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January 13, 2009? The final 2009 Rivals100 | The battle for No. 1
Bryce Brown often works out with a black T-shirt with large white lettering that asks one question: Overrated?
After watching Brown at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl, the shirt should merely say, "No. 1."
Brown, a running back from Wichita (Kan.) East high, is the new (and final) top-ranked recruit by Rivals.com for the Class of 2009. He moves up from the No. 2 spot, and is the first running back to be the No. 1 recruit since Adrian Peterson earned the honor in the class of 2004.
"Bryce has good speed and quickness, and is an every-down back," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "He can go between the tackles and still slip out of the backfield and become a vertical threat [in the passing game]. He is special."
Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway coach Terry Smith, who coached Brown and the East squad in the recent U.S. Army All-American game, said Brown was amazing.
"Bryce is the best player in the country," Smith said. "This kid is dynamic. He's explosive. He's strong. He's quick. He has every asset you need in a big-time player."
Brown, who rushed for 1,850 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2008, said being ranked as the nation's best player is a great ending to a high school career in which he has been in the media spotlight for almost three years.
"I've always believed in myself and knew if I kept working hard, stay focused on football and academics and do things the right way, I would get rewarded in the end," he said.
MOVEMENT AT THE TOP
The previous No. 1 was Bastrop (La.) High wide receiver Rueben Randle. Randle, who was hampered by a strained hamstring at Army practices and in the game, falls to the second spot. Foley (Ala.) High offensive tackle D.J. Fluker jumps 19 spots, from No. 22 to No. 3. Fluker looked exceptional in two all-star games.
"D.J. Fluker is the most dominating run blocker in the country. He proved it in performances at the Alabama-Mississippi game and the Army game," Every said. "He's 6-7 and 345 pounds and not even close to being overweight. He already dominates top competition at a position he just started playing [this season]."
At No. 4 is Sheldon Richardson, a defensive tackle from St. Louis Gateway who is the nation's top defensive prospect.
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei quarterback Matt Barkley is No. 5. He was Rivals.com's top-rated player for nearly six months before giving way to Randle in December. Barkley initially fell out of the top 10 because of an erratic senior season. But Barkley showed in Orlando at the Under Armour game why he's the top-rated quarterback prospect and one of the five best prospects in the nation.
"Barkley has always been the top pro-style quarterback in the country in our rankings," Every said. "But he made a move up because he proved all doubters that his skill set and mechanics were the best on a national stage. He has one of the strongest arms and quickest releases in the country. I think his rough senior season has matured him as a quarterback and a person."
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
One of the biggest moves in the Rivals100 was Sanford (Fla.) Seminole athlete Ray Ray Armstrong. Armstrong shot up the charts to No. 13 overall from his previous spot of No. 102.
"I think Armstrong has great athleticism and tremendous upside," Rivals.com analyst Barton Simmons said. "He was brilliant all year. He led his team to the state title and was great in Orlando [for the Under Armour game]. Armstrong may be a safety now, but he could grow into an NFL linebacker."
"Gary had about as dominant of a week of practice as any player on either squad at the UA game," Every said. "He was extremely quick off the ball, and physically imposed his will."
Another newcomer to the five-star ranks is Greg Reid. Reid, from Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes, recently was named Georgia's player of the year. During practices and the UA game, he showed why he's considered one of the country's best cornerback prospects.
One prospect who continues to ascend is Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway cornerback Corey Brown. He could have the best ball skills of any player in the country ? offense or defense. As a defensive back, he recorded three interceptions in the Hawaii-Mainland all-star game. As a receiver in the Army game, he made a leaping touchdown catch in traffic.
Andalusia (Ala.) High linebacker Nico Johnson had been on the five-star bubble for quite some time. His speed surprised the recruiting evaluators.
"Nico Johnson proved he's more than just an inside linebacker prospect by chasing down the likes of [running back] Christine Michael from behind," Every said. "Not only was he the prettiest linebacker on the hoof at the Army game, he was one of the fastest and took great natural [pursuit] angles."
NOBODY SAW IT ALL LIKE RIVALS.COM
Every and Simmons are the only two recruiting analysts from any news media to cover the practices of the Army and Under Armour games.
In the past month, Every and Simmons also attended the practices at the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl, the Alabama-Mississippi game, the Maryland-D.C. Crab Bowl practices and several state championships.
Every and Simmons weren't the only Rivals.com analysts out in the past month. Senior reporter Greg Ladky traveled to Hawaii for the Hawaii-Mainland national all-star game. Industry veterans Mike Farrell, Jeremy Crabtree and Jamie Newberg attended the practices and games of multiple all-star contests, as well.
Overall, there are 33 five-star prospects. Five prospects slipped from five to four stars. They are Lufkin (Texas) High defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland, Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville tight end Logan Thomas, Richmond (Va.) Meadowbrook offensive tackle Morgan Moses, Los Angeles Cathedral athlete Randall Carroll and Oxnard (Calif.) Santa Clara running back Cierre Wood.
"Rankings are a fluid situation," Every said. "Guys are going to move up and guys are going to move down. With these guys, they didn't have great weeks during the practices and games. Their performances just weren't five-star worthy."
WHERE ARE THEY FROM?
Florida leads the way in the Rivals100 with 18 prospects. Texas has the second-most with 12, followed by California with 11, Georgia with six, Louisiana and Virginia with five, and Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania with four.
WHERE ARE THE GOING?
Seventy-eight members of the Rivals100 have made commitments. Among colleges, USC leads the way with eight pledges.
LSU, Ohio State and Texas each have six Rivals100 commitments. Oklahoma has five, while Florida, FSU, Alabama and Georgia have four, and Miami, Notre Dame and North Carolina each have three.