Breaking the top 10 athletes in the recruiting class of 2016, including Mecole Hardman Jr., Jack Jones and more.
The race to National Signing Day has begun. Sports Illustrated and Scout.com have partnered to provide complete coverage of college football recruiting. SI.com has been rolling out breakdowns of the top-ranked players at each position. Today, we’re looking at athletes. Check out our previous breakdowns of quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends and defensive ends. Follow along daily with conference-by-conference recruiting shows featuring analysis, breaking news, prospect breakdowns and much more, all leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
High school: Elbert County (Elberton, Ga.)
Height/weight: 5’11”, 176 lbs
National rank: 11
Scout.com scouting report: “Whatever you want Hardman to do—he can. And he can do it fast. One of the most explosive prospects in the 2016 class. What a burst he has when he gets the football. He is so good on offense, but could he be even better as a corner? He is a legit candidate to play both ways on the next level due to his size, athleticism and skill-set. He is very similar to Terry Godwin in 2015 with the ability to play anywhere.”
The latest: Hardman took an official visit to Michigan on Nov. 27 but the Wolverines are expected to face heavy contention from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee for the nation’s No. 1 athlete. Scout.com’s No. 11 overall prospect also took an official visit to Miami in September and could do the same to TCU in January. Georgia would seem to have an inside track on the in-state prospect, but Hardman seemed surprised when the Bulldogs fired Mark Richt and hoped the team would retain defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt before Alabama hired him away.
2. Jack Jones
High school: Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.)
Height/weight: 5’11”, 175 lbs
National rank: 18
Scout.com scouting report: “Jones is not only one of the top receivers in the West region but he could easily be a standout corner at the next level as well. He has elite level quickness and is an explosive downfield threat. He might be the best of all the WRs out West after the catch and has the ability to make 2–3 guys miss and take it to the house. He's a solid pass catcher who competes very hard and has a great work ethic off the field as well.”
The latest: Jones released his top five on Friday, including Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC. He visited Oklahoma earlier this month and Texas A&M in early October and also took a trip to Arizona State the week before. Like Hardman, Jones—who is listed as a defensive back—will cap his high school career at the U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 9 in San Antonio, Texas. He is expected to wait until National Signing Day to reveal his commitment.
High school: Oaks Christian (Thousand Oaks, Calif.)
Height/weight: 6’4.5”, 210 lbs
National rank: 34
Status: committed to USC
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Pittman committed to USC in July and made his official visit to the Trojans on Dec. 11, getting a chance to check in on the program after Clay Helton was cemented as permanent head coach. A one-time UCLA verbal commit, Pittman decommitted from the Bruins in June. He is expected to enroll early at USC in January and could see early playing time at receiver.
High school: Savannah Christian Prep (Savannah, Ga.)
Height/weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs
National rank: 43
Scout.com scouting report: “Where do you want Robertson to play? He is a top athlete who could project as a free safety, wide receiver or slot on the next level. His hands are a real strength, and he is consistent there and has shown he can make the tough catches. Not elite top-end speed, but good release off the ball, quick and subtle moves when he gets the ball, and a real weapon on the offensive side. Robertson loves to compete and he goes hard at all times.”
The latest: Robertson, a U.S. Army All-American wide receiver, has a top four of Alabama, Georgia, Stanford and Notre Dame. At one time he was a Crimson Tide verbal commit, but he reopened his recruitment in April. Robertson has previously listed Stanford as his favorite, but the other three schools remain in the race. He won’t announce until National Signing Day, so intrigue could persist considering the ripple effect of coaching and coordinator changes among those four schools.
High school: Rabun County (Tiger, Ga.)
Height/weight: 6’5”, 228 lbs
National rank: 45
Status: committed to Georgia
Scout.com scouting report: “There is not much Woerner doesn't do for his high school team on Friday nights. He lines up all over the field on both sides of the ball and is a star on special teams too. He is a big receiver that projects as a tight end or hybrid. Athletic, soft hands, tough, mentally strong, and a future star. Can do so many things very well and will only get better once he settles into his future position.”
The latest: Woerner committed to Georgia in July, before Mark Richt’s firing and the subsequent hiring of Kirby Smart, but the in-state prospect remains solid to the Bulldogs. As a senior, he caught 51 passes for 884 yards and 13 touchdowns, also adding seven rushing attempts for 67 yards and one touchdown. He committed to Georgia as a wide receiver, but his frame could also lead to snaps at tight end if necessary.
6. Devin White
High school: North Webster (Springhill, La.)
Height/weight: 6’0.5”, 260 lbs
National rank: 71
Scout.com scouting report: “Some see White as an elite linebacker, others as a big-time running back who can run through defenders. As a linebacker and running back, he is very good going downhill. Plays in attack mode whether he is the ball carrier or in pursuit of the ball carrier. Very productive when on the football field. Flashes explosiveness. On defense, he is someone who will strike the opponent. Plays with a low center of gravity. Naturally strong and powerful.”
The latest: While his college position (and his school) remains undetermined, White has decided he will enroll early wherever he ends up. He has taken official visits to LSU, Arkansas and Florida State and cancelled officials to Alabama and Ole Miss originally slated for January. White’s cousin, Jared Cornelius, is currently a sophomore receiver at Arkansas.
High school: DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas)
Height/weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs
National rank: 99
Status: committed to Oregon
Scout.com scouting report: “Not your prototypical quarterback. Has a very strong arm and can make throws all over the field, but where he really shines is when he pulls the ball down to run. He is the type who makes you hold your breath. He moves well for a guy who is as big and strong as he is. He will draw comparisons to Ohio State's Cardale Jones because of his size and arm strength, but he's a better open field runner and faster. Needs continued technique development.”
The latest: A one-time Ohio State commit, Wallace flipped to Oregon earlier this month. He first gave his verbal to Ohio State in April, but ended up taking subsequent official visits to Oregon and UCLA. As a senior at DeSoto, he completed 150 of 279 passes for 2,188 yards and rushed for 1,401 yards, scoring 29 total touchdowns. Wallace will play for Team USA in the International Bowl on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
High school: Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.)
Height/weight: 6’1”, 2015 lbs
National rank: 109
Status: committed to Washington
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Wellington committed to Washington in August 2014 and has kept his pledge despite a flood of interest from schools including Arizona State, Oregon, TCU, UCLA and Utah. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been up to anything: The final touch of his high school career was a touchdown in overtime to give Eastside Catholic its second straight WIAA 3A state title—completing a 28-point comeback in the process. Still listed as an athlete, Wellington is obviously versatile but could see early playing time at linebacker for the Huskies.
9. Byron Murphy
High school: Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Height/weight: 5’11”, 168 lbs
National rank: 118
Scout.com scouting report: “Murphy is one of the regions top two-way players and could play receiver, corner or safety in college. Has been playing mostly corner in the spring and has looked great doing it. He's a physical player who is strong in press coverage and shows natural cover skills. He's not a burner but has good enough speed, is more quick than fast and is one of the most instinctive players in the region. He's smart, tough and could play early in college.”
The latest: Murphy projects to play cornerback at the next level, although his position will naturally be decided by where he ends up. In-state Arizona State is high on his list, as are Texas A&M and Washington. In November, Murphy told Scout.com his top four consisted of those schools, plus USC.
10. Brandon Burton
High school: Junipero Serra (Gardena, Calif.)
Height/weight: 6’0”, 185 lbs
National rank: 123
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Burton can play free safety or wide receiver and is reportedly eyeing a number of Pac-12 schools, especially UCLA, as well as Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He took official visits to those latter four schools, with Ohio State the most recent at the end of November.