By Corey Long - @CoreyLong
Updated Aug. 20, 2021.
Aug. 20 Update
The other day, I looked at five teams that are being predicted to outperform their recruiting rankings on the field based on the Preseason AP Top 25 poll. Today is a look at five teams that are recruiting at a much higher rate than where the polls have them, if they are ranked at all.
The Nittany Lions sit at No. 2 in my recruiting rankings and are in a great position to solidify the program's first top-five recruiting class in many years. James Franklin is a hell of a recruiter; that's not a surprise. What's changed with the Nittany Lions is the addition of running backs coach JaJuan Seider, one of the best recruiters in college football. Seider gives Penn State access to Florida, and there the Nittany Lions have landed commitments from red-chip defensive lineman Zane Durant and cornerback Cam Miller.
: Florida State is the only program in the country that has a top-10 recruiting class and isn't anywhere in the preseason Top 25. Currently, I have the Seminoles' class right at No. 10, and I think it could get higher, possibly as high as No. 7 or it could drop into the Nos. 15-20 range if a couple of targets don't come through. The top of the Seminoles' class is excellent, with two-way stars Travis Hunter and Sam McCall leading the way. Quarterback A.J. Duffy and defensive lineman Trevion Williams are also blue-chip prospects.
Right now, I have the Scarlet Knights' class at 12th overall, although it was as high as No. 6 earlier in the cycle. I always thought of Greg Schiano as more of a developer/evaluator than recruiter, but he has a strong staff. Secondary coach Fran Brown and wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood are leading the charge on the trail. Rutgers is strong in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but the staff is reaching outside of the Mid-Atlantic too - grabbing red-chip quarterback prospect Gavin Wimsatt out of Kentucky.
Eli Drinkwitz and staff are showing their potential in their second recruiting cycle at Missouri. I think quarterback commit Sam Horn, out of Georgia, is big time and a legitimate blue-chip prospect at the most important position. The Tigers have also done well in state, grabbing a red-chip defensive lineman Marquis Gracial and the top outside receiver in the state Ja'Marion Wayne. I have the Tigers' class at No. 15 and trending in a good direction.
I have the Spartans' class at No. 17, and it's clear head coach Mel Tucker is finding more success recruiting in Georgia while at Michigan State than he did during his short stay in Colorado. The Spartans have four prospects from the Peach State on their commit list, including red-chip tight end Jack Nickel. Michigan State has a wide alumni base and more reach nationally than one might expect. That reach is why players from Arizona, Florida and California join the usual crop of Michigan and Ohio prospects in the Spartans' top-20 class.
Aug. 17 Update
The AP Top 25 dropped this week. and to the surprise of no one. Alabama will start the season at No. 1. The usual suspects - Oklahoma, Clemson, Ohio State and Georgia - make up the rest of the top five. Not surprisingly, all five programs appear to be near locks for top-10 recruiting classes when the numbers are all added up in February.
There are, however, several teams in the top 25 that look like they are being predicted to outperform their recruiting rankings on the field. Here are five teams that stick out.
The Cyclones are No. 7 in the AP Poll and currently sit at No. 29 in my team recruiting rankings. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell has always done more with less, but this current class has a very good chance of finishing in the Top 25 if a couple big targets can come through. The Cyclones' class is mostly based in the Midwest, but they pulled running back Quaron Adams, one of the top players in Arizona, and wide receiver Greg Gaines, the top-rated outside receiver in Florida.
The Bearcats sit one spot behind Iowa State at No. 8 and will battle Central Florida for the top recruiting class in the American Conference. Cincinnati currently sits at No. 31 in my team recruiting rankings. The Bearcats staff is landing a lot of the best second-tier prospects in Ohio, beating out some Power Five programs. Cincinnati is also strong in Florida, where the program has pulled tight end Marcus Peterson and wide receiver Quincy Burroughs.
It's been a bit of a down year for Wisconsin in recruiting so far. I have the Badgers' class sitting at No. 45, 11th in the Big Ten, and far below their preseason ranking of No. 12. Wisconsin has generally stayed inside the top 25-30, and I expect the staff will land some of their top targets as the season goes along. But the fact is recruiting is competitive on the western end of the Rust Belt. Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan State are all battling for a similar crop of players to Wisconsin, and if the talent numbers in the area are a little down, there will be teams that suffer.
The Chanticleers are one of two Sun Belt teams in the Top 25. In my recruiting rankings, they are sitting at 52nd overall and have a good chance to break into the Top 50 with another couple of key commits. This could be one of the best recruiting classes that has ever come out of the Sun Belt. Coastal Carolina has eight commits from Florida, three from Georgia and two from Alabama. The Chanticleers staff hasn't had as much luck in their backyard. The program has no commitments from the Carolinas yet this year.
The Ragin' Cajuns are the second Sun Belt team in the AP Top 25 and by far the lowest-rated recruiting class in the countdown. La.-Lafayette comes in at No. 71, but that's good enough for second in the Sun Belt. The Ragin' Cajuns have one of the best coaches in college football, Billy Napier, the guy who I thought Texas should have hired. Napier and his staff tend to focus on two states - Louisiana and Texas - and generally draw 90 percent of their recruiting classes from those two states. The staff may also dip into the Mississippi junior colleges for more immediate depth. The positive of staying so isolated is that the staff isn't spread too thin and can focus on a smaller group of prospects to evaluate.
June 1 Update
Today is the official restart of college football recruiting as we knew it before the pandemic.
For the past 15 months, college football recruiting has been a virtual exercise. Zoom meetings replaced face-to-face time. The campuses have been closed, and the coaches not allowed to communicate with a prospect if they arrive on campus on their own dime to have a look for themselves or check out an open spring practice. Campus tours were virtual. Coaches couldn't go to high school football games in a scouting capacity.
That all changed at midnight. Several programs are doing events and hosting prospects/targets as early as 12:01 a.m., while other programs were planning brunches and BBQs later in the morning and afternoon.
Class of 2022 prospects can take on-campus official visits again starting this weekend. Each prospect is still limited to five official visits and only one per school. Unofficial visits, which prospects can do on their own dime, are back as well and will be a major tool for prospects looking to put together their boards for the Class of 2023 and 2024 prospects.
The other big return is college prospect camps that are hosted by the program on its campus and worked by the coaches on the respective staffs. The camp schedule in a regular year is busy, but for the 27 days of camp season in June, it's going to feel like the 405 in Los Angeles. Expect major news from all the big camps that the top prospects attend, whether it's at Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida State, Texas, Oregon, USC or Auburn. There are several larger-scale camps - called MEGA-camps - happening that will have in excess of 50 programs there for prospects from the elite FBS level down to Division III and NAIA. Call it one-stop shopping that should benefit both coaches and prospects.
Things to Watch for in June
Lots of verbal commitments:
A lot of prospects have been waiting to for face-to-face meetings and evaluations to commit to programs.
Lots of de-commitments:
Remember this is the first taste many verbal commitments will get of the campus and coaching staff they pledged to. Some will be happy with their choices. Many will reconsider. Expect to read many "respect my decision" tweets this summer.
The first set of rankings will be out near the end of the month.
Big Names Taking Early Visits
DL Walter Nolnes (Cordova, TN)
Nolnes is arguablty the top defensive prospect in the Class of 2022. He's taking an official visit to Florida this weekend and has visits to Michigan and LSU scheduled for the summer. Alabama and Ohio State are also in his final group and will get official visits in the fall.
CB Denver Harris (Houston, TX)
Harris will take official visits to all four of his top programs this month. Texas A&M is first up this weekend, followed by LSU on the 11th, Texas on the 18th and Alabama on the 25th.
OLB Jeremiah Alexander (Alabaster, AL)
Alexander surprised many by listing Central Florida is his top five with Alabama, USC, Clemson and Georgia, but the Knights will get an official visit from the top EDGE-rushing prospect in the nation on June 11.
S Kamari Wilson (Fort Pierce, FL)
Wilson is the top safety prospect in the nation. He is due to make an official visit to Georgia this weekend and then stop in at Texas A&M on the final weekend of June. Florida, Florida State and LSU are also in his top five.
Recruiting Rankings - June 1
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
Expect this to change by the end of the month.
NFL Picks - Sept. 24
2022 NFL Mock Draft - Sept. 22
NFL Power Rankings - Sept. 21
Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 8