Spring is the season for college football recruiting dominoes, and not just at quarterback.
Of course the discussion begins at the sport’s most important position – and there was movement over the weekend – but momentum for select programs has picked up on the recruiting front with spring practice season turning into spring game season. The fans are back in the stands, official visits are beginning to take place and there is that combination of urgency and anticipation in tracking the next wave of college football talent from both the program and prospect standpoint.
Over the weekend, evidence of the momentum picking up for the class of 2023 showed in the commitments that came down and it has carried over onto the start of a new week with an international commitment to Miami, Tennessee adding in-state defensive lineman Nathan Robinson and even a punter for Texas A&M before lunch hour.
The decisions began to flood in on Friday, however, and it was a quarterback making his call. Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease quarterback Marcus Stokes, who had been on a slew of visits in the Southern footprint to places like Ole Miss, Florida and Miami, took a trip up the Penn State and admitted he thought about making a verbal commitment the moment he got on campus. The Nittany Lions had offered before many Power Five programs did and it came back around with the athletic, live-armed passer’s pledge in James Franklin’s office.
“It felt like home,” Stokes said Sports Illustrated. “The love is real, the atmosphere is amazing and they are all great people.”
In the business that is quarterback recruiting, many programs are holding out for the most popular arm in Arch Manning while also trying to keep an eye on recruits with upward trajectory likes Stokes. With the time frames for Manning, Jaden Rashada, Dante Moore and other more well-known passers extending deeper into the year, other highly thought-of talents are pushing up decision dates.
Next up is a big one in Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian star Christopher Vizzina, arguably the hottest quarterback prospect in the class since the fall. Clemson, where he was over the weekend during the program’s spring game festivities, became the first blue blood type offer for the big, athletic talent in the fall. Many others – including Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Ole Miss and others – have followed through with extensions as his stock has risen. Vizzina has tripped to each of the programs mentioned, and recently, but appears ready to shut the process down this week.
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The timing has to favor the Tigers, which along with Ole Miss have had him on campus three times each. But in reading the tea leaves between CU and the other programs, it’s Dabo Swinney’s staff that may be most ‘all-in’ with the ascending talent, who broke out with a 31-tochdown junior campaign against strong competition in 2021.
The Tigers haven’t offered another quarterback since going in on Vizzina, while subsequently falling out of the Manning sweepstakes in the winter months. The other programs are either still courting Manning (Georgia, Ole Miss), Moore (Notre Dame, Ohio State) or have been relatively new to the race with out-of-state programs prioritizing him sooner (Auburn).
“They haven’t offered anybody else and they ain’t getting Arch,” a source told SI in March of Clemson’s standing at the position. It’s Vizzina-or-bust for the ACC power.
At least two more high-profile recruitments will come to a close this week beyond the QB spot in South Florida running back Mark Fletcher and Peach State defensive back Michael Daugherty. Each is set to come off the board on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The two have also been busy on the visit trail ahead of their public picks, much like Vizzina and Stokes had been.
A physical, 6’1 “, 220-pound back out of powerhouse program Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage High School, Fletcher has been a known recruit since he was an underclassman contributor for multiple state championship rosters. Nearly two dozen scholarship offers have come in his way but most feel a commitment will come down to the last two programs he has visited – Ohio State and Miami. The Buckeyes have plucked elite talent from the area seemingly every cycle, including SI99 pass rusher Kenyatta Jackson from nearby Hollywood last fall, while The U has restored buzz under new head coach Mario Cristobal Michigan and Penn State are also listed finalists for Fletcher’s commitment ceremony.
Daugherty may also be mulling between his last two trips, too. The Loganville (Ga.) Grayson star took an official visit to LSU before doing the same at North Carolina over the weekend with his family in-tow. While the defensive back projection is technically considering seven programs – with Georgia, Texas, Auburn, Miami and Louisville in the mix – it would be a surprise should he end up at a program outside of Baton Rouge or Chapel Hill coming off of the only two official visits he has taken. Each were return trips to the respective campuses of late, too, with the Tiger camp holding the most buzz before the multi-day stay at UNC.
Auburn, Syracuse, Kansas State and Oregon, which also added the final available SI99 recruit from the 2022 cycle in Josh Conerly on Friday night in an upset over USC by some measures, each earned verbal commitments in the 2023 recruiting class over the weekend.
The volume among commitments to Power Five programs should continue to rise in the coming days and weeks with the biggest spring game slate set for this coming weekend and other showcases – often where recruiting visits are centered – taking place the weekend of April 23.