Ranking the best commits from a busy recruiting weekend
Another busy weekend of commitments is in the rearview mirror as top prospects look to make their pledges before the season starts. Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney ranks their significant here.
1. DE Kelby Collins to Florida
This is an absolutely massive recruiting win for Florida over Alabama, South Carolina and others as the four-star defensive end picked the Gators with the Crimson Tide finishing in second place for the Gardendale, Ala., standout.
Collins loved the energy and vision from coach Billy Napier, assistant Sean Spencer and others, plus the opportunity to get on the field early in Gainesville. Beating Alabama for an in-state four-star defensive end is huge.
2. DT Will Norman to Florida
The defensive tackle rankings for the 2023 class are completely in flux and a big senior season by Norman or someone else could jettison them up even higher. The new Florida commit has a good shot because he’s not undersized and he’s not completely filled out.
Norman can shoot gaps or use his physical ability to dominate. The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy standout can live in the backfield or hold his ground and swallow up ball carriers up the middle. And with such an elite D-line around him, Norman shouldn’t have to deal with double teams all season.
3. ATH Ronan Hanafin to Clemson
Clemson beat out Notre Dame, Alabama, Boston College and others for Hanafin, who also plays lacrosse and can play both offense and defense but is expected to be a receiver for the Tigers. He’s a big-bodied kid who could actually gain even more weight. That he played “Welcome to the Jungle” in his commitment video earns him even more points in my book.
4. DB Kylin Jackson to LSU
It came down to LSU and Texas A&M for the four-star safety from Zachary, La., and coach Brian Kelly and his staff pulled off another big recruiting win. The vision in College Station is being laid out by coach Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies absolutely loaded up in the 2022 class while Kelly is just taking over in Baton Rouge.
It helps that LSU is down the road, there are excellent assistant coaches and recruiters there, and it’s DBU. The dream was to play for LSU and it happened. Jackson can run, he can cover and he can hit. All big things for LSU’s secondary.
5. OT Raymond Pulido to Alabama
Pulido is a living example that if you’re good, the best will find you because the massive offensive lineman is from a small, high desert town in Southern California. He’s done the camp circuit and spent a brief time at powerhouse Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco but the Apple Valley standout isn’t getting much exposure on Friday nights.
6. DE Kamran James to Florida
Although he’s rated as a mid-level three-star now, there is a strong possibility James can move up drastically within the rankings with a strong senior season. He has phenomenal size at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, he can win off the edge, win inside and the Orlando (Fla.) Olympia prospect is just someone we need to see more of this season.
His junior film is very impressive and getting eyes on him a few more times could move him up quickly if he performs.
7. DB Jayden Bonsu to Ohio State
The Buckeyes beat Miami and many others for the Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep standout who is a versatile defensive back but probably projects as a safety in college. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Bonsu is athletic enough to play cornerback, defend the slot, play the safety spots where he roams and makes plays or come down into the box and show off his physical side.
He’s a four-star but it’s hard to believe there are 20 better safeties in this class. His senior season could prove a lot.
8. LB Myles Graham to Florida
Graham will be under consideration as being the top inside linebacker in the 2024 class and his early commitment is not a complete shock but is still big. The son of former Gator and NFL running back Earnest Graham, the 2024 four-star is a tackling machine. He’s always around the ball and he is an intelligent linebacker who relies on timing and physical abilities to make plays.
Yes, he’s a Florida legacy but he also had to love the vision from the new coaching staff to make his commitment this early.
9. LB Stanquan Clark to Louisville
The Cardinals continue to land elite players and Clark is another one. Over the years, I’ve cared less and less about a linebacker’s size and more about his production and ability to play in space and Clark is phenomenal at both.
The Miami (Fla.) Central linebacker racks up tackles and he’s more than comfortable playing in space, checking receivers across the middle and making plays.
10. QB Chris Parson to Mississippi State
He has family connections to Starkville and to the school, plus Parson loves the idea of playing in coach Mike Leach’s offense. He’s not the tallest quarterback but at the Elite 11 he was very good throwing on the run and showing off impressive arm ability.
Did I mention the Bulldogs threw it 704 times last season?
11. CB Rickey Gibson to Tennessee
Tennessee beat Georgia and Penn State for Gibson and it’s a major pickup for the Volunteers. The high three-star cornerback is long and rangy, athletic in his coverage, can play on an island, comes off receivers well to pick up someone else when trusting his eyes and then Gibson is a sure tackler who gets people on the ground.
When needed, Gibson can lower the shoulder and knock the ball out and he has great vision to pick passes off or knock them down. He’ll be under four-star consideration with a strong senior year.
12. QB Jaxon Smolik to Penn State
When we saw Smolik at the Elite 11 this summer, it was shocking that he was committed to Tulane and really wasn’t picking up major Power Five interest. That changed shortly after the event as Cal and others got involved and then Penn State entered the picture when Marcus Stokes decommitted.
Stokes definitely has talent and dual-threat capabilities but Smolik is a better passer and might be addition by subtraction.
13. TE Zack Marshall to Michigan
Marshall was outstanding during the spring as a physically-gifted but more athletic tight end who has speed and great hands. But his recruitment was a little quirky. Utah and some other Pac-12 programs showed interest early but then slowed down a little bit.
At the same time, Marshall went out to Michigan for its BBQ at the Big House and the Wolverines ended up offering. He jumped on it weeks later and he’s a perfect fit – on and off the field – in Ann Arbor.
14. ATH Jerry Mixon to Oregon
Oregon is absolutely stacked at linebacker but the Ducks need to replenish the coffers because many of those guys – Noah Sewell, Justin Flowe and others – could be in the NFL soon. Mixon is not at that talent or physical-specimen level but he’s really athletic, moves smoothly, can go sideline-to-sideline and can also drop in space and cover in space. His cousin is Joe Mixon so that lineage can’t hurt.
15. ATH Jacorious Hart to Auburn
The idea is to put your best athletes on defense and Hart could be a very good one. Playing just miles from the Auburn campus, Hart ran 4.37 in the 40 at summer camp and is expected to play cornerback for the Tigers.
16. LB Brayshawn Littlejohn to Missouri
A connection to current Missouri linebacker Tyron Hopper as they were high school teammates helped the Tigers land Littlejohn’s commitment. It was also his only SEC offer and it might not have been a tough decision after Missouri came through with that one.
Regardless, it’s a good commitment and other teams might rue not offering him because Littlejohn can play outside linebacker or rush end and bring that athletic ability to inside linebacker, where he’s expected to play in Columbia.
17. ATH Vicari Swain to South Carolina
Whether he plays cornerback or comes to South Carolina as an athlete who can also play receiver, this is a nice pickup in an important recruiting territory for coach Shane Beamer and his staff.
Not every commit is going to be a blockbuster four- or five-star. Adding pieces is important and Swain is a talented one on both sides of the field.
18. DT Ansel Nedore to Texas Tech
To play along the interior defensive line in the Big 12, Nedore will have to add some weight as he’s somewhere between 245 and 255 pounds right now. But he has an excellent frame that can add mass.
He uses his hands really well and he’s an athletic defensive lineman who can win with speed. The Red Raiders beat out Baylor, TCU, Houston and others for him so it’s another nice, in-state recruiting win for coach Joey McGuire and staff.
19. TE Ben Marshall to Cal
Recent Mississippi State commit Justin Brown led the way statistically at Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman but Marshall was close with 65 catches for 834 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Cal is going to use multiple tight ends and since Marshall can block at his size or flex out, he’s going to bring value to the Golden Bears’ attack.