With less than three weeks under the early-signing period gets under way for football, we’ve hit the final stretch for the recruiting Class of 2023.
There’s really only one question regarding which team might finish with the mythical national champions claim, and that’s whether the Alabama Crimson Tide can hold on and give Nick Saban yet another recruiting title.
That and which program could possibly leapfrog into first.
Ok, so there’s two questions, but they’re keeping John Garcia Jr., the national recruiting director for Sports Illustrated busy this December.
Alabama remained at No. 1 in his latest monthly team rankings update:
“While other programs close the gap on Alabama’s long lead in these rankings, the Crimson Tide hit another position of need in landing Florida-based wide receiver Jaren Hamilton at the end of November. The balanced wide receiver brings a balance to a wide receiver haul featuring lengthy SI99 downfield talent Jalen Hale as well as junior college star Malik Benson.”
Hamilton announced his decision on Monday, picking Alabama over the likes of Florida, Tennessee and Michigan. He’s aiming to be the next big-time Alabama receiving from the state of Florida, joining the likes of Amari Cooper, Clavin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy.
With his addition, Alabama has 24 verbal commitments, including eight in the SI99.
Notre Dame and Texas also both have eight, which is a big reasons why they’re second and third in Sports Illustrated’s team rankings.
Marcus Freeman’s team had a huge November and has been the hot team on the recruiting trail, moving up from No. 5 last month. But the Fighting Irish may have topped out, having already received commitments from 25 players.
Similarly, the Longhorns have 21 spots filled, but Steve Sarkisian’s staff is working to try and flip some top prospects from other programs including No. 2 cornerback Malik Muhammad, who is set to join the Crimson Tide.
Other contending teams for the team title, if not top five, include Georgia, Ohio State and LSU.
Like usual, there figures to be a mad scramble for the last few top players still available, and of course there will be surprises when the early-signing period begins Dec. 21.
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Coaches can go on the road to visit with targets beginning today, and Alabama will be hosting visits this weekend, but the three players to watch are all on the defensive side.
Keon Keeley, the defensive end/linebacker from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep who decommitted from Notre Dame on Aug. 17, is the top remaining undeclared player in the nation. No. 3 in the SI99. He was back in Tuscaloosa last weekend to see Alabama beat Auburn.
The race is down to Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but most believe the Crimson Tide is the team to beat.
Teammates James Smith and Qua Russaw are expected to make their long-awaited official visits to Alabama next weekend. Smith is No. 20 in the SI99, and Russaw is No. 22.
Hugh Freeze is making it clear he’d like to keep the Montgomery Carver standouts close to home, but they took their official visits to Auburn over the summer.
The transfer portal officially opens on Monday and it could directly impact recruiting
Caleb Downs, the nation’s top-rated safety and a Crimson Tide commitment visited Ohio State for the Michigan game. His team is still playing in the Georgia state playoffs, and look for Alabama and numerous other schools to attend. He’s No. 6 in the SI99.
Running back Justice Haynes, who was also in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl, took exception to social media rumors and reports that he was set to flip from Alabama to Georgia, or decommitt. “You know, what I say is if it didn’t come out of my mouth it isn’t true,” Haynes told BamaOnLine. “I keep it one-hundred with everyone. I’m locked in with Bama. Can’t wait to get down there in a month. All this flip stuff that everyone is saying … just let them talk. Bama knows where I stand. I know where I stand. And we’ll keep it at that. All that other talk is just talk.”
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