Putting together the final SI99 prospect recruiting rankings for the class of 2022 was no small task. Months, sometimes years, of in-person and tape evaluation goes into the final pecking order, among other elements.
The initial list, released in the 2021 preseason, featured seven prospects no longer included in the ranking. It means seven other prospects played their way into the postseason ranking, as one will see, for a variety of reasons. These switches are even tougher to make, but they come with great reason.
Interior Offensive Lineman Earnest Greene - Georgia
Ranking: No. 69 Overall, No. 4 IOL
Greene was close to cracking the preseason list as a versatile interior offensive line type who could make the transition to right tackle down the line, and it was that same unanswered position question that initially kept him out. But as a senior, the elite ability at the point of contact he displayed made the positional question a moot point. Whether at guard or pushed out to tackle, where he is more polished than his immense size would suggest, Greene belonged among the nation's best, solidifying the effort to the staff able to see him work daily at the All-American Bowl. Georgia added his pledge at the game earlier this month to complete one of the top offensive line hauls in the class of 2022. Greene and three fellow signees are already on campus in Athens, too.
Linebacker Sonny Styles - Ohio State
Ranking: No. 71 Overall, No. 6 LB
When assembling the preseason SI99, Styles was a class of 2023 recruit who was getting close to making his decision between Ohio State, Notre Dame and others. We, of course, came across sophomore and junior samples to begin the evaluation towards a spot in the '23 SI99 as a rangy linebacker with experience all over the field on defense. Styles committed to OSU and then reclassified to the '22 class to enroll early, and it led to a second look from our staff. There was little doubt he would make the '22 version despite his youth. The only question for the 6' 5" talent became at what position. His instincts allow for him to rush the passer, play at the second level and make plays on the football at safety at times. Splitting the difference towards a potential hybrid spot in college made the most sense in the end.
Safety Gentry Williams - Oklahoma
Ranking: No. 76 Overall, No. 7 S
Positional questions arose on the initial evaluation of Williams, too, if you can see the trend in reasoning for some elite athletes left out of the August release. Some of those questions remain, to a degree, between cornerback, safety and even potentially wide receiver with Williams' explosive skill set. The natural talent, combined with progressive ball skills when comparing younger samples to his senior tape, pushed the staff towards a safety spot and a landing in the final SI99 ranking. Oklahoma needs a replenishment in the secondary after the coaching change on campus and Williams seems like a safe bet to make an impact somewhere on the field as early as 2022 in Norman.
Edge James Pearce - Tennessee
Ranking: No. 81 No. 10 Edge
The production over the last two years with Pearce has been among the best in the country, registering more than 30 varsity sacks despite a condensed junior campaign due to the pandemic. The junior sample showed an athletic, lengthy and twitchy athlete pursuing the football better than the competition. It up-ticked as a senior, even with the opposing offense's attention drawn to him, as the polish was much more apparent. Pearce gained good weight, though there is more to add to his 6' 5" frame, but he had a plan as a pass rusher in the fall. The counter moves, bend, length and one of the best first steps in the cycle combined for a more well-rounded product as a senior and it earned him a top-10 ranking among edge prospects in a strong year at the position.
Edge Trevion Williams - Mississippi State
Ranking: No. 82 Overall, No. 11 Edge
A four-year starter on varsity at Crystal Springs (Miss.) High School, Williams has some “grown man” traits about him on the edge. Most of the elite prospects at the position dominate as athletic pass rushers, but there is still room for the balanced defender who can set the edge in the run game, beat bigger blockers with force and polish and push the pocket accordingly. Williams has the frame to add weight and improve strengths, but his floor is among the strongest at the position. We're expecting him to be among the next great defensive lineman at Mississippi State. Williams also worked on offense as well, showing swift ability despite his great size, only increasing the opinion of a near-finished physical product as a senior in high school.
Quarterback Devin Brown - Ohio State
Ranking: No. 83 Overall, No. 9 QB
For the second straight cycle, Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon's senior quarterback played his way into the SI99. In 2021, it was Jaxson Dart after rewriting the Utah record book and leading the Chargers to a state title. This year, it's the Ohio State signee, who has long been on the national radar as a young USC commitment out of Arizona. But a conservative offense and a lack of production limited the opinion of Brown. In the offseason he popped in several events, including the Elite 11 finals, showing off an arm and athleticism that set the stage for his transfer to Corner Canyon to play in a wide-open offense ahead of college ball. Even with increased expectation, Brown blew the production out of the water, throwing for a state record 4,881 yards and 57 touchdowns while adding eight more scores and 430 yards as a rusher. The assimilation to the new system was seamless, another element of the evaluation that cemented the rise into the SI99.
Slot Aaron Anderson - Alabama
Ranking: No. 94 Overall, No. 5 Slot
When SI All-American became the first in the recruiting industry to evaluate slot receivers independent from the traditional wide receiver, it was prospects built like Aaron Anderson that we had in mind. As the collegiate and NFL game widens out, slot specialists are integral parts of the offense as extensions of the running game, operators in the intermediate passing game and much more. Anderson's compact frame enables easy balance and change of direction with the ball in his hands, enabling impact as a runner, receiver and especially as a return man at the prep level. Where he rose in 2021 was in the polish department as a receiver, setting up defenders despite the ability to run by most of them. As Anderson improves on that part of his game he will project as one of the top offensive playmakers in the cycle.