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November 16, 2012

Rankings of Yore: Johnny on the bench?


MORE RANKINGS OF YORE: Nov. 9 | Nov. 1 | Oct. 25

Each week, Rivals.com's national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell will take a look at what we got right -- and what we got wrong -- in our past player evaluations. We call it Rankings of Yore.

Political Football

If Johnny Football didn't de-commit, he might be sitting on the bench right now in Eugene, Oregon.

2011 isn't exactly "yore" when it comes to rankings, but we can't ignore the elephant in the room and that's the ranking of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel out of high school. Despite his amazing stats in high school and his unquestioned ability to scramble, Manziel was ranked as a three-star quarterback out of high school and wasn't a top 10 dual-threat quarterback in the country.

However, there were reasons. Manziel had some mechanical issues, there was concern that his average size wouldn't translate well because of his penchant to scramble and take chances with his body, and some schools wanted him to play a different position. In fact, many feel that if Mike Sherman were still in charge and not Kevin Sumlin, Manziel would be at slot receiver or someplace else.

Manziel has certainly proved us, and most, wrong. This is a prospect whose best offers were from the Aggies and Oregon Ducks and was ignored by Texas, Oklahoma and most of the big dogs looking for quarterbacks that year.

It has been awhile since a college player has jumped into the national spotlight faster than Manziel has at Texas A&M. Johnny Football, as he is known, has achieved amazing things on the field as a first-year starter, but not too many people expected his performance at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday afternoon. Surely the mighty Alabama defense would shut him down right? Wrong. Manziel passed for 253 yards, rushed for 93 yards and had four total touchdowns during the Aggies' stunning 29-24 victory in Tuscaloosa.

This performance further solidifies Manziel in the Heisman Trophy race. He is third in the SEC in passing with 2,780 yards, first in rushing with 1,014 yards and has combined for 33 total touchdowns. He is averaging an amazing 379.4 yards of total offense per game and is only the second freshman in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a single season (Missouri's Brad Smith was the other).

Manziel is used to these types of performances. During his junior year at Kerrville (Tex.) Tivy, Manziel accounted for 4,311 yards and 52 touchdowns, which is impressive, but nothing compared to his senior season when he accounted for 5,283 yards and 75 touchdowns. If anyone claims they knew he would make this kind of early impact in college based on some of those issues listed above, they are either diehard A&M fans or simply lying.

Manziel originally committed to Oregon in June of his junior year after attending a quarterback camp in Eugene. But everything changed when Texas A&M offered in late August. The Aggies were always considered a threat, so after a few more visits to College Station, Manziel switched his commitment in late September.

Manziel finished as the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 45 player in Texas, both obvious misjudgments so far. However, the Class of 2011 is also shaping up as a fantastic group of dual-threat quarterbacks, with Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley and Braxton Miller ranked in front of Manziel.

Think of this -- Manziel and Mariota both committed to the Ducks in the summer of 2010 within three days of each other. Manziel obviously flipped to the Aggies, but it would be very interesting to see which of the two would be leading the high-octane Ducks offense right now.

While Manziel has accounted for 33 total touchdowns and has thrown for 18 with six picks, Mariota is the nation's leading passer and has thrown 28 touchdown passes against five picks while rushing for another three scores.

Oddly enough, Oregon had another quarterback commitment that year who was ranked higher than either in Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna dual-threat Jerrard Randall. However, Randall didn't qualify by Signing Day and when he did finally achieve his score, Oregon said thanks, but no thanks. LSU signed Randall in March and, coincidentally, it was Randall who imitated Manziel in LSU practices leading up to the Tigers' win over the Aggies.

So would one of the leading Heisman candidates in the country be a bench warmer in Oregon? You be the judge.

Having a Ball

It has been an interesting season for senior running back Montee Ball of Wisconsin. Returning to the Badgers after a junior season where he was in contention for the Heisman Trophy, Ball started off his senior season with a concussion in September and an odd altercation on campus that sent him to the hospital.

Since then, he has been working to regain his form and on Saturday against Indiana, he definitely looked like he has found it. Ball rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries to help lead the Badgers to a 62-14 thumping of the Hoosiers.

His performance was part of a school-record 564 yard rushing day by the Badgers, and his three touchdowns helped him pass 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams for second on the FBS all-time touchdown list. Ball now has 77 career touchdowns, which puts him just one behind Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) for the all-time record.

Coming out of Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland, Ball jumped onto the recruiting landscape after a junior season that saw him rush for 3,077 yards and 32 touchdowns. He committed to the Badgers in June after his junior year over offers from Missouri, Northwestern, Stanford, Kansas, Indiana and Iowa State and was clearly under-recruited.

As a four-star running back in the Class of 2009, Ball finished as the No. 33 back in the country and the No. 4 player in Missouri. Other notable running backs that year ranked ahead of him include Bryce Brown, Trent Richardson, Christine Michael, David Wilson, Cierre Wood and Eddie Lacy.

[ Watch: Looking back: Montee Ball prospect video ]

Good Gator

It is safe to say that Florida's performance against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday did not go according to script, but at the end of the day the Gators walked away with a 27-20 victory. However, that victory could not have happened if it was not for Jelani Jenkins returning a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with only two seconds to go in the game.

Jenkins, who also led the Gators on Saturday with seven tackles, has become a key contributor in Gainesville since the 2010 season. A great deal was expected out of Jenkins after he finished his high school career at Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel as a five-star prospect and the No. 10 ranked player in the nation.

Jenkins chose the Gators over Penn State, USC, Notre Dame and Stanford on National Signing Day, with the Nittany Lions posing the biggest threat.

Jenkins' No. 10 ranking placed him just in front of defenders such as Dre Kirkpatrick and Manti Te'o, and just behind Vontaze Burfict. Kirkpatrick was a first-rounder in the 2012 NFL Draft and Te'o will be a first-rounder this year while Burfict was supposed to be a first-rounder, but a weak junior season, off-field problems and horrible workouts led to him become an undrafted free agent for the Cincinnati Bengals. He is now a starter in the NFL.

Jenkins has some work to do to attain the same level of success beyond college as Kirkpatrick, Te'o and Burfict, but he has had a solid career so far and is projected currently as a third-round pick if he decided to come out after this year. No matter what happens between now and the end of his career, he will always be a part of one of the most exciting endings in the history of The Swamp.

[ Watch: Looking back: Jelani Jenkins prospect video ]

Higher Carey?

Running back Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona was already having a very successful season coming into the Wildcats' home game against Colorado on Saturday, but that was when he took his game to another level. Carey rushed for a school and Pac-12 record 366 yards on 25 carries, while also adding five touchdowns, during a 56-31 beat down of the Buffaloes. His performance also helped Arizona become bowl-eligible.

To further examine Carey's performance, his total of 366 yards is the ninth-best in NCAA history and only 40 yards short of the all-time record held by LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU.

Carey was a four-star recruit in 2011 coming out of Oro Valley (Ariz.) Canyon Del Oro and committed to the Wildcats in June right after his junior year. At that time he also had offers from Arizona State and Colorado and actually took an official visits to check out the Sun Devils right before National Signing Day. He finished as the No. 197 overall player in the country, as the No. 13 running back and as the No. 7 player in Arizona.

Checking out the running back group that recruiting year, Carey likely should have been ranked a little higher. He has made a much bigger impact than other backs such as Savon Huggins at Rutgers and Brandon Williams at Oklahoma to this point, while Mike Blakely has transferred from Florida, Aaron Green has transferred from Nebraska and Isaiah Crowell has left Georgia.

[ Watch: Looking back: Ka'Deem Carey prospect video ]

Easy Being Greene

It has been an interesting journey for Class of 2008 linebacker Khaseem Greene of Rutgers, but the story will end with him being named co-defensive player of the year in the Big East after his junior year and almost a sure lock as the sole recipient for the same honor after this season. Greene continued his dominant senior season with a 22-tackle performance during a 28-7 victory over Army, which also included a forced fumble in the end zone. His 22-tackle performance tied for the fifth best single-game tackle total in Big East history and was the highest total at Rutgers since 1999. The forced fumble that he caused in the end zone was also his sixth of the season, which currently is tops in the NCAA this season.

Greene arrived at Rutgers as a 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete from Avon (Conn.) Avon Old Farms, which he attended for one year as a prep after finishing his time at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey. At that time, he chose the Scarlet Knights over Connecticut, Akron and a handful of FCS programs. He began his career at Rutgers as a safety, and then moved to linebacker prior to his junior season, where he has obviously thrived. Greene is a perfect example of a player who developed a little later than others and was a pure 'tweener out of high school, but has used that time to learn the game, improve his skill set and as a result dominate at the college level.

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Mike Farrell is the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to follow him on Twitter.



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