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Southeast Spotlight: Cities that are surprising hotbeds of talent

Everyone knows Miami and Atlanta are college football recruiting hotbeds. Jacksonville, Tampa and even Birmingham are also accepted as fertile. There are lesser known Southeastern cities pumping out talent, however, as the ones listed below might surprise a fan or two.



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

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series




Anquan Barnes (Nick Lucero/

When you think about college football recruiting in the state of Alabama, most think Birmingham first, then maybe you go south to the Mobile area, but in the middle of those two cities is Montgomery, and it has a lot of talent too.

First-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Henry Ruggs came out of Lee High in 2017. The headliner in the 2021 class is out of the same high school, defensive lineman Anquan Barnes, a three-star committed to Alabama. Looking ahead in 2022, two of the top seven players in the state rankings and three of the top 13 are from Montgomery. Khurtiss Perry and TJ Dudley are four-star prospects and more are starting to emerge out of the Montgomery area. It will be recruited deeper and harder in the coming years.



Jacorey Brook (Nick Lucero/

For people that follow recruiting closely, Bradenton’s appearance in this list is less than shocking. The rise of the IMG Academy, of course, is the sole reason college coaches have flocked to the small Florida city the last six or so seasons. The all-athletes boarding school produces dozens of FBS players each year, and will pump out a particularly strong class in 2021.

Alabama commits Jacorey Brook (WR) and JC Latham (OL) headline the class of 2021 at IMG, but it’s a class that also includes prospects committed to Georgia, Florida State, LSU, Boston College and others.

The school’s 2022 class is every bit as loaded and is headlined by the uncommitted Kamai Wilson, who is ranked as the No. 1 safety in the class. IMG pumps out more talent annually than a lot of mid-sized cities.



Cedric Washington (

Nick Chubb is one of the top running backs in the NFL. Since Chubb came through, it has opened the door for others.

Running back Tony Mathis signed with West Virginia in 2019. Running back Kobe Pryor signed with Clemson in 2020. Quarterback Taji Hudson signed with East Carolina in 2020. The 2021 class is led by athlete Jayden Johnson, a South Carolina commit. Already in 2022, Cedric Washington is a four-star committed to Georgia.



Gabe Dindy (Nick Lucero/

The home of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, Lakeland has long been an under-the-radar hotspot for football talent. Not only will that not change in the near future, but the talent seems to be compounding. This year, the city boasts Clemson commit Cade Denhoff and Georgia Tech commit Gavin Barthial. Its 2022 class, however, will be even better.

Lakeland High’s Gabe Dindy (2022) is one of the top defensive linemen in the country and will likely land at Oklahoma, Florida or Clemson. Meanwhile, across town, Sam McCall is a high four-star safety attempting to choose between the Gators and Alabama. Prospects such as Jaylon Glover, Nasir Bowers, Keahinist Thompson and Jyvonte McClemdon will also land at major programs.



Deion Colzie (

When you think about Athens, you think University of Georgia football, but there is some top high school talent there too. Brock Vandgriff is a five-star quarterback in the 2021 class committed to the local Bulldogs, and he is 10 minutes from the UGA campus. Other top 2021 players in that area are four-star wide receiver Deion Colzie, three- star linebacker West Weeks (Virginia commit), three-star quarterback Bubba Chandler (Clemson commit) and three-star offensive tackle Hugh Laughlin (Virginia commit).

It doesn’t stop there. There are some top underclassmen to know too, and headlining that group is Rivals100 tight end Jake Johnson in the 2022 class.