By Chris Dokish, PSR Contributing Editor
Earlier in the year, we shared our first rankings of the season and now it is time for our post-evaluation Top 50. During the spring and summer, prospects travel to many combines and college camps to be evaluated in person. Colleges place value on these camps because it enables them to see how the prospects compare physically.
As usual, we interviewed many people to get this list, but we did do something different this time. Usually in recruiting rankings, it’s sometimes difficult to tell how big the gaps are between the prospects. For instance, sometimes a pair of prospects can be five slots apart, but basically have the same talent level. At other times, they could be five slots apart, but are on different completely levels.
So for these rankings, we’ve showed you not only how the players are ranked, but who they are grouped with. For instance, with players ranked 2-9, a case can be made that all are roughly equal in ability. So while we chose to rank them in a particular order, the difference is practically negligible and a case could be made for any different ranking within that particular group. In other words, we agree with anybody who may say that it’s impossible to truly know who the second best player in the state is and who the ninth best player is. But we do have a good shot at relaying to you who the eight best players behind Terrelle Pryor are, even if the order is up for debate.
NOTE: Chris Henderson, formerly of Bishop McDevitt HS, and very briefly Harrisburg HS, would have been ranked in the top 20, but he has enrolled at Milford Academy in New Berlin, NY for his senior season. Therefore, he is no longer in the rankings.
Limited to players with superstar potential who are capable of being an NFL First Round pick someday. In the previous five classes, only five prospects have been at this level. Chad Henne (Michigan, 2004), Dan Connor (Penn State, 2004) and Justin King (Penn State, 2005) will likely be NFL 1st round choices in the 2008 draft. Callahan Bright (2005) has never qualified for college, yet still has the potential to be a high draft choice on talent alone. LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh, 2006) will be entering his freshman season this year and has already earned rave reviews.
1. Terrelle Pryor, Jeanette HS (Jeannette) QB - No use wasting too much time on him since by now everybody knows he is one of the best prospects to ever play in the state. Don’t believe anybody who doubts his ability. He is good enough that even if he doesn’t reach his full potential, he could still be a college star. If he does reach his potential, superstardom is in the cards. As of now, the 6’5” 225 pound athlete is down to a dozen schools, including Penn State and West Virginia, who definitely have a chance, but even though he has never stated it publicly, Ohio State has long been considered the favorite. Florida and Tennessee are other outside possibilities.
In the five previous seasons, 26 players have been at this level, an average of just over five a season. This year there are nine. Fifteen of the previous 26 have either only played one season or have yet to play a down. Of the remaining 11, only four have had careers that have been more successful than average. They are Darrell Blackman (NC State, 2003), Rory Nichol (Ohio State, 2004), Anthony Morelli (Penn State, 2004), and A.Q. Shipley (Penn State, 2004). Morelli and Nichol are First Round possibilities, Blackman excels as an All-American return man, and Shipley should be a high draft pick at center. Notable players who have not lived up to their billing include Joel Holler (Penn State, 2003), Greg Harrison (Penn State, 2004), James Bryant (Miami, 2004), and Andrew Johnson (Miami, 2004). The other three with one last chance to succeed are Austin Scott (Penn State, 2003), Travis Thomas (Notre Dame, 2003) and Kyle Mitchum (Ohio State, 2004).
2. Shayne Hale, Gateway HS (Monroeville) DE - Moving to defensive end this season after dominating as a middle linebacker the past two seasons. It’s a good move from Gators head coach Terry Smith since he knows that’s where his star projects at the next level. At his best, this 6’4” 245 pound physical specimen dominates all over the field. Consistency in his effort needs to improve and maybe being at a position where he can harass the quarterback on every play will do the trick. Ohio State, West Virginia, Michigan and Virginia are the leaders.
3. Brendan Beal, Liberty HS (Bethlehem) LB - New to the list after transferring over the state border from New Jersey. At 6’3” and 238 pounds, he is a tackling machine thanks to great instincts, tenacity, toughness and athleticism. Level of play will go up as Liberty is one of the most talented programs in the state. Can play either inside or outside equally well. Just an old school, tough, nasty football player. Has a 4.3 GPA. Has narrowed his list to USC and Florida.
4. Lucas Nix, Thomas Jefferson HS (Clairton) OT - Giant 6’5” 300 pound lineman and could get much bigger. Needs to firm up body, but that’s not unusual for linemen his age. Extremely agile and quick for his size, plus can move quickly and effortlessly over a distance. Strong, with a great initial pop. Can be excellent as a defensive tackle, but long arms, agility, and size make him ideal for left tackle, and that’s likely where he will end up. Chose to play at Pittsburgh and will join brother, Nate, a redshirt freshman linebacker.
5. Jonathan Baldwin, Aliquippa HS (Aliquippa) WR - Excellent 6’6” 225 size with long arms, athleticism, leaping ability, and hands. Has often been erroneously considered a tight end prospect from various national recruiting services since that is his position at Aliquippa, but no college was ever interested in wasting him at that position. Excellent blocker. Good student. Father, Jeff, played for Pitt, and the Panthers, along with Michigan, are the teams to beat. Notre Dame, USC, Miami, and Florida are also on the final list.
6. Andrew Sweat, Trinity HS (Washington) LB - Highly instinctual at a solid 6’2 ½” and 230 pounds. Strong, athletic and active. Makes tackles all over the field. A real football player with toughness and passion for the game. Chose Ohio State over Pitt, Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida and Texas, among many others.
7. Chris Burns, Wilmington Area HS (New Wilmington) RB - Biggest surprise of the recruiting season, despite being an all-state defensive back and for running for over 1,500 yards as a junior. Most of that has to do with playing in a smaller school in a small population area between Pittsburgh and Erie. Has run a blazing 10.68 seconds in the 100 meters in competition this March, which puts him among fastest kids in the state. Also finished second in the state for the long jump in Class AA. Not big at 5’10” and 185 pounds, but has great leg drive. Great hands. Has the ability to go the distance on every play thanks to his speed and dazzling moves. Runs hard and tough with multiple spins, but always moving and falling forward. Committed to Pittsburgh to play running back.
8. A.J. Alexander, Altoona Area HS (Altoona) WR - High school quarterback that isn’t big at 5’10 ¾” and 180 pounds, but is one of the fastest football players in the country: high school, college or pro. The track star has been electronically timed in the 4.3’s and ran a 10.64 in the 100m, the fastest in the state the past year. Will have to learn to play wide receiver, but in the meantime, his speed will still be a major factor in the return game and on special plays. Originally chose Florida State, but has since changed his mind. Penn State now is the favorite with Virginia Tech and Tennessee also being considered.
9. Nick Moody, Roman Catholic HS (Philadelphia) S/LB - Big safety prospect at 6’1” and 220 pounds. Very active, basically roaming all over the field at full speed. Very good athleticism, speed and toughness. Comes to play on every down. Can be moved to linebacker if need be. Under recruited like a lot of Philadelphia kids, but Florida State found him and he committed to the Seminoles early.
In this level are players that may be missing one small element of their game, as in speed, size, strength, athleticism or the ability to stay healthy. Sometimes a prospect at this level has very little problem overcoming that element and easily turns into a star. Other times, they never overcome it.
10. Hubie Graham, West Scranton HS (Scranton) TE - Tough, scrappy player. Not top level speed or athleticism. Willing and excellent blocker. Workout warrior who the coaches have actually had to lock out of the weight room at times. Recently added almost 20 pounds of muscle and now checks in at 6’4” and 230 pounds. Can also project as a defensive end and he shows good range at the position. Excellent student. High character person who took a mentally challenged classmate to the prom because she was upset that nobody wanted to go with her. Pittsburgh may have a slight edge over the likes of UCLA, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among many others.
11. Mike Yancich, Trinity HS (Washington) LB - One of the biggest benefactors of the college coaches being able to see players up close and personal. Not as big or instinctual as teammate Andrew Sweat, but he is slightly faster and more athletic. Can cover better than most safeties. Not a big upper body, and has to get bigger, but already has very good strength. Currently checks in at 6’2” and 220 pounds. Because of his physical attributes, he could really turn into an excellent college player, especially since at Penn State he will get the most out of his ability. Chose the Nittany Lions over other finalists Pitt, UConn and West Virginia.
12. Jarred Holley, Easton Area HS (Easton) CB - Small at 5’9” and 165, but very athletic and quick. Good, not great, speed but is highly instinctual and advanced in coverage. Displays nice toughness despite smaller size. Excellent punt returner. Excellent student with 4.0 GPA. Very mature. Wide open with Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Stanford, Florida, Clemson, Michigan State, Rutgers and Virginia among his offers.
13. Christian Wilson, Montour HS (McKees Rocks) H-Back/LB - Well built, looking much bigger and stronger than his actual size of 6’ 2 ½” and 225 pounds. Good athletic ability. Has had injury problems in the past. Needs to be tougher. Because he was getting interest at H-Back, RB, LB, and TE, he accumulated approximately 50 offers. Eventually committed to Michigan, where he will first be tried at H-Back.
14. Kaleb Ramsey, Laurel Highlands HS (Uniontown) DE - Very athletic at 6’4” and 255 pounds. Size and speed makes him capable of playing against the run and rushing the passer equally. Excellent physique with little fat. Very long arms. Very good high school basketball player. Turf toe and shoulder surgery has kept him on the sidelines too often and the injury problems are a concern. Raw prospect who has missed significant time with injuries, but size/speed combination makes him a prospect with an extremely high ceiling. One of the more underrated prospects in the country. Chose Boston College over Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and over a dozen others.
15. Chris Hayden-Martin, Greensburg Central Catholic HS (Greensburg) CB - Another player that benefited from the spring combines, he showed he has top notch speed and athletic ability on a 6’1” 190 pound frame. Few cover corners possess such a size and speed combination. Willing tackler but has a habit of standing straight up when trying to bring the ball carrier down. With the graduation of three major prospects, he will now be in the position to shine for the Centurions. Chose to stay home and play at Pittsburgh.
16. Matt Stankiewitch, Blue Mountain HS (Schuylkill Haven) C - Not coming from a recruiting hotbed, he was dangerously close to being overlooked. Luckily for him, his talent wouldn’t let that happen and he committed to play for Penn State. Plays offensive tackle but his great strength, 6’4” 295 pound frame, and good agility leads the Nittany Lions to think he could be a star in the center of the line. Strikes out like a rattlesnake on each and every snap.
17. Cameron Saddler, Gateway HS (Monroeville) WR/CB - In it’s long and storied football history, the state has seen a lot of excellent smaller players whose size prevented them from getting to the next level. A player would have to have to be special to be as small as 5’6” and 161 pounds and still get offers from the likes of Pittsburgh, Michigan, Virginia, Michigan State, Louisville, West Virginia and Oregon. That’s the case with this mercurial player whose 4.4 speed and ridiculous athleticism make him one of the most exciting players in the country. Will be used mostly as a return man, where he has few peers, but could also be used as a slot wide receiver or cornerback. Michigan, West Virginia and Virginia are the finalists.
18. Vaughn Carraway, Muhlenberg HS (Laureldale) WR/S - Lanky 6’2” 170 pound athlete needs to add some weight, but he is long, athletic, and fast. Possesses good hands and running ability on offense. On defense he plays with great range and comes up on run support like he was shot out of a cannon. Michigan leads slightly over Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
VERY GOOD PROSPECTS
This level includes players who have a little more of a question about how they will develop, but like those in the level above them, they could also easily overcome anything and become stars. A perfect example of this kind of player is former Penn State legend Paul Posluszny who was considered a good, scrappy, undersized overachiever as a prospect, then worked himself into a legend.
19. Adrian Robinson, Harrisburg HS (Harrisburg) LB/DE - Pass rushing demon that usually plays with his hand on the ground. Will probably play linebacker at college level due to 6’2” 225 pound size. Very active using his tenacity and speed all over the field. Hits like a truck. Has everything but the grades, which is preventing offers. Former teammates Nate Brown (UConn) and Daries Hodge (Illinois) were top 20 prospects that were under recruited last year before becoming steals with late qualifying score. The same could happen to this top talent.
20. Mark Wedderburn, Cardinal O’Hara HS (Springfield) TE - If you want your tight ends tall, you have to start with this 6’6 ½” 235 pounder. Obviously he has to add much more weight, but if he can retain his good speed, he could be an excellent target. More of a wide receiver now, but doesn’t have wide receiver speed, so tight end is his future. Does not have much experience blocking and is not adequate at it yet. Bottom line, you can’t teach somebody to be tall and quick so many impressive offers were extended with the hope that the rest will come. Brother, Floyd, played at Penn State and the Nittany Lions are the leader. Louisville, Tennessee, West Virginia and Rutgers are some others in the hunt.
21. Quentin Williams, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) TE/DE - Excellent pass catching tight end who makes a lot of spectacular, diving catches. Solid 6’4” and 230 pounds, but must add more size. Willing and tough blocker. Can also project as a defensive end. Started since sophomore season on one of the most talented Quad A programs in the state. Excellent student. Currently wide open with Stanford, Clemson, Rutgers, Boston College, Stanford and Iowa being included in the contenders.
22. Mike Cruz, Bishop McCort HS (Johnstown) TE - Polished all around prospect with a very strong 6’4” 250 pound build. Speed isn’t top notch, but is very agile and makes a lot of diving catches. Tough, nasty blocker. Is currently recovering from major knee surgery so he was unable to be seen in action over the off-season. Committed to Pittsburgh, but changed his mind. Now his contenders include Clemson, Florida State, Illinois, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia.
23. Antwuan Reed, Greater Johnstown HS (Johnstown) CB - Very quick and athletic corner and return man who has been overlooked because he committed to Pittsburgh so early. Only 5’10” and 175 pounds, but tough and aggressive. Excellent hands.
24. Manny Williams, Clairton HS (Clairton) S/LB - Talk about coming out of nowhere. Prior to the evaluation period, he was a small school player that wasn’t on the radar of the big boys. Now, he is looked at as a solidly built 6’1” 195 top notch athlete with speed, quickness, and toughness. Committed to Pittsburgh where he will probably start out at safety, but he has the built to easily add the weight to be a linebacker. Has gotten good in a hurry and doesn’t appear to be close to peaking yet.
25. Ed Tinker, Brashear HS (Pittsburgh) WR/S - The top prospect in Pittsburgh’s City League. Solid at 6’1” and 190 pounds. Good speed and athleticism. Performed well in the off-season. Excellent hands. Strong, fluid runner on offense and a rangy hitter on defense. Projects equally well on both sides of the ball. Michigan State, Colorado, West Virginia, Minnesota, Louisville and UConn are the contenders.
26. Tyler Sands, Boyertown HS (Boyertown) OG - Agile, versatile lineman that can play guard, tackle or center. Good size at 6’4” and 290 pounds. Excellent footwork and mobility. Top notch student with 3.7 GPA. Good strength, but needs to be nastier. Committed to Illinois and will first be tried at guard.
27. Tino Sunseri, Central Catholic HS (Pittsburgh) QB - Doesn’t have great size at 6’1” 190, but is very athletic, smart, and has a very strong arm. Playing at one of the best high school programs in the state so coaching and competition will only help. Good scrambler. Committed to Louisville.
28. David Posluszny, Hopewell HS (Aliquippa) LB - Brother of Penn State legend Paul Posluszny, the former safety has added weight to become a 6’2” 225 pound linebacker. Very instinctual with good athleticism and toughness. Injuries have been a problem. Committed to Notre Dame.
29. Chris Palmer, St. John Neumann HS (Philadelphia) DT - Strong 6’2” 290 pound bull with excellent athleticism for his size. Well built frame with little fat. Raw, but has a very high ceiling. If he doesn’t pan out on defense, he has the ability to be a quality offensive guard. Committed to West Virginia.
29. Jewhan Edwards, Roman Catholic HS (Philadelphia) DT - Very raw and hasn’t been playing football for long, but is a bull strong 6’2” 320 pound nose tackle. Virtually impossible to get him on the ground. Good athlete for his size and can really explode quickly into the backfield. West Virginia is the leader.
31. Mike Shanahan, Norwin Area HS (North Huntington) WR - Long, athletic 6’5” 200 pound receiver with great hands and a polished game. Had offers from the likes of West Virginia, Stanford, and Georgia Tech, but has decided to play basketball instead. Basketball offers include Duquesne, Akron, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Vermont, Siena, Colgate, Air Force and Bucknell.
32. Pete Massaro, Marple Newtown (Newtown Square) DE - Relentless, tough, scrappy end with good athleticism and pass rushing skill. Added size over the past year to get to 6’4” and 240 pounds. Could add even more size in college and end up at defensive tackle. Committed to Penn State.
33. Mike Jones, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) RB/CB - Strong 5’11” 190 pounder with very good speed and athletic ability. Injuries limited him last year so he should have a big senior season. Most are offering as a running back while others see him as a corner or safety. Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse, Miami (OH), and Akron have offered, but a big season could see the offer list get much bigger.
34. Chris Smith, Chichester HS (Boothwyn) QB - Small for the position at 5’9 ½” and 170 pounds, but committed to West Virginia where his great speed and superb running ability fits the offense perfectly. Most colleges were looking at him as a wide receiver or defensive back because of his size, and he excelled at the position as a junior at Cardinal O’Hara HS, but as a senior, he transferred back to Chichester so that he can play QB again. Is a good enough passer and has good arm strength despite his size, but still has the athletic ability to easily make the move to another position if necessary.
35. Geoffrey Prather, Archbishop Carroll HS (Radnor) LB - Excellent athlete with good speed. Very raw, more of an athlete than a player right now, but is willing to work hard to get better. Has worked hard on his size and is now up to 6’2” and 210 pounds. Has a lean and muscular frame with long arms. Very aggressive. Academics could be an issue which hurt his offer list. Decided to stay home and play for Temple.
GOOD PROSPECTS: Small weaknesses in multiple parts of their game, but still good enough to overcome with hard work and determination. Some have excellent potential that has yet to be realized.
36. Tyler Urban, Norwin Area HS (North Huntington) DE - Solidly built at 6’4” and 240 pounds. Good athlete and displays a lot of toughness and scrappiness. Goes hard all the time. Versatile and also received offers for tight end and fullback. Had offers from Pitt and West Virginia, but committed to Maryland to play their Leo position, a combination of defensive end and linebacker.
37. Julian Harrell, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) WR - Strong build at 6’2” and 215 pounds. Strength lets him shield defenders easily. Not blazing fast, but good athleticism. Very productive. Some colleges like him at safety with maybe a chance at linebacker down the road. Michigan State, Duke, Akron, Buffalo and Miami (OH) have offered.
38. Josh Vick, Kiski Area HS (Vandergrift) QB - One of the more intriguing prospects in the state since he was tearing up the WPIAL last year before blowing out his knee. Now healthy, the 6’2 ½” 200 pound signal caller has the size and strong, accurate arm to be a major quarterback prospect. Right now only Akron has offered, but more offers will come once he proves in a game situation that he is back to form.
39. Marvase Byrd, McKeesport HS (McKeesport) CB - Speedy and athletic, he is the star of McKeesport’s vaunted “flex-bone” offense, running for over 1,000 yards and 10 yards a carry. Projects at corner because of his 5’8” 180 pound size. Chose Akron over Cincinnati and Minnesota.
40. Tyrell Harris, Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg) CB/WR - Tall, slender athlete at 6’2” and 185 pounds. Excellent speed and athleticism. Came from a rough background that included gang activity, but has turned his life around at Bishop McDevitt. Syracuse, Akron, and Buffalo have offered but a big season by the Crusaders should bring even more attention.
41. Ahkeem Smith, Liberty HS (Bethlehem) RB - Came out of nowhere last year to star for one of the best programs in the state. Very quick with a nose for the end zone. Not big at 5’11” and 190 pounds, but has good leg drive. Another big season could bring some nice offers, but as of now, he appears to be very under recruited.
42. Shawn Walker, General McLane HS (Edinboro) TE - Strong, athletic build at 6’4” and 220 pounds. Very mobile. Very good basketball player. A winner, he was a key ingredient in his high school winning both the basketball and football Class AAA state titles. Long arms. Frame to add a lot more weight. Excellent blocker. Committed to West Virginia.
43. Ryan Turnley, Hopewell HS (Aliquippa) OT - Very big 6’5” 300 pounder with quick feet. Much more experienced and proficient at run blocking. Looks better on paper and in camps than in games, but big kids with quick feet don’t fall off of trees, so he is worth the risk as evidenced by his offer list. Committed to Pittsburgh over Louisville, Maryland, Wisconsin, Duke, and Georgia Tech among others.
44. James O’Quinn, Kiski Area HS (Vandergrift) WR - Tall, rangy 6’2” 170 wideout with good speed, hands, and athletic ability. Silky smooth running routes and after the catch. Makes a lot of difficult catches. Track star in the triple jump and long jump. One of the more under recruited players in the East with his only offers so far being Buffalo and Toledo. Expect a big season, however, with Josh Vick back to form, and that could give him the offers he deserves.
45. Jermaine Robinson, Brashear HS (Pittsburgh) S - Proof that real players are found on the field and not on paper. Nice height at 6’2 ½” but at a rail thin 160 pounds, much more weight is needed. Not blazing fast or a great athlete, but the bottom line is he still gets it done. Committed to West Virginia over Iowa, Akron and Toledo.
46. Logan Schultz, Gettysburg HS (Gettysburg) DT - Not big at 6’2” and 260 pounds, and not particularly athletic, but he pursues and tackles like the ball carrier said something about his mother. Plays on the end now but lack of height and athleticism should force him inside. Boston College, West Virginia and Temple have offered.
47. Ryan Nassib, Malvern Prep (Malvern) QB - A bit of a sleeper since he committed to Syracuse so early, but he has a nice 6’3” 210 pound frame and a very strong arm. Runs the offense from the shotgun so he has a lot of experience throwing the ball. Committed to Syracuse.
48. Eric Reynolds, Central Bucks South HS (Warrington) RB - Hard runner with good speed. Runs between the tackles despite being only 5’10” and 200 pounds. Very good track performer and has run the 100m in less than 11 seconds. Has hit the weight room hard over the last two years, putting on a lot of muscle and getting very strong. Highly underrated and could be a steal for somebody. UConn and Temple have offered.
49. Corey Lewis, East Stroudsburg HS (East Stroudsburg) OT - Great length for a left tackle at 6’7” and 292 pounds. Skinny frame that can hold a lot more weight. Very agile with quick feet. Needs to get much stronger. Right now, is a project. Committed to Virginia.
50. Breon Phillips, GAR Memorial HS (Wilkes-Barre HS) WR - Another big time sleeper, he has great size at 6’3” and 200 pounds, plus is athletic enough to also star in basketball and track. Deep threat. Very long arms. Highly underrated performer from the northeast part of the state.