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Korey ForemanCredit: 247Sports
So far, the barrage of decommitments in the 2021 college football recruiting cycle that could have transpired because of the halt in official visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t transpired.
That means the pool of difference-making high school talent top programs will battle for gets shallower every week. Just this week, 5-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims came off the board to the Georgia Bulldogs over Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and others.
While you’re in a world of hurt if you’ve still got a flashing “Vacancy” sign over your quarterback spot in this year’s class because all the stars are already committed, there is still tons of talent left for teams to secure.
Fourteen of the top 50 prospects in the 247Sports composite rankings remain uncommitted, and there will always be scorching battles to the finish line for those verbally pledged who could sign in December’s early signing period.
The nation’s two best edge-rushers, a pair of potentially lethal running backs, plenty of weapons in the offensive and defensive perimeters and even some trench talent remain.
Several guys left on the board could become some of the biggest stars in 2021.
Let’s take a look at some prospects remaining uncommitted who could prove to make an immediate impact for their destination programs upon arriving on campus.
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The sheer number of game-changing wide receivers in this year’s recruiting class is down considerably from other seasons, but the man at the top of the list is just as strong as any of the most recent pass-catchers.
That would be silky-smooth Emeka Egbuka, a 6’1″, 190-pound receiver from Steilacoom, Washington, who is the nation’s eighth-ranked overall prospect in the 247Sports composite and a guy who could catch passes for basically anybody next year.
Right now, his Crystal Ball projections have him going to Ohio State, where he could join an already loaded stable of young receivers that includes an elite trio from last year’s class in Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr., who will join a group that includes Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
It’s not a given Egbuka goes to Columbus, though.
Clemson, Oklahoma and the local Washington Huskies are firmly in the mix for him, and others like USC and Oregon are on the periphery, too.
Egbuka is a do-it-all receiver who excels in the return game in high school, can be a physical player who catches balls over the middle or even stretch the field with sub-4.5 speed.
This year’s group of receivers may not be as top-heavy or deep as it normally is, but Egbuka is a star waiting to happen, and whoever gets him is going to be very excited. This is a battle between some of the nation’s top programs.
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Corona, California, has produced some quality talent over the years, including NFL linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who went to Centennial High School. One of the most recent star prospects from a rival high school in the area was quarterback Blake Barnett, who went to Alabama, Arizona State and South Florida.
The most recent prospect from Centennial High may be the best one yet. That, of course, is elite defensive end Korey Foreman, who is currently the top-ranked player in the 247Sports composite rankings.
At 6’4″, 265 pounds, there’s no telling where Foreman will wind up playing after putting on 20 pounds in the past year, but his athleticism is off the charts. He’s a guy who could play on the edge, slide inside and be a force or even come off the second level.
He can do it all.
The one-time Clemson commitment doesn’t have a destination in mind right now, either.
In the past few weeks, 247Sports’ Greg Biggins mentioned it’s really anybody’s guess where Foreman is headed, but there are some teams getting a lot of run right now in the prospect’s mind.
“As for where he’ll attend college, Foreman is still a ways away from making that decision,” Biggins wrote. “He has yet to formally cut his list but the five schools drawing the most attention right now are Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Oregon and USC.”
The familiarity with coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers has to help them, but it’s also difficult to count out the dynamic recruiters luring him to their schools like Kirby Smart, Mario Cristobal and Orgeron.
Though USC fell flat on the trail a season ago, the Trojans are the local team, and if coach Clay Helton can start getting guys like Foreman, he’ll turn it around. It’s going to be fun to watch how this battle plays out.
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If you’re looking for an all-around elite running back in this year’s recruiting class, LJ Johnson is your guy.
The Cy-Fair High School runner from Cypress, Texas, is 5’10”, 204 pounds and has the type of frame that could easily hold 220 or 230 pounds. That would be huge if he could get that big and maintain his top-end speed, which is listed on his profile as 4.42 40-yard dash.
Guys like Johnson don’t come around very often.
Last year, the Lone Star State had one of the best running backs in the nation in Zach Evans, but his recruitment took a series of twists and turns. By the time he signed with TCU long after National Signing Day, it was arguable just how many teams wanted him.
That isn’t the case with Johnson, who has plenty of talent and none of that baggage.
Right now, it appears the home-state Texas Longhorns and perhaps coach Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M Aggies are the ones who lead the race for his services, but that could change. LSU and Oklahoma round out the runner’s final four, according to Rivals.com’s Adam Gorney and Mike Farrell.
While some schools like Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama tried to lure him, Johnson seems set on those four, and he could make an impact for any one of them.
The Longhorns landed impact guy Bijan Robinson last year. Fisher is enjoying the fruits of Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith’s labor. Oklahoma and LSU have rushing issues, and Johnson would go a long way toward fixing them for both.
But he’s a guy who can start right away or at least get carries.
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With Amarius Mims off the board to the home-state Georgia Bulldogs, the biggest offensive line prize remaining in the recruiting class is Fairfax, Virginia’s Tristan Leigh.
At 6’5″, 270 pounds, Leigh is athletic and nimble for a big dude and has the type of frame to hold much more weight. He has long arms and a mean streak; in other words, he has everything you’d want in an offensive tackle prospect.
The list of suitors reflect as much. Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson and LSU appear to be the teams getting most of the publicity right now in the race to land his signature.
Still, Leigh isn’t really in a hurry to make a decision, his coach at Robinson, Scott Vossler, told 247Sports’ Brian Dohn.
“He is looking at what are the results of the season, and what kind of movement is there going to be amongst players and coaches, and stuff like that,” Vossler told Dohn. “With some, it’s, ‘I haven’t been there in a year and how much different is it?’ That, I think, is something that weighs on his mind a little bit. But he is not alone in that. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat.”
Most of the Crystal Ball predictions have Leigh heading to Baton Rouge to play for Orgeron’s defending national champion LSU Tigers, which would be massive considering their need for impact linemen.
247Sports’ Barton Simmons notes on Leigh’s profile that he doesn’t pass block a lot in school, but that obviously would have to change at LSU. Regardless, he’s the type of player with a build and arm length conducive to being strong in pass protection, so it shouldn’t be a stretch.
He’s a player who could step right onto the field and make a difference.
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One of the most unique prospects on the college football recruiting board this year is Oradell, New Jersey, defensive tackle Tywone Malone.
The biggest reason is it’s not every day you see a 6’3.5″, 300-pound dual-sport athlete who can be a quick-impact star on both the gridiron and the baseball diamond. That’s one big dude who has drawn comparisons to Baseball Hall of Famer and former Auburn two-sport player Frank Thomas.
Malone is a bomber on the baseball field, but he may be an even better prospect in the center of the defensive line.
Right now, it looks like Malone could wind up at home-state Rutgers, go west to USC or down south to Florida State. But the foremost teams who probably lead for his services right now are a trio of SEC schools: Tennessee, Ole Miss or Texas A&M.
If he heads to either Ole Miss or Tennessee, he stands a good chance of making an instant impact on the gridiron. (As it happens, the Rebels have one of the nation’s top baseball programs while Tony Vitello’s Vols are one of the country’s up-and-coming teams.)
Lane Kiffin needs all the defense he can get in Oxford, and coach Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols could stand to lose seven defensive linemen this year and need guys who can be game-breakers in the middle of the defensive line.
There aren’t a lot of those guys on Rocky Top, and Malone would fit in with young talent like Omari Thomas and Elijah Simmons. The Vols also have quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who went to Malone’s high school (Bergen Catholic).
Jimbo Fisher could pair Malone with DeMarvin Leal in College Station, Texas, and Malone would be in good hands in both sports at any of those three schools.
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What would recruiting season be without a good ol’ Yellow Hammer State recruiting donnybrook ahead of the Iron Bowl?
One of the dudes on this year’s All-Name team is set to make his college decision on Oct. 25, and there’s a lot of excitement around that announcement for Pinson Valley High School star Ga’Quincy McKinstry.
The 5’11.5″, 172-pound cornerback is elite, and his skill set is as good as any defensive back prospect in the nation. He is a guy who will shine no matter where he goes, and right now, it looks like an Alabama-Auburn battle with LSU on the outside looking in.
For a while, it looked like Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers were the big-time favorite. McKinstry—nicknamed “Kool-Aid,” as if a name as awesome as his needed another outstanding moniker like that—played with Tigers quarterback Bo Nix at Pinson Valley.
But, recently, coach Nick Saban‘s Alabama Crimson Tide have come on strong, and this seems like a toss-up right now with a little more than a week left before the choice is made public.
“There is said to some be confidence in Tuscaloosa right now,” Auburn’s 247Sports writer Keith Niebhur wrote recently. “At Auburn, though, most continue to think the Tigers are right there and have a legitimate chance. Could McKinstry be telling both programs what they want to hear? It’s possible.”
No matter where McKinstry picks on Oct. 25, his recruitment won’t be over. This is a guy who is an instant-impact player, and both schools who lead for his services have produced elite players in the secondary recently.
This is a guy who is going to be a star very soon in the SEC.
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If it seems like the LSU Tigers’ name is mentioned with a lot of these prospects, it’s because coach Ed Orgeron has a lot to sell coming off a national championship and obviously facing a bit of a rebuilding campaign in 2020 with two losses already.
But it would be a shocker if safety Sage Ryan wound up anywhere besides Baton Rouge.
The 5’11”, 193-pound safety from Lafayette is a stone’s throw from Death Valley, and 100 percent of his Crystal Ball predictions have him suiting up with the Bayou Bengals. It just makes too much sense, right?
Why would anybody not want to learn from Derrick Stingley Jr. the way Elias Ricks is, and though it’s likely JaCoby Stevens heads to the NFL, if he stays, that’s an elite safety who can help Ryan learn to play the position in the SEC.
Regardless, LSU is a defensive back factory, and Ryan would fit right in. The nation’s top-rated safety also has Alabama and Clemson high on his list, and either of those schools could pull off the upset. If there’s anybody who has experienced success pulling stud prospects from under LSU, it’s Nick Saban.
Everybody knows Saban’s track record producing elite defensive backs, too.
Ryan is a fast, big hitter who is just fine in coverage, though he needs to improve his technique. The thing that makes him such an exciting prospect is his versatility. Though he isn’t the tallest defender in the country, he can play safety, cornerback, nickel or other spots, too.
He’s the kind of versatile prospect coaches covet, and he would be elite in Orgeron’s secondary.
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If you’re an LSU fan, this slideshow is probably making you pretty excited. Another player from Louisiana who shows 100 percent Crystal Ball projections to the Bayou Bengals is Houma star Maason Smith.
The 6’5″, 316-pound defensive tackle from Terrebonne High School is only a 4-star prospect in 247Sports’ rankings, but he’s a 5-star prospect in the composite. Regardless, he’s a top-35 prospect in both places and an almost-certain difference-maker wherever he lands.
He’s also developed a terrific relationship with the nation’s top-ranked prospect Korey Foreman, and Foreman told 247Sports’ Billy Embody in April they’ve considered playing together.
“Maason is coming out here over the summer, so I’m trying to show him a good time so USC can be in his top five,” Foreman said. “I plan on taking as many officials as I can with him. I told him it’s beautiful out here and there’s nothing really wrong with California. I’m doing the best I can to get the opportunity for me to play college football with Maason.
“In my head, I’m thinking about how it would be with me, Maason and Drake [Jackson] all on the USC defensive line, or just me and Maason on the defensive line somewhere. But I don’t know. If it was me, Drake and Maason, wow.”
Though it’s no guarantee they’ll be a package deal, it’s an exciting thought for LSU, USC and Georgia, who are heavily in the mix for both prospects. Florida is right in the thick of it for Smith’s signature, as well.
Whoever gets Smith, however, is going to have a guy with an NFL body who is ready to step in and anchor anybody’s defensive line. He is going to be a force for the next several years in the college game.
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Though J.T. Tuimoloau is ranked behind Korey Foreman in the 247Sports composite, he’s the nation’s top-rated player on 247. Regardless, he’s an elite prospect who will be an impact player in the pros.
Whoever gets him is going to be able to plug him in and play him.
Tuimoloau is a classic versatile lineman who, like Foreman, can slide inside if he has to but is also athletic enough to come off the edge. Tuimoloau is the more likely of the two to have a future on the line without any linebacking downs, simply because he’s already nearly 6’5″ and weighs 277 pounds.
But don’t count him out of being an edge-rusher; he’s good enough to do that, and it’s actually the strength of his game. However much he grows will determine where he sticks.
It’s also interesting Tuimoloau is one of two players who hail from Washington on the list. He is from Sammamish, and it he could stay home and play for Huskies coach Jimmy Lake. But it’s really anybody’s guess right now where he will go.
A couple of weeks ago, he listed a top seven on his Instagram of Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and USC. He is gearing up to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl after this season, too.
Brandon Huffman of 247Sports wrote recently why all those top seven programs should feel good about landing him.
While the Ohio State Buckeyes have an overwhelming advantage in the Crystal Ball projections, it’s interesting Washington offered him three years ago after seeing him play just three high school games, according to Huffman.
Even so, the Buckeyes’ pedigree of producing elite pass-rushers may be too much for any other suitor to overcome. The battle to land him is going to be fierce.
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Much like Lone Star State running back LJ Johnson who already has been on this list, Camar Wheaton is the type of prospect who can make a difference wherever he goes.
The Lakeview Centennial runner from Garland, Texas, is a 5’11”, 190-pound do-it-all runner who is much more of a speed back than the all-around Johnson.
He is the type of player who could be an every-down runner but also could split out, get the ball in space and make a difference in a lot of ways.
Perhaps that’s why Oklahoma seems so intriguing to him. Coach Lincoln Riley’s Sooners currently hold a decisive Crystal Ball advantage for Wheaton, and he would fit in perfectly in that offense. Alabama and LSU are the other teams that appear high on his list, but the Sooners should be tough to overcome.
Wheaton visited Norman for the Sooner Summit where he bonded with some of the recruits, including stud quarterback Caleb Williams. He told 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong about the experience, and a few days later, he included OU in his final three.
“I know a couple guys already, some of them I met at Future 50 like Caleb, and it’s good to see them again and chop it up again,” Wheaton said. “Everybody talking more a second time or just meeting each other. If we all play together I think we would be the best class.”
Wheaton is a game-breaker who likely will put on a few pounds of muscle and play his college football at more than 200 pounds, where he can still be a big-play guy with his speed. With the Sooners needing playmakers at running back, the opportunity would be there in Norman.
It just feels like Wheaton would be perfect there or in Baton Rouge, where they have issues at the position.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard.