Led by Tarboro (N.C.) High running back Todd Gurley's move from three stars up to No. 42 in the Rivals100, numerous prospects either moved into the final Rivals100 or moved up significantly within it.
"There is always a lot of movement at the end of the recruiting cycle when it comes to rankings," said Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell. "But for a player to go from a three-star all the way up to No. 42 in the nation is rare and exceptional. But that's how good Gurley is."
Farrell, who saw Gurley at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in early December, came away impressed with his performance that week.
"Gurley is an impressive running back in many ways. He has good size and he has surprising speed to the corner," Farrell said of the new Georgia commitment. "Despite being an upright runner he is evasive, angles himself well to avoid big hits and lowers his pads when needed. He's a can't-miss player because he's such a good athlete that he will find his niche someplace, but as a running back I was much more impressed than I expected to be. He reminds me of five-star T.J. Yeldon in many ways, he's just a shade behind him as far as potential."
Another running back impressed Farrell, this time at the U.S. Army All American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson running back Mike Davis has improved greatly in the last many months.
"Davis is a bowling-ball runner who runs low and with power. He has good acceleration, is hard to get a good hit on and he lowers his head and delivers punishment to finish off runs," said Farrell of the recent South Carolina pledge. "His balance is exceptional and he's a good receiver out of the backfield as well. He had a lot more burst than he did back in the spring and even during the season so he's improving in many areas and he's durable and physical."
Receiving a bump
Sticking with the offense, three wide receivers made nice jumps and all hail from California. Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union receiver Deontay Greenberry moved up 20 slots in the rankings to No. 49 overall.
"Greenberry had more than 100 catches, more than 2,100 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior season. He just dominated every single weekend including in the state bowl championship where he had a diving touchdown grab over two defenders," said Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney of the Notre Dame commitment. "Then he proved to be the best receiver in the Cal State Game and was also impressive during practices at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. Every place Greenberry showed up he dominated with his size and athleticism and once he gets coached at the college level and sharpens up his routes, he should be even better."
Two other receivers from California, Gabriel Marks from Los Angeles (Calif.) Venice and Jordan Payton from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, each moved into the Rivals 100 at No. 87 and No. 93 respectively.
"There has never been a time whether in a game, camp setting or 7-on-7 tournament where I haven't been impressed with Marks' productivity. He is not the biggest receiver in the class but he uses his small stature to his advantage to sneak around the field, get open and then make plays," said Gorney of the Washington State commitment. "He's surprisingly fast and elusive and there might not be a receiver in the class with better hands. What I also like about Marks is that he plays with grit and is out to prove himself every time he's on the field. Never does he take it easy on an opponent."
Payton was outstanding at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"There were some questions leading up to the Army game whether Payton had the athleticism and quickness to be one of the top receivers in the class but he proved that and more during Army week practices," said Gorney of the recent Cal commitment. "The four-star prospect was one of the most consistent receivers on the West squad, showed he could get open and create space and then catch everything that was thrown his way. He had a bunch of nice grabs during practice even with a cornerback glued to him and he proved that on the college level he'll be able to make plays because his hands are so good."
Rounding out the big movers on offense is another West Coast prospect that impressed Rivals.com Florida Analyst Chris Nee when he was at the Under Armour All American Game. Oregon State offensive line commitment Isaac Seumalo from Corvallis, Ore. jumped 44 slots all the way up to No. 52 in the nation.
"Seumalo is everything you want in an offensive guard. He is a talented blocker who understands when to anchor in or when to move his feet to stay in-front of the oncoming rusher," said Nee. "He is great with his hands in tight spaces and athletic enough to move outside and make a block in space. He performed extremely well during his time at the Under Armour Game."
Moving to the defensive side of the football, three linebackers made big jumps including two from the state of Alabama. Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones linebacker Reggie Ragland and Daphne, Ala., 'backer Ryan Anderson, both Alabama Crimson Tide commits, impressed Rivals.com Southeast Analyst Keith Niebuhr recently.
"Ragland is a big, strong and powerful inside backer who mans the middle of the field extremely well. He's a player who at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds looks incredibly good in pads, and is sneaky fast for someone his size," said Niebuhr of Ragland, who jumped 40 slots up to No. 43 in the nation. "He sees the field well, and is quick to hit his gaps and attack. Once he gets his hands on a ball carrier that player is usually going down because of his solid combination of strength and technique. The thing that surprised us most with Reggie was his speed. Ragland is best against the run, but also is very good at sticking with running backs in coverage."
As for Anderson, he impressed enough at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic to move from outside the Rivals250 all the way to No. 98.
"Anderson's ascent into the Rivals100 came largely because of his dominant performance throughout the week at the Classic. In that event, he arguably was even more impressive than five-star tailback T.J. Yeldon. After making the transition from being a defensive end with his hand down to outside linebacker, Anderson got progressively better throughout the season," said Niebuhr. "He has terrific size, great quickness and is extremely explosive off the edge. When pursuing the quarterback, he is flat-out relentless. He also has shown the ability to drop into coverage when necessary. He should be an excellent outside backer in the 3-4 at the next level."
The third linebacker to make a big jump is Charlotte (N.C.) O'Berry Technical middle Nick Dawson who impressed Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"Dawson was the most physically impressive true linebacker at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He has a good feel for the game, he flowed to the ball well and he was good at reading and reacting," said Helmholdt of the Louisville commitment who jumped 43 slots and into the Rivals100 at No. 89. "I felt he had above-average athleticism for such a big linebacker as well."
Two defensive ends made big jumps as well in the final rankings for the class of 2012 with Aberdeen, Miss., end Channing Ward moving up within the Rivals100 and San Antonio (Texas) Sam Houston pass rusher Javonte Magee making his debut.
"One could argue that no player at either the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic or Under Armour All-America Game looked as good in pads as Channing Ward. He's put together as well as probably any end in this class, and has the tools - and the motor -- to go with the frame," said Niebuhr of the Ole Miss commitment who jumped 37 slots up to No. 51. "Ward's greatest asset arguably is his extremely quick first step. He times snaps so well he often has taken a step or two by the time an opposing offensive tackle has moved. Not only does Ward have the speed to get around the edge, but he possesses the strength to provide an ample bull-rush."
Rivals.com Southwest Analyst Brian Perroni was one of many impressed with Magee at the U.S. Army All American Bowl.
"Magee alleviated concerns that he would be relegated to playing tackle in college with his play at the Army Bowl," said Perroni of the recent Baylor commitment who moved up 76 slots all the way to No. 65 in the nation. "He was strong against both the run and pass from his end position in San Antonio and showed a very high motor as well."
Two players from the secondary also made big moves led by Mesquite (Texas) Horn cornerback Devante Harris who impressed Nee at Under Armour.
"Harris had an incredibly good week at the Under Armour All-America Game showing that his size isn't a factor. He does a great job of anticipating the ball and breaking on it. He is good in space or on the hip of the wide receiver and he does a great job of making a play on the ball," said Nee of the corner who moved up 52 slots to No. 69 overall. "He understands when he should simply defend and when to go for the big play. His instincts and athleticism make him very dangerous at the defensive back position."
Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins safety LaDarrell McNeil was the other big mover in the secondary. The Tennessee commitment moved up 39 slots to No. 86 in the country.
"McNeil is a safety all the way but he looked like a corner as he was able to cover the slot receiver well during Army Bowl practices," said Perroni. "He was also one of the biggest hitters on the West squad."
Finally, two athletes who could play multiple positions in college got nice bumps in the latest rankings with Athens, Texas standout Kendall Sanders moving up within the Rivals100 and Baltimore (Md.) Gilman star Cyrus Jones making a late move onto the list.
"I have always liked Sanders a whole lot as a cornerback and he showed why while blanketing receivers all week and recording two picks in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl," said Perroni of the Texas commitment who moved up 25 slots to No. 39 overall. "Now that he is open to playing defense in college his ceiling is incredibly high."
Meanwhile Jones impressed Nee down in Florida.
"At the Under Armour All-American Game Jones was used on defense, but his future is likely on the offensive side of the ball. While he is a bit undersized, his athleticism and explosiveness is what sets him apart," said Nee of the Alabama commitment who jumped into the Rivals100 at No. 79, up 27 slots. "Jones is the type of offensive weapon that teams will want to get the ball to in space and allow him to shake defenders and quickly move up the field."