Key 2024 college football recruits you need to know, from No. 1 QB to dynamic five-star skill playersESPN INSIDER $ MATERIAL
A pair of highly touted quarterbacks headline college football's 2023 recruiting class in Arch Manning and Malachi Nelson, but who is the top-ranked rising junior?
Well, the pattern continues, as quarterback Dylan Raiola sits atop our first rankings for the 2024 class.
While the ESPN Junior 300 lacks five-star talent in the offensive trenches for the first time since the 2018 class, the Class of 2024 has plenty of playmakers at the skill positions.
Let's look at the names to know in the ESPN Jr. 300.
QB Dylan Raiola
Chandler High School (Arizona)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 1 (No. 1 QB-PP)
Committed to: Ohio State
While there is a crowded group of varied positional talent at the top, Raiola has separated himself early, especially from a physical standpoint. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with 10-inch hands, he is extremely talented from a pocket-passing standpoint, but his footwork and ability to change release angles and velocity when flushed out of the pocket make him stand out.
He has been well-groomed and is consistently productive, especially from a program that has developed four ESPN 300 recruits since the 2019 class. It will be important to track his speed development over the next couple of years. He's an early commitment to Ohio State and has characteristics similar to Justin Fields, including similar stature, mobility and downfield arm strength at this same stage.
WR Joshisa Trader
Miami Central High School (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 3 (No. 1 WR)
Trader is a natural playmaker whose skill set is reminiscent of Amari Cooper when he came out of rival Miami Northwestern High School. Trader is a smooth, fluid wideout who already is a polished route runner. One of his best traits is focus and concentration to complete the catch in traffic. He can play inside and outside and is not afraid to work the middle of the field.
Trader always seems to make the contested catch. In the past calendar year, he has grown two inches and gained 14 pounds (6-2, 180) while decreasing his 5-10-5 shuttle time from a 4.4 to 4.3. We expect him to be even more of a physical presence the next two years in high school, which is discouraging for opposing defensive backs. In-state Miami and Ohio State are the early front-runners.
RB Jerrick Gibson
IMG Academy (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 4 (No. 1 RB)
Gibson is slippery, fast and a touchdown waiting to happen on every touch. He is quick with a low center of gravity, which makes it incredibly difficult for defenders to get a clean shot in tight quarters. He's also super elusive in space. He floats when he runs, and if he gets into the open field, he will win footraces.
Gibson posted a laser-to-laser 4.57 40 and 7.2 three-cone L-drill, which spotlights change of direction. He gained 12 pounds (5-11, 195) this past year and has become a far-improved physical player. He has tested off the charts (40-inch vertical) with tape that matches his camp performances. A one-time Florida commit, the Gators are still in top contention for this electrifying prospect.
S Mike Matthews
Parkview High School (Georgia)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 10 (No. 1 S)
Matthews is a difference-maker who could easily be in contention for our No. 1 overall athlete, but instead headlines the safety position with premium measurables, speed, explosiveness and hands. A multisport athlete in basketball and track, he averages over 20 points on the hardwood and could also play at the next level.
On the gridiron, he's a wide receiver with a defensive mentality. Like K.J. Bolden, the top-ranked athlete and No. 6 overall recruit (more on him later), Matthews can play any skill position on the field. When all is said and done, he could develop into a top five overall player within the next two seasons. Matthews could also be a candidate to switch categories to either athlete or wide receiver. Alabama is the latest blue-chip school to offer Matthews, who now has over 30 offers.
LB T.J. Capers
Columbus High School (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 11 (No. 1 LB)
Capers made a big impression at the Orlando UCReport Camp in April, posting strong testing numbers (4.6 40 at 6-2, 230) and earning camp MVP honors. The four-star did not land among the top overall prospects simply off a camp performance, though, as his play on game day matched his performance.
An explosive player with a sturdy build, Capers can be a punishing force against the run and flashes good bend and speed to disrupt as a pass rusher. A big, physical presence that is best working downhill, he is also light on his feet and can make plays in coverage and be an effective three-down player. Hometown Miami appears to be the early leader for Capers.
DT David Stone
IMG Academy (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 14 (No. 1 DT)
IMG's 2024 class is poised to be its best ever. Despite several IMG players being mentioned here, we felt Stone also needed to be highlighted. He has a great foundation to build off (6-3, 275 with a 27-inch vertical), as he is not only physically talented but also loves to compete. While Stone needs to add more mass, he already displays good power, which will only further improve as he physically develops.
In addition to a good initial burst and mobility, he also accentuates his play with strong effort and an understanding of leverage. Stone is establishing himself as one of the top line prospects in this class with a sum that is greater than its parts. Oklahoma is the early front-runner for Stone's services.
Two five-star athletes in the top 10
The last time two prospects in the athlete category landed in the top 10 was 2017 (Dylan Moses and DeAngelo Gibbs). Now, another pair of talented two-way players have emerged.
Buford High School (Georgia)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 6
Bolden checks many boxes when it comes to being one of the best overall athletes in the class. He posted a 10.7 100-meter dash and 22.7 200-meter dash time in the spring of 2021. Since then, Bolden has added bulk. He has strong hands and ball skills, and his positional versatility gives coaches many options for the next level.
Bolden projects to safety or wide receiver, but has the skill set to play nickel or boundary corner. In-state Georgia appears to be the early leader for the coveted Bolden.
IMG Academy (Florida)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 8
Committed to: Tennessee
Echols has already played multiple positions, including defensive end, quarterback and tight end. Due to his ranginess, overall agility and versatility, he reminds us of IMG teammate and ESPN 300 No. 2 ATH Samuel M'Pemba, who projects as an edge defender. Echols, who has elite length (81-inch wingspan) and great quickness, could easily be among the top-rated edge defenders as well, and that might be his best fit.
The five-star, though, also has the tools to be dangerous at tight end, where he worked this spring during IMG Academy's pro day. Echols has shown good ball skills and body control with a wide catch radius, and there is still room to develop as a route runner and blocker. "I'll be able to fit in their program with the way they use their tight ends ... being able to be versatile within the offensive system," he told ESPN's Blake Baumgartner.
Names to watch forDE Dylan Stewart
Friendship Collegiate Academy (Maryland)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 13 (No. 2 DE)
Stewart flashes impressive physical ability, but his untapped potential is most exciting. He measures 6-5, 235 pounds, with an 80-inch wingspan. His taller, lengthy frame can hold another 30 pounds of muscle. Stewart can be a disruptive pass rusher with excellent first-step quickness -- he ran a 4.4 shuttle at our UCReport New Jersey camp. He can also set the edge, showing good fight and ability to play with pad level, and as he fills out and gets stronger.
Stewart will only improve against the run while adding a power element to his pass-rush arsenal. Not afraid to compete, he attended multiple camps this spring, standing out at the Ray Lewis Academy, where the camp's namesake was impressed with Stewart's skill level. With more time, he could be a candidate for the No. 1 overall spot, and colleges are taking notice as well. Stewart is closing in on over 30 offers with Maryland recruiting the hardest.
OT Isaiah Garcia
Cyprus High School (Utah)
ESPN Jr. 300 ranking: 110 (No. 8 OT)
The strength of certain positions can ebb and flow from cycle to cycle, and early on, the 2024 class does not appear to be the strongest group of offensive linemen, as none are among the top 25 overall. But Garcia might become the player to crack the mark as evaluations grow.
Coming off an MVP performance at the UCReport Utah camp, Garcia has a strong initial placement in the Jr. 300 rankings and is someone who can rise in future updates. At 6-5 and 275 pounds, Garcia has a nice frame to develop once he's in a college-level strength and conditioning program. He possesses good body quickness and lower-body flexibility. He has excellent natural physical tools and should continue to improve. Utah is an early leader for his commitment.