Most of college football’s top recruits in SI99 have been with their future college program for some time. A few, like defensive lineman Xzavier McCloud (South Carolina) and wide receiver Ronan Hanafin (Clemson), have come off the board in the past two weeks.
The bulk of the 18 undeclared SI99 prospects are emerging in less of a rush, especially with their senior seasons and the college football season excepted at the beginning. This means that several visits, this time of the game weekend type, can help to make the picture that much clearer before a final conversation.
Sports Illustrated runs down every uncommitted top recruit for the very latest buzz on program trends, timelines and more.
CB Cormani McClain (ranked No. 2 overall in SI99)
McClain has maintained a long-term decision plan, which most likely points toward the end of the year, but Florida and Alabama have held the most in this race for a long time. While it’s too early to sleep on programs like Georgia and Miami, who could also be in line for visits, the Gators and Crimson Tide are most likely to get him back on campus before a decision is made. Florida expects the state’s top prospect to be back on campus for the opener against Utah.
DE Keon Keeley (No. 3)
Even before the nation’s top pass rusher was waived from Notre Dame, Nick Saban and Alabama have kept pace in this recruiting. Of course, Keeley was in Tuscaloosa to wrap up his summer visit schedule, fueling the rumor mill of his potential reset of the process. Many other visits appear to be lined up between now and a final decision, but begin with Ohio State on the first weekend of September for the game against Notre Dame. Beyond the Tide and Buckeyes, the in-state Florida Gators are also worth tracking in this one.
OT Samson Okunlola (No. 5)
The top blocker on the nation’s timeline has been the most fascinating element of this recruitment. At one point, it looked like a summer decision was most likely, as the Miami Hurricanes would have appeared to be the program in best shape to land a verbal commitment. The longer this goes, though, programs like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan State and even Oregon have to feel better about their chances. It appears more visits are on deck before the final decision, and Okunlola has several official visits at his disposal if he needs to research an option a bit more.
DE Nyckoles Harbor (No. 15)
The football and track star may have the most open recruiting of any of the nation’s elite prospects. Many visits lie ahead, including at least one trip to South Carolina to begin the official visit portion of the process. Everyone will still be in this race, including Miami, Oregon, LSU, Michigan and others. Harbor will likely take this in stride as he looks for the combination of football and track and field opportunities at one program, but without an official visit under his belt, the buzz could change a few times before signing day.
DE Damon Wilson (No. 17)
Wilson will also allow visits to dictate the rest of his recruiting, starting with a trip up to Ohio State for the big game against Notre Dame. Beyond that, Alabama and Miami could start to have more buzz for the speedy pass rusher. Several Miami commits from IMG Academy, including offensive linemen Francis Mauigoa and Antonio Tripp, who he played against just over the weekend, have steadily begun recruiting him to return to Coral Gables. But you can never count Alabama out in any of these critical recruitments. Georgia and Texas round out Wilson’s top group.
TE Duce Robinson (No. 18)
One of the top prospects in the West has looked like a lean toward the USC Trojans, where he also took his first official visit, for most of his recruiting. Late in the summer, after the late June offer, Texas began pushing for the multi-sport star. Georgia and Alabama are also in line to host Robinson on campus this fall, so the longer this recruitment stretches for the top tight end, the better for all schools outside of the Pac-12 footprint here.
DE Matayo Uiagalelei (No. 19)
While Alabama and Clemson have hung around in this race, it’s starting to look like three programs are in prime shape to win this going forward. Ohio State, USC and Oregon have all continued to hold buzz for the top uncommitted recruit in California, who has already visited all the programs involved. Uiagalelei will appear in games throughout the autumn, but is not expected to make any decision immediately, so there is room for changes afterwards.
IDL James Smith (#20)
The more this one plays out, the more it feels like a classic Georgia-Alabama battle for the top interior linebacker defense in America. There are some dark horses, like Ohio State that has given some Smith family ties to the state, trying to push to the finish, but it’s hard to imagine this race ending with a coach other than Smart or Saban at the top.
LB Qua Russaw (No. 22)
The package deal with good friend and fellow Montgomery (Ala.) Carver star James Smith remains intact, but even within that, this ultimately appears to be a top-tier SEC race. That bodes well for the last two national champions, though Auburn and Florida shouldn’t be ruled out at this stage of the race from Russaw’s perspective in particular. It won’t end soon for any of the recruits, anyway.
DE Samuel M’Pemba (No. 27)
Georgia has always been confident in this long-shot battle, but a contender has begun to emerge with the Miami Hurricanes in the state. It’s no secret that IMG Academy has become very popular with the program, as five current UM verbals attend the school, so this could be a big influencer on the final conversation with the two-way talent. Other schools like Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Oregon and Notre Dame will remain in the race, and there are no signs of that ending anytime soon.
WR Tyler Williams (No. 41)
Coming off the board in September, one of Florida’s top prospects has developed into something of a Georgia lean over the past few months. Texas A&M could be considered a rising program in the race, and there’s another big official visit coming up, with a trip to see Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss kick off the season. Clemson and South Carolina also had Williams on campus for an official visit this summer.
OT Monroe Freeling (No. 42)
This is another one that feels wide open at this stage of the season, as Freeling has been a priority prospect for many programs for a long time. Notre Dame held the early buzz, and then it turned to ACC power Clemson, also the in-state school for the long tackle. Since then, Georgia, Miami, Alabama, Michigan and others have been regularly involved in the high tackle talent. If a timeline develops sooner rather than later, consider it good news for the ACC programs still in the mix.
WR Jalen Hale (No. 49)
One of the best receivers in the country, this Texan looks to be SEC-bound sooner rather than later. The in-state Longhorns have held out for a long time, but Alabama and Georgia have also prioritized him for just as long, and there is a need for the position. A Sept. 21 decision date was confirmed to SI Wednesday morning, a relatively quick turnaround from the start of the season to calling — not the worst news for Texas relative to the other programs involved.
IDL David Hicks (No. 56)
While this is another recruit expected to go far, a recent trip to Norman has Oklahoma’s side of the race more confident as the cycle progresses. Texas A&M is the long-term favorite, but the well-traveled Texan has been free with programs like Miami, Oregon and Michigan State after some of his trips. Hicks is not expected to make a decision until the end of the 2022 season.
DE Rueben Bain (No. 66)
At this point, it would be considered an upset if Bain ended up anywhere other than Miami, given his location, numerous visits to campus and close ties to the program, but other programs are trying to make it a true run the longer it goes. Alabama, Auburn, Louisville and Oklahoma have all hosted him on campus and still have time to close the gap because Bain is in no rush to end the process at all. Throw in the season potentially making a final impression on a decision and an upset could feel possible.
WR Hykeem Williams (No. 71)
There may not be a prospect who has felt he has developed against more teams lately than Williams. At one point, Florida State looked like the team to beat, as have Texas A&M and Georgia at various points relatively recently. Meanwhile, Miami is trying to keep him close to home as an emergency priority, and Pittsburgh is among those slated to have him on campus for the third time this year. It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but we won’t know until the end of September, about two months before a rumored visit back to Texas A&M is scheduled.
Nickel Javien Toviano (No. 75)
One of the most versatile defensive backs in the country has been a heavyweight SEC matchup for quite some time, with LSU and Texas A&M holding plenty of bars at various points. But for a long time, it has appeared to be a race where the SEC’s newest program, Texas, may emerge victorious in the end. It also missed some top targets at the position, so a win here would be timely for Steve Sarkisian. Michigan hosted Toviano over the summer and could be considered a dark horse here, but more fall visits have yet to be determined.
Slot Cayden Lee (No. 90)
The polished receiver prospects could be closing in on the decision a little soon, and if that’s the case, the Georgia native looks SEC-bound. Ole Miss, South Carolina and Oklahoma have all had key moments in this run, though the recent momentum and positional adjustment has Kiffin and the Rebels relatively safe for now. If the process extends well into the fall, however, there could be some changes in the battle for Lee, who doesn’t have an official visit on the books yet.
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