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Southeast Spotlight: Five intense recruiting battles

Cormani McClain
Cormani McClain (Nick Lucero/

There has been a noticeable increase in intensity on the recruiting trail these last few weeks. The Early Signing Period is less than three months away and teams are jockeying for position as the last uncommitted players finalize their visits.

Here is a closer look at the most intense recruiting battles playing out in the Southeast right now.


MORE: Five intense East Coast recruiting battles

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Main contenders: Alabama, Florida and Miami

The world of college football wanted him, but McClain is down to three schools with Alabama and Florida leading the way. McClain has been to Florida numerous times developing a comfort level during the Dan Mullen era that has carried over to Billy Napier and company. The development on the field in Tuscaloosa cannot be denied, which is a strong pull for the five-star.

Nick Saban and his staff have a big recruiting weekend planned on Oct. 8 when the Tide face the Aggies. Alabama will have its chance to make its case when McClain takes his official that weekend.


Main contenders: Alabama and Ohio State

The one-time Notre Dame commit could have a change of heart heading back to South Bend, but this is shaping up to be a two-team race between SEC and Big Ten bluebloods. Keeley took his official visit with the Irish in June decommitting in August about two weeks after an unofficial to Alabama. The prevailing thought was Alabama had closed on the five-star Tampa defensive end … but along came Ohio State. Several of the coaches on the Buckeyes’ staff can talk about producing NFL talent, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson is one who can puff his chest out a little broader given his success.

Keeley made a return trip to Columbus over the weekend to see Wisconsin get routed 52-21. The same weekend McClain will be on his official in Tuscaloosa so will Keeley. Alabama is in a great position to add two high achieving five-stars to its 2023 class. But the return visit to Ohio State may have the Buckeyes out in front for now.


Main contenders: Georgia, LSU, Miami and Tennessee

Of the 2023 recruits out there knowing what they are looking for after making numerous campus visits, none are probably as well seasoned as M’Pemba. From shaking coaches’ hands and touring campuses and facilities, M’Pemba has seemingly seen them all. On Sept. 21, M’Pemba narrowed his scope of interest to four with official visits to be taken to Georgia, LSU, Miami and Tennessee.

Of the four, M’Pemba took spring visits to Miami, Georgia and Tennessee with the Hurricanes hosting him again in late July. The Bulldogs got him on campus Sept. 10 for the Samford contest. UGA feels like the team to beat in this race.


Main contenders: Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State

The top five for Wilson was Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State and Texas. On Sept. 5, Wilson hinted that he was close to making a decision after taking his official visit to Ohio State. The four-star out of Florida’s Venice High School took an extended unofficial visit to Georgia in June and an official to Alabama on June 17. For now, Texas and Miami appear to be out of the running.

The Buckeyes brought Wilson on campus in mid-April. Wilson liked enough of what he saw then for the official visit. Ohio State’s winning ways and defensive line coach Larry Johnson are points of interest for Wilson. Worth noting, Wilson and Keeley took their official visits to Columbus together and are friends away from the gridiron.


Main contenders: Florida, Miami and Ohio State

Whoever lands Johnson, that big moment could come down to the last minute of the Early Signing Period. After a mid-April unofficial to Ohio State, Johnson verbally committed to the Buckeyes. Still committed, Johnson took officials to Oklahoma and Ohio State. After a late July unofficial with the Gators, Johnson decommitted. Water cooler talk has Miami and Florida battling it out for Johnson with the Gators ahead. With Johnson, he seems open to the process, willing to wait it out before committing again.