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January 13, 2009
Rivals.com national scout Barry Every, who spent the past 15 seasons working for football programs at Georgia, Florida State and North Carolina, breaks down the top five recruits in the country and gives a reason why each could have been chosen for the top spot.
Running back Bryce Brown is the No. 1 prospect. Not since Adrian Peterson in 2004 has a running back been at the top in the final rankings.
THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1
RB BRYCE BROWN
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/215, 4.45 in the 40
HIGH SCHOOL: Wichita (Kan.) East
STRENGTHS: Has great overall size, above-average speed, and excellent hands. Add that to great vision and a willingness to block, and you have a five-tool, every-down back.
NEEDS/CONCERNS: Being an every-down back means he has to be in the best possible physical condition at all times in order to withstand the punishment of carrying the ball 20-plus times a game.
PLAYER COMPARISON: He reminds me of Ronnie Brown, the current Miami Dolphins and former Auburn Tigers star.
WHY HE SHOULD BE NO. 1: Because he is so good and he plays running back, a fairly easy position to adjust to in college, no player should have a more immediate impact in college. We also think he could have the most lasting impact. He is the leading rusher in Wichita history (more than Barry Sanders) and was named co-MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Game after rushing for 45 yards and catching two TD passes.
PARTICULARS: 6-3/195, 4.5
HIGH SCHOOL: Bastrop (La.) High
STRENGTHS: Has good height, great hands, a strong-yet-lanky build and still has enough speed to be a vertical threat. Randle also has terrific hand-eye coordination. He has the ability to adjust to the football like a centerfielder tracking down a baseball hit over his head.
NEEDS/CONCERNS: Randle played quarterback this season and was a tad rusty as a wide receiver in the Army practices. He pulled a hamstring the first day of practice in San Antonio; his legs were probably just not ready for the volume of running required of a receiver.
PLAYER COMPARISON: A slightly smaller version of Julio Jones, the freshman receiver at Alabama.
WHY HE COULD BE NO. 1: There's not a team in the country he couldn't help in his first season on campus. Even injured, he was the leading receiver in the Army game with seven catches for 75 yards.
OT D.J. FLUKER
PARTICULARS: 6-7/350, 4.9
HIGH SCHOOL: Foley (Ala.) High
STRENGTHS: He has tremendous overall size, long arms and peach basket-sized hands, which will keep most defensive linemen from reaching the quarterback. He is extremely coachable and is clay just waiting to be molded.
NEEDS/CONCERNS: Needs to work on his flexibility, which will help with his pad level. Needs a ton of reps playing offensive tackle since this season was his first at the position.
PLAYER COMPARISON: I have never met anyone as big and as athletic. An educated guess would be 11-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden.
WHY HE COULD BE NO. 1: Left tackles are at a premium in college and pro football, and Fluker is a special prospect at the position. He has so much natural talent, it is almost scary how good he could be.
PARTICULARS: 6-4/290, 4.65
HIGH SCHOOL: St. Louis (Mo.) Gateway Tech
STRENGTHS: He has a superior upper- and lower-body structure combined with the athleticism of a much smaller skill-position player. He twice was timed at the University of Missouri camp at sub-4.7 in the 40.
NEEDS/CONCERNS: He needs to work on being more consistent with his pad level at the point of attack. As a possible tight end, he will need to work on his body control and watch his overall weight.
PLAYER COMPARISON: He may not quite have the same body shape as Julius Peppers and Charles Grant, but both were large offensive weapons in high school who converted to full-time defensive players in college.
WHY HE COULD BE NO. 1: Richardson clearly is the best "jumbo athlete" in the nation as well as the most versatile. He would project as the best (or one of the best) in the country at three positions ? defensive end, defensive tackle and tight end. In high school, he returned kicks and played slot receiver and defensive end. He recorded 30 catches for 550 yards and five TDs, and had 90 tackles and 19 sacks.
QB MATT BARKLEY
PARTICULARS: 6-3/226, 4.7
HIGH SCHOOL: Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
STRENGTHS: He has good height and overall size. Barkley also has a strong arm and a quick release, which makes it hard for defensive backs to react in time.
NEEDS/CONCERNS: His decision-making needs to catch up with his immense talent. He needs to learn to get rid of the ball instead of forcing passes into tight coverage. Otherwise, his relative lack of mobility is the single biggest issue; he strictly is a pocket passer.
PLAYER COMPARISON: He's similar in size and ability to likely first-round pick Matthew Stafford. But he's not quite as athletic as Stafford.
WHY HE COULD BE NO. 1: There's no doubt Barkley is the top thrower in the country, and a team's quarterbacks usually has the greatest impact in the outcome of a game and season. He had an MVP performance in the Under Amour All-American Game, throwing for 237 yards and two TDs.
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