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December 2, 2013

Six new five-stars highlight latest Rivals100

MORE: Updated Class of 2014 Rivals100

The latest Rivals100 presented by Under Armour has been revealed, and with it there are six new five-star prospects and one losing that coveted status. While there aren't as many huge moves as there have been in the past, the addition of six new prospects to the five-star list is a big number for this time of year.

Oxford, Ala. running back Racean "Roc" Thomas leads the new group and makes the biggest move among the new five-stars, jumping 45 spots to No. 12 overall.

"Last year at this time we added four new five-stars and subtracted none to bring us to 26," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell. "We're at 28 now heading into our final evaluation period, so this could be a year where we have more than usual. But you also have to keep an eye on some current five-stars who could lose that status. I think the running back position, with the addition of 'Roc' Thomas, is the position to watch. We have six five-stars at the position now, and my assumption is that some of them won't live up to the billing against the best of the best. We'll see."

As for Thomas, Farrell sees a perfect fit for Auburn.

"He's going to be perfect for what Gus Malzahn does there," said Farrell of the Tigers pledge. "He's great in space, he hits the hole hard and he has big-play ability. His senior season was outstanding."

Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington agrees.

"Thomas earned the coveted fifth-star with his gutsy senior campaign that saw him rush for 1,854 yards on 181 carries and 29 touchdowns. He rushed for 185 yards per game at over 10-yards a clip coming off some nagging injuries that slowed him down over the spring and early summer," said Kodrington. "His combination of power running and home run ability could give Malzahn a nice replacement for the departing Tre Mason."

An Alabama commitment, athlete Bo Scarbrough of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, rises 18 spots and checks in right behind Thomas at No. 13 and is a newly minted five-star as well.

"He's a beast and he runs low and with good body lean despite his size," said Farrell. "He'll run past you or over you, and he could play running back, H-back, tight end, wide receiver or linebacker in college. He's a freak athlete, probably the most impressive physically since Colt Lyerla back in 2011."

[ THE LIST: Updated Class of 2014 Rivals100 ]

Codrington is also impressed.

"Scarbrough transferred to the IMG Academy from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and he didn't miss a beat playing against some top teams in the Sunshine State such as Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian and Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic," Codrington said. "In fact, he looked more like a complete back as opposed to just a one-cut runner with good size. During his senior season he ran for over 1,200 yards and had 19 total touchdowns despite missing some time. He is listed at athlete for a reason, because he has the tools to be a premier wideout in college if he shifts over from running back. His athleticism combined with his size makes him five-star caliber prospect."

The next two new five-stars are both two-way stars for their teams and both remain uncommitted. Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp wide receiver Josh Malone moves up 10 slots to No. 20 overall, while Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John "JuJu" Smith moves up four slots to No. 22 overall.

"Malone is a terrific receiver who is a long-ball threat but can also move the chains," Farrell said. "I also like the fact that he plays defense and is a physical kid, and he's a special teams guy; he just does everything well.

"JuJu Smith could play offense or defense in college, but I love his instincts on defense and the way he closes on the football. I think that's his strength."

Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack has been pushing for Malone, who will announce his decision between Tennessee and Clemson on Wednesday, as a five-star for a while.

"Josh Malone is a guy who has proven his ability in pretty much every aspect of the evaluation world, whether it be camps, combines or all-star events, he's shown that he's one of the top receivers, if not the top wide receiver, in the country," Wommack said. "This fall he put what we've seen during the offseason together on the field, leading his high school to historic heights while playing offense, defense and special teams."

As for Smith, Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney saw something in him during the summer that carried over during this season.

"Smith has been spectacular all season, not only at safety but also at wide receiver and running back. I saw Poly in two big games this season, and when his team needed a big play on offense or defense he came through and made it happen," said Gorney. "After some strong summer performances we considered moving JuJu to five-stars, but we waited and he proved he's worthy of those accolades during his senior season. He has special-play ability at three positions and he's a super athlete. Most likely he will play safety in college, but if he needs to move to offense he's almost equally as special there and can provide a spark when it's needed."

The last two new five-stars are both weakside defensive ends, and both moved ahead of Norcross, Ga., end Lorenzo Carter at the position. Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington star Chad Thomas and Arlington (Texas) Martin standout Myles Garrett both earned the fifth star with outstanding play this season, while Carter fell 35 slots to No. 48 and lost his fifth star.

"It's always tough to drop someone from five-star status, but it happens every year to many prospects," said Farrell. "With Carter, I think people knew about him this year while he snuck up on many as a junior. He has outstanding potential, but he hasn't taken the next step physically that we expected."

Wommack, who handles Georgia amongst other states, concurred.

"Lorenzo is a unique athlete, there's no doubt about that, but we continue to have concerns about where exactly he'll play at the next level. He struggled in several marquee match ups this season at defensive end, but he has some work to do before he's considered an elite linebacker," said Wommack. "Whichever school lands him is still getting a guy with tremendous upside, but his regression during his senior season likely means his ceiling isn't as high as we once thought."

As for Chad Thomas and Garrett, Farrell was impressed with both for different reasons.

"With Thomas, this is a kid who plays with an edge and aggression. He was playing defensive tackle for the most part and always got a push and pursued well down the line. That, along with the pass rushing ability we saw this summer, really impressed me," Farrell said.

"Garrett has tremendous moves on the outside and keeps linemen guessing, but he's also stout at the point of attack and can hold the edge. He could play either end position and could hold his own inside as well."

Chad Thomas, a Miami commitment, moved up 26 slots to No. 26 overall, and Codrington has seen why as much as anyone.

"Thomas has been a force all season long, and he hasn't pressed when facing double teams or with the action flowing away from him. We've been impressed with his ability to slide down to play defensive tackle and hold his own against bigger opponents," Codrington said. "He has notched 57 tackles, eight sacks and one forced fumble as a senior. He plays with a flat back and doesn't fire off the ball too high. In addition to his speed he understands playing with proper alignment."

As for Garrett, the Texas A&M commitment jumped up 15 slots to No. 27 overall. Rivals.com Midlands recruiting analyst Jason Howell loves his game.

"Over the last few years, Garrett has shown he has some special tools, but during his senior season he took his play up another notch," Howell said. "He played with a high motor and improved technique in 2013. The improvement along with his natural athleticism and strength was hard to ignore. He is a guy who projects as a top end weakside defensive end, but he also has the ability to be a factor in several spots on defense, and do so very early in his college career."

In addition to the new five-stars, there were a few big movers in the Rivals100 with four of them from the state of Florida. Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby linebacker Jacob Pugh, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris, Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee defensive tackle DeMarcus Christmas and West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman wide receiver Travis Rudolph all moved up more than 30 slots. Codrington breaks down all four.

[ THE LIST: Updated Class of 2014 Rivals100 ]

"Pugh is effective as a rush end from a two-point stance. His size creates mismatches for slow tackles when he comes off the edge," Codrington said of the Florida State commitment who moves up 156 spots to No. 70. "He tallied 64 tackles, nine sacks, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries for Godby during his senior year and was all over the field.

"Harris is the son of a coach, and it shows on Friday nights. His command of the offense and reading defenses is second nature to him. It's a big reason why he has thrown for 1,933 yards and 26 touchdowns against three interceptions in addition to 489 yards rushing and 8 scores," Codrington said of Harris, another FSU commitment who jumps 61 slots to No. 66 overall. "It's easy to get caught up in the numbers, but at the end of the day Harris is all about winning. He is 39-2 as a starter with one Class 4A state championship and a runner-up finish in Class 3A as a sophomore."

"Christmas put together a solid final season. His sack total doesn't reflect the type of impact he has on a game. At 6-foot-3, 285-pounds he moves exceptionally well for a player his size thus allowing him to get penetration. He registered 34 tackles, eight for loss, two sacks and 19 quarterback hurries this season," Cordrington said of Christmas, yet another FSU commitment who moves up 35 slots to No. 97 overall. "Again his sack and tackle for loss total was down from his junior year, but the future Seminole had game plans designed to neutralize him with double teams. Despite his dip in numbers he had almost 20 QB hurries and showed a knack to rush the passer from the interior."

"Rudolph continues to show why he is one of the top receivers in the Southeast. He ended his season with almost 1,700 all-purpose yards to go with 17 total touchdowns. He snagged 63 passes for 1,237 yards and 15 scores. On defense he posted 20 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble," Codrington said of the uncommitted wideout who moved up 35 slots to No. 42 overall. "He runs precise routes and knows how to get separation consistently."

Finally, a linebacker, running back and wide receiver round out the prospects that made jumps of 20 or more either within or into the Rivals100.

"Rashaan Evans is a hybrid defensive end/outside 'backer that knows how to get after the quarterback," Codrington said of the Auburn, Ala., linebacker who moves up 26 slots to No. 69 overall and remains uncommitted. "Through fourteen games he has racked up 16 sacks to go with 18 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He has also chipped in on offense rushing for seven touchdowns and hauling in three scoring strikes. Evans has helped his team to a 13-1 record and a berth in the Class 6A state championship game."

Running back Royce Freeman from Imperial, Calif., is committed to Oregon and moved up 35 slots to No. 58 overall.

"Freeman is one of the best physical specimens in all of high school football," Gorney said. "At 6-foot and 227 pounds, Freeman is not only a physical force through the line, but he can get to the outside and run by defenders. During the summer, he looked like a bodybuilder who played football, that's how impressive he looks without pads on. On Friday nights, he cannot be tackled by only one person and he has the speed to break big runs. Imperial doesn't play the best competition, but Freeman still ran for 2,824 yards with 41 touchdowns this season. He averaged more than a first down per carry. That says something especially when everyone knows the ball is going to him."

Wide receiver Trey Quinn, an LSU commitment from Lake Charles, La., moved up 35 slots to No. 76 overall.

"Quinn may have been knocking down national and state receiving records left and right, but his production is only part of the story," Howell said. "Of course it is easy to see he is as reliable as receivers get with big, soft hands, and it is safe to say if he can put a hand on it, chances are he is going to come down with the ball. However, do not be fooled into thinking he is just some precise route running, sure-handed chain-mover. He is also a tremendous athlete, who is capable of stretching the field and being a big-play threat."



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