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Odds and Ends in the Final SI99 Football Rankings

Trends, movers and developments as a bow is put on the SI99 rankings for the class of 2022

There was almost a sense of finality to publishing the class of 2022 SI99 college football prospect rankings on Tuesday. Long months, and in some cases years of scouting wrapped up in a simple list. 

Pages and pages of evaluation notes, travel time to see the best and hours of cutting tape doesn't do the list justice. When signaling the future of college football, the slotting lies within the margins, the little things that a casual observer may miss. Sometimes it's a wide receiver executing blocks or a linebacker being used as an extra pass rusher on third down to force an incompletion. It's not always a tangible stat of productivity, but it matters. 

The little things, as they say, go a long way. So let's treat the list like its own body of work, breaking down what we notice beyond the number of players headed to Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia (it's a lot) or those hailing from the great state of Texas. 

Biggest Movers

It's always a treat to contrast final rankings with the initial rankings, especially when the releases sit more than five months apart as prospects wrap up their pre-college playing career. As usual, several recruit made major jumps up the rankings, with nine moving up the SI99 rankings by at least 20 spots overall. A total of 16 prospects made the jump up double-digit spots. 

By the numbers, the biggest rise between the summer release and the January tally came though Jihaad Campbell. The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy star snuck into the back-end of the SI99, at No. 97, just as we begun to see him work in person. Then the 2021 season came and we're not sure if there was a better player on the Ascenders defense all season long. That statement alone is about as big an indication as one could drum up for the Alabama signee. He impacted every snap, it seemed, with quarterback pressure, contain in the run game and a pursuit through the whistle every coach could appreciate. Campbell finished in the top 30 on Tuesday, sitting at No. 26 overall -- remarkably 71 spots higher than the initial release. 

Others who made large leaps include other front seven stars like Penn State defensive line signee Dani Dennis-Sutton (No. 91 to No. 25), Alabama edge signee Khurtiss Perry (82 to 33) and undecided interior defensive lineman Christen Miller (90 to 44). On offense just two players made considerable jumps in Penn State quarterback signee Drew Allar (44 to 14) and USC wide receiver signee CJ Williams (88 to 67) after banner senior campaigns. 

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No. 1 Shuffle on Defense

Between emerging prospects and those taking the next step in their game before the college ranks, there was shuffle atop several positions in the final SI99, mostly on defense. The top uncommitted recruit in the class is Shemar Stewart of Opa Locka (Fla.) Monsignor Pace, considering Texas A&M, Miami and Georgia, formally a top three edge recruit per the preseason release. He now tops the list positionally and stands as the highest-ranked defensive projection regardless of position. 

Jaheim Singletary vaults to the No. 1 cornerback spot and fellow Georgia signee Malaki Starks, who was listed on offense in the summer and was under consideration for a linebacker projection, moves to the No. 1 safety spot in a loaded class. The lone change at No. 1 on offense is Texas A&M signee Evan Stewart moving to the top of the slot receiver rankings. 

New Look, New Position

As Evaluations in the senior class became more thorough this fall and winter, closer tallies were kept relative to the position projections from the summer release. As the dust settled seven SI99 members cap their prep career with a different college position projection than the initial list suggested. Raleek Brown (USC) moves from slot to running back, Malaki Starks (Georgia) moves from running back to safety, Mykell Williams (Georgia), Tyson Ford (Notre Dame) and Khurtiss Perry (Alabama) moves from interior defensive line to edge, Devin Moore (Florida) moves from cornerback to safety and reclassified recruit Sonny Styles made the SI99 as a linebacker although safety was initially under consideration. 

The projections don't necessarily mean SI expects the players to stick to solely one spot in college. In fact, it's more of an indication of versatility when multiple positions are weighed and many top college football schemes utilize players in a variety of alignments that often blend two traditional positions anyway.  

Elite Change of Heart

24 of the 99 recruits have signed and/or are expected to sign with a program other than the one they initially committed to at some point during the recruiting process. Many can be attributed to the unprecedented college football coaching carousel, with many changes coming just days before the Early Signing Period opened up on December 15. 

None of the commitment flips were as dramatic, or headline-grabbing, than that of the top recruit Travis Hunter flipping a near two-year commitment to Florida State to play for Deion Sanders and Jackson State. Hunter is one of five top 10 recruits to have changed his mind at least one time throughout the decision-making process. 

Of course National Signing Day 2.0 is still more than a week away, so more drama could take place before all is said and done in the 2022 recruiting cycle.