Recruiting Rumor Mill: Will Johnson, Walter Nolen, more

Recruiting Rumor Mill: Will Johnson, Walter Nolen, more

The Recruiting Rumor Mill is back with lots of news on top 2022 prospects and more. Here is a look at some of the latest chatter as the focus turns to the next recruiting cycle.

RELATED: How things stand with uncommitted 2022 five-star prospects

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RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK SCHEDULE:

Monday: Five-Star Countdown

Tuesday: New Rivals250 | Big movers | Where five-stars stand | Five-star watch | Farrell’s thoughts

Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | Programs with most commits

Thursday: Defensive position rankings released

Friday: State rankings released

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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USC and Ohio State could be the frontrunners for Branch, with Clemson and Oregon also making a major move, but Oklahoma has gone quiet recently, although the Sooners have once again started to pick it up a little more. The Trojans have long been considered a top team and now Branch is growing his relationship with assistant Donte Williams even more.

A bunch of coaches from Ohio State are pursuing Branch hard and then Clemson and Oregon are keeping pace as well. Once considered perhaps the team to beat, Oklahoma maybe has slipped a little, but if the Sooners pick it up again they could get right back in it.

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Alabama has an edge in the recruitment of the five-star wide receiver and he said over the weekend at the Pylon 7v7 tournament in Bullhead City, Ariz., that it was fair to say the Crimson Tide had an edge because of how many receivers the program have developed and how none of them have been busts.

But the rumor is Texas is right at the top as well, especially now with coach Steve Sarkisian in place because he did such a great job getting the ball to receivers when he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Oregon is the other school considered to be in that higher group of Coleman’s top eight.

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Florida State, Michigan State, Penn State and Oregon made the top four for the four-star quarterback and that was a little surprising, since so many tapped Arizona State as the frontrunner in Duffy’s recruitment. This is where it gets interesting.

The Sun Devils are apparently still very involved for the Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy QB, but a lot of picks came in that Duffy was going to end up at ASU and it sat the wrong way with Duffy, so he turned his focus to some others. Arizona State is still a major player, but others are right there now for him, too.

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It seems like every week there is a new rumor about the five-star cornerback, but now that he has a top four of Alabama, LSU, Texas and Texas A&M there is something new to report. The feeling now is that the three SEC schools have a better shot at landing the Houston (Texas) North Shore standout and that Texas trails heading into the spring. That could change, especially as Harris gets to know coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff better, but the feeling now is that this is a three-team SEC contest.

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Sunday is commitment day for the five-star cornerback and it looks like Michigan and USC are battling it out, with Ohio State becoming a distant third. The new defensive coaches in Ann Arbor who have NFL experience have become a massive draw for Johnson, among other factors that make the Wolverines look like a strong pick.

His friendship with fellow five-star cornerback and USC commit Domani Jackson could give the Trojans hope down the stretch. The Buckeyes look like a long shot at this point.

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Despite Texas taking a commitment from high four-star QB Maalik Murphy, Klubnik said the Longhorns continue to recruit him hard and the Longhorns could still be very much in the picture for his recruitment. The chatter is that Klubnik is not afraid of going someplace with another quarterback committed, which keeps the door to Texas open.

Clemson is coming on strong, as are Florida and North Carolina. There is a sense that Klubnik might be waiting for Ty Simpson to make his commitment between Clemson and Alabama and then focus on the school not chosen but as of late last week, Klubnik has not talked once with the Crimson Tide yet.

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The five-star linebacker released a top eight in mid-January and from that list Georgia has been recruiting him the hardest, which could have a big influence when Murphy is ready to decide.

After that it would be Clemson and Oregon showing the most interest, even though many people believe the Manassas (Va.) Unity Reed standout could end up at Ohio State. Georgia is not making this easy and Clemson and Oregon are right there as well.

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Oklahoma is going to play a serious role in Nelson’s recruitment as the 2023 quarterback starts to seriously focus on which teams stand out most. The Los Alamitos, Calif., standout loves Lincoln Riley, the Sooners’ offense and the quarterback tradition there.

New Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has drastically stepped it up recently as well, along with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson. USC is also in the picture, but this seems like a national recruitment at this time.

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Alabama and LSU have a real shot at landing the five-star defensive tackle, and then Clemson, Florida, Tennessee and Ohio State are some other top schools mentioned all the time, but the chatter is that Michigan should not be counted out yet either because of some connections there.

Nolen has developed a relationship with Jeremy LeSueur, the former Michigan and NFL defensive back who is originally from Holly Springs, Miss., and Nolen has family in Detroit as well. Long shot? Maybe. But Michigan assistant Ron Bellamy and others are working hard here, and the Wolverines could be in this more than people expect.

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Georgia has been really aggressive with Rashada and he not only loves the Bulldogs but has also closely watched the outstanding recruiting classes that coach Kirby Smart has put together in recent recruiting cycles. The rumor is that could be a huge draw for the 2023 quarterback from Pittsburg, Calif.

Michigan could be interesting, too, since Rashada is really close with receiver Giles Jackson. There are many others involved, but the Bulldogs and the Wolverines have a jumpstart in his recruitment.

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Alabama, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are the finalists for the four-star offensive tackle, and the Sooners might have the slight edge right now. The Las Vegas Bishop Gorman standout was amazed by the Alabama offer and he definitely loves that Notre Dame has the best of all worlds – especially how the Irish develop offensive linemen – but Taylor said his relationships in Norman are the best. That could go a very long way.

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The former USC commit recently had a Zoom call with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who has taken a bigger hand in recruiting Tuihalamaka. Kelly had an interesting pitch: Stanford might be a five-hour car ride away, but Notre Dame is not even a five-hour flight, so the only difference is mode of transportation.

It “meant a lot” to Tuihalamaka that Kelly has become so involved in his recruitment as Notre Dame, Stanford and others battle it out for him.

Actually, more schools are getting involved with Texas, Oregon, Cal, Arizona State and Arizona being the main ones. The Longhorns should be watched since the four-star linebacker talks all the time with new coach Steve Sarkisian, and Premium 7v7 teammate Maalik Murphy just committed to Texas.

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The four-star safety recently said that he wants to visit Arizona State, Clemson, Alabama, Texas, USC, Colorado, Penn State and Michigan, so there could still be a lot to watch in his recruitment but Turner-Gooden also tweeted out that he would have a big announcement on Feb. 26. That is expected to be a commitment and this one could be interesting.

He has a great relationship with Arizona State assistant coach Chris Hawkins (and plays for Hawkins’ dad, Armond, on the Ground Zero 7on7 team), so the Sun Devils are in the running. Turner-Gooden has always loved USC and some of the national programs should be watched as well.

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The former Texas commit has a top three of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, and now the four-star is weighing whether to pick a school that has been recruiting him for a long time (Arkansas and Ole Miss) or picking Alabama, which does a phenomenal job of developing players at his position.

The Crimson Tide have stepped it up majorly in recent days and it’s influencing Wilson, but the Razorbacks and Rebels are hardly slowing down. There are good opportunities at all three places, but the rumor is Arkansas could have the edge right now.

Source: Rivals.com

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