Three-Point Stance: Nick Saban, five No. 1 candidates, Arch Manning
Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has thoughts on some recent Nick Saban comments, who could end up No. 1 in the 2024 class and Arch Manning as a recruiter for this Texas recruiting class in today’s Three-Point Stance:
FACT OR FICTION: Dante Moore could unseat Arch Manning as the top QB
1. NICK SABAN HASN’T LOST A STEP
Recent comments by new Clemson commit Peter Woods, a four-star defensive end who lives about an hour from Tuscaloosa, that coach Dabo Swinney is more lively and more understanding of teenage life than Alabama coach Nick Saban has raised some eyebrows.
Saban is 70-years-old. Swinney is 52. There has always been a pep in Swinney’s step that is contagious and exciting where Saban, off the field, I’ve been told is more relaxed in recruiting meetings with a CEO personality. I’ve taken that as a compliment toward Saban.
Woods’ comments could have been off-handed after announcing the biggest decision of his life so far, the thinking of a teenager who doesn’t calculate every word and its meaning. It could have been meant as a compliment to Swinney and not necessarily a knock on Saban. Kids say things all the time that might not be so well-considered.
Or it could be a tactic being utilized by younger, maybe more vibrant coaches to win heated recruiting battles. The same strategies were used against Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden in their later years but both were much older than Saban and both Penn State and Florida State fell on hard times at different segments in the closing stanzas of their careers.
That is not the case at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide would have finished first in the team recruiting rankings in 2022 if not for an historic class by Texas A&M which started not only a signing day controversy around NIL deals but Saban made comments in recent months that sparked another outrage by Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher. Whichever side you fall on that argument, Saban is definitely engaged.
In 2021, Alabama had the No. 1 class. The Crimson Tide finished second or third in the previous two years. No. 1 classes have been so commonplace in Saban’s career that it’s completely surprising when it doesn’t happen now even as Georgia and Texas A&M have ramped things up under Fisher and Kirby Smart in recent years.
The Crimson Tide battled incredibly hard in the national title game this past season in a loss to Georgia where numerous starters were out. After the game, quarterback Bryce Young and others looked crestfallen that they lost, not just disappointed but shocked that it could happen. The program remains in incredibly good hands.
In his career, Saban has seven national titles and 10 SEC championships. Has he lost a step at 70-years-old? Probably not. But even if Saban has, he’s still so far ahead of most everyone else that national titles are still the expectation and recruiting should not fall off one iota.
2. NAMES FOR NO. 1 IN 2024
Colin Simmons is the current No. 1 prospect in the 2024 class and he’s special coming off the edge but especially this early there’s no guarantee on which prospect will finish No. 1 in that group. Here are five prospects we’ve seen this summer that look like potential top-rated recruits as well:
DB Desmond Ricks - Derek Stingley was the only cornerback who finished No. 1 in the rankings in Rivals history dating back to 2002 but Ricks is going to be in the conversation as well. There was a clip from the recent OT7 tournament in Las Vegas where Ricks went stride-for-stride with five-star CB Cormani McClain and that level of athleticism, speed and competitiveness is rare. Ricks is special and could battle for No. 1 overall.
QB Dylan Raiola - The Ohio State commit leads an already-loaded quarterback group. At the Steve Clarkson QB Retreat this summer, Raiola not only won the long-toss for QBs at 72 yards but he made every throw, threw great off-platform and looked the part of the No. 1 player overall. From his on-field ability to his leadership skills to just the intangibles, we could be looking at Patrick Mahomes 2.0.
QB Julian Sayin - I’ve written before that Sayin is the most technically sound quarterback in the 2024 class - and maybe regardless of class - but that’s not giving him enough credit because he’s so much more. The Carlsbad, Calif., five-star is a surgeon on the field, he has strong leadership skills and might be a bit more athletic than he gets credit for. He’s the type of QB who’s going to outthink and then fool defenses with his decision-making ability.
QB Jadyn Davis - The Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day five-star quarterback is a mixture of the two ranked ahead of him. He can make all the throws, has the arm strength, is super savvy and plays with moxie and the QB rankings in this class are far from settled. Davis isn’t as impressive physically as Raiola but he’s had a tremendous offseason as well and more than backed up his ranking.
DE Alex Cunningham - When I saw Cunningham on the sidelines of the Elite 11, I thought this is what a No. 1 defensive end looks like. He’s massive, he has little to no bad weight and from seeing him at numerous events - and from the reports of his training at Stars this summer - Cunningham is a big-time worker. He’s also now transferring out to Los Alamitos, Calif., after loving it in Southern California this summer. That might not affect his ranking but against such solid competition, it shouldn’t hurt, either.
3. ARCH MANNING THE RECRUITER
Since Arch Manning’s commitment on June 23 - which seems like months ago - Texas has ramped up with 10 other pledges. The five-star quarterback and No. 1 overall prospect cannot be credited with every one of them but certainly some and after talking to some commits, it’s clear Manning is working hard behind the scenes to get more guys in the class.
At a 7-on-7 tournament in Huntington Beach, Calif., over the weekend, I was talking to Texas tight end commit Spencer Shannon who said he has been in talks with Manning, the two are getting to know each other better and that he’s super impressed with the five-star quarterback.
A lot of what Manning does is quiet, behind the curtain, not public-facing but it seems like it’s not only resonating with the Texas commits but they’re actually developing a bond with Manning. He’s not this out-of-touch nephew of Peyton and Eli. They’re quickly learning he’s a kid just like them and they’re gravitating toward him in a big way.
Maybe even more uncommitted prospects could be on the way soon as Arch Manning has gone from recruited to recruiter.