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November 11, 2012

Roundtable: Early look at the class of 2014

This past week's release of the Rivals.com First Five-Stars means It's time to start looking ahead to the class of 2014. In advance of Monday's Rivals250 to watch release at noon ET, the Rivals.com analysts tackle some questions about the class in a roundtable format.

1. We released our 10 First Five-Stars for the class of 2014 this week. Which prospect who just missed the top 10 is the best bet to eventually get that fifth star?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: The guy that seemed to be brought up the most was Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy cornerback Jalen Tabor because he has such great ball skills and is so instinctual. He has changed essentially from a safety prospect to a cornerback prospect, and he needs to be a better tackler and more physical before he earns that five star status. But he's a guy who's certainly on the cusp.

Rob Cassidy, West: You can make a case -- and I did -- that Olathe (Kan.) South's Braden Smith should already have a fifth star. He's one of the best offensive linemen in the country and looks like an absolute animal on film. The argument against him, of course, is that he spent his junior season playing out of position at guard, and we haven't been able to see him in person very often. Smith has been sheltered from the recruiting process so far, but his film speaks for itself. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time.

Adam Gorney, West: After seeing him at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, I pegged Jalen Tabor as a definite possibility for early five-star status. It was decided to hold off on him for the first 10 five-stars but I definitely think the Washington, D.C., standout has a high possibility of being among the elite in this class. In the West, I would say Palo Alto, Calif., quarterback Keller Chryst has all the tools to be one of the best in this class. He was outstanding at the Oakland Elite 11 last spring, and I hope to see him again soon to figure out if he's five-star worthy early on.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy defensive back Jalen Tabor. We still want to see him become more of a factor in run support; but next to Quin Blanding there was not a 2014 defensive back I thought had a better summer than Tabor, and I saw most of the top ones in action during that stretch.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: One guy that was right on the edge in my region was Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech Senior athlete Jalen Hurd. He lines up at running back for his team, but there are some questions surrounding which position he'll play in college. Despite those concerns, there's no doubting his athletic ability and potential to be one of the top players in the 2014 class.

Jason Howell, Southwest: From the Southwest there are a few candidates. West Monroe, La. offensive tackle Cameron Robinson is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on. He is huge, he is aggressive, and is equally impressive in the run or passing game. He can flat out move for a big guy. Another is Hoza Scott of La Porte, Texas. The outside linebacker has a big frame at 6-2, 205 and has a long wing span. Scott puts himself in the right spot to make game changing plays game in and game out, and he is having a very strong junior year to follow up his standout sophomore season. I'll say Robinson has the best chance of the two at earning his fifth star right now, but both are making strong cases.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I know he is outside my region, but I'm really impressed with Hoza Scott. On film, he shows excellent speed and lateral quickness. Scott punishes ball carriers and explodes on impact. He is a guy that could pick up a fifth star if he continues his high level of play.

2. There are four cornerbacks among the 10 Five-Stars. Which do you think will emerge as the best overall prospect?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: I think Jabrill Peppers will because I think he's the best overall athlete of the group, and he's the thickest and strongest. He can play press and off coverage, he is very good coming up to tackle and he is versatile so he can cover slots or wideouts as well as check tight ends and be a tremendous blitzer off the edge if needed. The kid could play wildcat quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety or even linebacker in college. He's a rarity.

Rob Cassidy, West: I'll go with Jabrill Peppers, and not just because his name sounds like a delicious Mexican restaurant. Peppers is as versatile a player as there is and could play a host of positions (including running back) in college. That said, as a cornerback, he has the full package. His instincts and speed make him an absolute nightmare for receivers in coverage. He doesn't shy away from using his thick build to help against the run, either.

Adam Gorney, West: I know Adoree' Jackson does not have the big-time offers yet (that's common for West prospects), but he's a fantastic and dynamic player. When his coach compared him to a smaller version of Marqise Lee, I bought it since Scott Altenberg has coached both players. What makes Jackson so spectacular is that he not only dominates at cornerback but he is a fantastic wide receiver and a great return specialist. He has everything going for him.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: I think Beaumont (Texas) Ozen's Tony Brown has the skill set to be the top cornerback in the country, but in order to do so he has to show he can play better in space. Brown is lockdown in press coverage, but he can get lost when he has to give a cushion. If he can play off and well as he plays on, then he could very well be the nation's top cornerback when all is said and done.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: For me the edge goes to Marlon Humphrey right now. He has all the tools to be a shutdown corner and he already has offers from everyone in the Southeast. I think with another offseason to grow and hone his craft, he is going to come back as an even better prospect next season.

Jason Howell, Southwest: That is a tough one, all four are phenomenal athletes with game-breaking ability. I have the most in-person experience with Tony Brown, and I have been able to see him up close in camp and game settings. Plus he not only has the talent and athleticism, but he also has a proven work ethic and a high football IQ. He has set himself apart in a very deep year at defensive back in the Southwest/Midlands region. Outside of my area, though, Marlon Humphrey is the one who really caught my attention. He is so natural and fluid. He has extremely loose hips and great ball instincts. He gets in that hip pocket and he is not leaving.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I feel Marlon Humphrey will emerge as the best CB in this class for a few reasons. Humphrey has great size, length, and excellent instincts. He has a great knowledge of the game and is always in position. The Hoover (Ala.) star has lockdown ability with tremendous speed. He is a complete, physical corner. Not only do I feel he is the best DB in this class, I think he is one of the best pure football players in this class.

3. There are no quarterbacks among the early 2014 five-stars and in fact just two offensive players. Which position in your region is looking like it may lack elite talent at the top in 2014?

Mike Farrell, National/Mid-Atlantic: To me it looks like another down year at wide receiver overall, which is odd with the influx of spread offenses and guys being bigger and faster. I don't see anyone right now I could say for certain will be a five star guy, and the fact we are entering December without a five-star wide receiver in the 2013 class is a rarity in itself. Laquon Treadwell will probably change that for 2013 when we re-rank, but who will step up in 2014?

Rob Cassidy, West: Things are thin at the top at wide receiver out West. There's not a can't-miss guy. A few of prospects currently categorized as "athletes" may pan out to be high-level options at the position. As of now, though, there's not a true wideout that stands out as a slam-dunk. It's early, of course, and somebody will likely emerge. Still, I don't know whom I'd bet on as things stand today.

Adam Gorney, West: Wide receiver is not going to be super heavy in the West next recruiting cycle, but there are numerous athletes who are listed as athlete who will probably move to wide receiver in college. Running back in California is also not super loaded, but I'll go with wide receiver since there aren't numerous elite talents at that level. We might see a re-emergence of outstanding offensive linemen, but probably still not as much in as the 2012 recruiting class which was loaded beyond belief.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: Detroit Loyola's Malik McDowell is the top player in the region right now, but after him I'm not sure there is a defensive end that deserves to be in the four-star conversation at this stage. The Midwest is not a big producer of defensive line talent to begin with, but only one four-star caliber prospect at the position is really low.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: Right now there are a lot of question marks surrounding the quarterback position. But as we've seen in years past, guys can emerge during the offseason. I think several quarterback prospects in the Southeast have the potential to move up once they review the film from their junior seasons and pinpoint areas to improve heading into camps and 7-on-7 events.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Offensive tackle and defensive tackle seem to be down quite a bit from years past. After Cameron Robinson it is slim pickings at offensive tackle, and at defensive tackle there is Gerald Willis III (currently a DE but could end up at defensive tackle), but there are not a lot of guys who are dominating the position. Arkansas does have two in Josh Frazier and Bijhon Jackson who are making a strong case to be the top two defensive tackles in the region, and another name to watch is Covington, La. standout Garrald McDowell.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I have to stick with the QB theme for this question, the position isn't very strong for 2014. D.J. Gillins, E.J. Moss, and Sean White are three of talented guys in my area. Moss and Gillins are dual-threat QB's that can extend plays with their legs. Gillins committed to Texas Tech this week. White throws a nice ball and has a high football IQ. I've had a chance to see Nicodem Pierre and Chase Litton on the camp scene and both flash some potential. Pierre and Litton have early offers, and I expect to see their list of schools grow this spring.



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