Three-Point Stance: More thoughts on #RivalsChallenge
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with his take on the offensive players from the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas, including some player comparisons, as well as a few other teams having unexpected recruiting success this cycle.
1. #RivalsChallenge thoughts on the O
The Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas is in the books, but the memories are still fresh in this old head. Here’s my breakdown of the offensive players at the event.
Quarterbacks – There were three guys who stood above the rest: Bo Nix, Graham Mertz and Ryan Hilinski. And then there was a bit of a dropoff. Nix was head-and-shoulders above the rest because of the zip on his ball and he had a very good day in drills, one-on-ones and 7-on-7. Mertz was excellent in drills and one-on-ones but struggled a bit in the 7-on-7 portion with his accuracy, while Hilinski was solid in all three areas but wasn’t outstanding in any one portion of the day. However, Auburn, Wisconsin and South Carolina fans should be happy with their three quarterbacks. Sam Howell, a Florida State commitment, was also good especially in the 7-on-7 portion but was a tick behind the big three.
Running backs – Trey Sanders was way above the rest in every aspect and showed that he can get downfield and catch the ball even though he’s a big, physical back. Devyn Ford, the Penn State commitment, was good but just a tick behind Sanders and those two were much better than the rest. Zachary Evans, the 2020 star, was actually slotted to play wide receiver/slot at the event but worked with the running backs and will be an absolute star. If I had to rank them in order it would be Sanders, Evans, Ford and then Sean Dollars and Mark-Antony Richards.
Wide receiver – This group was outstanding and I could write complimentary things about nearly every receiver at the event. In fact, choosing the wide receiver MVP was the hardest decision of the day. Oklahoma commitments Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges were excellent all day while Trey Palmer played both ways and was a standout on offense and defense. Wake Forest commitment Nolan Groulx is an excellent route runner and hard to contain while Jadon Haselwood flashed his five-star talent many times. Trey Knox and others deserve mention as well. This was a loaded group.
Tight end – All three true tight ends at the event – Clemson commitment Jaelyn Lay, 2020 stud Arik Gilbert and Garmon Randolph – impressed in different ways. Lay is physically one of the best-looking tight ends you’ll see and despite a few drops, he had a good day. Gilbert isn’t far off when it comes to physical presence and is a terrific athlete. Randolph has a great frame on which to build. Each will be able to stretch the field at the next level.
I’ll tackle the defense in Thursday’s edition.
2. #RivalsChallenge comparisons
Some of these offensive players remind me of stars of the past for many different reasons. Here are a few comparisons for people who like that stuff.
WR Trejan Bridges – He reminds me of Kenny Stills from back in the 2010 class. Maybe that’s because Bridges is committed to Oklahoma, which is where Stills ended up. I’m not sure, but they both have excellent ball skills and body control. Bridges will be ranked higher than Stills was back in the day because he’s a more accomplished route runner, has better hands and plays a bit more physical, but they remind me of each other.
TE Arik Gilbert – He reminds me of Vernon Davis from the 2003 class for those of you who remember that far back. Davis was built like a brick and was a physical freak, and that’s exactly how Gilbert looks. Davis went on to be a star at Maryland and has had a very good NFL career.
TE Jaelyn Lay – He’s much thicker and stronger at the same stage, but he reminds me a bit of Eric Ebron from the 2011 class. Ebron was super talented but had problems with his hands out of high school, same as Lay. He corrected those issues in college and turned out to be a first-round draft pick. Lay has the potential to do the same.
RB Trey Sanders – He’s taller than Trent Richardson and not quite as jacked up but he reminds me a bit of the former five-star. This is quite the compliment because Richardson was a freak coming out of high school. Don’t let his NFL failure taint this comparison.
RB Zach Evans – Okay you’re going to think I’m crazy on this one, but he reminds me a bit of Adrian Peterson. He’s a tall, upright runner with underrated receiving skills and he’s going to be an absolute freak in college and beyond. He won’t have the career of Peterson, no one really will, but watch out for this kid.
3. Surprising recruiting surges
Last week, I gave props to Purdue, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and NC State as programs having terrific recruiting years that perhaps you wouldn’t expect. Here are a few more teams that deserve call outs ...
Boston College – BC is just outside the top 25 and having a great recruiting year, the best in ages. Steve Addazio has things rolling in recruiting and the Eagles could be dangerous over the next few years with A.J. Dillon and this influx of young talent.
Virginia Tech – The Hokies may have lost a few key in-state recruits, but this is still a very good class. Ranked in the top 25, there is a good mix of offense and defense here, and some key athletes. There are also a few guys such as Jaden Payoute, who could eventually be ranked higher down the road.
Wisconsin – How about those Badgers? With a healthy average star ranking and a small class so far, they are still in the top 25 and have done a great job recruiting against some of the top programs in the Big Ten. Logan Brown is the headliner but the key could be Graham Mertz, the best quarterback they have landed in a long time.
Baylor – How does Baylor keep doing it? There isn’t a two-star in the class coming off a horrible season and a sexual assault scandal. I said that Matt Rhule did the best job of anyone in the country last year and he’s doing a great job again this cycle.
Indiana – Don’t sleep on the Hoosiers as every recruit except a long snapper is rated as a three-star or better. Defensive end Beau Robbins is a rare four-star for Indiana. Tom Allen and his staff have done a great job recruiting so far.