One Skill Each 2014 Top 25 Recruit Must Improve Before College
Every football player is a competitor of sorts, doing all he can to help his team win. Having an all-around skill set and the desire to improve should always be the focus of the player in regards to individual development.
Improving weaknesses and enhancing strengths is what helps separate the great from the good, and even though many of the top recruits in 2014 are great, they still need to improve some of their skills. For this read, I'm going to give you one skill that each top 25 recruit can improve in his game before he begins college ball.
For some recruits, the skill may be simply a physical one that needs improving. For others, it may be a mental skill that will help take their physical gifts to a whole new level.
Here's one skill each top 25 recruit in 2014 recruiting must improve before he starts college.
25. Laurence Jones, S
Jones is a good safety from Louisiana and has good size at 6'2", 200 pounds. He's a good athlete and already plays the run well.
Jones plays with good speed and range, but he can work on seeing and locating the ball a bit quicker. He reacts well, but diagnosing run plays quicker will help him become a prime-time seam defender.
24. Solomon Thomas, DE
Thomas strikes me as a potential strong-side defensive end in the mold of an Anthony Spencer. He can set the edges, plays like a bull and is strong.
As a rusher, Thomas can use his power by getting up under a blocker's pads and walking him back to the passer. I think he can add some more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal to help continue his quest to become a complete defensive end.
23. Jalen Tabor, CB
Tabor is already a bit over 6'0" and weighs 180 pounds. His speed is great, and he could be impressive as a press-defender.
I also like Tabor's instincts, and his ability to carry receivers deep with ease. He'll need to get stronger for college football, though, as big and physical wide receivers may be able to push him around as a underclassman.
22. Malik McDowell, DE/DT
McDowell is a huge load at 6'7" and 290 pounds already. He has the size of a college senior and hasn't even begun his senior year in high school.
From Michigan, he's explosive at the snap, plays to his size at the point of attack and has good strength. Working on using his hands better and being more sound with his technique should assure that McDowell will start as a defensive lineman in college.
21. Braden Smith, OT
Smith has great strength and is a 6'6", 282-pound offensive lineman that I think will be a road-grading RT in college. He's tough, has a hard punch and can move targets off their marks as a run-blocker.
I think Smith can improve his pass protection skills in space. He can struggle versus quicker rushers, and if he doesn't win with his punch, they can get around him at times.
20. Deshaun Watson, QB
Watson is a quarterback prospect that I like the more I watch. He's a dual-threat guy who stands 6'4" and weighs about 195 pounds.
He has a strong arm, can pitch with control and has the speed to get chunks of yardage with his legs. He can improve on seeing the whole field more from the pocket.
Watson makes good decisions, but growing his field vision and ability to read coverages will only help him moving forward.
19. Tyler Luatua, TE
From Southern California, Luatua is the top tight end prospect in the country for 2014. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, Luatua is a tough customer who can really impact the passing game for an offense.
He shows soft hands, great concentration and runs well. Improving his blocking skills and technique, along with adding a little more bulk, will help him as an in-line blocker.
18. Bo Scarbrough, RB/WR
Scarbrough has some agility, but I think he can be a little more elusive as a runner. He's not a shake-and- bake guy, but adding a little more elusiveness to his style will help keep some tread off his tires.
17. Raekwon McMillan, LB
McMillan is 6'3", 236 pounds and very athletic for a middle linebacker. He plays with solid instincts and has good speed to chase ball-carriers to combat the run.
What he needs to continue to work on is his pass-coverage ability. McMillan has the athleticism and speed to become a productive pass-defender, but he has to work on latching on to running backs and tight ends better.
16. Damian Prince, OT
Prince has quick feet, great agility and plays with solid knee bend. I also think it's time I mention that this guy is already 6'7" and north of 300 pounds.
From Maryland, Prince could be a left tackle, but I feel he needs to refine his technique. He can be a bit raw, loses patience as a pass-blocker and is inconsistent with his hand placement.
Working on his technique could put Prince on track to the NFL.
15. Tony Brown, CB
Brown is a press-man cornerback through and through. There's no way around that, and that's just who he is at heart. It also helps that he's 6'0", 180 pounds and blessed with excellent physical gifts.
He could be a candidate to move to safety at some point during his college career, but what Brown is going to have to work on his awareness and discipline in zone coverage.
He's a heady player, but Brown can be late to recognize things when he's patrolling in zone coverage.
14. Keller Chryst, QB
Chryst is 6'3" and could weigh 230 pounds before the start of his senior year this fall. He's got good field vision and has a strong arm.
Chryst can flash great accuracy, but he has to continue working on his touch. Sometimes he'll dart short distance throws and overpower balls he launches into the third level.
13. Jalen Hurd, RB
Hurd is a 6'3" running back who has excellent body mass and weighs about 220 pounds. He's such a strong runner who can be decisive with his cuts and has good power.
I'd like to see Hurd work on his hand placement as a blitz pick-up guy. He's strong enough to help in this department, but he needs to work on his technique to improve this skill.
12. Adoree' Jackson, CB
From an athletic perspective, Jackson probably is close to flawless. He's got great speed, quickness, agility and is loose in his movement skills.
A sharp guy in and out of transition, the 5'10", 172-pound cover man needs to get stronger. He would have problems trying to wrap up big running backs and wide receivers in college right now.
Jackson's strength is deceptive, but he needs to improve it.
11. Hoza Scott, LB
Scott reminds me a little bit of Deoundrei Davis, as they have similar body types, both play fast and both hit like trucks.
Scott can make an impact on the game from the line backer position at any time. He has great speed; he can beat offensive linemen to spots, arriving before traffic builds up.
He stands at 6'2" and is nearly 220 pounds.
Once he works on his take-on ability versus offensive linemen to shed better with better hand use, he should be a 5-star recruit.
10. Sony Michel, RB
There's not much you can knock Michel for, as the 5'11", 205-pounder does a lot of things well. He has good speed, changes direction well, appears to be have solid instincts and catches the football.
Perhaps continuing to get better at reading fronts is something he can improve upon. That will come with more film study and reps on the field, which will both come to Michel as time continues.
He's a great prospect.
9. Quin Blading, S
Blanding is from Virginia and really seems to get it. He's a mature guy and shows great leadership characteristics.
At 6'2" and just about 200 pounds, Blanding has great range, speed and ball skills. He can come up and attack the run well, showing he's not just a center fielder.
Honing his wrap-tackling technique is something that comes to mind when thinking of where he can improve.
8. Edward Paris, S
Paris is a 6'1", 190-pound defensive back who can play both cornerback and safety.
He has great speed and range for a big defensive back, and I wonder if he can be a little more stout and physical. Paris is a tough guy, but I think I'd like to see him come up with more authority as a run defender.
7. Cameron Robinson, OT
Robinson is 6'6" and close to 330 pounds before his senior high school season. It will be interesting to see how his weight develops and fluctuates, so conditioning will be important.
An athletic blocker, Robinson must also refine and clean up his footwork. He can get away with being sloppy with his feet now because he's bigger and stronger than his opponents.
Decreasing his false steps will polish up his footwork and positioning.
6. Marlon Humphrey, CB
Humphrey is a big cornerback—already 6'1" and 175 pounds—from Alabama. He's very instinctive, uses his length well and can really jam up a wide receiver on the line.
Humphrey isn't the strongest guy in the world when defending the run and has to improve his tackling. He can bring down smaller offensive players, but I don't think he's ready to tackle T.J. Yeldon.
5. Lorenzo Carter, DE
Carter is the best prospect Georgia will put out this year, and it's no shock that he's one of the best in the country. He's a 6'6" pass-rusher who weighs over 230 pounds.
Carter is a good athlete and can bend around the pocket. His quickness, length and effort are good, but he needs to develop a few more go-to moves.
I'd also like to see Carter start setting up blockers two and three snaps before he puts his move on.
4. Jabrill Peppers, CB/ATH
Peppers has incredible football intelligence, instincts and athletic ability. He is 6'1" and 205 pounds right now, which means he's likely to outgrow the cornerback position.
Safety may be his best position in a few years, so seeing the field better from the middle will need to be a focus. He'll also probably need to get accustomed to matching up with tight ends since covering wide receivers has been his job to this point.
3. Andrew Brown, DT
Brown's the top player from a loaded crop of talent prospects in Virginia this year. He's a 6'4" defensive tackle who weighs over 290 pounds and uses his hands very well.
Brown has good technique, is quick at the snap and can play like a giant at the point of attack. He can improve at recognizing and diagnosing plays a bit quicker.
Looking at alignments and formations, being a quicker scheme-read guy and recognizing hats of offensive linemen will help make Brown a top-tier starting defensive tackle in college.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB
Fournette has a chance to be the best running back to ever come out of Louisiana. He's 6'1", 225 pounds and has almost all the physical tools needed to be a dominant runner.
I'd like to see Fournette be a tad more slippery and elusive as a runner and develop his blocking skills.
He's such a weapon that using him as a blocker is almost a crime, but he'll need to know how to stack up a blitzing linebacker in college.
1. Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Hand probably is pretty close to being a complete player and is peaking right now. He's 6'5", 247 pounds and already has a good amount of moves, is very strong and comes off the ball with reckless abandon.
Getting better at the little things like continuing to hone his technique, studying the great pass-rushers and accepting the responsibility of leading that comes with being a superstar are the only things that I think he can improve on at this point.
Hand may be better as a prospect than Robert Nkemdiche was in 2013.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.
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