June 1, 2005

Night and day?

No doubt that 2005 was the year of the defensive tackle, with superstars like Jerrell Powe, DeMarcus Granger and Callahan Bright all in the national top 10 at one point or another. However, 2005 was also a great year for wide receivers and offensive linemen. How does this year's crop of talent compare to last year's? Here's a breakdown of the similarities and differences between the two years, leading off with the uncanny resemblences at the top of the heap.

Looks Familiar

1) No. 1 - The similarities can't be ignored between last year's No. 1 player, Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt athlete Derrick Williams and this year's No. 1, Virginia Beach (Va.) Landstown wide receiver Percy Harvin. Both prospects are dynamic playmakers who can score from anywhere on the field. They are also similar in size, have lined up as both wide receivers and direct-snap threats and both young men dominate football games. Harvin is a shade taller than Williams, but Williams is more physical. It would be interesting to see who would win in a race and who would come out on top if they were both in the same recruiting year.

2) Solid along the offensive line - Eugene Monroe led the way for the offensive line last year followed by Reginald Youngblood, Alex Boone and Dan Doering. This year Alabama stud Andre Smith leads the way followed by Carl Johnson from North Carolina, Sam Young from Florida, Antonio Logan-El from Maryland and Stephen Schilling from Washington. There's more of a balance along the line in 2006 with players like Smith, Logan-El and Schilling able to play outside or inside, but it's another strong year at the top for the offensive line.

3) Texas, California, Florida - This could be said almost any year, but once again the big three each have double-digit players in the Rivals100. Also, each state produced one player in the top 10 as they did last year. For the second straight year, the top player in Texas is not at a traditional skill position (quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back). Furthermore, none of the top players in the big three are being recruited as skill guys, which is a marked rarity.

4) Maryland rising - In 2003, 2004 and 2005, the state of Maryland produced three Rivals100 players (if you include D.C.) led last year by the No. 1 (Williams) and No. 4 (Melvin Alaeze) players in the country. This stream of talent comes after having zero players in the top 100 in 2002. This year isn't as top heavy for Maryland, but the state has four players in the top 100, not including a few more who are just on the border. Logan-El leads the way as a five-star while J.B. Walton, A.J. Wallace and Akeem Hebron round out the list. To put their talent offering into perspective, Maryland has as many players in the top 100 as does Georgia, a traditionally strong state.

5) The 30-percenters - Once again, the Southeast dominates the Rivals100 and, based on the recent NFL draft, deservedly so. There are 32 players from the Southeast ranked in this year's 100 compared to 33 last year. Thirty-two is an even more impressive number when you consider that Georgia only has four on the board. That means states like South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana are pitching in with Florida to keep the Southeast on top.

Night And Day

1) My kingdom for a cornerback - Where are all the standout cornerbacks this year? In 2005, there were four pure cover cornerbacks amongst the top 50 players in the nation, including three five-star players in Justin King, Demetrice Morley and Victor Harris (listed as an athlete but will play corner). This year, however, only Darrin Walls from Pittsburgh, Pa. is considered a pure cornerback in the top 50. (Myron Rolle is expected by many to play safety) Given the position's inherent importance in any defensive scheme, whoever lands Walls will be landing perhaps the biggest gem of all the five-stars.

2) Hut, hut, hike! - There were four quarterbacks total in the 2005 Rivals100. This year that number has jumped to nine QB's in the top 100. The state of Pennsylvania alone has one fewer national top 100 quarterback than did the entire country last year, which speaks volumes about the depth at the position for 2006. When the ninth-ranked quarterback in the country (Washington's Jake Locker) is being compared to a five-star (Florida's Tim Tebow), that means it's a great year under center.

3) Speaking of center - In 2005, the shortest offensive lineman on the list stood 6-foot-4, and the Rivals100 was loaded with offensive tackles. By contrast, this year there are five offensive linemen measuring 6-foot-4 or shorter (five if you include Smith, who has been eyeballed at around 6-foot-4) and plenty of players who could play guard or center. Smith and Justin Boren are both considered franchise-level prospects at center.

4) Safety first - Did we mention that there is a lack of top cornerbacks out there this year? At least there are plenty of safeties to help out in coverage. In fact, there are five five-star players who project at safety. The list includes Rolle, Taylor Mays, Stafon Johnson, Reshad Jones and Jamar Hornsby. Jersey hitter Antwine Perez just missed making it six by a narrow margin.

5) Defensive line down - Last year we had trouble counting the number of 300-pound studs at defensive tackle and defensive end. Melvin Alaeze was the first at his position to rank in the national top five since Rivals has been around. While Al Woods, Gerald McCoy and Eddie Jones are all very good prospects, none of them would have challenged for the top of five-star status at their positions in 2005.

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