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September 16, 2012

Roundtable: Most physically impressive

MORE: Rivals250 | Eligibility requirements changed

The Rivals.com analysts tackle current topics in the recruiting world in a roundtable format.

Who is the most physically impressive prospect you've seen on the field this fall?

Mike Farrell, National: For me it has been Jonathan Allen from Ashburn (Va.) Stone Bridge. He is much thicker and stronger than the last time I saw him. He still has that great motor and explosiveness that he always has, but now he's much stronger at the point of attack and he can handle double teams better. I saw him play inside and outside in his game and almost every technique a lineman can play and he was dominant.

Rob Cassidy, West: If we're talking about guys I've seen in person, it's Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza cornerback Priest Willis. The high school senior already has the build of a FBS defensive back and looks the part from the moment he steps on the field for warmups. His blend of size and speed is what makes him impressive. Some people, including myself, would like to see him move to safety, but Willis isn't interested in that. He'll be fine playing corner in college, but I think he could be a monster playing inside.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I'm going with running back Derrick Green. Green's 135-yard, two-touchdown performance against Fork Union in an early nationally televised contest was exactly what you expected from the nation' No. 1 rusher. The power back ran over and through would-be tacklers while displaying above average game speed. He showed his physicality early and often, and wore down the Fork Union defense. His running style complements a Big Ten-type offense. I look forward to watching him tote the rock throughout the season and beyond.

Adam Gorney, West: I have not seen him in person but on film and I'll go with Thomas Tyner, the four-star running back from Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha who used to be a five-star. I recently saw some highlights from Tyner's first few games and he's not only built well physically but he runs so smoothly and excels so well. The one question with Tyner other than level of competition is his history of injuries and so far through his senior season he's been fine. Through two games, Tyner has rushed for 584 yards and seven touchdowns averaging nearly 14 yards per carry. If this pace continues, the Aloha standout could put up unreal numbers this season.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: This is a tough call, and my answer will probably surprise. I'm going with class of 2014 running back Mikel Horton of West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West who carried 43 times for 236 yards the night I saw him. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound junior got stronger, ran harder, was more dynamic and eventually wore down the Cincinnati La Salle defense as the game went on. I have seen a number of physically impressive prospects already this season, but Horton's performance at that size really made a statement.

Jason Howell, Southwest: In late August, I saw Sealy's Ricky Seals-Jones in a scrimmage and I have yet to see anyone this year who passes the eyeball test like him. It is not very often you see a guy at 6-5, 220-pound framed the way he is. He has a musculature of a comic book superhero. He was certainly on a different level than the 3A guys he was on the field with and set the bar high for the year right out of the gate.

Is there an under-the-radar team that you hear prospects talking more about these days?

Mike Farrell, National: If you can consider Baylor under-the-radar I would put them right there. The RGIII factor has been huge for them and they are now being mentioned by top players in Texas much more often than they used to be. I would say Maryland is another one to mention, the commitment of Stefon Diggs last year was so big and gave the Terps a lot of momentum.

Rob Cassidy, West: Ball So Hard University has made a recent push. Well, it and Utah. The Utes' move to the Pac-12 seems to really be taking hold. The Utes had a reputation for being the loveable underdog previously, but that was over with the move to a major conference. Still, interest is picking up and players are mentioning Utah more often. They're not a recruiting heavyweight by any means, but you get the feeling that a few big seasons at the BCS level will allow them to compete for more high-profile players in California and Arizona.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: It's hard to consider Vanderbilt under-the-radar at the moment, but the Commodores are popular among Southeast recruits lately. Five-star Jalen Ramsey had them among his favorites and fellow five-star defensive back Leon McQuay is interested in the Commodores. A coach from a prominent school outside of Atlanta told me that one of his top players is hoping something falls through with one of Vandy's committed receivers, so he can get an offer. Usually it's other SEC teams that have recruits holding out hope for an offer, not Vandy.

Adam Gorney, West: I wouldn't necessarily say Utah is an under-the-radar team but one of those schools that is now hearing from some serious prospects.

Three-star safety Tyler Foreman from Encino (Calif.) Crespi and four-star defensive end Joe Mathis are now both expected to take official visits there. That's huge and definitely a change in the past few weeks. Utah already has commitments from California quarterback Conner Manning, who knows how to put up big numbers, and X'avier Shepherd, a possible big-time sleeper who had a great summer. The Utes are getting a lot more attention in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see if it translates into landing some more top players.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: Indiana has to be noted for what they are doing and have the potential of doing. Their home-state boasts an extremely strong crop of talent in 2013 and they have done, and continue to do, a great job getting those prospects on campus. Rivals250 safety Antonio Allen has already flipped to the Hoosiers from an SEC school and four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel unofficially visited for their home opener. It has been a long time since Indiana was in on this many elite level talents.

Jason Howell, Southwest: Baylor has some momentum right now and keep an eye on TCU. However, Oklahoma State is quietly putting together a solid class with Fred Ross, Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman leading the way. Throw in guys like Corion Webster, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Jordan Sterns and I like it even more. My two sleepers though are the Irving duo of Rami Hammad and Jaxon Salinas. Both of those o-linemen are just flat nasty. Then you see guys like Laquon Treadwell and Jordan Cunningham giving them a look. Do not sleep on the Pokes, they are putting together a solid class up there in Stillwater.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: I wouldn't really consider them under the radar this year, but historically Vanderbilt hasn't been mentioned by top recruits in the Southeast. That has changed over the past few years as the Commodores continue to build momentum in recruiting. The key is going to be having some success in conference play this season, to keep that momentum going in head-to-head battles for players.

What position in general has more college-ready players by the time they finish their senior year in high school?

Mike Farrell, National: Lately I think it has been wide receiver and running back. With wide receiver, it's an easier transition because a lot of it is based on athleticism. You can dumb down the playbook a bit for a true freshman and give him four or five routes to learn and, if he's a great athlete, he can make a huge impact. As for running back, if they come in and are willing to block and hit the hole hard, they can be instant stars as we've seen in recent years.

Rob Cassidy, West: Great college running backs usually translate well to the NFL, and the same can be said for the high school-to-college jump. You either can or you can't. Even the best coaches can't teach speed, size or vision. There aren't many intricacies to playing running back. Let's be honest here. The blueprint is as followed: Be strong, be fast, be agile, take contact and run to space. It's not like working with a quarterback on his reads or a linemen on his footwork. Short of some magic elixir, developing ball-carrying skills is tricky. It's not an absolute, of course, but by the time a running back hits campus changing his fundamental makeup is a pipe dream. Blocking is the area that most tailbacks need to improve upon in their first season in college, but carrying the ball has long since become instinctual.

Kynon Codrington, Southeast: In the age of the spread offense you can easily point to a quarterback or wide receiver. However, I feel running backs are generally more college-ready. They tend to have more on-field success right away. I'm not saying it's easier, but RBs can fall into the right scheme or inherit a good offensive line and make an immediate impact. We'e touched on this subject recently because of the hot starts by Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Georgia's Todd Gurley and Miami's Duke Johnson.

Adam Gorney, West: It varies depending on skill level - freshmen are playing tough positions like quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, offensive line, etc., but I think if players have the size and ferocity then defensive linemen could blend in right away. Many top-level high school players are just as big and strong as their college counterparts along the defensive line. If they can battle for spots, show that incredible toughness and be consistent then they get on the field sooner than some other positions that are more technical or where more learning needs to be done.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: We see more wide receivers impact earlier in their careers than any other position, and one reason is because it is less physically-demanding than other positions. While there is some blocking and pushing and bumping that goes on, receivers who can pick up the offense, run fast and catch the football, a la Sammy Watkins, can come in and make an instant impact in the college game.

Jason Howell, Southwest: I'm going to go with running back. I spent the last couple of years in Texas watching guys like Christine Michael, Cyrus Gray, Malcolm Brown, and Joe Bergeron each make an impact right off the bat for Texas A&M and Texas. Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State wasted no time at all making his presence felt and Oklahoma's Roy Finch is another who posted strong numbers right out of the gate. At Texas Tech, Eric Stephens re-wrote Red Raider record books, and on the national level there's been Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson. This year alone in the state of Texas Johnathan Gray, Trey Williams and Daje Johnson have perked the interest of their fanbases and coaches.

Woody Wommack, Southeast: I think we've seen a trend recently with defensive backs being able to step in and play quickly, especially elite level cornerbacks. This year's class is loaded at the position, and with defenses looking to counter offenses that put athletes in space, quality cornerbacks will continue to see time on the field early in their college careers.

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