Ten programs that could sign top classes in 2026
This week Rivals.com is releasing the initial 2026 top 100 and there are already a bunch of teams that have a big jumpstart on the others when it comes to interest from those players within the top 50. Here’s a look at 10 programs that stand out early on.
Among the top prospects in the country, Alabama is going to be involved with many of them and that’s no surprise since the Crimson Tide have recruited extraordinarily well since coach Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa.
Alabama is in the running for five-star DL Jahkeem Stewart, it’s probably the early leader for four-star linebacker Anthony Jones and then DL Bryce Perry-Wright, LB Tyler Atkinson, DB Zech Fort, TE Brock Harris and DL James Carrington all had the Crimson Tide on their early list.
The Seminoles have excellent momentum in recruiting and on the football field - and top 2026 prospects are taking notice. From OL Keenyi Pepe to WR Jabari Brady to Atkinson, Fort, DE Camron Brooks, WR Calvin Russell, OL Maxwell Riley and Carrington, so many top prospects in 2026 are talking about the Seminoles that it’s hard to believe they won’t have a top recruiting class that cycle.
Big surprise: Georgia will keep recruiting well. More than a dozen prospects in the top 50 talked highly of the Bulldogs and not only that, Georgia could be considered the front-runner for a lot of them heading into the second half of their sophomore seasons.
While there were only a handful of players that mentioned LSU among their early favorites, the good news for the Tigers is that many of them are in-state or regional prospects and there’s a good chance LSU can land them all.
Stewart is the five-star defensive end from New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine; Brown lives down the road and goes to Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab. Aiden Hall is a top cornerback at New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr; Jones might be tough to get out of Alabama but LSU is moving up in his recruitment; and Tupelo, Miss., defensive end JaReylan McCoy has LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn highest on his list.
Mario Cristobal and his staff are coming off a major win over Texas A&M, which can only help recruiting, and a number of elite prospects – mainly in-state but also some nationally – are getting more serious about the Hurricanes. Pepe is one of them along with WR Malachi Toney, who is already committed, and WR Jabari Brady, a local prospect who has Ohio State and others on his list as well.
Quarterback Dia Bell said the Hurricanes are recruiting him as hard as anybody and so did fellow QB Noah Grubbs. Local WR Calvin Russell and top CB Brandon Lockhart from Los Angeles Loyola are some others that are highly interested as well.
The Buckeyes scored big already in the 2026 class by landing five-star receiver Chris Henry but Ohio State is far from done with elite talent. Another top WR Jabari Brady is also very interested in the Buckeyes, lineman Maxwell Riley has them among his top choices, DL Bryce Perry-Wright mentioned Ohio State first when asked about his favorites and DB Zech Fort and ATH Corey Sadley are also very interested early on.
Dan Lanning is bringing an SEC approach to the Pacific Northwest and it’s paying off so far as the Ducks are winning on the field and in recruiting as well. The 2026 class should not slow down at all as there are definitely some intriguing names to watch.
If Pepe chooses to come back West (he’s originally from Southern California) then Oregon could be in the mix. Tight end Brock Harris grew up in Oregon as a Ducks fan. It’s a two-team race between Oregon and USC for four-star CB Davon Benjamin. Other names to watch include RB DeZephen Walker and CBs Hall and Lockhart.
Penn State has started off strong landing its running back of the future in Messiah Mickens from Camp Hill (Pa.) Trinity in August. Quarterback Dia Bell is being pursued heavily by the Nittany Lions while Ekene Ogboko, Calvin Russell, RB Savion Hiter and Riley are four others to watch early on.
SMU is not usually a team that makes these lists but three elite top 50 players said the Mustangs are among their favorites early on. Rhett Lashlee and his staff are not backing down from the big boys and according to a source “believe it or not” five-star Stewart likes SMU a lot early on.
When the No. 1 prospect in a recruiting class is committed to your program, others will follow because they want to play with him. Five-star quarterback Julian Lewis committed to USC early and many others are interested including Pepe, who is from the area before he transferred to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, local cornerbacks Davon Benjamin and Brandon Lockhart and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei linebacker Shaun Scott, who wore a USC headband in his season opener.
There’s little doubt many elite offensive playmakers will be interested in the Trojans as well since Lewis is committed – and USC is averaging nearly 60 points per game this season.