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January 31, 2007

Final prep school ranking loaded with talent

The final Rivals.com prep school rankings are in, and the decision at the top was as tough as any we've had to make at Rivals.com.

Should it be a standout running back who could be the next great one at Miami? Should it be a game-breaking athlete who could play wideout, cornerback or safety at Tennessee? The decision has been made, but is the right one?

Let the debate begin.

New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy running back Graig Cooper, our preseason No. 1 player, maintained his position atop the rankings. However, he received a strong push from Tennessee commitment Brent Vinson. Both players are outstanding athletes who are expected to make an immediate impact at the next level.

"Graig is a great running back, he can do it all," said Milford head coach Bill Chaplick. "He works hard and came to Milford with the attitude that he was going to be the guy. We had LeSean McCoy and Bo Harris as well as running backs, but he took control from the start. Cooper is tough, runs hard and has excellent vision. A ton of schools came in on him with all the uncertainty at Miami, but he ended up honoring his commitment. He's a Miami type of back."

As for Vinson, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military head coach Robert Prunty sees a future first-round draft pick.

"Vinson is one of the best players we've had here," he said. "He could play both ways at Tennessee, he's that good. I think as a cornerback he could be an NFL first-rounder, and his speed is out of this world. He had 460 all-purpose yards against West Virginia's JV team, he dominated."

Following Cooper and Vinson, two offensive linemen made the final top 5. Maryland-bound tackle Bruce Campbell and Illinois-bound tackle Craig Wilson check in at No. 3 and No. 5 respectively. Both hail from Hargrave.

"Both of these guys will be NFL players," said Prunty. "They are both like Jared Gaither, who came here a bit raw but had so much ability to go along with his size it was amazing. Bruce showed up a little soft, but by the time he was done here he was very physical and he has great size. Wilson can bench 350 pounds on the incline bench, so you can imagine how strong he is. He's also massive and just beats people up."

Sandwiched between the giant duo is Clemson-bound defensive back DeAndre McDaniel, also from Hargrave.

"He's our second-best athlete, just behind Brent," said Prunty. "He's well balanced because he can cover very well, but he's also very good in run support."

Breaking down the top 10, Hargrave boasts seven players on the list. Milford checks in with two and Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military is represented at No. 10 by linebacker Gerald Williams.

"Gerald is a huge linebacker, an SEC-sized linebacker who can make plays all over the field," said Fork Union head coach John Shuman. "He's ready to play in college now."

A few players made a big push into the rankings with standout prep performances. Cornerback Kareem Jackson from Fork Union was a prospect that many teams tried to keep under the radar. However, Nick Saban found him late and Shuman feels he belongs at that level.

"He can be a really good cornerback in the SEC," said Shuman. "He belongs playing at that high level. He almost slipped through the cracks."

Future Florida State Seminoles offensive lineman Zach Hillery also jumped into the rankings. Hillery showed great improvement from his senior year of high school to the end of his prep season.

The same can be said of Princeton (N.J.) The Hun School offensive tackle Greg Tomczyk, who is excellent at getting to the second level.

- Rivals.com Prep School Top 50 -


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