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Phil Steele: Top 25 Freshman Wide Receivers rankings ahead of 2024 college football season

Alex Weberby:Alex Weber07/08/24

The college football season grows closer by the day, which means it’s prediction season for college football magazine mogul Phil Steele.

He’s always an authority on the sport, especially when it comes to his preseason predictions. As is typically the case, for the 2024 issue, Steele extensively broke down his own freshman rankings, rating the top players at each position from the 2024 high school class.

So below, you can see Phil Steele’s full ranking of the top 25 wide receivers coming out of the ’24 cycle. Take a look:

1. Jeremiah Smith | Ohio State

Ohio State WR Jeremiah Smith
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

A cousin of NFL quarterback Geno Smith, Jeremiah Smith has long been seen as the top playmaker in the 2024 recruiting class, perhaps even its best overall prospect. Now, he follows in a terrific recent lineage of receivers at Ohio State.

The On3 Industry Rankings peg Smith as the No. 1 player in the class, with ESPN being the only service that didn’t rate him the top overall prospect in ’24. Expect to see him on the field right away this coming fall.

2. Mike Matthews | Tennessee

Mike Matthews, Tennessee Football | Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
(Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Under Josh Heupel, the Volunteers have featured some of the most exciting pass offenses in America, especially when Hendon Hooker was under center. After sending several of his targets to the draft, they now land a top wideout to pair with former five-star Nico Iamaleava.

Matthews rates as a five-star prospect by the On3 Industry Rankings but is not slotted as a top-four wide receiver in this recruiting class by any major service. However, Phil Steele has him all the way up at No. 2 overall in his freshman WR rankings.

3. Ryan Williams | Alabama

Alabama WR Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams (Mickey Welsh / USA TODAY Sports)

Nick Saban was always a strong recruiter of the wide receiver position — and it may have been one of his best when it came to producing pros. Well, it doesn’t look like the caliber of pass catcher in Tuscaloosa is changing very much under the offensive-minded Kalen DeBoer.

By the On3 Industry Rankings, Williams comes in as the No. 5 overall prospect but just the No. 3 receiver. It’s a loaded year for wideouts and the local Saraland native is one of the crown jewels as he heads down the road to UofA.

4. Ryan Wingo | Texas

Ryan Wingo
Ryan Wingo (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

Wingo was a swiss army knife on his high school team, obviously starring as a receiver, but he also belted a 75-yard touchdown pass, returned kicks and even served as the team punter. So you know he’s versatile.

While Phil Steele ranks him fourth among freshman WRs, the On3 Industry Rankings peg him as a four-star. He comes in as the No. 8 receiver as well as No. 38 overall.

5. Micah Hudson | Texas Tech

Five-Star Plus+ WR Micah Hudson (Sam Spiegelman, On3)

A Temple, TX native who attended Lake Belton, Hudson’s high school coach Brian Cope says Hudson has one skill that elevates him above the rest: “He is very, very fast. But the one thing that stands out to me is that he probably has the most incredible ball skills that I have ever seen.”

That’s why he’s a five-star prospect by the On3 Industry. Plus, he ranks as a top-five wide receiver prospect in 2024 by every single major recruiting service — and Phil Steele agrees.

6. Cam Coleman | Auburn

Cam Coleman (Photo by Matt Rudolph/Auburn Live)
Cam Coleman (Photo by Matt Rudolph/Auburn Live)

Now here’s a receiver who Phil Steele is actually a little bit lower on than consensus. The On3 Industry Rankings show Coleman as a universal top-three wide receiver prospect and every service has him as a top-seven overall player in the class.

Meanwhile, Steele slides him down to sixth among wideouts. Even still, it’s all high praise for a type of playmaker that can really help turn the Auburn offense around under Hugh Freeze over the coming seasons.

7. Cam Williams | Notre Dame

notre dame wide receiver cam williams
Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Cam Williams. (Photo by Chad Weaver)

It’s Phil Steele calling his shot again. Williams ranks 10th or higher among wide receivers in the class according to any publication outside of Steele, and the future Irishman is just inside the top 50 overall as a prospect by the On3 Industry Rankings.

But like with Wingo, there’s a versatility to like with Williams. His high school coach, Ryan Crissey, had to say of him: “There isn’t much he can’t do on the football field. Cam is really a true football player.”

8. Joshisa Trader | Miami

Joshisa Trader
Photo by Chad Simmons/On3

The Hurricanes were able to keep the local product home, as Trader arrives from Chaminade-Madonna Prep. Opinions do vary on the incoming rookie, with recruiting services rating him anywhere between sixth and 14th among 2024 receivers.

Phil Steele is on the higher end, slotting Trader at eighth on his list. According to his high school coach, he really loves to celebrate his touchdowns, which is something Miami fans can look forward to over the next several seasons.

9. Gatlin Bair | Oregon

Gatlin Bair
EJ Holland/On3

Bair represents the highest-rated prospect to come from Idaho in at least six recruiting cycles. From the small-ish city of Burley along the populated spine of I-84, he now heads west to play for the Ducks and Dan Lanning.

On3 and 247 Sports are both very high on Gatlin Bair, both ranking him No. 6 among wideouts while the other services were a bit lower. Again, Phil Steele splits the difference and includes the new Duck in his top 10.

10. Bryant Wesco | Clemson

Five-star WR Bryant Wesco (Sam Spiegelman, On3)

From a small suburb of Dallas, the Tigers were able to pull Wesco halfway across the country to possibly become the next great Clemson wideout. It’s an easy pitch with guys like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Tee Higgins and several others to point to.

With Wesco and then TJ Moore at 11th, Phil Steele really loves the talent the Tigers are adding out wide. Plus, with their transfer portal reluctance, true freshmen are pretty vital for Dabo Swinney’s program and these two could very well play right away.

Phil Steele 11-25 wide receiver rankings

11. TJ Moore | Clemson
12. Perry Thompson | Auburn
13. Mylan Graham | Ohio State
14. Ny Carr | Miami
15. Ryan Pellum | Oregon
16. Dre’lon Miller | Colorado
17. Jeremiah McClellan | Oregon
18. Nick Marsh | Michigan State
19. Tyseer Denmark | Penn State
20. Zion Ragins | Oklahoma
21. Jelani Watkins | LSU
22. Courtney Crutchfield | Missouri
23. Jonathan Paylor | NC State
24. Zion Kearney | Oklahoma
25. Jordan Anderson | Oregon State