The NCAA’s recruiting dead period is in the rearview mirror and the spring will serve as an important travel ground for the college football recruiting class of 2023.
The group of rising senior recruits have collectively hit the road since the schedule switch in March, but most programs focus more on welcoming key recruits over the weekend, as the combination of junior day events coincides with the opening of many spring camps for Power 5 programs.
New offers, impressions and possibly verbal commitments will be made as the recruiting calendar remains wide open until the end of June, when most colleges will have nearly built the bulk of their 2023 classes.
The first weekend of the opening period is here and Sports Illustrated takes a look at the top 10 unhired recruits expected to be on campus coast-to-coast on Friday and beyond.
QB Dante Moore – LSU
Detroit (Mich.) quarterback Martin Luther King has often been linked to Midwestern programs, with Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and others struggling to keep him close to home, but Moore ventured into SEC country in the past, even at LSU. However, Brian Kelly didn’t welcome the talented passer the last time he was in Baton Rouge and Moore admits it was Kelly’s move from Notre Dame to the bayou that had the biggest impact of any program with new leaders. Both Kelly and Baton Rouge have caught Moore’s eye in the past, so the Tigers’ chance of becoming a true dark horse in this race is almost tangible.
RB Richard Young – Oklahoma
Most elite programs court Lehigh (Florida) running back Lehigh Acres and he has already made key visits earlier this year, including to Alabama and Miami. Ohio State welcomed him in the fall and has power in recruiting Young, so Brent Venables and his team have some work to do to move up the roster in what will be Norman’s first impression for as far as we know. Georgia and Oregon are expected to welcome him to campus in the coming weeks in what already looks like a veritable national recruiting battle.
QB Nico Yamaleava – Tennessee
Of the elite quarterback recruits available, including Arch Manning, Yamaleava is the closest to locking down a verbal commitment. This means that any campus he visits in the coming weeks is important in his decision-making process, although the trip back to Tennessee is self-contained as the big right-hander has often mentioned the Flights since his visit to Rocky Top in autumn. There, he remembers a lot of Josh Heupel’s program, including the fact that it was the first place strangers coveted his autograph. Oregon, which recently hosted Yamaleava in late January, is seen as a major threat, with Alabama, Georgia and Miami also worth watching.
OF Keon Keeley – Florida
When the price of a recruiting class hits the road to another program, it makes headlines, and in this case, the threat is very close to home. Keeley has been on board Notre Dame for a long time and is reporting strength at every turn, including through a coaching change to Marcus Freeman, but Alabama welcomed him in January and now the state Florida Gators are getting the Tampa native on campus for the updated pitch from Billy Napier’s staff in Gainesville. A local source told SI this week that it’s the Gators who have a better chance of knocking down the Irish’s elite passer right now.
DB Joenel Aguero – LSU
Fresh off of a heavy-hitter-packed top seven on Wednesday night, the Massachusetts native will make a stop in Baton Rouge to learn more about Kelly’s staff and plans to stay in the running. At one point in the fall, Aguero was close to going public with a verbal commitment, but those plans changed as the wild coaching carousel took hold. Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State are considered the strongest contenders right now, so the Tigers’ chances of crushing the party could increase after more time in town.
CB Cormani McClain – Alabama
Arguably the best non-quarterback rookie in the Class of 2023 overall, the race for McClain won’t be over anytime soon, although many believe the Crimson Tide will be at the heart of it all until Decision Day. Miami, Florida, Ohio State and BYU round out Lakeland (Fla.) defensive back Lake Gibson’s top five, but Georgia has since welcomed him to campus while Pac-12 programs USC and Oregon continue to play for the out to the west. McClain expressed frustration with the heavy movement of college coaches since last fall, only reinforcing the length of the process before all is said and done. Alabama, which is hiring Travaris Robinson, has a new high school assistant coach, although each side is already familiar with the other.
CB AJ Harris – Clemson
Another elite cornerback with a who’s who offer list is standout Phenix City (Ala.) Central, who dated Clemson early in his recruiting career. Florida and Ohio State each topped that recruiting and IS sources say a commitment to a contender nearly dwindled over the season. Harris also has the likes of Georgia, Alabama and more on his trail, but it’s Dabo Swinney and CU who are hosting him as the headliners at their upcoming “Spring Elite Day” event. Saturday. While Harris is new to Central-Phenix City High School this year, Clemson has been one of the out-of-state programs able to successfully recruit him, recently landing Justyn Ross and EJ Williams from the Alabama Powerhouse. .
BY Jayden Wayne – USC
After naming Alabama its leader, the most projected two-way talent on defense will take a trip closer to home at USC. Wayne hails from the Seattle area and counts the Trojans with Washington and Oregon among his top 11 schools since a late January exit, each under new management. Lincoln Riley brought explosive offensive firepower early in his tenure at Trojan and Wayne has a legitimate ability and interest in playing tight end, so it will be interesting to see where on the court Riley’s approach will be. underlined.
QB Christopher Vizzina – Ole Miss
The Class of 2023 quarterback group is as strong at the top as we’ve seen recently and Vizzina is perhaps the biggest climber on the roster from this time a year ago. A junior banner campaign in Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian on a big athletic frame has many high-profile programs coveting visits from him. Ole Miss is the first this month, in what will already be her third trip to Oxford since last summer. Lane Kiffin’s team obviously recruits the legacy of the Arch Manning program on a consistent basis, but he’s not the only one among the targets and now Vizzina will have face time with new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. in the process. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State are also among those courting Vizzina as well.
DB Caleb Downs – North Carolina
Georgia has already welcomed the state star to campus for a quick trip this week, but a place he knows just as well for the weekend at UNC, where Caleb’s brother Josh is the team’s No. 1 wide receiver and his uncle Dr. Bly is an assistant coach. Downs says he’s not rushed with the process and could be busy traveling now that his high school basketball campaign at Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek is over. Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma are on schedule for upcoming visits.