Rivals Rankings Week has wrapped up, but there are still plenty of storylines to discuss as fall begins. Our analysts – Adam Friedman, Adam Gorney, Josh Helmholdt and Sam Spiegelman – sit down at the Rivals Roundtable and discuss.
1. Which prospect do you think we ranked too high?
Spiegelman: AJ Harris is the newly minted No. 1 cornerback country out of Alabama and it’s well-deserved after a strong showing this offseason both at RCS Atlanta as well as The Opening. Harris is position-versatile with the ability to make plays at cornerback and back deep at safety, and he’s strong enough in coverage to also slide in as the nickel. With other talented cornerbacks like Javien Toviano, Tony Mitchell and Jahlil Hurley also in contention for the top spot, there could be some shake-up at the position down the road to watch out for.
Gorney: Francis Mauigoa is a really special prospect who has proven to be incredibly valuable as both an offensive and defensive lineman but has he proved that he’s the second-best offensive tackle in this class yet, ahead of Cayden Green and others? That’s tough to say. Now focused on playing on the offensive side, Mauigoa has five-star potential and could be one of the best players in this class but until he’s at national events shutting down elite players like Green, TJ Shanahan Jr. or others, I’d say his ranking is a touch high. I believe he has all the potential to do it, we just need to see it happen.
Helmholdt: I saw five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson at the Los Angeles Rivals Camp and did not see a five-star, let alone the No. 2 prospect in the class. That’s not saying he is not a good quarterback, but I expected more from a five-star. While camps do not show everything that goes into playing the position, they do show enough that should at least validate a rating that high.
Friedman: I’m very much in favor of David Hicks as a five-star but it seems a bit hasty to move him ahead of Lebbeus Overton. We’re splitting hairs with this one but I’m still siding with Overton as more of a sure-thing at the next level. He has the physical traits to be able to play all over the defensive line and he can win at the point of attack with strength and speed. Overton isn’t a super explosive edge rusher like some other defensive ends but he is quick enough and savvy enough to be a reliable defensive lineman for years.
2. Which prospect do you think we ranked too low?
Spiegelman: Jaden Platt has picked up some steam in his recruitment this summer and for good reason. The big-framed pass-catcher is a talented pass-catcher in the middle of the field that can also stretch it vertically. He’s got size, athleticism and he’s just beginning to get a feel for the position. Platt has pulled in in-state offers from the likes of Texas and Texas A&M in the process and has already visited both campuses. He’s in store for a big junior campaign.
Gorney: Richard Young is No. 37 nationally which is very respectful but he’s ranked second at the running back position and we might have overthought this one. Justice Haynes is a very talented player and should definitely be ranked high especially after seeing him dominate this summer but Young is very special and should be the No. 1 running back in the country. It’s not a big move up for him but I feel Young is a little too low right now.
Helmholdt: Utah linebacker Siale Esera is certainly in elite territory as the No. 33 ranked prospect in the 2023 class, but I am having trouble seeing what makes him less than his cousin, Noah Sewell, who was a five-star and the No. 10 ranked prospect in the 2020 class. We have not seen if Esera can hit with the same level of pop as Sewell does, but it’s early and he certainly is not soft. Even at 260 pounds, athleticism and speed are two of Esera’s plus attributes, and we certainly know he can play in space after winning two Rivals Camp MVP awards this year.
Friedman: Watch out for Stephiylan Green. The defensive tackle out of Georgia is as disruptive as the come and is a constant presence in the backfield. Green doesn’t participate in offseason events and his sophomore tape didn’t receive much national attention but he jumped off the screen. He’s physical, seems to know how to effectively use his hands, and does a nice job chasing the play down. Georgia is his lone offer but they won’t be for long.
3. Who did you go to bat for that will make you look smart down the line?
Spiegelman: Four-star offensive lineman Isaiah Kema hasn’t seen his recruitment take off as expected, though he has landed notable overtures from BYU, Illinois, SMU and Texas Tech. The Wolfforth (Texas) Frenship product from right outside Lubbock is a mauler and a finisher in the run game, and he maintains that mean-spirited effort in pass pro as well. Kema is one of the more physical linemen in the state of Texas for 2023, so the offers will arrive in time.
Gorney: There are two prospects that come to mind as one earned his fifth star in offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor and one moved up to No. 14 overall in four-star defensive end Kelby Collins. Proctor is a no-brainer five-star offensive tackle in my book since he moves so well, is so powerful and at 6-foot-8 and 335 pounds is just going to wow everyone who sees him. I also feel if Collins did the national event circuit this summer he would be under five-star consideration. His sophomore film is some of the best in the country and I wanted to position him so when we see more of him it wouldn’t be such a dramatic jump to move him even higher.
Helmholdt: I really like what I saw out of Georgia running back Justice Haynes at the Five-Star Challenge in June. The demand for running backs in both college and the NFL is diminishing, but elite backs still provide a ton of value to offenses and Haynes is among the most elite backs I have seen come out of high school in recent years. His jump into the top 20 of the Rivals250 is well deserved.
Friedman: Monroe Freeling really impressed me when he came to the Miami Rivals Camp early in the spring and then he showed positive progress at a camp at North Carolina in June. He has all the tools college coaches are looking for in a multi-year starter and he has a frame that can handle plenty of additional muscle mass without sacrificing that athleticism that makes him a difficult matchup for edge rushers. The Tar Heels, Notre Dame, Georgia, and a few others have prioritized Freeling already.