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April 22, 2011

Roundtable: Rankings quandary

MORE ROUNDTABLES: April 8 | April 1 | March 25 | March 11 | March 5 | Feb. 25

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

Rivals.com's initial 2012 rankings are around the corner. What player do you think will spark the most debate about where he needs to be ranked?

Barry Every: In general any prospect that is currently committed and ends up being ranked higher by a competing recruiting service ranking. Specifically Arik Armstead will probably be the one of the most heated. He is ranked really high in two other services as an OT; even though he wants to play DE at the next level along with basketball. I do not see him in the same class as a Julius Peppers, who was more athletic and had better body structure. Does he have potential to be a five-star offensive tackle? I believe he does, but only if he embraces that position.

Mike Farrell: I would say Arik Armstead will spark some debate out West since a couple of recruiting sites have him as the No. 1 player in the country and he wasn't one of our first 12 five-stars. Armstead obviously won't be our No. 1 guy, but how high will he rank will be something not only USC fans will be following but also fans around the country. Last year Jadeveon Clowney was easily our No. 1 from start to finish and there was really never a chance he'd lose that slot, but this year there is no consensus and the top spot could change a few times. We'll see if Armstead makes a push for us or if he drops off the top spot for others.

Adam Gorney: That's an easy one for me: Arik Armstead. His ranking has been all over the place and has already stirred up a lot of controversy. If he was an offensive lineman, he would have a serious chance at being a five-star prospect. Since he's targeted to play defensive end at USC and that's where he prefers to play he'll probably start as a four-star with a chance to move up. He has already been the center of debate with other recruiting analysts so it will be interesting to see how Armstead moves in the rankings going forward.

Chris Nee: I can't really pinpoint a player, but I think it will be the discussion over quarterbacks. There just doesn't seem to be a consensus on who makes up the top of the pro-style and dual-threat quarterback rankings. Some have emerged as likely frontrunners in the groups, prospects such as Gunner Kiel and Jameis Winston, but the two positions have a lot of question marks still with regards to who is better than who.

Keith Niebuhr: A week ago, I would have said Cleveland (Tenn.) quarterback Chad Voytik, who I thought all along had four-star ability but perhaps would have trouble getting there because of his size. But after his performance last week in Athens, Ga., where he was sharp all night, I think there will be little debate now. So now, I guess I'll go with St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.. There is no question Fowler will be no worse than a high four-star. But I wonder if he should be considered for that next level. I just think his ability is off the charts. I'm curious to see how my co-workers feel about him.

Brian Perroni: Running back Barry Sanders of Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall is a guy who a lot will disagree on. The son of the NFL legend of the same name, he has been a big name since a breakout freshman season. Several schools have made him a priority target in the class. However, he is coming off a serious leg injury and many wonder if it will cause long term problems. How do you take an uncertainty like that into account when nobody has seen him work out since the injury?

If you could give prospects one piece of advice about their workouts in the camp/combine setting, what would it be?

Barry Every: For a combine I would say this: If you don't feel well or are injured, don't test. Excuses why some ran a bad 40-yard dash fall on deaf ears. For a camp I would tell kids this: Compete like you're playing against your brother or best friend. That usually relaxes a prospect and if you think about it, you never want to lose to your brother or friend, but when it's all over you still like each other.

Mike Farrell: Give it your all in every drill from testing to warm-ups to positional drills, all the way to one-on-ones, and don't be cocky or act like a punk. Two things easily stand out to analysts at these camps, even with hundreds of kids there, and they are laziness and someone who is all talk and no substance. I've been to a bunch of camps this year where I saw kids give up on drills, pull up in testing or slide to the back of the line to avoid reps and they are guys who give the appearance they don't love football. Why show up if you're not going to give 100 percent? And few things turn me off more than a kid who likes to yap at a camp and call out the best guys and then try to make a name for himself by being overly aggressive or physical or simply cheating (holding, tripping, whatever) to appear to be the "winner" of a one-on-one. Talking and not being able to back it up will only lead to you being ignored and labeled as a loudmouth non-prospect.

Adam Gorney: My piece of advice is to get involved in the one-on-one drills. That is a big measure when we're evaluating prospects and sometimes if the top guys aren't taking a lot of reps then it's difficult to justify giving them a top ranking. I love to see high-profile guys get after it and still have that hunger to compete. That proves to me they care more about winning than a ranking and that goes a long way when it's time to evaluate them.

Chris Nee: I would simply tell them to bring their best effort consistently while paying attention to and listening to the staff working the camp. Some camps have former college players and college coaches working who still have ties to current universities. Making a good impression upon those individuals in such a setting can go a long way to opening the door to interest and offers from schools.

Keith Niebuhr: Instead of going in with the intent of catching eyes, instead make it your goal to use the opportunity to improve. How do you do that? First, you compete hard every single drill and/or play. Give it your all because that's what you'll need to do at the next level to survive. Next, listen to the instructors. You may think you know a lot but you don't. At least, not comparatively. Most camp instructors are former players, some of whom reached the highest levels. They know what they're teaching. It's your job to take in that knowledge and apply it. Finally, enjoy yourself. Don't be stressed out trying to show off or show out. Soak in the moment, and let everyone know how much you love football. If a player does all of the above and has any sort of talent, his stock is likely to rise in the eyes of many.

Brian Perroni: Even though coaches are not allowed to attend or watch video of camps and combines, the buzz of a strong performance can definitely impact a prospect's recruitment as word begins to get back to colleges. However, the same can be said of a poor performance. Camps and combine are very beneficial to recruits but, if they have an injury that is hampering them or are simply not in shape, it is not in their best interest to work out. Though less than stellar outings may not receive write-ups in articles and the like, they are still talked about on message boards and other mediums and can negatively affect a recruit. If you are going to participate in a camp and combine, come in healthy and prepared.

What has been the single, most impressive moment you've witnessed at a camp this spring?

Barry Every: Watching Deontay Greenberry, a relative unknown at the time, make acrobatic, toe-dragging touchdown catches at the Las Vegas Badger 7-on-7. He must have done it four or five times throughout the tournament so it's not just a coincident.

Mike Farrell: If we're talking about a moment, it would have to be the catch made by little-known receiver Mike Burke from Pennsylvania at the Badger Sports 7-on-7 at Rutgers. Burke was on a fly pattern down the right side of the field and well-covered, but he got his head around, contorted his body and made an amazing one-handed catch with a defender draped on him while getting a foot inbounds. It was one of the moments where everyone in the place let out a "whoa" when it happened. I still don't understand why Burke doesn't have any offers yet, he catches everything thrown his way.

Adam Gorney: Watching defensive tackles Ellis McCarthy and Aziz Shittu dominate pretty much every offensive lineman other than Jordan Simmons at the Los Angeles NIKE Camp. The competition was fierce but those two guys tore through everybody. They definitely proved they are most likely the top two players at that position in California. Their offer lists are impressive and they really backed it up with great performances.

Chris Nee: I'd have to give the nod to Deon Bush's performance during the South Florida Express tryouts. He played like a man possessed during the first day of tryouts and when video highlights from that event went viral, his offer list exploded. Bush just possesses great length and solid athleticism that makes him appealing as a cornerback or safety.

Keith Niebuhr: Taking in the enormous frame and advanced skills of sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Grayson (Ga.). As far as I can tell, there isn't anything unimpressive about this kid. He's built, he's immensely talented, he's intelligent. Watching him absolutely dominate people during one-on-ones at the NIKE Camp in Georgia last weekend was something I won't soon forget. As good as he is now, I can't wait to see what he becomes.

Brian Perroni: I really enjoyed getting a chance to watch Dallas (Texas) Skyline linebacker Peter Jinkens in pass coverage situations at the Fort Worth NIKE Camp. The Texas commit looked like a safety out there with the way he was able to keep up with much smaller running backs.



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