael O'Connor (No. 188), Opelika, Ala., cornerback Stephen Roberts (No. 197) and West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade quarterback Brad Kaaya at No. 200.
"Richard plays at a very small school in Southeast Georgia, so it's been tough for us to get a gauge on his ceiling," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "But at RCS Atlanta, one of the most talent-rich camps on the series, he was terrific. He has the skill set of a wide receiver in a tight end's body. He's not the tallest tight end prospect in the country, but he more than makes up for it with his ability to get open and make plays in the passing game."
Codrington said: "Rudolph's ascension into the Rivals250 comes on the heels of a great spring camp and 7on7 effort. We saw Rudolph on four different occasions, and each time he was one of the top performers. He runs precise routes with above-average speed and has very good hands. Although he isn't the fastest, he does have the capability to get over the top of defenders to make plays vertically down the field."
Four of the last five players in the Rivals250 were also previously unranked. Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei cornerback Jonathan Lockett came in at No. 246, followed by Nashville (Tenn.) Independence safety Rashaan Gaulden. The last two prospects to make the list were Immokalee, Fla., athlete Jimmy Bayes and Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph's safety Kiy Hester.
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