Commentary

Shakeups in the updated ESPNU 150

CB Joyner, ATH Elam, DE Miller climb, while RB Lattimore slips from five-star status

Originally Published: November 4, 2009
By Jc Shurburtt | Scouts Inc.

The jump of one of the most explosive players in the country into the top 5, the slide of an elite running back, an elite athlete climbing into the top 15 and some jockeying among the defensive line prospects highlight the updated ESPNU 150 rankings.

Under Armour All-American and five-star CB Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) climbed from No. 12 to No. 5 in the latest rankings. Joyner has been the best player on the nation's best team and proved it twice on the big stage, the first during top-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas' season-opening 52-7 victory against Upper Arlington (Ohio) and the second in a 42-34 win against Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.). Both games were nationally televised. The opener was on ESPN, while the game against then-No. 2 Byrnes was on ESPNU.

In the Upper Arlington game, Joyner caught a momentum-wiping 31-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Against Byrnes, he had Aquinas' first score, a 52-yarder in the first quarter, and then had another momentum-killing play in the fourth quarter when he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown after the Rebels had pulled within seven.

"There were some guys on our staff who felt he may be in the top 3 and he could still end up there," said Tom Luginbill, ESPN Scouts Inc.'s national recruiting director. "As a pure athlete, he may be the closest thing to Percy Harvin [of the Minnesota Vikings] we have seen and could be a legit two-way candidate at the next level."

Running back Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, S.C./James F. Byrnes) made the most notable drop, falling from No. 5 to No. 16. While still considered a top player, Lattimore was dropped from a five-star prospect to a four-star prospect.

"Lattimore is an excellent prospect, but the reality is that we just aren't convinced he is a top 10 overall player, regardless of position," Luginbill said. "We felt this way early and took a wait-and-see approach. As a pure runner, we feel there are others ahead of him. We still feel he is the best receiving back in the country."

Athlete Matt Elam (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer), moved up 12 spots from No. 25 to No. 13. Elam, a Florida commit for more than a year, recently took an official visit to Florida State. He projects as a defensive back in college but has had some brilliant moments on offense this season.

Under Armour All-America running back and recent Miami commit Storm Johnson (Loganville, Ga.) moved up 17 spots to No. 21. Johnson has rushed for 1,406 yards on 226 carries this season.

Hubbard highlights DL movement
Defensive end Adrian Hubbard (Norcross, Ga.) is one of the hottest prospects in the country right now and debuts in the 150 at No. 78, the highest of any of the new additions to the list.

In a matter of one week, the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder picked up offers from multiple major programs in the Southeast, including Auburn and Florida State, is getting new attention every day. Hubbard was under the radar in part because he did not play football last season, opting instead to focus on basketball. His return to the gridiron this season has proved to be worthwhile.

"Hubbard defines upside and could be this class's diamond in the rough, regardless of position," Luginbill said. "All the physical attributes are present, and with some refining and maturation he could be a monster down the road."

Hubbard wasn't the only defensive lineman to make his first appearance in the 150 this time around. Penn State commit C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich./Warren-Mott) debuts at No. 146 and Notre Dame commit Blake Lueders (Zionsville, Ind.) climbs in at No. 150.

There was never any question that jumbo athlete William Gholston (Detroit/Southeastern) has a world of upside and one of the highest ceilings in the 2010 class. This season, he's been putting it all together and was impressive when scouted during his in-person evaluation earlier this year. Gholston moved up eight spots to No. 25 in the latest update.

Under Armour All-America defensive tackle George Uko (Chino, Calif./Don Antonio Lugo) made a dramatic leap from No. 131 to No. 58 nationally. The 6-4, 300-pounder has had a monster senior season with 13 sacks and is an elite athlete for a player his size. (He has been timed as low as 4.38 seconds in the pro shuttle.)

"[Uko] is having a great senior campaign and has worked his way up the ranks by constantly trying to prove his worth through the summer and it paid off this fall," Luginbill said. "He has tremendous upside."

Before this season, some felt that Tennessee commit Corey Miller (Duncan, S.C./Byrnes) was the best defensive line prospect at his well-stocked school, and his play has proved it this season. The 6-4, 220-pounder has proven to be a difference-maker in most of the Rebels' big games this season. Miller moved up 39 spots to No. 48 in the latest release.

Notre Dame commit Chris Martin (Aurora, Colo./Grandview) moved up 33 spots to No. 110, Florida State commit Darious Cummings (Titusville, Fla./Astronaut) moved up 10 spots to No. 124, and Texas commit Reggie Wilson (Haltom City, Texas/Haltom) moved up 11 spots to No. 88. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington) moved up slightly to No. 69.

Dealing with injuries
Some prospects dropped because they suffered an injury during their senior seasons. Whenever you evaluate football talent, injuries are weighed against the overall ability of the prospect, and the severity of the injury is taken into consideration. But the bottom line is that if you aren't playing, you aren't getting better, and other players are. So injury is a setback to a developing football prospect and has to be taken into account when ranking.

Here are the five prospects who dropped in the rankings because of injury.

Anthony Barr, ATH (Torrance, Calif./Loyola): Barr dropped 43 spots to No. 103 in the latest update after suffering a broken ankle that required surgery and missed the rest of the season. Barr is down to Notre Dame and UCLA.

Brent Benedict, OT (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles): Dropped from No. 63 to No. 104 after suffering a serious knee injury during practice. Benedict is committed to Georgia.

Andrew Norwell, OT (Cincinnati/Anderson): A broken left tibia ended Norwell's senior season, and he dropped from No. 115 nationally to outside of the ESPNU 150. Norwell is committed to Ohio State.

Sheldon McClain, WR (Cibolo, Texas/Steele): A torn ACL ended McClain's senior season early and caused him to drop from No. 125 to out of the ESPNU 150. McClain is committed to Oklahoma.

Bronson Kaufusi, DE (Provo, Utah/Timpview): Kaufusi dropped from No. 147 out of the ESPNU 150 after suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Kaufusi is committed to BYU.

A few more additions
Quarterback Tyler Bray (Kingsburg, Calif.), a Tennessee commit, makes his debut in the ESPNU 150 at No. 140.

"We went back and forth on this kid the first time the 150 was released, but he has too much talent and a bright future not to be considered one of the top QBs in this class," Luginbill said.

Bray was one of the most impressive prospects at the Elite 11 quarterback camp this summer and has backed it up with a very good senior year.

Other additions include center Brandon Linder (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas); corner Nickell Robey (Frostproof, Fla.), a Georgia commit; and running back Anthony Wilkerson (Tustin, Calif.), a Stanford commit.

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.