Most Important Commit of Each Top 25 College Football Recruiting Class
Star ratings and analyst rankings aside, some commitments simply seem more pivotal than others on the college football recruiting trail. Talented high school players can address positions of need, help turn momentum en route to national signing day or ultimately set the stage for future title runs.
We examined the country's current top 25 classes in an effort to identify those prospects who represent far more than a filled slot within their program's recruiting haul.
List order based on 247Sports' composite 2016 class rankings.
25. Nebraska: 4-Star OG John Raridon
Despite a highly publicized coaching change, the Cornhuskers still claim a crucial commitment from elite offensive lineman John Raridon. The 6'4", 260-pound Iowa product picked Nebraska last September and holds offers from Oregon, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and the in-state Hawkeyes.
Raridon, rated second nationally among guards in 2016 composite rankings, is a highly effective run-blocker. He displays the range and athleticism to reach the second level and pave downfield paths for teammates.
Elite 11 quarterback competitor and Nebraska pledge Patrick O'Brien should feel a bit more comfortable knowing this enforcer is watching his back. Raridon, a Cornhuskers legacy, could quickly develop into a natural leader within the trenches.
24. Houston: 5-Star DT Ed Oliver
Houston crashes this party due to the presence of Ed Oliver, a dominant defensive tackle from nearby Westfield High School. The 6'2", 277-pound lineman is among the most disruptive athletes in his class and should be counted on to contend for substantial snaps as a true freshman.
He chose the Cougars from a lengthy list of scholarship offers that includes Michigan, Texas, Florida State and LSU. Oliver, rated fourth nationally among players at the position, accumulated 146 tackles during the past two seasons, adding seven sacks last fall.
"Oliver is a dynamic, explosive tackle who impresses scouts with his first step," B/R's Damon Sayles wrote. "He is slightly undersized as a defensive lineman, but his speed, athleticism and football IQ trump his size and silence his critics."
23. Louisville: 4-Star QB Jawon Pass
Jawon Pass pledged to Louisville following significant flirtations with Alabama, Auburn and North Carolina. He follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Khane, a 2015 Cardinals defensive back signee.
The 6'5", 220-pound Georgia product has few rivals in terms of pure physicality, though his progression toward polished mechanics will ultimately determine whether Pass develops into an ACC star. He may be the most athletic Peach State quarterback since eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton wrapped up high school.
Pass warranted wide-scale attention after a sophomore season that featured 2,601 total yards and 34 scores. Consider him the most publicized recruiting pickup since head coach Bobby Petrino returned to campus.
22. Baylor: 5-Star OT Patrick Hudson
Baylor has young, promising passers in place with 2015 signee Jarrett Stidham, 2016 commit Zach Smith and 2017 San Antonio star Kellen Mond, so it's imperative to protect the pocket. That's where the Bears expect Patrick Hudson to step up in coming years.
The monstrous Texas offensive tackle already stands nearly 6'6", carrying a sturdy 325-pound frame. Hudson, a rare agile big man who fends off speed rushers, ended his recruitment last July after initially committing to Texas A&M.
Rated 16th overall in composite rankings, he projects as an All-Conference blocker at Baylor.
"Hudson is a lineman who already has college-level size and strength," B/R's Damon Sayles wrote. "He plays with tenacity and aggressiveness, and he lines up every play with the mission of dominating the defenders in front of him. Hudson will be a major contributor in college."
21. Duke: 4-Star ATH Scott Bracey
Duke is showing it does more than basketball lately, as head coach David Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to 25 victories and three bowl games during the past three campaigns. On-field success is reflected in the recruiting spectrum, putting the team in position to sign its strongest class this decade.
Versatile Virginia playmaker Scott Bracey serves as the catalyst, committing to Duke over Ohio State, Florida and Tennessee last summer. In fact, he may be the most meaningful commitment in Blue Devils football history.
Bracey, a 6'3", 195-pound athlete at Benedictine Prep, became the first non-senior to earn All-Metro Player of the Year honors since Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. He may take snaps at both wide receiver and running back in college.
"He's a big body who can make tough catches in traffic," B/R's Sanjay Kirpalani wrote. "He's also a load to handle for smaller defensive backs because of how physical he is. He has the type of size and athleticism to be an instant red-zone threat on the outside."
20. Auburn: 4-Star QB Ervin Barrett
Meet Ervin "Woody" Barrett, the next weapon in Gus Malzahn's dynamic offensive scheme. After falling short in a late bid for 2015 Ohio State signee Torrance Gibson, the Tigers found a 2016 quarterback who forces defenses to account for both his arm and legs.
Barrett, a 6'2", 225-pound prospect from the Orlando, Florida, area, excels in spread-option settings and simply overmatched opponents at West Orange High School last season. He completed 62 percent of his pass attempts, totaling 2,300 yards and 33 touchdowns.
His athleticism could eventually set him apart from a crowded pack at the position in Auburn.
"With Woody being 6'2", 225 pounds, he kind of reminds me of Cam Newton. He's not 6'5", but he's a bigger kid," West Orange offensive coordinator Collin Drafts told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. "If he wasn't a quarterback, he could play anywhere on the field. He could be a running back, he could probably be an outside linebacker."
19. Kentucky: 4-Star OT Landon Young
Aiming for a breakout season after a 7-17 start in Lexington, head coach Mark Stoops is laying the foundation for future improvements through his recruiting efforts. Kentucky is on pace to secure its second top-25 class in three years, led by No. 1 overall in-state prospect Landon Young.
The 6'7", 270-pound Lafayette High School stud stunned some when he ended his commitment more than two years ago. Rated 13th nationally among offensive tackles in composite rankings, Young pledged to the Wildcats months before his sophomore season.
He provided solid foundation for a Kentucky class that now also includes 4-star interior lineman Drake Jackson. Young, who is supremely athletic at his size, has the makings of a plug-and-play talent with the Wildcats given further physical maturation.
18. TCU: 4-Star WR Courtney Lark
The Horned Frogs scored an early victory on the 2016 recruiting trail, securing a commitment from scintillating in-state wide receiver Courtney Lark last winter. The Bellaire High School star seized national collegiate attention as a sophomore and junior, when he tallied 92 total receptions for 1,652 yards and 23 touchdowns.
His pledge helped set the tone for a TCU class that leads all Lone Star State squads in composite recruiting rankings. Considered one of the elite Houston-area talents, Lark also strongly considered Baylor and Texas Tech.
He and heralded junior college pass-catcher Taj Williams will enhance a Horned Frogs aerial attack that also adds former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill to the active roster next season.
"I'm really excited about going to TCU, but I want to finish up strong and have a great senior season," Lark told Jeff Jenkins of the Houston Chronicle. "I want to be the best receiver in Houston."
17. Notre Dame : 4-Star OT Tommy Kraemer
We consider Tommy Kraemer a top-five offensive tackle in the 2016 class, a rare technician in terms of hand placement and pad level who also competes with a mean streak.
"Coaches definitely like my physicality. I like hitting people a lot," he told Bleacher Report.
The 6'5", 305-pound Cincinnati, Ohio, product pledged to the Fighting Irish midway through his junior season. He dominated during a regional camp at Buckeyes facilities this summer.
"Kraemer has a rare 5-star body type. He's long, big and powerful," 247Sports scouting director Barton Simmons documented afterward. "His one-on-one reps showcased outstanding feet and movement skills at that size."
16. Tennessee: 4-Star QB Jarrett Guarantano
Tennessee bagged a blue-chip quarterback recruit in April when prized New Jersey passer Jarrett Guarantano announced intentions to attend college in Knoxville. The 6'4", 200-pound Bergen Catholic High School standout held 30 scholarship offers as an underclassman and qualified as an Elite 11 finalist.
He selected the Volunteers over fellow finalists Ohio State and Rutgers, where his father finished as the Scarlet Knights' all-time receiving leader. Guarantano developed a strong rapport with the Tennessee coaching staff, which continues to assemble a roster capable of competing for increased SEC respect.
"It's kind of crazy how Coach Jones came in there and really changed the game with these recruiting classes," he told Bleacher Repot. "'Brick-by-brick' is a great philosophy because they are building something special there with talented players, and I think that will continue."
Guarantano completed 58 percent of pass attempts for 1,030 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games. He is also capable of attacking opponents as a deceptively elusive runner.
15. Oregon: 4-Star CB Jared Mayden
Oregon gained its national reputation as an offensive juggernaut during the past decade, culminating in a Heisman Trophy campaign for Marcus Mariota and a historic College Football Playoff victory last season. Increased defensive consistency has arguably been an underrated element of the Ducks' success, which features 60 wins since 2010.
Further enhancements on that side of the ball should help Oregon become an even more dangerous Pac-12 powerhouse. Texas cornerback Jared Mayden, rated 11th among players at the position in composite rankings, could eventually help the Ducks defense make another leap.
The 6'0", 190-pound playmaker pledged to Oregon while attending The Opening hours away from campus. He is the highest-rated member of a 4-star defensive trio, along with linebacker LaMar Winston and safety Brady Breeze, who anchor an impressive Oregon class.
Mayden displays sub-4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash and isn't afraid to embrace contact, evidenced by 55 tackles in 2014. At this stage, he is the 2016 recruit most likely to make a difference in Eugene next fall.
14. Florida: 4-Star CB Chauncey Gardner
Florida is searching for a fresh identity in the wake of former head coach Will Muschamp's underwhelming Gators tenure. New leader Jim McElwain finished the 2015 recruiting cycle strong while assembling his staff, and now 2016 efforts are predominately fortuitous.
Though Florida still needs to find a few more offensive weapons for its 2016 haul, particularly behind center and along the perimeter, there's a lot to like about what first-year defensive assistants Randy Shannon and Kirk Callahan have accomplished.
In-state standout Chauncey Gardner is the crown jewel of a class that also includes 4-star Alabama edge-rusher Jeremiah Moon and Miami linebacker Vosean Joseph. The Cocoa High School cornerback exhibits outstanding range and is unquestionably a top-10 prospect at his position in the 2016 class after passing repeated tests at The Opening.
He recorded 49 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions as a junior. Gardener is strong enough to lend aid in run support, increasing his chances for a versatile role in Gainesville.
13. UCLA: 5-Star DE Oluwole Betiku
Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr. continues to maintain momentum on the recruiting trail, taking another step in early August with a commitment from 5-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku. UCLA beat out the likes of Florida, Oregon, Florida State, Notre Dame, USC and Penn State.
The 6'3.5", 240-pound Nigeria native may possess the most impressive raw pass-rushing capabilities in this 2016 class. He utilized predominately speed and athleticism to assemble 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss last season while learning football on the fly.
Betiku, who plays for Los Angeles area title contender Junipero Serra, is considered the country's No. 1 weak-side defensive end recruit despite many nuances of the sport that remain relatively new. Expect UCLA to incorporate him early and often on obvious passing downs.
12. Stanford: 4-Star QB KJ Costello
Stanford didn't sign a quarterback in the 2015 recruiting cycle, but the program filled that gap with acclaimed in-state passer KJ Costello. The top-ranked California gunslinger committed to the Cardinal in late March, spurning Cal, Michigan and USC in the process.
"It was definitely a hard decision I made passing [USC] up," Costello told Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times. He added, "I kind of see what the future holds as far as after football and everything that comes along with a Stanford degree."
Stanford certainly caught national attention just a few years ago when Andrew Luck orchestrated the offensive attack. Costello could command similar respect from opponents, providing glimpses of exceptional prowess while throwing for 3,123 yards last fall and emerging as an Elite 11 finalist.
He'll also be counted on to help lure Santa Margarita Catholic High School teammate and 4-star wide receiver Dylan Crawford, who is also considering Arizona State, USC and UCLA.
11. Michigan State: 4-Star DE Josh King
Michigan State managed to assemble a top-10 class throughout much of the cycle and is still a strong contender to sign one of America's most well-balanced classes. The Spartans are known for building successful squads with mid-level recruits, but that trend may be on the verge of changing.
Only 11 teams in top-20 composite rankings carry more 4-star commitments than Michigan State, and Illinois defensive end Josh King leads the way. Standing 6'6", 250 pounds, the Hinsdale South High School senior is among the most promising prospects in Big Ten territory.
It's easy to appreciate what the Spartans have accomplished on offense in this cycle, particularly early pledges from New Jersey wide receiver Cam Chambers and Elite 11 quarterback competitor Messiah deWeaver, but King looks primed to immediately elevate the defensive front
"I'm the type of person that's going to school and not be scared of any type of competition,'' he told Mike Griffith of MLive.com. "You already know you have to grind, you've got to work, that's a must. But the first day I step on campus, I plan on making a major impact—major—and if it's possible, take a starting spot.''
10. Miami: 4-Star WR Sam Bruce
Sam Bruce told Luke Stampini of 247Sports that he expects to spend official visits at Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State. However, he's been the face of Miami's 2016 recruiting class since last summer.
Rated fifth nationally among wide receivers, the 5'8", 180-pound speedster is arguably the top offensive weapon in Florida. He recorded 65 receptions for 1,099 yards and 16 scores during the past two years, helping St. Thomas Aquinas capture a state championship last season.
His pledge gave the Hurricanes early momentum, helping the class surge to No. 1 in composite recruiting rankings this winter. Miami is now rated 10th on that list and could face a serious in-state challenge from the Gators, who gained a commitment from St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen in July.
“[Head coach Jim McElwain’s] message to me was he was hoping that when this thing is all said and done, I’ll be a Florida Gator," Bruce told Stampini. "It’s a lot of love coming from Florida."
9. USC: 5-Star LB Mique Juarez
USC is already loaded with young linebacker talent, strengthened by three elite signings at the position last February. That group is primed for another boost next year, as Mique Juarez headlines a crop of promising defenders.
Daelin Hayes and Jordan Loveni-Iosefa are also likely to land at linebacker in Los Angeles, though Juarez seems most likely to find his niche first. The 6'2", 222-pound prospect is particularly adept in pass coverage, making him an every-down threat.
He excelled downfield at The Opening, blanketing tight ends and running backs alike. Juarez intercepted three passes last season, adding 107 tackles and 8.5 sacks at North Torrance High School in California, per MaxPreps.
UCLA and Michigan are among programs still pushing for him to flip the commitment.
8. Georgia: 5-Star QB Jacob Eason
Quarterback Jacob Eason jumped into the spotlight last summer when he joined Georgia's class during a cross-country campus visit. The golden-armed Washington prospect warranted early attention in Pac-12 territory but ended up finding his right fit in Athens.
Eason, a 6'5", 205-pound prospect, completed 64 percent of pass attempts during his first two seasons as a full-time high school starter. He threw for 5,770 yards and 55 touchdowns during that span, rising to a No. 2 ranking among pro-style quarterbacks.
His skill set is an additional selling point for first-year Bulldogs offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
"I think it would be great to play with him," Georgia wide receiver commit Darius Anderson said. "He's a big playmaker and a good athlete from what I've seen."
Despite a lack of campus proximity, Eason seems solid to the Bulldogs.
"I'm all in. I'm excited to see what Coach Schottenheimer is going to do with me," he told B/R's Damon Sayles. "I'm ready to be a Bulldog and to get down there and do good things."
7. Michigan: 4-Star OT Ben Bredeson
Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh understands the importance of building a successful roster from the inside out. His focus in the trenches has paid off this cycle, with pledges from four 4-star offensive linemen.
Wisconsin product Ben Bredeson became the headliner of a terrific group when he committed to Michigan in June. His older brother, Jack, is a freshman on the university's baseball team.
Standing 6'5", 293 pounds, Bredeson rates third nationally among offensive tackles and 31st overall in 2016 composite rankings. Given his blend of agility and strength, expect him to vie for a key role on the Wolverines' two-deep next year.
6. Penn State: RB Miles Sanders
Penn State signed a pair of quality running backs last recruiting cycle, but Miles Sanders is impressive enough to seize significant carries as a true freshman in Happy Valley. The 5'11", 199-pound playmaker provides an explosive presence out of the backfield as a rusher and receiver.
He gained 1,132 yards and 18 scores as a junior, per Eric Epler of PennLive.com. Sanders averaged nearly 12 yards per rushing attempt in 2014 and should eclipse the 3,000-yard mark for his high school career early this fall.
Aside from the Nittany Lions, his scholarship offer sheet includes Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. In the conversion as America's top overall running back, Sanders is a firm Penn State pledge.
"The coaches show love. They make you feel like it’s a family, and that’s how coach [James] Franklin is," he told Audrey Snyder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He’s a family guy. He treats us like we’re his sons, and he’s just real with us.”
5. Ole Miss: 5-Star QB Shea Patterson
The Elite 11 MVP is now No. 1 overall among 2016 quarterback prospects in composite rankings. Shea Patterson, who previously committed to Arizona as a freshman, chose Ole Miss over USC and LSU earlier this year.
The 6'2", 195-pound passer led his team to a title in seven-on-seven action at The Opening. Texas wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland emerged as Patterson's top target during the event and offered praise.
"He's an unbelievable quarterback and a leader," Cleveland said. "He can throw the deep ball, always puts the ball on receivers with accuracy and really makes things hard on a defense."
Patterson completed 63 percent of pass attempts during the past two seasons, throwing for 5,083 yards, 72 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He expects to enroll early in Oxford.
"My ultimate goal for this senior season is to do as much as I can to prepare myself for college in the spring," Patterson told Bleacher Report. "That means working hard every day in an effort to get better. I need to get faster, I need to get stronger, and hopefully everything will pay off at Ole Miss."
4. Alabama: 4-Star OT Jonah Williams
This 6'5", 296-pound lineman graded out as the top overall 2016 offensive recruit in California during our film study. Alabama, already loaded with All-American talent along the offensive front, is set to add another imposing figure.
Jonah Williams spent his junior season protecting record-setting quarterback and current Washington Huskies freshman Jake Browning at Folsom High School. Equipped to dominate at either tackle position, he exhibits tremendous athleticism and a physical frame that doesn't require much of a makeover for college competition.
"I've been training intensely since middle school, and I plan to continue that routine," Williams told Matt Long of the Folsom Telegram. "I always want to gain muscle weight and trim fat, while remaining mobile and well-conditioned."
He could become the heir apparent to replace Cam Robinson, a former 5-star recruit who started at left tackle for the Crimson Tide as a true freshman and should be playing on Sundays in 2017.
3. Florida State: 5-Star CB Levonta Taylor
Levonta Taylor sits atop defensive back rankings for a reason. He's a tenacious cornerback in coverage and makes a strong case as high school football's most impressive athlete.
The 5'11", 182-pound playmaker solidified his status as a dogged defender while matched up against premier wide receivers throughout The Opening.
"I enjoy working against the best because it challenges me to step my game up," Taylor told Bleacher Report.
He led Ocean Lakes High School to a Virginia state title last season, contributing mightily in all three phases of the game. Taylor scored five touchdowns via interceptions and kick returns.
2. LSU: 4-Star QB Feleipe Franks
This class features a trio of 5-star talents, but 4-star Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks gets the nod. He threw 28 touchdowns in 2014, earned Elite 11 finalist honors this summer and became a cornerstone of LSU's 2016 recruiting haul by committing shortly after his sophomore year.
"It definitely gives you an edge to have a high-profile quarterback, and in my opinion, we have one with Feleipe Franks," fellow Tigers commit Caleb Roddy told Bleacher Report. "He's fantastic, and he has a rocket arm. Hopefully he can take the offense to another level when it's his time to step up at LSU. I truly believe he can be one of the best in the country."
LSU finished last among SEC squads in passing yards per game last season, so if things don't become more efficient through the air in Baton Rouge this fall, Franks may figure into the mix for early college snaps.
1. Ohio State: 4-Star DE Jonathon Cooper
Sorting through the star-studded collection of standouts who form America's top-ranked recruiting class makes it incredibly difficult to identify one player as "most important." However, we're going with the hometown kid in Columbus defensive end Jonathon Cooper.
The 6'4", 238-pound prospect picked Ohio State in November, months before the Buckeyes claimed a national title. Head coach Urban Meyer has since added 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, but he figures to play opposite of Cooper or perhaps inside.
"I want to be a big part of what we do to win more national titles at Ohio State," Cooper told Bleacher Report while on campus for an event.
He shined on the camp circuit this summer and could claim composite 5-star status during his senior season. Rated second nationally among weak-side defensive ends, Cooper recorded 80 tackles—11 for loss—and 11.5 sacks last fall, per Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch.
Quotes and observations obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.