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January 22, 2014
Eight earn fourth star in final rankings
After scouting players in the class for their entire high school careers, the Rivals.com National Analyst Team got one last look at the players in the Class of 2014 over the all-star game season. While plenty of players saw their stock rise and some saw theirs fall, a select group earned four-star status in the final update of the cycle.
The final update typically features the fewest additions of four-star players and this year was no exception. Of the 97 four-star players who are ranked outside of the Rivals250, just eight are new additions this go round.
The eight players who made the cut are Corona (Calif.) Centennial running back Tre Watson, Hampton (Va.) running back Marshawn Williams, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman offensive tackle Nick Gates, West Valley City (Utah) Granger offensive tackle Kenyon Frison, Hinsdale (Ill.) center Brian Allen, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco weakside defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Jefferson Hills (Penn.) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich.
Often times the all-star season can be a time for skill position players to shine, but a trio of big uglies in Gates, Frison and Allen did their part to show that it's not all about the flashy players when it comes to all-star games.
"Frison turned heads during All-Star season," West region recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy said. "The one-time Utah commit made his presence felt all week during the Semper-Fi Bowl and grabbed his fourth star by shining against high-level competition. Frison was one of the top linemen at the event and is clearly the type of player that could make an impact at the highest level of college football."
Also a participant in the Semper-Fi was Gates, who completed quite the transformation during his senior season.
"He's added some weight and polished his technique," Cassidy said. "He had a tremendous week of work against college-bound competition at Semper-Fi, which proved his standing among the nation's top offensive linemen."
Allen went into the Army Bowl as a high three-star, but took things to a different level in San Antonio.
"Allen is not going to jump off the field at you from a physical standpoint, but his intangibles are high and his wrestling background comes out in the way he understands leverage and pad level," Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "Allen is a guy who can lead an offensive line from the center position and has a good chance to be at three or four-year starter at Michigan State.
For McKenzie, the lone wide receiver to move to four stars in this update, size was always a concern. The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder is nicknamed "Joystick" for his array of video game moves and they were on full display at the Under Armour Game and practices.
"He's very small but super explosive," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said of the uncommitted McKenzie, who has seen interest skyrocket since Under Armour. "He can reach top speed immediately and he's a great special teams guy in terms of what he can do as a punt returner and kick returner. He's a dynamic guy that's going to make big plays for whoever gets him."
Proving that senior seasons still have a large impact on rankings, even if they don't affect offers are Watson, Tuioti-Mariner and Winovich, two players whose senior film put them over the top.
"Watson rushed for 3,734 yards and 50 touchdowns this season. Case closed, he's a four-star," Rivals.com West Region Analyst Adam Gorney said. "But even more than his statistics, Watson has great vision in tight spaces, he has a knack to bounce outside and evade tacklers and once he's in the open field, he is tough to catch.
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"He might be a little undersized but the California commit is really tough and rugged and is not afraid or hesitant to deliver blows to defenders. Some might say the Corona Centennial offense is so wide open that his stats are skewed, but Watson can play and he proved it on almost every carry this season."
Tuito-Mariner was one of only two defensive players to get the bump and after playing a team that was loaded with talent and still standing out, it was clear that he was deserving of four-star status.
"There are so many top prospects at St. John Bosco it might be easy to get lost in the shuffle, but that's not the case with Tuioti-Mariner," Gorney said. "He had a tremendous senior season and was one of the top defenders on arguably the nation's top high school team. Bosco dominated every opponent and shut down many big-strike offenses. Tuioti-Mariner was a big reason why. He has great size and he moves so well. There are times when he doesn't immediately come up and deliver the hit but he's always in the right position and is around the play."
While putting up huge numbers is always a plus, Williams showed that his offseason work paid off and improved off an already impressive junior season.
"Williams really filled up the stat sheet during his senior campaign," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic Analyst Adam Friedman said. "The Virginia Tech commit is a load for defenders to try to tackle and, with his good straight-line speed, can pull away from defenders in the open field. Williams lost some weight and is quicker than he was before the season. This helped him be more elusive during games him with his balance."
All the players who received the bump had been waiting for their time to shine and they took full advantage.
Overall the class of 2014 finished with nine more four-star or higher prospects than 2013, proving that this year's class is indeed loaded with talent.