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July 13, 2005

The First Fours

The Final Four might be in April of every year, but maybe it's time to bring some attention to the first fours. After the Rivals250 on Monday, 10 more players have been selected to become four-star prospects and complete Rivals.com's first release of elite national prospects for the class of 2006.

The battle for the four-star spots - just like on the basketball court - was intense as around 25 guys were considered for the coveted spots. Two corners, two offensive linemen, two pro-style quarterbacks, two outside linebackers, one safety, one fullback, and one more receiver got the nod in the end.

Just like they were done when the Rivals250 was released, the official Rivals.com team rankings have been updated to reflect the players that are four-star prospects. On July 18, Rivals.com will assign Rivals Ratings to each of the four-star prospects followed by an updated Rivals100 team on August 2. Shortly after that the three star and complete player rankings will be unveiled.

The two cornerbacks are both from the Sunshine State.

Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland cornerback/receiver Tony Wilson recently clocked a 4.3-second time at Florida State and he was electronically timed at 4.47-seconds at the Tallahassee NIKE Training Camp. It is times like that and solid play on the field that has allowed him to pick up offers from Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee and Oklahoma. It's also all of those physical things - plus the ability to play at either corner or receiver - that made him a four-star player.

"Tony is a tremendously gifted athlete," Mainland coach John Maronto said.

"He played some wide receiver, some cornerback, some running back and returned kicks for us as well. The weird thing is that he is not a utility guy. He was legitimately the best player we had at every one of those positions. The thing is that we couldn't use him at more than one position at the time."

Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards cornerback Ryan Hill has blown up this summer and after a strong summer camp tour at Auburn and Florida and a good performance at the Tallahassee NIKE Camp, he's now a four-star selection. Hill has offers from Florida, Miami, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Nebraska, Georgia and several others.

"He's a guy that has mental toughness and the desire to be a really good football player," Rickards coach Maurice Belser said. "He has the ability, the speed, the strength and body type to be a good corner. But what makes him great is his mentality. He's a guy we can put out there on an island at cornerback on the No. 1 receiver and he will do a good job of basically taking that guy out of the game."

At fullback, there were three legit candidates that could have easily been four stars - Salt Lake Cottonwood standout Stanley Havili, Mission Viejo, Calif., star Chane Moline and Notre Dame commitment Luke Schmidt. However, the Rivals.com recruiting analysts gave Havili the nod.

Havili, the top player in Utah, is a powerful big back that could be a feature back for many programs but his best upside could be at fullback. He could easily excel in a single-back set and a be a tough between the tackle runner.

"He's got a great body lean, and I've been told by at least 10 BCS schools that he could start for them right now," Cottonwood offensive coordinator Scott Cate said.

Outside linebacker Andrew Quarless has also been named a four-star selection. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound outside linebacker could also double up as a tight end prospect. He is being heavily recruited by Miami, Virginia, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Syracuse and Wisconsin. Quarless was named all-league tight end and defensive player of the year in the CHFL after racking up 50 tackles and 16 sacks as a junior.

Darryl Gamble of Bainbridge, Ga., was the other selection from the outside linebacker spot. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is being heavily recruited by everybody in the Southeast. Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Ole Miss and N.C. State are all battling hard for him.

Offensive linemen Lou Eliades from Ocean (N.J.) Township and Lee Tilley of Springfield (Ohio) South also were named four-star selections. Tilly is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 13 player in Ohio and he's being heavily recruited by some major national powers like Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and others. Eliades dominated at the State College NIKE Camp and could project at either guard or tackle on the next level. He has offers from programs like Miami, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, South Carolina and Syracuse.

Chris Smelley and Kevin Riley - both pro-style quarterbacks - were also bumped up to the four-star level. Smelley has flown under the national recruiting radar screen because he's from a small school in Alabama, but he's got major big-time talent, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound frame and impressive fundamentals. Riley wowed everybody at the Palo Alto NIKE Camp and then also at the EA Sports Elite 11 Regional Workout in Las Vegas. After the workout, the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder was selected to participate in the Elite 11 Camp, which is scheduled for later in July.

Lance Kendricks, based upon solid summer camp performances and a dominating one at the Los Angeles NIKE Camp, is also a four-star selection. The 6-foot-4, 207-pounder is a physical receiver that can go across the middle, but he's also got quickness (4.49 speed) that allows him to be a deep threat. While his name still might not be a nationally known commodity, his game is worthy of a national ranking.

At safety, Oxford (Miss.) Lafayette County star Justin Woodall is considered one of the hardest hitters in the Southeast and with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State it's easy to see that he'll be a heavily recruited SEC-level prospect. Those offers, plus his great play on the field, made him an easy pick to be a four-star player.


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