We’ve reached the point where the majority of the country’s top 2018 prospects are already verbally committed to some school or another. Most of those commitments will stick, though not all will. This post is a rundown of the 11 highest-rated prospects who don’t have a current verbal commitment to any school. Predictions by SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott.
Devon Williams, five-star WR, Antelope Valley (California)
The nation’s No. 4 wide receiver holds 15 offers, including ones from Oregon, Utah, and Alabama. Williams is a major deep threat. There’s a chance the Lancaster (Calif.) Antelope Valley prospect could stay closer to home and pick USC, but Oregon has been on him forever. Prediction: With the continuity hire of Mario Cristobal at Oregon, I expect that the Ducks will remain in a good spot and sign the speedy receiver and beat out the Trojans.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart, five-star DB, San Diego (Calif.) Helix
Taylor-Stuart is one of the best athletes in the nation. A freak at corner or receiver, he is way too fast for a 6’2 defensive back. Prediction: Ultimately, I think USC gets it done, but Taylor-Stuart does seem open to schools in the Southeast.
Olaijah Griffin, four-star DB, Mission Viejo (Calif.)
Regulatooooorrrrrs! Griffin is the son of rap legend Warren G., but he’d be famous in the recruiting world even if he was not, because the 6’0 defensive back can really play. Prediction: While there was some initial noise about Tennessee after the hire of coach Jeremy Pruitt, I don’t believe he’ll go across the country. USC is typically the smart bet for players from SoCal.
Penei Sewell, four-star OT, Saint George (Utah) Desert Hills
Sewell is one of the top offensive linemen out West. At 6’5 and 340 pounds, he overwhelms his opponents with his strength. Oregon, USC, and Alabama are all pursuing. Prediction: Oregon just promoted an offensive lineman to its head coach in Mario Cristobal. Cristobal’s Ducks look to get bigger and more physical along the offensive line. Oregon’s star left tackle left early for the NFL draft. Oregon makes too much sense.
William Barnes, four-star OT, Apopka (Fla.)
Barnes is a very athletic prospect from powerhouse Apopka High. He stands an impressive 6’4 and weighs 320 pounds. Apopka is seen as Florida Gators’ territory, and UF did sign the last elite lineman to come out of the school in Martez Ivey. But Florida had a coaching change and UNC has been stable with Barnes. Prediction: I think Barnes is going to go to UNC, which is also apparently willing to take a commit from his teammate and fellow OL, Ed Montelus.
Jaylen Waddle, four-star WR, Bellaire (Texas) Episcopal
Waddle is one of the more dynamic players in the nation. A perfect fit for the slot at 5’9 and 178 pounds, he is electric in open space. I think this is a two-team race: Texas A&M and Alabama. Prediction: Waddle was high on Florida State’s staff before they moved to Texas A&M, and now that staff is in place less than 100 miles from his home. A&M needs to make a splash and the Aggies are the pick.
Jacob Copeland, four-star WR, Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia
Copeland is a tough, physical receiver with better quickness than long speed. He is not afraid to go over the middle. Prediction: The vibe at the Under Armour All-America Game week was Alabama, but playing time might be tough to come by with Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith, and Jerry Jeudy all returning. For that reason, I’m going with the Gators.
Solomon Tuliaupupu, four-star LB, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
One of the best hitters in the class, Tuliaupupu is ready to play from Day 1. He racked up more than 30 offers, including Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama. Prediction: USC. This one seems too easy. Mater Dei has a good USC tradition, his teammate J.T. Daniels is going there, and the Trojans need linebackers.
Tommy Bush, four-star WR, Schertz (Texas) Samuel Clemens
Bush is a lanky speedster who can blow by defenders, or use his 6’4 frame to go up and catch the football. He holds more than 20 offers. Prediction: Baylor was long thought to have the advantage for Bush, but Ole Miss media are extremely confident on this one late, so I’ll go with the Rebels.
Justyn Ross, four-star WR, Phenix City (Ala.) Central
Ross is one of the most athletic players in the class. A raw football prospect due to playing basketball, Ross is just learning the game. Prediction: Ross was expected to go to Clemson for the longest time, and still might, but the in-state Crimson Tide have made a huge push, letting Ross know that he is their priority. You don’t go broke betting on Alabama.
Micah Parsons, five-star DE, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania)
The five-star prospect is the No. 1 recruit out of the state of Pennsylvania, and he’s visited Georgia and Penn State in the last month. Prediction: Parsons had strong Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Georgia interest at different times during his recruitment, but I fully expect the pass rusher to end up back where he was first committed — Penn State. Result: It’s Penn State.
Eyabi Anoma, five-star DE, Pace Academy (Maryland)
Out of Baltimore (Md.) Pace Academy, Anoma is this year’s No. 7 prospect in the country. He took three officials in the last two months, heading to Michigan, Alabama, and Maryland. Prediction: Everyone thinks the Tide will again go to the Atlantic region and pull another five-star, and I agree. Result: Alabama
Jackson Carman, five-star OT Fairfield (Ohio)
The No. 1 OT in this year’s class has 41 offers, including from Ohio State, Clemson, and USC. Carman, out of Fairfield, (Ohio) took visits to USC and Clemson this past month. Prediction: It is just so hard to pick an elite player from Ohio at a position of need going somewhere other than the Buckeyes. So I won’t. Urban Meyer wins this battle. Update: With Cade Mays expected to select Georgia, I am flipping my pick for Carman to Clemson. Result: Clemson
Cade Mays, five-star OT, Knoxville Catholic (Tennessee)
The Knoxville (Tenn.) prospect was a longtime Tennessee commit, but that ended with Butch Jones’ departure. Since he’s been back on the market, he’s taken visits to Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Georgia. Prediction: Despite Georgia’s commitments barking that the Dec. 15 visit was enough to get Mays to Athens, I’m sticking with Clemson for the former Vols commitment. Clemson has playing time to offer, and Mays is also tight with several Clemson prospects. Update: After speaking with Georgia and Clemson sources, the Georgia side seems much more confident, so I am flipping my prediction on Mays to the Dawgs. That would make an incredible close for Georgia, giving UGA the best offensive line class in the nation for the second-consecutive year. Result: Georgia.
Jamaree Salyer, five-star OG, Pace Academy (Georgia)
The Atlanta (Ga.) Pace prospect is this year’s top-rated guard for the class of 2018. He’s expected to land at Georgia and stay close to home, but he took an official visit to Florida this month, too. Prediction: Georgia is rapidly building momentum in an attempt to sign the No. 1 class in the country, and I expect Salyer to join it. Result: Yup, UGA.
Brenton Cox, five-star DE, Stockbridge (Ga.)
Cox is a former Ohio State commit. With excellent size (6’5, 245) and burst, it’s easy to see why he is rated so highly. He has over 30 offers. Prediction: I expect Cox to pick Georgia over Alabama when he signs. Result: Georgia.
KJ Henry, five-star DE, Clemmons (North Carolina)
The Clemmons (N.C.) West Forsyth prospect’s last visit came in October to South Carolina. Henry has a good blend of size and burst. He visited Clemson in September, where he is expected to be a lean. Prediction: Georgia and South Carolina tried their best, but I expect Henry to sign with Clemson during the early signing period. Result: Clemson
Terrace Marshall, five-star WR, Parkway (Louisiana)
The nation’s No. 1 receiver for 2018 has 27 offers, including ones from LSU and Texas A&M. Due to his talent, the Bossier City, (La.) Parkway prospect is on a lot of teams’ big boards this cycle. Prediction: Jimbo Fisher’s move from FSU to Texas A&M has probably made this closer than some realize, but you’ll go broke predicting LSU to miss on top targets from its state, so the Tigers are the pick. Result: LSU.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, five-star WR, Mater Dei (Calif.)
The Anaheim (Calif.) Mater Dei prospect is the No. 1 prospect out of California this year, and he holds 26 offers. Although he could definitely stay out west, Notre Dame has been recruiting him hard, too. St. Brown is one of the best slot receivers to come along in a while. Prediction: There was a time when I thought Notre Dame had a real shot due to his brothers, Osiris and Equanimeous, but now all of my sources think USC is the choice. Result: USC
Patrick Surtain Jr., five-star CB, American Heritage (Fla.)
He’s the son of former three-time Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain. He’s got his father’s talent, too — Surtain Jr. is the No. 5 player in the country, with 33 offers. The Fort Lauderdale (Florida) American Heritage prospect has been an LSU lean for some time. Prediction: Most would say LSU, due to the family’s connection to the state, and that is what I will say as well. But I am not fully sold on that, as Clemson, Alabama, and Miami are all also in the mix somewhat. Result: I got it wrong, Alabama won out.
Tyson Campbell, five-star DB, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage
Campbell might be the most athletic prospect in the nation. Miami, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Clemson have all recruited Campbell well, and the 6’2 DB plays his cards close to the vest. Prediction: Will he pair up with Surtain and shock the world with both picking Alabama? Could he stay home and pick Miami? I’ll say no to both, and that Campbell picks Georgia, finishing out an awesome class. Result: UGA got it done.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, five-star OT, Berkeley Prep (Fla.)
Out of Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep, Petit-Frere took a few visits to Notre Dame this fall, and also saw Michigan. His 6’6, 272-pound frame makes him a coveted position player with the size he already has coming out of high school. Prediction: I am going with the in-state school Florida, narrowly edging out the national champion Crimson Tide, and Ohio State, with whom he has a great relationship via coordinator Greg Schiano. Result: The relationship with Schiano won out, as Petit-Frere is a Buckeye.
Tanner McKee, four-star QB, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
McKee is a prototypical pocket passer at 6’6 with a rocket arm. But will he actually sign a National Letter of Intent? McKee is expected to take his Latter-day Saints (Mormon) mission before he plays his college football. Prediction: Stanford is seen as the clear-cut frontrunner, if McKee actually signs. Result: McKee did choose Stanford