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Athlon Sports looks at how the best players in the nation ranked as high school prospects.
Recruiting is the life blood of college football. And the rankings of the these prospects elicit responses both positive and negative fitting of a nickname like, say, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Fans either live and die by star rankings or totally disregard Top 100 lists altogether.
The truth lies somewhere in between — you will find both five-stars and walk-ons on the Athlon Sports 2012 All-American team. In fact, 11 of the 24 names listed below were ranked as Athlon Consensus 100, or Top 100, prospects in the nation.
Here is how the best players at their position nationally ranked as high school recruits:
Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team
2012 First-Team All-American Offense:
Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009)
Ball came to Wisconsin as the 5A Missouri State Player of the Year after rushing for 8,222 yards and 107 touchdowns at Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland. He was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 33 running back in the nation and was a four-star recruit. Ball was the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri by Athlon Sports and the No. 3 player in the Badgers’ 2009 class.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He has has proven to be the real deal with an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage per game average for his career.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100
Few players ever enter college with more hype than Watkins. He was the No. 24-rated player in the nation regardless of position, was No. 8 in the state of Florida and was the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation. The Ft. Myers (Fla.) South Ft. Myers product needed only one year to prove that the hype was warranted.
Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (2009)
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger was listed as the No. 24 tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 10 player in the Hoosier State by Rivals. The three-star prospect also had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among others. He enters his final year as the Irish’s top target.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position.
Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin (2008)
The hog molly from West Allis (Wisc.) Nathan Hale was walk-on back in 2008 after going unranked by all of the recruiting services. He has earned two-time consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten status after coming to Wisconsin with zero recruiting hype whatsoever.
Alex Hurst, OT, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by Rivals.com.
Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.
Gabe Ikard, OG, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).
De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation by Athlon Sports. After 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total TDs, it is easy to see why Thomas was such a hot commodity all the way up to this National Signing Day switch from USC to Oregon.
Tyrann Mathieu, PR, LSU (2010)
The Honey Badger was the No. 44 defensive back in the nation and the No. 8 player in the state of Louisiana by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 13-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals. The New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine dynamo was either firmly committed to Frank Wilson and LSU, or schools were scared off by his attitude, because his offer sheet was LSU, Southern Miss, SMU, Tulane, FIU, Miami (Ohio) and Hampton.
2012 First-Team All-American Defense:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year and spent little time proving that he could be the most dynamic defensive player in the nation. He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors after 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports. Les Miles was able to snare the No. 1 player in the Palmetto State away from South Carolina, something Steve Spurrier has rectified with Lattimore and Clowney.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Salt Lake City.
Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland (2007)
The big nose guard from Albany (N.Y.) Christian Brother was a 6-foot-2, 245-pound three-star prospect back in 2007. He is now a 285-pound All-American. Rivals ranked Vellano as the No. 62 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state of New York.
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Originally signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame (2008) AC100
Trailing only Barkley and Russell Shepard nationally, the No. 3 player in the nation back in 2009 signed with Notre Dame from Laie, Hawaii. He was the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, the No. 1 player from the Islands and the No. 1 defensive prospect in the country. Te’o could post his third straight 100-tackle season.
Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position. Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles for a loss and sacks a year ago.
David Amerson, CB, NC State (2010)
A four-star recruit from Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley High, Amerson was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety prospect when he signed with NC State. He was the No. 6-rated player in the Tar Heel State, the No. 16-rated safety and the No. 206 overall prospect in the country by Rivals.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals and the No. 63 overall ‘athlete’ in the nation.
T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 10-rated player in the Sunshine State back in 2009.
Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 2 player in the Pelican State behind only Auburn’s Trovon Reed.
- by Braden Gall