The first Rivals250 rankings for the class of 2013 were revealed Thursday on the heels of the Rivals100 release Wednesday, with Pinson Valley (Ala.) wideout Earnest Robinson and Bear (Del.) Red Lion Christian offensive guard Khaliel Rodgers just missing out on the top 100.
Cracking the top 100 is always a momentous feat but getting into the top 250 is an incredible honor. Robinson and Rodgers are closest to making that jump into the Rivals100.
"Robinson is a major talent because he combines excellent size with very good speed and even better hands," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Keith Niebuhr said. "This is the type of player who will make a quarterback look good. He can make any type of catch, and even seems to enjoy going over the middle. After the reception, he is strong enough to shake loose from defenders and produce extra yardage. With his size, he's difficult to jam at the line, and it also allows him to better position himself for catches."
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell has seen No. 102 Rodgers multiple times.
"Rodgers has been a dominant force at every camp since his sophomore year and in games he is physical and powerful, especially in run blocking," Farrell said. "He's one of the strongest kids in the country and will have 30 offers before all is said and done. He is a special prospect at guard or center."
Following Robinson and Rodgers are Cleveland (Ohio) Heights wide receiver Shelton Gibson, Destrehan (La.) receiver Rickey Jefferson and Washington (D.C.) Dunbar offensive tackle Derwin Gray at Nos. 103,104 and 105, respectively.
"Jefferson is the younger brother of LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson but is the more athletic one in the family," Rivals.com Southwest analyst Brian Perroni said. "Though he primarily plays running back for Destrehan, he has a chance to be a really good slot receiver. He is really exciting when he gets the ball in space. Some schools are evaluating him as a cornerback as well but it will be hard to keep the ball out of his hands in college."
Farrell really likes Gray, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound prospect, even though he was limited last season.
"Even though he missed most of his junior season I saw him play as a sophomore and he has tremendous upside and athleticism," Farrell said. "He is a kid who has a chance to be special on the next level on both sides of the ball."
Rivals250 commits by conference as of Feb. 9:
Schools with two or more commits in the R250:
Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M
Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State
At No. 106 is Kent (Ohio) Theodore Kent Roosevelt dual-threat quarterback Tra'von Chapman, one of three quarterbacks from the state of Ohio who is rated highly by Rivals.com. That is especially rare since Ohio routinely churns out Division I talent but not usually at the quarterback position.
Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said this crop is a little different - and definitely special.
"The state of Ohio kicks out a lot of prospects year after year, but it has never been a great exporter of quarterback talent," Helmholdt said. "This 2013 class is an exception, with three signal-callers ranked in the Rivals250. Tra'von Chapman, Malik Zaire and Brogan Roback each have the ability to run and throw in varying degrees, but they are truly three different quarterback prospects.
"Roback is more of the traditional pro-style passer - a great distributor of the football with exceptional pocket presence. Zaire is the best athlete of the group, with the speed and agility of a running back but also a powerful arm. And Chapman sits directly in the middle of the other two, bringing both outstanding passing credentials and the ability to pick up yards with his feet."
Following Chapman in the Rivals250 is Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde wide receiver Demorea Stringfellow, a physical specimen, and undersized running back Khalfani Muhammad out of Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame.
Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney said even though they're different players, both Stringfellow and Muhammad have outstanding skills.
"Stringfellow plays a different position but from a physical standpoint reminds us a little of former No. 1 player Ronald Powell, who's from the same high school," Gorney said. "Sure, Powell was thicker and more developed but Stringfellow is not someone to be messed with. When I saw him in games he was physical, tough and didn't give anybody an inch, and then during 7-on-7 competition he was chiseled and mean-looking.
"Muhammad is tiny but that's what makes him so good. First off, he's incredibly fast, hits the hole hard, only needs a little bit of space to break free and once he gets in the open field nobody is catching him. He improved so much from his sophomore to junior seasons and I'm interested to see him perform this off-season."
Back to the Midwest, perhaps no prospect has blown up more in recent weeks than Peoria (Ill.) Manual offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound prospect was one of the top performers at the Core 6 Winter Invitational in recent weeks and has parlayed that into even more offers.
Helmholdt said Tuley-Tillman, who is ranked No. 109, now has more than 20 offers.
"Tuley-Tillman is every bit of his listed 6-foot-7 and weighs over 300 pounds," Helmholdt said. "He is an above-average athlete for the offensive tackle position and has the agility to protect the quarterback's blind side."
Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep wide receiver Devon Allen was No. 110, one spot in front of a running back with impressive bloodlines. Popular Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day's Kelvin Taylor is at No. 111 and Rivals.com Florida analyst Chris Nee said Taylor is definitely backing up the family name.
After putting up impressive statistics for a few years at Glades Day, Nee said the son of former NFL star Fred Taylor will basically have his pick of top colleges.
"The apple didn't fall far from the tree," Nee said. "The younger Taylor is a physical runner who not only has a tendency to rip off large chunks of yardage with every touch but he also punishes defenses with a physical running style and seems to run just as hard in the fourth quarter as he does in the first quarter. He is the all-time leading rusher in Florida and will have his pick of colleges."
One player that Helmholdt predicts could see a major bump in his offer list is Lincoln (Neb.) Lincoln Southwest linebacker Josh Banderas, who had outstanding junior film and then shined at the recent U.S. Army National Combine. Rivals.com starts Banderas at No. 185.
"Physically, Banderas was the most impressive-looking linebacker at the prestigious combine," Helmholdt said. "He then went out and showed great athleticism, covering running backs one-on-one. Only Tulsa has offered Banderas but his offer list will grow rapidly once teams get a chance to see him in person."