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June 2, 2003

Simply the best: Rivals.com's top five

Rivals.com Top Five For 2004

No. 1 - Adrian Peterson
No. 2 - Randy Estes
No. 3 - Keith Rivers
No. 4 - Theodore Ginn Jr.
No. 5 - Early Doucet

Good things come to those that wait.

After months and months of personal observations by the Rivals100.com recruiting analysts, hours of film review, interviews with countless college and high school coaches, Rivals.com is proud to release its first ranking for the Class of 2004.

Sure it would have been easy to throw out a bunch of names early on, but the painstaking evaluation process has allowed us to feel especially confident about the rankings that will be released over the next several weeks.

Without further adieu, Rivals.com is excited to announce the top five players in the nation for the Class of 2004 and their five-star rankings.

Leading off the list is Adrian Peterson of Palestine, Texas. Peterson on film just has all of the things that you’re looking for in a great back, plus he has the size and speed that can’t be taught.

After months and months of debate amongst the Rivals100.com staff, Peterson began to emerge as the top candidate after a personal observation at the Texas Relays, where many of the nation's top track athletes gather and perform at the University of Texas in Austin. Guys that big aren’t supposed to move that fast or run a 10.3-second time in the 100 meters.

Each of the players in the top five and even players ranked sixth through 10 could have a strong case about being named as the nation’s top player. They’re all amazing in their own right and have talent that is immeasurable.

But there was just something about Peterson that made him a five-star prospect and the best that Rivals100.com had seen this year. The way he carried himself, the way he glided through defenses on film and the way college coaches talked for hours about him, made it a tough but obvious choice in the end.

Peterson is the newest member of a small fraternity of players that have been selected as the top prospect in the entire nation by Rivals.com. Going back over the past six recruiting classes, the prospects that have been named the nation’s top player are an amazing collection of talent.

Back in 1999, T.J. Duckett earned the nation’s top honors as a running back/linebacker. He is now playing in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.

The nation’s top player in 2000 was D.J. Williams of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. He is now a senior with the University of Miami and some are projecting him to be a first-round draft pick in the NFL next season.

Kevin Jones, the No. 1 player in 2001, broke the hearts of Penn State fans when he selected Virginia Tech. Jones had masterful freshman and sophomore seasons, but he’s had to fight injuries and a loaded Tech backfield during those years. He is expected to be the man this year for the Hokies and has been nominated to several pre-season All-America teams.

Houston native Vince Young is hoping to make his mark this season for the Texas Longhorns, but is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Chance Mock. The strong-armed dual-threat quarterback was picked as the nation’s top player in the Class of 2002 by Rivals.com.

Last year’s selection for the top player was linebacker Ernie Sims of Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian. Sims signed with Florida State after an intense recruiting battle. He is expected to be an impact player for the Seminoles this season.

The rest of the top five for the Class of 2004, shapes up this way: California safety Randy Estes is No. 2, Florida linebacker Keith Rivers is No. 3, Ohio cornerback Theodore Ginn Jr. is No. 4 and No. 5 is Louisiana receiver Early Doucet. As mentioned earlier, the line between players ranked No. 1 through No. 10 is awfully thin this season and the process of putting this player over that player was extremely painstaking.

The rest of the top 10 will be unveiled later this week, more five star-selections and the first Rivals100 team for 2004 will be revealed as we progress through the first two weeks in June. Below you will find more in-depth and detailed profiles of the players ranked in the top five.

 Adrian Peterson

Palestine (TX)
Running back

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 205 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.4 seconds

 Player Rankings
"If I had one pick over any other player in the entire nation, I would take Adrian Peterson. I hear some people ask if he's the best back in Texas in 10 years, and I wouldn't disagree. You thought Reggie Bush was good last year. Wait until you see Adrian Peterson."
-Big 12 recruiting coordinator
Peterson, Adrian

Looking for size? Check.

Looking for speed? Check.

Looking for instincts that can't be taught? Check.

Looking for the most complete player in the entire nation for the Class of 2004? Then you better check out Palestine, Texas, running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson gets the nod as the nation's No. 1 player and the top player in Texas and the Midlands Region from Rivals.com.

“I think it’s an honor to get the recognition, but I’m just keeping level headed,” he said. “I’m just focused on having a good senior season.”

The 6-2, 205-pound back can break down defenses in a variety of ways. He has enough wiggle that he can make people miss in the open field or he can bull over would-be tacklers and then turn on the jets to take it the distance. As a junior, Peterson chalked up 2,051 yards and 22 touchdowns on 246 carries.

Peterson brings back strong memories of the way former Eric Dickerson used to shred defenses apart in the Lone Star State before going on to stardom at SMU and then in the NFL.

"He definitely reminds you of Dickerson with his long strides and ability to break a defense down," a long-time college and high school coach from the Lone Star State said. "I thought it would be another 25 years before we saw a guy that had Dickerson's upside at the running back, but Adrian is as close as you're going to get with it.

"A lot of people thought Cedric Benson was the next coming. They were wrong, because it's really Adrian."

With glowing comments like and after countless hours of film review and personal observations, Peterson easily gets the nod as the nation's top prospect. If you ask his coach, Jerry Harrell, it's a well deserved honor for a great player on the field and a great person off of it.

He's one in a million," his coach said.

He's that and also No. 1 in the entire nation.

 Randy Estes

Los Alamitos (CA)

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.4 seconds

 Player Rankings
“Randy plays big in big games,” Sherr said. “When he made that hit against Mater Dei on the opening kickoff, it set the tone for the way our team was going to play that game.”
-Los Al defensive coordinator Barry Sherr
Estes, Randy

People have been talking about Randy Estes for two years now. And the talk always was wait until you see this underclassman from Los Al and that he might be the best player in California as a junior.

Now that he's heading into the summer before his senior season, Estes, who is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is ready to take his place as the nation's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2004.

"Randy is a super player that still has the potential to get better," said Rivals100.com West analyst Rick Kimbrel said. "Estes has to be considered one of the best players at any position in the nation. He he has the potential to be a Kenny Easley, Ronnie Lott type safety.

"He's a difference maker. He was probably good enough last season to be the state of California's top player. He's that good."

Estes racked up 72 tackles, 24 first hits, four tackles for loss, three sacks, three picks and two forced fumbles as a junior. Simply put, he can do it all and is loving every minute of the attention that he's getting.

But he knows that he must not get a big head and does his best at remaining grounded and focused on his senior season.

"That's still the most important thing," he said. "But you can't help but get excited when you have all these teams calling. I'm going to take my time and evaluate what's important to me in the decision-making process."

 Keith Rivers

Lake Mary (FL)
Inside linebacker / Outside linebacker

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 213 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.5 seconds
Bench max: 345 pounds
Bench reps: 25
Squat max: 445 pounds
Vertical leap: 34 inches
Shuttle time: 4.18 seconds

 Player Rankings
"They don't make them like Keith Rivers anymore. So many linebackers out there today only have one thing that you want. But Keith is the full package. He's got the size, the speed, instincts and is also a great person. He's the most complete backer we've seen in a while."
-SEC recruiting coordinator
Rivers, Keith

Rivals100 had heard the talk about Keith Rivers for months and months. We had heard from countless sources about how good this junior linebacker from Florida was. And then when footage of him arrived, he made believers out of everyone in the office.

Here was this kid flying all over the place from sideline-to-sideline, making huge hits and decapitating unlucky ball carriers that got in his way. We were already sold.

But then Rivers showed up for the Rivals100.com Junior Day in Orlando, Fla., and measured in at 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds. He was one of the most put together prospects that Rivals100 had ever seen.

Seeing definitely became believing.

There isn't a better linebacker prospect than Rivers and he's also one of the nation's elite recruits, earning a No. 3 overall ranking in the entire country from Rivals.com. He also gets our nod as the top player in a very loaded season in the Sunshine State.

But Rivers is taking all of the attention in stride, which makes him an even more special player. It would be so easy to get a big head, but that's just not his style.

"He's a great kid," Lake Mary coach Greg Stanton said. "Only once in a lifetime do you get a player with his ability and his character. He's not a prima donna kid and always is doing what is asked of him."

Yep, Rivers is one of the nation’s best of the best.

“I hear stuff like that and it’s flattering,” Rivers said. “Thank you for talking about me like that and honoring me.”

So what words would Rivers use to describe his own play?

“I’m fast,” he said. “I also am always going downhill to the ball.”

 Theodore Ginn Jr.

Cleveland (OH)

Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 170 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.4 seconds
Bench max: 230 pounds
Squat max: 300 pounds
Vertical leap: 30 inches
GPA: 3.37
ACT: 19

 Player Rankings
"Ted Ginn is just one of those guys on film that pops out and makes a lot of amazing plays. Then when you combine everything he has physically, you have the makings of an All-America cornerback in college and a future NFL first-round pick."
-Big 10 recruiting coordinator
Ginn Jr., Theodore

When asked to describe himself, Theodore Ginn Jr. of Cleveland Glenville didn't shy away from his true feelings and in typical confident cover corner style, he shot for the stars with his description.

“I’m Charles Woodson,” he said. “Well, that’s who I play like and idolize at least. I think I have a lot of the same abilities that he does. I'm confident in my technique, know that I'm fast enough to stick with any receiver and I have the ability to play the ball when it's in the air.”

He's correct about all of that. And that's why Ginn, who is 6-foot, 170 pounds, has been named as the nation's No. 4 player for the Class of 2004 from Rivals.com.

"He's got the shutdown attitude," said Theodore Ginn Sr., his coach at Glenville and father.

"He likes to get his hand on you and he really excels in bump and run because no one is faster than him. He adjust well when the ball is in the air, but he doesn't take a whole lot of risks. He didn't have many interceptions last year because he's more concerned with making the play and knocking the ball down then jumping in front of the receiver and risking getting burned."

Ginn was the ultimate all-purpose player as a junior. He threw for 300 yards on 26 attempts with 15 completions and five touchdowns. He rushed for 408 yards on 40 carries and 10 touchdowns. He caught 15 passes for 502 yards and four scores. On defense, he had 27 solo tackles, 15 assists, 10 interceptions, three sacks and five fumble recoveries.

Ginn and his father are friends with former Wisconsin Badger, and current Miami Dolphin star Chris Chambers.

“He was like a brother to me,” Ginn said. “When he was playing here, I was really young. I was the mascot. I ran out in front of the team, and I wore the uniform. I just wore a football uniform.”

Still, like a younger brother, he is sure that he could take down the big brother, given the chance.

“Well, he came back for a basketball game this winter, and I’m a little taller than him. The way he’s built though, his legs are thick,” Ginn said. “Could I cover him tomorrow? Yeah, I think so.”

 Early Doucet

St. Martinville (LA)
Wide Receiver / Athlete

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 207 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.4 seconds
GPA: 3.4
ACT: 18

 Player Rankings
"Early is good enough he could play quarterback for more than half the teams in the nation. But he knows that his future in college and in the NFL will be at receiver. He's just too explosive to have him be a quarterback. He needs to be out there in open space doing his thing."
-SEC coach recruiting Doucet
Doucet, Early

That loud buzz in the back of your head isn't from listening to one too many hours of Sports Center. The buzz is originating from Louisiana and Bayou State high school football fans that have been talking for more than a year now about the play of Early Doucet of St. Martinville, La.

Doucet, the fans and college coaches say, is the best player to come out of Southern Louisiana in a long, long time. Doucet will be one of the most talked about players in the coming year due to his game breaking ability and the fact that most college recruiters believe he is the type of athlete that can be a difference maker on a football team.

Those reasons, along with more than 1,200 yards rushing and 500 yards passing as a junior quarterback, make Doucet the Rivals.com No. 5 player for the Class of 2004.

“He came to us with a lot of athletic ability and he is one of only a few kids that has every started for us as a true freshman," St. Martinville coach Carrol Delahoussaye said.

"He played wide receiver and probably the only reason he didn’t play quarterback for us that year was because he wasn’t with us during the summer because he was playing AAU basketball. He is the only freshman that ever played all year for us. He kept staying in our ear about getting some playing time and I remember telling coach Kirkpatrick, who does this kid think he is, he’s just a freshman. But he knew a lot more than I did. We put him at wide receiver and he made all-district that year.”

And the rest has been history.

Doucet could play quarterback at the next level but he is now looking forward to being recruited as a wide receiver. St. Martinville now has a quarterback behind Doucet that can make it possible for him to play receiver a lot more next season. It's just another option to get the ball into the 6-foot-1, 207-pound play-maker's hands.

Despite all the accolades and hype, Doucet is keeping his feet firmly planted.

“People tend to get a swollen head but I just try to stay focused. All of this that’s happening now could be taken away within a matter of seconds. So I want to stay level-headed and keep going forward,” he said. “I work extra hard. If you just sit there and don’t work, other people will pass you up. I want to stay ahead of the pack so I work hard before practice, after practice, whatever it takes. Every day.”

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