"This is going to be a very interesting and exciting year," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell. "The last few years there has been a clear No. 1 to start things off with Jadeveon Clowney, Dorial Green-Beckham, Robert Nkemdiche and Da'Shawn Hand, but this year is different. We looked long and hard at every candidate and had many discussions, and Thompson became the guy. He has everything you want from a defensive tackle: He is explosive, he has great technique, he is agile and quick, he can pressure the quarterback and he hustles. His film and in-person evaluations blew us away."
Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst Woody Wommack goes into detail about Thompson.
"Out of all the players I saw in person this year, Trenton was the guy who really blew me away the most, regardless of class. He's relentless at the defensive tackle position, and his natural strength combined with his athletic ability makes him a nightmare for offensive linemen," said Wommack. "He's still growing and learning the position and hasn't come close to hitting his ceiling yet, a scary thought for offensive linemen who will be battling him in one-on-ones during the upcoming camp and combine season."
Checking in at No. 2 is Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen, followed at No. 3 by LSU cornerback commitment Kevin Toliver II from Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian; like Thompson, both maintain their five-star status awarded in August. Also keeping their fifth stars are Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, a Michigan commitment who checks in at No. 5, and Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is No. 10. The other five prospects in the top 10 are new five-stars.
"There is a lot of talent out there, some that really emerged from junior film and evaluations and some that we just wanted to see a little bit more from," said Farrell. "This class is loaded with depth at many positions. I'd say it's more well-rounded than the 2014 class but perhaps not quite as top heavy despite the number of early five-stars. It will be fun to compare the two classes."
Seffner (Fla.) Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart checks in at No. 4, Birmingham (Ala.) Shades Valley defensive tackle Daron Payne is No. 6, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver George Campbell starts at No. 7, and two California prospects, defensive tackle Rasheem Green from Gardena (Calif.) Serra at No. 8 and Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure quarterback Ricky Town at No. 9, round out the new five-stars in the top 10. Town is an Alabama commitment.
"Lots of talent here. Cowart is an animal on tape and is one of the best-looking prospects you'll see physically," said Farrell. "I love the defensive tackles in this class, and Payne and Green are both disrupters. Campbell is probably the best overall athlete in the class, and Town is going to have a great career at Alabama with his vision and decision-making."
Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst Kynon Codrington breaks down Cowart, Payne and Campbell who play in his states.
"Cowart is one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the 2015 class," Codrington said. "His first-step quickness is unfair for interior linemen. He can swim and rip to get to the quarterback when rushing the passer. We like his hand placement and ability to fire off to disrupt off the edge. His versatility along the front four made him a no-brainer for early five-star status.
"Payne is a space eater that can stuff the run and take on double teams. He comes off the ball and does a nice job playing with good pad level. His strength at the point of attack allows him to get penetration consistently. He is an ideal 4-3 defensive tackle, but he can also play some end. And Campbell is a freak athlete with home-run ability at wide out. It may be way too early to compare him to Randy Moss, but his size-to-speed ratio is in the same category. His height allows him to create problems against smaller defensive backs in the red area."
Rivals.com West Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney weighs in on Green and Town.
"Green has been one of the most dominant defensive linemen in California this year regardless of class," Gorney said. "What stands out most about Green is that he is so athletic but also very physical, and he's still learning all the time about getting better at his position. Green has more than a dozen sacks this season but that's no surprise because he's constantly in backfield.
"I saw Town early this season and I was impressed not only by his big-time arm but by his decision-making. The Alabama commit hardly ever makes a bad throw and he can zip it all over the field. On short, intermediate and deep throws, Town has excellent control over his passes and he does a great job checking out of his first receiver to his second and third options. It's no surprise Alabama fell in love with him because he's a quarterback who doesn't force things and usually makes the right decision. Plus, he's tough and really takes to coaching which was a big reason why he's landed so many big offers already."
Outside the top 10 there are three additional new five-stars. Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch wide receiver Calvin Ridley checks in at No. 11, while Long Beach (Calif.) Poly cornerback Iman Marshall and Keller (Texas) offensive tackle Maea Teuhema, a Texas pledge, check in at No. 16 and 17 respectively. Meanwhile, Columbus (Ga.) Carver defensive end Mekhi Brown lost his fifth-star after recent evaluation, and the Alabama commit starts at No. 26 overall in the Rivals100.
"I like Ridley a lot, he's a kid that just jumps out at you on film and reminds me a bit of Stefon Diggs with the way he can stop and start and make people miss," said Farrell. "Marshall is a lockdown corner who does everything well, and Teuhema is a monster, a potential right tackle and possibly a left who just dominates. As for Brown, it's always tough to lose that star but the same thing happened to [class of 2014 linebacker] Raekwon McMillan, and he earned it back, so time will tell. Brown is just really raw."
Codrington breaks down Ridley as well.
"Ridley is starting to scratch the surface and his best football may be ahead of him. He led Broward County in receiving this season, and he was a big-play flanker against some of the top defensive backs in the region," Codrington said. "His ability to get separation and get over the top of the defense make him dangerous against any coverage. He also plays linebacker for his team and shows great overall instincts."
Gorney loves Marshall's game.
"Marshall was a complete shutdown corner all season. Hardly any passes were caught on his side of the field, and what's most impressive is that the Poly standout was competing against quality wide receivers almost every week," said Gorney. "What I like most about Marshall is that he's a very physical corner at the line, he doesn't let receivers get anything easy and competes on every single down. He made some top receivers submit this season by just being really physical with them and taking their will away."
Rivals.com Midlands Recruiting Analyst Jason Howell was wowed when he saw Teuhema in person.
"Teuhema is big, aggressive, and he can move," Howell said. "At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, he is physical and he enjoys getting down and dirty in the trenches. He plays with a mean streak whether he's protecting at the line of scrimmage or picking up blocks at the second or third levels of the defense. He does get too aggressive at times, which causes him to lose his balance, and with some tweaks to his technique he has the chance to become even more special than he already is. All that said, it is hard to find big bodies that move and have the flexibility of guys like Teuhema and a mean streak to match it."
Finally, Wommack breaks down why Brown fell.
"There's no doubt Mekhi is a special talent and the fact that he's ranked in the top 30 in the nation still shows that we think he can be an elite-level player," Wommack said. "He just really has to work at being more consistently involved; right now he's suffering from taking plays off, especially when the ball doesn't come his way. That's not something a guy with his ability can do, because of his speed, if he keeps his motor going he has the ability to make plays all over the field, even if the ball doesn't initially come his way. He's also working on adjusting to being the focal point of opposing offenses. That's going to be the case going forward, and he's going to need to get stronger and more technically sound to overcome the increased attention."
There are also a few guys who stood out enough to move just outside five-star range with their play this season. Hoover, Ala. linebacker Darrell Williams, Lawton, Okla. offensive guard Jalin Barnett, Richmond (Va.) St. Christopher's cornerback Garrett Taylor and Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard all made nice jumps in our eyes since August.
"Williams could be a guy who becomes a five-star as the rankings cycle continues," Codrington said. "He is superb in coverage and can carry the tight end on the seam without any safety help. The former basketball player has great length, allowing him to shed would-be blockers to locate the ball carrier. He is one of the top defenders on a loaded team."
"Barnett had a tremendous junior season and is picking up offers rapidly because of it," Rivals.com Southwest Recruiting Analyst Rob Cassidy said of the No. 32 prospect in the country. "Word on the four-star guard is out, and he looks every bit of an elite offensive line prospect. Barnett possesses elite strength and surprising athleticism for his size. He finishes blocks as well as any prospect in the country."
"Taylor is a big cornerback at 6-foot-1, but the best thing about him is his length," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Analyst Adam Friedman said of the nation's No. 38 player. "He has good top-end speed but isn't super explosive, but that great length helps him make up for that. Taylor's footwork is very good and he is very physical with wide receivers as they come off the line. He has the potential to grow into a safety if he fills out his frame more.
"Hilliard improved on his already lofty stock by dominating from the middle linebacker position in his junior season," Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helholdt said when asked about the No. 45 prospect in the Rivals100. "There are just no weaknesses in his game. That's not to say he doesn't have areas he can improve on, but from shooting the gaps to rushing the passer to playing in space, Hilliard is ahead of the curve in each department."