Photo: Steve Jordan Photography

Posted On: 08/24/20 4:57 PM

We released our full watch list of 2023 players (If you haven’t seen that, you can find it here). We left most of the players unranked, preferring to have a working and changing list of players that we have on our radar. That being said, we ranked our top 10 players and we’ll introduce them here.

10. Ben CutterBenCutter6'1" | LBEast Lincoln | 2023StateNC, 6’1 200, LB, East Lincoln

It’s fair to say East Lincoln has had some dominant four-year starters. Cutter looks like the next, as he racked up 137 tackles last season, 29 more than any other freshman in the state and good for second-most in the entire country.

9. JT Smith Jr.JTSmith Jr.5'10" | RBProvidence Day | 2023StateNC, 5’10 190, RB, Providence Day

We listed Smith as a player to watch in a camp preview earlier in the year, even amongst several older players. He was one of the best players that day and earned a Minnesota offer the next week. He’s at an NCISAA school, so look for him this fall.

8. Kevin ConceptionKevinConception5'11" | WRVance | 2023StateNC, 5’11 165, WR, Vance

We would not have known about Concepcion if it weren’t for the word directly out of Vance’s program. Despite having a deep receiving corps and talented group of running backs, it’s been Concepcion’s name that has come up over and over again. If the rumors are true — and we believe they are based on what we’ve seen — Concepcion will have a huge spring.

7. Aliam ApplerAliamAppler6'4" | QBNew Hanover | 2023StateNC, 6’4 185, QB, New Hanover

The 2023 quarterback class is loaded; so much so that Appler is ranked third among signal callers despite being the seventh overall prospect. He’s 6-foot-4 and has my favorite throwing motion of any quarterback in the state, regardless of class. It’s quick, precise and easily repeatable.

6. Daylan SmothersDaylanSmothers5'11" | RBVance | 2023StateNC, 5’11 175, RB, Vance

Remember when we mentioned Vance has a talented group of running backs? Well Smothers is probably the best and he’s our top back in the 2023 class. He holds early offers from Virginia Tech and North Carolina Central. He wins with a combination of great speed and strength.

5. John Mark ShawJohnMark Shaw6'5" | QBBroughton | 2023StateNC, 6’5 205, QB, Broughton

Shaw is on the radar of just about every school in the southeast. Already 6-foot-5, Shaw has a cannon for an arm and possesses all the physical traits colleges desire. After a move to Broughton, he’ll look to put up big numbers in a wide open offense.

4. KJ SampsonKJSampson6'4" | DLNew Bern | 2023StateNC, 6’3 285, DT, New Bern

We talked about Sampson, our top-ranked defensive tackle, when we wrote about the top 2023 defensive linemen. He holds a few early offers and has put on about 15 pounds this offseason. He has the potential to be a dominant 3-technique at the next level.

3. Tad HudsonTadHudson6'3" | QBHough | 2023StateNC, 6’3 205, QB, Hough

Our top-ranked quarterback leads a senior-heavy Hough team. With the season in the spring, the Huskies will rely heavily on Hudson as several of their top weapons will enroll early in college. Hudson is a 2-sport athlete that is already a top prospect in football, holding offers from over a dozen schools. He’ll take over as the full-time starter this year.

2. Christian HamiltonChristianHamilton6'0" | WRHickory Ridge | 2023StateNC, 6’0 175, WR, Hickory Ridge

Hamilton is our top wide receiver in the state and already holds 10 offers, including eight from ACC schools. He finished eighth in the country among varsity freshmen with 658 receiving yards. It isn’t hard to see why Hamilton is such a threat, he can flat-out fly.

1. Rico WalkerRicoWalker6'4" | ATHHickory | 2023StateNC, 6’4 215, EDGE, Hickory

Walker is listed by most sites as an athlete, as we did in his bio, but it’ll be really difficult to convince schools not to use him as a defensive end. In some of my other recruiting circles, Walker has been mentioned as one of the most impressive players this offseason in the southeast, regardless of year or position. He’s a program-changing player.