The college football recruiting world is awaiting June 1, when the NCAA dead period is finally in the rear-view mirror. While several programs are still recruiting and securing verbal commitments at a normal pace, many are noticeably conservative despite on-field success in 2020.
Four Top 25 programs are yet to secure an initial prospect pledge in the rising-senior class of 2022. Four of the top 10 hold a half-dozen or less to date while Miami and Ball State have just one commitment publicly on board. Many lie somewhere in between.
Utilizing the final AP poll following the College Football Playoff Championship between Alabama and Ohio State, SI All-American looks at the late spring commitment list for each top 25 program, identifying the most talented and/or intriguing recruit currently on board with each.
1. Alabama - QB Ty Simpson
Should this feature had been released a week prior, in-state athlete and running back projection Emmanuel Henderson would have been tabbed given his game-breaking potential with the ball in his hands. But Simpson's Sunday and Monday alone makes him one of the most intriguing prospects nationally. All the Tennessee quarterback talent did on Sunday was dominate the Elite 11 Nashville despite a loaded field, from both an athletic testing, accuracy and overall production standpoint. The next day, he hit a walk-off home run in his primary spring sport, helping Martin (Tenn.) Westview baseball advance in its playoff pursuit. Simpson is the total package from an athletic standpoint, headed to play the game's most important position for college football's top program.
2. Ohio State - QB Quinn Ewers
The Buckeyes have one of the biggest classes to date, at 12 verbal commitments, and Ewers is the unquestioned perceptional leader of it from a positional and talent perspective. The Southlake (Texas) Carroll star, who was once committed to Texas, made the call for OSU in November and it immediately shined a national focus on the 2022 class because of the national profile the Texan already has behind his name. The arm is elite, the mullet is elite and he has the size, athleticism and competitiveness to compete right out of the gate no matter where he goes to college (no worries Buckeyes fans, he's solid to OSU). There is tangible excitement to see Ewers work against the nation's best at the Elite 11 Finals next month. It will also be the healthiest the future Buckeye has been in about a year as he recovers from core surgery.
3. Clemson - QB Cade Klubnik
Dabo Swinney and company are gearing up for a big June when it comes to visitors considering Clemson holds just four pledges to date. But the foundation is there for the next wave of Tigers, led by two-time defending state champion quarterback Cade Klubnik. There is plenty going for the senior recruit from an evaluation perspective, from a plus arm, mobility and some of the best numbers nationally en route to topping Ewers for the 2020 state title, but after the season Klubnik revealed he performed in the clutch with an AC joint injury on his throwing arm for the bulk of the playoff run. We'll see him compete with Simpson, Ewers and more at the Elite 11 Finals.
4. Texas A&M - DB Bobby Taylor
The hunt for bigger cornerbacks with ball skills is at an all-time high given the pass-first nature of college football and Taylor fits the mold for what just about every defensive coordinator would like to see on the outside. The NFL legacy stands 6'1", 180 pounds with the fluidity of a true cornerback who can affect the football at the catch point. Taylor is comfortable in off coverage, pressed at the line and offers physical run support against elite competition having helped Katy (Texas) to a state title in 2020.
5. Notre Dame - DE Aiden Gobaira
This wasn't an easy call given the talent the Irish have assembled to date, with as many pledges (13) as any program in America thus far. Even in looking at the premium position prospects, there are multiple towering and intriguing pass rushers already on board for Brian Kelly and company. Gobiara, listed at 6'6", 235 pounds, just wrapped up a huge junior season in the spring in which he looked much improved off the edge. He uses leverage much better than expected given his height and plays with an elite motor to go along with violent hands. Gobiara wins with speed, hands, an inside counter and initial bend we are looking to see him build upon into the future -- not to mention some of the best finishing power up front we've seen nationally.
6. Oklahoma - RB Raleek Brown
Is there a more exciting player with the football in his hands? The Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei running back would be as highly coveted as a slot receiver or potentially defensive back, but getting the tailback the football plays paramount even for the most talented program in California. All Brown has done through two and a half varsity seasons in the Trinity League is average 10 yards per carry and more than 20 per reception, averaging a touchdown every 6.6 touches along the way. Throw in punt and kick return potential for one of the quickest and most instinctive players in America and it's hard to imagine the Sooners doing anything but featuring Brown soon after he gets on campus for good. There may not be a better space talent in the class.
7. Georgia - RB/DB Malaki Starks
The only prospect on this list we're still back-and-forth on from a positional standpoint is Starks, but there's little debate he's the most intriguing Bulldog commitment to date. Not only is he a physical specimen at 6'1" and 200-plus pounds, but he's one of the most productive two-way prospects in the country with track speed to boot. Starks just clocked a PR in the 100 meter dash with a 10.55-second mark on May 8. It came about a week before claiming the Georgia state championship with a 24-9 long jump, a top-five mark in the country this year. To say Starks is explosive is an understatement, evident on his Friday night tape as a run-first quarterback for Jefferson (Ga.) High, where he ran for 1,537 yards and 24 scores as a junior when the entire stadium knew he was getting the rock. With power and elite quickness, Starks isn't just a speed prospect with his frame, making a position projection a fun proposition at the next level.
8. Cincinnati - DL Derrick Shepard
Winning recruiting battles against the Power 5 isn't particularly new for the Bearcats, but the win of the Dayton (Ohio) trenchman is the banner pledge to date in the 2022 class. Shepard is nimble on his feet relative to his 300-pound frame, understands the opposition given his tenure as a two-way lineman with finishing power to boot. Shepard has gap control leverage potential with inside pass-rushing hands and instincts as a supplement. As he works his hands and extension as his body develops at the FBS level, Shepard figures to find a role relatively quickly for Luke Fickell.
9. Iowa State - QB Rocco Becht
Few quarterbacks have had the offseason and/or jump we've seen from the Floridian in the last year. From physical growth to shining at national events like the Championship 7v7 Battle Royale earlier this month or Elite 11 Orlando earlier this spring, Becht has been on point and impossible to miss. Even as the pads came back on for spring football at Zephyrhills (Fla.) Wiregrass Ranch, he has delivered with decisiveness, elite mobility and a stronger arm than he showed on tape even a year prior. He's also the ring-leader for the 2022 Cyclone class, especially in the Tampa area, where he is helping Matt Campbell's class court Floridians at a high clip. Several will take in Ames for official visits next month. Becht's camp continues to hear from other Power 5 programs but it is likely to no avail, but his rise warrants additional attempts moving forward.
10. Northwestern - WR Reggie Fleurima
The Wildcats have just a trio of pledges to date, all from within state lines, and Fleurima was first on board this spring. In a condensed spring season, he splashed as a pass catcher and return man at Naperville (Ill.) Central with a long stride, build-up speed and efficient moves in the open field. There is polish, plus ball-tracking skills and physical finishing ability in his game all on a 6'2", 200-pound frame. This is the type of prospect to bring more flexibility and downfield potential in the Big Ten.
11. Brigham Young - WR Jarrin Kalama
Another two-way prospect with a real chance to see either side of the ball, Kalama has the frame and body control to attack the football on offense or defense. As a wideout, the big target understands separation through route-running and he can finish with strong hands at the catch point. Defensively, he is instinctive with quick low plane transition skill relative to his frame. The in-state star out of Wasatch High is also a varsity baseball player, but the safe floor is probably in football at wide receiver.
12. Indiana - DB Dasan McCullough
While the McCullough family has migrated to Bloomington, the act of flipping the youngest from Ohio State resonates well beyond strong optics. Playing throughout the secondary as well as wide receiver, he has big secondary traits like length and fluidity to his name at a towering 6'5", well above 200 pounds. McCullough could project throughout a back-seven and proved why in 2020, with several interceptions, stops behind the line of scrimmage and four forced fumbles as a junior. The future IU hybrid flashes elite instincts against the pass and the run with adequate ball skills, run-the-alley run support and better straight-line speed than his size would suggest. Hoosier fans should already be thrilled with his potential at the next level, but the floor will allow him to see the field immediately given Tom Allen's attacking style, to which McCullough is as good a fit as any singular commitment to date.
13. Florida - TE/OT Tony Livingston
Versatility and a potential position projection at more than one spot is a bit of a theme in this feature and the Gator pledge on the list certainly fits. We've seen Livingston work well at tight end, defensive end and on the basketball court, but his size and athleticism has most projecting him at offensive tackle in the SEC. At 6'6", 270 pounds or so, with great length and movement skill, the projection makes most sense along the offensive front. As he focuses on solely football at the next level, this could be one of the best finds for any program nationally when we look back at the spring of 2021. Most importantly, Livingston is open to moving around at the next level if need be, with a defensive line floor still profiling at the SEC level.
14. Coastal Carolina - QB Bryce Archie
The Chanticleers are capitalizing off of the breakout 2020 season with a strong offensive haul to date along with the most commitments in the Sun Belt with five. Rian Black, as a big, polished wide receiver, may have the highest floor but when it comes to ceiling and positions of priority, Archie takes the cake. The Powder Springs (Ga.) McEathern star was viewed as a potential Power 5 prospect locally but opted for Coastal Carolina in April. Also a well-respected baseball prospect, his dual-threat ability at the most important position in sports is hard to look past. Archie has a huge right arm, evidenced by a 90-plus miles per hour fastball on the diamond, with true third-level ability from inside the pocket or out. A capable athlete as well, there is scheme versatility in his game as well. As he gains football experience, Archie should make one of the bigger jumps at the position in 2021.
No verbal commitments to date
16. Iowa - DE Aaron Graves
The Hawkeyes hold just a pair of commitments to date, both edge talents, but Graves holds his own against many of the top talents in the country as a defensive end or potentially interior guy down the line. Committed to the program since the summer of 2019, the in-sate star out of Southeast Valley doesn't get as much attention as he probably deserves given his ability up front. The 6'6", 260-pound prospect is a two-time All-State selection and was near impossible to deal with as a junior, compiling 8.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss on the year. Graves explodes off the line of scrimmage like few in the class, with immediate pressure on the blocker. Efficiency and violent hands lead to easy wins, also part of the reason he works so well along the offensive line in high school as well.
No verbal commitments to date
18. North Carolina - DE Malaki Hamrick
Another elite pass rusher on the list, the Shelby standout wrapped up a junior season this spring with some head-turning ability. He put in 20 stops behind the line of scrimmage despite a condensed schedule, including five sacks. One of the most productive edge talents in the country has nearly averaged a sack per game over his varsity career with a 2019 state championship to boot. Hamrick's straight-line ability jumps off the screen, as he chases down ball carriers like a back-seven prospect. The elite closing speed on a 6'4" frame, one he's improving upon from a mass perspective, creates a versatility around his projection into the ACC. He can rush from depth, as a classic edge from a stand-up perspective or with his hand in the dirt.
19. Texas - QB Maalik Murphy
Murphy gets to hold the mantle of the 'guy' who may always be associated with Steve Sarkisian's tenure at Texas. From an athletic profile and positional perspective, there is plenty of pressure on either party and the spring season of 2021 proved as a strong step forward. The Gardena (Calif.) Serra signal caller was a varsity first-teamer for the first time in his prep career and he ran with it to a 4-2 record over the condensed campaign. The highs were strong as Murphy averaged better than 200 yards per game against elite competition, throwing for nine touchdowns along the way. All eyes will be on Murphy in 2021 as Texas' headliner, a new title to his name for the fall as elite running back Jaydon Blue announced he would sit out his senior season.
20. Oklahoma State - QB Garret Rangel
When you think of OSU the quarterback and skill positions immediately come to mind and the 2022 class is strong at each thus far, led by the Frisco (Texas) Lone Star standout. Rangel burst onto the scene in 2019 and hasn't looked back as one of Texas' top passers, with 77 touchdowns passes over the last two years. His touch, timing and accuracy jump out on tape and in person, where he was a top five performer at the Elite 11 Dallas despite the most loaded field of the 2021 tour. As he fills out in the lower half on his 6'2" frame, adding natural strength along the way, Rangel will prove more capable to all three levels and solidity his place as one of the top fits relative to committed program in the country.
21. USC - DB Domani Jackson
The prototype. Ask any college or NFL defensive coordinator what he wants from a cornerback in the physical sense, and something similar to Jackson will be drummed up. The Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei star stands a filled-out 6'2", 190 pounds with exceptional length and speed (10.51 in the 100 meters) on the outside. He is incredibly comfortable at the line of scrimmage, with that length, physicality and makeup speed to his name, but can make plays downhill and down the field as well. Some wide receiver experience helps him play under control with the football in the air and Jackson can support the run as well. From a physical perspective, he has the potential to execute on the island as well as any prep prospect in the class. Once the overall technique catches up to the physical ability, it's hard to imagine much time between Jackson arriving on a college campus and seeing the field.
22. Miami (Fla.) - QB Jacurri Brown
Even though he is the sole commitment for Manny Diaz to date, it's an impactful one. The Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes star is the most intriguing dual-threat quarterback in the country with a huge arm, bigger frame and serious instincts with the ball in his hands both in traffic and in space. Factor in a step forward as a passer in 2020 and head-turning long speed relative to the size and Brown has to have Hurricane fans excited about the future of the offense. As a junior, he was responsible for 30 touchdowns and more than 2,600 yards of offense in a stacked region in south Georgia. As Brown works towards more efficiency as a senior, his game will begin to round out just in time for his arrival in Coral Gables.
[Related: Get to know Jacurri Brown]
23. Ball State - DL Dylan Graber
Graber is the first prospect on board for Ball State and he's an interesting one as a lighter, interior defensive line prospect out of Ohio. The rising-senior has extremely quick feet relative to his size and plays with great body control and balance in the wash. He uses his hands well and has the potential to finish through the whistle with power more times than not. Playing on a great plane with a few fluid counter moves to supplement his power, Graber can play the pass and the run well inside against bigger blockers.
24. San Jose State
No verbal commitments to date
No verbal commitments to date
More from SI All-American