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Fact or Fiction: Ohio State will land more elite Florida prospects

Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright along with Colin Gay of ScarletandGrayReport.com, Jason Higdon from 1standTenFlorida.com and Andrew Bone from BamaInsider.com tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.


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1. Ohio State fans can expect more elite prospects in the 2023 class out of Florida.

Troy Bowles
Troy Bowles (Rivals.com)

Wright’s take: FACT. Scanning through the 70 Florida prospects that are rated as a four-star or better, it feels like the Buckeyes are set to add a few more to the six they already have. Sitting atop the Team Recruiting Rankings, Ohio State is in the position to take what it wants, perhaps becoming more selective in the coming weeks.

Some of the key prospects to watch out of Florida would be LB Troy Bowles, DE Damon Wilson, CB Sharif Denson and DT John Walker.

Gay’s take: FICTION. Ohio State has already made noise in the state of Florida, with half of its class coming from the state, including both of its five-star wide receivers picked up this week in Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss. It's crazy to think about how much the Buckeyes have been able to pull already, and it's not crazy to think a few more may be on the way. However, there are a lot of other players from other states that the Buckeyes continue to look at extensively.

Yes, Ohio State is in the running for DT John Walker out of Kissimmee and LB Troy Bowles out of Tampa, who are both scheduled to be on campus for official visits this weekend. But with Walker, there's four-star defensive tackle A'Mauri Washington out of Chandler (Ariz.) and with Bowles, there's four-star linebacker Tackett Curtus out of Many (La). I'm not saying Ohio State can't pull out another Florida target or two. I'm saying that all of their main incomparable targets like Tate or Innis are already secured, and there's other targets in other states to look at.

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2. Alabama will land at least one of the three uncommitted 2023 five-stars from Florida.

Samuel M’Pemba
Samuel M’Pemba (Kid Ryno/Rivals.com)

Wright’s take: FACT. The state of Florida has six five-stars on the 2023 board: CB Cormani McClain, DE Sam M’Pemba, WR Carnell Tate (Ohio State), WR Brandon Inniss (Ohio State), WR Hykeem Williams and DE Keon Keeley (ND). Of the six, three remain uncommitted. Keeping that everything holds true, my prediction is McClain to Alabama.

Florida is close to home for McClain, but Alabama has a proven track record of winning and developing players. Billy Napier and his staff are well qualified with years of experience to put down on the table but are an unknown as a new collective group for now. If all things are essentially equal, perhaps coach Napier not wanting to put up NIL money will be the deciding influence for McClain and others on the Gators’ fence. M’Pemba would be a close second as a predictor to the Crimson Tide, but there are still some recruiting hurdles the two parties need to clear before that gets wrapped up.

Bone’s take: FACT. I am going to go out on a limb and say Alabama will land a five-star from the Sunshine State. It’s very difficult to make any strong predictions these days with the way the recruiting landscape has changed especially with NIL, but Alabama is still Alabama and will continue having success as it targets the best players on its board.

Alabama has wanted M’Pemba to camp, but he has yet to make the trip. The Tide prefers evaluating him to determine a future position. Williams has been high on Alabama’s board for several months. He visited once during the spring but has not returned. He will likely visit again but is currently considered a long shot.

Alabama’s best bet of the three is McClain. He has visited Tuscaloosa twice in the last few months including an unofficial visit last week. I believe this is a very tight battle (currently) between Alabama and Florida. The Crimson Tide continue to make a strong statement with McClain during each visit. He knows the program and coaches can develop him. It won’t be easy to leave Florida, but Alabama has a very good chance to steal him away.

Alabama is also heavily in the mix for some of the other top-ranked players in Florida including Francis Mauigoa, Malik Bryant and Richard Young. All three rank in the top 33 in the Rivals100. Alabama is also still in pursuit of five-star edge rusher and Notre Dame commitment Keon Keeley. I don’t expect Alabama to miss on all of its top targets from its neighboring state.

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3. Will Billy Napier’s reluctance getting into NIL bidding wars hurt the Florida Gators’ recruiting in the 2023 class?

Jaden Rashada
Jaden Rashada (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Wright’s take: FACT. College football diehards are having troubles wrapping their heads around how NIL deals will reshape the landscape of recruiting. With Napier saying he will not get into a bidding war for players, the statement is admirable but against the capitalistic nature of what recruiting has quickly become … just ask Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

Any head coach at a big-time program may want to believe their culture, winning tradition, development and resources provided are enough, but as the old saying goes, money talks. This stands for Florida and all programs. There will be a certain amount of financial negotiations going forward on players at key positions for those programs seeking to compete at an elite level on the recruiting trail.

Higdon’s take: FACT. There are a few reasons why I love this question; the main one is simple. This will truly be tested in less than a week or so when quarterback Jaden Rashada is scheduled to announce his decision.

Perception is the reality in recruiting, and the reality of this situation is Florida needs a top-flight quarterback. I believe Rashada and his family want to be part of what Billy Napier is building, but what is the monetary value of him “wanting” to be a Gator?

What if someone else comes in and offers $100,000 more a year? What if they offer $200,000 more a year? What is the tipping point when the family weighs the “want“ of being a Gator vs. more cash elsewhere?

Every coach across the country is in a challenging position. On the one hand, they say they will not get involved in NIL bidding wars; on the other hand? They have no choice because if you are not getting into the NIL bidding war, you are closing the door to a certain level of recruits. However, what is a coach supposed to do? Announce to the free world he will entertain every bidding war opportunity that arises throughout the recruiting cycle?

Even though coach Napier has said Florida would not entertain bidding wars, I believe they will have no choice with certain players, not if they want to field a competitive team vs. Alabama and Georgia.

To a certain extent, any head coach who does not entertain the idea of a bidding war will have a hard time winning conference titles.

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