Southeast Spotlight: Five underclassmen under the microscope this fall
The 2023 season is all but here and many future college football stars will begin their final high school ride. For the underclassmen, though, it doesn't mean the pressure is off. In fact, several rising junior and even rising sophomore prospects will have plenty of eyes on them early on in the fall.
Rivals combs through the Southeast for a handful of names to keep an eye on, particularly early in the high school football season.
Alvin Henderson had one of the most dominant 2022 campaigns from a numbers standpoint, racking up nearly 2,700 yards rushing in the Yellowhammer State, complete with a staggering 49 touchdowns. Not only will folks want to see how Henderson can potentially back up such a breakout campaign, especially as every defense's chief concern, but the junior-to-be has hinted at narrowing his recruitment further sometime soon.
Whether it is to be a verbal commitment or top programs, fans of Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee and many others could potentially see big numbers and good news for their programs come early September.
Jakaleb Faulk, the Highland Home standout had a huge offseason from a scholarship offer standpoint, with just about every SEC and ACC power program heavy on his trail. The Auburn legacy has many believing he will follow big brother Keldric to the Plains, but Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Clemson round out his top five.
Many fans, and media for that matter, will be up on Faulk early in the fall for a fresh look and grasp on an ascending recruitment that could come to a close sooner than most in the class.
From a journalistic standpoint, few prospects will take on the 2023 season with the type of interest Koby Howard has found himself with over the last 13 months. A star young wideout in the Florida panhandle, he racked up dozens of offers as a freshman before a severe knee injury last summer all but ended his sophomore campaign.
Now Howard is in South Florida, playing around and against elite talent at Davie (Fla.) Western High School, where there is considerable buzz not only about Howard's health, but his sheer athleticism and play-making ability in the preseason.
Should he push through and flash on the front end of the season, the bounceback campaign may become one of the most talked about storylines down South.
The next Newton up along a long line of head-turners on the football field, Jershaun Newton is quarterbacking one of the most talked about teams in Florida, coming off of a state title game appearance, while college football fans play the projection game as to where he may line up on Saturdays.
A dynamic ball carrier who has plenty of arm strength at the primary position, some colleges covet Newton as the triggerman though others see him anywhere from running back to safety or even linebacker in college. Many expect the junior to continue to fill out considering one of his older brother, Jer'Zhan, is a projected first-round NFL selection.
One could argue that this time last year, beyond Arch Manning, there wasn't a player drawing more eyeballs and google searches at the prep level than Julian Lewis. The freshman starter has been hyped since middle school, when he started landing offers, and he has all but lived up to it thus far.
In 2022, Lewis threw for more than 4,000 yards and 48 touchdowns with all those eyes on his every move. Now, Lewis has already trimmed a large list of offers to a top group with an early verbal commitment among the items being discussed around his name.