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East Spotlight: Five surprising talent hotbeds

The East region is such a transient area thanks to private schools and boarding schools that amass talent from various parts of the country but there are pockets of the region that consistently produce highly ranked prospects, such as defensive linemen in the Carolinas or offensive linemen in Pennsylvania and the Northeast.

Today, Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman highlights some of the surprising and under-the-radar talent hotbeds located in the East region.

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Ify Obidegwu
Ify Obidegwu (Nick Lucero/

College football programs normally go to the Southeast, the Mid-South or the West Coast for top-rated defensive backs but many of the elite recruits at the position in recent years have come from the East region.

Five-star Desmond Ricks and top-50 prospect Daylen Everette may have graduated from IMG Academy in Florida but they are both originally from Virginia Beach. Also from Virginia Beach was former five-star Tony Grimes, who signed with North Carolina and is now playing at Texas A&M. Also on the list of big-time defensive back recruits from the East are freshmen standouts Jeadyn Lukus (Clemson), Joenel Aguero (Georgia), and Keon Sabb (Michigan). Lukas hailed from South Carolina and Aguero is from Massachusetts while Sabb began his career in southern New Jersey before transferring to IMG Academy.

There are a number of highly ranked defensive backs in the East region in the next few recruiting classes, led by Ify Obidegwu (Oregon commit), Faheem Delane, Blake Woodby (Ohio State commit), and Samari Matthews.



Stefon Thompson
Stefon Thompson (© Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

Programs around the country recruit the Carolinas for pass rushers and interior defensive linemen but they have quietly become one of the better producers of linebackers on the East Coast.

Former five-star Trenton Simpson (Clemson) and Rivals250 standouts Power Echols (North Carolina), Jalon Walker (Georgia), Payton Wilson (NC State), and Channing Tindall (Georgia) are just a few of the headliners. Simpson was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Wilson leads NC State in tackles this season. Echols is North Carolina's second leading tackler this year. Tindall was a third-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Also out of the Carolinas are impressive players such as Stefon Thompson, who had more than 100 tackles as a true freshman at Syracuse, Lee Kpogba, who currently leads West Virginia in tackles, Cedric Gray, a projected high draft pick out of North Carolina, and Nick Emmanwori, a freshman All-American last year at South Carolina.



Gideon Davidson
Gideon Davidson (

The state of Virginia has produced many elite running back prospects and there are a few carrying the torch for the state at the college level. Ohio State star TreVeyon Henderson hails from Virginia and so does Penn State bruiser Kaytron Allen, even though he graduated from IMG Academy.

Perhaps the most well-known running back in recent years to come from Virginia is Michigan star Blake Corum, who grew up in Northern Virginia before transferring to Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances. Current Wake Forest leading rusher Demond Claiborne was one of the top recruits from Virginia in the 2022 class and so was Rivals250 North Carolina signee George Pettaway.

Virginia will continue to be well represented at the top of the running back rankings thanks to 2025 Clemson commit Gideon Davidson and 2026 top-ranked back Savon Hiter leading the way.



Jordan Shipp
Jordan Shipp

The Carolinas have a strong reputation when it comes to producing elite defensive linemen but in recent years talented receivers have been popping up specifically in the Tar Heel State. Class of 2022 Rivals250 receiver Wesley Grimes is making his mark at Wake Forest this year and is third on the team in receiving yards. The 2023 class of receivers from North Carolina was outstanding with Nathan Leacock (Tennessee), Noah Rogers (Ohio State) and freshman All-American candidate Kevin Concepcion (NC State), who is leading the team in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

North Carolina has one of the best crops of 2024 receivers of any state outside of Florida, Georgia, Texas and California. Four-stars Jordan Shipp (North Carolina commit), Micah Gilbert (Notre Dame commit), Alex Taylor (North Carolina commit), and Rivals250 prospect Jonathan Paylor (NC State commit) lead this list but there’s also impressive prospects such as Keenan Jackson (North Carolina commit) and Terrell Anderson (NC State commit).



Anthony Sacca
Anthony Sacca (Kidd Ryno/

Pittsburgh and central Pennsylvania have a storied tradition of producing elite linebackers but the Philadelphia area is quickly catching up.

In the 2021 class, Rivals250 standout Jeremiah Trotter Jr. signed with Clemson and is an All-American candidate for the Tigers, leading them in tackles this season. The following year, Abdul Carter signed with Penn State and the Rivals250 prospect immediately made his mark. He’s now considered one of the better defensive players in college football.

In the 2023 class, Semaj Bridgman and Josiah Trotter signed with Michigan and West Virginia, respectively. Both were four-star prospects and have high expectations for the rest of their college careers. Look out for Rivals250 linebacker Anthony Sacca next year. The Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph’s star has a very high ceiling so it’s no wonder most of the powerhouse programs in college football are pursuing him.