B/R Recruiting: Way-Too-Early Look at Top 2024 Prospects

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured Columnist IVDecember 28, 2022

B/R Recruiting: Way-Too-Early Look at Top 2024 Prospects

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    Notre Dame signal-caller commit CJ Carr could be the next great one in South Bend.
    Notre Dame signal-caller commit CJ Carr could be the next great one in South Bend.Credit: 247Sports

    The 2023 recruiting cycle won't have a bow on it until February, but nobody is toppling the Tide when it comes to the top of the rankings. Alabama's class is loaded this year, but there are plenty of teams neck-deep in building for the future, too.

    Of course, with a year to go until next year's early signing period, there are plenty of twists and turns remaining with the decisions of 17-year-olds. But the drama in the 2024 class already has begun.

    The nation's top player already was committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes, but he has since backed off that pledge, making plenty of headlines (more on that later).

    While the '24 class doesn't have nearly the star power at the quarterback position, there are still potential stars ready to go. Some of them already have made their college decisions.

    Defenders rule the day, and there are also plenty of pass-catchers worth paying attention to.

    Here is an early look at what you should know about the 2024 recruiting class and the players who will become the stars of the show.

The Dylan Raiola Saga Is Already Churning

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    Dylan Raiola is the top-ranked player in the class and has already decommitted from Ohio State.
    Dylan Raiola is the top-ranked player in the class and has already decommitted from Ohio State.Credit: 247Sports

    Last year at this time, the major storyline in regards to the the 2023 recruiting class was, "Who is going to land Arch Manning?"

    Texas ultimately won the sweepstakes for the nation's No. 1 overall player over the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Clemson, Ole Miss and others. He chose to go his own path rather than follow in the footsteps of uncles Peyton and Eli.

    This year, the buzz is all about Dylan Raiola.

    The top-ranked player in the '24 cycle again is a quarterback, and he seemed all set to be an Ohio State Buckeye, but he backed off that commitment. Now, the Nebraska rumors are blaring with his father, Dominic, being a long-time Cornhusker great who won the Rimington Award before an All-Pro NFL career as a center.

    USC, Georgia and others aren't going to go away quietly, but if Rhule can get Raiola into the mix, it would end a long string of Nebraska strikeouts in quarterback recruiting, and it would give the Huskers a premiere class centerpiece.

    "Everything is back on the table," Dominic Raiola told 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong after his son's decommitment. "His process is almost like it's restarting. It's not close(d) off to anybody."

    Without question, Raiola has as high of a collegiate ceiling as any signal-caller in the 2023 recruiting cycle and has instant-impact playmaker written all over him. The battle to win his signature is going to be heated.

    Get ready for the show.

This QB Class Is Not as Strong, but Boasts Plenty Potential

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    Jadyn Davis is another elite, uncommitted QB.
    Jadyn Davis is another elite, uncommitted QB.Credit: 247Sports

    There's no question that—at least on paper—the 2023 quarterback class is generational from a talent perspective.

    Arch Manning was the headline-maker, but beyond him, USC's Malachi Nelson, Tennessee's Nico Iamaleava, UCLA's Dante Moore, Oklahoma's Jackson Arnold and more have immense ability to be the college stars of the future.

    The 2024 class isn't that strong. But don't think for a second it's without its own star power.

    Raiola is the crown jewel, and with him re-opening his recruitment, it's going to be a free-for-all with some heavy hitters in the mix, along with a program like Nebraska that is trying to re-join the ranks. But there are a lot of other great-looking prospects, too. Some of them already have found homes.

    Julian Sayin of Carlsbad, California, isn't worried about Alabama signing two 2023 signal-callers, and he is prepared to be the big man on campus in Tuscaloosa in the near future. Though he stands just 6'1", there was another "undersized" Golden State quarterback who's done quite well in title town and is on his way to the NFL.

    Michigan is the Crystal Ball favorite to land North Carolina quarterback Jadyn Davis right now, while teams like Clemson, Tennessee and others are trying to stay in the mix. If Jim Harbaugh can land him, he'll be the next in line after JJ McCarthy is done.

    DJ Lagway (Florida) and CJ Carr (Notre Dame) are the next two in line, and those two already have made their college choices. Lagway decommitted from Texas A&M and decided to become a Gator earlier this month, while Carr could be a great one in South Bend.

    Other uncommitted guys like Elijah Brown, Jake Merklinger, Michael Van Buren and Jayden Bradford are among the nation's top 125 players and potential difference-makers on the next level. There are going to be plenty of guys worth watching at the most important position on the field.

Brian Kelly and His Old School Off to Hot Starts

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Brian Kelly of the LSU Tigers stands with his team in the tunnel prior to the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU, an understandable modicum of patience and a transition period was to be expected.

    Turns out, not much of one was needed in the Bayou, or in Kelly's old South Bend stomping grounds, where Marcus Freeman took over.

    Neither team got off to a great start to the season, but the Tigers wound up beating Alabama and representing the SEC West in the conference championship game. The Irish got through an awful start to the season to finish 8-4.

    Both teams are doing great on the recruiting trail so far in the 2023 cycle with the Tigers currently ranked seventh and the Fighting Irish eighth heading into the late signing period. The 2024 classes are off to an even better start. The two teams currently pace the rest.

    The Tigers lead the way with eight commits (six 4-stars), and perhaps the best news for LSU is only three commits (the three lowest-rated) hail from the state of Louisiana, where the Tigers are always going to have success.

    Linebacker Maurice Williams Jr. (Texas), receiver Joseph Stone (Georgia) and quarterback Colin Hurley (Florida) represent early out-of-state victories on the trail.

    Notre Dame has seven commits (six 4-stars), led by elite quarterback CJ Carr and receiver Cam Williams, both top-50 prospects and potential instant-impact contributors. Tight end Jack Larsen looks like a can't-miss, too.

    This is great starts for both programs.

D-Line and Edge Rushers are the Story

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    Colin Simmons is an elite edge-rusher.
    Colin Simmons is an elite edge-rusher.Credit: 247Sports

    The hallmark of the 2024 class is the defensive front and edge-rushers, who can either play with their hand down or stand up and get after quarterbacks from an outside linebacker position.

    This current recruiting cycle is loaded with players at the position, and next year's group is no different.

    Eight of the 27 5-star prospects on the 247Sports composite rankings and 35 of the top 200 players are either defensive linemen or edge rushers. By comparison in the 2023 class, eight of the 35 current 5-stars are edge-rushers or defensive linemen, and there are 45 in the top 200.

    The top players at the position are Duncanville, Texas' Colin Simmons and Miami's TJ Capers, who are far and away the best two pass-rushers in the class. Arizona edge-rusher Elijah Rushing is the only other player at that position who is currently a 5-star.

    Also along the defensive front, Georgia's Eddrick Houston, IMG Academy's David Stone, DL Williams Nwaneri, Chicago's Justin Scott and Mississippi's Kamarion Franklin are 5-star prospects, too.

    The best part about it? None of those guys are committed yet, meaning they're all on the market, and everybody in the country is trying to get their attention.

5-Star Teammates Lead a Stable of Standout Pass-Catchers

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    Jeremiah Smith's early pledge is another good start for Ohio State's pass-catching stable.
    Jeremiah Smith's early pledge is another good start for Ohio State's pass-catching stable.Credit: 247Sports

    Chaminade-Madonna Preparatory School in Opa Locka, Florida, boasts two of the top pass-catchers in the nation.

    Three-star Lions quarterback Cedrick Bailey must feel like the luckiest high school kid in the nation.

    Jeremiah Smith—the nation's second-ranked overall player and the top-rated receiver—plays for the Lions, as does Joshisa "JoJo" Trader. While Smith already has pledged to the Ohio State Buckeyes to give them yet another future weapon on the perimeter, Trader remains undecided.

    They lead a loaded class. Trader is the 11th-ranked overall player (classified as an athlete by 247Sports) and Mike Matthews of Lilburn, Georgia, who plays at powerhouse Parkview High School, also is being recruited by some teams as a receiver. He's the third-ranked overall player in the country, so there are potential playmakers up and down this class.

    Micah Hudson, Ryan Wingo, and tight ends Jonathan Echols (Tennessee commit) and Landen Thomas round out a group of elite players in the top 30 who are going to be on the receiving end of a lot of passes on the next level.

    It's a deep, talented class filled with guys who can make an impact right away. I like the players at the top of this year's class and the depth more than this year's cycle.

Georgia and Florida (Especially IMG Academy) Boast Tons of Talent

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    IMG athlete Jonathan Echols is just one of the Sunshine State studs.
    IMG athlete Jonathan Echols is just one of the Sunshine State studs.Credit: 247Sports

    It's perhaps the least surprising comment in a recruiting article to lead that a top-rated player hails from the states of Florida or Georgia.

    Those two, along with Texas and California, load every recruiting class with elite talent. They are the most fertile recruiting grounds and have become battlegrounds not only for the SEC but for every top program in the nation.

    If you aren't spending time in those states, chances are you're settling.

    The 2024 class is no different, but the Peach State and the Sunshine State are absolutely loaded this year, even more than in years' past.

    Six of the top 20 and 32 of the top 200 players hail from the state of Florida, and four of the top 20 and 30 come from Georgia. That means 31 percent of the top 200 players in the nation come from those two states.

    Perhaps even more astoundingly, 10 of the top 13 players in the class call one of those two states home.

    No school is more well-represented than powerhouse football factory IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. While we've already discussed the wide receiving duo at Chaminade-Madonna Prep, IMG has the market cornered on stars.

    DL David Stone (No. 3 overall), RB Jerrick Gibson, CB Ellis Robinson IV, ATH Jonathan Echols, DL Ernest Willor, QB Jayden Bradford and IOL Jimothy Lewis, all attend the school and are among the nation's top 175 prospects.

    Without question, it's going to be a frequent stop for college coaches.

A Better Class of Runner

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    FSU commit Kameron Davis is a future star.
    FSU commit Kameron Davis is a future star.Credit: 247Sports

    This 2023 recruiting cycle we're currently in has arguably the least amount of sure-fire hits at the running back position.

    There are only five runners in the top 100, and while Texas signee Cedric Baxter Jr., the Alabama duo of Justice Haynes and Richard Young, Texas A&M's Rueben Owens and Notre Dame's Jeremiyah Love look great as top-100 prospects, it tapers off after that.

    It isn't the case in 2024.

    Sixteen running backs are present among the top 200 prospects in the 2024 class, and that's not even counting athletes who may project to the position like Aneyas Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, who is almost certain to start out as a runner in college.

    By comparison, there were only 10 runners in the top 200 of the '23 cycle.

    Jerrick Gibson of IMG Academy leads the class of running backs, and he's a do-it-all weapon who will be coveted by the top teams in the nation. He's followed closely behind by Albany, Georgia's Kameron Davis, a Florida State Seminoles pledge who is a bruiser.

    The only other running backs who are committed among the nation's top 300 players are Tovani Mizell (Georgia), Isaac Brown (Louisville) and Chauncey Bowens (Florida), so there are going to be a lot of battles to watch over the next year.

    All stats courtesy of cfbstats and Sports Reference. Player rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.