As one of the nation’s premier pass-rushers in the 2016 class, 5-star defensive end Shavar Manuel’s recruitment is sure to be one that captures plenty of attention in the coming months.
According to Josh Newberg of Noles247, the 6’4”, 290-pounder from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, named a top three that included Auburn, Florida and LSU.
In Newberg’s report, Manuel also mentioned Clemson and Florida State as schools that are still in the running for his commitment.
This news is a stark departure from the theory of Manuel being a heavy lean to the Seminoles that was in place for most of the offseason.
Which school has the best shot of landing the nation’s No. 8 player overall in the 2016 class?
Let’s break down the chances for each of his finalists.
Clemson: Odds 20-1
The Tigers haven’t received a visit from Manuel in the spring, but they do have a history of recruiting the Tampa area—where Manuel originally hails from—well.
Additionally, the Tigers have had success in grooming defensive linemen in recent years, which, as Newberg notes, has gotten Manuel’s attention.
While the Tigers can’t be a legitimate threat until they get Manuel on campus, they could be a dark horse in the race if they are able to earn a visit from him in the future.
Florida State: Odds 12-1
Given that Manuel has been in Tallahassee five times since the beginning of last year, there’s no campus he’s more familiar with than Florida State’s.
Although the ‘Noles are still very much in the race for his services, he acknowledged that the club’s recent off-the-field woes have contributed to them being replaced as the leaders in his recruitment.
“I’m still going through the process, me and coach [Brad] Lawing keep talking and we’re close,” Manuel told Newberg. “FSU is a great team and a great place to be. But with everything going on right now, it’s just a mess, I want to see how it all settles out.”
It’s clear that head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff have work to do in regaining Manuel’s trust. However, given their need along the defensive line, don’t expect the ‘Noles to go away quietly in the race to land Manuel.
Auburn: Odds 10-1
The arrival of new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has given the Tigers a huge boost in their recruiting efforts.
In fact, Manuel cited to Newberg that Muschamp is the one coach he feels closest to dating back to the former Florida head coach’s tenure in Gainesville.
Like the Seminoles, one of Auburn’s primary needs in the 2016 cycle is the defensive line.
The next step for Auburn is securing a visit from the nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end.
LSU: Odds 7-1
The last school to host Manuel was LSU.
He was accompanied on that trip by 5-star corner and current Tigers pledge Saivion Smith, who is also his current teammate at IMG Academy.
As he noted, his first visit to Baton Rouge left a major impression on him.
“The visit there really put them in my top three,” Manuel told Newberg. “It’s a great place to be, in Baton Rouge—I fell in love with it—the players, the coaches, the people, I liked it all.”
LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is helping lead the charge for the Tigers.
Given Orgeron's lengthy history at recruiting and landing elite defensive linemen, and with Smith already pitching his good friend on the idea of playing together in college, the Tigers have to feel good about their chances in plucking another elite defender out of the Sunshine State.
Florida: Odds 5-1
While Florida State has fallen back in his pecking order, the rival Florida Gators currently represent the top in-state option for Manuel.
As noted by GatorBait, the primary reason for the surge of interest in the Gators is Manuel’s bond with new defensive line coach Chris Rumph.
"It's been great," Manuel said. "He just tells me all the things he looks forward to me if I want to commit, the physical talent and ability as a pass-rusher. He just loves me as a recruiter."
He also told Newberg that Florida and LSU are the two teams he would consider signing with currently.
Given the recent surge Florida has had in recruiting the Tampa area and its proximity to home, the Gators get the slight nod as the favorite in the chase for Manuel.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.