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February 8, 2012

Nkemdiche tops initial Rivals100 for 2013

MORE: 2013 Rivals100 | Rivals100: Tough calls
CHAT: Rivals100 chat | VOTE: Your No. 1?

The first Rivals100 for the class of 2013 has been released and as expected, the top two prospects in the class at the start hail from the state of Georgia as Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and LaGrange (Ga.) Troup linebacker Reuben Foster top the list.

While the Peach State products hold the top two spots, prospects from states such as Florida, California, Ohio, Washington, Oregon and even Delaware are included in the top 10.

The initial list includes 11 five-star prospects, with Tampa (Fla.) Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in addition to the 10 five stars announced in December.

"This is the earliest we've released a numerical Rivals100 and Thursday will be the earliest we release a numerical Rivals250," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell. "Other sites were releasing stars and lists before prospects even play a down of their junior season and we just don't see the value in that. Our rankings have always been the most revered and respected in the industry and we wanted to do our due diligence rather than rush out a list that isn't as researched."

Farrell feels that with the increased timeframe in recruiting with so many more early offers, the pressure to release earlier rankings has also increased.

"It's a fine line between too early and being as accurate as you can be," he said. "This is still a very early list and will change quite a bit when we do our next one after the spring evaluation period. But we feel good about the first Rivals100 and Rivals250 we are putting out."

Leading the way is Nkemdiche at No. 1.

"He's the guy this year," said Farrell. "But this isn't like Jadeveon Clowney in 2011 where we were pretty certain he would be No. 1 from start to finish. Nkemdiche is a rare talent, a big kid who can move so well he could stand up in college if needed or play anyplace along the defensive line. But when people compare him to Clowney, it's not quite the same. Robert is a special player, but there are a few guys I could see unseating him in the end. That wasn't the case with Clowney."

The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder is still an easy choice for No. 1 so far in 2013.

"No one else is as rare at his position as he is," said Farrell. "He's a freak. This is a year where there are a lot of special prospects at their positions as well."

Checking in at No. 2 is Foster who is an early commitment to Alabama.

"In a nutshell, Reuben is a beast on the football field. Not only is he built like a rock, but he is very fast and plays with an incredible amount of energy and determination," said Rivals.com Southeast Analyst Keith Niebuhr of the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder. "Reuben has explosive moves that are simply off the charts. He uses his quickness, power and hands to make him a nightmare to contain on the edge."

The No. 3 prospect in the country is the nation's top offensive tackle, Lake City (Fla.) Columbia standout Laremy Tunsil.

"Tunsil is a special prospect at offensive tackle. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive lineman has a great wingspan to go along with a long, lanky frame," said Rivals.com Florida Analyst Chris Nee. "On the field, he has great instincts and reaction. He does a great job of quickly striking off the snap and keeping his feet moving to open up holes and drive defenders away from the play."

The next two players are defensive backs as the top cornerback in the nation, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel's Kendall Fuller, checks in at No. 4 and the top safety, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta star Su'a Cravens, is No. 5.

"Fuller is special because he has good size, he is sneaky quick and he has amazing instincts," said Farrell of the 6-foot, 185-pounder. "You will be hard-pressed to find a smarter corner."

THE NO. 1s
Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe DE Jadeveon Clowney (2011) and Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest WR Dorial Green-Beckham (2012) were No. 1 in their respective classes from start to finish. Will Robert Nkemdiche do the same in 2013? Here is a look at Rivals100 No. 1 prospects since 2002:
ClassPlayerCollege
2002Vince YoungTexas
2003Ernie SimsFlorida State
2004Adrian PetersonOklahoma
2005Derrick WilliamsPenn State
2006Percy HarvinFlorida
2007Jimmy ClausenNotre Dame
2008Terrelle PryorOhio State
2009Bryce BrownTennessee
2010Ronald PowellFlorida
2011Jadeveon ClowneySouth Carolina
2012Dorial Green-BeckhamMissouri
"Cravens simply dominates everywhere on the field. He is especially impressive at safety where no one gets a free pass in the passing game," said Rivals.com West Analyst Adam Gorney of the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder. "Nothing gets by him and he's an incredible athlete who is just always there to make the play. Cravens plays offense and is good enough to be a wide receiver on the college level but he's special on defense. If there is a player in the 2013 class that resembles (Class of 2012 five-star safety) Shaq Thompson on the field it is Cravens."

Top talent on the coasts

Three players in the top 10 hail from non-traditional football talent producing states, led by the nation's top strongside defensive end Kenny Bigelow from Bear (Del.) Red Lion Christian who is No. 6.

"Bigelow is just starting to realize his potential," said Farrell of the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder who is committed to USC. "He's a massive kid who could be a big end or a defensive tackle and is getting better so quickly it's scary. He looks college ready now."

No. 8 is quarterback Max Browne from Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline while No. 9 is running back Thomas Tyner from Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha. They sandwich the nation's No. 7 player overall and No. 2 cornerback Cameron Burrows from Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison.

"Max Browne is a special player. He grasps a pretty complicated offense at Skyline and puts up huge numbers even this season when he didn't have Division I talent around him," said Gorney of the 6-foot-5, 202-pounder. "I saw him last off-season at the Stanford NIKE Camp and there was no question he was one of the better quarterbacks in attendance. Not only does Browne have a strong arm but he's precise in his passing, not a lot of wasted motion and it's clear to anyone watching him that he can deliver the ball all over the field.

"As for Tyner, he runs a little too upright and there are questions about the level of competition he plays but there is no doubt he has the size (6-foot, 200 pounds), speed and vision to make things happen every time he touches the ball. It's rare to find a player who can score every time he gets a carry. Tyner is one of those guys."

Burrows is just a tick behind Fuller in the rankings.

"Tall cornerbacks often have trouble playing as fluid as their smaller counterparts, but Burrows benefits from all of the advantages of his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame," said Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "Burrows has the speed to run with the fastest receivers, and the size to come up and be an asset in run support."

Rounding out the top 10 is new five-star Hargreaves III, yet another cornerback.

"Hargreaves is a do-everything athlete for his high school squad, but at the next level he will be a dominant, shutdown cornerback for whichever college is lucky to land his signature," said Nee of the 5-foot-10, 177-pounder. "He is an outstanding athlete at the cornerback position who does a great job in man coverage. He has smooth footwork at the cornerback position and his athleticism allows him to be in position to make big plays when the ball is put in the air."

Best at their position

Others who are at the top of their positions groups include the last of the five-star prospects, Whitewright, Texas dual-threat quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.

"Swoopes is still developing as a passer but he has an incredibly strong arm and is surprisingly good at throwing on the run. Colleges love his potential as a true dual-threat prospect," said Rivals.com Southwest Analyst Brian Perroni. "He ran for over 2,000 yards as a junior, including over 500 in one game alone. His skill set reminds people a lot of a guy like Vince Young coming out of high school."

Fellow Texan Ricky Seals-Jones from Sealy, Texas checks in at No. 13 overall and is the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the country.

"Seals-Jones plays quarterback for his high school but he is a big kid who is an incredibly smooth runner. He is also a standout basketball player and he could eventually be in the mold of a Jimmy Graham and be a very athletic tight end but he is more than capable of playing outside receiver as well," said Perroni of the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder. "He also plays safety in high school, which is very impressive considering his size. He was named District MVP for his performance on both offense and defense and he is another guy like Swoopes that is just a very versatile prospect."

Camp Hill (Pa.) Cedar Cliff tight end Adam Breneman is tops at his position and checks in at No. 22 overall.

"It's been awhile since we've had a five-star tight end and Breneman will make a push," said Farrell of the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "He just needs to add some size, but as a pass catcher and after the catch he is very polished and advanced for his age."

Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis offensive lineman Reeve Koehler is the nation's No. 1 guard and checks in at No. 67 overall.

"The thing I like most about Koehler is he dominates on every snap and really makes it known by his play that he's not going to give an inch to anybody. Koehler has great size, most of his film is at offensive guard, but he can move well enough to play tackle as well," said Gorney of the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder. "Really, the best thing about him is he doesn't just like moving people out of the way. Koehler gets his hands on people and moves them where he wants."

The nation's top defensive tackle is Vienna (Ga.) Dooly Country big man Montravius Adams who is ranked No. 33 in the country.

"Montravius is an outstanding prospect who has all the tools to be a success in a major conference. A defensive tackle with excellent size, he's strong, he's quick and he is very sound fundamentally," said Niebuhr of the 6-foot-3, 290-pounder. "Adams has an explosive first step, uses his hands extremely well and can get skinny in space. Because he has a high motor, he is an every-down challenge for offensive guards and centers, who find that often even two bodies aren't enough to slow him."

Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett star Trey Johnson, an Auburn commitment, is tops at his inside linebacker position and is No. 36 overall.

"Trey is just a tackling machine. The best way to find him on the field is simply to follow the football. It's pretty common for him to have 16 or 17 tackles in a game, sometimes more," said Niebuhr. "Trey has really started to fill out his 6-foot-1 frame and now weighs over 220 pounds. He is quick, and has terrific footwork, so he can cover a ton of ground."

Rounding out the top players at each position is athlete Derrick Henry from Yulee, Fla., who checks in at No. 29 overall.

""Henry is a unique prospect because of his blend of speed and size. He is a 6-foot-3, 232-pound prospect who has handled running back duties throughout his high school career. While Henry intends to play running back at the next level, his size and ability may translate to a position change. Regardless of where he lines up, he is an outstanding athlete who will present problems for the opposition whether he is carrying the ball or trying to take down a ball-carrier."

Five-star potential

A few players appear to be knocking on the door early for five-star status. Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Joey Bosa are two close to the coveted status from the Sunshine State.

"Thomas is everything you want in an outside linebacker. He has a long, lanky frame at 6-4 and plenty of room to add strength to his 200-pound build. When the ball is snapped, he is heat-seeking missile to the ball," said Nee of the nation's No. 12 player. "He plays effectively coming off the edge and acting as a pass-rushing specialist but also shows the versatility to attack to the inside and stop the run or drop back and play the pass."

Nee is equally impressed with Bosa, who checks in at No. 14 overall at 6-5 and 260 pounds.

"Bosa is a tall, rangy defensive lineman who shows a lot of playmaking ability and versatility along the defensive front. He has the quick first step, athleticism, and active hands to make him a threat off the edge but he can also go toe-for-toe on the interior as a defensive tackle," said Nee. "He is an aggressive tackler who does a very good job of exploding off the ball, getting off blocks, and taking a direct line to the ball."

Four others include Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry Jr., Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings and Joliet (Ill.) Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac.

"Levenberry is a big linebacker with good size but who moves very well laterally," said Farrell of the No. 15 player in the nation who is 6-3 and 226 pounds. "He is also exceptional in pass coverage which is rare for such a big kid."

Gorney is impressed with the other linebacker on the five-star radar.

"Hutchings is an active and aggressive linebacker who rarely gets caught out of place. He makes plays all over the field and has no problem covering a lot of ground. He is also tireless," said Gorney of the No. 17 player in the Rivals100. "As the game goes on, Hutchings seems to get faster and stronger. He's a smart player, too. The De La Salle standout knows where the play is going and then he comes up and makes the hit."

And finally, Helmholdt breaks down Morris, a 6-foot-3, 183-pound lefty who is committed to Michigan, and Isaac, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound running back.

"The buzz on Morris started early in his sophomore year. The left-hander was matching 2012 five-stars Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston throw-for-throw at the Columbus Elite 11 regional last May," said Helmholdt of No. 16 on the list. "As his game has progressed he has learned to vary his trajectory and put more touch on his passes when the situation calls for it. Just as important to the quarterback position, Morris has the moxie and leadership qualities to take control of a huddle and has shown to be a player others will follow."

"Isaac is one of the most unique running back prospects to come out of the Midwest in awhile. He is unusually tall for the position at 6-foot-3, but he does an outstanding job of running behind his pads and his agility is unreal for his size," Helmholdt said of No. 18 in the nation. "Isaac is a patient runner and when he sees the hole develop he has the burst to get through it immediately. Of course, his size also allows him to be a physical ball carrier and he can power his way between the tackles. His hands are outstanding and he is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield."



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