West's First 5-Star for 2011

The high school season has wrapped up around most of the country and Scout.com team has seen enough of the Class of 2011 to name its first five-star prospects for next year. One is a Los Angeles running back...

The regular season has wrapped up around most of the country as the 2009 playoff season has begun. The Scout.com team has seen enough of the Class of 2011 to name its first 5-Star prospects for next year.

While National Signing Day remains the first Wednesday of February, it seems the rest of the recruiting calendar has moved up each and every year. Here at Scout we aim to keep pace with the ever changing world of recruiting. Scout released its 1st edition of the Scout 100 in September. As we prepare to release 600 names on the Scout 300 Watch list next week, we're pleased to bring you our first 5-Star prospects from around the country.

Starting on the West Coast, I remember thinking when I saw Crenshaw's DeAnthony Thomas (5-10/180) as a sophomore "this is the best player I've seen this year". Through his junior season and into the playoffs, Thomas has done little to dispel my initial reaction in seeing him play.

I'm not sure I ever thought I would see another player that I would compare to Noel Devine who was a Houdini in his high school career, but Thomas, given the nickname "Black Mamba" in middle school, comes pretty close.

Like Devine, Thomas has the kind of speed that makes him look as if he's downhill snow skiing as he seemingly gets faster coming out of his cuts. As a spectator, I feel the defense was doing a good job containing him; then I'd look at the down and distance, and he was still getting eight yards per carry on plays where it looked like he was bottled up.

What separates Thomas from Devine, other than being a little bigger, is Thomas is as dangerous on defense as he is on offense.

DeAnthony Thomas

He lines up at safety for his Crenshaw team, and he is arguably the top hitter on the team. He has the type of instincts and closing speed that make what looked like a wide open play, a pass deflection or a collision with the intended receiver.

West Coast Manager Brandon Huffman has had ample opportunity to see Thomas through the years.

"A first look at Thomas, I see the size, and I think 'fast, shifty and elusive'. Yes, he's all of that," said Huffman, "but now he's added another facet to his game: physicality."

"It wasn't too long ago that Maurice Jones-Drew, all 5-6 of him, was running around the backfield in Los Angeles, looking like a guy who would just outrun a defensive back, until he flattened him en route to the end zone. Thomas has always been a back who's speed was his biggest strength, where he hits the hole and is gone. But now that he's added the physical part to his game, he goes from being a novelty scatback, used on occasion, to a multi-carry a game back, who can take the pounding at running back, but also give it."

"No, he's not built like Jones-Drew, but watching him lay out some unsuspecting receivers, or blitz a quarterback from the blindside, and it's obvious he's not just flash, he's power too."

Huffman is as impressed with Thomas as any skill player to come out of the West in some time.

"He's as electric a player to come from the West in the last five years, maybe longer. He does big things with the ball in his hands, but now he's added the defensive dimension and power to his game, and he's the best all-around prospect in the West in the class of 2011. And it's not close."

Tim Jernigan
Where Thomas is best used on the college level will depend on where he chooses and is most needed on that particular team, but he can be a star at at least four different positions: running back, wide receiver, corner, or safety. And let's not rule out wildcat quarterback.

While Thomas might be the top skill player in the country next year, the south boasts the player that could end up being the top big man. Tim Jernigan (6-2/275) is a difference maker from his defensive tackle position.

"I named Jernigan my top junior in the South about a month ago," said Chad Simmons, Scout's South Regional Manager.

"I saw him live shortly after, and he lived up to that ranking. He is clearly a 5-Star defensive tackle that is very balanced against the run and pass. He has great anticipation and a quick burst off the ball. He is strong at the point of attack and at times quick enough to go untouched through a gap to get into the opposing backfield."

"Jernigan is one of the top prospects I have seen all year in any class, and he will be one of the top prospects in the country next year."

Moving North, it's another big athlete that has caught the eye of East Regional Manager Bob Lichtenfels.

Ben Koyack
"Oil City (Pa.) tight end Ben Koyack has been on the minds of college coaches since his freshman year when he started going to camps," said Lichtenfels. "At 6-foot-5 and 230-pounds Koyack has a great frame and his (4.5) speed allows him to stretch the field."

"Watching college football there's a new breed of tight end that is a hybrid type player who looks like a bigger, thicker wide receiver. Koyack fits the bill as well as anyone. He is too big to cover with a defensive back, but too fast to be covered by a linebacker. Three months into the recruiting process and Koyack already holds almost two dozen scholarship offers."

DeAnthony Thomas, Tim Jernigan, and Ben Koyack are Scout's first three members of the Scout100 to be promoted to 5-Stars, but they certainly won't be the last.

Next week, Scout releases an additional 500 player names to create the Scout300 watch list for the Class of 2011. Stay tuned as Scout.com continues to keep you ahead of the action.

Questions or Comments, please visit us on the Scout.com Recruiting Message Board.

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