March 26, 2011

Breaking down the LSR: 11-20

The latest Lone Star Recruiting for the Class of 2012 is out, but we're still at a point in the evaluation process when an education of sorts still needs to take place throughout the list - from No.1 through No.100. Therefore, for the next two weeks we'll go through the entire top 100 list and do exactly that - introduce the players to you. Today we'll take a look at the players that make up No.11-20 on the list:

20. Matt Davis - (Quarterback/Klein Forest)

2010 had a little bit of good and a little bit of bad news for the 6-2, 205-pound Davis. If we start with the bad, Davis lost almost all of his junior season because of a right ACL tear. The good news is that Davis had already established himself as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country as a sophomore and his recruiting stock hasn't taken a hit because of the injury. Before the injury, Davis was one of the top run-threats at the quarterback position in the state, having rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore. His open field running skills are top-shelf because of his ability stop and start on the move and he's got the speed to take it the distance when he gets through the second-level of the defense. Assuming his injury isn't a major issue moving forward, there's no questioning his playmaking skills as a runner. As a passer, Davis is a bit of a project and the missed reps from the 2010 season make it tough to properly evaluate him. If we go off of sophomore video, the arm strength is fine, but his ability to deliver the ball in the pocket is a question mark. Of course, his ability to throw on the move is a plus, but he needs a good coach to help get rid of some of his bad habits. It's also possible that he's going to be a wide receiver or defensive back at the next level because his athleticism possibly projects a couple of places if the quarterback development doesn't happen.

Player he reminds me of: Russell Shepard (LSU - 2009)

Current offers: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas A&M

Current LSR Rating: 5.8

Previous ranking: 11

Highest ranking: 8 (8/26/10)

Debut ranking: 12 (3/30/10)

19. Timothy Cole - (Linebacker/Brenham)

One of the dangers of trying to evaluate sophomores is that there are times when they just don't make the kind of progress from year to year that would allow them to truly emerge as elite-level prospects. Yeah, that wasn't a problem for the 6-3, 210-pound Cole, who went from a good, but raw athlete/player as a sophomore to a difference maker as a junior. As a sophomore, you could see Cole's upside as an athlete, but there were times when he didn't seem like an instinctive player, but as a sophomore the green light came on in a big way and you could see the doubt/confusion erase from his mind as he just played a comfortable brand of football. With his size and speed, he ranks as one of the top strikers at the position this year and that raw explosion is what has made him a top-rated prospect. His versatility is also a strength, as he plays inside for Brenham, but there's no question that he runs well enough to play on the outside. If there's anything he needs, it's probably a little polish, but there's no reason why he shouldn't emerge as an impact player at the next level.

Player he reminds me of:Keenan Robinson (Texas - 2007)

Current offers: Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and USC

Current LSR Rating: 5.8

Previous ranking: 15

Highest ranking: 15 (1/12/11)

Debut ranking: 23 (3/30/10)

18. Tim Wright - (Running back/La Marque)

There's been a number of big-time running backs to come out of the state in the last two recruiting cycles, so it's easy for some guys to get lost in the shuffle when it comes to receiving attention, but do not sleep on Wright at all because his near-2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior suggest it wouldn't be wise. At 5-10, 185 pounds, there's nothing special about Wright's physical make-up and I don't know that he has the outright "go" that Trey Williams possesses, but there's not much that Wright can't do on the field. He can break down a defender in the open field as a runner with ease, he does a great job as a receiver, he can return kicks and more important than anything else, he seems to treat each carry like it might be his last and he never concedes a yard. He's one of those guys with five-star game and borderline four-star physical tools. The bottom line is that the kid is a flat out player and a guy you offer on talent because there's not much on the field he can't do.

Player he reminds me of: Herschel Sims (Oklahoma State- 2011)

Current offers: Kansas State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas Tech

Current LSR Rating: 5.8

Previous ranking: 89

Highest ranking: 16 (1/12/11)

Debut ranking: 73 (3/30/10)

17. Derek David - (Linebacker/Rockdale)

The first time I watched David on film it was like a revelation. In a state that has had a hard time producing great college linebackers from the high school ranks in the last decade, here was this incredibly raw, but also incredibly dynamic 6-2, 225-pound kid that oozed NFL upside. None of that talent went anywhere during his junior season because there are times when he looked like Charles Jefferson Jr. , but his overall development of a player didn't come close to matching a guy like Tim Cole and he didn't seem any closer to being ready to play college football than he did 12 months prior. The big question with David is between the ears. There have been questions about his grades, work habits and decision-making for a while, but the recent sexual assault arrest makes him an untouchable prospect for most. What the future holds for David is impossible to know, but he has to start growing up and realize that talent alone isn't going to get him anywhere.

Player he reminds me of: Mike Clay (Missouri - 1998)

Current offers: Alabama, Baylor, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and UCLA

Current LSR Rating: 5.9

Previous ranking: 7

Highest ranking: 2 (3/30/10)

Debut ranking: 2 (3/30/10)

16. LaDarrell McNeil - (Defensive back/A. Maceo Smith)

There's a lot to like about the 6-1, 195-pound McNeil, who has ranked as one of the state's top defensive backs for the last two seasons and projects as quite possibly the top safety in the Lone Star State. Two things really stick out about McNeil - his physical play and playmaking skills. The fact that he doesn't have an issue throwing his body around makes him a dangerous player when you consider his ability to close on the ball at a rapid rate. He's also a guy that always seems to find the ball when it's in the air and when he gets his hands on the ball, he can make things happen. The only downside with McNeil isn't that he's probably not as natural in man-to-man as you'd like to see, but he's not a liability in coverage by any stretch. The size, athleticism and natural skill are there for McNeil to emerge as a standout college performer.

Player he reminds me of: Robert Joseph (Texas - 2006)

Current offers: Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, TCU, Tennessee and Texas A&M

Current LSR Rating: 5.9

Previous ranking: 17

Highest ranking: 5 (3/30/10)

Debut ranking: 5 (3/30/10)

15. Brian Nance - (Linebacker/Euless Trinity)

There's not a lot to dislike about the 6-3, 210-pound Nance, who emerged as perhaps the state's top linebacker prospect this year despite not entering the 2010 season without the notoriety of some of his peers. As a run defender, Nance is a very instinctive player that finds the football and the athleticism/ability to track it down wherever it might be. Although he needs to add some strength to his frame, he's a finisher upon contact and he might be a player that can play inside or out at the next level. The thing that you absolutely love about him is that he's probably the best linebacker in pass coverage that you're going to find anywhere because he back-pedals well, turns his hips with ease and he has flypaper hands to go with great natural ball skills.

Player he reminds me of: Travis Lewis (Oklahoma- 2007)

Current offers: Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC

Current LSR Rating: 5.9

Previous ranking: 20

Highest ranking: 15 (current)

Debut ranking: 20 (1/13/11)

14. Jordan Richmond - (Linebacker/Denton Ryan)

Richmond's game is still under development, but there's nothing to mistake about the 6-1, 220-pound linebacker when he's at his finest because he has the ability to create game-changing plays with his combination of size and athleticism. The thing I love the most about Richmond is that he has great feet and it keeps him from getting caught up in traffic and once he identifies the ball carrier, he can cut, explode and get to the ball as well as anyone in the state. While a lot of guys need to be running downhill to achieve success, Richmond moves laterally extremely well and he has the looks of a player that can stay on the field for three downs. The downside to Richmond is that sometimes struggles to identify plays, will sometimes disappear in games and doesn't play to his skill set every week. That being said, the skill set is big time and if he puts all of the pieces together, the sky is the limit.

Player he reminds me of: Brandon Duncan (Kansas -2005)

Current offers: Arizona, Arkansas, Stanford and Texas A&M (Committed)

Current LSR Rating: 5.9

Previous ranking: 14

Highest ranking: 9 (8/26/10)

Debut ranking: 9 (8/27/10)

13. Kennedy Estelle - (Offensive tackle/Pearland Dawson)

In a year when the state of Texas has one of the best offensive line classes that it has seen in a decade, the best of the bunch if Estelle for a number of reasons - the biggest bring the fact that nobody else in the state brings the near-college ready size on a near perfect frame to go along with terrific athleticism and dominant ability on the field. At 6-7, 292 pounds, Estelle moves around the field like a big cat and when he's asked to play on the move, his ability to effectively block at the second level is impressive. Although his primary strength as a player is in the running game, he's also possesses the feet and skill needed to thrive on an island against top-shelf pass rushers. As he continues to add upper-body strength to his long frame, he has a chance to be an elite-level college tackle with legitimate NFL upside. In all of the years I've been covering recruiting in the state of Texas, there haven't been many tackles like Estelle.

Player he reminds me of: Tony Ugoh (Arkansas - 2002)

Current offers: Auburn, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and USC

Current LSR Rating: 5.9

Previous ranking: 18

Highest ranking: 13 (current)

Debut ranking: 18 (1/13/11)

12. Christian Okafor - (Offensive tackle/Houston Westbury)

Projecting offensive linemen is always a tricky deal, but there are three things that Okafor possesses that I'm a fan of - size (6-6, 300 pounds), good feet and a nasty disposition. Okafor possesses a few flaws, but those three things alone make him one hell of a line prospect. Although Okafor battles consistency issues, he has naturally quick feet and his ability to slide step out against edge rushers is pretty strong when he's playing at his optimum level. The key to him staying at tackle will come down to his ability to manage his weight and maximize his athletic upside. That's easier said than done, but if he succeeds he's got a chance to play on the right side at tackle. If he is forced inside, his strength as a run blocker and the mean streak that he sometimes flashes will serve him well. The raw tools are there and only a lack of focus and determination to develop them stand in the way. I'm a little higher on Okafor than others, but when he's dialed in he can be a dominant player. He's probably one of the true big ceiling/basement prospects this year.

Player he reminds me of: Ian Yates-Cunningham (Virginia - 2003)

Current offers: Baylor, Mississippi State, Houston and Texas Tech (committed)

Current LSR Rating: 5.8

Previous ranking: 9

Highest ranking: 9 (1/12/11)

Debut ranking: 57 (8/27/10)

11. Thomas Johnson - (Wide receiver/Dallas Skyline)

Johnson has carried a big-time rep since his sophomore season when he at times overshadowed BYU-bound Ross Apo as a quarterback for Arlington Oakridge and then as a junior when drew comparisons to Mike Davis upon his arrival at Dallas Skyline. While the 2010 season was supposed to be a breakout year for the fleet-footed receiver, a nasty ankle injury limited him throughout the season and I'm not sure we ever truly saw him at 100% after the first half of the first game of the season. At his best, Johnson is the kind of guy that can take a short hitch from anywhere on the field and take it the distance. In terms of open-field abilities, there might not be anyone in the state that's as good right after the catch at making the first guy miss. What we didn't always see from his as a junior was the ability to explode and pull away from defenders at all times, but his ankle injury was severe enough to rob him of two months of action. My bet is that he'll return to his pre-injury form as a senior and his explosiveness will again prove to be elite. The thing that also cannot be discounted is the fact that this guy is a terrific natural receiver. Johnson gets in and out of his breaks cleanly and his ability to get the football while it's in the air is supreme. While he lacks some size, he'll work the entire field as a receiver and doesn't have a lot of restrictions.

Player he reminds me of:Jordan Shipley (Texas - 2004)

Current offers: Auburn, California, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas (committed)

Previous ranking: 10

Highest ranking: 10 (1/12/11)

Debut ranking: 16 (3/30/10)

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