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August 20, 2013

Rivals250: Midwest prospects make moves

MORE: Rivals250 presented by Under Armour | Mike Farrell with host John Harris on Yahoo! Sports Radio

The Rivals250 presented by Under Armour release in August usually is loaded with numerous changes, especially because the Rivals.com team of analysts has seen so many prospects over the summer. This cycle is no different, with many adjustments following the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour release on Monday.

And there is a decidedly Midwest flavor to some of the biggest changes on top.

Carmel, Ind., wide receiver Austin Roberts, committed to UCLA, jumped 68 spots to No. 102 after showing tremendous speed this summer.

Another big mover from that area of the country is Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood's Daniel Helm, a Tennessee pledge who moved up to the top billing at tight end after a strong performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour in Chicago. Helm advanced 65 spots to No. 110.

"Roberts answered a big question this summer, and that was whether he had 4.5 or 4.6 40-yard dash speed," Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "On multiple occasions these last few months, he posted low 4.5 40-yard dash times that also ranked among the best times at those events. Combined with the fact that Roberts is a big wide receiver at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and that he has a very high football IQ, the UCLA commit's stock is definitely on the rise.

"After an offseason of seeing the top class of 2014 tight ends in the country, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Helm has solidified himself as the greatest receiving threat of the group. He was dominant in 7-on-7 and one-on-one play at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge this past June, proving that even the nation's best linebackers and safeties were unable to cover him consistently."

Sandwiched between Roberts and Helm early in the Rivals250 is another big mover in West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, another strong performer in Chicago, who moved up 28 positions to No. 107.

"Dixon impressed at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, making the All-Challenge team," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Kynon Codrington said. "Dixon has excellent vertical speed, and he was able to go over the top of defenses consistently during the elite event. His ability to get yards after the catch and eat up the cushion of defenders stood out in the deep field. A big senior season could push him into the Rivals100 before it's all said and done."

As always, there were other big advancers early in the list. They included Bossier City (La.) Parkway quarterback Brandon Harris (56 spots to No. 130), Houston (Texas) Cy Falls linebacker Otaro Alaka (48 spots to No. 136) and Miami (Fla.) Miami Central offensive tackle Trevor Darling (32 spots to No. 146).

"Harris continues to impress at each and every stop he makes, and he certainly did not disappoint when we saw him in July," Rivals.com Midlands analyst Jason Howell said. "He is always ready to throw the ball. He keeps the ball high, and his quick release allows him to get rid of the ball in a hurry. He throws a nice deep ball and does a good job of putting velocity on the ball when it's needed.

[ CLASS OF 2014 RANKINGS: Rivals100 - Rivals250 ]

"Alaka was a guy we had not seen a whole lot of on the camp circuit, but he did impress at the Texas State 7-on-7 Championships in early July. He has great lateral movement and was very comfortable in coverage throughout the day. He also looks like he has added some very good weight on his big frame. Add the 7-on-7 performance with what we already know about Alaka, and you have a recipe for a raise."

Codrington said: "Miami pledge Trevor Darling moved up in the latest rankings coming off a great summer in Oregon at The Opening. Darling is a physical tackle who can open holes on the edge with his strength and strong punch. He attended the FSU camp along with some teammates and passed the eye test in drills. The all-state selection is the bell cow who paves the way for Rivals100 running backs Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby. His tremendous ability as a run blocker makes him one of the top tackle prospects in Florida."

Around that area in the rankings are three players who came from unranked into the Rivals250 with big jumps. They are Norcross, Ga., linebacker Kevin Mouhon (No. 145), Lake Travis, Texas, all-purpose back Varshaun Nixon (No. 149) and Middletown, Del., wide receiver Chris Godwin (No. 150).

"With Mouhon, it was a little bit of a course correction," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "He has tremendous film and sometimes gets overshadowed by the other talented players on his high school team. But after seeing players from across the country we know now that Mouhon belongs among the top 250 players in the country."

"It did not take long to find Nixon at the Texas State 7-on-7 Championships," Howell said. "He showed just how comfortable he was as a receiver out of the backfield. He ran great routes and showed some great hands and body control. Throw in his explosiveness and his size, and it is a powerful combination."

Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic analyst Adam Friedman said: "Godwin showed in this rankings cycle that he is continuing to work on his craft and becoming a better receiver. At recent camps, he looked less stiff in his route running and confirmed our belief that he has some of the best hands in the country. Most of the time Godwin uses his big frame to shield defenders from the ball, but it is sometimes hard for him to be explosive off the line. He is getting better in this area."

Moving down the Rivals250, two other big movers up are Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County cornerback Duke Dawson, who rose 74 spots to No. 158, and West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade quarterback Brad Kaaya, up 41 spots to No. 159.

"Dawson has the size and build of a safety to go with corner ball skills," Codrington said. "We had the chance to see the future Florida Gator at the IMG/NFA 7-on-7 Championship, and he was superb when left on an island. Dawson is exceptional in the short area and defending intermediate routes. He is physical in press coverage and not afraid to challenge bigger wideouts because of his lean, ripped upper body. We like Dixon's versatility as either a nickel or boundary corner when he arrives at the next level."

Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney said: "Kaaya did not get a chance to show off his excellent passing skills much last season because of running back Terrell Newby, but he proved this spring and summer that he is a precision passer with excellent technique. Kaaya is the perfect mix of intelligence and talent, plus he has outstanding mechanics, so there is a lot to like about his game. If he has a big senior season, the Miami commit could move up even more in the rankings."

Around this area, three other prospects went from previously unranked to Nos. 170, 177 and 181. They are Portland (Ore.) Jesuit linebacker Joey Alfieri, La Grange, Texas, offensive lineman Zach Ledwik and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School quarterback Sean White, respectively.

"Ledwik has been a bit of a mystery man," Howell said. "He had a great spring that saw his offer numbers increase, and then after big camp performances at Texas and Texas A&M, both offered. Once we finally had a chance to view his tape, it was only a matter of time before he made his way up the charts. He comes off the ball low and fast, and he finishes his blocks well."

Codrington said: "When you win the Elite 11, opportunities will arise, and that's exactly what happened to White. White capped his huge summer with a commitment to Auburn, becoming head coach Gus Malzahn's first quarterback commitment under the new regime. The newly minted Rivals250 prospect won The Opening 7-on-7 tournament, adding to his Elite 11 title. At the IMG/NFA 7-on-7 Championship in Bradenton, he led his team to a runner-up finish in the title game, displaying pinpoint accuracy to go with good arm strength when driving the ball downfield. His mechanics may need a little polish, but he is clearly the best signal caller in the state of Florida and his new ranking reflects that."

Heading toward the top 200 spots, a bunch of other unranked prospects moved into the rankings. Also, Lancaster, Ohio, offensive tackle Kyle Trout moved up 32 positions to No. 198. The previously unrated recruits who moved up are No. 192 Wesley Green, No. 193 J.C. Hassenauer, No. 200 Dyshon Sims and No. 205 Clayton Thorson. Ten other unrated prospects also moved into the Rivals250 later down the list.

"We had a chance to see Green at the IMG national championships, and he looked like the guy who was originally ranked in the Rivals250 in February," Wommack said. "He's got terrific coverage skills, and regardless of size, I think he has a chance to be an impact player at the next level.

"We have been watching Hassenauer since his sophomore year, and the nation's new No. 1 offensive center has progressed each and every time we have evaluated him. Hassenauer has added a good inch or two to his frame over the last year-plus, and that has improved his leverage. Concurrently, his technique is so advanced for a young offensive lineman that the Minnesota native has been able to go out and consistently dominate the nation's best defensive tackles this offseason."



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