As the recruiting "dead period" hits and we approach the first of the year, we felt it was time to adjust the ESPNU 150 one last time before the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 4, 2009. High school playoffs are coming to a close, local state all-star games are commencing and for our television production staff that is responsible for the Under Armour practices on ESPNU, the Burger King Skills Challenge on ESPN2 and the game on ESPN, we must lock down the 150 for the next three weeks so that graphics, fonting and ranking screens can be built in preparation for the telecasts.
Therefore, we felt there were a couple moves that needed to be made to go into the first week of January with a more accurate ESPNU 150.
For starters, there is a new No. 1 QB in the land, and that man is Texas verbal commitment QB Garrett Gilbert (Austin, Texas/Lake Travis). Gilbert also moves into the No. 5 overall spot. It would be hard to imagine Gilbert having a bigger year than he did as a junior, but coming off of shoulder surgery last spring, you could argue Gilbert was even better in 2008. He has now thrown 51 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions on the year. He has completed less than 70 percent of his passes just six times this year. Oh yeah, he's also the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Dropping from the top QB spot is Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei). He did not have the year he expected, but if you have been paying attention we told you back in August that he was not going to have the same help this year as he had as a junior. Thus, his production was down and he ended the season with a disappointing 18 interceptions to 23 touchdowns. What was surprising to us was his completion percentage of 54.7 percent, because Barkley prides himself in being an accurate passer. He moves to No. 10 overall and into the No. 2 QB spot.
This shift moves CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala.) to No. 2 overall, RB Trent Richardson (Pensacola, Fla./Escambia) into the No. 3 spot overall and OLB Manti Te'o (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou) sticks at No. 4 overall.
The biggest jumper in this class is super athlete WR Rueben Randle (Bastrop, La.), who has likely made the biggest impact on his team of any player in this class outside of ATH Russell Shepard (Houston/Cy-Ridge). Therefore, Randle moves into the top 10 at No. 6, and he is a definite candidate for the top 5 and even the No. 1 overall slot before it's all said and done. Randle was responsible for 31 touchdowns, 19 through the air, and he isn't even a true quarterback. He threw just eight interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes -- both bested Barkley on the year. Randle also gained more than 600 yards on the ground. His versatility is in the elite category and all he has improved his stock only by not lining up at wide receiver and showing what an athlete he is.
OT D.J. Fluker (Foley, Ala.) moves into the top 20 at No. 19 with his sights set on a final top 10 overall ranking. This puts him at No. 2 in the OT rankings. We feel he could be another Andre Smith when it is all said and done.
Stay tuned for all our Under Armour All-American practice coverage both on ESPN.com and also on ESPNU as we will be headlining the drills, individual matchups and breaking down the entire week as these prospects and many more compete to improve their status and test their will and athleticism against the country's best overall players.