Players also have been rated on a star system, with five stars being the highest level. In a break with previous years, the number of players earning one to five stars is not predetermined. "We will no longer have quotas on the number of five-star prospects, four stars, etc.," explained Jamie Newberg, TheInsiders.com's national recruiting editor. "In the past, we only had two five-star prospects per position. Now, if there are eight five-star wide receivers, that is how we will rate them. If we do not have any five-star-caliber prospects at a position, then no one will get that rating. I think this will be a great change to the way we do things."
The first group to break the mold indeed are the wide receivers, who recorded eight five-star ratings, led by Antonio Cromartie, who like Sims is out of Tallahassee, Fla. Whitney Lewis of Ventura, Calif.; Michael Bush of Louisville, Ken.; Andre Caldwell of Tampa, Fla.; Chad Jackson of Hoover, Ala.; Robert Meacham of Tulsa, Okla.; Steve Smith of Woodland Hills, Calif., and Anthony Hill of Jacksonville, Fla., were the other wideouts who earned five-star ratings.
"Speed is the name of the game in the south, and the class of 2003 is loaded with swift wide receivers from the southern states," said Scott Kennedy, who operates the acclaimed BorderWars.com with Newberg. "Southern standouts such as five-star recruits Cromartie, Jackson, Bush and Hill lead one of the deepest classes of wide receivers in recent memory."
In addition to Newberg and Kennedy, the list of nationally recognized recruiting experts who contributed to the rankings and ratings include:
The strength and versatility of the list this group produced is exemplified by Sims, whom Newberg calls "the best overall high school football prospect that I have seen in several years. First of all, he has that rare combination of size, speed, strength and quickness. Sims is so good on both sides of the ball he could play running back or linebacker at the next level. He is the best prospect at either position that I've seen this year."
As usual, there is no shortage of top quarterback prospects. Regionally, this position is dominated by California and the Deep South, according to Eads of StudentSports.com, which operates the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp. The 12 invitees to that camp will be announced by Student Sports on July 1.
"The Golden State contains three of the nation's top seven signal-callers in Kyle Wright (Danville Monte Vista), Dennis Dixon (San Leandro) and Tom Grady (Huntington Beach Edison)," Eads said. "When you toss in T.C. Ostrander and Sam Keller, the San Francisco Bay Area alone is home to four of the nation's top 22 quarterback prospects. The South is home to four of the nation's top five gunslingers in North Carolina's record-setting Chris Leak, lanky Georgian Blake Mitchell, the athletically-gifted Robert Lane out of Louisiana and rifle-armed JaMarcus Russell from Mobile (Ala.)."
The usual regional suspects emerged as power centers that will fuel future college teams. Florida and Texas, no surprise, were front among them.
"Every spring college coaches from across the entire country flock to the state of Florida for the May evaluation period when it gives them an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the state's top prospects," said Bakas, a mainstay expert in the Sunshine State whose coverage has expanded throughout the Big East conference. "I also took advantage of that opportunity and saw most of the state's top prospects in person this past spring.
"Leading the way offensively was Andre Caldwell. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Caldwell is the younger brother of current San Diego Charger and former University of Florida standout Reche Caldwell, who was named Mr. Football in the state of Florida his senior season. The younger receiver combines more size, speed, and athleticism than his brother did at that age and it has attracted scholarship offers from many of the nation's elite.
"The most talented team I watched this spring was Palm Bay, a Class 4A powerhouse. The Pirates are led by two of the state's elite players in fullback/defensive end Joe Cohen and strong safety Reggie Nelson. Both Cohen and Nelson have big time upsides and will be key factors in Palm Bay's quest for its second state championship in three years."
Top Texas expert Garvin said of the Lone Star State, "Just mention the names of Euless Trinity's Ofa Mohetau, Jasper's Jorrie Adams or Lewisville Hebron's Ian-Yates Cunningham, and you have D-I offensive line coaches drooling. Ditto for defensive coordinators regarding Denton Ryan defensive end Jarvis Moss and Lewisville safety Tony Cade, who could be the top players at their respective positions nationally in 2002.
"Others garnering offers from all the top programs are Alief Elsik tight end Tony Hills, North Mesquite cornerback Tarell Brown, Brenham wide receiver Limus Sweed, Tyler John Tyler defensive end Tim Crowder, Duncanville defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Pflugerville tailback Erik Hardeman.
"As always, there are many skilled players in the Lone Star State, but the big men continue to lead the way."