The recruiting class of 2021, one not to soon be forgotten for teenagers’ ability to navigate the process during a global pandemic, will soon begin coming to a close.
In just over one month, beginning December 16, the first wave of National Letters of Intent will be distributed and college football’s future stars can begin locking in verbal commitments across America.
Of the SI99 members, SI All-American’s ranking of the nation’s best, 85 of the prospects have already made verbal commitments. SIAA runs down the latest news with the top 10 uncommitted prospects, in ranking order, relative when a decision is to be made and the schools still in the running.
1. DE J.T. Tuimoloau / Sammamish, Wash. (Eastside Catholic)
Timeline: Early 2021
The Latest: The buzz with America’s top defensive prospect depends on the day and where it may come from — because it’s not coming from him or his camp. There has long been a sense Ohio State is the program to beat and Alabama is still one to watch but the top seven Tuimoloau is still considering each has a present case for why he may end up there. If there is a tangible trend potentially aiding any program why wouldn’t it be the pandemic and in favor of the in-state program, Washington? A source told SI All-American of the two elites remaining in the state (along with wide receiver Emeka Egbuka), the Huskies currently feel like they’re in a stronger position for the defender.
We know basketball is also important here and there are no public plans on committing or signing in December, so the highest profile recruiting battle remaining in the class of 2021 will roll into the New Year with multiple programs feeling good about the chances to land a rare two-way, two-sport star at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds. Tuimoloau will be worth the wait for any program still in the mix, from UW, OSU, ‘Bama, Oklahoma, USC, Oregon and Michigan’s perspective. He’s that good.
2. IDL Korey Foreman / Corona, Calif. (Centennial)
The Latest: The info on Foreman remains relatively hard to come by as he works with his top group of LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, USC, Oregon and Howard. He has talked about playing his senior season in California this spring, likely pushing his decision into January at the earliest. However, Foreman has been a multi-year priority for just about every program on his list and has taken plenty of visits despite the NCAA recruiting dead period, including to Georgia and LSU perhaps most notably. Package deal talk with defensive tackle Maason Smith, with the Tigers and Bulldogs chief among the common programs high on each list, has seemingly faded some of late. If you’re predicting a program outside of the SEC, USC and Oregon are worth eyeing into the New Year.
3. LB Smael Mondon / Dallas, Ga. (Paulding County)
Timeline: November 18 Announcement
The Latest: Less than a week from now Mondon will likely become the next SI99 prospect off the board and the buzz here lies with the same three programs it has for some time — Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee. Yes Florida and LSU are technically still under consideration but it would be a surprise if he selected either next Wednesday. Auburn has been the constant in this recruitment, and we’re rarely going to bet against AU linebacker’s coach Travis Williams, but SI is hearing more on the UT and UGa side in the final stretch.
4. RB Camar Wheaton / Garland, Texas (Lakeview Centennial)
The Latest: One of the quieter recruits in the country, the speedy Texan back has been focused on the 2020 season before revealing his choice, expected to come down to Oklahoma, LSU and Alabama. Spots are hard to come by at the latter pair, but can it be that simple? We know OU is the regional favorite after he eliminated Texas in late August and the peer recruiting from the Sooners, led by No. 1 overall prospect Caleb Williams, may be unmatched. It may feel like an upset if Wheaton ends up in the SEC, though stranger things have happened given the prowess of Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron on the trail.
5. WR Emeka Egbuka / Steilacoom, Wash.
The Latest: Another elite in a state not playing football this fall, the Washington native has been public about his desire to wrap up his prep career in the spring before heading to college in the summertime. It’s bought that much more time for the four finalists, Washington, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma, to make more (digital) moves. If our sources in the Pacific Northwest are on target about Egbuka and Tuimoloau relative to likelihood of staying local, then Ohio State may begin moving from slight favorite to clear team to beat in short order.
6. IDL Tywone Malone / Oradell, N.J. (Bergen Catholic)
The Latest: SIAA was in touch with the football and baseball star this week and like many in his position, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the process significantly. Malone says he could push a final decision all the way until the traditional National Signing Day window, beginning February 3, 2021. Many were surprised to see Ohio State omitted from his lists of finalists in October, but it exemplifies how big baseball will be in this decision. In-state Rutgers is joined by USC, Florida State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas A&M on Malone’s list.
7. Xavian Sorey / Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)
The Latest: As IMG’s season winds down, decision time is sure to follow for one of the top linebackers in America. Sorey has hinted at making a public commitment sooner rather than later, though no announcement date has been finalized. There is plenty at play here but two big items we know are 1. He wants to play in the SEC, 2. His mother is a big Florida fan. Normally that would be enough to begin floating the Gators as the favorite, but when Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Auburn — one in this business this long holds off. There’s also the package deal conversation with fellow SI99 member Terrion Arnold, which further muddies the waters between UF, UGA and ‘Bama.
8. IOL Bryce Foster / Katy, Texas (Taylor)
Timeline: November 18
The Latest: Foster will close out the Early Signing Period as the headlining decision-maker and this one has felt like a long time coming for whichever program lands the trench pledge. Oregon is who he calls his dream school but it’s also the program he’s visited the least. Texas A&M holds plenty of ties from older brother Braden Meador once on the roster and former mentor/teammate Max Wright on the current roster. Oklahoma has held plenty of buzz in his recruitment while Texas and LSU could use the top interior blocker in the land near immediately.
9. IDL Maason Smith / Houma, La. (Terrebonne)
The Latest: The aforementioned package deal speaks for itself, with LSU and Georgia the two combo programs Smith and Foreman are considering together. They’ve visited the two together, the whole nine. Florida and Alabama aren’t going anywhere in this recruitment but the sooner he elects to make the call, probably the better for the in-state Tigers. They’re recruiting as well as any program of late, too, and there is no bigger recruiting prize in Louisiana this cycle.
10. S Terrion Arnold / Tallahassee, Fla. (St. John Paul II)
Timeline: Early Signing Period
The Latest: Arnold’s senior season is winding down and we’re expecting a decision sometime thereafter, to be solidified next month. Arnold is technically working with a large group of schools, but the package deal with Sorey focuses the duo on Florida, Alabama and Georgia. A source in north Florida recently told SI to not count out a program outside of the SEC when all is said and done, though it’s tough to take a lot of stock in it given Sorey’s plans to specifically play in the top conference. A true darkhorse scenario would USC’s hot run creating a chance to push Arnold out of the deal. The Trojans have Floridians Mike Trigg and Phillip Riley already on the commitment list.
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