The close of the evaluation period for the Class of 2014 produced only a couple big changes near the top of the Rivals100; but as the players jockeyed for position, the Rivals.com team of analysts saw the highlights and lowlights of each prospect.
Generally, the most difficult aspect of ranking players is making comparisons and projections, but it is the task most asked of analysts. With just days left until National Signing Day, the Rivals.com team will break down the best of the best by comparing them to players on the NFL level.
Tale of the Tape: Allen and Blanding are both listed at 6-foot-2, played safety and wide receiver in high school and both finished their senior year's as the fifth ranked prospect in the Rivals100. Their physical similarities don't end with their height; both have a long, lean frame that will fill out as they get older. Blanding is a very good wide receiver and could see time on offense in college. Allen committed to Alabama as a safety but de-committed and headed to California for the opportunity to play wide receiver. He had an outstanding rookie season in the NFL.
When we saw him last: During the week of practice in Orlando before the Under Armour All-America Game, Blanding showed the country why he is the top rated safety. He was very physical and showed some versatility by playing more of a linebacker role at times. In coverage, Blanding blanketed opposing receivers and tight ends, discouraging quarterbacks from throwing his way. In the game, Blanding tied for the most tackles with five other players. He played a very good game and was named one of the overall top performers for Team Highlight at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Analyst's take: "Blanding is a do-it-all safety that will likely play from Day 1 when he gets to Virginia. At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, he can come up to help stop the running game and can level receivers that try to make catches in front of him or in the open field. When defending the pass, Blanding is an ideal player to patrol the deep middle. He has the speed to run sideline-to-sideline, awareness to not let a receiver get behind him and the football IQ to set up quarterbacks for bad passes. Blanding, who is also a standout receiver, is great at defending against jump balls. When he has a chance to intercept a pass, he rarely drops the ball because he has very good hands." -- Adam Friedman, Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic analyst
Final word: "Blanding reminds me so much of Allen physically it's scary. Allen was a bit thinner and not quite as strong and filled out as Blanding at the same stage, but he was also a much more polished offensive player. While they are headed in different directions with Allen apparently on his way to stardom as a wide receiver and Blanding heading into college as one of the top safeties I've seen in recent years, the styles of play are still similar. Blanding will be a big hitter and a ball hawk and we could see him making a big impact in the NFL in 3-4 years." - Mike Farrell, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director
Tale of the tape: Jackson is the quintessential athlete. He starred in his senior season at wide receiver and cornerback but also played some running back and thrived there as well. The top-rated prospect in California was also a return specialist and because of his speed was almost guaranteed to get out to the 30-yard line before having to make a move to gain extra yards. In college, Jackson could play on either side of the field. With his speed, athleticism and smarts, the five-star could be an immediate contributor whether he ends up in the SEC, Pac-12 or Big 12.
When we saw him last: Jackson has been busy even after his senior season ended. He had an impressive week of practices at the Under Armour All-America Game where he exclusively played cornerback. In the game, he recorded an interception in the end zone. Jackson did not get to play any receiver during the Under Armour week. The Serra recruit had a nice day of practice at the B2G West Coast Bowl last weekend and also registered a 60-yard punt return in the game.
Analyst's take: "I remember seeing Jackson during his sophomore season for the first time and it was pretty clear he was a phenomenal athlete who contributed on a loaded Serra team. He has emerged as one of the top recruits in the country and the thing that makes Jackson so special is he can start at numerous positions. With his speed and athleticism, Jackson could be a game-breaker at receiver. For the same reasons and his football sense, cornerback could be his position. And if he gets a chance to return kickoffs and punts in college, then he could break a big one at any time. Jackson is the true essence of a highlight waiting to happen." - Adam Gorney, Rivals.com West Analyst
Final word: "Austin is smaller than Jackson, but not by much and if Adoree is used at cornerback, then someone will be wasting some amazing offensive talents. He is so sudden and quick in space that he reminds me of Austin out of high school and a spread offense would be perfect for him. Austin wasn't as versatile as a defender, of course, but both are also great special teams threats. If Jackson has a career similar to Austin, then whoever gets him will be thrilled to death." - Farrell