Fournette could well be the top guy -- there is a reason, after all, why the consensus has him at No. 1. His combination of size, speed, and vision made him difficult to stop at the high school level, and those attributes could allow him to make an immediate impact at LSU. Fournette ran for more than 1,800 yards as a senior at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. He also finished the year with 745 receiving yards.
He's frequently referred to as the next Adrian Peterson, and he counts Lil Wayne as a fan.
During a recent track meet, the St. Augustine star posted a 100m time of 10.68, absolutely elite for a running back of his size, which gives him the speed to break long runs to the outside -- he's not just a downhill, between-the-tackles runner.
As a result, arm tackle attempts are not nearly enough at the high school level to bring down Fournette, in part because he does a good job in traffic of getting low and behind his pads to present the smallest possible tackling surface, a key trait to possess for a tall running back. Whether low of high, it's extremely difficult to bring him down, a big part of the reason why he scored a touchdown roughly once every six touches as a junior.
A case can also be made for Arlington (Texas) James Martin High School defensive end Myles Garrett, a Texas A&M commit. Garrett is coming off a monster year in which he made 39 tackles for loss, including 20.5 sacks. He significantly affected a lot of games (including the one against Weatherford in which he recorded 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt) with his superior ability to beat opposing offensive lines. He is widely considered the top recruit in the state of Texas, which automatically puts him in the discussion for top recruit nationwide.
When coaches talk about passing the eyeball test, sometimes they mean looking a prospect in the eyes and seeing if they make eye contact.
Then there's the other eye test, the one that can earn prospects offers before college coaches even see their film.
In that latter test, there's no question that Garrett grades high in the 90th percentile.
At 6'4 and around 240 chiseled pounds, the Arlington defensive end is one of those players who looks physically capable of stepping onto a college campus and contributing right away. As a high school junior.
Well, he pretty much looked like that as a sophomore, too.
Cameron Robinson and Da'Shawn Hand
Two other elite prospects are headed to the SEC, both of them to the Crimson Tide: offensive tackle Cameron Robinson and defensive end Da'Shawn Hand.
Hand is coming off a prolific career at Woodbridge High School in Virginia, where he racked up well over 50 sacks in four years. Hand's size and agility will help him transition to the college level without too much difficulty, and he might be an early contributor on an Alabama defense that wasn't quite up to established Nick Saban standards in 2013. He's a unique character for a blue-chip football recruit, saying he picked Alabama in part because of its civil engineering program.
Recruiting analyst Bud Elliott praises Hand's speed and quickness, made all the more impressive by his 250-pound frame:
Hand is special because of his size and speed combo. At 6'5 and 250 pounds, he has excellent length and the frame to add a lot of good weight. Hand could potentially play at 280 pounds. Playing at 280 pounds as a 4-3 defensive end isn't all that out of the ordinary, but being able to do so with the incredible quickness makes Hand quite rare indeed.
Hand's highlight tape is excellent because on many of the clips, he is in the backfield before the opposing offensive lineman is even out of his stance.
Early-enrollee Robinson already has the frame for his position, and he hasn't even needed a college strength and conditioning program to get there. At 6'7 and 335 pounds, he is more than physically ready to compete in the SEC, which is good news for the Tide considering they have a left tackle to replace.
Essentially, Robinson is a high-level college tackle playing high school football. He is 6'5, 325 pounds and controls his massive frame like a player ten years his senior. When I first saw Robinson, I thought he had to be much older than the typical high school senior. But he's not -- he turned 18 during his senior season.
Robinson is a prototype left tackle. He understands positioning, space, and angles, and I was very impressed by his ability to sit down and not overextend himself in pass protection. He maintains his balance and can quickly adjust.
One of the best in the 2014 class did escape the clutches of the SEC: Jabrill Peppers is committed to sign with Michigan, where he could become an early contributor on either side of the ball.
He has the athleticism to play defensive back or running back, and he played on both sides at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey. He racked up big rushing numbers during his career there, and also picked off four passes in both 2012 and 2013.
A man of Peppers' size should not be able to turn and run like he can with the smoothness that he shows. His ability to accelerate at 200-plus pounds is excellent. His top-end speed is also quite good. Peppers has explosive vertical skills, which paired with his height and length, make him a big asset in the red zone.
And he's capable of doing things like this:
All of these players have outstanding track records, which is what makes separating them so difficult. After a few years of college, one of them might become the obvious MVP from this recruiting class, but for now, it's anybody's guess.