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Shakeups in final ESPNU 150

1/19/2011

Senior seasons and postseason all-star games are in the books and it's time for final player ranking updates heading into national signing day. In addition to watching film, watching the nation's top prospects in person battle each other not only in the all-star games but in the practices leading up to the games gave us all we needed to see in order to complete our evaluations and come up with our final ESPNU 150.

Changes in the top 10
Two prospects established themselves as premier players and climbed into the top 10 of the ESPNU 150. Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) showed us he is college ready right now and is the most physically gifted quarterback we have had in the Under Armour All-America Game. Driskel, a Florida commit, has rare speed and athleticism for a quarterback with great arm strength and polished throwing mechanics. Although they were a bit premature, Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge Community) drew comparisons to the late Sean Taylor with his play in Orlando, Fla. The FSU commit's blend of size, speed, physicality and athleticism is rare and earned him his fifth star (he's one of just 14 players to earn a five-star grade) and a spot inside the top 10.

Defensive linemen see stock soar
Tim Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) and Aaron Lynch (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) dominated the competition at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which helped them shoot up the defensive line rankings. Jernigan, now the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, proved to be one of the more difficult one-on-one matchups with his excellent initial quickness, violent hands and active style of play. Lynch's get-off and short-area quickness were eye-opening and earned the Notre Dame commit the No. 3 DE spot. Both prospects moved up the rankings and now sit just outside five-star range. Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) not only earned an Under Armour Game MVP award, but also a big bump up in the rankings. Chickillo, a Miami commit, displayed a great motor and feel for the position. He showed that he is more college ready than first thought. He has the tools to make big plays and be very productive at defensive end at the next level.

Wittek becomes a top-three QB
Max Wittek (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Mater Dei) exceeded our expectations during Under Armour Game week. He was the most precise and efficient quarterback from Day 1 in Orlando. He is college ready and like his predecessor Matt Barkley at Mater Dei, Wittek, a USC commit, has been groomed fundamentally. Wittek moved up at the expense of Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Ohio/Wayne), who looked very athletic and strong at times as a passer but was not as consistent and struggled at times with his reads and decision-making.

Landry puts on a receiver clinic
From the first day of UA Game practices, Jarvis Landry (Lutcher, La./Lutcher) opened our eyes as scouts with his improved all-around skill set. He was a lot stronger and more physical than we expected and his hands were outstanding. The LSU commit backed it up with an MVP performance in the game and now sits among the top three wide receivers. While Landry climbed, Charone Peake (Roebuck, S.C./Dorman) lost his No. 1 WR ranking to George Farmer (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra). We have seen Peake, a Clemson commit, four times in person and he has not dominated his competition despite having prototypical size and tools. He still possesses many of the tools coaches covet in a receiver and could be great in college, but we would have liked to have seen him have more of a presence when we evaluated him in person.

Newberry can do it all
Since the first time he was evaluated, we have debated which position to list Florida State commit Giorgio Newberry (Fort Pierce, Fla./Central). A physically gifted player, the four-star Newberry is a legit prospect on both sides of the ball. We felt he showed more upside at offensive tackle, but at the Under Armour All-America Game, he displayed his talents at offensive tackle and defensive end and established himself as one of, if not the most versatile big man in the country. Newberry's overall résumé and performance in Orlando earned him a bump in the rankings as well as a switch from offensive tackle to athlete. The big man fits better in the athlete category as he could help the Seminoles in the trenches in a few ways.

Movers and shakers
Amir Carlisle (Sunnyville, Calif./The King's Academy) was one of the biggest surprises during the UA Game week. The prolific running back looked like a natural pass-catcher and route runner out of the slot and is simply a great football player whom we may have originally underestimated due to his level of competition in high school. Carlisle, who recently switched from Stanford to USC, moved into the athlete category and into the ESPNU 150.

Travis Hughes (Virginia Beach, Va./Kempsville) made a significant climb up the inside linebacker rankings and is also now in the ESPNU 150. You don't find many middle linebackers at the high school level with his size, downhill strength and lateral agility. He is a very good fit for what North Carolina does on defense with its middle linebackers.

Marcus Roberson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) rose into the top 10 of the safety rankings and into the ESPNU 150 with an impressive showing as an Under Armour All-American. He displayed great athleticism and ball skills, but also a brought a physical element to his game by pressing and jamming receivers. More importantly, Roberson is invaluable from a scheme standpoint. He showed the skill set to contribute as a safety, corner or nickelback at the next level.

RBs rise and drop
Brandon Williams (Brookshire, Texas/Brookshire Royal) was one of the best backs in Orlando. The Oklahoma commit's size-to-speed combo is impressive and he should add more bulk and power once he arrives in Norman. His ability get low out of his cuts was better than we anticipated and he has moved into the top five among running backs.

Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) showcased his quick cutting and explosive running style during the week in San Antonio and capped it off with a record-breaking performance in the Army game. He had a small jump up the running back rankings, but the biggest riser is FSU commit Devonta Freeman (Miami, Fla./Miami Central), who climbed into high four-star status after an excellent senior season that saw him become the full-time feature back and explode through defenses.

Mike Bellamy (Punta Gordon, Fla./Charlotte) showed flashes of elite quickness and burst that earned him the label of one of the biggest playmakers out of the backfield in this class. However, we come away from Orlando questioning his durability, yards-after-contact production and his ability to be an every-down back at Clemson. Bellamy drops out of the top five RB rankings. LSU commit Kenny Hilliard (Patterson, La./Patterson) saw a small drop down as well.

Players in need of development
A quick note to remind everyone that just because some players' grades dropped, it doesn't mean they are bad players. They are still among the nation's best players, but we just discovered some things they need to work on as they develop.

Justin Scott-Wesley (Camilla, Ga./Mitchell-Baker) showed the great top-end speed we saw on film, but the Georgia commit looked tight through the hips when trying to separate out of his breaks and just did not look very fluid overall during UA Game week. He might have been a little banged up, but Scott-Wesley falls out of the ESPNU 150 after appearing very straight-line and not showing the overall skill set to project as a difference-making receiver at the next level.
Inside linebacker Lawrence Thomas (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance) also saw his grade drop. He showed flashes of strength between the tackles, but has put on some weight and did not look athletic enough in space, making a move to defensive end likely in the future.

Spencer Region (Cullman, Ala./Cullman) saw a drop in the rankings. He is a 6-5, 339-pound guard who can push defenders around, but lacks some of the skill set and scheme versatility of some of the guards who moved ahead of him.

Brey Cook (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber) was a player who saw a change in position as we felt the Arkansas commit will fit better at the college level at guard. He also saw a drop in the rankings, but remains in the top 100 and is a solid line prospect.

A few players dropped out of the rankings to make room for some of the prospects who broke into the ESPNU 150. Sterling Bailey (Gainesville, Ga./East Hall) made a slight slide down and out of the rankings. Bailey, who did notch a sack in the Army All-American Bowl, has some good tools, but in a strong defensive end class he does not exhibit the same fluid athleticism and explosiveness as some of the nation's other top-end prospects. The same could be said for uncommitted Jermauria Rasco (Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian Academy), who also saw a slight grade reduction which forced him out of the ESPNU 150.