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Tuesdays with Gorney: Thoughts on the 2026 rankings

Jahkeem Stewart
Jahkeem Stewart (Nick Lucero/

Today we released the top 10 prospects in our initial 2026 rankings and on Wednesday the full Rivals100 will be out. In today’s Tuesdays with Gorney, national recruiting director Adam Gorney gives five thoughts on the 2026 class as a whole and looks at some important storylines within the group.

MORE 2026 RANKINGS: Meet the five-stars | Who should be No. 1?


RUMOR MILL: Latest buzz surrounding top prospects

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I’m not sure Julian Lewis is the best high school quarterback in the country regardless of class like some do but the USC commit who’s visited Georgia and Alabama the last two weeks is incredibly talented. There’s a little Bryce Young to his game as far as anticipation and accuracy, and he can hold his own against Dylan Raiola, Julian Sayin, Bryce Underwood or any other five-star in any class.

Jahkeem Stewart is the most-impressive defensive player in this class by far – and as I’ve said before he would almost definitely be a five-star in the 2024 class. His size and ferocity off the line is incredible, he takes a backseat to no one and the New Orleans (La. ) St. Augustine prospect really wants to be good. Coaches talk about give-a-sh** factor and Stewart has all of that.

The reason I didn’t say Stewart is the most impressive prospect in the entire 2026 class so far is because that honor might go to offensive lineman Jackson Cantwell out of small-town Nixa, Mo. He’s all of 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, moves well for his size and he has the best pedigree of anyone as both of his parents were in the Olympics for track and field.

Chris Henry’s late father played in the NFL and the Cincinnati (Ohio) Withrow receiver is not as talented – yet – as Jeremiah Smith but he has the size and the length of elite five-star receivers over the years. At the Elite 11 this summer, Henry was so smooth in his routes and he caught everything with ease.

The last five-star in these early rankings is Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy’s Keenyi Pepe. There will be debate in the coming years whether he’s a pure left tackle or needs to play on the right side but it almost doesn’t matter. He’s an impenetrable brick wall that no defensive end can beat even as just a sophomore. Brandon Baker is the No. 1 offensive tackle in 2024 and he plays on the right side. Pepe reminds me a little of a lighter Francis Mauigoa, who’s starting as a freshman for Miami already.



Aaron Gregory
Aaron Gregory

Henry leads the way at wide receiver and based off his skills, pedigree and size it might be tough to knock him off the top line, but the position is very good at the top and has depth as well.

Aaron Gregory from Douglasville (Ga.) Douglas County was superb at the NextGen event in Atlanta this summer as he has speed, ranginess and great hands as well. Florida and Mississippi are particularly loaded at the receiver spot in 2026.

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Monarch’s Jabari Brady and early Miami commit Malachi Toney, who’s undersized but has incredible speed and playmaking ability, lead the way in Florida. Small-town Mississippi receivers Xavier McDonald from Morton and O’Mari Johnson out of Wesson (Miss.) Wesson Attendance Center are big-time prospects as well.

One receiver who is emerging with a fantastic start to his sophomore season against great competition is Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco’s Daniel Odom, who has three touchdowns in three games and averages more than 20 yards per catch.



Tyler Atkinson
Tyler Atkinson (Nick Lucero/

Stewart leads the way at defensive end and it would be shocking if someone overtakes him for the top spot there since he’s been so dominant. But there are other elite players across the board at that spot starting with two from Georgia in Camron Brooks and Jordan Carter.

At weakside defensive end, Loganville (Ga.) Grayson’s Tyler Atkinson is a devastating edge rusher who can also play some outside linebacker roles like dropping in coverage and running sideline to sideline to make tackles. Hezekiah Harris has some of the best size in the class and then Kevin Ford Jr. and Colton Yarbrough are names to watch as well.

Defensive tackle is absolutely loaded. Lamar Brown, who could play on the offensive or defensive line, is high up there but he will be pushed by some top-notch inside guys – James Carrington, Bryce Perry-Wright, Jareylan McCoy, Preston Carey and others. Not only is there high-end talent but it’s deep at defensive tackle.



Brandon Lockhart
Brandon Lockhart

Cornerback is very good. Safety might even be better. That’s how it’s shaping up early in the 2026 class in the secondary as Los Angeles Loyola’s Brandon Lockhart and Cornelius (N.C.) Hough’s Samari Matthews are battling it out toward the top at corner but Justice Fitzpatrick (Minkah’s brother), Davon Benjamin and Aiden Hall are all elite.

Safety is completely loaded. Blaine Bradford and Zech Fort are two of the best in the class – and they’re different safeties as Bradford is longer and hits harder while Fort has great instincts. Bralan Womack, Zelus Hicks and especially Jireh Edwards could push toward the top of that list as well.



Brady Smigiel
Brady Smigiel (Nick Lucero/

Lewis has been in the spotlight for so long even as only a sophomore that we’re pretty confident with his ranking now. Over time we will be seeing these quarterbacks more in games and in other settings, so the rankings will work themselves out.

Brady Smigiel puts up huge numbers and he has a big arm so he can push even higher in the rankings and then in time we will figure out Jared Curtis. Our question now is he doesn’t have elite playmakers around him but he’s also not playing a top schedule, so it might take other events to project him accurately.

Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage’s Dia Bell is someone who has caught the eye of national analyst John Garcia Jr. early this season but new South Carolina QB commit Landon Duckworth among others will push there as well.