Rivals.com - Name, Image and Likeness Part 3: How athletes build their brand
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Name, Image and Likeness Part 3: How athletes build their brand

Playing football better than others is still the point, but in the age of Name, Image and Likeness, to maximize dollars over time, it’s not a bad strategy to develop your personal brand.

Be conscientious. Be original. Be yourself.

That’s the message to recruits from Voltage Management’s Zach Soskin, an expert in brand building for athletes who also used to work at adidas.

Social media will continue to play a huge role in branding athletes and the bigger the following, the more influential you can be to advertisers looking for NIL opportunities.

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RIVALS' NAME, IMAGE & LIKENESS SERIES:

MONDAY: Answers to biggest questions | NIL 101 - Who will make the money

TUESDAY: Building an athlete's brand

WEDNESDAY: What HS athletes think

THURSDAY: How colleges are handling this

FRIDAY: The most marketable college athletes

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“Kids know the red flags to avoid now, but creating some sort, without going too heavy, some sort of persona or some way to make yourself memorable is important,” Soskin said.

“The No. 1 lesson I give even pro athletes is we’re all replaceable. It doesn’t matter if you’re Tom Brady, they can just do a deal with Peyton Manning. You want to find the ways to make yourself less replaceable or more unique. You look at someone like Justin Flowe and the Babyman brand. That is huge. Just because he has this persona, it’s authentic to him, it’s a childhood nickname that plays into his play style and now there’s something for him to be known for.”

Flowe was a five-star linebacker from Upland, Calif., in the 2020 recruiting class who signed with Oregon over Clemson, USC and many others. Everyone who knew him called him Babyman, a nickname he received as a child because he was still so young but already looked – and played football – like a man.

Justin Flowe
Justin Flowe


Find your thing without being phony is the message from Soskin and others in the branding space. And it can be anything. JuJu Smith-Schuster gained popularity on social media because he was genuinely interested in gaming and he shared it with others. Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz has a following for his hunting escapades.

Football comes first, but building a genuine social media persona will be crucial to develop a stronger online presence and gain more of a following for NIL money in the future.

“Make it easy for people to find you,” Soskin said. “Your display name should be your actual name or at least contain it. If people can’t find you on social media, you’re way less valuable.

“People can only remember a personal brand or an athlete and they need to be able to describe it in one or two sentences. Pick what you want that sentence to be and then make sure you’re posting to that. If you’re into fashion, throw some stuff not playing football but in outfits you think are cool. You want to show that other side of you. ... Whatever your niche is, own it, don’t just try to be a football player. People love that more than ever.”

RANKING THE RIVALS100 ON SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

J.J. McCarthy

Twitter: 13.3k

Instagram: 46k

Total: 59,300

Recruiting: McCarthy is committed to Michigan.

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Mario Williams

Twitter: 10.3k

Instagram: 34.7k

Total: 45,000

Recruiting: Williams is committed to Oklahoma.

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Caleb Williams

Twitter: 10.7k

Instagram: 23.2k

Total: 33,900

Recruiting: Williams is committed to Oklahoma.

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Treveyon Henderson

Twitter: 12.5k

Instagram: 17.1k

Total: 29,600

Recruiting: Henderson is committed to Ohio State.

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Ga’Quincy McKinstry

Twitter: 7,841

Instagram: 20.5k

Total: 28,347

Recruiting: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia and LSU are among McKinstry’s favorites.

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Brock Vandagriff

Twitter: 10.4k

Instagram: 17.2k

Total: 27,600

Recruiting: Vandagriff is committed to Georgia.

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Garrett Nussmeier

Twitter: 5,671

Instagram: 21.7k

Total: 27,371

Recruiting: Nussmeier is committed to LSU.

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Korey Foreman

Twitter: 6,449

Instagram: 20K

Total: 26,449

Recruiting: A former Clemson commit, the Tigers along with USC, Georgia and Oregon are frontrunners.

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James Williams

Twitter: 6,280

Instagram: 16.2k

Total: 22,480

Recruiting: Georgia and Miami are Williams’ top two.

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Will Shipley

Twitter: 7,160

Instagram: 14k

Total: 21,160

Recruiting: Shipley is committed to Clemson.

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Emeka Egbuka

Twitter: 7,019

Instagram: 13.7

Total: 20,719

Recruiting: Ohio State, Washington, Clemson and Oklahoma are Egbuka’s top four.

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Preston Stone

Twitter: 5,499

Instagram: 14.7k

Total: 20,199

Recruiting: Stone is committed to SMU.

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Latrell McCutchin

Twitter: 7,728

Instagram: 11.9k

Total: 19,628

Recruiting: A former Alabama commit, McCutchin is high on Oklahoma, the Crimson Tide and others.

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Terrence Lewis

Twitter: 13.3k

Instagram: 6,131

Total: 19,431

Recruiting: Lewis is committed to Tennessee.

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Tony Grimes

Twitter: 8,915

Instagram: 7,936

Total: 16,851

Recruiting: Grimes is committed to North Carolina.

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Tunmise Adeleye

Twitter: 10.3k

Instagram: 6,510

Total: 16,810

Recruiting: Adeleye is committed to Ohio State.

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Jake Garcia

Twitter: 4,492

Instagram: 12.3k

Total: 16,792

Recruiting: Garcia is committed to USC.

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Jacorey Brooks

Twitter: 4,472

Instagram: 12k

Total: 16,472

Recruiting: Brooks is committed to Alabama.

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Evan Pryor

Twitter: 6,212

Instagram: 10k

Total: 16,212

Recruiting: Pryor is committed to Ohio State.

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Marvin Harrison Jr.

Twitter: 7,180

Instagram: 8,876

Total: 16,056

Recruiting: Harrison is committed to Ohio State.

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Troy Franklin

Twitter: 3,784

Instagram: 11.8

Total: 15,584

Recruiting: Franklin is committed to Oregon.

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Tyler Buchner

Twitter: 3,643

Instagram: 10.7

Total: 14,343

Recruiting: Buchner is committed to Notre Dame.

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Corey Collier

Twitter: 3,834

Instagram: 10k

Total: 13,834

Recruiting: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Miami are among the top teams.

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Dylan Brooks

Twitter: 8,617

Instagram: 4,875

Total: 13,492

Recruiting: Brooks is committed to Tennessee.

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Quaydarius Davis

Twitter: 4,022

Instagram: 9,371

Total: 13,393

Recruiting: Davis is committed to USC.

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Aaron Willis

Twitter: 5,573

Instagram: 7,762

Total: 13,335

Recruiting: Willis is committed to Tennessee.

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Shadrach Banks

Twitter: 6,210

Instagram: 7,021

Total: 13,231

Recruiting: Banks is committed to Texas A&M.

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Kyle McCord

Twitter: 5,552

Instagram: 7,659

Total: 13,211

Recruiting: McCord is committed to Ohio State.

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Ceyair Wright

Twitter: 1,918

Instagram: 11.1k

Total: 13,018

Recruiting: USC, Texas, Oregon, Arizona State and many others remain involved.

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Donovan Edwards

Twitter: 6,176

Instagram: 6,785

Total: 12,961

Recruiting: Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia, Oklahoma and others are involved.

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Payton Page

Twitter: 5,937

Instagram: 6,721

Total: 12,658

Recruiting: Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee are among the favorites.

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Billy Bowman

Twitter: 5,307

Instagram: 7,089

Total: 12,396

Recruiting: Bowman is committed to Texas.

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Raesjon Davis

Twitter: 4,387

Instagram: 7,775

Total: 12,162

Recruiting: Davis is committed to LSU.

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Jalen Milroe

Twitter: 5,713

Instagram: 6,317

Total: 12,030

Recruiting: Milroe is committed to Texas.

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Amarius Mims

Twitter: 10.6k

Instagram: 705

Total: 11,305

Recruiting: Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and LSU are among the top schools.

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Barrett Carter

Twitter: 5,135

Instagram: 6,150

Total: 11,285

Recruiting: Carter is committed to Clemson.

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Cody Brown

Twitter: 6,216

Instagram: 4,897

Total: 11,113

Recruiting: Brown is committed to Tennessee.

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Jack Sawyer

Twitter: 7,026

Instagram: 4,026

Total: 11,052

Recruiting: Sawyer is committed to Ohio State.

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Blake Fisher

Twitter: 5,433

Instagram: 5,553

Total: 10,986

Recruiting: Fisher is committed to Notre Dame.

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Keith Brown

Twitter: 4,499

Instagram: 6,477

Total: 10,976

Recruiting: Brown is committed to Oregon.

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J.T. Tuimoloau

Twitter: 3,084

Instagram: 7,863

Total: 10,947

Recruiting: Ohio State and Washington are among the favorites.

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Beaux Collins

Twitter: 4,449

Instagram: 6,151

Total: 10,600

Recruiting: Collins is committed to Clemson.

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Maason Smith

Twitter: 5,134

Instagram: 4,893

Total: 10.027

Recruiting: LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M are among the top teams.

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Tristan Leigh

Twitter: 5,608

Instagram: 3,991

Total: 9,599

Recruiting: Oklahoma, Clemson, LSU, Alabama, Ohio State and others are still involved.

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Jaylin Davies

Twitter: 3,707

Instagram: 5,786

Total: 9,493

Recruiting: Davies is committed to Oregon.

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Jakailin Johnson

Twitter: 3,189

Instagram: 6,177

Total: 9,366

Recruiting: Johnson is committed to Ohio State.

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Smael Mondon

Twitter: 4,619

Instagram: 4,732

Total: 9,351

Recruiting: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and others are involved.

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Thomas Fidone

Twitter: 4,952

Instagram: 4,084

Total: 9,036

Recruiting: Nebraska, Iowa, LSU, Michigan and others are in the mix.

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Donovan Jackson

Twitter: 4,702

Instagram: 3,960

Total: 8,662

Recruiting: Jackson is committed to Ohio State.

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Sam Huard

Twitter: 3,629

Instagram: 5,003

Total: 8,632

Recruiting: Huard is committed to Washington.

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Tywone Malone

Twitter: 3,001

Instagram: 5,585

Total: 8,586

Recruiting: Ohio State, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Texas A&M and others are involved.

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Miller Moss

Twitter: 2,711

Instagram: 5,714

Total: 8,425

Recruiting: Moss is committed to USC.

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JC Latham

Twitter: 3,622

Instagram: 4,740

Total: 8,362

Recruiting: Latham is committed to Alabama.

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Rocco Spindler

Twitter: 4,013

Instagram: 4,141

Total: 8,154

Recruiting: Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame and others remain involved.

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Landon Tengwall

Twitter: 4,394

Instagram: 3,573

Total: 7,967

Recruiting: Tengwall is committed to Penn State.

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Bryce Foster

Twitter: 3,656

Instagram: 4,100

Total: 7,756

Recruiting: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and others are battling it out for Foster.

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Moliki Matavao

Twitter: 3,131

Instagram: 4,615

Total: 7,746

Recruiting: Matavao is committed to Oregon.

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Nolan Rucci

Twitter: 3,892

Instagram: 3,839

Total: 7,731

Recruiting: Clemson, Penn State, Wisconsin and others are involved.

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Tommy Brockermeyer

Twitter: 4,206

Instagram: 3,485

Total: 7,691

Recruiting: Alabama, Texas, Auburn and LSU among others are in the mix.

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LJ Johnson

Twitter: 2,798

Instagram: 4,885

Total: 7,683

Recruiting: Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma and others remain involved.

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Jake Briningstool

Twitter: 2,769

Instagram: 4,238

Total: 7,007

Recruiting: Briningstool is committed to Clemson.

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Kyron Ware-Hudson

Twitter: 2,070

Instagram: 4,849

Total: 6,919

Recruiting: Ware-Hudson is committed to Oregon.

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David Daniel

Twitter: 3,957

Instagram: 2,744

Total: 6,701

Recruiting: Daniel is committed to Georgia.

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Junior Colson

Twitter: 3,694

Instagram: 2,927

Total: 6,621

Recruiting: Colson is committed to Michigan.

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Camar Wheaton

Twitter: 2,823

Instagram: 3,599

Total: 6,422

Recruiting: Oklahoma, LSU, Texas and others are involved.

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T.J. Bollers

Twitter: 3,858

Instagram: 2,556

Total: 6,414

Recruiting: Bollers is committed to Wisconsin.

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Deion Colzie

Twitter: 2,632

Instagram: 3,761

Total: 6,393

Recruiting: A former Notre Dame commit, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and others are involved.

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Jason Marshall

Twitter: 3,486

Instagram: 2,868

Total: 6,354

Recruiting: Florida, Alabama, Clemson and others remain in the mix.

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Derrick Davis

Twitter: 3,233

Instagram: 3,120

Total: 6,353

Recruiting: Penn State, Ohio State, Clemson, LSU and others are near the top.

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Ben Christman

Twitter: 4,216

Instagram: 2,106

Total: 6,322

Recruiting: Christman is committed to Ohio State.

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Michael Hall

Twitter: 2,167

Instagram: 4,074

Total: 6,241

Recruiting: Hall is committed to Ohio State.

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Branden Jennings

Twitter: 2,996

Instagram: 3,218

Total: 6,214

Recruiting: Jennings is committed to Florida State.

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Micah Morris

Twitter: 3,467

Instagram: 2,269

Total: 5,736

Recruiting: Morris is committed to Georgia.

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Isaiah Johnson

Twitter: 3,580

Instagram: 2,124

Total: 5,704

Recruiting: Numerous SEC schools along with others are involved in Johnson’s recruitment.

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Greg Penn

Twitter: 2,631

Instagram: 3,063

Total: 5,694

Recruiting: Maryland along with a host of SEC programs are in the mix.

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Ma’a Gaoteote

Twitter: 1,745

Instagram: 3,756

Total: 5,501

Recruiting: Gaoteote is committed to USC but Colorado and others are giving chase.

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Monkell Goodwine

Twitter: 3,474

Instagram: 1,705

Total: 5,179

Recruiting: Alabama, LSU, Maryland, Penn State and others are involved.

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Hudson Wolfe

Twitter: 3,062

Instagram: 2.055

Total:5,117

Recruiting: Wolfe is committed to Tennessee.

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Tyreak Sapp

Twitter: 2,345

Instagram: 2,653

Total: 4,998

Recruiting: Sapp is committed to Florida.

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Sage Ryan

Twitter: 2,117

Instagram: 2,822

Total: 4,939

Recruiting: LSU along with Alabama, Florida State and others are in the mix.

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Rayshaun Benny

Twitter: 2,712

Instagram: 2,193

Total: 4,905

Recruiting: Michigan, Kentucky, Penn State, Arkansas and others are among the favorites.

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Lee Hunter

Twitter: 2,721

Instagram: 2,064

Total: 4,785

Recruiting: Hunter is committed to Auburn.

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Ty Thompson

Twitter: 2,571

Instagram: 2,168

Total: 4,739

Recruiting: Thompson is committed to Oregon.

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Brian Thomas

Twitter: 1,535

Instagram: 3,000

Total: 4,535

Recruiting: LSU, Alabama and other SEC teams are highest on Thomas’ list.

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Gabriel Rubio

Twitter: 3,200

Instagram: 1,334

Total: 4,534

Recruiting: Rubio is committed to Notre Dame.

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Elliot Donald

Twitter: 2,580

Instagram: 1,867

Total: 4,447

Recruiting: Pitt is believed to be the favorite but Penn State, LSU and others are involved.

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Chris Hilton

Twitter: 1,772

Instagram: 2,631

Total: 4,403

Recruiting: LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama and other SEC schools are in the mix.

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Kaemen Marley

Twitter: 2,224

Instagram: 1,826

Total: 4,050

Recruiting: Marley is committed to Tennessee.

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Kingsley Suamataia

Twitter: 3,568

Instagram: 418

Total: 3,986

Recruiting: Oregon is believed to be the favorite but Georgia and many others are involved.

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Lorenzo Styles Jr.

Twitter: 2,671

Instagram: 1,267

Total: 3,938

Recruiting: Styles is committed to Notre Dame

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Giovanni El-Hadi

Twitter: 1,646

Instagram: 2,206

Total: 3,852

Recruiting: El-Hadi is committed to Michigan.

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Teddy Prochazka

Twitter: 2,490

Instagram: 1,351

Total: 3,841

Recruiting: Prochazka is committed to Nebraska.

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Ja’Tavion Sanders

Twitter: 1,934

Instagram: 1,903

Total: 3,837

Recruiting: Sanders is committed to Texas.

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Donte Thornton Jr.

Twitter: 3,571

Instagram: 187

Total: 3,758

Recruiting: Oregon, Arizona State, Florida State and others remain in the mix.

*****

Louis Hansen

Twitter: 1,730

Instagram: 1,994

Total: 3,724

Recruiting: Hansen is committed to Michigan.

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Terrence Ferguson

Twitter: 1,873

Instagram: 1,618

Total: 3,491

Recruiting: Georgia, Florida State, Alabama and others are involved.

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Drew Kendall

Twitter: 1,072

Instagram: 1,888

Total: 2,960

Recruiting: Michigan, Penn State, Boston College, Virginia and others are involved.

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Damon Payne

Twitter: 2,753

Instagram: N/A

Total: 2,753

Recruiting: Alabama, Ohio State, Kentucky and others are in the mix.

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Savion Byrd

Twitter: 2,243

Instagram: N/A

Total: 2,243

Total: SMU, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma and others are involved in his recruitment.

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DeAndre Boykins

Twitter: N/A

Instagram: N/A

Recruiting: Boykins is committed to North Carolina.