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December 5, 2012

New four-star prospects prove resilience

MORE: Rivals250 has its share of ups and downs

The ranks of four-stars in the class of 2013 swelled by several new names in the post-senior season update of the Rivals.com rankings. More than a dozen prospects from around the country jumped from three stars to four stars and sit just outside the Rivals250.

Prospects proving they were back from injury and others who took their games to the next level as seniors account for a good portion of the new four-stars. Georgia linebacker commit Reginald Carter of Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnet was one of those who bounced back from an injury.

"Coming off a torn ACL, there were a lot of questions about Carter entering his senior year," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "He answered a lot of them, while still only playing at about 90 percent. He's great in pursuit of the football and had some outstanding individual games this year. He plays well against the run but also has the ability to play in space."

Denham Springs, La., running back Kaleb Blanchard also bounced back from injuries to post an impressive senior season. The Arkansas commit rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this fall.

"Blanchard suffered through an injury-riddled junior season, but I thought he had the physical gifts that could see him make a jump up the list," said Rivals.com Southwest analyst Jason Howell. "At 6-foot, 215 pounds, he runs with a great combination of power, speed and the feet to make quick, subtle cuts and maintain speed."

A natural progression is expected as prospects grow and mature, but some players exceed expectations and raise their stock. Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School linebacker Skai Moore jumped from three stars to four stars in the latest update thanks to his emergence as one of the Sunshine State's top defensive playmakers.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore is still in the midst of his senior season, and he is set to play in the Class 3A state title game on Saturday. Thus far, he has posted more than 70 tackles, four interceptions, three sacks and two blocked punts. Kynon Codrington covers Florida for Rivals.com and noted Moore's stock began to rise from his first game.

"Moore emerged following a standout performance against Trotwood-Madison in a nationally televised game in August," Codrington said. "From there, he has put together a solid senior season."

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., linebacker Viliami Latu and St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall athlete James Onwualu are in that same category with Moore as prospects whose stock rose off senior-year performances to earn their fourth stars. Latu jumped from a 5.6 Rivals Rating to a 5.8, while Onwualu moved up one notch from 5.7 to 5.8.

"Latu plays without fear and, for a linebacker who flies all over the field and makes a lot of plays, it's a necessary component," Rivals.com West Coast analyst Adam Gorney said. "He and his brother are outstanding in the front seven for Rancho Cucamonga, but Viliami has that extra to bump him to four stars. He really puts his body on the line every play and hits hard, drives through people and plays that way on every down."

"Over the last year, we have seen a constant improvement from Onwualu," Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "He has become more explosive, more of a game breaker, and he is really starting to settle into his role of wide receiver after being a potential fit at other positions early in his career."

The 2012 season was a redemption of sorts for Washington wide receiver commit Darrell Daniels. The California native had some struggles during the summer but addressed those issues and compiled a strong senior campaign.

"We bumped Daniels down to a three-star after he struggled to catch the ball at The Opening, and we worried that he might just be a great-looking prospect who doesn't have a tremendous skill set," Gorney said. "But after watching some film of his senior season, and most importantly talking to people who had seen him play multiple times this season, he got his fourth star back. Daniels has great size and athleticism, and if he continues to work on his hands he could be a big asset to any college program."

Other prospects moving from three stars to four stars in the latest update were Aloha, Ore., offensive tackle Brayden Kearsley; Lindale (Ga.) Pepperell offensive guard Andy Dodd; defensive tackles Andrew Billings of Waco, Texas, and Darius Paige of Foley, Ala.; and Encino (Calif.) Crespi safety Tyler Foreman.



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