After a slow start on the recruiting trail for most every college football program in 2023, save for a select group, the momentum is picking up.
Unsurprisingly, it has coincided with spring football and specifically spring football game weekends, when droves of recruits hit campuses and verbal commitments seemingly roll in. 15 different Power Five programs added at least one verbal commitment since Friday, with a handful working multiple additions to the future roster.
It starts with the reigning champs, which picked up big news over the weekend and even bigger news on Monday with the return of Amarius Mims from the transfer portal. Optically, it feels like a true victory on the recruiting trail given the former SI99 recruit was a backup offensive tackle who dealt with minor injuries this spring before entering his name in the portal the previous weekend. It was followed by Miami buzz and then a multi-day visit to Florida State, but on Monday Mims withdrew from the portal with the expectation of returning to Georgia.
Let the move be a reminder of how impactful the portal will continue to be the next several weeks, even in speculation, especially with just one big spring game weekend just ahead on the calendar. The Bulldogs staff re-recruiting a potential critical piece along the offensive line says a lot about the staff despite attrition at several spots, including of course retired offensive line coach Matt Luke.
Also in conjunction with their G-Day game, in-state pass rusher Gabriel Harris Jr. joined the fold over extensions from double-digit programs. The Valdosta (Ga.) High School standout was on campus at Florida State, where he was once a verbal commitment, but the Bulldogs held buzz since before those trips took place.
It's been more than 10 recruiting cycles since the Bulldogs hit Valdosta High for a recruit, I'm sure a welcomed change to take in for south Georgia native Kirby Smart. The big weekend in Athens also featured an official visitor then committed to another program in defensive back Justyn Rhett. The Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman standout entered the weekend as a Notre Dame pledge but now sits back on the open market after 48 hours with the defending national champions.
Keeping with the trend narrative, how about Ohio State breaking through in the Sunshine State again? The Buckeyes have been consistent in south Florida, in particular, and have signed a Floridian in every cycle beyond 2019 under Ryan Day. It added south Florida running back Mark Fletcher in the middle of last week ahead of two more additions. Over the weekend, two more Floridians teamed up with Ryan Day and company in wide receiver Bryson Rodgers and defensive back Dijon Johnson -- a pair of Team Tampa 7-on-7 teammates. OSU now has nearly half of its class, four of nine pledges, hailing from the fertile state of Florida.
Despite relative consistency, not since the 2018 cycle, when Tampa native Nicholas Petit-Frere was the class headliner, have the Buckeyes been able to string together several Floridians in one class. 2023 appears the group that will push more Floridians to Columbus with the quartet on board, not including IMG Academy players to date.
Individual decisions elsewhere also lined up with visits like new Oklahoma State quarterback commitment Zane Flores, a Nebraska native who has been a varsity starter dating back to his freshman season at Gretna (Neb.) High School, where he scored 36 touchdowns as a junior in 2021. Flores recently added offers from Indiana and Missouri but saw all he needed to see in Stillwater during an official visit.
Nearly half of the Power Five, 26 of 65 as of Monday morning, has picked up the face of their class of 2023 -- a quarterback recruit. Plenty of elite talents, including Arch Manning and Dante Moore, remain undecided and active on the visit trail although the pace of passers picking programs has certainly picked up steam. Clemson and Penn State have each also locked in on their class headliners over the last 10 days or so as the national quarterback dominoes continue to fall.
Outside of the sport's most important position, Wake Forest and Colorado each saw multiple verbal commitments come in over the weekend as well. The Demon Deacons patched into pipeline state Georgia for pass rusher Tyler Walton and offensive lineman Devin McRee while the Buffaloes broke through in the Pac-12 footprint in corralling Arizona linebacker CJ Turner and Washington tight end Tucker Ashcraft.
If there was a sleeper get during the weekend festivities, look into new Florida Gator verbal commitment Tyree Patterson. The two-sport standout out of Eustis (Fla.) High School did not hold a Power Five offer entering the month of April despite impressing as a junior, to the tune of 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns over 10 games. He has since been standing out at a loaded prospect camps since. The well-build wide receiver was in Gainesville for the Gator spring game on Thursday and jumped in the class days later.
"My relationship with the coaches mainly," Patterson said of the decision. "Everything was good this weekend, as you already know I was on the phone with Coach Billy Napier and I verbally committed."
Looking ahead to this weekend, more loaded prospect weekends with spring games as the centerpiece at programs like Notre Dame, USC, Oregon, Penn State, LSU, Ole Miss and others could lead to more prompt public decisions.