Ranking the 10 States with the Most Talent in College Football Right Now

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2020

Ranking the 10 States with the Most Talent in College Football Right Now

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    As the NFL draft class has taken another group of college football players away from the amateur ranks and spring practice gets ready to gear up, it's time to look at which states are the hottest hotbeds for talent.

    We analyzed the top 100 players from the past four 247Sports composite recruiting classes and 250 of the best players returning to college in 2020 to judge talent from the players' home states.

    Eight of the 10 representatives from a season ago are back, and the top five states are the same, though there are some changes near the top. Ohio had a massive drop-off in talent, so it is no longer on the list.

    Teams got rankings boosts for quality of talent, too. So, even though Texas and Florida again had the most representatives, that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be the top two talent-producers.

    Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia narrowly missed making the top 10, and all three were extremely close. The top-end talent just didn't match others.

    Let's take a look at this year's rankings.

10. Pennsylvania

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    Pennsylvania didn't make these rankings last year, but there are plenty of quality players from this large state that features two Power Five programs in Penn State and Pittsburgh.

    The Nittany Lions have been beneficiaries of the talent-rich soil for a while, and head coach James Franklin is doing a fairly good job of keeping those players at home.

    The star of the bunch is Penn State outside linebacker Micah Parsons, who may be college football's best returning defensive player. He is a sideline-to-sideline force who can get after quarterbacks and has lived up to his billing as a top prospect.

    Teammate Journey Brown is an explosive playmaker at running back who anchors the Nittany Lions' loaded offensive backfield.

    The Pitt Panthers also have several quality in-state players, led by safety Paris Ford, who is one of the most underrated players in college football. He is going to have a monster season for head coach Pat Narduzzi, and NFL teams will be all over him.

    Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is a 6'6" force of nature who eclipsed 600 receiving yards a season ago and could be Kyle Trask's biggest weapon for the Gators this season, and Alabama defensive lineman Christian Barmore looks like a sure-fire NFL player.

    Temple quarterback Anthony Russo is one of the best Group of Five quarterbacks out there, and now that Phil Jurkovec is at Boston College and out of Ian Book's shadow at Notre Dame, he could shine as well

    Pennsylvania also has a lot of young talent ready to break out, too. Oregon State linebacker Omar Speights looks like a potential every-down player and all-conference talent for the Beavers, and 2020 top receiver Julian Fleming is going to do huge things at Ohio State.

    There's more than enough talent to justify this state's spot in the rankings.

9. Arizona

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    Arizona may not be known for producing many elite college football players, but it makes this list for the second consecutive year.

    This year, it edges out Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia and is ranked ahead of Pennsylvania because of the potential of its high-caliber playmakers.

    Everybody at Oklahoma is excited about rising redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler, the former Elite 11 MVP from Phoenix who shattered school records and appears to be the favorite to be coach Lincoln Riley's first homegrown Sooners signal-caller in a long time.

    He isn't big in stature (6'1", 198 pounds), but he produced huge numbers in high school and will have plenty of talent surrounding him in Oklahoma. He isn't the only big-name player from Arizona, either.

    USC quarterback Kedon Slovis may wind up being a Heisman Trophy candidate and figures to be the key to coach Clay Helton's job security as he enters his sophomore season. Iowa State signal-caller Brock Purdy is another potentially elite gunslinger, and his younger brother, Chubba, is heading to Florida State this season.

    Arizona boasts a pair of top-20 players in the 2020 class: Georgia defensive back Kelee Ringo and Texas running back Bijan Robinson. Other established guys like USC safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, Oregon State pass-rusher Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Texas receiver Jake Smith could have big years.

    Other guys like Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough and Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer are breakout candidates, too. There's a lot of high-caliber potential from Arizona, and it goes far beyond Slovis.

8. Maryland

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    Maryland narrowly edges out Arizona because of its sheer volume of players, even with a star like Ohio State defensive end Chase Young off to the NFL.

    The biggest hot spot position-wise is running back. At least three Maryland natives have the chance to be 1,000-yard rushers in 2020.

    Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim is going to be head coach P.J. Fleck's primary back for the Golden Gophers as they look to improve upon 2019's 11-win season. Now that backfield mate Rodney Smith is off to the NFL, Ibrahim will get far more carries, and this isn't his first time as a primary back.

    The best runner you've never heard of is Buffalo's Jaret Patterson, who was arguably the MAC's best player a season ago and is a future NFL every-down running back. Maryland's Anthony McFarland Jr. is a catalyst for head coach Mike Locksley's hometown Terrapins.

    The 2020 class is bringing in a load of talent, too.

    The nation's top-ranked overall player, Bryan Bresee, is heading to Clemson from Damascus. Alabama outside linebacker Chris Braswell, Penn State outside linebacker Curtis Jacobs, South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd, LSU safety Jordan Toles, Michigan running back Blake Corum, Ole Miss defensive end Demon Clowney and others all look like potential stars.

    Those guys just scratch the surface of this year's loaded class, and other established players like Alabama linebacker Shane Lee have a lot of potential that make Maryland a deep talent-producer. 

7. North Carolina

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    If Mack Brown is going to succeed in his second stint as head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, it'll be because he did a great job of locking down a state full of talent like he did the first time around.

    He's already off to a brilliant start doing so, which is paying massive dividends on the field.

    Quarterback Sam Howell might have been the most exciting true freshman player in the nation, and he was the biggest recruiting win so far for Brown, flipping his pledge from Florida State. But he's far from the only great player from North Carolina. 

    Georgia running back Zamir White is a former top prospect who has battled knee injuries, but he should be healthy and have a shot to be the every-down back for one of the nation's top programs this year. 

    Howell's teammate, Dyami Brown, was a 1,000-yard receiver last year and is back for his senior season.

    North Carolina was also loaded with talent in 2020. While the Tar Heels kept a lot of it home—namely Desmond Evans, Myles Murphy, Ja'Qurious Conley and Kedrick Bingley-JonesClemson head coach Dabo Swinney stole outside linebacker Trenton Simpson and offensive tackle Mitchell Mayes, both of whom look like multiyear starters.

    Former NFL All-Pro receiver Muhsin Muhammad's son, Muhsin Muhammad III, is heading to Texas A&M, where he is expected to play early.

    Florida State safety Hamsah Nasirildeen, North Carolina State running back Zonovan Knight, Clemson defensive linemen K.J. Henry and Justin Foster, Virginia Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield and quarterback Hendon Hooker and Tennessee linebacker Quavaris Crouch are all quality players, too.

    From the mountains of western Carolina to the coastline and with the cities in between, there are a lot of college players from North Carolina, and the state is loaded again in the 2021 class. 

6. Alabama

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    The Alabama brand reaches far and wide thanks to Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, but there is plenty of talent in the Yellowhammer State, and he has done a quality job of keeping elite players at home.

    Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn isn't too shabby at it, either.

    As far as elite playmakers go, perhaps the top two players from the state don't go to Alabama or Auburn. That would be Clemson receiver Justyn Ross and Georgia receiver George Pickens, both of whom have the potential to be superstars.

    Ross' former high school teammate from Phenix City, E.J. Williams, will join him this year as well.

    Auburn quarterback Bo Nix is a rising star who took over the Tigers as a true freshman in 2019 and played at a high level despite going through growing pains. He'll be throwing to guys like Seth Williams, who also is an Alabama native. 

    Crimson Tide defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, running back Brian Robinson, as well as incoming freshmen Demouy Kennedy, Quandarrius Robinson and Kristian Story could be rising stars of tomorrow.

    If Nico Collins gets a second breath of fresh air at Michigan, he could blossom as well. And though Georgia linebacker Monty Rice wasn't lauded coming out of high school, he's had a terrific career and could be one of the SEC's top defenders in 2020.

    Utah quarterback Jake Bentley could be a big addition after transferring from South Carolina, and Florida pass-rusher Mohamoud Diabate is a potential breakout star-in-the-making, too.

5. Louisiana

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    Louisiana produced a national champion last year as LSU dominated its way to an undefeated record. The Tigers roster is outfitted by elite talent just itching to stay at home every year, too.

    The Tigers will feature elite, homegrown talent yet again in 2020 like Biletnikoff Award winner Ja'Marr Chase, the nation's top young cornerback in Derek Stingley Jr., budding receiver Terrace Marshall and massive nose guard Tyler Shelvin. 

    But plenty of playmakers from Louisiana head elsewhere, too.

    The nation's top returning running back and two-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year Travis Etienne is from Jennings. He is a big-time cog for the Clemson Tigers who will go down as an all-time legend.

    Alabama's DeVonta Smith could wind up battling Chase and others as the nation's top pass-catcher with Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III gone from Tuscaloosa. He was one of Nick Saban's recruiting wins from Louisiana.

    Kansas star running back Pooka Williams is a Louisiana native who is an unsung college runner, and TCU rising sophomore Ar'Darius Washington is a ball-hawking defensive back who is going to anchor Gary Patterson's defense for a long time to come.

    Alabama linebacker Christian Harris played a ton as a true freshman in 2019, too.

    After waiting their turn behind talented players, Notre Dame's Lawrence Keys and Alabama's Slade Bolden could break out at receiver this year, too.

    Kayshon Boutte is a 5-star receiver who is heading to LSU, and defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy is going to be a Bayou Bengal, too. Georgia is outfitting its depleted offensive line with Sedrick Van Pran, and running back Ashaad Clayton is heading to Colorado. There are plenty of other upcoming stars in the 2020 class, too.

    Louisiana is always going to produce a ton of high-end players.

4. California

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    The Pac-12 has been down in recent years in part because other conferences are pillaging players from the fertile grounds of California.

    The failure to land elite in-state players will be the downfall of USC's Clay Helton and UCLA's Chip Kelly unless they turn things around. Meanwhile, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal is experiencing so much success because of the Ducks' domination in California.

    Getting players like pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, hard-hitting linebacker Mase Funa and running back C.J. Verdell is paying massive dividends for Oregon. Incoming 5-star freshman Justin Flowe and potential starting quarterback Jay Butterfield will continue the trend.

    But California is outfitting teams everywhere with stars.

    Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is entering his freshman season tagged with being the next big thing, and Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei is the likely heir to Trevor Lawrence's throne at Clemson. Ohio State's C.J. Stroud could take over for Justin Fields, too.

    Quarterbacks are always bountiful in California, and teams from across the nation look there. Arizona State's Jayden Daniels, South Carolina's Ryan Hilinski, Boise State's Hank Bachmeier and Nebraska's Adrian Martinez all hail from the Golden State.

    USC receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Alabama running back Najee Harris are going to be two of the best players at their respective positions this season.

    Meanwhile, Tennessee sophomore linebacker Henry To'oto'o, USC receivers Bru McCoy, Kyle Ford and Drake London, Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet and Clemson receiver Joe Ngata are all potentially elite as well.

    California prospects are deep, diverse and may be getting ready to dominate college football. One could make an argument for any of the states in the top four being the best.

3. Texas

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    Florida is the only other state that produces as much top-tier talent as Texas. But if you want a hot take, here it comes: The Lone Star State's superstars aren't quite as bountiful as they normally are.

    That isn't a knock on the talent level. By the end of 2020, last year's No. 1 state could be right back at the top. But just think of the Texas natives who left college football to head to the NFL after the 2019 season: Jalen Hurts, CeeDee Lamb, Jeff Okudah, J.K. Dobbins, K'Lavon Chaisson, Jalen Reagor, Kenneth Murray, Laviska Shenault Jr., Devin Duvernay and Eno Benjamin.

    Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Oklahoma State receiver Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma receiver Charleston Rambo and Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson are the standard-bearers. Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo and offensive tackle Walker Little are potential first-round picks, too.

    After them, Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison and SMU quarterback Shane Buechele are excellent second-tier players.

    Several guys are right on the cusp of stardom, too, and they could wind up sending the Lone Star State back to the top. Guys like Alabama do-it-all athlete Jaylen Waddle and Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson could be among college football's biggest stars next year.

    Texas defensive backs Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster, Texas A&M tight end Jalen Wydermyer and safety Demani Richardson, Oregon cornerback Verone McKinley III, Oklahoma receiver Theo Wease and Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders are other potential breakout players.

    The Texas schools have waves of in-state guys waiting to bust through like Longhorns players Jordan Whittington and linebacker Joseph Ossai and A&M's Kenyon Green and DeMarvin Leal. Ohio State's Baron Browning and Oklahoma's Kennedy Brooks are going to enjoy expanded roles, too.

    Even though you don't see a lot of splash players, the options are bountiful. The 2020 class also featured five 5-star prospects in Zachary Evans, Jaylon Jones, Drew Sanders, Demond Demas and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

    Those guys, along with high 4-stars like running back Jase McClellan (who is off to Alabama) and quarterback Hudson Card (who could take over for Ehlinger at Texas) are the stars of tomorrow.

    We may regret putting Texas this low, but there are other states with more established college stars for now.

2. Florida

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    For years, Florida has grown top-tier talent. It's no different in 2020, even if there aren't quite as many definitive megastars outfitting rosters across the nation.

    The Sunshine State gets a boost in these rankings because of football powerhouse IMG Academy, which recruits elite talent from all over the nation. 

    Nolan Smith (Georgia), Dylan Moses (Louisiana), Kellen Mond (Texas), Demarckus Bowman (South Carolina), Elias Ricks (California) and Xavier Thomas (South Carolina) are examples of IMG Academy alums who are not from Florida. The state gets partial credit for those guys.

    But plenty of star players hail from the Sunshine State, too. Miami's Gregory Rousseau is one of the nation's top pass-rushers, and Clemson's Tyler Davis was one of college football's best defensive linemen as a true freshman.

    Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood and Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade spurned big-money NFL contracts to return for their senior seasons, and they are going to be college stars in 2020.

    Louisville's Javian Hawkins burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2019, and other youngsters like Alabama's Evan Neal, Georgia's Tyrique Stevenson and Tyson Campbell, Clemson's Frank Ladson, Florida's Kaiir Elam, Florida State's Akeem Dent and Auburn's D.J. Williams shone, too.

    The 2020 class is heavy on big men with Gators defensive tackle Gervon Dexter leading the way, along with Georgia signee Jalen Carter and Clemson's Demonte Capehart. Playmakers abound, too, like Miami's Avantae Williams and Don Chaney Jr., Florida's Xzavier Henderson and Tennessee's Malachi Wideman.

    When Alabama running back Trey Sanders gets his hands on the ball, he's going to be exciting to watch, and plenty other guys like Clemson's Xavier Thomas, Alabama's Patrick Surtain II and Ohio State's Nicholas Petit-Frere have elite potential as well.

1. Georgia

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    Georgia doesn't have the sheer number of representatives as Texas, Florida or even California, but what the state lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality.

    The who's-who of collegiate stars in 2020 hail from the Peach State.

    Perhaps the nation's two Heisman Trophy front-runners—Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields—were both in the 2018 recruiting class and played mere miles from one another. Future Florida starting signal-caller Emory Jones wasn't far away, either.

    Stanford quarterback Davis Mills will be another big name in 2020, and future prospects like Tennessee's Harrison Bailey and LSU's Max Johnson (not to mention 2021 phenom Brock Vandagriff) should make Georgia's quarterback game strong for years to come.

    It isn't only QBs, though. There are legitimate playmakers across the country from Georgia.

    Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman is an explosive force who is ready to step into the spotlight with Tyler Johnson gone, and he should repeat as a 1,000-yard receiver as a junior.

    UGA safety Richard LeCounte III is one of the SEC's top returning playmakers, and Oklahoma's Jadon Haselwood is getting ready to step into a starring role with CeeDee Lamb gone. Others like Florida's Brenton Cox, Auburn's Big Kat Bryant and Georgia's Azeez Ojulari are preparing for their time to shine, too.

    Georgia's Nolan Smith, Florida's Trey Dean, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton, Auburn's Owen Pappoe and Tennessee's Wanya Morris and Jaylen McCollough are rising sophomores who already made major impacts for their teams, and each of them are potential stars.

    Meanwhile, the loaded 2020 class is led by LSU tight end Arik Gilbert, Clemson pass-rusher Myles Murphy, UGA offensive linemen Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge, Alabama versatile defender Will Anderson and the running back duo of Tank Bigsby (Auburn) and Jahmyr Gibbs (Georgia Tech).

    They may wind up being the deepest group of players from that state in a while. The talent pool just keeps growing and growing.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports and stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.