If you think ranking the top 100 players in the nation is difficult, just imagine how hard it is to determine which players belong in the Rivals250. But the first national 250 list for the class of 2008 is complete, and Rivals.com unveiled the ranking Tuesday.
It's a list that features 84 players from the Southeast, 47 players from the West, 43 from the Heartland, 32 from the Midwest, 23 from the East and 21 from the Mid-Atlantic. After watching the Southeast dominate the NFL Draft - and become the focus of several top national programs - it's only natural for the Rivals250 to be heavily Southeast influenced.
"There are a bunch of great athletes in the Southeast this year," Rivals.com recruiting analyst JC Shurburtt said.
"Florida is strong and deep as always, and I believe this year's class in Georgia is better than last year's. Alabama is the strongest that I've seen it. What makes it so special is the amount of big, talented defensive line types. Those guys just don't grow on trees, and Alabama is full of them this year. Louisiana is down, but there are still a lot of good football players. South Carolina is having another good year at the top. I was told by several people connected to college football that it's a deep year in Tennessee."
The West is heavily influenced by the city of Los Angeles.
Los Angles is the biggest metropolitan area represented in the Rivals250, with 26 players making the list. What's really helped Los Angeles the past few years, and again this season, is a rapidly expanding talent base. There will always be talent-rich areas in the city. However, areas in the Inland Empire like Fontana, Corona, Redlands and Colton have really pumped out some great players the past few years.
"As that population continues to grow and expand out in the Inland Empire, there's no question we're going to see more and more high quality kids to come out of the region," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Rick Kimbrel said. "While it still might not compare to the numbers that we see in Los Angeles proper, I think you're going to see more coaches hit that part of the city hard. It's like a gold mine out there."
UCLA commitment Anthony Dye of Corona (Calif.) Santiago is a great example of the talent that can be found in the Inland Empire. Dye is ranked as a 5.9 on the Rivals Rating Scale.
The Heartland Region is dominated by Texas, which is no surprise. The Lone Star State put 30 players on the list, and it looks like a really strong group right outside the Rivals100 with players like Cyrus Gray, Daniel Campbell, Joseph Ibiloye, Luke Poehlmann, Derrick Hall, Adrian Bushell, Sam McGuffie, Aundre Dean and Justin Johnson all earning 5.9 rankings.
"As is the case across the country, it's certainly a strong year in terms of offensive linemen in the Lone Star State when you look at how many guys from Texas are on the national lists," Rivals.com recruiting analyst John Talman said. "As is usually the case in Texas, there are several top running backs with a variety of different running styles that highlight the list. Guys like McGuffie, Dean, Gray, and Jeremy Hills are good players."
The Midwest is highlighted by an extremely strong group of players from Ohio. Two names that received 5.9 ratings from the Buckeye State that don't get as much attention as the others are Clayton (Ohio) Northmont offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders and Trotwood (Ohio) Madison running back Michael Shaw. Nathan Williams, an Ohio State commitment, and Elliott Mealer, a Michigan pledge, are two other four-star players that haven't gotten the attention they deserve.
When it comes to the East and the Mid-Atlantic, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell says Pennsylvania is loaded like he's never seen before.
"It's a very strong year at the top in both regions," Farrell said. "Pennsylvania is loaded, as is Virginia. There is some top level talent in most of the other states. This is probably the best overall year for top-end talent in the region in quite some time."
Farrell said he really liked Pennsylvania stars Nick Moody, Mike Yancich and Andrew Sweat. All three earned 5.9 rankings from Rivals.com.
"Moody is a very strong and physical kid, that could play rover or linebacker at Florida State," Farrell said. "He's a big hitter and plays the run very well. Yancich is excellent in coverage, he has loose hips and can turn and run. He's an excellent open-field tackler and loves to hit. Sweat is a powerful kid who is excellent against the run and does his best work moving forward. He's also a big hitter."
Jeremy Crabtree is the national recruiting editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.