MIRAMAR, Fla. -- More than 40 of the top 18U 7-on-7 club teams in the country traveled to south Florida for the first big Battle tournament of the year and there were future college football stars at nearly every turn.
Between the rosters stretching from coast to coast, filled with recruits in the class of 2023, 2024 and even beyond, it didn't take long to realize why so many are already coveted by the most recognizable coaches in the collegiate game.
Sports Illustrated was in attendance and runs down some of the very latest recruiting news surrounding the top prospects in attendance, with a focus on the rising-senior class of 2023.
QB Dante Moore, Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King
While navigating 10 fields of play simultaneously it was hard to miss the Midwest's most well-known quarterback recruit. Moore admitted the programs in the region are some he is most familiar with, including Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Notre Dame, but admits programs from outside the footprint are still very much alive in the race. LSU, Tennessee and several other coaching staffs are courting the right-hander with an easy stroke.
Moore says he is in no rush to make a verbal commitment, especially after some of the coaching changes from the tail-end of the 2021 season. Brian Kelly's move from South Bend to Baton Rouge, in particular, could have a strong effect on Moore's favorites. Spring official visits are likely for one of the most coveted passers in the class.
DB Cormani McClain, Lakeland (Fla.) Lake Gibson
The two-way star out of Polk County was one of seemingly hundreds of prospects to check out Mario Cristobal and Miami while in the area. It was the lengthy cornerback's first impression of the new head coach and he reports a "cool" nature with the head Hurricane. Oregon, Cristobal's former program, could also soon get McClain on campus before the end of the month, though the date and trip has yet to be 100% confirmed. With offers from all over the country, arguably the top defensive recruit in the class of 2023 hopes to continues to take recruiting visits before an in-season verbal commitment.
"Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida" were mentioned as potential official visit destinations down the line.
RB Rueben Owens, El Campo (Texas) High School
A versatile Lone Star State back, Owens worked at wide receiver plenty this weekend in Miami, competing with the Louisiana Bootleggers. Showing off the well-rounded game, Owens is focused on his development as much as he is looking forward to evaluating his top five options -- Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M and USC. The junior has already visited each finalist and has plans to get back to most before the process is to be wrapped up.
Working in the mold of a Joe Mixon-type of talent at 6', 200 pounds or so, Owens was once committed to Texas but his first recruiting visit went to Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma (at the time). National champion Georgia gets him on campus next weekend and Alabama will again host him in the spring, likely in March, he says. A decision could come this summer.
"I'm thinking before the season starts," Owens said.
QB Nico Iamaleava, Downey (Calif.) Warren
The tallest passer competing at the event was also one of the best and many college programs know of it. Cristobal and Miami hosted the 6'6" QB at multiple points over the weekend and the first impression of the new coach went well, as Iamaleava cited his energy upon meeting. Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Oregon were mentioned among those showing the most consistent interest his way, but plenty more visits and experiences will become a part of the recruiting story this offseason. There is no set timetable for a decision just yet, though development will be the most important factor in creating a pecking order.
WR Jalen Brown, Miami (Fla.) Gulliver Prep
A smooth wideout with a national offer list, Brown appears more focused on his game than where he may play next year. Track-and-field is quite heavy on his mind these days, too, and improving on a strong 10.66-second 100-meter dash time in particular. When it comes to visit plans, Brown wants to venture out of the region when he has time this offseason, mentioning "Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Oregon" among potential destinations. Some of those programs are among those courting the junior most, though in-state programs Miami and Florida State, along with Alabama, are also pushing for face time. Brown did not put a time of year in focus when asked of plans to make a verbal commitment.
WR Makai Lemon, Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School
Lemon is one of the smoothest and most athletic wide receivers in the country. The Southern California commitment faired better than most when navigating the muddy and slippery field conditions throughout the weekend. Most importantly, Lemon showed a definite understanding of when and where to set up defensive backs with breaks in his routes, how to change speeds to add an advantage, and when to go for the football at the proper moment.
He changed his mind once in recruiting, as he was initially an Oklahoma commitment, but Lemon's mind is made up. “Yeah, I’m good with SC,” he said.
CB Ryan Robinson Jr., New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr
Another top performer who lived up the the recruiting hype, Robinson also saw Miami over the weekend. The Hurricanes are one of several programs trying to make moves up the defensive back's list ahead of any public narrowing of favorites. Some of Robinson’s offers include Florida State, Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Auburn, and Louisville among others.
"I really haven’t made a top five, I’m just letting everything weigh out," he said. "I'm interested in all the schools that are interested in me.”
DB Amare Snowden, Roseville (Mich.) High School
A towering secondary talent at 6'3", 190 pounds or so, Snowden showed the range all weekend long and it's part of the reason he is being recruited at various positions, depending on the program. He does prefer defense despite some wide receiver interest, so the debate may be cornerback versus safety down the line. Snowden said he was in the early stages of his recruitment and that he was still considering "everybody" who has jumped on the scholarship offer list.
WR Aidan Mizell, Orlando (Fla.) Boone
One of the hottest recruits in Florida, Mizell’s speed and length flashed during the two-day Battle event. He’s a budding prospect, and his ability to stretch the field would be his biggest asset. Not many 6’2”, 180-pound players cover ground quite the way he does. That’s why Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, UCF, West Virginia, Penn State, Wake Forest, and Utah all extended offers.
When asked if he would be heading to the Pylon tournament in Kissimmee, Fla. next week, Mizell looked over to his mom and said, “We might be going to Bama?” The Crimson Tide offered the junior just last week.
WR Semaj Morgan, West Bloomfield (Mich.) High School
A December verbal commitment to local Michigan, Morgan sported UM gloves and cleats while working the slot this weekend. While keeping an eye on the Jim Harbaugh-to-the-NFL rumors, the junior says he is committed to the program and not necessarily the head coach. Still, other programs continue to court the compact prospect, including Ole Miss, Missouri and Miami. The Rebels may be the biggest threat should things change, as far as persistence is concerned.
"They're really trying to flip me, like for real," Morgan said.
Brian Smith contributed to this report.