Fact or Fiction: FSU will maintain recruiting momentum this spring
Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright - along with national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove, Charles Fishbein from the Osceola.com and Russell Johnson from TideIllustrated.com - discusses whether FSU will keep its recruiting momentum this spring, if Alabama will land the top-rated in-state 2024 prospect and whether moving to a streaming-only service would be a death knell for Pac-12 recruiting.
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1. A big spring will keep Florida State's 2024 class in the Rivals’ top five of the team rankings.
Wright’s take: FACT. The Seminoles have raced out to a strong start in the 2024 recruiting wars by securing nine verbal commitments, second most in the country behind Georgia (10), and there's no reason to believe Florida State will slow down this spring. FSU is expected to host some heavy-hitters like five-star receivers Jeremiah Smith and Jojo Trader in the first week of March. I’m not predicting either will commit, but the point serves that top players in the Sunshine State are very interested in FSU. Those interested will soon turn to verbal pledges this spring.
FSU has one of the more beloved coaching staffs in the state of Florida. Once players get on campus and get a chance to mix with head coach Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins, defensive coordinator Adam Fuller and the rest of the staff, I predict the Seminoles will start racking up commitments, or at the very least earn official visits from targets high on their board.
Fishbein’s take: FACT. FSU leads for Charles Lester - he is a top-ranked prospect. We could also see four-star offensive lineman Jason Zandemela pulling the trigger early, just as his former teammate Lucas Simmons did.
2. Alabama will sign the top-rated 2024 in-state prospect.
Wright’s take: FACT. Putting money down for Alabama to keep the top in-state prospect home for college would be a good bet in Vegas. But it all depends on how the rankings play out. Defensive tackle Peter Woods earned the top spot in the state in the 2023 class, but he signed with Clemson.
Alabama had a run of signing three straight top-rated, in-state players in Demouy Kennedy (2020), Ga’Quincy McKinstry (2021) and Jeremiah Alexander (2022). But if the class were to close today, outside backer Demarcus Riddick would make it two in a row for outside programs finding success in the state of Alabama, with the four-star committed to Georgia.
However, if current Bama commits Jaylen Mbakwe or Perry Thompson have big springs on the 7-on-7 and/or camp circuit, the Crimson Tide might ultimately sign the top in-state 2024 prospect.
Johnson’s take: FACT. It is hard to say whether or not Alabama will be able to secure a signature from the top player in the state of Alabama in the 2024 class. When difficult topics come to mind, past results play a big role in making a decision for a question like this one. The Crimson Tide have signed the top player in the state every year since 2020, other than last cycle, when Woods chose Clemson.
While Riddick is not currently being monitored as a flip target, Alabama has its hat in the race for nearly every other four-star in the state. Mbakwe, Thompson and Sterling Dixon (all current commits) could all find their way to the top of the rankings in the end. Alabama could quickly re-emerge in the recruitment of Kavion Henderson, and the Tide are also heavily involved with Jordan Ross, Malik Blocton and several others.
After watching Clemson win at the top in the 2023 class, the Crimson Tide will go to any length necessary to ensure they reclaim their spot at the top.
3. It would be a death knell for Pac-12 in regards to recruiting elite prospects if the conference signs a media rights deal with a streaming-only service like Apple TV+.
Wright’s take: FACT. All networks have some sort of streaming service already, but games for Power Five programs can also be found on cable and satellite providers, which keeps a wider audience on ESPN, ABC, NBC, Fox Sports and the like. The idea of moving to a streaming-only platform to broadcast games would limit any conference’s national exposure, in turn greatly affecting recruiting in a negative way.
All college football enthusiasts living in the Eastern and Central time zones have turned to a Pac-12 game at 9 or 10 p.m. If a viewer is already paying for a service like ESPN, that fan will continue to watch games outside their region. If forced to pay an added fee to watch Stanford take on Arizona State, the Pac-12’s relevance on the national stage will decline rapidly - and the audience includes high school recruits. Even prospects and their parents on the West Coast may miss the Saturday action and they would have no idea what type of team is recruiting them or the scheme a team runs without an easy to access viewing platform.
With the loss of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, the Pac-12 can ill afford to have a further diminishing market. Narrowing a window of TV exposure for recruits east of the Mississippi marginally interested in the Pac-12 will open more opportunities for other Power Five teams. That would allow those same teams to clean house on the recruiting trail along the West Coast.
Cosgrove's take: FICTION. I certainly don't see it helping the Pac-12's cause with elite prospects, but at the same time I do not see it being a death knell for Pac-12 recruiting as a whole. Many recruits interested in playing for a Pac-12 school would likely use a free trial of the streaming service to watch schools of interest. Those that don't subscribe to the service or utilize the trial could have additional incentive to attend a game in person, and schools that see the streaming of conference games as a handcuff may be more incentivized to schedule nationally relevant games to be televised on major networks.
At the end of the day, I see streaming as being the future of all television (especially sports), and this is just another thing that both schools and recruits will adapt to over time.