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December 6, 2012

Rankings of Yore: Brown a find for Eagles


MORE RANKINGS OF YORE: Nov. 28 | Nov. 16 | Nov. 9

Each week, Rivals.com's national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell will take a look at what we got right -- and what we got wrong -- in our past player evaluations. We call it Rankings of Yore.

Bryce is nice

One of the more interesting stories in the NFL is taking place in Philadelphia. Amid the disappointing performance on the field, a sparkle of hope has emerged in the name of Bryce Brown. For fans of high school football recruiting, Brown is no mystery, but the route he took to get to where he is now is long and winding.

Coming out of Wichita East High School in Kansas, Brown caught everyone's attention with a freshman season that saw him finish with 1,472 yards and 12 touchdowns. He took that to an entirely new level during his sophomore season when he rushed for 2,039 yards and 26 touchdowns, and his legend began to grow. However, this is also the point when everything began to turn into a circus. Being considered the top running back prospect to come out of Kansas since Barry Sanders comes with a great deal of publicity and stress, and the Class of 2009 prospect did not necessarily handle this well.

Being advised by Brian Butler, who referred to himself as Brown's trainer and handler, became his first mistake. A website was born, charging people $9.99 per month to receive recruiting updates, rumors surfaced that Brown may go straight to the Canadian Football League instead of attending college, and not surprisingly NCAA investigations followed.

In February of 2008, a full year before Signing Day, Brown verbally committed to Miami, which was where his older brother, Arthur Brown, had signed the previous year. Back then, this was a very early commitment. However, Brown de-committed after things with his brother started to go sour in Coral Gables and he dragged out his recruiting process beyond Signing Day.

Official visits followed to Missouri, Oregon, Clemson, Tennessee and LSU. On March 16, 2009, Brown pulled the trigger with his official commitment to Tennessee and head coach Lane Kiffin.

Brown's freshman year at Tennessee did not go as expected, as he shared carries with Montario Hardesty and finished the season with 460 yards and three touchdowns. On the first day of spring practice at Tennessee in 2010, Brown announced that he would transfer from Knoxville -- by which time Derek Dooley was coach. Following his brother Arthur, who had already transferred out of Miami to Kansas State, Brown went to Manhattan in August 2010. After sitting out the 2010 season, Brown rushed for 16 yards on three carries at the start of the 2011 season before leaving the Kansas State program and subsequently declaring for the NFL Draft in January 2012.

After not being invited to the NFL Combine, Brown was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles. Not much was expected, considering his past and the fact that LeSean McCoy had anchored the starting RB job for the Eagles. But after McCoy was ruled out of action due to post-concussion symptoms, Brown got his first start against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. He finished with 178 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, and followed that up with 169 yards and two touchdowns during their 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. His 347 rushing yards in two games are the most by an Eagles player in consecutive games since Steve Van Buren rushed for 379 yards in 1949.

What happens with Brown from this point is unknown, since McCoy is obviously a vital part of the Eagles future. But his recent play has definitely shown the NFL and its fans the skills he showed everyone else at Wichita East High School in Kansas.

Coming out of high school, Brown was both the No. 1 running back and No. 1 recruit in the country, earning the latter distinction during our last rankings cycle, pushing ahead of wide receiver Rueben Randle. The running back group featured current NFL players such as Trent Richardson, David Wilson and Lamar Miller, who were all ranked in the top 10, plus current college stars such as Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, Stepfan Taylor and Cierre Wood, who were all ranked in the top 20. Behind Brown and Randle in 2009 among the five-stars are D.J. Fluker, Sheldon Richardson, Matt Barkley and Manti Te'o, to name a few.

[ Watch: Looking back: Bryce Brown ]

Laughs for Lache

The journey for running back Lache Seastrunk of Baylor is yet another one filled with detours and confusion, but everything finally seems to be coming together for him.

In a 41-34 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday, Seastrunk finished with 178 yards on 16 carries, including a memorable 76-yard touchdown run that saw him hurt his hamstring and still hobble over the goal line.

It is safe to say that Seastrunk has come into his own at Baylor over the second half of this season. Over the past five games, he has rushed for 693 yards and five touchdowns, while helping the Bears become bowl eligible.

A five-star Class of 2010 prospect out of Temple, Texas, Seastrunk became a legend in his state. He rushed for 1,532 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore and 1,541 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior, while showcasing his freaky athleticism and speed along the way.

While high school fans in Texas were already well aware of Seastrunk's abilities by the time he showed up to the Nike Camp in Fort Worth in April of 2008, national recognition followed. Several impressive college camps followed that summer, at schools such as LSU and Texas A&M, and from that point the offers came flooding in.

Auburn, Oregon, LSU and USC were the major draws for Seastrunk, with each seemingly leading at different times. A week before National Signing Day in 2010, Seastrunk pulled the trigger with a commitment to Oregon as other schools aside from USC had all but dropped out due to off-field concerns. It seemed like a natural fit with his speed and athleticism, Oregon's high-octane offense, and the Ducks previous recruiting success in Texas. But as sometimes happens, things did not work out for Seastrunk in Eugene, and after redshirting during the 2010 season, he decided to transfer and take his talents back home to Texas and the Baylor Bears.

Seastrunk's recruiting was not good for Tennessee and Oregon as the Vols have just been hit with extended probation due to the reimbursement of expenses to talent scout/handler Will Lyles, who brought Seastrunk and his mom to Knoxville for an unofficial visit in 2009. Oregon is still being investigated for a $25,000 payment to Lyles following Seastrunk's commitment.

In the Class of 2010, Seastrunk was a five-star prospect, the No. 26 player nationally, No. 3 running back and No. 2 player in Texas. In the running back rankings, he placed behind both Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer, while finishing just in front of Silas Redd.With his No. 26 national ranking, he was the last five-star in his class (a controversial one at that), finishing just behind both Matt Elam and DeMarcus Milliner. Many felt Seastrunk was overrated and that Rivals was crazy for keeping him as a five-star, but his recent Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Award and bright future with the Bears has Rivals.com laughing last, at least for now.

[ Watch: Looking back: Lache Seastrunk prospect video ]

Silky Lacy

Eddie Lacy had to wait his turn at Alabama, as Trent Richardson churned out the yards during the 2011 season. With Richardson moving onto the NFL, Lacy realized that it was finally his time to shine. And he has not let that opportunity slide.

Lacy has put together an extremely impressive season thus far, showcased again by the 181 yards on 20 carries he totaled in the victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship on Saturday.

While playing alongside Richardson last fall, Lacy began to come into his own with 631 yards and seven touchdowns on only 84 carries. Lacy took the lead this fall, and despite sharing carries with freshman T.J. Yeldon, he has rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns on 184 carries.

At the high school level, Lacy excelled during his junior season at Geismar (La.) Dutchtown with 1,800 yards and 26 touchdowns. Offers began to roll in for Lacy, but at the end of the day it came down to Alabama and Tennessee. Lacy took official visits to both schools in January 2009 and soon after he committed to the Crimson Tide, although it was up in the air until the very end.

The big back finished off at No. 116 in the overall player and as the No. 13-ranked running back in the Class of 2009. Looking back at the ratings, Lacy likely deserved to be ranked higher, but he still was behind other top backs such as Trent Richardson, Bryce Brown, David Wilson and Lamar Miller. Lacy and Richardson were both part of the same recruiting class for Alabama and could go down as one of the best 1-2 punches in the same class at the position.

[ Watch: Looking back: Eddie Lacy prospect video ]

'Nole way

Karlos Williams of Florida State arrived at Tallahassee as a five-star safety, and was also regarded as one of the more athletic and versatile players in the country.

Williams was able to showcase that versatility on Saturday, when he moved over to linebacker for his first extensive action at the position this season.

Williams finished the game with 11 tackles and an interception with about a minute remaining in the game during a 21-15 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship, which propelled the Seminoles to the Orange Bowl.

A Class of 2011 prospect out of Davenport (Fla.) Ridge, Williams first jumped onto the recruiting radar during the 2009 Nike Camp in Tallahassee, where he mainly worked as a wide receiver. By the summer of 2009, Williams had already become one of the more sought-after rising juniors in the country, and offers began to pour in. After his junior season, Williams became one of two five-star safeties from Florida, joining Hasean Clinton-Dix, who ended up at Alabama. As National Signing Day approached in 2011, it came down to USC and Florida State, with Williams taking an official visit to both. However, Williams had been committed to FSU for almost a year, and in the end the Seminoles won out.

Williams finished as the No. 2 safety in the country, No. 2 player in the Florida and No. 8 player nationally. For the first two honors, he only trailed the previously mentioned Clinton-Dix, while for that national ranking he was behind other top-notch talent such as Jadeveon Clowney, De'Anthony Thomas and Cyrus Kouandjio. It was said Williams would end up growing into a linebacker, but he would be special at either position and now it is clear that is beginning to take form.

[ Watch: Looking back: Karlos Williams prospect video ]

Getting noticed

Playing at Northern Illinois, it obviously can take a player a little longer to get the attention and publicity that he deserves. For dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch that publicity is finally coming his way, and deservedly so. Lynch threw for 212 yards, while rushing for 160 yards, during a 44-37 double overtime victory over Kent State in the MAC Championship. The victory ended up sending the Huskies to their first ever BCS bowl, and a matchup against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

Lynch's performance last Friday night was just a small sample size of what he has been accomplishing all season long. During the game, he broke the record for the most rushing yards by an FBS quarterback in a single season, which was previously set during the 2010 season by Denard Robinson of Michigan. Lynch is at 1,771 yards and counting.

Coming out of Chicago (Ill.) Mount Carmel in the Class of 2009, Lynch never really received the recruiting attention he hoped for. He received some minimal interest from programs such as Iowa and Northwestern, and then hit the summer camp circuit before his senior season with stops at Purdue, Northern Illinois, Ball State and Central Michigan. Despite impressing at the camps, the Huskies were the only school to offer, which resulted in his commitment in June of 2008.

Rated a two-star prospect in his class, Lynch is the perfect example of a player who found the right fit for his abilities coming out of high school. If he waited a few more months back in the summer of 2008, additional offers might have come his way, but it is hard to imagine that Lynch would question any of his decisions back then, considering how everything has turned out.

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Mike Farrell is the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.



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