Counter Intel: Crimson Tide Gaining More Ground, Fleck Hits Ohio, and Penn State Adds Another Talented Tight End

By Andrew Ellis on August 16, 2020 at 11:05 am
Texas Tom landed a big one in five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers.
Quinn Ewers via 247 Sports

Counter Intel is the smart Ohio State fan's look at recruiting action taking place within the Big Ten and top national programs.

PSU, Minnesota Lead the Way in the Midwest

Another week and another addition for James Franklin's 2022 recruiting class. The latest commitment makes four straight weeks that PSU has added to its class that now ranks No. 3 in the country behind only LSU and Ohio State. The most recent pledge was yet another tight end in the form of Atlanta's Holden Staes; the country's No. 4 player at the position. Staes joins Milwaukee's Jerry Cross as the second tight end in Franklin's class.

P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers also made some noise for the Class of 2022. Minnesota's first commitment for the class is the No. 8 player in the state of Ohio, and Lakewood (St. Edward) defensive end Trey Bixby is a fine prospect. Rated No. 213 nationally, Bixby holds offers from Penn State, Michigan State, Arkansas, and plenty of other programs. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder is not an Ohio native as he was born in Minnesota before spending time in both Wisconsin and Arizona. He arrived in the Buckeye state a few years back n 2018.

Tom Allen landed what is now his top-rated 2021 commitment in four-star Atlanta wideout Jaquez Smith. He's a top-200 national prospect and holds offers from all over the country; including from both Alabama and Georgia. Smith had been a little torn on his ultimate position but plans on playing wideout in Bloomington. Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and Pittsburgh were among the finalists. 

Illinois got on the board this week as well, and Lovie Smith didn't have to go all that far for his latest 2021 addition. Chevy Brenson is a 6-foot-4 wideout from the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon and plays his high school ball at the same program that produced Kamryn Babb (Christian Brothers College High). Brenson is commitment No. 16 for an Illini class that ranks No. 12 in the conference. 

One team dealt with some unfortunate news this week as Mel Tucker and the Spartans lost one of their 2021 pledges. IMG Academy tight end Jake Renda had been a Michigan State commitment dating back to July 4. Last Monday the New Jersey native decided he'd rather stay a little closer to home and spend the next four or five years at Pittsburgh. Sparty's class is sitting at No. 13 in the Big Ten; ahead of only Purdue. 

Big Week for Bama has Buckeye Lead Dwindling

It's become a common theme this summer, but Nick Saban has added another pair of 2021 commitments and gained some more ground on Ryan Day's lead atop the recruiting rankings. The Tide added No. 17 just yesterday when four-star Maryland pass-rusher Monkell Goodwine made the call. Texas A&M and Clemson were the other finalists for the country's No. 112 prospect.

Commitment No. 18 came a short time later in JUCO cornerback Khyree Jackson. He's rated as a three-star in the composite but is considered one of the top players among the junior college ranks. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound corner also hails from the state of Maryland but is now a part of the storied East Mississippi Community College program. Jackson joins former Buckeye commit Devonta Smith at cornerback for the 2021 class.

The Tide and Buckeyes are both now at 18 commitments and Saban is within eight points of the No. 1 spot. Ohio State has an average commitment rating of 94.75 while Alabama is sitting at 94.16. The Tunmise Adeleye decommitment didn't do Ryan Day any favors, and it's going to be an interesting race toward signing day. One has to think Alabama actually being on the field this fall – if it comes to fruition – may only help in Saban's quest.

Gators, Tigers, & Dawgs Doing Things Too 

Alabama wasn't the only SEC program to make some noise over the last seven days. In fact, just about every power program in the Southeast added to their 2021 classes. But it's Dan Mullen and the Gators who had a better week than any other team in the country.

We previously talked about Miami looking to load up from Palmetto High School, but it turned out to be Florida who grabbed five-star cornerback Jason Marshall last Sunday and safety Corey Collier just 24 hours later. The Marshall decision was a bit of a surprise as the country's No. 2 corner had seemingly been going back and forth between Miami and Alabama. Collier's announcement went just as everyone had expected it would. The teammates lifted Mullen's class all the way up No. 7.

Four-star Alexandria, Virginia wideout Malcolm Johnson Jr. sided with Auburn over the rest of the SEC on Friday. Rated as the No. 191 overall prospect, Johnson Jr. has a familiar player comparison in former Buckeye and current Redskin receiver Terry McLaurin. He's also made the decision to reclassify to 2020 and will enroll at Auburn next week, making him eligible for the upcoming season. 

Not to be outdone by his counterparts, Kirby Smart also added to his 14th-ranked 2021 class. The Dawgs landed four-star tight end Brock Bowers on Monday as the Napa, California native sided with Georgia over Washington. Bowers is the country's third-best tight end and is now the fifth-best commitment for Smart and the Bulldogs.

Herman, Yurcich Land Nation's No. 1  

A quick glimpse at the Sam Ehlinger era would have one wondering why a top quarterback prospect would want to play in Austin. But Quinn Ewers is not Sam Ehlinger. and Mike Yurcich isn't Tim Beck. The country's No. 1 prospect for the Class of 2022 has been the priority target for offensive juggernauts like Ohio State and Oklahoma. Now, he a chance to be a program-changer much like Vince Young turned out to be when the Longhorns signed him two decades ago back in 2002.

Ewers was phenomenal as a sophomore for the powerhouse Southlake Carroll program as he completed 72.4% of his passes and threw for 4,000+ yards and 45 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Some are already calling the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Texan the best quarterback prospect since Trevor Lawrence. Many had actually felt the Buckeyes and Sooners were battling it out for the top spot on his list leading up to Friday's unexpected announcement.

The Gators may have had the best week on the trail, but the most impactful commitment came courtesy of Tom Herman and Mike Yurcich. 

2021 Class Ranking, 8/16
1 OHIO STATE 298.52 94.75
2 ALABAMA 290.54 94.16
3 CLEMSON 267.02 94.16
4 LSU 261.91 92.76
5 OREGON 261.79 91.65
6 TENNESSEE 260.87 89.90
7 FLORIDA 260.08 89.87
8 SOUTHERN CAL 255.23 91.26
9 MIAMI 253.36 89.56
10 MICHIGAN 251.36 89.37

Other Odds & Ends

The biggest storyline with the national rankings continues to be Alabama's push toward the top spot. Ryan Day and Nick Saban are now even in regard to the number of commitments, and both programs are expected to finish with a full class of right around 25 signees. Earlier in the week, we looked at a few of the bigger pieces that are yet to fall, and shortly after that came the news of the Adeleye decommitment. Now, guys like Emeka Egbuka and J.T. Tuimoloau really take center stage.

Florida's big additions have lifted the Gators into the top-10 and all the way up to No. 7. It's really all of the usual suspects toward the top of the team rankings. Notre Dame, Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma are all just outside the top-10 with the latter two likely to make their way up the list in due time. The Sooners are trending in a big way for four-star defensive end Kelvin Gilliam, and he's set to announce on Aug. 22. 

The biggest question moving forward? If three of the Power 5 conferences do in fact play this fall, what will that mean for the Big Ten and Pac-12's recruiting efforts? 

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