In his weekly series, Rivals National Recruiting Director Adam Gorney offers his thoughts on recruiting topics and storylines that impact the national landscape.
JOHNSON VISITING USC IS INTERESTING
I fully expect five-star cornerback Will Johnson to stick with this Michigan class. He’s recruiting for the Wolverines, the hiring of Steve Clinskale should only help solidify Johnson’s decision but there remain questions with USC especially after another visit in recent days. It could be a free trip to Los Angeles. It could be more time spent with USC commit and close friend five-star Domani Jackson. But USC position coach Donte Williams, I’m told, is not giving up on Johnson easily. If the Michigan season goes poorly, could the in-state prospect be seeing some schools as insurance in case he needs a Plan B? It’s certainly something interesting to follow although my gut tells me Michigan still gets him.
BANKS WILL PROBABLY STAY IN-STATE
Kelvin Banks might be the best offensive tackle in the 2022 class – he’s a new five-star but still sits behind Julian Armella in the position rankings – and even after taking visits to LSU and Oregon recently I still think the Houston (Texas) Summer Creek recruit stays in-state. That means Texas and Texas A&M will be battling it out for Banks and it could be really interesting. The five-star grew up a Texas fan and had Longhorns memorabilia in his room but the Aggies are closer and they’ve been loading up on the offensive line. It could be a battle until the end for Banks.
NELSON/MANNING IS LIKE LAWRENCE/FIELDS
Probably until the final 2023 rankings, there will be a heated debate about whether Malachi Nelson or Arch Manning should be the top-ranked quarterback in the class. There are some comparisons to the D.J. Uiagalelei/Bryce Young discussion just a couple cycles ago but their physical differences were so stark. The Nelson/Manning debate is more like Trevor Lawrence vs. Justin Fields for that No. 1 quarterback spot in 2018. Lawrence was probably always going to stay No. 1 but he definitely earned it as well. Fields was absolutely outstanding and certainly made the argument. Nelson and Manning are so good that there might not be a wrong decision here but I still prefer Nelson, even though that might be the unpopular choice given Manning’s pedigree and recent performances at camps across the country.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS TAKING OVER
With June kicked into high gear, it’s incredible what social media and creative departments are doing to sell their programs across Twitter, Instagram and other destinations. I know this is a mistake but it almost feels like the flashier and glitzier each photo shoot is at each school, the better time the prospect is having there. Alabama has put out some incredible graphics. Lots of other programs have, too, and it’s just a sign of things to come as creative departments promote their school – and recruits – to the masses on social media.
NORVELL AND STAFF DOING GREAT JOB
Florida State has had three-straight losing seasons for the first time since 1974-76 when Bobby Bowden was just getting started in Tallahassee. For a program known for coach stability, Willie Taggart was out quick and Mike Norvell was brought in to fix things. On the field, that has not happened yet but recruiting has been going extraordinarily well. FSU no longer feels stale, a program of years past like some others nationally that cannot get it kickstarted again. Top prospects from around the country have been through FSU in the first couple weeks of June, five-star commit Travis Hunter has basically lived there and by sheer perseverance and a lot of history and tradition to sell, the Seminoles are building back again. It might not be instantaneous but it feels like they’re on the right track.
PSU COMMIT COULD BE UNDERRATED
If college football has become or is becoming getting fast players in space and creating mismatches, I know it’s more complicated but you get my point, then Kaden Saunders could be more valuable than ever. He was fast at the Rivals Camp in Indianapolis. But his performance at the Future 50 event over the weekend really made me believe he’s one of the better receivers in this class because of that speed and separation ability. The Penn State commit has been told he will be used like K.J. Hamler for the Nittany Lions but Saunders might even be more dynamic. After seeing him at some recent events, I have a hard time believing there are 21 more impactful receivers in the 2021 class.
SARK MAKING WAVES – IT’S GREAT
College football is better when Texas is a national powerhouse and first-year coach Steve Sarkisian could be getting the Longhorns back there. There is a seriousness and intensity back in Austin that things are getting on the right track or elite prospects like Arch Manning wouldn’t waste his time visiting. Texas is battling for in-state five-stars again and Denver Harris, Kelvin Banks, Kam Dewberry and Devon Campbell are some big names within striking distance. Winning on the field will determine Sarkisian’s success but June is going very well as he paves the way back.
UCF RECRUITING LIKE SEC SCHOOL
UCF used to out-scheme teams, find mismatches and exploit them with overlooked and under-loved speedsters from the state of Florida. Now with Gus Malzahn taking over the program, a higher level of recruiting is happening in Orlando and it could pay off in a big way. The top player in the state of Alabama, Jeremiah Alexander, visited UCF this past weekend. Auburn commit Jarell Stinson was there. Four-star Khurtiss Perry was in town. Malzahn is doing an impressive job, selling the vision and his SEC bona fides and UCF might pull some recruiting surprises because of it.
CAMPS DON’T MATTER? TELL THE INTERNATIONAL KIDS
Critics love to rip 7-on-7 tournaments and summer camps and t-shirt football or whatever else but don’t tell that to Theodor Ohrstrom, Thomas Collins and others who are part of a nationwide college tour with PPI, an international football placement program, because they’re too busy getting offers. Collins has landed Texas A&M, TCU and others but Ohrstrom has been on a mad tear as the 6-foot-6 tight end now has Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Texas A&M and more. It has been an incredible few weeks for the two Swedish football players and they’re now both on the radar as two big-timers in the 2023 class.
JUNE HAS BEEN INSANE
I started this month with a spreadsheet of about 1,200 visits that we tracked down and prepared for to try to cover this month as best as possible. It hardly scratched the surface. Every day – especially weekends – has had the pace of National Signing Day as prospects crisscross the country to meet coaches, work out at summer camps, take official visits, flip their commitments, change their top lists and so much more. For a recruiting geek, it’s been intense and fun and exhausting at once. It’s only halfway done and that makes me laugh – and cry a little.