While more than four months remain before National Signing Day (Feb. 3), many of the top prospects in the class of 2016 have already made verbal commitments. But there are some who have yet to declare where they plan to enroll. Listed below are the 16 highest-ranked, uncommitted recruits in the 2016 Rivals250. Which programs are best positioned to land them?
Rashan Gary, DT (No. 2)
No player has attracted as much attention from as diverse a group of programs as Gary. The Paramus Catholic (N.J.) High standout’s list of scholarship offers exceeds 30 and includes programs from every Power Five conference. He has already visited several schools unofficially and reportedly plans to name his official visit destinations in the near future. Michigan signed the last five-star prospect to come out of Paramus Catholic, defensive back Jabrill Peppers, and the Wolverines hired former Paladins coach Chris Partridge to a recruiting operations position in January. But to land Gary, the Wolverines will need to beat out programs with stronger recent on-field track records.
Dexter Lawrence, DT (No. 3)
Lawrence told Rivals.com late last month that he plans to trim his list in the middle of September before revealing his college decision on signing day. In the meantime, he’ll be pursued heavily by local programs North Carolina, North Carolina State and Clemson. While adding Lawrence would be a huge recruiting victory for any of those programs, they’ll face competition from across the country. Lawrence reportedly took a recent trip to Alabama and attended the Wolfpack’s season-opening win over Troy on Saturday, but he has said he plans to take official visits during his senior season at Wake Forest High.
Gregory Little, LT (No. 4)
When Little committed to Texas A&M in June 2014, it was easy to envision him becoming the next top-flight blindside protector at a program that has sent several offensive tackles to the NFL in recent years. But he took visits to other programs before eventually decommitting from the Aggies in July. Earlier this month, the Allen (Tex.) High product said he plans to visit Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Alabama. The Crimson Tide are considered one of the top contenders for Little, but he told Scout.com that his recruitment is “very wide open” between the aforementioned programs while also mentioning that he’s still considering Texas A&M. His former quarterback at Allen, Kyler Murray, is a true freshman with the Aggies.
Ben Davis, LB (No. 6)
Alabama is considered the clear frontrunner in Davis’s recruitment. His father, Wayne, played for the Crimson Tide in the 1980s, and Davis grew up rooting for Alabama (as well as LSU) in Gordo, Ala. It’s not difficult to see Davis serving as the centerpiece of yet another loaded Alabama recruiting class before developing into yet another dominant linebacker in coordinator Kirby Smart’s defense. Davis maintains he hasn’t made up his mind yet and told Rivals.com last month that he plans to take official visits to Alabama, Auburn, LSU and two other programs. They may be fighting an uphill battle, but keeping Davis away from Tuscaloosa would be a huge win.
Demetris Robertson, ATH (No. 7)
Robertson initially issued a verbal commitment to Alabama in July 2014 but decided to back off his pledge in April “after careful consideration w/ my family.” Though he said this summer that his two leaders are Stanford and the Crimson Tide, the Savannah Christian (Ga.) High standout is still being recruited by a number of programs. Robertson took an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend, where he watched the Irish clobber Texas, 38–3. Meanwhile, in-state powerhouse Georgia is still considered a player in Robertson’s recruitment. His brother and guardian, Carlos Robertson, told Rivals affiliate UGASports.com in August that Demetris “talks to coach [Mark] Richt all the time.”
Lyndell Wilson, LB (No. 9)
Wilson attends Carver High in Montgomery, Ala., so it’s not surprising that two of the programs vying for his services are Alabama and Auburn. But he posted tweets this summer suggesting his recruitment with the Tigers had lost momentum. Wilson wrote that Auburn said, “I’m not a good fit for them” and asked “How a college expect a ball player to show interest when they doesn’t show any interest.” Yet Wilson told AL.com in August that he has no “hard feelings” towards Auburn, and he plans to disclose his top eight at some point this month. The Crimson Tide are viewed as the favorite in his recruitment.
Nate Craig-Myers, WR (No. 11)
Craig-Myers, the top-ranked receiver in the class of 2016, committed to Auburn in July 2014 but elected to reopen his recruitment in May. The Tigers are still recruiting him, but in-state program Florida, among others, is also in contention. Craig-Myers’ half-brother, Jayvaughn Myers, is a four-star cornerback who committed to the Gators in August. Craig-Myers was in the Swamp for the Gators’ 61–13 win over New Mexico State this weekend—he called it a “great experience,” according to The Gainesville Sun—and has scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame in October. The Tampa Catholic (Fla.) High senior told Rivals.com that he’s considering revealing his decision on Jan. 8, his mother’s birthday.
Rahshaun Smith, LB (No. 14)
If Maryland lands Smith, it might surprise people unfamiliar with his recruitment. But consider the factors suggesting the five-star linebacker could choose the Terrapins over a list of Power Five heavyweights. Smith played at Calvert Hall College (Md.) High and St. Frances (Md.) Academy before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior season. And his trainer, Cory Robinson, was hired as Maryland’s director of player personnel in July. Smith, who decommitted from Clemson in August, reportedly has set three official visits—Auburn on Nov. 14, Maryland on Dec. 4 and Clemson on Dec. 11—and plans to announce his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game in early January.
Mecole Hardman, ATH (No. 16)
Hardman could join a Georgia class ranked 10th in the country, according to Rivals.com, that already includes commitments from 13 prospects based in the Peach State, including four-star offensive lineman Ben Cleveland and four-star defensive end Chauncey Manac. Hardman attends Elbert County High in Elberton, Ga., and took the latest of several visits to Georgia’s campus, located less than an hour away, this weekend. But he doesn’t plan to unveil his choice until signing day and released a list of 10 schools last month: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Stanford and Tennessee. Can any of those other nine programs persuade him to leave Georgia?
Caleb Kelly, LB (No. 17)
Kelly plays at Clovis West High in Fresno, Calif., but there’s a good chance he’ll leave the West Coast for college. Of the five official visits Kelly has scheduled, only one is to a Pac-12 program. The 6’3”, 214-pounder plans to see Michigan (weekend of Sept. 19), Oregon (Oct. 10), Texas (Nov. 7), Oklahoma (Nov. 21) and Notre Dame (Dec. 12). One reason some observers believe the Sooners are leading for Kelly is his relationship with Oklahoma graduate assistant Courtney Viney, who also played high school football in Fresno. Kelly told Rivals affiliate SoonerScoop.com last October that Viney is “more of like a big brother.” The Sooners already have secured a commitment from another California-based linebacker, four-star Bryce Youngquist.
Isaac Nauta, TE (No. 18)
Nauta decommitted from Florida State in late July and explained in a message posted to Twitter that he decided to part ways with the Seminoles “to make sure that I make the best possible decision for my future in becoming a man and developing as a student athlete.” The 6’4”, 235-pounder played at Buford (Ga.) High before transferring to IMG Academy prior to his senior season. Nauta told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in August that he plans to take official visits to Georgia, Michigan, USC and TCU during October and November—but has not decided on the destination of his fifth official—before announcing his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January and enrolling early.
Shavar Manuel, DE (No. 19)
Manuel is listed as a strongside defensive end by Rivals.com, but is big enough (6’4”, 290 pounds) to play on the interior. After recording 61 tackles, 20 sacks and five forced fumbles as a junior last year at Blake High in Tampa, Fla., Manuel transferred to IMG Academy. In February Manuel told Scout.com that in-state power Florida State was the leader in his recruitment, but he excluded the Seminoles from his list of top three programs (Auburn, Florida and LSU) in an interview with that outlet last month. Though Manuel has not stated when he will make his decision, he told ESPN in August that he will take official visits to Florida and Auburn.
N’Keal Harry, WR (No. 20)
The top-ranked players from Arizona in the last two recruiting classes—quarterback Kyle Allen in 2014 and wide receiver Christian Kirk in ’15—both chose Texas A&M. Could Harry join them in College Station? The Chandler High standout released a list of 10 in July (Oregon, Texas A&M, Washington, Arizona, USC, Arizona State, Texas, Louisville, UCLA and Oregon State) and said he has scheduled two official visits (to Washington the weekend of Sept. 25 and Texas A&M the weekend of October 16) and that he plans to take a trip to Eugene but has not settled on a date. One thing’s clear: The Aggies certainly didn’t hurt themselves on Saturday with a convincing win over a program located close to Harry, Arizona State.
Nigel Knott, CB (No. 25)
Knott has garnered national attention for his freakish athleticism. At The Opening in July, he finished first among all participants in the 20-yard shuttle run, second in the 40-yard dash (4.38 seconds) and vertical jump (46.5 inches) and fourth in the powerball toss. Knott was also captured on video flipping off a brick wall while simultaneously catching a pass.
The list of 10 the Germantown (Miss.) High star released in June (Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Texas A&M, Tennessee and USC) includes programs from the SEC, ACC and Pac-12. He’ll reveal his college destination after receiving his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game on Sept. 23.
Derrick Brown, DT (No. 26)
After watching Auburn beat Louisville at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Brown told Rivals.com that his recruitment is open and that he doesn’t have a list of favorites. Yet while the Tigers and multiple other SEC programs are still pursuing him, Georgia is considered the favorite to reel in the Lanier (Ga.) High standout. If he picks the Bulldogs, Brown would join a class that already features two defensive linemen from Georgia ranked in the top 90 of the Rivals250 (Julian Rochester and Chauncey Manac) and one other in the top 200 (Tyler Clark). Brown reportedly plans to take official visits to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee.
Brandon Jones, S (No. 31)
Last month Jones posted a list of six on Twitter: Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M. While he’s not close to revealing his decision—Jones reportedly plans to wait until signing day—Texas A&M, the first program that offered him a scholarship, may have a slight edge at this point. He described the Aggies to ESPN in August as the “closest SEC school to home” and said that “it’s just a great school overall.” Jones missed part of his junior season at Nacogdoches (Tex.) High because of a knee injury but still recorded 30 tackles and two forced fumbles. He’s the No. 2 safety in the class of 2016, behind LSU commit Saivion Smith.