- USC quarterback Caleb Williams: He was the seventh-best recruit in this class and is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
- Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry: He was the No. 19 recruit in this class and is our top returning corner in college football.
- Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr.: The sophomore was the final five-star of this class at No. 32 and is our top returning linebacker in college football.
Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
Every year, college football fan bases across the country get excited about their incoming recruiting class, eager to see the next stars for their favorite program.
The best of those recruits are rated five stars, and there are about 32 of them every year, making the five-star recruits essentially college football’s version of first-round picks.
Here’s how every five-star recruit in the 2021 class graded out in their careers thus far.
Note: On3 Sports’ industry rating is used here, which weighs On3 Sports, 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals into one ranking.
1. EDGE Korey Foreman, USC Trojans
Career Grade: 74.0 (344 snaps)
Foreman has yet to truly break through for USC despite being the No. 1 overall recruit. As a freshman, he registered the fifth-most snaps among USC edge defenders. As a sophomore this past season, he was fourth.
In 2021, he impressed as a pass-rusher with a 20% pass-rush win rate that was tied for sixth among Pac-12 edge defenders with at least 80 pass-rushing snaps. As a sophomore, he excelled as a run defender, as his 79.5 run-defense grade finished second among Pac-12 edge defenders with at least 80 run-defense snaps.
The Trojans lose both of their starting edge defenders in Tuli Tuipulotu and Nick Figueroa, but they do return Solomon Byrd, who out-snapped Foreman in 2022. USC also brings in a slew of transfers along the edge in Purdue’s Jack Sullivan, Texas A&M’s Anthony Lucas and Georgia State’s Jamil Muhammad. Regardless, expectations will be for Foreman to finally show why he was the former top recruit as a junior.
Korey Foreman with the biggest play of #USC's season. pic.twitter.com/unjC0B09Pd
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) November 20, 2022
2. OT JC Latham, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Grade: 77.2 (1,017 snaps)
Latham came to Alabama as the highest-rated offensive tackle recruit since Florida’s Martez Ivey in 2015.
As a freshman, Latham was a backup right guard for the Crimson Tide and impressed with a 75.0 grade, which ranked fourth among SEC guards with at least 140 snaps. He became a starting right tackle as a sophomore and showed why he was such a highly-touted recruit. His 84.5 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets ranked fourth among all tackles in the country. On 486 pass-blocking snaps, Latham didn’t allow a sack and only gave up one hit.
He’s our third-best returning offensive tackle in the country and was a top-15 pick in my mock draft if every player was eligible. He’s expected to move to left tackle as a junior with Tyler Steen moving on to the NFL.
JC Latham (65) has been manhandling people upfront at RT pic.twitter.com/XFbIO4AZwg
— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) October 3, 2022
3. QB Quinn Ewers, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Grade: 72.4 (620 snaps)
Ewers was originally committed to Texas as a member of its 2022 class before flipping to Ohio State and reclassifying to 2021 in August. Since he arrived in Columbus so late, he was the Buckeyes’ fourth-string quarterback as a freshman and handed the ball off twice without throwing any passes.
With C.J. Stroud returning to Ohio State as a Heisman finalist, Ewers transferred to Texas, the school he was originally committed to. He was very up and down in his first year as a starter. The redshirt freshman was able to flash his ridiculous arm talent, as evidenced by his 6.3% big-time throw rate — 11th in the Power Five. However, his accuracy was far too inconsistent. Ewers’ 24.6% uncatchable pass rate ranked 55th among 70 Power Five quarterbacks.
If he doesn’t improve in that regard, the Longhorns could turn to Arch Manning, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2023 class and one of the most-hyped recruits ever due to his last name.
Texas is BACK*
(*once Quinn Ewers is)
He had an elite 90.2 @PFF grade against #1 Alabama, who has arguably the best defense in college football.
On just 15 dropbacks, Ewers had three big-time throws.
Believe the hype.pic.twitter.com/pzKoR67JvI
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) September 12, 2022
4. EDGE Jack Sawyer, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Grade: 73.0 (502 snaps)
Sawyer was fifth in Ohio State’s edge rotation as a freshman before moving up to third this past season.
As a sophomore, he led all Buckeye edge defenders and was 11th in the Big Ten with a 16% pass-rush win rate. He was also top-10 in the conference with a 73.4 run-defense grade. With Zach Harrison in the 2023 NFL Draft, Sawyer should be one of Ohio State’s starting edge defenders alongside the next player on this list.
SAWYER with the SACK ????@OhioStateFB pic.twitter.com/9jerGT5kuK
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 12, 2022
5. EDGE J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Grade: 71.2 (790 snaps)
Tuimoloau was a rotational edge defender for the Buckeyes as a freshman before becoming a starter as a sophomore.
If you want to see what Tuimoloau is capable of, turn on his tape against Penn State. In that game, the sophomore earned a career-high 93.5 grade due to registering two sacks, two interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss, a batted pass and three pressures. He needs to become more consistent, especially as a tackler. Tuimoloau missed 21% of his tackle attempts this past season.
He’s our sixth-best returning edge defender in college football heading into next season.
J.T. Tuimoloau had one of the best defensive performances in Ohio State history.pic.twitter.com/cklFjGjnon
— Mr. Ohio (@MrOH1O) October 30, 2022
6. OT Tommy Brockermeyer, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Grade: 65.4 (19 snaps)
Alabama brought in both top offensive tackle recruits in the 2021 class. Unlike Latham, Brockermeyer never really found the field for the Crimson Tide.
He played in only two games in 2022 as a backup right tackle. After the season, Brockermeyer transferred to TCU. The Horned Frogs return both of their starting tackles in Brandon Coleman and Andrew Coker, but Brockermeyer is expected to push for a starting spot immediately.
Tommy Brockermeyer only saw 19 snaps in his two years at Alabama as a former Top-???? recruit.
Will hopefully see more from him this year at TCU as he pushes for a starting tackle spot with both starters returning.
Nice block here by the RT (#76). pic.twitter.com/AMMReABITp
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) February 26, 2023
7. QB Caleb Williams, Oklahoma Sooners
Career Grade: 92.9 (1,495 snaps)
Williams took over as the starter midway through his true freshman season, replacing preseason-Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler. He was dominant immediately with a 90.3 passing grade — a top-five mark among Power Five quarterbacks.
When head coach Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC, Williams followed him, which proved to be a wise decision, as the sophomore took home the Heisman Trophy after posting a 91.6 grade. He led all quarterbacks outside of structure in yards (707), touchdowns (seven) and big-time throws (10). He’s both our top returning quarterback in college football and went first overall in my mock draft if every college football player is eligible.
Utah cannot stop Caleb Williams pic.twitter.com/sNNtJrwhGP
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) December 3, 2022
8. DI Leonard Taylor, Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Career Grade: 84.9 (529 snaps)
Taylor impressed as a rotational interior defensive lineman in his freshman season before dominating as a sophomore.
In 2022, his 19.5% pass-rush win rate and 16.2% pressure rate trailed only Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey among Power Five interior defensive linemen. If Taylor can keep up that efficiency on more snaps, he can be the top defensive tackle in the 2024 draft. He’s our fifth-best returning interior defensive lineman in college football.
Leonard Taylor does this on only his second snap of the night.
Straight violence. @AllHurricanes pic.twitter.com/ChKu5wnALP
— Luke Chaney (@luke_chaney4) September 29, 2022
9. EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide
Career Grade: 72.6 (1,018 snaps)
Turner started immediately as one of Alabama’s edge defenders as a true freshman alongside Will Anderson Jr.
In 2021, despite only tying for 84th among Power Five edge defenders in pressures (25), he was tied for 15th in sacks (nine). He only accumulated five sacks as a sophomore but improved his pass-rush win rate to 15.3% after posting a 13.9% mark as a freshman. With Anderson off to the NFL, Turner will be relied on as Alabama’s top pass-rusher next season. He’s our fourth-best returning edge defender heading into next season.
Dallas turner pic.twitter.com/2XACLLyKbR
— bama vids (@timeoop) October 3, 2022
10. OT Amarius Mims, Georgia Bulldogs
Career Grade: 78.7 (506 snaps)
Despite toiling away as mostly a backup right tackle in his sophomore season, Mims still saw a healthy 385 snaps in 2022.
On 184 pass-blocking snaps, Mims didn’t allow any sacks or hits and only surrendered four pressures. With both Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon in the 2023 draft, Mims will start next season, likely at left tackle.
So excited to see Amarius Mims be a full-time starter for Georgia next season.
Top-???? recruit in 2021 class who impressed whenever he got on field.
RT #65 here does a great job eliminating Tommy Eichenberg, one of the best LBs in CFB.pic.twitter.com/mKtbwBGwav
— Max Chadwick (@Chad_Maxwick) February 26, 2023