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December 27, 2012

Rankings of Yore: Heavens to Megatron

MORE RANKINGS OF YORE: Dec. 20 | Dec. 15 | Dec. 6

Each week, Rivals.com 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.

Heavens to Megatron

While the Detroit Lions have had a very disappointing season in 2012, the same cannot be said for wide receiver Calvin Johnson. On Saturday night in a loss to Atlanta, Johnson had 11 receptions for 225 yards, surpassing Jerry Rice's 17-year record of receiving yards in a season. Now with 1,892 yards, and one game to go, Johnson will have his sights set on 2,000 yards next weekend against Chicago.

Better known as "Megatron," Johnson's legendary season has already surpassed or tied a number of records. He now owns NFL marks for most consecutive 100-yard games, with eight; most consecutive games with 10 or more receptions, with four; and is tied for most 100-yard games in a season, with 11.

While Johnson has had plenty of success up to this point in Detroit, the 2012 season is definitely his best. However, his 2011 accomplishments, which included 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, should have been a portent for 2012.

Playing his college ball at Georgia Tech, Johnson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Detroit Lions. Just as he has scrubbed the Lions' and NFL record books, he did the same at Georgia Tech.

Johnson finished his three seasons in Atlanta with 178 receptions for 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns, which ranks him first in school history in receiving yards, touchdown receptions and 100-yard games, with 13.

Coming out of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek, Johnson was a top target for many of the elite programs in the country from the start. Holding offers from Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Auburn, Miami and Florida State in addition to the Yellow Jackets, his recruiting process always seemed destined to come down to an in-state battle between Georgia Tech and Georgia. Johnson took a December visit to Georgia Tech and then a January visit to Georgia.

A few days after returning from Athens, he officially committed to the Yellow Jackets.

A Class of 2004 four-star prospect, Johnson was ranked as the No. 6 wide receiver in the country, No. 37 player nationally and No. 3 player in Georgia. In the wide receiver group, the only two players ranked above him who are still in the NFL are Early Doucet and Fred Davis, who is now a tight end in Washington. Nationally, in a year in which Adrian Peterson was ranked No. 1, in hindsight it would obviously be difficult to justify a ranking below No. 2 for Johnson, although some others ranked ahead of him have had some NFL success such as Theodore Ginn Jr., Keith Rivers, Chad Henne, Dan Connor, Marshawn Lynch and Zach Miller, to name a few. However, only Peterson and Lynch have been on par with Megatron when it comes to career success.

[ Watch: Looking back: Calvin Johnson prospect video ]

Noy vay!

In a game that was far from beautiful offensively, sometimes a spark is needed. In the Poinsettia Bowl, that spark was engineered by BYU junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who scored two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Cougars to a 23-6 victory over San Diego State.

Van Noy's overall performance was quite remarkable in San Diego last Thursday night. He finished the game with eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a blocked punt. For the season, Van Noy had 13 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions.

While the 2012 season was his most productive at BYU, Van Noy also made his mark during his first two seasons on the field at Provo, when he totaled 7.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks in 2010 and then 15 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in 2011. Prior to the 2012 season, Van Noy was named to the Bronco Nagurski Trophy, Lombardi Award and Bednarik Award watch lists.

Van Noy played his high school ball at Reno (Nev.) McQueen, where he primarily played wide receiver and linebacker. Listed as an athlete, the recruiting ball began rolling for Van Noy during the spring of 2008, with BYU, Boise State and Colorado the first three to offer. More offers continued to come in from schools such as Arizona State, Arizona, Cal, Stanford and UNLV throughout the spring and after his very impressive performance at the Nike Camp in Provo, Utah. While he grew up Mormon, Van Noy said BYU did not have an advantage.

However, with his senior season approaching, he trimmed his list to BYU, Arizona State, Colorado and UCLA. After an early fall visit to Colorado, he further trimmed his list to BYU and Arizona State, and finally committed to the Cougars after taking an official visit to Provo in January 2009.

As a four-star prospect in the Class of 2009, Van Noy was the No. 24 athlete in the nation and the No. 4 player in Nevada. The No. 1 athlete in the nation that year was Ray Ray Armstrong, while a few others who were ranked ahead of Van Noy and have made their mark include Joshua Evans at Florida and Denard Robinson at Michigan. Overall, it turned out to be a rather disappointing group at the position.

[ Watch: Looking back: Kyle Van Noy prospect video ]

Charles in Charge

Coming off of a 2011 season that saw him play less than two games because of an ACL injury, running back Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs had to deal with numerous questions regarding his future. He has silenced any doubters this season, and on Sunday, he rushed for 226 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries in a 20-13 loss to Indianapolis.

After his performance on Sunday, Charles now has 1,456 yards on the season, which puts him right back to where he was before his injury in 2010 when he finished with 1,467 yards. Averaging more than 5.7 yards per carry for his NFL career, he has proven himself as one of the more dynamic backs in the league.

Drafted out of Texas with the 73rd overall pick in the third round of the 2008 draft by the Chiefs, Charles enjoyed three very successful seasons in Austin. As a true freshman in 2005, Charles played a big role in the Longhorns' national championship season while rushing for 878 yards and 11 touchdowns. A great deal was expected out of Charles in 2006, and while he was productive, he did not have the breakout season many expected. He came back in 2007 refocused and did not disappoint. Finishing with 1,619 yards and 18 touchdowns, Charles decided to forego his final season in Austin, but left with the fourth-highest career rushing total at Texas, behind only Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.

Coming out of Port Arthur (Texas) McAllen Memorial, Charles received his first offer from Texas A&M immediately after the end of his junior season. Also a track star and junior Olympian, by the time the spring of 2004 rolled around, additional offers had also come in from LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

After naming a top three of Florida, Texas A&M and Arizona in late May, everything changed in mid-June when Texas finally offered Charles. Things moved quickly after the offer arrived, and after expressing his fondness to the program, Charles committed to the Longhorns in early July and signed in February 2005.

Charles was a four-star running back in the Class of 2005, and ranked as the No. 57 player nationally, No. 7 running back and No. 4 player in Texas. At the running back position, only Jonathan Stewart, who was ranked No. 1 nationally at the position, has also made an impression in the NFL. Behind Charles was Rashard Mendenhall at No. 9 and he has had success with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Darren McFadden, who was ranked as an athlete and No. 23 overall in the country, has been successful in Oakland.

In Texas, the top-ranked player was Martellus Bennett, who has developed into a successful tight end in the NFL, while Reginald Youngblood and DeMarcus Granger, who were ranked second and third, both fizzled.

The class of 2005 is known as the boom-or-bust class with many players, such as Stewart, McFadden, Bennett, Eugene Monroe, Mark Sanchez, Kenneth Phillips, DeSean Jackson and others going on to great success in college and beyond while others such as Melvin Alaeze, Fred Rouse, Callahan Bright, Jason Gwaltney, Ryan Perrilloux and others allowed off-field issues to ruin otherwise promising careers.

[ Watch: Looking back: Jamaal Charles prospect video ]

High praise for Bishop

While Washington lost 28-26 to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, there were positives for the Huskies. The brightest was sophomore running back Bishop Sankey, who despite the loss took home the game MVP after rushing for 205 yards on 30 carries. It was the first time in the 21-year history of this bowl that the game MVP went to a player from the losing team.

Coming into the season, Sankey was set to battle for playing time, but after getting an opportunity to shine because of an injury in the season opener to Jesse Callier, he put together one of the better rushing seasons in school history. He finished the season with 1,439 yards, third-most in school history, behind Chris Polk and Corey Dillon, who set the record with 1,695 in 1996.

Sankey played his high school ball at Spokane (Wash.) Gonzaga Prep, and jumped into the recruiting spotlight quickly with his first offer coming from Washington State before he started his junior season. That first offer was important to Sankey, as on Christmas Eve in 2009 he verbally committed to the Cougars. However, after an extremely impressive performance at the Army Combine a few weeks later, and additional offers from Washington, Minnesota, Bowling Green and Ohio, Sankey began to open things up.

After taking a few official visits during the fall, Sankey announced a final four of Washington State, Washington, Minnesota and Maryland by early January 2011. Sankey's last official visit was to Washington and a few days after returning home, he made the decision to become a Husky.

A four-star running back in the Class of 2011, Sankey was ranked as the No. 235 player in the country, the No. 19 running back and the No. 5 player in Washington. While it is too early with the Class of 2011 to pass judgment, it can be said that after his performance this season, the only back that has had more of an impact to this point is Ka'Deem Carey at Arizona.

(Video from 2010 -- Where did Bishop Sankey rank?)



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