Best plays, highlights by top college football recruits this week


Before they take the field as college football players on Saturdays, some of the top recruits in the 2023 ESPN 300 are playing underneath the lights on weeknights.

Texas recruit Arch Manning (No. 2, 2023) set the Isidore Newman School (Louisiana) school record for career touchdown passes Friday and he won’t be lacking targets when he hits Austin next fall.

He’s coming into Steve Sarkisian’s program with multiple reinforcements — led by Johntay Cook II and Ryan Niblett.

Cook, the sixth-best wide receiver in the ESPN 300, led DeSoto High School (Texas) against Cedar Hill High School (Texas) on Friday and the 38th-best overall recruit in the 2023 class didn’t disappoint.

Niblett (No. 96 overall in 2023) had nine catches and found the end zone four times (three touchdown receptions) for Aldine Eisenhower High School (Texas) on Thursday in a 46-17 win over Benjamin Davis High School (Texas). The future Longhorn is the fifth-best athlete in this cycle and is one of 11 ESPN 300 prospects for Sarkisian’s Longhorns, whose class sits fifth in ESPN’s latest rankings.

Here’s how some other of the nation’s top recruits looked this week.



Sooner specialty

Jackson Arnold had himself one kind of a night Thursday.

The future Oklahoma Sooner had five total touchdowns (four passing) and 421 total yards in John Guyer High School’s (Texas) 49-7 victory over Allen High School (Texas).

Arnold is eighth overall in the 2023 ESPN 300 and the top dual-threat signal caller in the class.


Arnold’s future target

Jacobe Johnson (No. 45 overall in 2023) is one of the most versatile players in the class.

Johnson, who’s headed to Oklahoma and is ESPN’s second-best athlete in the class, had two touchdown receptions Thursday as Mustang High School (Oklahoma) beat Norman High School (Oklahoma).

Johnson is the third-best prospect in the Sooners’ class, behind Arnold and wide receiver Jaquaize Pettaway (No. 42 overall in 2023).


Bowen’s burst

Safety Peyton Bowen became a newly minted five-star prospect in ESPN’s latest update of the 2023 rankings.

The highest-ranked member of Notre Dame‘s class continued to flash his versatility by taking one to the house Thursday in John Guyer High School’s (Texas) victory over Allen High School (Texas).

Bowen jumped from No. 30 to 14 overall in the ESPN 300 and is the cycle’s second-ranked safety.


Russaw reps

Jaquavious Russaw is the top ranked linebacker in the 2023 class and is one of only two members of the ESPN 300’s top 10 that remains uncommitted.

On Thursday night for Carver High School (Alabama), Russaw came up big when his team needed him most to help preserve a 22-19 victory over Pike Road High School (Alabama).

Russaw (No. 7 overall in 2023) took an official visit to Florida last weekend and has plans to commit in December.


Levitating Lester III

Charles Lester III from Riverview High School (Florida) is a top five cornerback in the 2024 class. His ball skills were on full display Friday during Riverview’s game against Venice High School (Florida) as the junior went up against the Penn State-bound Elliot Washington (No. 51 overall in 2023).

Lester was at Ohio State on Sept. 24, Florida State last weekend and has plans to see Michigan State on Nov. 12.


Four-star junior defensive end recaps Michigan State visit

David Stone Jr. is one of the most coveted defensive tackles in the 2024 cycle, ranking as the top ranked defensive tackle and 14th overall recruit in the class, according to ESPN. The 6-4, 280-pound Stone, who attends IMG Academy, took his second trip to East Lansing in the last three months last weekend for the Spartans’ double-overtime victory over Wisconsin. “It was the best ever,” Stone told ESPN. “I plan on coming again real soon.”

Head coach Mel Tucker, pass rush specialist Brandon Jordan and defensive line coach Marco Coleman have all left an impression on him.

“How close everyone is with each other,” Stone said. “It’s like a family honestly. It’s not ran like a business where you’d just try and get it over with, come in and get out. They give me the feeling that they’re gonna push me to be the best me on and off the field while help guiding me into the man I want to be and the places I want to go.”

He has plans to see Tennessee later in October and will be looking to hit Oregon at some point before the season is over.


Tide-Vols atmosphere impresses four-star junior wide receiver

Tennessee’s dramatic 52-49 victory over Alabama last weekend figures to reverberate for a little bit.

For New Haven High School (Indiana) wide receiver Mylan Graham, a member of the 2024 Junior 300, the day in Knoxville has him viewing Josh Heupel’s program differently.

“It was amazing, it’s the best game I’ve been to,” Graham told ESPN. “The fans, the atmosphere, the competitiveness and the offensive scheme by Tennessee really opened my eyes.

“They’ve jumped up in my recruitment.”

Graham (No. 155 overall in 2024, No. 19 WR) has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.





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