- Jc Shurburtt
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When it comes to rating college football prospects, there is strength in versatility. That's why some of the biggest movers in the final update of the 2010 ESPNU 150 were prospects who can do more than one thing on the football field.
This includes the new No. 1 prospect in America, athlete Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde). Powell, who has committed to Florida, also has been moved to the athlete category, a move that best represents the possibilities he has as a college football player.
"He could play defensive end, he could be a great outside linebacker and he could be a really, really good tight end," Scouts Inc. national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. "The thinking is the more you can do, the more valuable you are and there is less of a chance of missing on a prospect. So, he ended up being a collective No. 1 because of those attributes."
Under Armour All-America Game MVP Dominique Easley (Staten Island, N.Y./Curtis) moved up to No. 3 overall. He was moved to the defensive tackle position and was awarded five-star status. His versatility is within the defensive line but is still obvious.
"It wasn't because we were necessarily convinced that he will play there," Luginbill said. "He's a guy that the defensive line coach at Florida, we feel, will probably move around and play some inside and some outside. We felt like defensive tackle was probably his best 'fit' because we think he can get up to 280 easy."
Athlete Matt Elam (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer), moved up to the nation's No. 9 overall prospect and gained five-star status on the list. Like Powell, his ability to do different things stood out.
"Every time we saw him he got better and better," Luginbill said. "We aren't so sure that he won't be that running back Florida has been looking for. He's a great defensive prospect, but offensively, every time I saw him, he was a great player at running back."
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington) also made a big leap, moving up 45 spots from No. 70 to No. 25 overall. He also is committed to Florida and is another prospect who projects well at multiple positions.
"He impressed us at defensive tackle," Luginbill said. "But we aren't so sure that at some point he won't be an offensive guard. We just felt like he got better and better every time we saw him and is yet another player that can play more than one position."
Movement at receiver
Wide receiver is a strong position nationally in this recruiting cycle and there is one new five-star player, USC commit Robert Woods (Gardena, Calif./Serra). Also, Texas commit Mike Davis (Dallas/Skyline) moved up 42 spots from No. 55 to No. 13 nationally (the highest-ranked four-star prospect).
Woods was a player that our scouts saw a lot of during the course of the recruiting cycle.
"The more we saw of him, from last March to the summer to the fall, he got better every time we saw him," Luginbill said. "We just felt following the all-star-game season that he was the most complete wide receiver in an outstanding wide receiver class."
As for Davis, he had a terrific showing all week at the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this month.
Both prospects passed the former No. 1 receiver, Darius White (Fort Worth, Texas/Dunbar).
"Neither Woods nor Davis were as smooth or fluid or had as much top-end speed as Darius White, but both are better short and intermediate route runners and they can manipulate man coverage better," Luginbill said.
Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) was extremely impressive during Under Armour All-America week, both in the practices and in the game. He jumped 68 spots from No. 92 overall to No. 24.
"Through the entire week in what is a defense-dominated drill [one-on-ones], where the offensive line is at such a disadvantage, they guy controlled the drill," Luginbill said. "So he propelled himself."
The top 3 prospects in the country, Powell, Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano, Texas/Plano West) and Easley, are all defensive linemen. That's a little different as far as national prospect rankings go, but should not come as a surprise given the high value of elite talent at the position and the overall strength of the group nationally in this cycle.
"Defensive line is the strongest overall position this year, and those guys are toughest to find outside of quarterback," Luginbill said.
Gators continue gaining
Florida, which has the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, has two of the top 3 prospects and five of the top 15 nationally committed. Also, all four of the versatile movers (Powell, Easley, Elam, Floyd) are committed to the Gators.
There is talk that this could be the best recruiting class ever assembled. Those numbers certainly would support that argument.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Versatility was a common trait among players who moved up in the final edition of the 2010 ESPNU 150, writes JC Shurburtt in this week's coast-to-coast notes.