In his weekly series, Rivals National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts and opinions on recruiting topics and storylines that impact the national landscape.
CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals100
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
NO. 1 IN 2023 WILL BE A DEBATE
There are some recruiting cycles where it’s almost a virtual lock who is going to be the No. 1 prospect in the class. That was the case with Trevor Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and some others. But 2023 does not seem like that kind of recruiting cycle.
Lebbeus Overton was at the Rivals Camp in Miami over the weekend and while impressive, there are going to be guys who push him. Quarterback Malachi Nelson is special and Arch Manning has such a family pedigree and so many skills of his own that both of them will get a look. Receiver Brandon Inniss was dominant at the Miami Camp.
Offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor is awesome on film and I can’t wait to see more of him in person. Defensive tackle Francis Mauigoa is getting rave reviews out of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG and the native of American Samoa looks ready for college football right now. Those are just guys in the top seven nationally.
There will be a lot of moving and shaking atop the 2023 rankings and it will be fun to see how it plays out.
***** FLORIDA STATE COMMIT TO TAKE VISITS
I really like the Florida State recruiting class so far. Keeping it together will be the next important step although I think it’s going to happen. Everybody and their mother is coming after Travis Hunter and understandably so because he’s one of the top prospects in the country. And now it’s being reported that Sam McCall is looking at visits with Miami, South Carolina and LSU as three possible destinations but I don’t think Florida and others have given up, either.
The former Florida commit is now with the Seminoles and while I wouldn’t be concerned over Miami and South Carolina as much, LSU does make things a little more interesting. Still, from everything I’ve heard, McCall is locked in with Florida State, loves the class he’s coming in with and I doubt he flips again.
***** KLUBNIK IS REALLY TALENTED
I was watching some highlights from the Dallas Elite 11 over the weekend and I completely understand why Quinn Ewers is No. 1 overall in the 2022 rankings but I don’t think Cade Klubnik is all that far off. Even dealing with a shoulder injury, Klubnik looked great at the event, he moves better than Ewers and while his arm strength might be a notch below, the Clemson commit can get the ball there on time and accurately.
Right now, Klubnik is ranked as the fourth-best pro-style quarterback in the class and that’s a notch or two too low for me. Plus, he’s a gamer having beaten Ewers head-to-head this past season.
***** NOLEN AT ALABAMA IS A BIG DEAL
Walter Nolen (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)
It’s one spring game and it’s one visit but I don’t think it can be understated just how important it was that Walter Nolen made it to Tuscaloosa this past weekend. The five-star defensive lineman knew he wasn’t going to meet with the coaching staff but he still made the trek to Tuscaloosa and the rumors continue that he’s leaning toward playing in the SEC.
And there will be at least one more visit when Nolen comes back to Alabama for an official visit. That’s when coach Nick Saban, Pete Golding and Freddie Roach could really pour it on thick and convince Alabama would be the best spot for him. Michigan, Ohio State, LSU and others are very much in the picture as well but Nolen’s trip on his own dime was a big statement to me.
***** ARMELLA TO THE SEC?
I know Julian Armella lives close to the Miami campus and that his father played at Florida State but my sense is that the five-star offensive lineman is headed to the SEC. The Hurricanes and the Seminoles among others still have a very good shot but this past weekend he said Alabama and LSU were recruiting him the hardest and it just feels like he’s heading to an elite program that regularly pumps out offensive linemen to the NFL.
Back at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, this is going to be a big summer for Armella to really figure it out but I know he loves the way LSU is recruiting him and the fact that Alabama develops players at every position every year. My bet is he’s headed out-of-state.
***** PRAISE FOR KENTUCKY
I really like the job coach Mark Stoops and his staff are doing this recruiting cycle as the Wildcats currently have the fourth-best class in the SEC and they had an excellent weekend landing big commitments.
Four-star offensive lineman Kiyaunta Goodwin is a major one because Ohio State was battling there but it was sort of expected that the 6-foot-8, 305-pound prospect was leaning toward the Wildcats. But Kentucky beating out Tennessee especially for Spring Hill (Tenn.) Summit four-star LB Keaten Wade and four-star ATH Destin Wade really made a statement.
Kentucky already has five four-star commitments in its class. Last cycle, the Wildcats finished with three. It’s a great start for Stoops.
***** NEW TENNESSEE COMMIT IS A SLEEPER
Venson Sneed committed to Tennessee in recent days and while he’s been hot and cold at events this offseason he was outstanding at the Rivals Camp in Miami and this pledge speaks a lot to outstanding relationships built from UCF to Tennessee.
The Winter Park, Fla., three-star defensive end had been talking a lot with Josh Heupel and his staff when they were at UCF and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Sneed stayed home and played for the Knights. But when Heupel left for Knoxville, the attention stayed the same.
Sneed is an SEC-level player and someone who doesn’t look like he wants to play the recruiting game much more. With his size, physical presence and athletic ability off the edge, he is a nice early addition for the Vols.
***** SOME THOUGHTS ON OATIS
Jaheim Oatis (Rivals.com)
We are never going to bump any rankings because of the school a prospect commits to but Jaheim Oatis deserves a closer analysis than maybe he has received up to this point. Perhaps because he’s from small town Columbia, Miss., and there was not much known about him until the last week or so.
After seeing some new video, Oatis is just a massive human being who is physical and can move decently well for his size. Alabama made him a priority in this recruiting class and the 6-foot-6, 348-pound recruit makes a lot of impressive plays on film. We would love to see him in a camp setting but I’m not sure that’s going to be possible this spring. However, I doubt there are nine better defensive tackles although the debate will be interesting this offseason.
***** GETTING TO SEE MYKEL WILLIAMS
Mykel Williams (Rivals.com)
In the last recruiting rankings meetings, there was a lot of debate and conversation over whether Mykel Williams was a five-star prospect and just how dominant he was as a defensive end in this class. We decided to move him to No. 21 overall and the Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway standout definitely has some impressive film from this past season.
This weekend he is expected at the Rivals Camp in Atlanta and it will be interesting to see just how dominant he is across the defensive line. Caden Curry is a phenomenal prospect and nobody looks better than Dani Dennis-Sutton so staying atop the position rankings and at the five-star level will be a debate that could be ended after this weekend.
***** STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE END RANKINGS ARE RIPE FOR CHANGE
Gabe Dindy (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)
Which brings us to a larger conversation among the strongside defensive end position and just how many changes we’re going to see over the next rankings cycle and beyond.
Williams leads the list right now but Curry has outstanding film, Dennis-Sutton is a workout warrior who looks like one of the best prospects in the entire class regardless of position and then there could be lots of other movement, too.
Shemar Stewart and especially Gabe Dindy are two worth a more serious look out of Florida. Omari Abor from Duncanville, Texas, is another prospect who looks absolutely outstanding and is a little under the radar right now. Across the board there will be a lot of movement in the rankings especially after camp season.