Southeast Spotlight: Five biggest questions heading into rankings week
The 2020 high school football season was delayed, shortened or outright postponed, depending on what part of the country you lived in. Any game action is an opportunity to re-evaluate prospects, and there was still plenty to see in the classes of 2021 and 2022. The updated Rivals rankings of those two classes will start next week. Here are some of the questions we look to get answered in the Southeast region.
1. Who’s the top 2022 prospect in Florida?
Heading into this update, we had Jacksonville (Fla.) Lee cornerback Jaheim Singletary on top in Florida and No. 5 in the country. He was followed by Miami (Fla.) Columbus offensive tackle Julian Armella, who checked in at No. 8 nationally. Safety Kamari Wilson of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy could work his way into the conversation next week.
Wilson was a four-star in the last update and checked in at No. 25 in the country, but he has drawn a lot of praise from the analyst team this season. Wilson has speed, size, athleticism and physicality, and plays a position that is becoming more and more important for teams as they attempt to slow down spread offenses.
Will Singletary hold on to the top spot or is Armella, a prospect at a premium position, ready to make that move? Both are strong five-star prospects, and each are being pursued by elite programs like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Tennessee, so this is not only a battle now, but expected to be one we monitor closely over the next 12-13 months.
2. How many new five-stars in Georgia?
There will be more five-stars in Georgia once these rankings are updated. How many is the question, and who will add that fifth star?
Starting in 2021, the two five-stars are offensive tackle Amarius Mims of Cochran (Ga.) Blackley County and quarterback Brock Vandagriff of Bogart (Ga.) Prince Avenue, both Georgia commits. Those two have very impressive bodies of work with real upside as they move forward to Athens in January and are not of dropping to four-star status.
Linebacker Barrett Carter of Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett is the No. 37 prospect in the country and, outside of missing a few games due to an injury this season, he has played lights out. He was already impressive the last couple seasons but, even without the normal offseason and chance to train with his team like in normal years, he has put on a show this fall. The Clemson commit remained heavily in the discussion for that coveted fifth star.
In the 2022 class, Tifton (Ga.) Tift County defensive lineman Tyre West is the lone five-star in Georgia. Athlete Travis Hunter of Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill, quarterback Gunner Stockton of Tiger (Ga.) Rabun County and defensive end Mykel Williams of Columbus (Ga.) Hardway are all in the discussion for a bump this cycle.
Who will add that fifth star? Will it be Carter in the 2021 class or someone in the 2022 class? These will be tough calls to make.
3. How much does Latham rise?
JC Latham entered the season as the No. 23 prospect in the country and, despite just playing offensive tackle for one year, the four-star at IMG Academy had already made a strong case for that fifth star. He has been extremely impressive this season. The biggest question not only in this region, but nationally, will be how high will he go?
The Alabama commit has future NFL first-round draft pick written all over him. He has the frame, he has the feet, he has the potential and he is headed for a program that is known for its player development under Nick Saban.
There were two questions that had to be answered this update. First, is Latham a five-star? Second, where does he end up in the national rankings? Both will be answered next week.
4. Where does Nolen land?
Walter Nolen was a fairly easy call when it came to naming him the top junior in the country in the initial 2022 rankings. The biggest issue we had at that time was him playing at Olive Branch in Mississippi his first two seasons, then transferring to IMG Academy for a short time before moving to Tennessee to attend St. Benedict of Auburndale this year. In today’s world, moving around is much more common than it was five years ago, so we overlooked that.
Thanks to COVID-19 scheduling complications and a minor injury, there is no new film of Nolen at the time of these rankings. It will be a tough call on whether he will remain atop the 2022 rankings or slot others ahead of him that we have been able to evaluate over the last few months.
We know Nolen is an elite talent, but is he No. 1? That will be answered in two weeks.
5. Who’s the top junior in Alabama?
The state of Alabama continues to produce more and more talent. When we look at the 2022 class, we see some potential stars in the Yellowhammer State. Is there a clear No. 1? There are a handful of 2022 prospects that could make a strong case for that top spot in Alabama.
Going into this update, Thompson (Ala.) edge Jeremiah Alexander held that No. 1 ranking. The one-time Alabama commit can play with his hand down or standing up and really excels at rushing the passer.
Montgomery (Ala.) Park Crossing defensive lineman Khurtiss Perry checked in at No. 2 and Oxford (Ala.) cornerback Trequan Fegans at No. 3. Mobile (Ala.) Williamson linebacker Robert Woodyard has also worked his way into the conversation surrounding the top of the Alabama state rankings.
Perry is a versatile defensive lineman that will likely end up at the three-technique on the next level. He is being pursued by the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Ohio State. Fegans is a big, physical defensive back that could project anywhere across the secondary and he has an impressive offer list. Woodyard is an Alabama commit that bounced back from a knee injury that held him out most of last season, and he was talked about not only across Alabama, but throughout the panhandle due to his performance and location.
This is going to be a fun race to track.