In his weekly series, Rivals National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts on recruiting topics and storylines that impact the national landscape.
ALABAMA BACK IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Here we go again. It now seems like a yearly ritual that Alabama goes to South Florida, cherry picks some of the top players in the state and the in-state programs suffer because of it.
This past weekend I talked to four-star defensive end Marvin Jones Jr. (a Florida State legacy) and four-star cornerback Earl Little Jr. (a Miami legacy) and both sounded very high on the Crimson Tide, especially Little. Both will be visiting Tuscaloosa either this summer or the fall and Little said Alabama was recruiting him harder than any other school.
Add those to names along with five-star offensive tackle Julian Armella, four-star offensive tackle Tyler Booker and others, and Alabama could have a nice crop of Florida talent again in this recruiting class.
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INNISS HIGH ON OKLAHOMA
Instead of top receivers being scared off by other high-level players at that position going to Oklahoma, it almost seems like a snowball effect when it comes to the Sooners.
Oklahoma has the No. 1 receiver in the 2022 class Luther Burden committed along with four-stars Talyn Shettron (who has received CeeDee Lamb comparisons) and four-star Jordan Hudson but 2023 five-star Brandon Inniss doesn’t seem to care at all.
Inniss will be taking visits this summer but maybe his biggest one is with his parents to Oklahoma in June. It looks and feels like the Sooners are the front-runner early in his recruitment and while every national power will take its shot, Inniss seems very, very interested in Oklahoma. It would be another huge score for coach Lincoln Riley and his staff.
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KENTUCKY DOING GREAT JOB
The top 10 of the team recruiting rankings is littered with the usual names – Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, etc. – but Kentucky is sitting seventh overall nationally and the funny thing is some of its commitments might actually be underrated.
The Wildcats have 10 pledges with six of them being four-star prospects but high four-star OL Kiyaunta Goodwin might have five-star potential. Others like Destine Wade and Keaten Wade picked Kentucky over Tennessee. Mark Stoops and his staff are doing a great job on the recruiting trail and a top-10 finish would be extraordinary.
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BURDEN VISITS ARE INTERESTING
I found it really interesting that five-star wide receiver Luther Burden plans to visit Alabama and Georgia this summer along with Oklahoma and others. This might be something we see a lot more of in the coming weeks: Long-time commits visiting many other schools now that trips are allowed.
The East St. Louis, Ill., five-star receiver has been committed to the Sooners since October so it would be a major surprise if he flips. But there is no way to discount Alabama’s involvement here and then Georgia, Missouri and others are making a run at him, too. It should be a wild and crazy summer of visits and Burden is just one example.
THERE ARE SLEPT-ON RUNNING BACKS
Another round of rankings is coming up in June and it led me to the running back rankings and there could be a lot of changes coming.
TreVonte’ Citizen is one I have my eye on and that we will discuss, Dallan Hayden is another one, Damari Alston was very good at the Rivals Camp Series in Atlanta and then Le’Veon Moss, Terrance Gibbs and Justin Williams are three others worth mentioning.
It should be an interesting rankings cycle across the board including at running back.
KADEN SAUNDERS THE NEXT HAMLER?
When I talked to Kaden Saunders two years ago at the National Combine in San Antonio, he told me that Penn State discussed using him like K.J. Hamler in its offense. That was some serious praise at the time and felt like the Nittany Lions were trying to sell him hard on that program but after watching him perform at the Rivals Camp in Indianapolis, I believe the hype.
The Westerville (Ohio) Westerville South four-star receiver is effortlessly fast, separates from every cornerback and has excellent hands and playmaking ability. Ohio State and others are trying to flip him but if Saunders sticks with Penn State, he provides a weapon just like Hamler – fast, elusive and tough to bring down.
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OFFENSIVE TACKLE MOVEMENT AHEAD
Another position I really pored over this weekend was offensive tackle because there could be some significant changes coming there as well.
Four-star Kelvin Banks as the seventh-best offensive tackle feels very low for him after he dominated the Rivals Camp in Dallas. Ohio State commit Tegra Tshabola had an excellent performance at the Rivals Camp in Indianapolis so an argument could be made for him to move up. Are Devon Campbell and Cameron Williams really tackles or should they move inside?
Another one is Elijah Pritchett. According to some people I’ve talked to, the Columbus, Ga., four-star who’s ranked No. 25 at the position — a decent ranking but not exceptional – is one of the top targets at Alabama. That does not mean a ratings bump at all but it does deserve a second look at him to see what we might be missing.
DEBATE COMING AT WDE
I saw some tape from Marvin Jones Jr. this past weekend and it’s going to be tough to not push for him to make a move up in the weak-side defensive end rankings, a spot that is loaded with intriguing players who all have an argument to be No. 1 at that position.
Currently, former Alabama pledge Jeremiah Alexander has that spot and I’m OK with that because he’s so versatile, moves all around the defense, can play middle linebacker, off the edge, he’s physical, attacks the football and does everything right. Then there is Cyrus Moss, who’s long and lean and covers so well the comparison to Anthony Barr is almost perfect.
But Jones continues to add weight, he’s dominant and physical off the edge and gets into the backfield basically whenever he wants. There is a lot of talent atop that position and Jones might be the best of the bunch.
SEEING LINEBACKERS HAS HELPED
Over the Rivals Camp Series, we’ve had an opportunity to see many of the top outside linebackers and an argument could be made to move Shawn Murphy to inside and then have a major debate about the other guys at the top.
The feeling I’ve heard is that Gabe Powers has an argument to be ahead of CJ Hicks in the rankings at that position but that was based off one camp in Indianapolis so we’ll be careful not to jump the gun on a body of work. A debate is surely coming there. But we’ve also seen Jaylen Sneed completely dominate at the Rivals Atlanta Camp and David Bailey is expected at the Los Angeles stop this weekend.
This is another loaded position with a lot of questions because so many players have delivered this offseason.
THE SUMMER OF ALABAMA
June is going to be an extraordinary time because i’ve gotten the sense that Alabama has really been patient with the 2022 recruiting class and wants so many of its targets to camp to really get the best feel for how its board is going to play out.
And that also means once the Crimson Tide start putting major pressure on kids that committed recruits will think about flipping and others who had teams higher on their lists will immediately move Alabama to the top.
Alabama has been patient but it’s like a coiled spring ready to be let loose. Only a few more weeks and we’re really going to see who is the highest on Alabama’s board and see how that all plays out in recruiting. It should be wild.