Rivals Rankings: Meet the initial five-stars in 2026
The top 10 prospects in the 2026 class were introduced today, including five five-stars. Here is more about each of them.
1. Julian Lewis
Julian Lewis has seemingly been destined for the five-star distinction since middle school, and now Rivals becomes the first to tag the Carrollton (Ga.) High School star as a five-star prospect for the class of 2026.
Hardly a surprise, there is almost a Lewis-against-the-field feel for the beginning of the evaluation process for the class of 2026. It didn't take long into our rankings meetings to not only be comfortable with the stars, but the overall ranking, for Lewis. It was unanimous among all involved that Lewis, especially as a prodigy quarterback, was the name to go with atop the first ranking for his class.
Whether it be on Friday nights, offseason events, college attention, physical projection or a combination -- Lewis has been built for the No. 1 mantle.
As a freshman in 2022, with the pressure of becoming the next great Peach State passer, all Lewis did was tear up elite competition en route to a state championship appearance on the heels of more than 4,000 yards and 48 touchdowns passes. A few games into his sophomore campaign, including a season-opening debut on national television in which he nearly out-dueled class of 2024 five-star QB Air Noland, Lewis looked even better.
He is playing more efficient football compared with last year and has yet to throw an interception four games into the campaign, all while completing passes at a higher clip. Again, few are surprised by the uptick, including collegiate evaluators like USC's Lincoln Riley, who accepted a verbal commitment from Lewis back in August. Lewis currently stands about 6-foot-1 and is 190 pounds, with the modern traits necessary for stardom in today's game.
He processes beyond his years (Rivals charted that 2023 debut HERE) while showcasing easy-to-see arm talent, mechanics and obvious production. Throw in requisite mobility and the maturity to succeed despite unfair pressure and scholarship offers in his immediate teens, and Lewis starts to give off the type of vibes that will be tough to overtake in the class of 2026 or the next level when he makes the jump to college football.
– John Garcia Jr.
2. Jahkeem Stewart
Jahkeem Stewart looks like a man among boys at 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds while only being a sophomore. Yet despite his young age, Stewart has wasted no time in turning heads across the nation.
Stewart has been on the recruiting scene since before he took his first varsity snap at New Orleans (La.) St Augustine. The massive defensive lineman holds offers from several of the nation's premier programs, including Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas and USC.
He's backed up his status in games and on the camp circuit, too. Stewart has more than held his own against older competition at the Rivals Camp Series, winning defensive line MVP honors in Atlanta back in the spring.
He's a physically dominant player in the trenches that wins with power and strength at the point of attack. Stewart is coming off a game visit to Alabama, while the home state LSU Tigers and defending national champions Georgia Bulldogs also figure to be big-time contenders for the defender out of The Boot.
– Cole Patterson
3. Jackson Cantwell
Both of Jackson Cantwell’s parents are former Olympic athletes, giving him an athletic pedigree that few recruits in recent memory can match. His genetic profile isn’t the only trait that stands out, as the Nixa (Mo.) product measures in at a towering 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, with the athleticism to match his size, making him the prototype for a future NFL left tackle. While there may be a handful of 2026 recruits that can match his size, there are none that match his combination of size, athleticism and body control at this stage.
The NFL draft tells us that a quarterback is most likely to get drafted first overall, making the best player at that position more likely to land in the top spot each recruiting cycle. And while offensive tackle comes third in the NFL draft’s top pick pecking order, Cantwell has all of the tools to jockey for the top spot in his class.
– Clint Cosgrove
4. Chris Henry Jr.
With a frame and skill-set that rivals even the most elite receivers in the upper classes, the Ohio State commit’s game is far beyond his years. Whether he is stretching the field with his long speed, winning 50/50 balls with his length or burying a defensive back with a punishing block, Chris Henry Jr. Is the complete package. He excels in every aspect of the game.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, the No. 1 receiver is already a big body and is likely to more closely resemble a tight end than a wideout by the time he is done growing. The Cincinnati (Ohio) Winthrow standout is only scratching the surface of what he will eventually become signing day, making his upside downright scary.
Then you throw in the fact that Henry Jr. Is the son of the late Chris Henry, who was one of the NFL’s most electric wide receivers for the Bengals, and you can see why the Buckeyes wasted little time sealing the deal with Ohio’s top 2026 recruit.
– Clint Cosgrove
5. Keenyi Pepe
Take a spring stroll around the football practice fields at IMG Academy and even the most thorough evaluator will hit on-campus personnel with a 'who is that!?' every so often. There is always new, easy-to-see talent on the upcoming roster, but few have garnered the amount of inquiries early into their time at IMG like Keenyi Pepe already has.
Just a sophomore, he has been in the offensive line rotation for more than a year, even occupying the starting right tackle post early in the 2023 football season ahead of many rock solid college football prospects older than he. Sure, the 6-foot-7, 290-pound frame is striking on its own, but his game has come along to the point some IMG coaches feel he can contend with some of the top offensive linemen the program has sent to the college level and beyond.
Pepe has become a national recruit since early on at his time at IMG, with more than 20 scholarship offers to his name to date, projecting as a true tackle prospect with that dream frame. While he will develop more strength and technical skills in the coming years, his foundation already includes flashes of brilliance as both a run blocker and pass protector. With the latter, he has easy movement skills despite the immense height, and he'll continue to work to lower that pad level.
More importantly at this stage, relative to the run or the pass, Pepe has a strong punch that creates movement. He can disable a rusher with one hand or drive him against his will with two.
With roots in American Samoa, Pepe admits it's both early in the recruiting process for him, yet there is no hesitation to consider colleges away from the West Coast since he has already made the move to Florida for the foreseeable future. He admits offers to Oklahoma, Georgia and hometown USC were among the tenders to really make an impression when they came in, though he continues to take visits everywhere.
Since moving to IMG and the state of Florida, Pepe says he likes "the play style" of football in the region, another factor in keeping his options open this early on. There are no current plans for an early verbal commitment.
– John Garcia Jr.