Home Sports Three-Point Stance: Title contenders, potential No. 1 prospects, NIL

Three-Point Stance: Title contenders, potential No. 1 prospects, NIL

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Three-Point Stance: Title contenders, potential No. 1 prospects, NIL

Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney has thoughts on who can win a national championship outside the Southeast, five 2024 prospects who could take over the No. 1 spot in the rankings and on NIL after speaking with recruits at the NIL Sports Summer Kickoff recently in this week’s Three-Point Stance.

WHICH PROGRAMS OUTSIDE THE SOUTH CAN WIN IT ALL?

There was a graphic released in January that got recirculated in recent days showing that 16 of the last 17 national champions lived in a location from South Carolina across Georgia and Alabama into Louisiana and then stretching back to Florida before completing the circle.

It was a vivid reminder that college football titles run through this section of the Southeast unequivocally for almost as long as any of the players in the sport have been participating.

During that stretch, Alabama has won six national titles cementing coach Nick Saban as the best to ever do it on the collegiate level. Georgia, Clemson, LSU and Florida won two each and Ohio State, Florida State and Auburn have one title.

So which program is most poised to break this trend of the Southeast winning national titles every year? Which program can upend Georgia, which looks like Alabama did during its natty run where few mistakes are made, the defense swarms, the offense overwhelms and a close game turns into a blowout?

I’m going with the Buckeyes.

Sure, Georgia beat Ohio State in the College Football Playoff last year (before completely obliterating TCU) but the Buckeyes were arguably the better team. They had the lead with a minute left before Georgia’s late touchdown and then Ohio State shanked a field goal that would’ve won it.

Ohio State has all the pieces to win it all this season although there are some questions to answer on both lines especially and at quarterback. The Buckeyes also have to overcome Michigan, which might arguably be better and has beaten them in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999-2000, both major blowouts.

The Wolverines could definitely win it all and then USC is another team to watch since coach Lincoln Riley has it going in Los Angeles.

But after last season’s disappointing loss to Georgia, I’ll take the Buckeyes to overcome that considerable SEC hump.

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A LOOK AT OTHER POTENTIAL NO. 1 PROSPECTS

Julian Sayin

Julian Sayin

Five-star Georgia quarterback commit Dylan Raiola is the current top-ranked prospect in the 2024 class and he has history on his side. Nineteen of the last 26 No. 1 NFL Draft picks dating back to Peyton Manning have been quarterbacks. The others – except for two – have been defensive ends.

With that historical considerations in place, here are five prospects who could make a run to the top spot in the 2024 rankings.

Jeremiah Smith: The last receiver taken No. 1 in the NFL Draft was Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 and before that it was Irving Fryar in 1984. Maybe Smith is the most dominant prospect in this class – he has sure been unstoppable this offseason – and I’ve said he’s the best receiver since Julio Jones in 2008. But history is not on the Ohio State commit’s side here.

Williams Nwaneri: The five-star defensive end has all the size, speed, length, playmaking ability and physical ferocity to make a case for No. 1 overall. This could be a determination made after the all-star games because Nwaneri hasn’t done many national events and we need to see him against some elite offensive linemen.

Julian Sayin: If rankings were solely based on just the Elite 11 for an apples-to-apples comparison between Sayin and Raiola, the Alabama commit would get the slightest edge here. He’s low-key super competitive, more athletic than he gets credit for and Sayin is someone who will immediately earn the trust of Saban.

Colin Simmons: Early in the 2024 rankings, Simmons was No. 1 because he possesses all the tools of an elite pass rusher along with someone who can drop in coverage and play in space. The Duncanville, Texas, five-star has all the athleticism in the world and he’s awesome off the edge but over the years the No. 1 defensive ends have been hulking monsters such as Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

Brandon Baker: The best way to describe Baker’s game is that he’s not the biggest, most physically imposing offensive tackle to ever grace the No. 1 spot at the position, but he never loses reps and rarely gets beaten in games. He’s not 6-foot-8, 335-pound Kadyn Proctor from last recruiting cycle but he’s so technically sound, so well-coached and so consistent that over time NFL teams could fall in love with that.

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NIL CONTINUES TO BE A DISCUSSION POINT

NCAA headquarters

NCAA headquarters (© Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK)

NIL Sports, Inc. hosted an event last week in Irvine, Calif., as top prospects from around the country came West for measurements, on-field work and seminars. It was one of many of these that have popped up since Name, Image and Likeness has become such a crucial part of college football recruiting.

It’s also telling how top prospects are still working through NIL, how they think about it in their recruitment and how they publicly say one thing and might be privately working toward a certain dollar figure to land their commitment.

One big-time defensive prospect is making his commitment within the week and NIL was not brought up once by him about why he chose the particular program he did. Another elite prospect said it’s something he considers but is also turned off by promises that cannot be kept.

There was one prospect there that was rumored to be seriously pursuing NIL deals but didn’t mention it once when he talked about top programs. The whole arena still seems taboo but also right there in the open with everyone knowing collectives and many others are putting together deals for players.

What’s going on isn’t illegal or against the rules (for the most part) but it still feels like prospects are reticent to talk about deals and NIL in general – other than to say it has almost no factor in their decisions. Which might be true, no one is quite sure.

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