Evaluating high school football players isn't a perfect science. There are a lot of recruiting services out there and everybody does it differently. For example, about the only thing Rivals and I agree on at the moment is that 6-8, 300-pound offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn., is the No. 1 player in the class of 2010.
I singled out Henderson last November, the first time I have ever rated an offensive lineman so highly. Rivals came to the same conclusion a week ago. Rivals doesn't agree with the way I conduct my business. I think it is curious that, with all of their vast resources, they usually come around to my way of thinking when the season is over.
Let's examine the class of 2010 as we look ahead to the May evaluation period:
Rivals and I agree on seven of the top 15 players in the nation--Henderson, running back Lache Seastrunk of Temple, Texas, running back Marcus Lattimore of Duncan, S.C., defensive back Matt Elam of West Palm Beach, Fla., offensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat of Plano, Texas, running back Michael Dyer of Little Rock, Ark., and defensive end Chris Martin of Oakland, Calif.
We have a couple of major disagreements. Rivals ranks wide receiver Darius White of Fort Worth, Texas, as its No. 3 player. He is a top 100 player--I rank him at No. 91--but he is nowhere close to No. 3.
And Rivals ranks linebacker Jeff Luc of Port St. Lucie, Fla., as its No. 10 player. He doesn't even rank in my top 100 at the moment. He is a good prospect and could climb into the top 100 by the end of the season. But not now.
Chicagoans might be interested or shocked to learn that 6-6, 285-pound offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Fremd isn't even rated among the top 250 players in the country by Rivals. Lombard, who is committed to Notre Dame, is No. 23 on my list. I have to believe that this is an oversight by Rivals and they will correct their mistake in their next update.
The only Illinois product on Rivals' top 100 is wide receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West. He ranks No. 18 on Rivals' list, No. 36 on my list.
Only other Illinois products among Rivals' 250 are tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz of Johnsburg (213) and wide receiver Jimmie Hunt of Cahokia (208). Fiedorowicz, the No. 1 player in Illinois in my view, ranks No. 13 on my national list.
Lombard, defensive end Chance Carter of Loyola, defensive back Corey Cooper of Proviso East, wide receiver Matt Milton of Mascoutah and quarterback Chandler Whitmer of Downers Grove South are listed by Rivals at all. They are on my top 250 list and you can be assured they will be on Rivals' top 250 list before the season is over.
Rivals will adjust after they see everybody else's lists. They always do. They haven't done a good job in evaluating the Chicago area. They are overlooking Carter and Cooper. They didn't know who Prater was until last December.
There are others who need to be evaluated more closely. Whitmer was rated the top performer at the first Elite 11 camp in Orlando, Fla. If he was 6-4, he would be nationally recruited. He has a big-time arm, poise and production. He has been offered by Illinois, Stanford and Arizona. Originally from Atlanta, Ga., he has said his dream is to play at Georgia. But the Bulldogs haven't expressed any interest up to now.
I'm on my way to California. I'll cover 11,000 miles in 20 days on the West Coast. I'll crisscross California three times. Then I'll be back to Chicago in April and will concentrate on evaluating players in the Chicago area. By then, maybe Rivals will find out who Christian Lombard is.