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July 17, 2013
Somebody has to start at the top, and, truth be told, the search isn't usually all that tedious.
Except when there's not.
And, at least for now, that's the case for the class of 2015. The mystery can be construed as a hat tip to the parity of the group. It can also be seen as an indictment of the talent at the top. Of course, there's more to it than that.
"Normally, we're doing this in February, after junior years," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "We're moving the process up a good six or seven months because of the nature of the industry. I think that's why it's a little more difficult this year. I think we'll have a much clearer picture after the season."
The nation's No. 1 has been switched mid-cycle over the years. Top players have dropped, and new names have emerged. But somebody has to start in the driver's seat.
Somebody has to be "The Guy."
With that in mind, Rivals.com reviews the list of candidates for the class of 2015's No. 1 ranking and shares Farrell's take on their talents.
THE SKINNY: When you make 94 tackles, including 17 for a loss and five sacks, as a sophomore in high school, you get noticed. Blackshear did just that, and here we are today.
Aside from having the frame of a college-ready athlete, Blackshear has a drive that separates him from the pack. No offensive lineman came close to handling his unique blend of size, speed and explosiveness at the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour stop in Charlotte. He came in as one of the favorites to take home the MVP honors and actually exceeded expectations by going undefeated in one-on-ones.
FARRELL ON BLACKSHEAR: "He's very raw and comes off better in person than he does on film. He's an extremely long kid with great athleticism and a tremendous frame. In Charlotte, he showed a very good array of pass-rushing moves that we didn't really expect to see."
WR George Campbell
THE SKINNY: Sometimes evaluations are simple. Campbell is a 6-foot-5 monster of a receiver who happens to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. Size and speed translate. They just do. So, even at this early juncture, it's not hard to project Campbell as a standout BCS-level wideout.
Campbell was one of the best players to take the field at the IGN 7-on-7 national championship, and he ran open all day. That surprised exactly nobody, though. If there's a skill in his repertoire that sometimes goes overlooked, it's his hands. Campbell has a knack for making difficult catches look easy, and he possesses the agility to contort his long body to make grabs very few other receivers can dream of making.
FARRELL ON CAMPBELL: He's a big, tall, super fast guy who can play different positions, but he projects most as a wide receiver. He's a big target who is very explosive, and that combination of things is special.
OL Mitch Hyatt
THE SKINNY: Hyatt's name was well known before he showed up at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour, but what he did at the event solidified him as a contender for the top spot in his class.
All Hyatt did at the Five-Star Challenge was win reps against No. 1-ranked 2014 player Da'Shawn Hand and fellow five-star Lorenzo Carter. Hyatt comes from a powerhouse high school and has had no problem living up to the standard that his background creates. His quickness is what sets him apart for the time being. He will become more of a nightmare matchup as he continues to add muscle.
FARRELL ON HYATT: "He has very, very good technique. He's a student of the game who does everything you look for in a tackle when it comes to getting out of his stance and extending his arms and engaging. His footwork is great, and he has a really, really good frame to build upon."
QB Josh Rosen
THE SKINNY: Rosen has the most exposure of anyone on this list. Part of that is a product of the position he plays and the high school he attends, but he's earned the buzz that surrounds him. Rosen is a bit of a camp warrior and has long shined at offseason events on the West Coast. His strong arm and accuracy on deep patterns make him a standout on the camp circuit.
Most impressive, however, is the fact that Rosen, one of just two underclassman quarterbacks invited to this year's Five-Star Challenge, compared favorably with the top passers in the 2014 class. While he saw limited action as a backup at the event, a case could be made that he was the best quarterback in attendance.
FARRELL ON ROSEN: "When you spend time around the kid, his knowledge of the game, his confidence and his leadership show through. He just has that 'it' factor you look for in a quarterback. That's in addition to the arm, the accuracy and the footwork. We've seen it in Jimmy Clausen, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. They were guys who came out of high school and we just felt that they were going to be successful. Rosen has the same thing."
THE SKINNY: Aside from being a standout on Friday nights in the fall, it seems Toliver pops up at every major offseason event. Not only does he show his face, though, he performs at a high level on every occasion. It's not as though the speedy cornerback has to attend these camps, combines and 7-on-7 tournaments in an effort to build buzz. He's long since had plenty of that, yet his competitive nature won't let him enjoy much downtime.
As consistent a player as there is in this class, Toliver was one of the best prospects in attendance at LSU's recent team camp, an event loaded with top 2014 and 2015 talent. He also made waves at RCS Orlando and the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. You always know what you're getting when Toliver steps on a football field, and he always delivers something impressive.
FARRELL ON TOLIVER: "Toliver is super confident to the point of being cocky, but quietly so. Nothing is too big for him. No stage is ever going to be too big for him. He never panics, and he has the size and the ability to turn and run. His running ability allows him to cover smaller receivers, and his size and physicality allow him to cover bigger receivers. He has great ball skills, too."
QB Ricky Town
THE SKINNY: Town's arm is as strong as anybody's. If the quarterback position were reliant only on the ability to chuck the ball downfield, he'd be the no-brainer lock for the top spot. That's not to say he's a disaster when it comes to the other facets of the position, though.
Town obviously has the build and the mechanics that BCS-level coaches love. He impressed with his arm and his footwork at the RCS stop in Los Angeles. Town led his St. Bonaventure team to a few wins in the state playoffs as a sophomore and is poised for an all-world junior season.
FARRELL ON TOWN: "He's a big kid with a really strong arm. He absolutely rockets it in there. He has a great feel for pressure. He knows when to peel away from pressure and when to slide up. He has a great instinct when it comes to avoiding the pass rush while keeping his eyes downfield. He just throws a bullet. Plain and simple, he just has a really great arm."