Southeast Spotlight: Toughest rankings questions

The final rankings update for the 2023 class is set to be released later this month and there is a lot to finalize before then. Final postseason performances as well as in-person evaluations at the Under Armour Next All-America Game, All-American Bowl, and the upcoming Polynesian Bowl will weigh heavily into this last update to the rankings.

A number of players from the Midwest were active during the all-star season and their performance at the games and preceding week of preparations will have an effect on the rankings. Here are some of the toughest rankings questions we’ll be facing in the Southeast.

Who is the top prospect in the Southeast?

Carnell Tate
Carnell Tate (

For months Miami commit Cormani McClain has been the highest-ranked prospect in the Southeast. The corner from Lakeland (Fla.) High School is a five-tool player with size, speed and cover skills. McClain is destined for collegiate success, but have other prospects in the region caught up with or surpassed him?

There may not be a corner who is close to McClain outside of AJ Harris, but there is a long list of prospects such as Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss, Francis Mauigoa, Damon Wilson and Samuel M’Pemba who have worked hard, improved and have a very high projection in the college and professional ranks. Whoever is ranked at the top in the Southeast will not be selected without heavy debate.


Southeast defensive linemen dominated, now what?

Peter Woods
Peter Woods

Camp settings and All-American practices do not typically favor offensive linemen. On the offensive side of the ball, some linemen are lining up out of position, right tackle versus left or at guard instead of tackle. The changes may not seem like much, but the footwork is different which can cause players to think instead of react, allowing defensive linemen to dominate. The other point working against offensive linemen is the speed and strength adjustment. Some linemen get tested during the season in games or at practice while others own the trenches because of their overwhelming size and athletic ability. Getting accustomed to the differences of an All-American takes time.

The All-American practice and game settings were much the same watching speed rushers blow past stunned offensive linemen rep after rep. But all the selected offensive linemen can’t be that bad, can they? There is a reason most offensive linemen get redshirted while defensive players can get on the field early – they are a step ahead of their counterparts. But the offensive linemen did serve as chum allowing risers Peter Woods, Rueben Bain, Keldric Faulk and Yhonzae Pierre to look the part of next level dominating talents. Wil the extra reps help or hurt those willing to brave the unknown?


Did any running backs earn their fifth star at the All-American games?

Justice Haynes
Justice Haynes (

Running backs did not shy away from competition in the postseason with elite talents out of the Southeast such as Justice Haynes, Cedric Baxter, Richard Young, Treyaun Webb, Nathaniel Joseph and Mark Fletcher. In the Under Armour Next game, running backs were hemmed up with very few explosive plays. One who did stand out was Baxter. In San Antonio, the East side of the field romped with Haynes toting the rock 10 times for 107 yards while Fletcher hauled in two passes for 80 yards with one touchdown with two carries for nine yards.

Going off an NFL projection, it is tougher for tailbacks to get that fifth star but if any prospect has been consistently dynamic on the biggest stages throughout his career it has been Haynes.


Cracking the Rivals250

King Mack
King Mack (

The regular and postseason film is in, and the All-American game evaluations have been poured over, are there any rising stars set to crack the Rivals250? Yes.

There are breakout stars and players who have just been very good over time who pile up accolades that cannot be ignored. One to watch is St. Thomas Aquinas do-all safety King Mack out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.). The Penn State signee has been one of South Florida’s best in the secondary helping his Raiders squad to another Sunshine State championship win this fall.

Mack is a bellringer who can cover on defense and is a game changer in the return game. The Nittany Lions are getting one of the nation’s best who should contribute early on defense with a chance to make an impact on special teams.

As for who else shined jumping up in the rankings, you will have to wait until the new 2023 rankings are released.

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