College football recruiting notebook - Top prospects taking visits, how Louisville has climbed and more

College football recruiting notebook – Top prospects taking visits, how Louisville has climbed and more

DeAndre Moore Jr. believed for the longest time he knew where he was headed: Oklahoma. He had been committed since September 2021 and had stayed even after coach Lincoln Riley left for USC.

“I genuinely loved Oklahoma,” said Moore, the No. 48 recruit overall and No. 9 wide receiver in the 2023 class. “That was my dream school. And I had a great relationship with the running backs coach, DeMarco Murray, because he’s from Las Vegas, as well.”

But two months had gone by without him hearing from Riley’s successor, Brent Venables, and then he came to the realization he had to reevaluate his situation.

“I came out and said, ‘You know, I want to stay with Oklahoma,’ but two months passed and the new coaching staff didn’t even reach out to me,” said Moore, who decommitted on Jan. 31. “So it was like, you know, I’m almost unwanted at this point.”

A few months later, he found a new place that wants him.

Moore committed to Louisville on May 31 and is part of coach Scott Satterfield’s impressive haul thus far. A year after ranking 60th in the class rankings with just one ESPN 300 recruit, Louisville is currently 17th in the class rankings with six ESPN 300 prospects — and counting.

“You just got to wait and see,” he said with a laugh. “You just got to wait and see. We’re for sure adding some more pieces. So stay tuned.”

Louisville isn’t the only team that has made big moves this cycle. Below, we explore the rise of both Arkansas and Alabama, detail where the top-ranked tight end is visiting and break down where other ESPN 300 and ESPN Jr. 300 recruits are visiting.

Inside the Cardinals’ class

The Cardinals’ class is headlined by running back Rueben Owens II (No. 35) and Moore, but Moore will have some familiar faces with him when he goes East.

After a sophomore year at Desert Pines High School (Nevada), he spent his junior year at Los Alamitos High School (California). He will spend his senior year at St. John Bosco High School (California), where he will join three other Louisville commits: quarterback Pierce Clarkson (No.. 139), cornerback Aaron Williams (No. 145) and wide receiver Jahlil McClain (four stars).

“Chemistry is really the biggest thing,” Moore said. “Pierce knows where I’m going to be before the play even starts. Say we have the defense in man coverage and there’s no safety over top and I have a streak or a post. Pierce knows that I’m going to win that.

“I’ve been building with Pierce over the years and you know, going to Louisville, it’s only going to get better.”

Three of their John Bosco teammates from the 2024 class visited Louisville last weekend: safety Peyton Woodyard (No. 48), cornerback Marcelles Williams (No. 56) and linebacker Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa (No. 143).

Arkansas sitting steady in top 10

A year after finishing 21st in ESPN’s class rankings, Arkansas isn’t letting up under third-year coach Sam Pittman.

With six ESPN 300 recruits — four more than their 2022 class — so far, the Razorbacks sit seventh in ESPN’s latest class rankings.

While three of the six ranked recruits are tight ends, headlined by Luke Hasz (No. 70), unranked four-star defensive back Jaylon Braxton committed on July 9, weeks after he decommitted from Michigan State.

“It was just the best situation for me and my family,” said Braxton, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound cornerback from Lone Star High School (Texas). “It’s closer to the house and all my life I wanted to play in the SEC. Actually, my little league team was called the SEC Athletes. And the (Arkansas) coaches. Coach (Dominique) Bowman — best DB coach in the country, in my opinion. He was the first coach to put me on the board. He showed me something I’ve never seen before.”

Braxton had been taking visits throughout the spring and committed to Mel Tucker’s Spartans on June 14, in part so he could end the process. Two and a half weeks later, he had a change of heart and re-opened his recruitment.

“When I went to Michigan State, I really loved it, too,” Braxton said. “Coach Tucker — shout out to their staff. I have nothing bad to say about them. Honestly, Michigan State and Arkansas are two great schools. Arkansas was just closest to the house and better for my family.”

Alabama adding offensive and defensive backfield pieces

When quarterback Dylan Lonergan became Alabama’s second quarterback commit on July 11, he said more impact guys were coming.

On consecutive days last week, the Crimson Tide added a pair of prized recruits in the secondary: 2024 cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe and 2023 safety Caleb Downs.

Mbakwe, who attends Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Alabama, is No. 5 overall in the 2024 ESPN Jr. 300, while Downs is the No. 1 safety and 16th-ranked prospect overall in the 2023 class.

“It was great, just learning from coach (Nick) Saban,” Mbakwe said about the recruiting process.

Mbakwe has had opportunities to chat and pick the brains of several current Alabama players, which include defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry, defensive back Malachi Moore, defensive lineman DJ Dale and wide receiver Kobe Prentice.

Downs, meanwhile, joins Alabama’s 2023 recruiting class that also features commitments from two of the top three cornerbacks this cycle in Tony Mitchell and Jahlil Hurley.

Alabama also made another big splash when the Crimson Tide added the No. 1-ranked running back, Richard Young, on Friday.

Four-star wide receiver committing Saturday

Shelton Sampson Jr. is deciding between LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State and Alabama on Saturday, according to his father, Shelton Sampson Sr.

Sampson, a 6-4, 185-pound wideout, is ranked No. 36 in the 2023 ESPN 300 and the sixth-ranked wide receiver.

Last weekend, Sampson took official visits to both LSU and Texas A&M. He had 40 catches for 932 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games as a junior last year.

Four of the five wide receivers ranked ahead of him have already committed, with Hykeem Williams the only one still available.

Top-two linebacker visits Florida

Jaquavious Russaw, the second-ranked linebacker in the 2023 class, went on an unofficial visit to Florida over the weekend.

Russaw’s father, Todd Dowell, said the visit “went well” in a text to ESPN.

The 6-3, 230-pound Russaw attends Carver High School (Alabama) and is ranked eighth overall in the 2023 ESPN 300.

Georgia hosted Russaw on an official visit on June 17, which came on the heels of unofficial visits to both Texas A&M (March) and Alabama (April).

No. 1 tight end continues visits

Duce Robinson, the No. 51-ranked prospect overall and the top-ranked tight end in the 2023 class, visited both Oregon and Louisville this past weekend.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Robinson is a tight end from Pinnacle High School (Arizona) who also plays baseball. Robinson caught 60 passes for 972 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior in 2021.

Commitment coming soon for top-five RB

Cedric Baxter Jr. is nearing his Aug. 10 commitment date.

Ranked No. 58 overall and fourth at his position, the 6-2, 220-pound running back from Edgewater High School (Florida) is down to Texas, Miami, Texas A&M and Florida.

Five-star junior visiting national champions

Ellis Robinson IV, a cornerback from IMG Academy, took unofficial visits to both Alabama and Georgia last weekend.

“Both visits went really well,” Robinson wrote in a text to ESPN. “I had fun at both and learned a lot. This is going to be a very hard decision to choose from.

“(Saban and Kirby Smart) were both amazing individuals and very nice people to talk to about everything.”

The 6-1, 180-pound Robinson owns recent offers from USC (June 1) and Oregon (June 4).

Robinson, ranked No. 7 in the ESPN Junior 300, is the No. 3 cornerback in his class.

Big recruiting weekend at Michigan State

Four top-20 recruits in the 2024 class — athlete K.J. Bolden (No. 6), linebacker T.J. Capers (No. 11), defensive tackle David Stone (No. 14) and defensive end Elijah Rushing (No. 19) — visited East Lansing last weekend.

Bolden, Capers and Stone are the top-ranked players at their respective positions, while Rushing is the fifth-best defensive end in the class.

“They were great,” Stone said to ESPN. “The whole defensive staff was just fun to be around and they’re all so knowledgeable about the game. BT (pass-rush specialist Brandon Jordan) and I got the chance to chill and breakdown some film and in that short time, I could see why everyone wants to learn under him. Me and Coach Tuck had a very deep conversation and I truly admire the man and what he stands for.

“We all got to chill, but K.J. didn’t get there till we left. But me, Rushing and T.J. were together most of (the) time chilling and it was cool getting to chill with some of my (possible) future teammates.”

The last top-20 recruit the Spartans signed was offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs, the No. 12 prospect in the 2019 cycle. He transferred after the 2020 season.

Top 2024 safety a dual threat?

Mike Matthews, the No. 10 recruit in the ESPN Junior 300, may be listed as a safety, but he’s open to playing on either side of the ball. The 6-2, 190-pound Matthews plays both wide receiver and safety for Parkview High School (Georgia).

He took an unofficial visit to USC on July 25 and had an opportunity to chat with both head coach Lincoln Riley and interim wide receivers coach Luke Huard during his time in Los Angeles.

Matthews said he went over schemes and routes with Huard while also discussing with Riley what position could be his best fit for the Trojans.

Matthews said both told him the position would be his choice, adding that he “loves the receiver side.”

Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame are among the other schools looking at Matthews as both a receiver and a safety.

Four-star wide receiver traveling inside Sunshine State

Jeremiah Smith, a four-star wide receiver from Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Florida), received a scholarship offer from Tennessee on July 14.

He then traveled within state lines this past weekend, as the 6-3, 195-pound Smith, who is No. 12 in the ESPN Junior 300, visited Florida on July 29 and Florida State on July 30.

Top-30 junior visits Pitt

After receiving an offer on May 6, James Randle, a four-star wide receiver from Mainland High School (Florida), went to Pittsburgh on July 27.

“It went great,” Randle wrote in a text to ESPN. “I had a good time viewing the facility, getting a chance to talk to the coaching staff and I liked the atmosphere. Had a fun time.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound Randle, ranked No. 28 overall in the 2024 class, received an offer from Florida on June 22.

Top California prospect receiving SEC interest

T.A. Cunningham, a defensive end from Los Alamitos High School (California), received an offer from LSU when Ed Orgeron was the head coach.

Brian Kelly also has interest, offering the 6-7, 280-pound Cunningham on July 27.

“The process has been a roller coaster experience, but I’m focused on my goals and trying my best to make the most of it,” Cunningham wrote in a text to ESPN.

Cunningham, ranked No. 33 overall, transferred from Johns Creek High School (Georgia) in July and is hoping to visit Florida sometime soon

Tennessee hosts top-50 junior

No. 43 junior DeAndre Carter, on the heels of receiving an offer from Tennessee back on May 9, visited Knoxville on July 27.

Carter, a 6-4, 340-pound guard from Mater Dei High School (California), said he met with coach Josh Heupel and the Volunteers’ staff on campus.

“He was a very nice guy, very informative about the program,” Carter wrote in a text to ESPN. “I learned a lot about their program and about how they run their offense. … I liked it a lot.”

Top-three DT continues visits

Aydin Breland, a defensive tackle from Mater Dei High School (California), visited USC on July 30.

Breland, No. 46 in the 2024 ESPN Jr. 300, has also taken unofficial visits to Georgia, Oregon and Alabama.

The 6-5, 320-pound Breland holds offers from Miami (June 9) and Oklahoma (June 18).

New York’s top prospect visits three schools

ATH Josiah Brown, a wide receiver from Holy Trinity Diocesan High School (New York), visited Notre Dame on July 26 and saw Rutgers and Penn State again over the weekend.

“It went great,” Brown, the No. 83 junior, told ESPN about the visit to South Bend. “I loved the campus and facilities. … I was actually around a lot of the current players. I talked with (freshman long snapper) Rino (Monteforte). The interaction was great with everybody. They had great energy all around.”

The 6-foot, 175-pound Brown recently received offers from Georgia (July 9), Oklahoma (July 12) and Boston College (July 15).

He’s hoping to take unofficial visits to all three schools at some point this summer or fall.

This content was originally published here.

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