Midwest Spotlight: Four tough rankings questions
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove looks at four burning questions ahead of the next rankings update for the 2024 and 2025 recruiting cycles, including the possibility of Midwest players ranked No. 1 overall in back-to-back years.
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CLASS OF 2026 RANKINGS: Rivals100
1. COULD THE MIDWEST FEATURE THE TOP PROSPECT IN THE 2024 AND 2025 CLASSES?
This will be one of the biggest debates come the next rankings meetings as there doesn't appear to be a consensus as to who deserves the top spot in either class.
Georgia quarterback commit Dylan Raiola currently holds the top overall spot in the 2024 class. A valid argument can be made for him to retain his top spot in the rankings, but some will argue that he isn't even the No. 1 overall quarterback in the class with the nod going to Julian Sayin. If there isn't a clear cut top player at quarterback, then it is going to be hard to make them the top overall prospect, and we will have to look at who comes next between Jeremiah Smith and Williams Nwaneri.
Smith has a strong case as the best wide receiver in the class and an argument can be made for him being the best player in the nation. The only downside is the slim chance of a receiver being drafted top overall with the last pass catcher to be drafted first being Keyshawn Johnson in 1996. This is where Nwaneri's position value comes into play and why an argument can be made for him being the No. 1 in 2024. Since 2014 only three non-quarterbacks have been drafted first and all three times they were defensive ends, so going with that logic I would likely have Nwaneri No. 1 if the group decides not to go with a quarterback.
NFL Draft logic also tells us the chances of a quarterback not being selected first overall two consecutive drafts rarely happens during the modern era. Should a quarterback not hold the top spot in 2024, Bryce Underwood should surely get the nod in 2025, and if that is the case we could see back-to-back No. 1's from the Midwest.
2. WHAT TO DO WITH THE 2024 MIDWEST RECEIVERS?
There is a plethora of receiver talent in the Midwest right now with eight pass catchers from the region landing in the Rivals250. The fun thing about this group is their skill-sets vary greatly, the hard part about the varying skill-sets is putting them in order.
Texas commit Ryan Wingo sits atop the group and is the only five-star. While he isn't the most college-ready right now, he has a rare combination of size and speed, and likely has the most upside of the group should he reach his ceiling.
Wingo is followed by Ohio State commit Mylan Graham, who is a slippery route runner with speed to take the top off, and then Notre Dame commit Cam Williams, whose development has been remarkable over the past year. Both players have an argument for top receiver in the region.
Georgia commit NiTareon Tuggle is next and he's a big-play machine waiting to happen and is one of the more complete players of the group. Jeremiah McClellan follows and it can easily be argued that he is the most college-ready and surest thing out of the talented group of Midwest pass catchers.
Michigan State commit Nicholas Marsh, Michigan commit I'Marion Stewart and Wisconsin commit Kyan Berry-Johnson round out the group of Rivals250 pass catchers from the region. Marsh is a physical specimen and had a phenomenal senior season. Stewart is likely underrated despite his lofty ranking and may have been the most dominant that I saw in person this season. Berry-Johnson could end up being the most productive out of the entire group.
3. WILL THE MIDWEST GAIN ANOTHER FIVE-STAR IN 2024?
Missouri commit Williams Nwaneri, Ohio State commit Justin Scott and Texas commit Ryan Wingo are the three five-stars from the region as things stand today. The number we shoot for is 32 five-stars nationally and, with 22 already being named, that leaves 10 spots available should none of the current crop lose a star.
CJ Carr currently sits in the No. 23 spot and is the highest-rated non-five-star as things stand today. That puts him right within the threshold, and although I would argue he is worthy, it remains to be seen what the group consensus is, especially when you have other quarterbacks such as DJ Lagway who are having phenomenal senior seasons. The other player from the region that currently sits in the top 32 is Ohio State receiver commit Mylan Graham. Graham has proven to be five-star caliber but, with only 10 spots remaining and other wide receivers from his own region pushing him, will there be an opening for Graham?
There are plenty of others who are currently in the discussion, or could enter the five-star debate after all-star games. While I see the Midwest having four representatives when all is said and done, there are no guarantees when it comes to the honor.
4. WILL A 2024 THREE-STAR JUMP INTO THE RIVALS250?
There are a number of 2024 Midwest prospects who have made their case for Rivals250 inclusion and not all of them are currently rated as four-star recruits, either. While the majority of the region's candidates do carry four-stars next to their name, there are a number of three-stars who have made notable jumps in development and performance during their senior seasons. Two of these players come to mind in particular in Oklahoma commit Reggie Powers and former Michigan State commit Andrew Dennis.
Powers is a physical beast on defense with a skillset to play all over the place on the Sooner defense and will have a chance to make an immediate impact when he steps on campus. He adds value as a coverage guy, run defender, extra rusher and will be a standout on special teams as well. He may have too much value to be denied and even if he doesn't land in the Rivals250, there is little question as to whether or not he should get a fourth star.
Dennis may have made one of the biggest jumps in terms of overall play from junior to senior year that I have seen during the entire 2024 recruiting cycle. His strength, body control, technique, athleticism and sheer power jump off the film. I could argue that his senior film is as good as any Midwest offensive lineman in the 2024 class and Dennis will be one we take a close look at during the upcoming rankings meetings and the All-American game following that.