College football recruiting watchlist: USA TODAY Sports college wires weigh in on Class of 2023

The Class of 2023 left the football recruiting world—and college fan bases—entranced for well over a year and a half, with high-profile names like Arch Manning creating significant buzz about their possible college landing spots.

The hype didn’t fall short on the field in 2022, either, as the top-tier crop  delivered consistently, adding to the excitement about one of the better classes in recent high school football history.

And now that the signing-period commotion is in the rearview, we know where the ’23 talents are headed to begin their college football careers, which introduces the other side of the recruiting tunnel.

To better grasp that part of the equation, we’ve turned to the USA TODAY Sports college wire writers who will be following the top recruits at Power Five schools in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, and beyond in 2023.

Our question was simple: Who are you most excited to watch from the Class of 2023?

Here’s what they had to say…

Colorado Buffaloes: Cormani McClain

(USA TODAY Sports Buffaloes Wire)

From Jack Carlough, Buffaloes Wire editor:

The easy choice here is Cormani McClain. After originally committing to Miami but not signing, Coach Prime swooped in and flipped the five-star CB to Colorado. He’ll likely have some growing pains early on, but the Buffs’ defensive backfield is loaded with McClain and Hunter manning the corners. Four-star running back Dylan Edwards also gets an honorable mention due to his elite speed, although it’s unclear how many snaps he’ll see.

USC Trojans: Tackett Curtis

(USA TODAY Sports Trojans Wire)

From Matt Zemek, Trojans Wire editor:

I’m particularly excited about Tackett Curtis, the linebacker USC successfully recruited from the state of Louisiana, beating out Big Ten competitors in a national recruiting battle.

This recruit carries significance for USC because of the national dimensions of the recruitment, the fact that USC beat out future Big Ten competitors for Curtis, and because USC needs a lot of help on defense. If Tackett Curtis is as good as advertised, USC’s defense will become a lot better, and the Trojans will wind up addressing a foremost area of need, taking heat off defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The only reason Grinch is still on the job at USC (other than being a Lincoln Riley loyalist) is that he didn’t have a lot of elite players in 2022. There was an awareness that Grinch didn’t have a fully-stocked roster. Curtis could prove Grinch’s point that he simply needed better players to improve the USC defense. Curtis could be the guy who saves Grinch’s job and stabilizes the Trojans’ defense this season.

Oregon Ducks: Jurrion Dickey

(USA TODAY Sports Ducks Wire)

From Zac Neel, Ducks Wire editor:

It feels like the low-hanging fruit, but I can’t wait to watch wide receiver Jurrion Dickey this fall once the season rolls around. He was the only 5-star in the Oregon Ducks’ 2023 class, and he comes to Eugene as one of the highest-rated WRs to ever sign with the team.

The Ducks don’t have a long history of great receivers to come through the program, so it will be interesting to see if Dickey can turn that around and become a star in Eugene. Standing at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Dickey was ranked as the No. 2 WR in the 2023 class, and he has already drawn comparisons to someone like Philadelphia Eagles’ star A.J. Brown based on his size and athletic ability. The Ducks will be led by WR Troy Franklin this season, who could very well end up in the conversation for the Biletnikoff Award, but a lot of eye balls will be on Dickey as we fans wait to see how big of an impact he can have as a true freshman.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Abram Wright

(USA TODAY Sports Rutgers Wire)

From Kristian Dyer, Rutgers Wire editor

Not quite under-the-radar as Wright did hold several Power Five offers in addition to Rutgers (Kentucky, North Carolina State and Virginia), this linebacker prospect can absolutely fly all over the field. Rutgers recruited Florida hard again this year and in Wright, they landed a player who didn’t generate quite as much buzz as his film and production would warrant.

A consensus three-star, Wright should have gotten ACC and SEC offers during his senior year but Rutgers did a good job of staying on this talented linebacker who certainly brings a chip on his shoulder to the Big Ten program.

He already has some good size at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds but it was his 4.58 time in the 40 that should have Rutgers fans eager to see what Wright can do. The two-deep at linebacker is a bit thin for Rutgers and Wright has a chance to crack the rotation as a true freshman.

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Malachi Coleman

(USA TODAY Sports Cornhuskers Wire)

From Evan Bredeson, Cornhuskers Wire editor:

Without question, the recruit I’m most excited to see in 2023 is Malachi Coleman. Coleman was the top prospect in the state of Nebraska, where he played wide receiver and defensive end for Lincoln East High School.

He initially committed to Nebraska over Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and USC in October. However, he would decommit on December 1st before re-committing in late December.

While Coleman’s play on the field has been making headlines, his actions off the field are also drawing attention. Coleman was recently featured on CBS News‘ “On the Road with Steve Hartman.”

The future Cornhusker is taking full advantage of profiting from his Name, Image, and Likeness, but what he’s doing with that money is extraordinary. Coleman is using the NIL money he has earned to help local foster kids.

Multiple recruiting services listed him as the second-best athlete in the nation. It’s believed that he will play wide receiver at Nebraska.

Ohio State Buckeyes: Brandon Innis

(USA TODAY Sports Buckeyes Wire)

From Phil Harrison, Buckeyes Wire editor:

The Ohio State football program had another fantastic recruiting class in 2023. The number of players might be lacking a bit from years past, but the quality is still there. If we’re looking for one player that jumps out to watch this coming season, we have to go with the sole 5-star prospect OSU pulled in, wide receiver Brandon Innis. I mean, it’s no surprise another receiver is one to watch with the number of elite pass-catchers Brian Hartline and Ohio State have lured to Columbus over the last few years, but the South Florida native has the skill set to get on the field immediately, even in a room full of really good wide receivers.  Innis isn’t the fastest straight-line guy but has many of the same quick burst and route-running abilities that Jaxon Smith-Njigba possessed. Look for him to really push as a slot receiver that can create all kinds of mismatches over the middle of the field and underneath, with a ton of yards after-catch potential, even as a freshman.

Iowa Hawkeyes: Dayton Howard

(USA TODAY Sports Hawkeyes Wire)

Josh Helmer, Hawkeyes Wire editor:

There’s plenty of 2023 signees to be excited about going forward for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa City High linebacker Ben Kueter has Hawkeye fans excited for what might be in Phil Parker’s defense in part because of his two-sport background.

He just became the 32nd wrestler in Iowa history to capture four state championships and only the seventh in state history to do so with an unbeaten mark throughout high school. Offensive tackle Trevor Lauck is another name that comes to mind for down the road.

If it’s in the here and now, though, it has to be one of the wide receivers that Iowa signed simply out of necessity. Iowa was able to pluck Park Hill High School product Dayton Howard from Kansas City, Mo., away from Kansas State and Iowa State.
Given the departures of Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV, the 6-foot-4, 190 pound wide receiver should have a chance to immediately add speed and size on the outside for a Hawkeye receiver corps desperate for playmakers. A three-star signee per 247Sports, Howard tallied 760 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.

Michigan State Spartans: Bai Jobe

(USA TODAY Sports Spartans Wire)

From Andrew Brewster, Spartans Wire editor:

For me, this is the most exciting player in MSU’s class. Possibly the athletic freak of the class, if Michigan State can develop him, he could become one of the greats. It’ll be extremely interesting to see how he looks as a freshman considering how raw he is supposed to be.

Penn State Nittany Lions: Tony Rojas

(USA TODAY Sports Nittany Lions Wire)

From Kevin McGuire, Nittany Lions Wire editor:

Penn State’s linebacker legacy is well-documented, which is why I am most looking forward to watching Tony Rojas come in and get right to work for the Nittany Lions. Rojas was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Virginia and he was a nice addition to Penn State’s Class of 2023. As an early enrollee, he is already getting tow work and could be a player we see get on the field pretty early alongside last season’s freshman star in the making, Abdul Carter.

Wisconsin Badgers: Amare Snowden

(USA TODAY Sports Badgers Wire)

From Asher Low, Badgers Wire editor:
I am most excited to watch defensive back Amare Snowden, who signed with the Badgers after originally committing to head coach Luke Fickell at Cincinnati. Snowden committed to the Bearcats back in June before decommitting upon Fickell’s decision to come to Wisconsin.
The first thing that jumps off the page with Snowden is his size as a defensive back. He is a legit 6-foot-3 and will be one of the biggest corners on Wisconsin’s roster. In high school, Snowden was a star on both sides of the ball. The Michigan native excelled as a cornerback and wide receiver at Roseville High School. The consensus four-star recruit totaled 37 tackles, six interceptions and five pass breakups as a senior while adding 23 receptions for 368 yards and three scores on offense. He was a dual-sport athlete, and was arguably just as good on the baseball diamond as he was on the football field. In fact, college baseball was his initial dream.
Snowden’s size, ball skills, and the fact that he plays a current position of need gives him a chance for playing time as a true freshman.

Michigan Wolverines: Benjamin Hall

(USA TODAY Sports Wolverines Wire)

From Isaiah Hole, Wolverines Wire editor:

Hear me out. Why would I select a recruit who was but a lowly three-star and near the bottom of Michigan football’s 2023 class? The weird thing about Wolverines recruiting is that they has more of a hit rate with the lower-ranked players than the higher-ranked ones. Remember: RB Hassan Haskins, who scored five rushing touchdowns agains Ohio State in 2021, was the No. 975 prospect in the nation in 2018 according to the 247Sports Composite.Hall has reportedly been one of the more impressive early enrollees for Michigan in spring. While he’ll be playing behind Heisman Trophy candidates Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, at 5-foot-10, 225-pounds, he offers a different type of skillset. Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore likened him to a freight train, noting his giant, built legs and work ethic in the weight room in his spring ball press conference. Michigan doesn’t have a designated short-yardage back at the moment, and though Corum will be the likely candidate in big spots, I fully expect Hall to see early playing time and greatly exceed his No. 782 ranking.

Notre Dame: Christian Gray

(USA TODAY Sports Fighting Irish Wire)

From Nick Shepkowski, Fighting Irish Wire editor:
Notre Dame will enter the 2023 season with higher expectations than the 8-4 regular season mark a year ago that landed them a berth in the Gator Bowl.  In order to reach those lofty goals against a difficult schedule that features Clemson, Ohio State, and USC each, newcomers are going to have to make a positive impact rather quickly.
The defensive side of the ball is the most likely place to see that happen for Notre Dame.  A year after cornerback Benjamin Morrison walked away with six interceptions and freshman All-American honors, top-10 2023 cornerback Christian Gray now joins the secondary.  Like Morrison a season ago, expect reps early in the year for Gray they have roughly a month to get ready for the Ohio State showdown. Playing an opposite corner than Morrison should mean a lot of chance for pass breakups and interceptions, both of which Gray clearly looks able to do early in his college career.

Florida Gators: Kelby Collins

(USA TODAY Sports Gators Wire)

From Adam Dubbin, Gators Wire editor:

Collins’ frame projects well on the defensive line at the collegiate level, with an athletic physique that provides him a great deal of versatility up front as well as back in pass coverage. His explosiveness at his size is a plus attribute that appears to still be trending upward despite still having room for further growth. As Florida deals with its departures from the defensive corps — as well as the personnel shuffle — there is a good chance he could contribute early on if the roster runs a bit thin.

Tennessee Volunteers: Cameron Seldon

(USA TODAY Sports Vols Wire)

From Dan Harralson, Vols Wire editor:

Cameron Seldon signed with Tennessee during the early signing period Dec. 21, 2022.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound wide receiver is from Northumberland High School in Heathsville, Virginia. He played multiple positions in high school including quarterback, wide receiver, running back, cornerback, safety and returned kickoffs and punts.

Seldon will provide versatility within Tennessee’s offense.

Vols’ offensive coordinator Joey Halzle discussed Seldon ahead of Tennessee’s spring practices. 

“He gives you a chance to do some really fun stuff,” Halzle said of Seldon. “Obviously, with a young guy that’s first time in the building, you got to be careful to not bog somebody down and overload them with everything you could do. You got to get him good at one thing first.

“Where he ends up starting out, as we get through our pre-spring stuff before we get on the field for spring ball, we’ll make that decision more definitive as we roll based on what he can handle, what he does well, what he doesn’t do well. Then once he gets one thing cemented — okay he’s really good at this — now you can start growing a guy like that’s extra roles. Really whatever they can handle, starting at a young age and moving on through his time throughout the program.”

Auburn Tigers: Keldric Faulk

(USA TODAY Sports Auburn Wire)

From Taylor Jones, Auburn Wire editor:
Faulk is a four-star defensive end that flipped from Florida State to Auburn before signing day and became the top signee of the 2023 class. He won the AHSAA Class 2A lineman of the year award after recording 84 tackles for Highland Home High School. He is expected to play a hybrid role between Jack linebacker and defensive line, depending on the game situation.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Jaylon Braxton

(USA TODAY Sports Razorbacks Wire)

From Eric Bolin, Razorbacks Wire editor:

Coach Sam Pittman captured the 22nd-ranked recruiting class in the land over the winter. A good pull for Arkansas, even if it’s still behind most of the rest of the SEC. Picking a player to watch for next season from the group isn’t easy. Not because the Razorbacks are loaded with so many future stars that it’s hard to pick just one (they’re not, really), but because if Pittman and his staff are doing things the right way, most of them won’t see the field next year enough to disqualify them from redshirt status, anyway. Shamar Easter and Luke Hasz are the two highest-ranked offensive players. When is the last time you were pumped to watch a tight end, though? Really, long-term the answer is quarterback Malachi Singleton. Arkansas needs a replacement for KJ Jefferson starting in 2024. Short-term, let’s go with defensive back Jaylon Braxton. He’s a cornerback and the Razorbacks appear to have plans for the future there, but as bad as the secondary was last year, they need all the help they can get.

Alabama Crimson Tide: Richard Young

(USA TODAY Sports Roll Tide Wire)

From AJ Spurr, Roll Tide Wire editor:

For Alabama, the most exciting 2023 recruit would have to be running back Richard Young out of Lehigh Acres, Florida. Young committed to the Crimson Tide over other highly-coveted programs like Georgia, Notre Dame and others. Despite not yet having seen the field, he has already represented the Tide well by helping out on the recruiting trail. With Jahmyr Gibbs off to the NFL, Young could see some considerable playing time. Currently, the projected starter is Jase McClellan, who is poised to be the lead back. However, Alabama’s offense rarely features only one running back. With a strong Spring performance, Young could easily become the team’s RB2, bypassing Roydell Williams, and contribute to the offense as a true freshman.

LSU Tigers: Dashawn Womack

(USA TODAY Sports LSU Tigers Wire)

From Tyler Nettuno, LSU Tigers Wire editor:
As far as I’m concerned, the answer for LSU is clear — true freshman early enrollee edge rusher Dashawn Womack. He’s one of two five-star signees in the Tigers’ class, the other being offensive tackle Zalance Heard, who is the higher-rated of the pair. But Heard won’t arrive until the fall, and the path to the field may not be as clear for him with two true sophomore starting tackles returning. Womack, on the other hand, could see playing time early on as LSU lost both its starting defensive ends to the draft. He already has good size for a true freshman and the frame to add more mass if he’s going to become a true defensive end at the next level. Regardless, he could see the field early on as a rotational player in 2023.

Texas A&M Aggies: Reuben Owens

(USA TODAY Sports Aggies Wire)

From Cameron Ohnysty, Aggies Wire editor:

Reuben Owens is definitely the most intriguing signee in the 2023 recruiting class for Texas A&M. Coming in as a five-star RB and A&M’s second-highest-ranked signee in the class, Owens was simply born to run with a football. During his illustrious high school career in El Campo, Owens’ recorded over 7,000-plus rushing yards and 100-plus touchdowns, and due to his 5-11 height, Owen’s used every bit of his frame to his advantage in the passing game, something new Aggie’s offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino requires in his offense. Whether it’s his incredible burst, quick feet, or first-move explosiveness, Reuben Owens is entering a running back room in 2023 without a defined starting option, providing him the opportunity to potentially shoot up the depth chart at a rapid pace.

Georgia Bulldogs: Damon Wilson

(USA TODAY Sports UGA Wire)

From Joe Vitale, UGA Wire editor:

Five-star edge rusher Damon Wilson (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is at the top of Georgia’s stacked 2023 recruiting class. The Venice, Fla., native is ranked as the No. 20 overall recruit, the No. 3 edge rusher and the No. 4 player in Florida, per 247Sports composite rankings. Named ‘one of the best pure pass rushers in the class of 2023’ by 247Sports, Wilson’s addition is big for Georgia as the Bulldogs look to fill the void left by edge rushers Nolan Smith and Robert Beal Jr., who are off to the NFL. The mixture of Wilson’s size and speed give him great advantages as a pass rusher.

Oklahoma Sooners: Adepoju Adebawore

(USA TODAY Sports Sooners Wire)

From John Williams, Sooners Wire editor:

In a historic signing class for Brent Venables and the Oklahoma Sooners, there are a plethora of names to be excited about for the coming year in Norman. While the obvious thought might be Jackson Arnold, if all goes well for the Sooners, he doesn’t see any significant playing time. Five-star edge rusher Adepoju Adebawore, on the other hand, could figure into the Oklahoma Sooners edge rotation early in his career. He’s got the size, athleticism, and work ethic to make enough of an impression on the coaching staff to rise up the depth chart. Oklahoma’s added some edge talent this offseason to help bolster a defensive front that struggled to rush the passer with consistency in 2022, and Adebawore figures to have a shot to make an impact in year one.

Texas Tech Red Raiders: Isaiah Crawford

(USA TODAY Sports College Sports Wire)

From Patrick Conn, Regional Editor, Sports Media Group:

The most exciting prospect for the Red Raiders and second-year head Joey McGuire has to be Isaiah Crawford. The four-star edge rusher out of Post, Texas, was one of the first prospects to flip to Tech. Crawford was originally committed to play for Baylor but when McGuire left for Lubbock, the top 300 commit opted to follow him and remain in the panhandle area.

Given the success that Tyree Wilson had with the Red Raiders, Crawford should be licking his chops. The multi-sport star did miss his senior season at Post but finished his junior year with 78 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 5 sacks. In his sophomore year, Crawford was the 2-2A Newcomer of the Year and helped Post reach the state title game with a 15-1 record. He may not seen a ton of playing time this upcoming season but when the dust settles, he will likely be the best prospect from the 2023 class.

Texas Longhorns: Anthony Hill

(USA TODAY Sports Longhorns Wire)

From Cami Griffin, Longhorns Wire editor:

Former five-star linebacker Anthony Hill is the most exciting 2023 recruit that Longhorns Wire will be looking forward to watching this upcoming season. While running back Cedric Baxter and wide receiver Johntay Cook will likely receive significant playing time, Hill has the chance to secure a starting role this offseason. He’s an athletic, physical and violent player who is already turning heads throughout strength and conditioning workouts as an early enrollee.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Chris Culliver

(USA TODAY Sports Tar Heels Wire)

From Zach Pearson, Tar Heels Wire editor:

Looking at North Carolina’s 2023 class, there are a few guys that I can see coming in right away and making an instant impact. With the Tar Heels losing production on offense, a player like wide receiver Chris Culliver has a chance to come in and earn early playing time. The four-star receiver is among the best at his position in the class and brings some speed to the position for the Tar Heels. He’s a former Track and Field star as well, and if he can use his speed to his advantage, he has the chance to be a weapon in the UNC offense over the next few years. That could potentially begin here in 2023 if he has a big offseason.

Clemson Tigers: Peter Woods

(USA TODAY Sports Clemson Wire)

From Alex Turri, Clemson Wire editor:

Is there really any other choice here? Peter Woods is far and away the 2023 recruit I’m most looking forward to watching next season. While stud freshman quarterback Christopher Vizzina would be in consideration if he plays serious minutes, that likely means something went wrong in the Tigers’ season. The hype around Peter Woods is real, and it’s only gained steam since he arrived on campus. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney recently said that Woods is already ahead of where Christian Wilkins and Bryan Bresee were early in their Clemson careers, which is tremendous praise considering how those two performed as a freshman and down the line. Clemson’s defensive line coach and top recruit Nick Eason followed suit, saying that Woods has the potential to be one of the best linemen to ever come through the program. If you know Clemson football, you know how serious of a statement that is. When defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin received a question on what stands out about Woods, he responded with his own question, “what doesn’t?” Looking at Clemson’s defense right now, it’s safe to say Barrett Carter is the best player on the Tigers’ defense. When asked about Woods, Carter said, “he’s just manhandling offensive linemen as an incoming freshman.” Need I say anymore? I and Tigers fans cannot wait to see what this young defensive lineman has in store for the program.

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