football Edit

Five teams who could surprise in 2021 cycle

Camar Wheaton
Camar Wheaton (Rivals.com)

The 2020 installment of National Signing Day is in the books, and of course, that naturally segues us to a very talented 2021 class. There are 14 five-star prospects that headline the 2021 crop, including the nation’s top overall player, Korey Foreman, who recently committed to Clemson.

Such is a theme when looking at the Rivals team recruiting rankings, as Clemson has maintained a stranglehold on some of the country’s top prospects. While Clemson finishing as a top team in the recruiting rankings is all but expected, there are plenty of other programs that could surprise in 2021. Here’s a look at who:

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CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

TEXAS

As we flip ahead to the 2021 class, there’s a notable conglomerate of Lone Star State-based prospects inside the Rivals250. Camar Wheaton is the nation’s top running back; Bryce Foster is the nation’s top guard and Tommy Brockermeyer has a case to be made as not only the top tackle in the country, but the best prospect overall.

Texas has done a ton of early work to get some of the best players inside the state to jump onboard before or during their junior seasons, include Rivals100 prospects like Billy Bowman Jr., Ja’Tavion Sanders and Jalen Milroe, as well as other nationally ranked names such as Derrick Harris and Hayden Conner. That seven-member class is good for No. 4 early on, but there’s still room to rise with top-50 players from Texas like Brockermeyer, Wheaton, Foster, Landon Jackson and Quaydarius Davis still out there.

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WISCONSIN

The Badgers finished with a top-30 prospect and on a regular basis, they seemingly outperform their recruiting rankings and compete for Big Ten championships. Perhaps 2021 will be the year they see fireworks on the recruiting trail as well.

Wisconsin is sitting with a top-10 class early on to kick off the 2021 cycle with early pledges from a pair of in-state Rivals250 members in offensive tackle JP Benzschawel and safety Hunter Wohler, who are unsurprisingly Nos. 1 and 2 in the state rankings.

Wisconsin’s eight-member class could be bolstered by some fireworks among national prospects out of the Midwest. Four-star Michigan cornerback Kalen King has frequented Camp Randall. The same goes for Rivals250 outside linebacker Yanni Karlaftis, the brother of Purdue defensive lineman George Karlaftis.

There’s also some momentum with one of the nation’s top tight ends, Thomas Fidone; Rivals100 defensive end TJ Bollers; Rivals250 linebacker Mac Uihlein and top-30 prospect Nolan Rucci. And if Wisconsin lands one more offensive lineman in the class, keep a close eye on Rivals100 guard Rocco Spindler.

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MIAMI

Routinely, Miami finds itself at or close to the top of the initial team recruiting rankings. The Hurricanes are notorious for the fast starts on the trail, but lesser for how they close in December and February. With grad transfer D’Eriq King on board with a new offensive coordinator in Rhett Lashlee, perhaps it’ll be a different story for 2021.

The Canes are sitting pretty with three local four-stars on board, including defensive linemen Chamon Metayer and Savion Collins, as well as guard Laurence Seymore. Now, does Miami have sticking power in the top 10? There are plenty of other elite options close to home, including five-star defensive backs James Williams and Corey Collier, as well as the nation’s top outside linebacker Terrence Lewis, the No. 2-ranked receiver Jacorey Brooks and other top-50 prospects in Mario Williams, Branden Jennings and Agiye Hall.

Elsewhere, Miami has the attention of out-of-state stars like Rivals250 defensive end Aaron Armitage early on. Rivals250 receiver Jalil Farooq recently visited campus and local standout Bralon Brown is trending the Canes’ way.

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USC

USC won recruiting championships in consecutive years from 2004-06 under Pete Carroll and returned to the top of the mountain again as recently as 2010 and 2015. Since then, it’s been trending the SEC’s favor. However, the USC brass is sticking with Clay Helton and his coveted offensive coordinator Graham Harrell along with former Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando in the same role in Los Angeles.

The Trojans are not recruiting at the same championship levels as they have in previous years, but they have a chance to turn a corner in 2021. Rivals100 prospects like local quarterback Jake Garcia and linebacker Ma’a Gaoteote are already locked in with early commitments. That’s a strong foundation for Helton and Co. to build upon.

USC remains in a good spot early on with five-star Emeka Egbuku as well as Rivals250 receiver Terrance Ferguson. Troy Franklin remains an intriguing in-state possibility with an offer, too.

The biggest obstacle is for the Trojans to begin putting a border around their region to the best they can. The West Coast has been USC’s ground to lose in the past, but several local talents have committed to Clemson, LSU and Notre Dame already, which is an area that needs fixing.

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IOWA

There’s no chance Kirk Ferentz ever checks where the Hawkeyes stand in the recruiting rankings, but as a team that thrives on its own evaluations, Iowa is certainly in a position to make a run for a top spot in 2021.

Currently, Iowa holds commitments from seven prospects, which is good for No. 8 in the country. Among those are Rivals250 tackle Connor Colby and linebacker Justice Sullivan. The Hawkeyes may not have to escape the Midwest to further bolster the class, either. Rivals250 tackle David Davidkov has been strongly linked to Iowa. So has fellow Illinois standout Mac Uihlein and in-state top-100 prospect TJ Bollers, who could certainly help Ferentz’s squad climb the ranks.

Additionally, Iowa has yet to find its quarterback for 2021. One name to watch is Rivals250 quarterback Ty Thompson, who has been very complimentary about the team’s pro-style attack and visited earlier this month.

Thomas Fidone put a clinic at the All-American Bowl Combine in January and resides in Iowa’s backyard. It’s hard to imagine that one of the nation’s premier tight ends can avoid garnering interest from the Hawkeyes much longer. He’s a candidate to wind up at one of the nation’s premier tight end factories, too.

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