Despite the popularity of the transfer portal, recruiting is still how college football coaches build the foundation of their teams and add talent year after year. Coaches can fill voids through the portal, which has impacted high school prospects, but recruiting is still the lifeblood of a program.
With some new coaches looking to build rosters, some coaches nearing the hot seat and others trying to get their programs on track, we look at which teams need to have strong performances in the 2023 recruiting cycle.
USC was struggling on the recruiting trail prior to Lincoln Riley taking over as head coach. The previous staff had a good run in 2021 with 10 ESPN 300 commitments, but that was after landing only one — wide receiver Gary Bryant — in the 2020 class.
Riley got five-star defensive back Domani Jackson to recommit and landed ESPN 300 running back Raleek Brown, safety Zion Branch and receiver C.J. Williams, but didn’t have enough time to completely turn the program around. The program finished the 2022 cycle ranked No. 52 in the class rankings, landing eight high school commitments. The remainder of the class was filled with transfers, including Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams and receiver Mario Williams.
Those are huge additions, but Riley and his staff need to build a good foundation in California and try to keep more of the top in-state recruits home than the previous staff.
He’s off to a fast start in 2023 with ESPN 300 quarterback Malachi Nelson, the No. 2 recruit overall; wide receiver Zachariah Branch, the No. 1 receiver; and Makai Lemon, the No. 3 receiver in the class. If the start for the program is any indication of how it will finish, Riley should have no problem cracking the top 10 in the class rankings.
Clemson isn’t on the list because it has had poor recruiting results. After all, the program finished 14th in the class rankings this past cycle, which is not in the elite category, but it’s also not bad considering who the staff added. ESPN 300 quarterback Cade Klubnik was one of the main features and could push for early playing time.
The reason Clemson finds itself on the list is because coach Dabo Swinney has not used the transfer portal as frequently as other coaches and seems as though he is not using it to fill needs. The only transfer Clemson has coming in this offseason is quarterback Hunter Johnson, who transferred from Clemson to Northwestern, only to transfer back to Clemson again.