Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Rivalry Week
College football's rivalry week arrives Thanksgiving weekend, as longstanding foes face off yet again with major postseason implications involved. Attention shifts to showdowns at Auburn, Florida, Michigan, USC and campuses across America, providing plenty of action to enjoy as folks emerge from holiday feasts.
Several recruits will gather at games, considering the possibility of someday becoming a competitor in these rivalries. Prospects expected to attend matchups include top-ranked talent Rashan Gary, lauded Alabama linebacker legacy Ben Davis and Elite 11 quarterback finalist Feleipe Franks.
Here's a rundown of recruits on the move this weekend, as we reach the 10-week mark until national signing day.
Auburn: 5-Star LB Ben Davis
High School: Gordo (Gordo, Alabama)
Size: 6'3", 240 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 inside linebacker; No. 16 overall
Ben Davis heads to the Iron Bowl, an annual showdown he grew up watching intently. The son of all-time Alabama tackles leader Wayne Davis will use an unofficial visit to Auburn before returning to the university in January for an official visit.
Though the Alabama legacy is widely considered a Crimson Tide lock, Davis admits he can envision himself on either side of the field in future Iron Bowls.
"If I was with Auburn, I'd be pumped up for it more than any other game. But I'd feel the same way as an Alabama player too. It's one of the biggest rivalries in sports," he told Bleacher Report this fall.
Marlon Davidson, a close friend and 5-star defensive end, committed to the Tigers in September.
"Knowing that he's going to play down there definitely bumps Auburn up for me," Davis said after the announcement. "We're like brothers. Auburn was already one of my top schools, but that's a big deal."
Davis has already spent official visits at LSU and Georgia. Trips to Auburn and Alabama are set for January, while Notre Dame is a top contender to land his fifth and final official visit.
Michigan: 5-Star ATH Mecole Hardman
High School: Elbert County (Elberton, Georgia)
Size: 5'10", 175 lbs
Composite Ranking: No. 1 athlete; No. 21 overall
Mecole Hardman was supposed to attend Ole Miss' matchup against LSU last weekend, but he elected to instead utilize that official visit in January, according to Yancy Porter of Scout.com. His travel itinerary also includes a trip to the Big House, where he will watch the Wolverines take on nemesis Ohio State.
Hardman, an electric athlete capable of excelling on offense or defense, is projected to sign with in-state Georgia by 79 percent of experts' predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. However, he's spent substantial time exploring alternatives beyond state borders.
Other top SEC contenders include Alabama, Florida and Tennessee, while Michigan could put itself in great position with a positive experience this weekend. Hardman may look to two-way Wolverines player Jabrill Peppers as an example of how he could someday be utilized in Ann Arbor.
"With Michigan, I’m definitely looking forward to that one and getting up north. I just want to see the Big House and see a big game with Ohio State coming in. I’m ready to meet Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and talk to him and see what his plans are and just go from there," he told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani earlier this month.
Florida: 4-Star QB Feleipe Franks
High School: Wakulla (Crawfordville, Florida)
Size: 6'5", 220 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 5 pro-style quarterback; No. 45 overall
Florida enters its annual showdown with Florida State carrying plenty of momentum. The Gators are 10-1 under first-year head coach Jim McElwain, clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game and now appear to be prohibitive favorites for America's top-ranked uncommitted quarterback recruit.
Feleipe Franks, an Elite 11 finalist with outstanding physical tools, announced his decommitment from LSU on Monday. That decision was preceded by a pair of recent visits to Florida, and he will return to Gainesville for a third straight Gators home game this weekend.
Florida landed a quality 2017 pledge from in-state passer Jake Allen but would prefer not to wait that long to add a blue-chip quarterback prospect. The Gators failed to sign a player at the position last signing day and won't have former starter Will Grier back from suspension until next October.
Franks has thrown for 2,125 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions through 12 games this season, according to MaxPreps. Florida's staff will attempt to act quickly and fill a key void in the Gators' class.
Oklahoma State: 5-Star TE Isaac Nauta
High School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)
Size: 6'4", 237 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 tight end; No. 9 overall
Isaac Nauta, the 2016 class' top-rated pass-catcher regardless of position, wraps up a busy autumn with his fifth and final official visit this weekend. Though he initially slotted a trip to TCU here, Nauta changed plans to attend a matchup between Top 10 teams in Stillwater.
The Bedlam Series carries serious postseason implications this year and represents a nice way for Nauta to cap off his travels. He previously spent time at Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ole Miss, where IMG teammate and 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson is headed.
Nauta, who decommitted from Florida State this summer, is a Georgia native, and the Bulldogs are viewed as a heavy favorite in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. He plans to announce college plans Jan. 9 at the Army All-American Bowl.
Expect him to keep a close eye on the Cowboys' play-calling tendencies throughout the upcoming contest.
"I don't just want to be a guy who blocks. I want to make plays," Nauta told Bleacher Report in September. "I'm looking for an offensive scheme that puts tight ends in position to get the ball in big situations."
South Carolina: 4-Star WR Bryan Edwards
High School: Conway (Conway, South Carolina)
Size: 6'3", 208 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 40 wide receiver; No. 205 overall
South Carolina lost a commitment from Bryan Edwards last week, but he'll be back in Columbia on Saturday, according to Tony Morrell of 247Sports. The Gamecocks, still dealing with the uncertainty of who will serve as head coach next season, remain in the mix but may be chasing Clemson.
The Tigers welcomed Edwards to campus for an official visit last weekend. Georgia may be another program to monitor moving forward as he finalizes any future travel plans, per Morrell.
South Carolina suffered another key decommitment at the position earlier this cycle when 5-star recruit Kyle Davis backed off his verbal pledge. Edwards initially joined the Gamecocks class this spring after a junior campaign that included 688 receiving yards and six touchdown catches.
His trip to Columbia gives him another opportunity to examine two potential landing spots as South Carolina and Clemson clash for state bragging rights.
Michigan: 4-Star ATH Devin Bush Jr.
High School: Flanagan (Hollywood, Florida)
Size: 5'11", 226 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 11 inside linebacker; No. 230 overall
Devin Bush Jr. will make his second trip to Ann Arbor this season, according to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN. He traveled to Michigan in an unofficial capacity last month, watching the Wolverines defeat Northwestern.
Linebacker is a pivotal position for head coach Jim Harbaugh during the final stretch of this recruiting cycle, and a commitment from Bush would certainly help check off a key need in the class. His father, Devin Bush Sr., was a standout defensive back on the 1993 Florida State championship team and spent eight years in the NFL.
Bush Sr., now head coach at Flanagan High School, actually hosted a Michigan satellite camp this summer, so there is certainly a rapport between him and Wolverines coaches. Flanagan seniors Josh Metellus and Devin Gil are already committed to Michigan.
“I think they’re real people,” Bush Sr. told Sam Webb of Scout.com. “Every time we come to visit it has been the same. Harbaugh seems like a real player’s coach. ... If you’re going to play for him and do your job, he is going to be for you."
Bush Jr. announced a Top 2 of Michigan and Florida State earlier this month.
Auburn: 5-Star DT Rashan Gary
High School: Paramus Catholic (Paramus, New Jersey)
Size: 6'5", 293 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 defensive tackle; No. 1 overall
Auburn is the latest program to welcome America's premier prospect to campus for a key matchup. Rashan Gary will be the star among stars in attendance at the Iron Bowl, where he will enjoy the action with multiple Paramus Catholic teammates, according to Todderick Hunt of NJ.com.
His official visits have occurred at Ole Miss and Michigan so far, and Gary will have two more remaining after this weekend. USC is still expected to receive one this winter, while Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Georgia are among programs jockeying for his fifth and final official visit.
Auburn is in a collection of SEC contenders for the Garden State gargantuan, though he is projected to sign with Michigan in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. Former Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge is the Wolverines' recruiting director, creating familiarity that's difficult for other teams to top.
Gary tallied 55 tackles—29 for loss—13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in nine games as a senior, according to Hunt.
Auburn: 4-Star RB Kareem Walker
High School: DePaul Catholic (Wayne, New Jersey)
Size: 6'1", 210 lbs
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 running back; No. 34 overall
Kareem Walker will join Rashan Gary in Auburn as the New Jersey duo searches for some Southern hospitality at the Iron Bowl. The former Ohio State commit journeyed to Alabama and Auburn in May, and now he'll have a chance to watch both teams in a live game setting.
The Buckeyes initially landed his pledge last winter and held it for nearly a year until he reopened the recruiting process in early November. Ole Miss is another potential SEC landing spot, but Walker, like Gary, is projected to sign with Michigan in his 247Sports Crystal Ball.
He's rushed for 4,085 yards and 49 touchdowns since 2013, according to MaxPreps. Fresh off securing a commitment from 5-star wide receiver Kyle Davis, Auburn turns its attention to a playmaker who could make an immediate impact in the Tigers offensive backfield.