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September 13, 2007
Last year's competition for the No. 1 spot in the Rivals.com prep school rankings was outstanding.
This year, the race for the top spot is even more competitive. LSU-bound wide receiver DeAngelo Benton from Hargrave tops our initial list.
"DeAngelo is a Chad Johnson type of receiver," said Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military coach Robert Prunty. "That's who he reminds me of because he's long, he has deceptive speed and he has great ball skills. He's faster than you think he is. He doesn't look like he's running hard but he gets past everyone."
However, Prunty could also make a case for another one of his wideouts to be No. 1.
"It's close, really close between DeAngelo and Dwight Jones," he said. "It's hard to pick between the two. They are different kind of receivers. Dwight is a Calvin Johnson type. He's just so big and physical, but he can stretch the field as well. Both guys are hungry too; they both want the ball so much. It's a great 1-2 punch to have."
Jones was a five-star prospect last year and was signed and placed at Hargrave by North Carolina.
Prunty's team boasts the top five prep players in the country this year. The two wideouts are followed by an outstanding running back and two big men.
"Enrique Davis has everything," Prunty said of the Auburn-bound back. "He's going to easily break the 1,000-yard mark here. The comparison is there to Bo Jackson because he's headed to Auburn and he can do so much so well. He has speed, agility and vision, and he plays with good leverage. He can run around you or run over you."
Davis will be running behind another top prepster at Auburn.
"Jermaine Johnson is up there with Jared Gaither as the best offensive lineman I've coached here," Prunty said of the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder. "He's instinctual, he picks things up quickly and he's very physical. He is just destroying people."
A future Auburn rival rounds out the top five.
"Kerry Murphy is playing both ways for me, and that hasn't happened here before for a lineman," Prunty said about the Alabama-bound offensive/defensive tackle. "He does exceptionally each way, but I think he'll be an offensive tackle in college. He has great feet and uses his hands well."
"Quillie Odom is the best linebacker I've had since Ahmad Brooks," said Prunty. "Devonte Campbell could be the next Vernon Davis at Maryland, and Sam Jones has been a big surprise. He's huge and surprisingly fast."
New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy had the top prep player in the country last year with Cooper, a freshman running back at Miami. This year, coach Bill Chaplick boasts two big men in the top 10.
"Charles Deas is huge and just dominating for us," said Chaplick of the future Auburn Tiger. "I think he'll be a great offensive guard in college, but he could also play defensive tackle. Offensive tackle Ken Plue has everything you want at the position. He's huge but he also has great feet. He moves very well and he's physical. He could be special."
"We had two great running backs last year with Cooper and LeSean McCoy, and we have some great ones this year as well," Chaplick said. "Hodge has won the starting job because he's tough, he runs hard and he can run outside or inside. Kinney is another big back with great upside, and we have a little guy named Josh Hicks that was placed here by Deion Sanders. He can fly.
"Hill runs well and catches whatever is thrown at him in our passing game. He's going to be heavily recruited. We have some top talent on offense this year."
Hodge is headed to Illinois, while Kinney and Hill are not yet committed.
Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military has a South Carolina feel this year. The top three prep players at the program were signed and placed by the Gamecocks.
"Eric Baker is playing both ways for us as a linebacker and running back and he's just hammering people," said FUMA coach John Shuman. "He's a power runner, but he has that Florida speed as well.
"We also have defensive backs Antonio Allen and Akeem Auguste. Allen has good size, he's long and he has good instincts. He's a ball-hawking safety who can run, but he'll also come up and hit you. Akeem can flat out fly, he's the fastest of this group. He needs to be more physical in run support, but he can run with anyone. This is probably the best team I've had in about six years, and these three guys are a big part of it."
Other prep programs with players on the list include Cincinnati (Ohio) Harmony Prep, Upper Darby (Pa.) Valley Forge Military and Avon (Conn.) Old Farms. Harmony boasts linebacker George White and wide receiver Rolandis Woodland, both headed to Missouri. Valley Forge is led by safety Simoni Lawrence who has offers from Utah, Temple, Minnesota and Brigham Young. Avon has Michigan running back commitment Mike Cox.