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Race for No. 1: A new contender enters the mix

The July edition regarding the race for 247Sports’ No. 1 recruiting class in 2021 still sees Ohio State with a commanding lead, but the Big Ten power remains vulnerable to the same programs moving forward in Clemson, LSU, Georgia and Alabama.

But perhaps it’s time to add a new contender into the mix. Welcome to the race for No. 1, Oregon. 

Mario Cristobals Ducks have finished atop the Pac-12 standings the last two cycles and sit there once again, at No. 5 nationally in the 247Sports Composite Team Recruiting Rankings. They have the firepower left on the board to cross the finish line first, but it will take some magic on the trail in landing the likes of five-star defensive linemen Korey Foreman and J.T. Tuimoloau to pull it off. The Nos. 1 and No. 2 overall prospects in the country keep in touch with Oregon but continue to trend elsewhere on the 247Sports Crystal Ball.

However, the Ducks are the 247Sports Crystal Ball favorite for the country’s No. 6 receiver Dont’e Thornton and No. 10 offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia. Four-star defensive lineman Keanu Williams looks like the next one in the boat when he announces his college decision on July 11. A commitment from the three of those prospects would see Oregon rise to No. 2 with a score of 275.81. That would already be enough points to snare a No. 7 finish in last year’s cycle. 

That’s also two points shy of the Ducks’ 2019 class that finished No. 7 in the standings, the best finish the program has registered yet. 

Oregon is pushing hard for the nation’s No. 5 and No. 10 cornerbacks respectively in Ceyair Wright and Nathaniel Wiggins, they’re trying to make a move with four-star defensive lineman Aaron Armitage, and the country’s No. 4 offensive guard Bryce Foster continues to be a coveted target, too.

It won’t be easy, clearly. It’s probably not likely. But Oregon cannot be discounted as a contender at this point in the process, which is a story in and of itself. 

THE CRIMSON WAVE ARRIVED IN JUNE

The June edition of this article forecasted a surge coming for Alabama. Sure enough, it happened. 

The Crimson Tide climbed from No. 41 in the rankings to No. 12, with an average ranking per commit of 94.09 that only trails Ohio State and Clemson. The new members of the class include five-star offensive tackle JC Latham, the country’s No. 2 weak-side defensive end Dallas Turner, four-star receiver Christian Leary, and former Buckeyes defensive back commit Devonta Smith — who, thankfully for sportswriters, will arrive on campus after the departure of the superstar receiver with the same name. 

Alabama has also since become the 247Sports Crystal Ball leader for the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country Damon Payne, they continue to be the heavy favorite for Top247 linebacker Kendrick Blackshire who will commit sometime this month and the pulse hasn’t seemed to change with five-star offensive tackle Tommy Brockermeyer and his twin brother James Brockermeyer, the No. 1 center in the country. They’ll keep pushing for linebacker Xavian Sorey and safety Terrion Arnold, too.

Beyond those names you still have Tuimoloau along with the No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks in the country, Ga’Quincy McKinstry and Jason Marshall keeping the Crimson Tide among their leaders. Five-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims will announce his commitment Aug. 15 with Alabama and Georgia considered the top two, there is still the battle going on with LSU for the No. 7 receiver in the class Brian Thomas Jr., and ballyhooed defensive tackle Shemar Turner and Top247 offensive guard Jager Burton could end up in Tuscaloosa. 

The list of four-star targets interested is deeper than the names mentioned.

Alabama has finished atop the standings 10 out of the last 12 years, with two runner-up finishes mixed in as well, and this class is suddenly trending towards another similar conclusion.

HOLD THAT TIGER? 

LSU moved up to No. 6 with the recent commitments from Top247 receiver Chris Hilton and four-star edge rushers Naquan Brown and Keanu Koht.

As you look at this class moving forward, you see the Tigers at the top or near the top for the likes of Foreman, five-star offensive tackle Tristan Leigh, five-star running back Camar Wheaton, five-star defensive tackle Maason Smith, McKinstry and the top-ranked safety in the country in Sage Ryan. So there’s a path for Ed Orgeron and company to finish with the No. 1 overall class. 

We mentioned the battle with the Tide for Thomas, the wide receiver. LSU is also a contender for the No. 1 tight end in the Top247 in Thomas Fidone and they could land touted offensive lineman Diego Pounds as well. They’ll keep trying to sway the Brockermeyers recruitment in their favor. 

Last month I wrote LSU didn’t seem to have the juice to finish No. 1 with this shaping up to be more of a top five class. I was wrong. The defending national champs will be fun to follow the rest of this cycle.

BIG BATTLES LIE AHEAD FOR THE BULLDOGS

It seems Georgia has its hands full for a lot of their top targets.

Kirby Smart and his staff are in the thick of it for Foreman and Smith. Alabama is bringing the fight for Mims. Miami is challenging for five-star athlete James Williams. Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee are pushing the Bulldogs for five-star linebacker Smael Mondon. Michigan is the program trending for the No. 3 running back Donovan Edwards. Perhaps a visit to Athens puts Georgia in the driver seat for the No. 4 running back LJ Johnson.

Smart and company are pushing for Sorey and they’re in the middle of it for the country’s No. 8 cornerback Nyland Green. They continue to be the favorite for the No. 1 tight end in the 247Sports Composite Brock Bowers and Top247 offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson. They love Arnold, the safety, and Shemar Turner. I think the Bulldogs are in a good spot for four-star defensive tackle Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins.

Coming off two No. 1 classes in last three cycles, we know Georgia is going to win their fair share of these, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion they’re the biggest threat to reel in Ohio State. They’re in the mix, though. 

CLEMSON WILL NEED TO REEL KOREY FOREMAN BACK IN 

Clemson has the No. 2 class in the country in both the overall and average ranking per commit category. Foreman continues to keep the Tigers among his favorites after decommitting in April. The Tigers will need him back in the fold if they have any chance to catch the Buckeyes or keep pace with these programs coming from behind.

Regardless it’s still going to be another terrific class for Dabo Swinney and company. Top247 defensive tackle Payton Page will announce his college plans July 28 and the ACC power remains the 247Sports Crystal Ball favorite. They’re among the leaders for Leigh, Marshall and Green as well as five-star offensive tackle Nolan Rucci and the No. 2 safety in the class, Derrick Davis Jr.

OHIO STATE CAN FINISH THIS WITH 5-STARS

For Ryan Day and his Ohio State the recipe to finish No. 1 remains the same: Land Tuimoloau and five-star receiver Emeka Egbuka and they’ll be tough to beat. The 247Sports Crystal Ball continues to favor the Buckeyes for both but neither are slam dunks with Tuimoloau considering several programs and Egbuka continuing to give Oklahoma a hard look.

Things are picking up for Ohio State with Leigh, the offensive tackle, and they still have a great shot to land Top247 defensive tackle Tywone Malone as well. Davis, Burton and Rocco Spindler are a few other blue-chippers keeping an eye on the Buckeyes. 

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