As commenters pointed out in a previous article, top 100 recruiting lists are cumbersome things, liable to change completely as a season wears on.
Undiscovered prospects make big debuts; good ones slump through prima donna senior years; expected growth spurts don't occur. For any number of reasons, big-name recruits appear and disappear.
For that reason, and to give credit where it's due, I'd like to pick 10 players the Rivals 100 got right.
Whether it's blue-chip players we can call agree on or mid-50s recruits we both see have limitations to their game, here are 10 players Rivals ranked perfectly, whether they meant to or not.
Tampa, FL recruit James Wilder is easily the best athlete in the class, a top prospect either at outside linebacker or at running back, with size, speed and a build right out of a Greek tragedy. Scary.
Rivals' No. 3 player and best athlete tore up every camp he attended and spent much of spring as Scout's top recruit at outside linebacker, but confirmed that he would prefer to play running back, where his highlight film (below) is jaw-dropping.
Wilder is the strongest and most intimidating rusher in the class, able to bowl over defenders and exert his will on a defense. How successfully that physical style translates into a running game at the next level is unknown...but if I were a coach, I wouldn't go doubting him.
I've followed Wilder's recruitment for some time and heard a few different rumors about his decision, which is expected to happen before fall. The Gators, in on him early, were one of the last schools to offer him as a running back (though they offered him as a linebacker early). He originally wanted to wait until he saw what Florida's offense looked like with Tebow gone before deciding for Florida. With a decision coming before he can do that, has he cooled on Florida?
I think the opposite—that Florida has sealed the deal with him, and that he'll announce for them in August. I haven't heard of any other schools making headway with him, and I'm guessing Florida has told him to commit, and if he doesn't like the running game, look elsewhere. Just a guess, take it for what it's worth.
Punta Gorda, FL native Mike Bellamy (Rivals No. 13 overall) couldn't have made a better choice than the Clemson Tigers, who turned his brief mentor, CJ Spiller, into one of the most accomplished all-purpose threats the game has ever seen.
Bellamy had over 2,000 rushing yards and 3,000 all-purpose yards as a junior, good for all-state classification in his bracket.
Though the 5'10", 175 lb back will need time in the weight room to get up to code, he could step into the role of all-purpose threat as a true freshman. If Clemson finds itself missing a home-run threat this fall, at least it won't be for long.
Hyattsville, Maryland tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is as deserving of a top 10 ranking (Rivals' No. 7 overall) as any other prospect based on upside alone, but he's always intrigued me for his wide-open look at where to play at the college level.
It turns out his openness to offers (40 and rising) and curiosity about programs like Virginia, Rutgers and Maryland all stem from his unfamiliarity with college football in general. He was born in Cameroon and grew up in the DC area. The long history of football at places like Alabama, Penn State and Florida don't necessarily faze him.
The 6'6", 322 lb tackle may not be a natural college football historian, but he's a natural player. His size is elite and his temper on the field is intimidating. His run-blocking is devastating—fans will be reminded of Michael Oher, currently anchoring the right side of Baltimore's O-line—and the tools are there for him to be a great pass blocker, too.
Rivals' selection of him as the second-best tackle behind La'El Collins is appropriate. A passion for the game might be something coaches struggle with cultivating. But that's really the only knock against him at this point. He's a Seantrel Henderson for the middle-tier teams.
I love the attitude Saginaw, MI wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett shows bursting off the line of scrimmage, hand-checking defensive backs and using double moves to burn defenders who can't keep up.
Arnett, Rivals No. 49, is in my mind the best NFL-level possession receiver in this class, reminding me in many ways of former Michigan receiver Jason Avant. At 6'0", 170 lbs, he plays bigger than his size. He's still a few inches short of a X receiver, but he has the hands to grab 12-15 catches for 100+ yards per game. His speed will surprise many defensive backs instructed to jam him.
He earned MVP honors at a Columbus Nike Camp and has made it his goal to grab a fifth star. His offer sheet is elite and his final six schools—Iowa, Michigan State, Miami, USC, Oklahoma and Cal—all promise some different ceiling of success. He breaks down each one here.
Orlando, FL running back Demetrius Hart cracks the Rivals 100 at No. 34 overall.
I'm ashamed to say I missed out on him completely for the B/R 100. But in my defense, he's a player who will probably require the right system to succeed, and his Rivals ranking reflects that.
Because of size and balance concerns, I think Hart has to play in a spread scheme. Something about his game helps him grab the edge and force defenders to take terrible cuts, and his speed in the open field makes big plays possible on every carry. But as far as an up-the-middle attack goes, Hart can get tripped up too easily.
In light of that, I hope he chooses Michigan or Auburn over Alabama, his final three. I haven't seen Alabama run a lot of jet sweeps or zone-reads in the past few years, whereas in Auburn's or Michigan's systems, Hart's talents would be on display.
Rolling with the Tide would be choosing the more successful school, not the better fit.
The talent is there for Hart to be a great performer, but ideally, not in spite of the system he runs in.
I was wrong about Curtis Grant, a 6'3", 222 lb linebacker out of Hermitage, VA who was totally off my radar when I published the top linebackers of the 2011 class.
While I think Lawrence Thomas is the better linebacker, Grant won Linebacker MVP at the Blacksburg Nike Camp and has been hitting up the camp circuit more actively than Thomas has, so his status as a five-star LB is understandably more legit in recruitniks' eyes.
Grant is in the process of arranging visits and hopes to see Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Georgia Tech this summer.
His highlight film demonstrates few flaws in his game. Scout's wariness over his tackling ability is just nitpicking.
Even with a dominating highlight film, elite offers and the ability to add more than 20 more pounds of muscle to his 6'5", 225 lb frame, I was surprised Rivals ranked Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall.
Not because I think he doesn't deserve it, but Rivals has been known to favor the more polished prospects over a recruiting service like ESPN, which likes upside players.
Clowney isn't totally raw, but his weight may prevent immediate impact at the next level. However, his combination of moves and effortless domination off the weakside is as encouraging a highlight reel performance as a recruit can offer, and it foreshadows an elite career.
You never see him give up on a play or on his relentless pursuit of the ballcarriers. He's the kind of kid who will run all the way across the field to drag a running back down from behind.
He closed spring with UNC his leader after favoring South Carolina and Clemson, but a trip to Alabama is forthcoming, and the Tide should never be counted out of a fight.
I was glad to see Herschel Sims get some love from the Rivals 100, which placed him at No. 53 overall.
In an incredibly strong year for running backs, Sims is flying just barely under the radar. He's an inch and 10 pounds below the perfect size for a running back, but has everything else—speed, power, tackle-breaking ability, acceleration and, now, a chip on his shoulder—to suggest he's been severely underrated.
He chose Oklahoma State after waiting on and not receiving a Texas offer and seeing the RB position fill up at Oklahoma.''
Scout, for their part, gave him a fifth star and compared him to LaDainian Tomlinson. Hopefully, he and the Cowboys can destroy the Big 12 for good this time.
At No .14 overall, Rivals nailed the perfect positioning for Steve Edmond, a linebacker out of Daingerfield, Texas.
The 6'3", 225 lb Longhorns commit racked up 189 tackles and 35 TFLs as a junior per Scout, the highest total I've seen yet from any player. He's in range for a fifth star.
The only reason he isn't higher is because of some concern about the level of competition he plays against, but the comparisons to Florida State's 2010 signee Jeff Luc are apt—he's a man amongst boys at the high school level. If he keeps that level of maturation up, he could be one of the best of the class.
The first time I saw Malcolm Brown bulldoze a defensive back like the kid wasn't even there, I saw the comparisons to Adrian Peterson coming.
There isn't a single flaw in his game. He has size (6'0", 210 lbs), speed, acceleration, vision and reckless abandon on the field.
He's Rivals' top running back and the No. 10 prospect overall. Whoever lands him between Alabama and Texas takes a huge step forward in a return to the national championship.
Watch his highlight film and join the cult.