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June 3, 2004When you put a puzzle together there comes a certain point where you can start to see the whole big picture even though there are still many pieces left to be put in place.
With the final five-star rankings unveiled and the Rivals100 stretching to the nation's top 30 players, it's easy to see that offensive tackle, defensive tackle and linebackers appear to be the strongest positions for the Class of 2005.
What's also glaring is that after a year of incredible quarterback talent, the number of high-level quarterbacks looks to be down.
Rivals.com released the national top 10 on Tuesday and then followed it up on Wednesday with the release of No. 11 through 20. Thursday the list expands to 30 with Nashville (Tenn.) Goodpasture receiver Patrick Turner leading the way at no. 21 on the Rivals100.
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Turner is simply known as "The Freak" by many college coaches. Guys that big and strong are not supposed to be able to bust off 4.5-second 40-yard dashes and explode and separate from defenders, but those are things that Turner does on a regular basis.
"He has such natural instincts as a receiver." Goodpasture coach David Martin said. "He catches everything with his hands, and they're soft. He can adjust to the ball well while it's in the air. And obviously, he's just a great physical specimen.
"I've had some good players, but never one like this. If you're looking for a guy who can be a difference maker at receiver on the next level, he's it. If you're going to be that type of guy in college than you have to be a true game-changer at the high school level, and Patrick does that in every game we play. He has some really special ability."
He's a basketball star, the nation's top tight end prospect and the No. 22 player overall.
Life is rough for Alief (Texas) Taylor tight end Martellus Bennett. The 6-foot-7, 237-pound Bennett still looks like a receiver with his long and lean frame, but once he bulks up some in college and keeps his play-making skills he'll be unstoppable.
Think a defensive back can cover him? Wrong, because he'll use his size to out-jump them. Think a linebacker's going to hold him? Wrong again, because Bennett has the speed of a receiver but the strength of a true tight end prospect and isn't afraid to use them to make big plays.
"I'm very aggressive," he said. "I guess you can call me a play maker."
If you like big, nasty and hulking offensive tackles then Matt Hardrick of Orlando Edgewater is for you. Hardrick, who is a massive 6-5 and 338 pounds, has been impressing people for several years now, earning all-state honors as a junior, but he took another big step forward with a memorable performance at the Miami NIKE Training Camp.
In the one-on-one drills at the camp, Hardrick showed remarkable ability to move his feet for a big guy. When he locked in on a defender, it was game over, because he would simply use his size and strength to overpower his opponent.
"Matt's got the size and feet and explosiveness that everybody's looking for," Edgewater coach Bill Gierke said.
"He's got the long arms that coaches love. He's equally good at run blocking or pass protection. But the biggest thing is, when you coach big guys in high school, a lot of times those real big guys are not that aggressive because they're still growing and their bodies are a little awkward. They get tired easy. This kid doesn't get tired. He's got a real mean streak to him, and he gets after people."
All of that put together earned Hardrick the nation's No. 23 ranking from Rivals.com.
The Peach State always seems to produce high quality defensive players and with five-star linebacker Tray Blackmon already earning national top 20 honors, he's joined by Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County defensive tackle Kyle Moore at No. 24.
Moore, who is 6-6 and 247 pounds, clocked a 4.73 40, 4.50 shuttle and did 19 reps in the bench at the Atlanta NIKE Training Camp. He was a one-man wrecking crew throughout drills and in the one-on-one competition - even though he didn't go undefeated like a few of the other talented d-line prospects did. But seeing was believing with Moore. He looked like he was ready to step on the field right away and when he turns his motor on, there isn't a better defensive lineman in America.
Memphis is home to great BBQ and some really good football talent year in and year out. The best offering this year is the nation's No. 25 player, Briarcrest Christian offensive tackle Michael Oher.
"He's a 6-5, 330-pound kid who can run like a tight end," Briarcrest coach Hugh Freeze said. "Physically, he just manhandles people. He's on a mission to destroy his assignment every down. He wants a pancake on every snap."
The numbers don't lie - especially when it comes from a physical standpoint. Brian Cushing of Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic is a freak of nature. He stands 6-3 and 216 pounds and is able to click off a 4.51-second 40-yard dash and an incredible 3.82-second time in the shuttle. His 120 tackles, 10 sacks and seven interceptions also give him an impressive resume.
Yet it's his ability on the field as a football player that has earned him the right to be called the nation's No. 26 player overall. Cushing has amazing coverage ability and could easily be a safety prospect for some schools with his ability to leap and defend the pass, but it's his closing speed as a linebacker prospect that makes him truly special.
Eureka, Calif., linebacker Rey Maualuga comes in at No. 27 on the list and is the final five-star prospect on the June Rivals100. Maualuga has all of the physical tools that you're looking for in a stud linebacker, including an impressive 350-pound bench press and a 630-pound squat. When he turns on his motor and is motivated to make big plays, there might not be a better defender in the nation.
"Ray brings a tremendous combination of desire, competitiveness and athleticism," Eureka coach Jack Lakin said. "He likes to play the game at a high level of physical play."
The first four-star selection and the No. 28 player overall is Pahokee, Fla., running back Antone Smith. Smith, who is 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, is probably the fastest running back in the nation. He's clocked repeated sub-4.3 40-yard dashes at events, including the Miami NIKE Training Camp.
"He's solid as a rock and has amazing muscle mass," Pahokee coach Leroy Foster said. "People just hit him and then he bounces off of them. He also has great work ethic, and he wants to be in the best shape he can be heading into his senior season."
Mission Viejo, Calif., pro-style quarterback Mark Sanchez gets the nod as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and the No. 29 player overall. With a strong arm, solid size, impressive football knowledge and great intangibles, Sanchez is one of the most complete packages you'll find at the signal-caller spot this year.
Skokie (Ill.) Niles West running back Rashard Mendenhall committed early in the recruiting process to Illinois, so many in the nation don't truly know how special the 6-foot, 190-pounder is. Mendenhall is scary good with his ability to change direction, cut back but still power over defenders with his strong lower body. That combination allows Mendenhall to be ranked as the nation's No. 30 player.
Along with feedback and support from the Rivals.com network of high school and college publishers, the actual player rankings are compiled after hours of film evaluation, personal observations and input from professional, college and high school coaches.
Rivals.com recruiting analysts Jeremy Crabtree, Bobby Burton, Mike Farrell, Brian Gates, Jon Kirby, Bill Kurelic, Tim O'Halloran, Jeremy Patterson, Brian Stumpf, Rick Kimbrel and Greg Biggins compiled the list.