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March 27, 2011

Breaking down the LSR: The top 10

The latest Lone Star Recruiting for the Class of 2012 is out, but we're still at a point in the evaluation process when an education of sorts still needs to take place throughout the list - from No.1 through No.100. For the last three weeks we've gone through the entire top 100 list so that we can properly introduce the players to you. Today we'll take a look at the true cream of the crop. It's the final installment and a look at the state's early top 10.

10. Bralon Addison - (Athlete/Fort Bend Hightower)

Every time I watch Addison's film, I recall the scene in the original Rocky when Mickey forces Rocky to chase the chicken, but in this film Addison is always the chicken. When Addison has the ball in his hands, he's damn near impossible for the other team to get their hands on, which makes him hell on wheels as an offensive playmaker. As a junior, he did a little bit of everything at quarterback for Hightower, amassing nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns as perhaps the best quarterback in the city of Houston. As a college prospect, he projects as an athlete that can play on either side of the ball, although his ability to put the ball in the end zone is tough to ignore. At 5-10, 182 pounds, Addison doesn't have elite-level speed, but his ability to break defenders down and leave the grasping for air is as good as it gets. In fact, he's so slippery that at times it seems like he's toying with those at the high school level. In terms of feet and quickness, he's got it all, so it's easy to see him as a game-breaking receiver/return man at the next level. Also, although he prefers the offensive side of the ball, his optimum position might be on the other side of the ball as a cornerback because he's tailor-made for the position.

Player he reminds me of: Willie Cole (Oklahoma State- 2007)
Current offers: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Utah and Oklahoma State (committed)
Current LSR Rating: 5.9
Previous ranking: 13
Highest ranking: 10 (current)
Debut ranking: 24 (3/30/10)

9. Curtis Riser - (Offensive lineman/DeSoto)

It would be unfair to simply tag Riser with the tag of a mauler because he moves too well and is too athletic to lump into the category of pound and ground guy, but when you watch him in the running game and project his work as an interior lineman at the next level, it's hard not to imagine him as a run-blocking force at the next level. At 6-3, 284 pounds, Riser plays with a mean streak that turns him into a finisher in the ground game, but as a high-level player for one of the state's top programs for a couple of years running, he's also flashed versatility along the way. Although his frame isn't ideal for the tackle position at the next level, he does play on an island for DeSoto and his outstanding combination of quick feet, long arms and natural athleticism make him a player that should be a plus-player in pass protection over time. The biggest issue with Riser at the moment is that his technique drifts at times and he's going to need some time to harness his natural skill. As he continues to develop his frame in the weight room and improves his technique, he has a chance to emerge as an impact starter for multiple years at the college level.

Player he reminds me of:Trey Hopkins (Texas - 2010)
Current offers: Baylor, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and Texas (committed)
Current LSR Rating: 5.9
Previous ranking: 8
Highest ranking: 3 (8/26/10)
Debut ranking: 7 (3/30/10)

8. Michael Starts - (Offensive tackle/Waco LaVega)

What I love about Starts is that he's like a fine meal that hasn't started to be made just yet. Basically, the ingredients are there for a five-star meal, but there's some work in the kitchen left to do. At 6-4, 275 pounds, Starts has a terrific frame for a tackle prospect (even if he's not quite as tall as you'd prefer in an elite level tackle), very good feet/athleticism and a game that isn't close to being tapped out. His strength is in the running game, as he brings a nasty and physical disposition to the playing field. I like the fact that when Starts is out on the field, there are times when he pushes the envelope with his physical play. The want-to on the field to be a great player seems to be there. There are times when Starts plays high and doesn't get proper pad level, but that's the kind of stuff that you pay offensive line coaches a lot of money to fix because Starts' greatest strength (raw ability) is also his biggest weakness. He's going to need some time to develop, both in the weight room and on the field (technique needs a lot of work). There's a lot of work that still needs to be done, but there's an incredibly high ceiling to shoot for.

Player he reminds me of: Daryl Williams (Oklahoma Stat- 2010)
Current offers: Kansas State, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech
Current LSR Rating: 5.8
Previous ranking: 6
Highest ranking: 6 (1/12/11)
Debut ranking: 20 (8/27/10)

7. Javonte Magee - (Defensive lineman/San Antonio Sam Houston)

Big, athletic interior line prospects with the natural skill and ability make plays up and down the line of scrimmage are worth their weight and gold, which is one of the reasons why Magee has emerged as a key prospect for schools throughout the state. At 6-5, 262 pounds, Magee is just starting to scratch the surface of what he can do on the field as a player and he'll definitely need some time in the weight room to develop his upper body and overall strength, but it's easy to see him at 300 pounds in a few years and being an incredibly difficult match-up up and down the line of scrimmage for opposing offensive linemen. Currently, he plays mostly defensive end for Sam Houston, but he doesn't have the burst off the edge that would make the threat as a pass rusher you need to keep him on the edge. Still, for his size, he moves very well, plays with physicality and does a good job of defending the run up and down the line of scrimmage. That ability to flash playmaking flair, along with the type of size/athleticism combo you can't teach makes him a prized project with a ton of upside.

Player he reminds me of: Vincent Jackson (Texas A&M - 2005)
Current offers: Arkansas, Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M
Current LSR Rating: 5.9
Previous ranking: 12
Highest ranking: 7 (current)
Debut ranking: 18 (3/30/10)

6. Dominique Wheeler - (Wide receiver/Crockett)

For my money, there's not a more exciting player in the state with the ball in his hands than Wheeler, who can stop, start and explode as well as anyone in the state and once he hits his top gear, he can separate from defenders. Basically, he's the Boba Fett of the Lone Star State. At 6-1, 175 pounds, Wheeler is also an incredible leaper with even better ball skills, which makes him both a feared player in the vertical passing game and around the goal line. Athletically, there's just not much that he can't do and if he wanted to focus on the defensive side of the ball, he'd register as one of the state's top cornerback prospects. The only real knock on Wheeler is that he's raw as a receiver and will need some time/reps at the position, but his upside as a multi-faceted game-breaker is as good as any player in the state. If Wheeler allows his game to develop and learns how to harness all of his abilities, the sky is the limit.

Player he reminds me of: Curtis Brown (Texas - 2007)
Current offers: Auburn, Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech
Current LSR Rating: 6.0
Previous ranking: NR
Highest ranking: 6 (current)
Debut ranking: 6 (2/13/11)

5. Malcom Brown - (Defensive tackle/Brenham)

There have been a lot of Tommie Harris comparisons over the course of the last year or so with Brown, but I'm not sure how spot on that is. While Harris had a first-step that Brown can't quite match, Brown's a better overall player that plays with more relentlessness and consistency than Harris did as a young player at Killeen Ellison. One thing that they have in common, aside from size (Brown is 6-2, 280 pounds to Harris' 6-3, 275-pound frame at the same stage) is the ability become a one-one-one match-up with just about any offensive lineman. Brown, who is a plus-athlete and gets off the ball extremely well, plays with great pad level and does a sensational job for a young player of using his hands to get off of blocks. Once he gets his head across his opponent, he cannot be blocked and his ability to get up and down the line of scrimmage as an athlete makes him a rare guy. Usually, when you see a guy like Brown you have to teach him the game of football, but he's just a natural football player and one of the safest players in this class. In terms of versatility, he can line-up as a nose-guard or he can line up outside on a three-man line. When you consider his gifts as a player, he has a chance to be a Sunday player in time if he maximizes his ability.

Player he reminds me of: Lamarr Houston (Texas - 2006)
Current offers: Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M
Current LSR Rating: 6.0
Previous ranking: 5
Highest ranking: 3 (8/26/10)
Debut ranking: 4 (3/30/10)

4. Trey Williams - (Running back/Spring DeKaney)

There's been a renaissance in this state in recent years with small running backs and this year's top option is Williams, who has only rushed for just shy of 4,200 yards in the last two years. In a lot of ways he reminds me of former Temple running back Lache Seastrunk, but with more well-rounded football skill when the pads come on. Like Seastrunk, Williams is a blur on the field when the ball is in his hands and every time he gets a seam or a crease, his explosive running ability makes him a threat to score. Obviously, at 5-8, 175 pounds, Williams' size is going to be a concern and he's not going to be everyone's cup of tea as an every-down back, but he's in the mold of a Jaquizz Rodgers or Lamichael James, and looks like a kid that can be more than a 10-touch per game all-purpose back in the right scheme/offense. Like those other runners, Williams' speed will cause him to bounce a lot of runs outside, but he's a tough runner that can break tackles and he won't flinch if you run him between the tackles. His overall top end speed might not be elite, but the burst and explosion over his first 20 yards absolutely is.

Player he reminds me of: LaMichael James (Oregon -2008)
Current offers: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Miami, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech
Current LSR Rating: 6.0
Previous ranking: 3
Highest ranking: 3 (1/12/11)
Debut ranking: 9 (3/30/10)

3. Johnathan Gray - (Running back/Aledo)

There have been some amazing running back prospects over the years from this state, but you have to go back a decade to Cedric Benson to find a player that has built a resume quite like the one that Gray has built over the last two seasons. Like Benson, Gray is a guy that achieves his success with the other team knowing he's going to touch it almost every play and it doesn't seem to matter. One of the things that really separate Gray from his peers is the fact that he uses the entire field as his canvass. Between the tackles, he runs with a true downhill lean that slows him to finish runs with extra yardage on a carry-by-carry basis, but he brings the kind of home run pop that makes him a threat to score every time he gets through the second level of the defense. There's very little wasted motion with Gray, who gets North/South as quickly and as well as any back in the state. When Gray makes a move on a defender, he's able to do it with a smooth suddenness that allows him to make it near-full speed. The burst out of his cuts more than his outright speed is what makes him such a weapon in the open field. Also, enough can't be made out of the fact that Gray brings a complete set of tools to the table as a runner, receiver out of the backfield and as a blocker, while also possessing the kind of intangibles as a player that has allowed him to carry Aledo to two straight titles on his back. The running styles are not the same at all, but everything else about Gray from a make-up factor on the field reminds me of Benson.

Player he reminds me of: Cedric Benson (Texas - 2001)
Current offers: Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Colorado, Texas, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech
Current LSR Rating: 6.0
Previous ranking: 3
Highest ranking: 1 (8/26/10)
Debut ranking: 3 (3/30/10)

2. Cayleb Jones - (Wide receiver/Austin High)

If we're talking natural receiver skills, Jones ranks up there with the Shipley brothers as one of the most gifted this state has ever produced. Some guys were just meant to do certain things and with the 6-3, 198-pound Jones, he was meant to play wide receiver. Despite battling injuries, Jones has caught more than 150 passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in the last two seasons, and he's produced in just about every fashion possible. A terrific route runner that is able to get in and out of his breaks with smooth ease and there's not a better player in the state at catching the football away from his body with his hands. When you mix in elite-level ball skills, you've got a dangerous weapon. More than a glider when he has the ball than anything else, Jones probably doesn't possess the elite-level burst and speed to qualify as a big-time vertical threat at the next level, but his ability to work the short and intermediate routes is top-level. You would like to see Jones do more after the catch than we've seen at the high school level, but the truth of the matter is that all of his flash comes in getting open and catching the ball when the ball is anywhere within reach. If Jones lands in the right situation, he could be an immediate producer at the collegiate level because he's as polished at his age as they come.

Player he reminds me of: Sloan Thomas (Texas - 2000)
Current offers: Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Texas (committed)
Current LSR Rating: 6.0
Previous ranking: 2
Highest ranking: 1 (8/26/10)
Debut ranking: 1 (3/30/10)

1. Mario Edwards - (Defensive end/Denton Ryan)

Here's the thing about Edwards that makes it easy to explain why he's the No.1 player in the state - guys like him just don't exist in most years. At 6-4, 275 pounds, guys like Edwards aren't supposed to exist at the high school level, especially not when they have the quickness and athleticism off the edge to represent a dominant pass rush threat. Most players of his build would easily project as an interior prospect, but Edwards is one of those guys that has the ability to play inside or outside, even as he continues to grow into a frame that might one day carry 300 pounds. Edwards isn't lightening quick off the snap, but he's got a good first step and his ability to rush inside or out, while also doing an incredible job of using his hands, makes him a one-on-one nightmare for opposing offensive linemen. Of course, rushing the passer is just one half of the game and Edwards' ability to pursue the football up and down the line of scrimmage makes him a player that has to be accounted for on every snap. At his absolute best, Edwards is a rare defensive line prospect that can pretty much do it all and it would be a shock if he's not an early contributor at the collegiate level because he's got the skills to play right now.

Player he reminds me of:Ty Warren (Texas A&M - 1999)
Current offers: Auburn, Baylor, Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Florida State (committed)
Current LSR Rating: 6.1
Previous ranking: 1
Highest ranking: 1 (current)
Debut ranking: 8 (3/30/10)


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