Fact or Fiction: South Carolina has best 2023 DL class in nation
Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman, Caleb Alexander of GamecockScoop.com, Zach Libby of TheMaizeandBlueReview.com and Jed May of UGASports.com tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.
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1. South Carolina has the best DL class in the nation.
Friedman's take: FICTION. This is really splitting hairs, because South Carolina's class of four Rivals250 defensive line commits is outstanding. But, for argument's sake, I'll say fiction because there are a couple other schools in the running here. Florida has a total of six defensive line commits, with five of them rated as four-stars. The Gamecocks have four defensive line commits and all of them are in the Rivals250, but none are in the Rivals100. Florida has two Rivals100 defensive line commits in Kelby Collins and Will Norman. And while South Carolina does have more Rivals250 defensive line commits than Clemson, the Tigers have more four-star commits than their in-state rival.
Alexander's take: FACT. While there are arguments to be made for some of the bluebloods like Clemson and Alabama having the best D-line class thus far, what Shane Beamer and his staff have done with the 2023 D-line class has been very impressive. Months ago, Desmond Umeozulu and Zavion Hardy seemed like the type of four-star recruits that you'd be happy if South Carolina was showing up in their top five possible programs. But surely it was too early in the Beamer era for the Gamecocks to actually land them. Yet here we stand at the end of summer with four four-star commitment along the defensive line – and they all rank in the Rivals250. If all four hold until signing day it will be arguably the best D-line class for South Carolina since 2011, when the Gamecocks landed two four-stars – and, of course, an all-world five-star in Jadeveon Clowney. There's an argument to be made this class could be better than that one.
2. After seeing five-star Nyckoles Harbor on Friday night, he should be ranked higher.
Friedman's take: FICTION. It was great to see Harbor back on the football field this past weekend. There is no doubt he's a special prospect who could be a difference-maker on either side of the ball at the next level. There weren't a ton of chances for him to get involved in defending against the run, but he made his presence felt when the quarterback dropped back to pass. Offensively, Harbor didn't record many catches, but he created a lot of opportunities for his quarterback to get him the ball. Despite a scary moment when he ran into the goal post reaching for an overthrown pass Harbor looked very comfortable back in football pads.
It's hard to get behind a move up the rankings for him at this point. He's already No. 9 in the Rivals250 and four of the players ranked ahead of him are quarterbacks. Position value becomes a bigger factor at the top of the Rivals250, and while he is an exceptional athletic talent it's difficult to rank Harbor ahead of the players already in front of him when projecting to the NFL Draft.
Libby's take: FACT. Last week’s loss wasn’t the perfect example as to why Harbor deserves to be higher in the 2023 Rivals250 rankings. For the five-star to have just a few weeks to transition from track to football before going up against a top DMV program was an indicator that Harbor’s full-scale potential will be seen later this fall. But in the short moments that Harbor shined Friday he provided feats of athleticism that have colleges like Michigan, LSU and South Carolina willing to take him regardless of position.
There isn’t a more dangerous weapon on either side of the ball in the top 10 of the Rivals250. Harbor can be utilized as either a tight end or edge rusher. If we’re going off his performance against Gonzaga College alone, then his trajectory is better suited for defense. When rushing off the tackles, Harbor absolutely dominates with his 6-foot-5, 220-plus pound frame. He’s the fastest player off the line and can push linemen back several yards with a simple bull rush, powerful punch, hip movement and dip. But with his electric speed and accumulating development in areas like route running, Harbor could absolutely earn All-American honors on offense. The sky is the limit for the Washington, D.C., native.
3. Monroe Freeling is the biggest commitment Georgia has received from the state of South Carolina since A.J. Green.
Friedman's take: FICTION. Freeling is a great prospect and a much-needed one for Georgia's 2023 recruiting class, but the Bulldogs have been a constant presence in the Palmetto State. They've picked up a number of talented players from South Carolina in the years since five-star receiver A.J. Green signed in Georgia's 2008 class. Earlier this year, former Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley star linebacker Channing Tindall was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He was the third on Georgia's national championship defense in tackles and was named to the All-SEC Second Team. He was part of Georgia's 2018 class.
May's take: FACT. States aside, Freeling had emerged as a must-land target for Georgia in the 2023 class. The Bulldogs have three commits on the offensive line, but they appear to have ground to make up with five-stars TJ Shanahan and Samson Okunlola. Freeling gives Georgia another Rivals250 tackle to complement Bo Hughley, Joshua Miller and KJ Smith. At a position of need in this class, Freeling’s commitment is a massive one for the Bulldogs.