B/R CFB Recruiting: 10 Teams Off to Terrific Starts Recruiting the 2024 Class
Unbelievably, this college football season has gotten away from us. As conference championship games kick off this week, we'll move directly into the recruiting early-signing period and right on through to the postseason.
So, if you don't already have a head start on recruiting the 2024 class before the proverbial hay is in the barn for the '23 cycle, you're behind.
It's a never-sleep world we live in when it comes to college football recruiting, and while some of you may not get caught up in the whims and decisions of 17-year-olds, coaches must. And you'd better hope your favorite program is putting the proper emphasis on prioritizing needs and developing relationships for the future.
In several cases, we're already seeing the fruits of building that trust with youngsters in next year's class from coaches just starting their tenures at programs. Of course, old staples like Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are represented here, but so are some coaches you may not expect whose messages are resonating clearly.
Weighing the quality of recruit with numbers and giving a little added boost if you've already got your signal-caller of the future, here are a handful of teams already off to sterling starts on the recruiting trail for next year's class.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The 2022 season hasn't gone the way the Alabama Crimson Tide wanted or expected, with the team already out of the SEC championship picture and an extremely long shot for the College Football Playoffs.
But that hasn't harmed coach Nick Saban's ability to lure top talent in any way, shape or form.
The Crimson Tide are the odds-on favorites to sign the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings in this 2023 cycle. They're already fifth in next year's standings, too, and this is even with Saban normally getting off to a slow start.
Of Alabama's four pledges, three rank in the top 100 prospects, led by 5-star quarterback Julian Sayin of Carlsbad, California, a 6'1", 185-pound elite passer who can extend plays, can make all the throws and is a pure winner. He's got a little Bo Nix in him, as much as 'Bama fans probably don't love the comparison to the former Auburn signal-caller.
A pair of instate Alabama kids—cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe and receiver Perry Thompson—are terrific prospects in their own rights, and then Martavious Collins is a 6'3", 241-pound jumbo athlete from Rome, Georgia, who is expected to play tight end on the next level.
There's no question Saban and Co. are going to keep luring top talent to Tuscaloosa because they churn them out into the draft each season. The '24 cycle is shaping up to be no different.
Florida State Seminoles
It's not been an easy road trying to rebuild Florida State's football program from the embers left by Jimbo Fisher and the failed, brief tenure of Willie Taggart, but Mike Norvell has done it his way and seemingly the right way.
Now, despite a three-game losing streak earlier this season, the 'Noles finished 9-3 and are doing a good job on the recruiting trail. They may wind up being one of the "hot" names again, just like in years past.
Recruits are taking notice, for sure, and Norvell already has some Dudes in line for the '24 class.
The nation's current fourth-rated class has six pledges, led by 5-star running back and Albany, Georgia, native Kameron Davis, a 5'10", 200-pound runner who looks like the most talented back in the class.
He is a between-the-tackles runner who is physically developed, has great leg churn and runs with violence. What he lacks in game-breaking ability he makes up for with toughness, and he could be a star linebacker, too.
Safety Jordan Pride is the other top-100 prospect committed in the class, and, besides him, the 'Noles also have pledges from 4-star prospects in wide receiver Camdon Frier, quarterback Luke Kromenhoek and safety CJ Heard (Graham's Woodward Academy teammate). Three-star Keishawn Mashburn rounds out the class.
"He reminds me, kind of body-type wise, of Ryan Tannehill and I think he's got a similar play style. He can run the RPOs but he can also air it out."<a href="https://twitter.com/Andrew_Ivins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Andrew_Ivins</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/cpetagna247?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cpetagna247</a> discuss 3⭐️ QB Luke Kromenhoek, who is committed to Florida State 🏈 <a href="https://t.co/77va7mqxlW">pic.twitter.com/77va7mqxlW</a>
This is a great start to next year's class for Norvell.
The dynasty Kirby Smart is building at Georgia is the closest thing that's been to dominance since Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide and Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers see-sawed at the top of the rankings.
Smart seems to have supplanted Swinney thanks to recruiting, and the defending national champion Bulldogs are No. 1 again this year and not going anywhere any time soon.
Six players are already in the boat for Smart, led by elite pass-catching tight end Landen Thomas of powerhouse Colquitt County High School in Moultrie, Georgia. The 6'4", 230-pound star has to see what UGA does with Brock Bowers and believe he can be in that spot down the road.
Four other players hail among the nation's top 125 overall prospects, too, with linebacker Demarcus Riddick (No. 37, third-rated LB) an especially great coup because they went into Clanton, Alabama, and pulled a player out of the Yellowhammer State that Nick Saban wants.
Thomas' teammate Ny Carr, a 6'0", 170-pound wide receiver, is an electrifying athlete, and Maryland running back Tovani Mizell is a big-time runner, too, who is the nation's seventh-rated running back.
The Dawgs went all the way to Connecticut to snag their quarterback of the class in Ryan Puglisi, who is 6'3", 205 pounds and has a big arm and the ability to make all the throws, even if he is just a pure dropback guy.
Three-star wide receiver Sacovie White of Cartersville, Georgia, rounds out the early class.
A sputtering offense and angst over coach Kirk Ferentz low-lighted the 2022 season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but they regrouped and nearly made the Big Ten championship game before an inexplicable loss to Nebraska ended their late-season run.
A little more than a month ago, the Hawkeyes could barely find the end zone, and they are going to need to change some things moving forward on that side of the ball to compete in an improving West division that's seen Wisconsin add Luke Fickell and Nebraska add Matt Rhule in the past week.
While the offensive issues and the need to make changes aren't glossed over by winning a bad division, you can't discount Iowa's gradual progress, and Ferentz hasn't lost his touch on the recruiting trail, either.
In recent years, he's done a better job convincing prospects to come to Iowa City, and though this year's class falls just outside the top 25, the '24 group is off to a great start.
Currently, Iowa has a class ranked sixth nationally, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and the group of five players consists of a 4-star and four 3-star prospects. It doesn't have a lot of star power, but it's still a good first step.
Instate interior offensive lineman Cody Fox is the bell cow of the bunch so far, a 6'4", 275-pound lineman who could add 40 pounds and be a force in the Hawkeyes' developmental program. This is a kid with an NFL ceiling.
Linebacker Cam Buffington, quarterback James Resar and athletes Derek Weisskopf and Preston Ries (both Iowa natives and both reportedly expected to play linebacker, like Buffington) round out the list.
Even after an inexplicable, season-ending loss to Texas A&M, there are still plenty of good vibes around LSU's program and first-year coach Brian Kelly.
They are gearing up for the SEC championship game after beating Alabama and turning things around quickly from the forgettable end of the Ed Orgeron era. Even with the disappointing loss to the Aggies, they're ahead of schedule. Perhaps equally as important, Kelly's message is resonating with recruits.
He pieced together a top-10 class in the 2022 cycle—picking up the pieces after a whirlwind of decommitments left with Orgeron—has the fourth-rated class this year and the No. 1 overall class in the early rankings for 2024.
Unlike Jimbo Fisher's Texas A&M recruiting resurgence a year ago, what Kelly is doing in Baton Rouge feels like it has staying power.
Perhaps the best long-term player in the class so far is high-upside quarterback Colin Hurley of Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. The stocky signal-caller can make all the throws, and while he still has some development to go, he's a winner who led his team to a state title as a freshman.
🔹Mid-Season Film: <a href="https://t.co/oLLeEclHNz">https://t.co/oLLeEclHNz</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TC_Jax_Football?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TC_Jax_Football</a><a href="https://twitter.com/AthleticsTca?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AthleticsTca</a> <a href="https://t.co/vhBkiduseE">pic.twitter.com/vhBkiduseE</a>
Texas linebacker Maurice Williams Jr. is a stud, and Hurley has a couple of quality future receiving weapons in Joseph Stone and tight end Tayvion Galloway. New Orleans cornerback Wallace Foster is a potential Day 1 contributor, and Xavier Atkins and Khayree Lee are another pair of players from the Boot.
What's most exciting about this start, though? Kelly has commits from six different states already, so the LSU brand is traveling.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last year, early in the process, Marcus Freeman pieced together a recruiting class that was at the top of the rankings. Though things tapered off a bit, the Fighting Irish are still ranked third nationally in the 2023 cycle in what could be a turnaround class for the program.
Freeman can recruit with the best of them, and he is luring players to South Bend at a higher clip than his former boss, Brian Kelly, too.
The Irish are currently just behind Kelly's Tigers in the second spot for the '24 cycle with seven pledges.
Despite losing out on the Dante Moore sweepstakes to Oregon in this year's cycle, Freeman has a potential program-elevating quarterback coming in next year's class with 6'2.5", 195-pound Michigan native CJ Carr, who chose the Irish over the Wolverines.
The nation's fifth-rated quarterback has much more help coming in around him, too. Elite receiver Cam Williams of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is a big difference-maker on the perimeter, and North Carolina tight end Jack Larsen could play early, too.
Defensive lineman Brandon Davis-Swain is yet another Michigan native who spurned the Wolverines and is heading to South Bend and proving Freeman is going to be a problem for coach Jim Harbaugh moving forward.
Pennsylvania offensive lineman Peter Jones and New Jersey edge rusher Owen Wafle make it six 4-star prospects already for the Irish in next year's class, and 3-star cornerback Karson Hobbs of Cincinnati is somebody Freeman had a relationship with dating back to his time with the Bearcats, so he likes him a lot, too.
There is plenty to love about the start to this Notre Dame class. It may just be the nation's best once it's all said and done.
Ohio State Buckeyes
If you haven't watched Dylan Raiola throw a football, do yourself a favor and see the clip below. There are a lot of reasons why the 6'3", 220-pound Chandler, Arizona, prospect is the nation's top-rated player.
He's special, and more than one time the name "Patrick Mahomes" comes up when discussing him. They have similar body builds (though Raiola is a little taller) and they're both uber-athletic.
Oh, by the way, Raiola is all set to go to play for coach Ryan Day and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are getting a game-changing talent with the nation's best quarterback who would potentially be the best player in this year's class.
As if having Raiola (whose father, Dominic, was a center who played 14 seasons in the NFL) in the boat wasn't already a great start, the Buckeyes also have commitments from Ian Moore, a 4-star Indiana native who is the nation's No. 59-ranked player and third-ranked interior offensive lineman, and 4-star athlete Garrett Stover.
Moore is a versatile lineman who could probably play tackle but is more likely to stick on the interior during his Big Ten career, and Sunbury, Ohio, athlete Stover could either play on the back end of the defense at safety or grow into a linebacker. No matter where he plays, he has a terrific athleticism/versatility combo.
That's it for Ohio State so far in the '24 class, but these are three really great building blocks who could become centerpieces for a top-tier class.
Things are really shaping up well for the Josh Heupel era on Rocky Top.
Despite a heart-crushing loss to South Carolina knocking the Tennessee Vols out of playoff contention, the bottom line is Heupel rebult a long-down program in just two seasons, and being in the national spotlight for the vast majority of the season has been healthy for the program.
Tennessee is putting together a nice 2023 class, but things are on a very good trajectory for the 2024 class as the Vols try to surround future quarterback Nico Iamaleava with weapons on both sides of the ball to keep UT on the cusp of contention.
All that starts with 4-star athlete Jonathan Echols of IMG Academy, a 6'4", 230-pound super-talent on both sides of the ball who could be an edge rusher in college, but the Vols love his potential as a tight end. Echols is originally from Franklin, Georgia, and while he's a player being recruited by everybody, he seems set on Knoxville right now.
Blazing fast South Carolina wideout Mazeo Bennett was a huge recruiting coup for the Vols, who are showcasing wide receivers being on the national stage in a high-powered offense this season, so he could team with Echols to provide two major weapons.
Then there's 4-star cornerback Kaleb Beasley, the state of Tennessee's second-rated prospect behind 4-star linebacker Edwin Spillman—who isn't a UT commit yet, but his brother, Nate, is a Vols 2023 pledge, so he may not be far behind.
Three-star defensive lineman Carson Gentle of Chattanooga, Tennessee, rounds out a terrific early start to a class that has the potential and the nearby talent to wind up being a top-five haul for the Vols.
One of the biggest mysteries in all of college football is why the Texas Longhorns have been so mediocre for so long with all the talent they have around them and much of it wanting to play for the in-state powerhouse.
Still, coach Steve Sarkisian is trying to break the cycle of "meh" that has permeated the program for so long.
The way he's recruiting, it may not take long. This year's fifth-rated class is headlined by the nation's top-ranked player in quarterback Arch Manning, whose famous uncles (of course) are Peyton and Eli.
All the attention will be on Manning for the foreseeable future, but Sark and Co. are surrounding him with some quality playmakers. The 2024 class has just three pledges so far, but all three of them are 4-star prospects, and all of them are from the Lone Star State, which is good enough for the No. 9 ranking.
That just gives you an idea of the type of baseline you can have for a class in Austin every single season.
Headlining the group is Daingerfield, Texas, safety Aeryn Hampton, who may just come from the coolest-sounding town in the state. At 5'10", 175 pounds, Hampton isn't the biggest prospect, but he packs a big punch and is a do-it-all athlete who is rated No. 77 nationally.
Houston athlete Hunter Moddon likely will play receiver on the next level at 6'0", 175 pounds, and cornerback Jadon Allen of Aledo is another big-time prospect with a high upside. The Horns need help on both sides of the ball, but there's no question they are stringing together some high-quality classes.
Who wouldn't want to play football in Hollywood? Well, coach Lincoln Riley has to be pitching that mantra with the USC Trojans, and the type of first year he had at the powerhouse program has to help perpetuate that message.
Playing in an elite, fun offense and having the chance to compete for championships are big selling points to go along with geography, and Riley is on his way to maximizing the potential of the Trojans brand.
Like Texas, USC has three commitments so far in the 2024 class, and all of them are 4-star players, led by Aaron Butler, who is committed but still going to take all his visits, so they'll have to battle to hang on to him.
Butler is a Calabasas, California, native who is projected to play in the secondary on the next level.
Not surprisingly when it comes to Riley—much like Josh Heupel at Tennessee—the other two pledges are offensive players who want the football in their hands. Oregon tight end Joey Olsen is a top-247 player who looks like a terrific pass-catching prospect at 6'5", 220 pounds. Then there is Jason Robinson of Long Beach, California, who is a receiver.
This season could help USC become one of the hottest names on the recruiting trail again, and Riley is in a strong position to build toward a top-10 class or higher in the next cycle.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.