The conspiracy theorists always come out of the woodwork following any release of the Rivals100 and the Rivals250. Fans of major programs are always lamenting the prospects committed to their team that took drops while quietly celebrating the big jumps of their top committed players. But emotions aside, which teams truly benefitted from the latest rankings release and which teams were hurt? As always, it's a mixed bag but there's little doubt that SEC powers Florida and Alabama improved their stock and should be in good position when Rivals.com takes its initial look at the Class of 2011 team recruiting rankings next week.
First off, let's set the ground rules of this analysis. Only committed players are being factored into this equation. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt from Monroe (Ga.) Area, who made a huge jump in the Rivals100, does not fit into this equation no matter how much fans of Georgia Tech are confident he'll end up as a Yellow Jacket. With uncommitted prospects, there's no telling where they will end up.
And only players that made major jumps of 20 spots or more or took major drops of 20 spots or more factored in as well unless a player earned his fifth star. And, of course, any three-star prospects moving to four-star status become a big deal when looking at the winners and losers. But even with these specific ground rules, it's such a mixed bag. Only two programs, Florida and Alabama, can be deemed true winners this time around.
Let's start with Florida. Many feel that Urban Meyer and his staff were robbed of the No. 1 overall spot in the 2010 team rankings because offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson didn't sign on Letter of Intent Day. Since then Henderson signed with USC, got out of his letter and has since enrolled at Miami so Gator fans have a case and Florida's class is expected to be No. 1 when the Rivals.com enrolled team rankings come out in early September. And once again Meyer is putting together another class that will push for No. 1.
In the latest rankings, Florida benefitted from four committed prospects making big jumps. Jacksonville (Fla.) University Christian School tight end A.C. Leonard jumped from No. 89 in the Rivals100 to No. 46 and Plantation, Fla., linebacker Ryan Shazier made a strong move from 165 to 102. Brookville (Fla.) Nature Coast wide receiver Ja'Juan Story also made the jump from three stars to four. However, the biggest move was made by cornerback Louchiez Purifoy who went from un-evaluated and unranked to the No. 116 player in the country and a four star.
However, it was not all sunshine and lollipops for the Gator fans as Lakeland, Fla., wide receiver Javares McRoy fell from No. 148 to outside the Rivals250 despite keeping his four-star status. And Deland, Fla., safety De'Ante Saunders lost his fourth star and dropped down to a high three. Despite the two drops, Florida clearly improves its status overall.
However, a case could be made that Nick Saban and Alabama made the biggest move of all. Saban, who led his team to back-to-back mythical recruiting titles in 2008 and 2009 and a national title on the field last year, is positioning his class to make another run at the top.
Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips safety Hasean Clinton-Dix made the big jump from four stars to five. Even though his move was only 18 slots in the Rivals100, becoming a five-star is a huge deal and a boon to 'Bama's recruiting class. Prichard (Ala.) Vigor wide receiver Marvin Shinn also made a big move from outside the Rivals100 at No. 119 to the No. 80 slot this time around.
Two others committed to 'Bama made nice moves as well. Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic defensive end D.J. Pettway jumped from No. 221 to No. 159 and Picayune, Miss. tight end Malcolm Faciane earned his fourth star.
There was one bit of bad news for Alabama fans however as wide receiver Danny Woodson took one of the biggest plummets of anyone, dropping from 96 all the way to 221. However, it was clearly a good week for Tide fans overall.
After Florida and Alabama, there are a few schools that fans could make a case for winning or losing. Texas is an interesting program to analyze. On the one hand, Brownwood, Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley made one of the biggest jumps moving from No. 183 all the way to No. 61 in the new Rivals100 and Carthage, Texas linebacker Kendall Thompson went from outside the Rivals250 to No. 140 this time around.
However, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Millwood defensive back Josh Turner took a tumble from No. 55 to outside of the Rivals100 at No. 124 and Cedar Park, Texas linebacker Chet Moss fell from No. 190 to No. 219. Despite the two drops, overall Texas gained more ground than lost.
Florida State is also hard to gauge. On the one hand, Davenport (Fla.) Ridge safety Karlos Williams earned his fifth star and jumped from No. 37 all the way up to No. 11, a huge move for FSU's future team rankings. And Miami (Fla.) Central running back Devonta Freeman went from un-evaluated and unranked to a four star prospect outside the Rivals250.
But on the other hand, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Rashad Greene dropped from No. 175 to outside the Rivals250 this time around. But again, like with Texas, FSU improved its stock in future team rankings when it comes to committed players.
Clemson is another program that took two steps forward but one step back. Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman wide receiver Charone Peake went from No. 91 to No. 51 in the Rivals100 and Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland defensive back Cortez Davis went from No. 208 in the Rivals250 last time around to No. 180. On the flip side, Piedmont (S.C.) Wren offensive tackle went from No. 227 to outside the Rivals250 and lost his third star.
The last school with a bit of a dilemma whether to celebrate or grumble is Miami. Hurricane fans have to be happy that Miami (Fla.) Northwestern quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made a jump into the Rivals100, checking in at No. 68 after ranking 140th last time around but Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Phillip Dorsett fell from No. 182 to outside the Rivals250 and down to three-star status.
Finally, a few schools got more good news than bad although their moves aren't that earth-shattering overall. Stanford got bumps for Sunnyvale (Calif.) Kings Academy running back Amir Carlisle who went from 129 to 99 and Dallas (Texas) St. Mark's wide receiver Ty Montgomery added a fourth star. UCLA got a little boost when Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln wide receiver Brandin Cooks moved from three stars to four stars like Montgomery did. Oklahoma received the same benefit as receiver Kameel Jackson from Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston also moved from three to four stars.
Overall this rendition of the Rivals100 and Rivals250 seems to be very balanced as far as the teams it helped and the teams it hurt as almost everyone took a hit but also gained in some ways. How will it affect the Rivals.com team rankings? Stay tuned.