College football recruiting is still a marathon and not a sprint.
In the coming months, the rankings will change, especially with the challenges that continue to present themselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, one thing is clear: there is no single path to success on the recruiting route. Alabama’s class of 2021, for example, finished first nationally, but it took some time to develop and didn’t make the top 10 until last July.
By contrast, Tennessee and Minnesota were examples of classes that walked out the door ranked in the top 10 a year ago before finally landing at No. 19 and No. 31, respectively, on National Signing Day in February.
Ohio State has shown that it is possible to bring a strong start to an equally strong finish, without ever falling below No. 2 during the 2021 cycle. Now, the Buckeyes strive to exhibit equally impressive consistency for 2022.
While time will tell how this class will take shape, here is a look at 10 classes to watch out for as they lead the pack in the early stages of the 2022 cycle.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits to: 9
Best offensive compromise: QB Quinn Ewers (No. 1)
Superior defensive engagement: CB Jaheim Singletary (No. 32)
The Buckeyes haven’t signed a No. 1 overall class in the ESPN 300 era, but they’ve come close with three classes ranked No. 2 in the previous five cycles, and they’re indicating they’ll be in the mix at the top once. . again.
Leading the class is Ewers, the top-rated prospect on ESPN Jr. 300 who retired from Texas in October and became engaged to the Buckeyes in November. A poised player with a fast, smooth pitch and the strength of the arm to make every pitch, he leads an already deep and talented class that includes fellow Texan WR Caleb Burton, who is ranked 42nd overall.
The defense is well represented with a handful of committed ESPN Jr. 300 projected on that side of the ball, including a pair of top-12 cornerbacks in Singletary and Jyaire Brown.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits: 7
Maximum offensive engagement: QB Walker Howard (No. 30)
Superior defensive engagement: CB JaDarian Rhym (No. 128)
Despite the difficulties during the 2020 season, LSU has been able to maintain a strong presence on the draft route, having signed the No. 6 class. The Tigers now have one of the best starts to 2022.
Always tough to beat on their own turf, they have commitments from several key prospects in the state, led by OT top 10 Howard and Will Campbell. Many eyes will be on New Orleans area high school Isidore Newman, as it is the home of coveted 2023 quarterback Arch Manning, but in the more immediate future, the Tigers have had success at that school by 2022, landing teammates OT Bo Bordelon, an aggressive and flexible big man whose father was an All-SEC offensive lineman at LSU, and WR AJ Johnson, one of Manning’s big-play targets.
Building on its tradition of fielding excellent defensive backs, LSU already has commitments from three four-star cornerbacks, including the long-running and instinctive Rhym.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits to: 6
Best offensive compromise: QB Gunner Stockton (No. 41)
Superior defensive engagement: OF Tire West (No. 8)
Georgia has chained five straight classes in the top three and looks poised to extend that streak to six. His initial success is based on the talent of the state, as the Bulldogs class includes commitments from four of the top 10 prospects in the state.
One of those key home state picks is Stockton, a former Verbal from South Carolina who is a passer with strong arms and helps quickly build talent and depth at that position. Stockton will join four-star QB Brock Vandagriff at the 2021 status in Athens.
The base of this class is currently on defense with several additions from four-star defensive lines, led by West, the highest-rated player in the state. Deyon Bouie could play on both sides of the ball but projects to defense. He and fellow in-state CB Marquis Groves-Killebrew give Georgia two ESPN Jr. 300 commitments in high school.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits: 6
Best offensive compromise: QB Maalik Murphy (No. 16)
Superior defensive engagement: S Bryan Allen Jr. (No. 78)
After leading one of the most powerful attacks in college football as an offensive coordinator in Alabama, Steve Sarkisian is now putting together his first full class as a head coach in Texas.
The offense defines this group from the start. The Longhorns went to western California for their quarterback, landing Murphy, a prospect with limited experience in high school games thus far, but someone who possesses some impressive physical traits, including a great arm.
The class also features some of the state’s big-play offensive targets: top 10 wide receivers Evan Stewart and Armani Winfield and running back Jaydon Blue, an explosive running back who also has good ball skills.
Defense isn’t overlooked either, and the Longhorns recently added one of the best defensive back prospects in the state in Allen, a top-five safety who is fluid and has good instincts.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits to: 5
Maximum offensive engagement: WR Talyn Shettron (No. 13)
Superior defensive engagement: OLB Kobe McKinzie (No. 81)
Lincoln Riley may need to find a way to incorporate a second ball into his offensive attack with the playmaker depth he’s accumulating. The Sooners signed one of the best wide receiver classes in the 2021 cycle, and several more important offensive weapons are on board for 2022.
The class includes three ESPN Jr. 300 top-10 wide receivers: state prospect Shettron, Jordan Hudson of Texas and Luther Burden, a fast and fluid target from Illinois. Adding to the offensive firepower is RB Raleek Brown, one of the top three, a sudden and fast scatback guy who can be dangerous in space.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits to: 7
Maximum offensive engagement: OT Drew Shelton (No. 97)
Superior defensive engagement: OF Ken Talley (No. 103)
The Nittany Lions class of 2021 never reached higher than No. 15 and eventually finished outside of the top 25, but they are showing signs of a stronger year on the recruiting path for 2022.
Initial success builds on state talent with commitments from five of Pennsylvania’s top 10 players, led by Shelton, who will be playing his senior at IMG Academy in Florida, and Talley, who is an explosive defender with a good engine. .
QB Beau Pribula is a prospect to be reckoned with, as he has some traits in the mold of former Penn State QB Trace McSorley. Head coach James Franklin is on track to assemble one of the most talented groups of pass receivers in this class, especially if ESPN Jr. 300 athlete Mehki Flowers is used as a wide receiver.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits: 5
Maximum offensive engagement: OT PJ Williams (No. 95)
Superior defensive engagement: FROM Malick Sylla (No. 37)
The Aggies finished the 2021 cycle strong and are bringing that momentum to the class of 2022. All of their commitments came in the new year, and Sylla, a defensive end in the state with a good first step and a good lead, started that career.
Adding him to a talented group from the D line just signed, led by five-star Shemar Turner, can give Texas A&M a formidable defensive front. The Aggies also recently added Sylla’s high school teammate in ESPN Jr. 300 defender Bobby Taylor, a long and fast cornerback.
They have their quarterback on board early on in Conner Weigman, a powerful pitcher with good accuracy.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits: 5
Best offensive compromise: OT Joey Tanona (No. 87)
Superior defensive engagement: OF Tyson Ford (No. 148)
The Fighting Irish are making an early push for consecutive top 10 classes. Having deployed one of the best offensive line units during the 2020 season, they are working to maintain that unit as a force with a pair of ESPN Jr. 300 offensive tackle commits on Tanona, a state big man, and Ty Chan.
Running back Jadarian Price not only has good speed, but he’s also a tough runner who can produce after contact. The four-star Ford, a defensive lineman with a good starting explosion and good agility, leads several projected commitments to the top seven.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits to: 3
Best offensive compromise: QB Nicco Marchiol (No. 231)
Superior defensive engagement: CB Travis Hunter (No. 19)
The Seminoles have struggled as quarterbacks in recent years, but Mike Norvell has quickly secured his quarterback for the 2022 cycle at Marchiol. A southpaw with a quick pitch and good accuracy, his action went up during his junior season as he also demonstrated the kind of mobility to present problems as a running back as well.
The Seminoles have also landed one of the best defensive prospects in this class in Hunter, who has an excellent combination of speed, quickness, length and toughness. The addition of top-five athlete Sam McCall, who is an explosive player who can be a band-to-band presence, can give the Seminoles two great playmakers in their high school. Good early defensive pickups include a pair of four-star state defensive linemen in Nyjalik Kelly and Aaron Hester.
ESPN Jr. 300 commits: two
Maximum offensive commitment: WR Taylor Groves (four stars)
Superior defensive engagement: CB William Johnson (No. 29)
The Wolverines signed the No. 2 class in the Big Ten for the 2021 cycle, and they remain near the top within the conference at the beginning of this time.
The secondary has benefited from two strong raises in Johnson and fellow ESPN 300 prospect Kody Jones. Lean and intoxicating Johnson is a key commitment, as he is not only in the top five cornerback prospects in the class, but he is also the highest-rated player in the state of Michigan. Jones, who has excellent speed, figures as an athlete, but projects as a cornerback.
Michigan has two four-star commitments from Tennessee in Jones and Groves, who is a long, dependable target with his ball skills. TE Marlin Klein is a commitment to watch out for. Originally from Germany, but now playing his high school football in Georgia, he is a prospect with a promising lead; At 6ft 6in, 220lbs, he displays the physical tools to become a versatile and physical offensive weapon.