One Thing Top 25 Recruits in Class of 2014 Must Improve on
High school football players have evolved, as technology, camps and coaching clinics have all contributed to this generation's ability to perform at a high level.
The Top 25 recruits are the cream of the crop. But each prospect still has some aspect of his game that needs to be improved.
Among the top 2014 recruits in 247Sports Composite rankings, a big running back needs to be more elusive, while the top offensive lineman must clean up his footwork. A great cornerback must add more strength, and a physical linebacker must become better in pass coverage.
25. Solomon Thomas, DE
Thomas, who could develop into a defensive tackle, is one of the better prospects from Texas. He is a strong-side defensive end recruit who could be a 'tweener.
Thomas, who is 6'3" and 256 pounds, has good power and can set the edge as well as anyone in the country vs. the run. However, he does not possess impressive snap quickness, explosiveness or pass-rushing ability.
If Thomas wants to stay on the edge in college, he must improve his ability to fire out of his stance quickly to threaten the passer. Consistent snap quickness is what Thomas must improve and if he does not then he will be moved to defensive tackle.
24. Kc McDermott, OT
Although McDermott could see time as a guard at Miami, his best position is tackle. He has solid technique and shows the ability to hold his own as a left or right tackle.
However, McDermott, who is 6'6" and 285 pounds, must develop better quickness when he is deep-setting as a pass-protector.
McDermott has adequate quickness, but he must improve his ability to quickly kick back deep on the outside of the pocket to work better versus speed-rushers. Florida State and Clemson will have many quick-twitch ends, so McDermott must be prepared for that type of defender.
23. Keller Chryst, QB
Chryst, who is committed to Stanford, is at an interesting stage in his development. Most quarterbacks in high school and college operate shotgun-spread offenses and rarely work on their drops from center.
However, Chryst, who is 6'3" and 215 pounds, works from under center 90 percent of the time. So he must improve his mechanics and comfort level out of the shotgun. This is not a major flaw, as most passers prefer the shotgun.
So Chryst, who has a near-complete skill set for a prep quarterback, does not have a major area that needs improvement.
22. Hoza Scott, OLB
Scott, a Texas A&M commit, is an athletic outside linebacker from Texas. He has great instincts and his speed helps him make a ton of plays.
Scott, who is 6'2" and 220 pounds, is more of a run-and-hit 'backer than someone who defeats blocks with technique. He must get better at using his stands to stack blockers at the point of attack and shedding them to make tackles on inside runs.
Scott can be lethal when he's covered up by big defensive linemen and allowed to flow freely to the ball. However, that will not always be the case in SEC where offensive linemen are big, physical and look to punish smaller linebackers.
21. Jalen Hurd, RB
Hurd, who is the headliner of Tennessee's class, is a tall running back at 6'3" and 230 pounds. He runs with good quickness and flashes speed in the open field.
As with most running backs of Hurd's height, he has a tendency to run too upright. Hurd must lower his pad level when slashing through alleys or SEC defenders will dish out severe punishment.
He has great size, quickness, speed and strength. However, if he fails to lower his pad level in Knoxville, he will have limited durability.
20. Ermon Lane, WR
Lane, who could end up at Miami or Alabama, is the top receiver in Florida. He has big-play ability and could develop into a true No. 1 receiver in college.
Lane, who is 6'3" and 193 pounds, has excellent ball skills and can catch in a crowd. However, he must improve his ability to sink his hips and shoot quicker out of his breaks to separate from coverage. Lane runs too high into junction points and can look stiff-hipped when cutting in his routes.
His future position coach will have to drill him on sinking his hips and lowering his pad level while getting in and out of his breaks. Once Lane masters that, he will be able to separate faster from sticky cover men.
19. Bo Scarbrough, RB
Scarbrough, a running back who can play receiver, is a dynamic offensive weapon. He has great versatility and could even be a good linebacker in college.
However, running back appears to be his most natural position and where he will get his initial opportunity at Alabama. Scarbrough, who is 6'2" and 225 pounds, is terrific in a straight line, which is also a problem.
Scarbrough can be too much of a straight-lined athlete at times, which limits his agility and elusiveness with the ball. He must become more flexible and agile in his hips and legs to maximize his great potential as a runner.
18. Dalvin Cook, RB
Cook, who is committed to Florida, is one of the best offensive players in the country. As a package player with a series of plays that allow him to get in space, he is ready to contribute to a college offense.
Cook, who is 5'11" and 190 pounds, has excellent vision, agility, speed and quickness. However, he does not possess the needed strength to break tackles, get yards after contact and push piles with the ball.
Cook not only must add bulk, but he needs to add strength to become a more powerful runner. Should Cook add the strength he needs to be successful in college, he could be special in Gainesville.
17. Joseph Yearby, RB
Yearby, who shares his backfield with Florida commit Dalvin Cook, is an elusive running back who is a threat to score each time he touches the ball. He is committed to Miami and is the headliner for Al Golden's class.
Yearby, who is 5'9" and 190 pounds, has outstanding foot quickness and a rare burst when he has the football. He shows jump-cut ability and is a shifty runner.
Yearby, however, does have questions surrounding his game. He will have to prove he can be an every-down back and also show that he can consistently gain yardage between the tackles.
16. Laurence Jones, S
Jones, who is expected to sign with LSU, is a great safety prospect from Louisiana. He could be ready to make an impact by the middle of his freshman season.
Jones, who is 6'2" and 200 pounds, is a big safety with excellent speed and ball skills. He has outstanding range and is a seam-defender who must be accounted for before each snap.
Jones has solid transition quickness, but he could be even quicker in this area. He has to work on his footwork and eliminate wasted steps coming out of his backpedal when attempting to jump a passing lane.
Improving this area of his game could lead to Jones making more interceptions.
15. Myles Garrett, DE
Garrett, who is an elite defensive end from Texas, has an impressive frame. He's a chiseled athlete with limited body fat and has terrific athleticism.
Garrett, who is 6'4" and 240 pounds, has limited weaknesses, however he needs to develop his hand usage as a pass-rusher. He shouldn't worry, as many high school defensive and offensive linemen have this need.
Garrett possesses the explosiveness at the snap and the power to be a dominant defensive end. Once he learns how to properly swim, club, rip, push and pull, along with effectively shooting his hands when converting speed to power, he will be a lethal defender.
14. Jalen Tabor, CB
Tabor, an excellent cornerback from the DMV area, could be dominant as a boundary cornerback in college. He also has the ability to play safety.
Tabor, who is 6'1" and 182 pounds, is a tall cornerback with a typical tall-cornerback problem: pad level. He has the athleticism to be explosive in transition, but Tabor allows his height to let him rise his hips and pads during a play, which slows down his ability to quickly shoot out of his backpedal.
This is probably the reason why Tabor loves to press receivers, because he can quickly get his hands on them and not worry about his backpedal. In college, however, Tabor will be asked to play more off-man and zone coverage, which requires cornerbacks to possess great transition quickness. He has to lower his pad level to improve this facet of his game.
13. Raekwon McMillan, LB
McMillan, who made more than 150 tackles as a junior, is the top middle/inside linebacker in the country. He will be ready to play as a freshman, particularly as a two-down 'backer.
McMillan, who is 6'2" and 242 pounds, has excellent instincts, vision and explosive quickness to fill gaps. He stacks and sheds blocks well, but McMillan must work on his cover skills if he wants to stay on the field on third downs.
He has the athleticism and speed to be an adequate cover man versus running backs and tight ends, but he needs more reps. McMillan must improve his transition quickness, feel for routes and anticipation skills in trail position.
12. Sony Michel, RB
Michel, who is committed to Georgia, is a special running back prospect. Not much can be said about what he needs to work on and improve, as he has everything needed to be a great college back.
Anyone who sees a "glaring" weakness in Michel's game is splitting hairs. As he arrives in college, Michel will be asked to block more and pick up the blitz on third downs.
But he is such a dynamic player with the ball that using him as a blocker on any down will be wasting his talent.
11. Damian Prince, OT
Prince, another stud recruit from the DMV area, is one of the most athletic linemen in the nation. He has great movement skills and his strength has improved every season.
Prince, who is 6'6" and 300 pounds, is a left tackle prospect who can set quickly and mirror rushers as a pass-protector. He shows good strength as a run-blocker, although he can improve his hand placement.
Another facet of Prince's game that could stand to be improved is his consistency. He is such a bigger and better athlete than his high school competition that he can get bored and sloppy with his technique. Prince must be more consistent, as a lapse in college could result in a sack or tackle for loss.
10. Tony Brown, CB
Brown, who is also an accomplished hurdler, is a fantastic athlete. He could be a great player at an array of positions, but he loves playing cornerback.
Brown, who is 6'0" and 188 pounds, has excellent cover skills. He can play man or zone coverage and also supports the run without fear. As with many prep cover men, Brown is a shoulder and body-block tackler who often fails to wrap up and roll his hips through a ball-carrier.
Brown will be an all-conference player, but he needs to improve his tackling ability.
9. Adoree' Jackson, CB
Jackson, who may become an Olympic long jumper, is an Illinois transplant who plays in California. He attends Serra High School and is the top player out west.
Jackson, who is 5'10" and 182 pounds, has amazing potential as a cornerback. He has deceptive strength, good transition quickness and plays bigger than his listed size.
However, Jackson needs to shore up his technique. He gets away with many things because of his God-given athletic ability and natural instincts. Jackson must clean up his backpedal, transition footwork and ability to pin a receiver to the sideline downfield.
He could wind up at a number of schools.
8. Quin Blanding, S
Blanding, who is an outstanding safety prospect, is a player who will be a captain at Virginia. He's a great leader who plays with good intelligence on the field and is a solid communicator.
Blanding, who is 6'2" and 200 pounds, can get off the hashes quickly with explosive transition quickness and speed. He has great field vision, doesn't get looked off easily by quarterbacks and has good hands.
Blanding is a good zone defender who is better when he can roam and patrol areas. He must become better in man-to-man coverage, as he will be asked to tightly cover ACC receivers and tight ends in Charlottesville.
7. Andrew Brown, DT
Brown, who is committed to Virginia, is a beastly defensive tackle. He has the capability of ruling the trenches with strength, power and quickness.
Brown, who is 6'4" and 282 pounds, can surge upfield at the snap and play big at the point of attack. He possesses good short-area quickness in pursuit and can push the pocket as a rusher.
Brown needs to improve his ability to anchor versus blocks. Often times he can give up too much ground. Dropping his weight, sinking his hips and firmly entrenching himself in his spot quicker and more consistently will help Brown become an even more stout run defender.
6. Marlon Humphrey, CB
Humphrey, who is expected to sign with Alabama, is a terrific cornerback with great anticipation skills. He plays with excellent field vision, awareness, instincts and has a good feel for the game.
Humphrey, who is 6'1" and 175 pounds, does not panic when he is trail position and excels in off-man and zone coverage.
Humphrey must work on getting stronger so he can be effective in press-man coverage. Big and physical college receivers will not feel threatened by him during their releases if Humphrey does not get more explosive and stout when jamming.
5. Cameron Robinson, LT
Robinson, who will end up at LSU or Alabama, is a future All-SEC offensive lineman. He is a good athlete who plays with natural knee bend at the left tackle position.
Robinson, who is 6'6" and 318 pounds, can shadow rushers with quick feet and agility. He is a strong run-blocker who has good snap quickness and second-level ability.
Robinson, however, does need to improve his footwork, specifically as a run blocker. He can be careless at times with his feet, get out of control and be top heavy. Robinson will quickly learn in college that his footwork allows him to be in control and in position to execute his assignments.
Without improving his footwork, Robinson will not reach his full potential.
4. Lorenzo Carter, DE/OLB
Carter, who could play rush end/outside linebacker in college, is one the elite talents in the country. He is a difference-maker on defense and has the athleticism of a basketball player.
Carter, who is 6'5" and 232 pounds, has great snap quickness, length, speed and agility. He can convert speed to power, but Carter must improve his strength.
He flashes explosive power in his upper body, but he needs to continue to get stronger so he can set the edge with more force. He also must develop better lower-body strength so he can be prepared to anchor versus college tackles and tight ends.
3. Jabrill Peppers, CB
Peppers, an athletically gifted recruit, is the headliner of Michigan's class. He is a confident player with impressive movement skills, instincts and football intelligence.
Peppers, who is 6'1" and 205 pounds, is a big cornerback prospect who could wind up safety, running back, receiver or even outside linebacker. He plays with solid technique and sees the field well from the cornerback position, but not as well when playing safety.
Finding the ball quicker when he's in the box and sniffing out ball-carriers is an area that can be improved by Peppers. Although cornerback is his first position, he may leave Ann Arbor weighing more than 220 pounds as a safety, so he must continue to develop his skills at that position.
2. Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Hand, who will make a decision this winter, is a great defensive end prospect and will make an early impact in college. He is ready to play as nickel/sub-package-rusher now and will be capable of playing a few snaps a game at defensive tackle as an upperclassman.
Hand, who is 6'4" and 254 pounds, could develop into a complete defensive end. He displays great quickness, agility, power and the burst needed to close on the ball.
However, Hand must continue to develop his hand usage and pass-rush plan. He shows he has some moves at this stage of his career, but he will need to learn how to set up blockers several snaps prior to making a move in college.
1. Leonard Fournette, RB
Fournette, who is a special football player, is the top prospect in the country. He is one of the best running back recruits since Adrian Peterson and will be ready to start as a true freshman.
Fournette, who is 6'1" and 225 pounds, does not have many limitations as a runner and is capable of splitting out wide to catch passes like a receiver. Although it is not a huge need for improvement, Fournette could stand to become a better speed-cutter.
He is such a big and strong back who runs with such force that sometimes he has to decelerate to change directions. If he becomes better at shifting his weight and adds more agility to his athleticism, he will not have to throttle down to cut and in turn will make more big plays with the ball.