Spring is college football’s domino-recruiting season, and not just in the middle.
Of course the debate begins at the sport’s most important location – and there has been a move over the weekend – but momentum for select programs has rebounded on the recruiting front as the spring training season turns into the Spring Games season. The fans are back in the stands, the official visits have begun, and there is a mixture of urgency and anticipation in tracking the next wave of college football talent from a program and prospect standpoint.
Over the weekend, evidence of the momentum building for the 2023 class emerged in commitments that came and were carried over to the start of a new week with international commitment To Miami, Tennessee Adding in-state defensive lineman Nathan Robinson and even a the gambler To Texas A&M before lunch hour.
Decisions started pouring in on Friday, however, and quarterbacks had their plea. Ponte Vedra Beach (Florida) Nez quarterback Marcus Stokes, who has been on a slew of visits in the Southern footprint of places like Ole Miss, Florida, and Miami, took a trip to Pennsylvania and admitted that he considered making an oral commitment the moment he entered campus. She’s shown Nittany Lions before several Power Five shows, and she’s back with the pledge of a live-gun athletic bystander in James Franklin’s office.
“It felt like home,” Stokes said. Sports Illustrated. “The love is real, the atmosphere is great and they are all great people.”
In the quarterback recruiting business, many programs seek the most popular arm of Arch Manning while also trying to keep tabs on upward path recruits like Stokes. With the timeframes of Manning, Jaden Rashada, Dante Moore and other famous passers-by extending deeper into the year, other highly thoughtful talents are putting off decision dates.
Next up is Birmingham (Ala) Briarwood star Christopher Vizina, arguably the hottest player in the class since the fall. Clemson, having been over the weekend during the program’s Spring Games festivities, became the first blue-blooded show of great athletic talent of the fall. Several others — including Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Ole Miss and others — followed the extensions as his stock rose. Vizzina stumbled across both of the mentioned programs, and recently, but it looks like they’re ready to shut down the process this week.
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The timing must have been in favor of the Tigers, who along with Ole Miss had set him up on campus three times each. But when reading the tea leaves between CU and other shows, the crew of Dabo Swinney may be the most “of all” with up-and-coming talent, who kicked off a 31-time junior campaign against tough competition in 2021.
The Tigers have not submitted another quarterback since entering Vizzina, while later falling from the Manning lottery in the winter months. Other programs are either still flirting with Manning (Georgia, Olly Mays), Moore (Nore Dame, Ohio) or have been relatively new to the race with out-of-state programs prioritizing him sooner (Auburn).
A source told SI in March of Clemson’s standing in the position: “They haven’t offered anyone else and won’t get Arch.” It’s the Vizzina-or-bust of the ACC powerhouse.
At least two high-profile recruits will end this week outside the QB in South Florida facing Mark Fletcher and Beach State defensive linebacker Michael Dougherty. Both are scheduled to come off the plate on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The two were also busy on the visiting itinerary before their general choices, much like Vizzina and Stokes.
Returning, 6’1″, 220 lbs. out of Powerhouse Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage High School, Fletcher has been a known recruit since he was a lower-level contributor to multiple state championship rosters. Nearly two dozen scholarship offers come in his way but most people feel the commitment will come down to the last two programs he visited – Ohio State and Miami.The Buckeyes snatched elite talent from the region seemingly at every tournament, including SI99 pass rusher Kenyatta Jackson from nearby Hollywood last falls, while The U A sensation under new coach Mario Cristobal, Michigan and Pennsylvania State were also included in the finalists for Fletcher’s commitment ceremony.
Dougherty may also be thinking between his last two trips, too. Loganville (Ga.) Grayson made an official visit to LSU before doing the same in North Carolina over the weekend with his family. While a defensive back-drop is technically considering seven programs – with Georgia, Texas, Auburn, Miami and Louisville – it would be surprising if he ended up in a program outside Baton Rouge or Chapel Hill exiting with only two official visits. Each have been round trips to their own campus recently too, with Tiger Camp keeping the most bang for the buck prior to a multi-day stay at UNC.
Auburn, Syracuse, Kansas State and Oregon, which also added the final available SI99 recruit from the 2022 tournament at Josh Conerly Friday night and were upset by USC by some action, each made verbal commitments in the 2023 recruitment class over the weekend.
The volume of commitments to Power Five programs should continue to rise in the coming days and weeks with the biggest slate of spring games set for the upcoming weekend and other shows – often where recruiting visits are centered – on the weekend of April 23.