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May 11, 2011

Four-stars close to making 250

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The initial 2012 Rivals250 was released Tuesday and that means 250 deserving prospects were given four- or five-star ratings. However, there are certainly a few other prospects that just missed the cut that were strongly considered.

Today, Rivals.com releases the final four-star prospects in the initial rankings period. All could have had a case for being included in the Rivals250 and could make the move into the 250 in the next rankings period. In all, 58 more juniors have made the cut as four-star prospects. That brings the total four- and five-star players to 308.

After a very strong year in 2011, the tight end position is relatively down in 2012 with only seven appearing in the Rivals250. However, five additional tight ends have been named four-star prospects including a pair from the West Region in Christo Kourtzidis of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran and Oregon commit Evan Baylis of Aurora (Colo.) Grandview.

"Kourtzidis is a tall, lean pass-catching tight end who is a mismatch problem because linebackers can't keep up with him while he's running across the field," Rivals.com West Coast analyst Adam Gorney said. "He also has great hands and makes a lot of plays because of his speed and breakaway ability. Playing at Orange Lutheran means he's probably getting great coaching so he'll be a step ahead when he gets to college.

"Oregon went hard after Baylis, who already committed to the Ducks, and it's understandable why the coaching staff likes him so much, especially for their offense. He can play with his hand down, block and then break out for a pass, but his specialty is to be on the line and then sneak through the defense and usually find himself wide open behind the secondary. He has a lot of ability and he should be an instant contributor in the Pac-12. "

In addition to Justin Meredith of Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna, a pair of tight ends from the Sunshine State also were awarded four stars. Rivals.com Florida analyst Chris Nee likes what he sees in Kelvin Rainey of Yulee (Fla.) and Laith Harlow of Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby.

"Rainey is a hybrid tight end/wide receiver at this stage in his career," Nee said. "In the right offense, he could be lined up tight to the line, in the backfield as an H-back, or flexed out as a wide receiver. He is very athletic in the open field and does a good job of securing the pass and bringing it into his body. With great size and solid athleticism, he creates a solid mismatch against a majority of defensive options lined up opposite of him. His athleticism is valued so much by some interested schools that they have talked about moving him to the defensive side of the ball as an outside linebacker.

"Harlow is a strong, thick tight end who can contribute as a blocking option or receiving option. He has good feet allowing for solid lateral movement when he stays back as an additional lineman. When he releases and heads down the field, he has good speed and solid hands that make him a big target in the middle of the field."

Two schools saw a pair of new four-star additions on their commitment lists with the latest release. Texas A&M, which was tied for No. 4 in the Rivals250 with five prospects, added two more. In fact, the two were the only additional players in the Lone Star State to be given four stars.

Missouri City (Texas) Elkins center Mike Matthews and Denton (Texas) Ryan linebacker Jordan Richmond now give the Aggies seven four-star commitments.

"Matthews is a true center, playing there in high school. He has great bloodlines as his father Bruce is in the NFL Hall-of-Fame while brother Kevin played for Texas A&M and fellow brother Jake started as a true freshman for the Aggies this past season," Rivals.com Midlands Analyst Brian Perroni said. "Mike Matthews' size is a bit of a concern at only 6-foot-3, 260 pounds but he has a mean streak.

"With Richmond, he comes from a very good program in Denton Ryan. He plays the pass very well and comes downhill to fill the gap against the run. He could earn early playing time at A&M."

Arizona State was the other school to gain two new four-star prospects. Long Beach (Calif.) Poly wide receiver Richard Smith and Upland (Calif.) wide receiver Kenny Lawler give the Sun Devils a pair of high-profile pass catchers.

Many feel the class of 2012 in the state of Ohio is one of the best in a long time. After 14 players from the state earned a place in the Rivals250, four more were awarded four stars. Vandalia (Ohio) Butler offensive tackle Taylor Decker, a Notre Dame pledge was one of those prospects.

"Decker is a huge lineman with a great frame to add good weight," Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell said. "He is a very good athlete who can play with leverage and bend despite his height and who is surprisingly powerful in his lower body. He is an athletic kid who could be a home run in college and beyond if he fills out and develops."

Michigan defensive end commitment Pharaoh Brown of Lyndhurst (Ohio) Brush also made the cut. He too impresses Farrell.

"Brown is a superior athlete who projects as a defensive end at the next level and shows good change of direction, quickness and reads the play well," Farrell said. "He is still raw at the position but has a great frame to add weight, can disrupt passing lanes and pursues well."

Jarrod Wilson, a safety from Akron (Ohio) Buchtel and De'Van Bogard, a cornerback from Cleveland Glenville, also made the cut from the state.



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