Top 11 2022 Commits Walking into Ideal Situations
Sometimes, the stars align for certain prospects.
In some cases, they are elite players who are stepping onto teams that need major help at their positions. Other times, the depth chart is clearing up at just the right time for them to make an impact.
It doesn't necessarily mean that they're the odds-on favorites to start as true freshmen.
Think of Ty Thompson's situation at Oregon this year. Even though Thompson may not start the opener, Tyler Shough transferred to Texas Tech, meaning the freshman could benefit from the first blush of faltering from Anthony Brown. Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal also indicated Thompson and Brown are still in a close competition for the starting job, according to the Register-Guard's Chris Hansen.
Clemson running back Will Shipley is also in a nice situation after Travis Etienne left for the NFL.
Who are 2022 commits who could nestle into comfortable situations and seize the spotlight? Let's take a look.
Drew Allar, Penn State Quarterback
It's difficult for a true freshman quarterback to start at a prestigious program like Penn State, but the Nittany Lions are bringing in two capable possibilities in the '22 class in Beau Pribula and Drew Allar.
That duo highlight the nation's top-ranked class, and Allar is an especially intriguing piece of the puzzle.
The 6'4½", 228-pound Medina, Ohio, dropback passer was the first signal-caller new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich offered, according to The Athletic's Audrey Snyder. That should indicate he is the guy hand-picked to eventually run the new Nittany Lions attack.
Redshirt senior Sean Clifford is eligible for another year, but he is already 23 years old and could look to leap to the pros if he has a bounce-back performance under Yurcich in 2021. And if Clifford doesn't have a strong showing, Penn State may want to give someone else a shot under center.
Yes, Ta'Quan Roberson and true freshman Christian Veilleux are talented players, but they were recruited by another offensive staff. So Allar will get an extended look once he gets to State College.
Raleek Brown, Oklahoma Running Back/Receiver
Everything is in place for Oklahoma to have yet another monster season in 2021. The Sooners may even be the odds-on favorite for the national championship because of their depth and talent on both sides of the ball.
The running back corps is going be much deeper than a season ago, highlighted by the return of Kennedy Brooks and the transfer of shifty Tennessee back Eric Gray, who could be a star-in-the-making.
Both of those players are eligible to head to the NFL after this season, and it's a safe bet at least one will test the waters.
That will leave a spot on the offense for Raleek Brown, who is heading to OU from the prestigious Mater Dei High School in California. The 4-star running back is a burner who is electric in the open field and can even split out and play slot.
That hybrid ability makes him a prime candidate to be a weapon for head coach Lincoln Riley right off the bat. The Sooners normally do an excellent job of getting the ball in their playmakers' hands, and Brown is going to be that, even if he is only a 5'8", 185-pound bubblegum stick of dynamite.
Kiyaunta Goodwin, Kentucky Offensive Tackle
One of the biggest "say what?" commitments in the 2022 cycle came when mountainous offensive tackle Kiyaunta Goodwin chose the Kentucky Wildcats over a list of suitors that included multiple national title contenders.
The No. 49 overall recruit was one of the biggest commitments of coach Mark Stoops' career in Lexington, and it's a testament to just how well UK has developed the big men along both lines of scrimmage. The 6'7", 300-pound Charlestown, Indiana, prospect isn't heading to the bluegrass to redshirt.
With preseason All-American Darian Kinnard likely off to the NFL after this year, the Wildcats will have a void to fill. They can slide in Goodwin, who is talented enough to play right away. And Stoops could've pointed to Kinnard's development as a major selling point to get Goodwin in blue.
The Wildcats could make some noise in the SEC East this year, but they are going to need reinforcements in the offensive front in '22. Goodwin is the kind of road-grader and pocket-protector who could be the centerpiece of the top classes in the country.
C.J. Hicks, Ohio State Linebacker
With the way the Ohio State Buckeyes have recruited over the past several years, Columbus must be one of the most difficult places for recruits to step right in and make their mark.
But that's exactly what linebacker C.J. Hicks will try to do in 2022, and even though head coach Ryan Day has a lot of capable players, he may not have anybody who can keep Hicks off the field at a position with arguably the biggest question marks.
At 6'3", 220 pounds, the Dayton, Ohio, native is the nation's No. 17 overall player, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and he is the kind of bouncy sideline-to-sideline second-level defender who can be a plug-and-play guy right away.
He has the athleticism to play safety, but he is growing into a natural linebacker who can come off the edge and get after quarterbacks, as well as cover receivers in space.
USC transfer Palaie Gaoteote will likely enter the NFL draft next year, and with Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau looking like they're going to play with their hands on the ground, linebackers coach Al Washington will need some capable players on the second level, even if he sticks with a 4-2-5 defense.
Jordan Hudson, SMU Wide Receiver
There's no question SMU's Sonny Dykes has won recruiting battles over the past few years that you wouldn't expect from a Group of Five head coach.
It started in 2019 when he got Shane Buechele to transfer from Texas to lead the high-octane offense, and he continued to do well in the transfer portal by landing Oklahoma quarterback Tanner Mordecai this offseason.
But Dykes is also selling a lot of Dallas-area kids on staying home to play for the Mustangs, and one of those is 4-star quarterback Preston Stone, who chose SMU in the 2021 class and is battling Mordecai for the starting job.
Whoever is under center in 2022 is going to have a fun time throwing to elite receiver Jordan Hudson. The 6'1", 180-pound pass-catcher from Garland, Texas, was wanted by some of the nation's top programs, including Alabama and Oklahoma.
With Courtland Sutton, James Proche and Trey Quinn, SMU proved the Dykes-led offense can put receivers in the NFL draft. Hudson has been torching 6A talent for Garland High School, including with a 20-touchdown season in 2019, and looks like the kind of can't-miss talent who could be next on that list.
Travis Hunter, Florida State Cornerback
The nation's second-ranked overall player is heading to Florida State if he follows through with his verbal commitment. There will be an onslaught of suitors who will smell blood in the water if FSU struggles on the field in 2021.
Not only does Travis Hunter have the opportunity to anchor a young and talented secondary in Tallahassee, but he also could be the face of head coach Mike Norvell's program.
If Norvell is smart, he would not only line up Hunter in the secondary but also find a way to get the 6'1", 165-pound dynamo the football, either on offense or special teams. You don't win a recruiting battle and let that player stand on the sidelines when you're trying to get back on the national map.
The Suwanee, Georgia, native is a can't-miss athlete whom Norvell swept out from the hotbed of recruiting talent under UGA coach Kirby Smart, and he will be a game-changer.
According to 247Sports' Andrew Ivins, Collins Hill's team's beatdown of Brookwood this month featured Hunter catching 13 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns and throwing a 28-yard touchdown. He added an interception and tackle for loss.
The ACC is on notice.
Tavorus Jones, Missouri Running Back
It's always fun to talk about new programs making noise in the recruiting rankings, and the SEC has a couple of them.
We've already talked about Kentucky and Kiyaunta Goodwin, though the Wildcats are not ranked high (35th). The same cannot be said for Missouri and second-year coach Eli Drinkwitz, who surprisingly has put together the nation's No. 18 class.
Anchoring the group is 4-star two-sport quarterback Sam Horn, but he is going to have to wait his turn behind Connor Bazelak. A player with a clearer path to playing time is 4-star running back Tavorus Jones.
The 5'10", 195-pound El Paso, Texas, running back and Polynesian Bowl invite had offers from quality programs like Alabama, Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Texas, USC and others.
Whatever "Coach Drink" is selling in Columbia is working after the disappointing end to the Barry Odom era. And with the Tigers having plenty of offensive firepower this year, they could keep the momentum going on the recruiting trail with a nice showing on the football field.
Jones is the kind of every-down back who can catch passes out of the backfield and bowl through defenders. He's one of the biggest gets of the short Drinkwitz era so far.
Jack Pedersen, UCLA Tight End
As Chip Kelly tries to rebuild the proud UCLA program back to what it once was, he needs more offensive weapons.
Tight end is one position the Bruins have never had difficulty producing, and it doesn't go unnoticed. According to 247Sports' Mike Regalato, ESPN dubbed the Bruins "Tight End U" in 2020. It's easy to see why.
They've had tight ends taken in two of the past three drafts (Caleb Wilson in 2019 and Devin Asiasi in '20), and Kelly is getting back leading pass-catcher Greg Dulcich, along with senior Kyle Philips. Both those guys could leave after the 2021 season, meaning there could be plenty of open catches.
Enter 4-star tight end Jack Pedersen, who played last year at IMG Academy and is returning to California to pay for Vista Murrieta. His high school coach, Eric Peterson, told the Los Angeles Times' Eric Sondheimer recently: "He looks amazing."
The 6'4", 235-pound target is a pass-catcher first who has the size and the frame to turn into a very good blocker. He's the nation's No. 184 overall player, and he'll be playing for a coach who loves implementing two-tight end sets.
It's the perfect formula for a big-time prospect like Pedersen to get into the mix right away.
Travis Shaw, North Carolina Defensive Tackle
Mack Brown's return to coach North Carolina has been stamped with some big on-field wins as he tries to bring the Tar Heels back to national prominence.
There was no bigger recruiting victory than last's week, though. That's when the highest-ranked commitment of Brown's era—and the second-highest ever in the internet recruiting era, according to Inside Carolina's Gregory Hall—decided to head to Chapel Hill.
The nation's fourth-ranked overall player, Travis Shaw of Greensboro, North Carolina, pledged to UNC over Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and others.
He is a 6'5", 330-pound force of nature who plays hard, wreaks havoc and is an exceptional athlete for his size. He should team up with guys like Jahvaree Ritzie, Myles Murphy and Keeshawn Silver, who have been huge recruiting wins in recent years.
"He is athletic enough to play all over the defensive line with great production," 247Sports nation analyst Chris Singletary wrote (via Hall). "He is light on his feet and makes plays off the edge and the interior. …Shaw brings athleticism not normally seen in a player his size, which makes for his upside being off the charts."
He's got instant-impact playmaker written all over him.
Jaylen Sneed, Notre Dame Linebacker
Notre Dame has been known for some dominant defenses over the past few years under Brian Kelly.
But the Fighting Irish are shallow at linebacker, and after signing just two top-200 players at the position in the past two recruiting cycles, it was a major point of emphasis in the 2022 class.
Enter new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who led one of the nation's top units at Cincinnati last season. Not only is Freeman an elite coordinator, he's also one of the best recruiters in the nation.
The Irish have the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, highlighted by four 4-star linebackers. Perhaps the best of those is speedy Jaylen Sneed, a player the Irish plucked from the heart of SEC country in South Carolina.
At 6'2", 210 pounds, Sneed is a rangy athlete who could fit as an edge-rusher or grow into an interior guy, and he's got a high ceiling.
Just how good are Sneed and these Irish 'backers? CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming thinks it's a special group.
"Sneed's addition gives Notre Dame the best linebacking group they've had in the 43 years I've been doing this," Lemming told ND Insider's Tyler James.
Larry Turner-Gooden, Arizona State Defensive Back
Unfortunately for Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards and Co., there is an investigation into alleged recruiting violations that already has led to coaches being placed on administrative leave, per the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers.
So this commitment could carry a big ol' asterisk. But, for now, Larry Turner-Gooden has pledged to play for the Sun Devils, and if he follows through with that commitment, he could wind up with immediate playing time.
The nation's No. 118-ranked player is from Mission Hills, California, and is continuing to go through the recruiting process as teams such as Texas try to flip him. That's because the 4-star recruit is an exceptional, rangy athlete who is capable of starring on both sides of the ball.
Turner-Gooden is likely to wind up at safety, though, where his speed, tackling and hard-hitting mentality will serve him well. With two seniors and two juniors in the mix for reps at the position in 2021, Turner-Gooden could end up with immediate playing time in 2022.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.