February 13, 2002

Uncovering hidden gems

Every year there are claims that one player or another is over-rated or under-rated. Actually, there are more like hundreds of players that supposedly don't get enough hype or they get too much.

At Rivals100.com, we recognize the fact that we can't always get them all right no matter how hard we try.

So here's a look at who we think some of the sleepers, the guys that flew below the radar screen for the most part, are for the class of 2002.

And these aren't guys who were ever household names in national recruiting circles. But we think the chances are that they'll make their mark before their college careers are complete.

Quarterback - Graeme McFarland just gets things done. He's not the prettiest passer or the most athletic runner, but he makes things happen on the football field. He almost reminds you of a younger Philip Rivers, the N.C. State star quarterback and himself an Alabama native who was also spurned by the two in-state schools. McFarland signed with Indiana and new Hoosier coach Gerry DiNardo may have found himself a good signal caller for the future.

Running back - Tim Washington is the all-time rushing leader in the state of Connecticut. Yet he's only a three-star player by Rivals.com? The major problem in attempting to evaluate Washington is the fact that he played quarterback during his high school career, so projecting him too high on the next level as a running back is extraordinarily risky. Washington is headed to Syracuse next fall, so time will tell.

Wide receiver - It's funny how some people are so ready to disparage a wide receiver because he doesn't run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. If he can't run a 4.4, then he must not be much of a prospect. But that couldn't be further from the truth. James Finley, who is headed to Oregon State, made 85 receptions for 1,504 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. The Los Angeles star, who Rivals100.com rated with three stars, may only run a 4.6 40, but he has glue for hands and competes for every reception.

Tight end - You'd have to go all the way down to No. 44 on the national tight end list to read about Brad Schell. Schell was recruited as a tight end, but he could play a number of positions for Maryland. The Burtsonsville, Mary. native also considered an offer from Virginia Tech before committing to the Terps. The key to why he may be underrated? His combination of size, quickness and smarts is harder to come by than most realize.

Offensive line - Albert Bond graded out at two stars. But we probably missed. In reality, Bond is more than a two-star player. By season's end, Bond may have been one of the state of Texas' top five offensive line prospects overall and he's now taking his talents to the upstart Oklahoma State program.

Defensive line - Purdue has made a real point of recruiting the state of Texas, and they likely found a big-time sleeper in defensive tackle Dontrey Flemings. Flemings is a fireplug in the middle against running plays and has a good on-field awareness that is likely to give him a little bit of an edge over others with similar physical skills.

Linebacker - Overshadowed by fellow New Jersey star Berkeley Hutchinson, Red Bank 'backer Will Gilkison is a big-time player. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has the speed to play outside linebacker and the strength and power to man the inside as well. Gilkison committed to Rutgers early but programs like Virginia, Syracuse and others were still ringing his phone as late as January.

Defensive back -Brandon Merriweather, who is headed to Miami, is a flat-out player. At least that's what we're told by some people behind the scenes. Some have even went so far as to compare the Apopka, Fla. native to Ed Reed, the Canes' All-American safety. Merriweather is said to be a terrific hitter and an out-and-out ballhawk. We never saw film on him, but it sounds like we were really missing something special.

To learn more about each player, visit the Rivals.com Recruiting Database.



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