Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) went wire-to-wire as the nation's No. 1 prospect in the ESPNU 150. With that distinction comes pressure and hype, but Clowney lived up to it, and then some.
"There is no doubt that Clowney is the No. 1 player in this class. No doubt," said South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll. "He lived up to every ounce of it. Clowney's bigger, stronger, and may have gotten faster and quicker. All I can say is that the proof is in the pudding. You look back at what he did and it's incredible. It was an extremely long season and, with a beat up body, he made a bunch of plays in December and January."
It was a variety of factors that led to Clowney holding on to the top spot in the final ESPNU 150.
"Jadeveon Clowney not only plays a premium position as a defense end, but he plays it at a premium level," said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director. "His rare combination of measurables and athleticism, along with the motor and work ethic to be a dominant force, are why he started out and remained as our No. 1 ranked overall player."
Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (New Orleans, La./O. Perry Walker) remains at No. 2, but Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) overtook Christian Westerman (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) as the country's top offensive linemen and moves into the No. 3 slot.
"The battle between the top three [tackles] is a tight one and all three could make a case for being the top guy, but after a year of evaluations culminated by spending a week with all three at the Under Armour All-America Game we felt that Cyrus Kouandjio displayed great ability coupled with arguably the greatest upside," said Craig Haubert, ESPNU's recruiting coordinator. "With an outstanding combination of size and athleticism for an offensive tackle he flashed his ability with some great matchups with No. 1 overall player Clowney. On film and in person he displays continued physical upside as well as promising growth and development as a player."
Checking in at No. 4 is running back Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and safety Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge) moved up to No. 5. Williams jumped nine spots and earned a fifth star. He also finishes with the distinction of being the top-rated prospect from the Sunshine State.
"It feels good to be where I am. I am very appreciative of that," Williams said. "To be No. 1 with this group of guys from the state of Florida is very humbling and it's an honor. First, James [Wilder] was and then Tony [Steward]. I can't believe it. That means a lot [to be] with this group of guys from the state."
Rounding out the top 10 are Westerman, running back Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas/Steele), offensive tackle La'El Collins (Baton Rouge, La./Redemptorist), linebacker Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Menendez) and quarterback Jeff Driskel (Orlando, Fla./Hagerty).
There was plenty of movement outside the top 10 in the final ESPNU 150. One of the recruits who made the biggest jump was defensive end Aaron Lynch (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast), who went from No. 51 to No. 15. He ranks as the the No. 3 defensive end in the nation behind Clowney and Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central).
Another huge move was made by USC-bound quarterback Max Wittek (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Mater Dei). He moved up 87 spots to No. 58.
Other big jumps were made by defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso), who went from No. 82 to 24; defensive tackle Gabe Wright (Columbus, Ga./Carver), who went from No. 93 to 25; athlete Giorgio Newberry (Fort Pierce, Fla./Central), who went from 75 to 27; running back Brandon Williams (Brookshire, Texas/Royal), who went from 71 to 35; and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (Lutcher, La.), who went from 67 to 37.
Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) had a dominant week of practice in San Antonio and a stellar senior season. He moved up 14 spots to No. 17 overall and No. 2 in the defensive tackle rankings behind Johnson.
"Timmy is just a real difference-maker," Columbia coach Craig Howard said. "He got here and was 230 [pounds]. Now he's 290 and doesn't look like it. Once he gets to college he will put good weight on and they will turn him into an animal. He has NFL potential and should be a factor next season as a freshman. This kid is a difference-maker."
There were several new prospects in the ESPNU 150, such as Texas Tech defensive back commitment Marcus Roberson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), Tar Heels linebacker recruit Travis Hughes (Virginia Beach, Va./Kempsville), USC-bound athlete Amir Carlisle (Sunnyvale, Calif./The Kings Aacademy), Alabama wide receiver commitment Danny Woodson (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore), and Hokies defensive tackle commitment Kris Harley (Indianapolis, In./Warren Central).
"Travis Hughes is a linebacker prospect who brings good size and an active style of play to the table and that combination earned him a bump into the ESPNU 150," Haubert said. "Another prospect that made a jump into the 150 is Carlisle. Not only did he move up in the rankings he also saw a position change from running back to athlete. He is a player who can offer an offense good versatility with great hands and quickness, and whether you hand him the ball or throw it to him he can be dangerous in space."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.