-- Another recruiting cycle is now coming to an end, which means the final ESPN 300 is now in place for the 2014 class. There have been lots of ups and downs and more movement possibly than we have ever had before. The high school playoffs and all-star season have now concluded and have provided our staff with a final conclusion as we head toward national signing day on Feb. 4. We don't know if there has been a year in which each of the top three prospects in the ESPN 300 could legitimately be the No. 1 overall player. RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine) is 1A, CB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Catholic) is 1B and OT Cam Robinson (West Monroe, La.) is 1C, and quite honestly you could shuffle them all up and feel good about the high probability of success for all.
As is always the case, recruiting is a marathon, not a sprint. So is the evaluation process. We take a slow and steady approach over time and do our best not to make quick judgments on prospects when it is early on in the process. We want to let things unfold and then live with it after it has been scrutinized over time. This is our process and we take it seriously. We hope you have enjoyed this class as much as we have. It's a good one. Below are some movers and shakers within the final edition of the ESPN 300. Enjoy!
Movers and Shakers
Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) New into top 10
This new ranking was only a matter of time, as we wanted to see how Brown stacked up against some other top corners and wide receivers at a padded, full-contact event. Brown more than delivered during the week of the Under Armour All-America Game. He is a rare blend of size, speed, strength, explosiveness and instincts. More importantly, he is a competitor who is very hard on himself. He has a high probability for success at the next level and beyond.
Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate) New five-star
Tabor recently made news for quickly changing his commitment from Arizona to Florida, but it's his ability on the field that has him moving up to five-star prospect in this final ESPN 300. This is a defensive prospect with the size (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) to play safety, but he is athletic enough to stay at cornerback. He runs well for his size, and with his height and length, he can match up with bigger receivers. He can also be physical and is a good open-field tackler and can come up to set the edge on run support. This is a big, versatile and athletic perimeter player we feel deserving of a bump up and that fifth star.
Bo Scarbrough (Bradenton, Fla./IMG) New five-star
Scarborough earned his fifth star and top-15 ranking based off of freakish athleticism alone. We found ourselves debating what to do with him from a positional standpoint, but when it comes right down to it who cares what position he plays? He's that good. He could legitimately be an impact player at more than one position on both sides of the ball. There are very few prospects you can say that about.
Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) New No. 1 QB-PP
Perhaps the biggest reason Allen jumped into the No. 1 pocket passer spot was because he likes to compete and prove himself at every turn. Are there QBs in this class who are bigger and more physically gifted? Yes. However, Allen continues to impress with his knowledge of the game, attention to detail, work ethic and willingness to compete on a national platform whenever possible. We respect that and feel it's the intangibles that make the man when it comes to Allen.
Sean White (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School) New into 300, No. 2 QB-PP
Many of the same comments made about Allen can be applied to White, who makes perhaps the biggest jump ever from not rated in the ESPN 300 to the No. 2 QB-PP in the class. White has had to earn it the hard way by constantly proving his worth and not being afraid of competition. He is sharp and accurate and a better athlete than he gets credit for. He also has a bigger arm than Allen. Auburn must do everything it can to hold onto White down the stretch and set itself up at QB over the next five to six years.
Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkview) No. 2 QB-DT
There is no better natural arm talent in this class than Harris. He jumps to the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback not only because of his talent, but his ceiling for development may the best this class has to offer. He works very hard to be good and may not realize just how physically talented he is overall. Devoting himself to the game in the film room will be critical to maximize his talent level. He's the real McCoy who is a passer that happens to be a good athlete.
Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) New into top 50
We know Sims does not run great, but he has all the other tools and he loves to compete. He possesses some of the best ball skills and body control of any receiver in this class and he is ultra-athletic when the ball is in the air. He will also surprise you a little after the catch. When it comes down to it, Sims makes plays and attacks the football. He relishes jump-ball situations because he has tremendous confidence in his focus and hands. Expect Sims to develop into a go-to guy in clutch situations.
Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) No. 87 to No. 51
This is a prospect whose best football is still ahead of him. A big man with a basketball background, Holley picked up football his junior year and has quickly taken to the game. The Penn State commit is a big, strong and agile D-tackle who can be a tough and disruptive presence in the trenches. His lack of experience was not glaring during Under Armour All-America week, as he once again proved he has a good feel for the game and is among the top DTs in the 2014 class. Between his natural ability, quick study and his room for continued growth as a player, Holley made a nice jump to No. 51 in the final ESPN 300.
Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala.) No. 84 to No. 52
The top uncommitted outside linebacker has made several moves up the ESPN 300 throughout the process, and in the final update he checks in just outside the top 50. An explosive and athletic player, Evans projects to OLB but has predominantly played with his hand down at D-end in high school. After watching him compete at the linebacker position over the course of Under Armour All-America week, Evans displayed some feel for the position and the ability to make a fairly quick and smooth transition. There is still room for improvement with his lack of experience, but with his ability to still be a fine defensive end if needed as well as seeing him perform well at his projected position, we felt he deserved another jump up in the rankings.
Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala.) New into top 100 at No. 71
Clark sees a big jump due to his ability to quickly adapt to playing outside linebacker after lining up all over the place in high school -- not only on defense but on offense, as well. He is an oversized safety with instincts. He can run and plays with a rugged, physical attitude. He is going to continue to grow and develop physically into a Nico Johnson-type over time. He has a bright future once he settles in at one position, and we feel it will be linebacker.
Jeff Jones (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn) No. 181 to No. 137
For Minnesota's sake, you hope Jones sticks around because the Gophers don't currently have a player like him on the roster. Jones has proven his worth over and again, and not just as a running back. He can also be a receiver out of the backfield. He is a gliding galloper who is a bit faster than you might think. He is capable of being a load carrier and not having to come off the field on passing downs. Don't be surprised if he plays right away if he signs with Minnesota.
Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure) New No. 1 TE-H
The USC commit has jumped up in the rankings and into the No. 1 tight end spot. Dixon finished the year strong, prompting the rise in the rankings. The four-star has looked to work himself into better shape and demonstrated the big-play ability he had flashed on film in earlier evaluations. With good hands, speed and some ability to run after the catch, Dixon can be as dangerous a weapon as there is in this tight end class.
Garrett Brumfield (Baton Rouge, La./University Lab School) New No. 1 OG
The 2014 guard class is as good as we have seen in recent years, particularly at the top. There was a bit of a shake-up to the rankings at this position, with Brumfield moving up and into the No. 1 spot, but we feel you could make strong arguments for this group to be ordered in a few different ways. The LSU verbal is physical, powerful and athletic and those traits combined with good consistency helped him push to the top of this promising group. While we have a new No. 1, the physical Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Callaway) sits very close behind, and while Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa) fell, demonstrating he may need a little more developmental time than first anticipated, he's still a promising prospect who is now just a few spots behind the top two offensive guards. Trevor Darling (Miami, Fla./Central) had his position switched to OG and while he could still be an effective OT we feel a move inside could be his best long-term fit as he did a nice job at the position during Under Armour All-America week.
Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest) Dropped to No. 55
Gaillard started the process at five-star status but ends it just outside the top 50. We feel this is still a very good D-tackle prospect but after further evaluations felt this was a more fitting ranking. We haven't seen the same type of explosiveness that we initially saw many months ago. The Georgia commit needs to watch how he carries his weight and show a little more consistency in his play. While he may not have shown he can be the disruptive force that we initially thought he could be, he is still a big, strong prospect who can be a tough defender between the tackles. Gaillard may be finishing lower in the rankings, but he has shown flashes and with improvement in areas he could still potentially develop into that player who better matches that initial ranking.
Treon Harris (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) Moved from ATH to QB-DT
Height aside, there is no doubt in our minds now that Harris could and will remain under center at the next level. He has many Johnny Manziel-like qualities both physically and in terms of the mental and intangible traits required to succeed at the position. The game moves very slow for him and if employed in the shotgun, he can flourish. This is a special athlete who could be a nightmare as a dual-threat and who plays with a chip on his shoulder.
Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville Road) New into 300 at No. 289
You just gotta love this guy. He makes plays. He garners the respect of players around him because they see how talented he is, how hard he works and, most importantly, how tough he is. This guy loves to play the game and you need guys like Berrios on your team because he makes people better. He makes your locker room better and he makes plays on critical downs that move the chains and help teams win ball games. You can bet that you better bring your best when competing against him.
Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) New into 300 at No. 286
Diminutive, but electric, McKenzie moved up to a four-star and into the ESPN 300. Quick and elusive, he is also tough and physical for his size. Whether as a slot receiver or working out of the backfield, this spark plug can be dangerous on offense when he gets the ball in space. He is also arguably the most dangerous and exciting return man in the 2014 class. Even if he were never to play a snap of offense, McKenzie is worth a scholarship for his return ability alone as he is capable of creating a big play every time he fields the ball.
Jordan Brailford (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington) New into 300 at No. 300
Brailford was someone we liked very much in initial evaluations and have felt he was an underrated prospect and a nice pickup for Oklahoma State. While we were initially impressed by the tough and active defender, it seems we may have even still had him a bit underrated. Brailford, explosive and athletic with a motor, had an excellent week at the Semper Fidelis All-America Game and has continued to demonstrate to us that he is among the better defensive ends in this class. He may not be amongst the most notable names in this group, but as a good football player, we feel he is deserving of being in the ESPN 300.