10 Schools Big-Game Hunting to Close Out 2021 Recruiting
While the November edition of the SI All-American Top 25 Recruiting Class rankings is out, there's still more variables to be examined as we race to the early signing period next month.
The SI99 board has 14 prospects still uncommitted, plus there's also a plethora of additional high-end talent undecided. Coming down the homestretch, programs are certainly looking to finish strong by closing out on the top talent still up for grabs.
Below, SI All-American takes a look at 10 schools who are "big-game" hunting to finish this early 2021 recruiting cycle with elite prospects.
The Buckeyes boast the top class in the country and it still has room to get better, believe it or not. The 20-member class is near the brim but Ryan Day and company may not be able to say ‘no thanks’ to either of the three primary targets still on the boards, each member of the SI99. The most critical towards OSU holding off charging Alabama and LSU atop the rankings is the premiere defensive prospect and edge talent in the class in J.T. Tuimoloau. No. 1 wide receiver Emeka Egbuka is also high on the priority list and the fellow Washington State native may be taking things as slowly as Tuimoloau is. Then there is offensive lineman Tristan Leigh, a Virginia native who would be a fitting cap to a strong offensive line haul in Columbus. Landing any two of the three would go a long way for OSU’s chances at the top spot when all the dust settles.
22 verbal pledges are in for the Crimson Tide, yet several key pieces remain in the Crimson Tide’s hunt for the top spot. The state of Florida features an SI99 pair still considering a package deal to play with one another at the next level in linebacker Xavian Sorey and defensive back Terrion Arnold. Georgia and Florida are the chief competition for the pair, who have each hinted at making pledges sooner rather than later. SEC foes also stand in the way of ‘Bama and top remaining defensive line targets Tunmise Adeleye and Shemar Turner, each of Texas. Louisiana native and defensive tackle Maason Smith is considering UA and in-state LSU, among others, mich like wide receiver Brian Thomas. No. 2 running back prospect and Texan Camar Wheaton is in the same boat, but he may be Oklahoma’s to lose. Then there’s J.T. Tuimoloau, who would put the headlining touch on any class he joins. Expect him to be the final target UA pushes for in January.
The Tigers have moved up as much as any program of late and some of the big names its battling Alabama for may end up similarly to Sage Ryan’s recruitment, where LSU beat out ‘Bama head to head. Defensive Tackle Maason Smith and wideout Brian Thomas are the top two uncommitted prospects in Louisiana and it may be a slight upset if each didn’t land in Baton Rouge for good. The Tigers are still after No. 1 IDL prospect Korey Foreman, of California and No. 2 running back Camar Wheaton in addition to several intriguing offensive lineman like No. 1 interior prospect Bryce Foster, Tristan Leigh and Savion Byrd. Any out-of-state win the rest of the way, even over Florida for former Gator pledge Bryce Langston, would be considered huge for Ed Orgeron’s first class as a national champion coach.
The program highest on this list set to know its fate with a top target the soonest is Georgia with No. 1 in-state prospect and do-it-all linebacker Smael Mondon. The new-age talent is set to commit on November 18 with Kirby Smart’s class the favorite to hear their name called when it’s time to go public. Auburn and Tennessee are still in the fight, one of what should be several all-SEC battles down the stretch for UGA with prospects like Mondon, Terrion Arnold, Xavian Sorey, Brian Thomas and former pledge Elijah Jeudy. Georgia is also one of the few programs to have hosted the potential package deal duo of Korey Foreman and Maason Smith.
Florida has a massive 26-man class to date but there still appears to be space for critical defensive additions down the home stretch. The Gators are in it for several in-staters from former pledge Bryce Langston, an inside-out defensive lineman, to package deal back-seven prospects Xavian Sorey and Terrion Arnold. Texas edge rusher Tunmise Adeleye is still heavily considering UF while the Gators are still technically under some consideration for Maason Smith and Smael Mondon, too. The offensive class seems all but wrapped up, thanks to the transfer of SI All-American running back Demarkcus Bowman, but a late play for SI99 Louisiana wideout Destyn HIill would be hard to pass up.
The Sooners have SI99 No. 1 overall prospect QB Caleb Williams, and most programs would call it day with him in the fold. However, that’s not head coach Lincoln Riley’s style, and Williams has become a prominent recruiter himself amongst 2021 prospects. OU is still aiming for No. 1 IOL Bryce Foster, No. 1 WR Emeka Egbuka, No. 2 RB Camar Wheaton, No. 3 Slot WR Destyn Hill, No. 5 OT Tristan Leigh, as well as SI All-American candidates such as RB Donovan Edwards, OT Savion Byrd and RB L.J. Johnson. To toss in more gasoline in the fire, the Sooners are even in the mix for EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, the No. 2 overall prospect in the SI99. With just 15 commitments, OU certainly has room to fit in nearly all of the elite talent it’s still after. So, buckle up for a potential big-time - if not historical - finish in Norman.
The Vols have 26 commitments to date, so they’ve got some work to do in the sense of fitting in the combination of prospects they want to close out 2021 recruiting. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff will need to shuffle things around, including perhaps exploring some grey shirt and blue shirt possibilities. In any manner, it’s a problem Pruitt prefers to have, since he will be likely trying to fit in our No. 8 safety, Nyland Green. Plus, the Vols are significant options for No. 1 LB Smael Mondon and No. 3 IDL Tywone Malone. Landing any or all of these high-end talents will be a good problem to have for the squad in Knoxville.
The Trojans have finished strong late in their first two games of the season, and head coach Clay Helton is looking for similar magic to the conclusion of 2021. The Trojans sit in the mix for No. 1 EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, who is close with USC LB commit Julien Simon. No. 1 IDL Korey Foreman, a SoCal native, also has Troy as an option, as does No. 3 IDL Tywone Malone, who wants to also play baseball in college. In the secondary, don’t count USC out with Florida native and No. 3 safety Terrion Arnold, as the Trojans plucked No. 3 H-TE Michael Trigg out of the Sunshine State earlier this fall. Another high-end DB the Trojans are after is Ceyair Wright, whom our staff feels can play several spots in the backend. USC has 21 pledges, so it will need to be judicious in its final slots.
With 18 commitments, Texas A&M is primed for a big finish over the next few weeks since the Aggies have eggs in several top-tier baskets. Perhaps the biggest one is No. 1 IOL Bryce Foster, an in-state target for head coach Jimbo Fisher. EDGE Tunmise Adeleye is another Texan the Aggies want, as is RB L.J. Johnson and EDGE Shemar Turner. Keeping things in the defensive front, Fisher is also trying to lure out-of-state targets to College Station such as No. 6 EDGE Elijah Jeudy and No. 3 IDL Tywone Malone. Texas A&M also remains a viable option for No. 8 WR Brian Thomas out of Louisiana.
Sure, prospects such as IOL Josh Simmons, RB Leon Neal and EDGE Logan Fano would be solid gets for Washington to add to its current 15-man class. Yet, make no mistake about it: the big fish remaining for the Huskies are EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, the SI99 No. 2 prospect in the country (who also could play basketball in college) and the nation’s No. 10 overall prospect in WR Emeka Egbuka. Both are Washington natives. Both reside in the greater Seattle area. Both are the No. 1 player in the country at their respective positions. Both have been on the national radar since the 9th grade. Both have Washington thick in the mix for their services. Both have heavyweight programs after them. Both are huge priorities for Washington.
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