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Signing Day 2003 has come and gone, but there has been no rest for the weary. Recruiting is a year-round job and, once one year is finished, you jump right back on the saddle to start the evaluation process all over again. It's now June 30 and, after countless hours of film watching, Nike Camps from coast to coast and spring practice, it's time to unveil the first edition of TheInsiders.com prospect rankings and our National Hot 100.
Although we are in mid-summer, the rankings process has begun. Many prospects have been assigned a star ranking (explanation below) and we numerically ranked the top 20-40 per position, depending on the position. Players who are unranked will appear in their star grouping in alphabetical order. As we get deeper into the recruiting season, we will continue to update the rankings. In fact, we plan on updating the rankings once per month through Signing Day 2004.
- 5 Stars: TheInsiders.com Top 30 and or TheInsiders.com First Team All-American.
- 4 Stars: National Hot 100, TheInsiders.com All-Region, and or Top 30 in Region.
- 3 Stars: TheInsiders.com Hot 100 – Region.
- 2 Stars: Division 1-A recruit.
- 1 Star: Unranked prospects, listed alphabetically.
The envelope please ...
TheInsiders.com's top rated prospect for the Class of 2004 is center Jeff Byers from Fort Collins (Col.) Loveland High School. That's right – a center, not a quarterback, running back or linebacker. This was a slam dunk, a no-brainer among TheInsiders.com recruiting team.
"I feel so honored to be considered the top prospect," Byers said. "It's really a great feeling. But I couldn't do it without my coaches and teammates. It's also a motivator for me because now I know I have to work twice as hard to prove it and now everyone will be gunning for me."
Not only are we in agreement, but coaches from coast to coast have been raving about Byers. "Jeff Byers is the best OL I have ever seen," proclaimed two different assistant coaches from top college football programs from the Southeast. One coach from the west coast said, "We have never, ever recruited a player this good as a coaching staff before. He is the best player we have ever seen at the high school level."
So what makes him so good?
First of all, he can play on either side of the ball. Byers also is a dominant defensive tackle who could be an outstanding defensive player in college. But make no bones about it, Jeff Byers has a long future on the offensive line. He is versatile enough to play any position on the line. For his high school team, he mainly plays center but also gets some time at tackle. Byers has very good size (6-foot-4, 270) and runs exceptionally well. He claims to run a 4.8 forty-yard dash but he actually looks faster than that on film. Byers is a dominant drive blocker and pass protector and the best offensive lineman we have ever seen at the high school level.
Click Here to View TheInsiders.com National Hot 100.
When you look up and down TheInsiders.com Hot 100, four states dominated - California, Florida and Pennsylvania. Texas, California and Florida produce the most college football signees, year in and year out. Just last season alone they accounted for 895 signees.
Texas topped all states with 13 prospects in our Hot 100 and leading the way for the Lone Star State is running back Adrian Peterson from Palestine, the nation's No. 2 rated prospect and top-rated back.
Even though he stands 6-2, Peterson exhibits great "body lean" into the line of scrimmage, enabling him to gain substantial yardage after initial contact, according to David Garvin, TheInsiders.com Big 12 Recruiting Analyst. "He is a very fluid runner reminding many of former Sealy High School, SMU and Los Angeles Ram great Eric Dickerson," Garvin said. "An accomplished sprinter, Peterson finished second in both the 100-meter (10.33) and 200-meter (2123) in the Texas state 4-A track meet this season. He may be the best tailback to come out of the Lone Star State in the past 15-20 years."
As usual, it's a deep year in the great state of Texas, especially at the quarterback position. Leading the way is Rhett Bomar from Grand Prairie, the nation's No. 2 rated signal caller. This kid is a special talent.
"This could be the best crop of Texas high school quarterbacks in the past 25 years and Bomar appears to be the cream of the crop," Garvin said. "On film, he's simply outstanding, possessing great size, arm strength and mobility. He can really beat you both in the air and on the ground."
Randy Estes, from Los Alamitos High School, is the top prospect from California and the nation's No. 1 rated safety (4th among all prospects). Estes has it all and is one of the best defensive prospects to come out of the Golden State in a few seasons.
"Last season as a junior, he was the top defensive recruit in the state," said Greg Biggins, TheInsiders.com PAC 10 Recruiting Analyst. "In fact, he may be the best defensive back this state has produced since Ronnie Lott. I saw him play five times last season and Estes never missed a tackle. When he hits you, the play is over. He can play the run and pass and just has great instincts."
Once again, California is top heavy with wide receivers. Last season, it was Michael Bumpus. They all found their way into TheInsiders.com Hot 100.
"To be honest with you, this year's group is probably deeper than last season and that's saying a lot," Biggins said. "I really feel that those four can all play early in college and all be difference makers."
The Sunshine State is always loaded with talent and this season is no different. Among the Class of 2004 in Florida, linebackers dominate and two in particular, Keith Rivers. Williams and Rivers are the nation's No. 2 and No. 5 rated linebackers respectively.
"Every year we have tremendous athletes at this position, but the Class of 2004 is easily the deepest I can remember," said Larry Blustein of TheInsiders.com and FloridaKids.us. "I call Willie the Lebron James of high school linebackers. He is perhaps the closest to anyone to making the jump to professional football. He has the size, athletic ability, and because he's played defensive end before, Willie has a unique perspective on reading offenses.
"Keith Rivers is one of the most physical linebackers we've had in a number of years. He reminds me a lot of former Titusville Astronaut star Wilbur Marshall, who went on to have success at the University of Florida and the Chicago Bears. Rivers has a knack of making plays all over the field."
The Sunshine State always has wide receivers and this year's star is Xavier Carter from Melbourne (Fla.) Palm Bay High School. Carter is a state champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and among the nation's elite in those events. But he can also play football and is one of the top offensive players in the country. He checks in at No. 12 overall.
"There are track stars who try and play football, and then you have Pee Wee Carter," Blustein said. "He is one of the nation's fastest athletes who has turned into an outstanding receiver. His knowledge of the game has improved every year."
They have always produced super high school football talent in the state of Pennsylvania and this recruiting season is stellar in the Keystone State. The state has prospects on our Hot 100 with a few more that just missed making the list. Leading the way is linebacker Dan Connor, TheInsiders.com's top-ranked defensive prospect.
"We (Pennsylvania) are loaded this year, more than usual," Connor said. "It's a real big deal that Pennsylvania is showing out. I never expected to be ranked that high, but it's a real honor."
Connor plays linebacker and fullback for Wallingford Strath Haven High School. At the next level he could play on either side of the ball, but we feel he projects best at middle linebacker.
"Dan Connor is a throw-back football player," said Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay), except Alstott couldn't play defense like Connor does. Defensively, Dan Connor has a Chris Speilman type body, work ethic and competitiveness."
Staying in the Midwest, one of the top prospects is Kyle Williams, a linebacker from Bolingbrook, Illinois. Williams has a slew of offers and is another super linebacker that finds himself rated in the top twenty in the Hot 100.
"Kyle Williams is a once in a lifetime linebacker," Pool said. "He has the speed (4.5) to play inside and the strength (465-bench) to play inside. He's very good in coverage and his leadership skills are exceptional."
A couple of big men find their names in the Hot 100 – Glen Davis. Davis, nicknamed "Big Baby" is perhaps the top two-sport star in the country. He projects as a top ten basketball recruit as well as one of the top line prospects in the nation. Davis, from Baton Rouge (La.) Southern Lab, plays fullback, tight end and defensive line. At 6-6 and 340 pounds or so, Davis is a freak athlete who moves extremely well. Whether he's breaking tackles, catching a passes or rushing the quarterback, Davis is fun to watch.
"Glen Davis is the most physically gifted big man this side of Shaquille O'Neal," said Scott Kennedy, TheInsiders.com Southeastern Recruiting Analyst. "At his size, he has incredibly light feet. Playing fullback he can run over people or use a deft spin move to get around them. He could play anyone of several positions on the next level, but his future is likely at offensive tackle."
Pressley, from Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley High School, is a super defensive tackle who could play for anyone in the country and is the top-rated defensive linemen. He checks in at No. 10 overall.
"At a position which is quickly becoming a major necessity in college football, Demario Pressley could be the prototype," said Miller Safrit, TheInsiders.com ACC Recruiting Analyst. "He has it all - speed, quickness, power, and most of all leadership ability."
You can't talk about the Hot 100 without mentioning Early Doucet from St. Martinsville, La. Doucet is the Bayou State's most electrifying recruit since Kevin Faulk. He plays quarterback in high school and he should be given him the nickname of the "Human Highlight Film." Some of the plays he has made, especially in the open field, have defied the odds. Doucet is ranked No. 6 overall and the top-rated wide receiver prospect.
"Doucet may be a quarterback in high school, but he will be a wide receiver on the next level," Kennedy said. "He is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. He has excellent size and strength, and he is nearly impossible to bring down in the open field. Doucet is one of the most exciting players in the country."
In what could be the deepest Georgia class in years, two prospects lead the way – Eric McLendon (No. 33 overall). Miller, like some many prospects mentioned above, is an extraordinary athlete. He plays a number of different positions but projects as an outside linebacker/ defensive end. McLendon already has that NFL body and he could play on either side of the ball as an offensive or defensive tackle.
"Miller is one of the most versatile prospects to come out of Georgia in years," Kennedy said. "There will be a hard-fought battle to recruit him, and after he chooses a school, there will be an internal battle between the coaches to decide who gets him for his side of the ball. Miller can play wide receiver, defensive end, but at 6-4 and 217 pounds, he will likely get his first shot at outside linebacker.
"McLendon is a physical phenom. At 6-5 and 290 pounds, he is the most physically imposing prospect in the south. He has the physical development of a 5th year NFL veteran, not that of a 17 year old high school prospect. He is big, strong, and quick. With a 30+ inch vertical and sub 5.0 forty, McLendon will be able to write his own ticket to the next level. He has the frame of an offensive tackle, but he prefers defense, and he has the strength and leverage to dominate shorter interior offensive linemen despite his height."
This is only the beginning of the rankings process. TheInsiders.com recruiting team will work hard and diligently all recruiting season long to give you the most accurate and objective coverage on the planet.
Stay tuned. The fun has just begun.