There is little doubt as to the program that made out the best in the 2021 The Academy Volleyball/VolleyballMag.com men’s college recruiting class rankings.
In a vote of Division I-II men’s college coaches, Long Beach State was the near-unanimous choice for having the top class for 2021. The Beach attracted all but two first-place votes and was ranked no lower than third on any ballot on its way to earning the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for a second year in a row.
The VolleyballMag.com recruiting class rankings take into consideration incoming freshmen, transfer student-athletes and international additions.
Coach Alan Knipe’s 49ers squad, which won NCAA titles in 2018 and 2019, boosted its stock in a big way with a class that features three VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50 selections, including consensus top recruit Klistan Lawrence out of Ocala, Florida, as well as accomplished youth player Dane Hillis out of San Clemente, California, and Newport Beach, California setting product Josh Rosenblum — not to mention a highly visible international signing.
The rest of the top five features perennial top-five tenant UCLA at No. 2, UC Santa Barbara, with another strong class, at No. 3, coach Kevin Burch and the Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 4 and Pepperdine’s robust class, that includes former No. 1 Stanford recruit Jaylen Jasper, checking in at No. 5.
The top three in this year’s rankings is a carbon copy of the 2020 ledger.
Of note with UCLA, the Bruins appear in the top three here for a sixth year in a row. UCLA had the top-ranked recruiting classes in 2017, 2018 and 2019, second in 2020 and with this class and third in 2016.
1. Long Beach State 49ers
Incoming: Josh Rosenblum (6-6, S, Fresh., Newport Beach, California), Klistan Lawrence (6-9, RS, Fresh., Ocala, Florida), Connor Bloom (6-5, OH-RS, , Fresh., Huntington Beach, California), Dane Hillis (6-3, OH, Fresh., San Clemente, California), Alex Nikolov (6-7, OH, Fresh., Sofia, Bulgaria), Eric Beebe (6-0, S, Soph., Orange Coast College transfer), Calvin Sanborn (6-4, OH-RS, Jr., Santa Barbara CC transfer)
Notable: A compact but powerful class in terms of the true incoming freshmen. Lawrence’s prowess has been well-chronicled, as evidenced by him being voted the top recruit in the country during Boys Fab 50 balloting (international recruits are not eligible for Fab 50 designtion). Hillis and Rosenblum, like Lawrence, also are Boys Fab 50 selections. Also of significance is Bulgaria recruit Nikolov. “Nikolov and Klistan are as good of an incoming pair as you’ll see,” one voter noted. Another voter singled out the addition of Nikolov. “International talent,” the voter succinctly said.
2. UCLA Bruins
Incoming: Cooper Robinson (6-7, OH-RS, Fresh., Pacific Palisades, California), Sean McQuiggan (6-9, MB, Fresh., Redondo Beach, California), Ido David (6-7, RS-OH, Fresh. Kiryat Ata, Israel), Matthew Edwards (6-8, MB, Irvine, California), Ayrton Garcia-Jurado (6-0, S, Jr., George Mason transfer), Matthew Aziz (6-1, Libero, Fresh., Burbank, California)
Notable: Edwards, McQuiggan and Robinson are all Boys Fab 50 selections. Newer additions to this group include Garcia-Jurado, a transfer from George Mason by way of Laguna Beach, California, and Aziz, a libero out of the San Gabriel Elite club. “They have as much depth as anyone in the country, but Ido has a chance to play early in his career,” one voter explained. “Their other pieces are all at the top of their position rankings.” And this from another voter: “Talent at each position.” Robinson experienced success both at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and with the SCVC club. McQuiggan was part of the Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, California) High School team that won the CIF Southern Section Division I title in June. Edwards is out of Woodbridge High School and the OCVC club. David joined the Israeli senior national team in 2018 and was named MVP of the Israeli Super League in 2019.
3. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Incoming: Geste Bianchi (6-5, RS, Fresh., Orange Coast College transfer), Owen Birg (6-7, OH, Fresh.,Thousand Oaks, California), Ben Coordt (6-4, OH, Fresh., Hermosa Beach, California), Max Gordon (6-2, OH-Libero, Fresh., Manhattan Beach, California), Sam Meister (6-4, RS-OH, Fresh., Santa Barbara, California).
Notable: Coach Rick McLaughlin is a big fan of this group. “We really love our 2021 class. It’s small, but talented,” he said. Readers may recall the situation with Bianchi last year as an Orange Coast College commit and regarded by more than a few as the top right side in the 2020 class. He went to OCC for academics for a year and now is ready to roll and saved all four years of eligibility. Birg, from the MB Surf club, is making the transition from right side and setter to outside. Coordt, out of the Team Rockstar club, led Mira Costa to CIF and state titles in 2021 along with high school teammate Gordon, who will help at libero. Meister led Santa Barbara High to a CIF title. “Very athletic with a great jump,” one voter noted. And this from another voter: “Coordt and Birg will make an impact early. Great arms and great competitors.” “A lot of good all-around volleyball players,” was how yet another voter categorized the Gauchos’ class. Coordt was the No. 2-ranked recruit in the Class of 2021.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Incoming: Grant Strong (6-2, Libero, Freshman, Palm Harbor, Florida), Jason Kozak (6-6, MB-RS, Fremont, California), Kyle Teune (6-6, OH, Freshman, Downers Grove, Illinois), Ben Braun (6-10, MB-RS, Fresh., Camino Real, California), Cole Young (6-10, MB, Fresh., Powell, Ohio), Jimmy Webb (6-8, RS, Soph., Orange Coast College transfer).
Notable: The majority of voters had coach Kevin Burch’s 2021 class in the top five with several ranking it as high as No. 2. Strong, Teune, Braun and Young are all Boys Fab 50 selections. The Buckeyes certainly gain size at the net with 6-10 middle Braun and 6-8 right side Webb, a transfer from California-based Orange Coast College. “Ohio State brings in lots of height and pieces to try to put around Sitoris (Siapanis, the MIVA newcomer of the year this past season),” one voter said. Young, one of two 6-foot-10 recruits in this OSU class, is the No. 5-ranked recruit in the Class of 2021 (based on Boys Fab 50 voting).
5. Pepperdine Waves
Incoming: Ryan Barnett (6-5, OH, Fresh., Westhampton Beach, New York), Yadiel Diaz (5-6, Libero, Fresh., Orlando, Florida), Keeton Hanzlik-Green (6-9, MB, Fresh., Boulder, Colorado), Brendan Read (6-3, Libero, Fresh., Newport Beach, California), Tal Ritter (6-5, RS-S, Fresh., Castle Pine, Colorado), Kevin Roberts (6-7, OH, Fresh., Apopka, Florida), Nick Tidik (6-6, MB, Fresh., Burbank, California), Jaylen Jasper (6-7, OH, graduate transfer Stanford)
Notable: An interesting class here. Diaz, Barnett, Read and Roberts are all Boys Fab 50 picks. Read is the son of longtime club and college coach Andy Read. Coach David Hunt reached out to Colorado for Hanzlik-Green and Ritter. The eye-opening name here is Jasper, a former No. 1 recruit for Stanford (2017 Boys Fab 50 voting). He graduated from Stanford in 2021, but opted out of the 2021 season. He’s a two-time all-MPSF first-team pick. Pepp was one of two other schools to earn a first-place vote. “Young talent and the best transfer in the class,” is how one panelist put it when talking about this Pepp class. Hunt was impressed with how his freshmen class from this past season panned out. “I like our that our freshman class last year was underrated,” he said. “The proved to be real talented, starting three true freshmen and the AVCA newcomer of the year (setter Bryce Dvorak). Adding Jaylen Jasper as a graduate transfer brings some firepower to a strong group.”
Tie 6. Princeton Tigers
Incoming: Nick Johnson (6-5, MB, Fresh., Brockport, New York), Aiden Benson (6-6, MB, Wheaton, Illinois), Henry Wedbusch (6-4, S, Fresh., Manhattan Beach, California), Matt Suh (5-8, Libero, Santa Barbara, California), Nyherowo Omene, 6-7, RS, Fresh., South Holland, Illinois)
Notable: Coach Sam Shweisky’s class here is notable, loaded with some of the top youth talent in the country. Benson and Omene come from the fruitful Chicagoland recruiting area, while Wedbusch and Suh are well-known California standouts. Johnson, a 6-5 middle, played at Brockport High School in New York, but did not play club. “Nyherowo Omene will have a bright future and will likely make an impact on a good Princeton team from the start,” one voter said. Omene was the No. 4 recruit in the 2021 class. Suh, Omene and Benson are 2021 Boys Fab 50 selections. The Tigers were also sixth in the recruiting rankings in 2020.
Tie 6. Lewis Flyers
Incoming: Tyler Morgan (6-7, S, Fresh., Dike, Iowa), Isaac Benka (6-9, MB, Fresh., Minneapolis, Minnesota), Max Roquet (6-8, OH, Fresh., Johnston, Iowa), Ryan Collins (6-0, Libero, Fresh., Dublin, California), Wesley Yusk (6-7, MB-RS, Fresh., Casselberry, Florida), Tim Eschenberg (6-4, OH, Fresh., Germantown, Wisconsin), John Davis (6-5, OH, Redshirt sophomore, Benedictine University transfer), Christian Prayer (6-4, RS, Freshman, Saint Francis College Brooklyn transfer), Chase Celichowski (6-6, OH, Fresh., Germantown, Wisconsin)
Outlook: Coach Dan Friend has nine players on this list, headlined by Fab 50 selections in Morgan and Roquet out of Iowa, along with Eschenberg out of Newbury Park, California. “Morgan and Roquet are the highlights of this class,” one voter noted. “Morgan will be the heir apparent to Kevin Kauling and Roquet will compete for time on a pin right away.” The Flyers’ five Boys Fab 50 picks put them in a tie for the top designation in that regard. That list of Fab 50s includes Morgan, Roquet, Yusk, Collins and Celichowski.
8. UC San Diego Tritons
Incoming: Ben Blakely (6-5, RS-OH, Fresh., Moraga, California), Gabe Dyer (6-5, S-RS, Fresh., San Clemente, California), Jim Garrison (6-9, MB, Fresh., Manhattan Beach, California), Jason Lee (6-3, OH, Fresh., San Diego, California), Matthew Lim (6-6, OH, Fresh., San Diego, California), Brett Pursley (6-4, OH, Fresh., Poway, California), Josh Schellinger (6-5, OH, Fresh., Bloomingdale, California), Peter Selcho (6-5, MB, Fresh., Fountain Valley, California)
Outlook: UCSD coach Kevin Ring cleaned up with in-state California talent, plus added Chicagoland-area recruit Schellinger. Dyer, Garrison, Lim, Schellinger and Blakely are all Boys Fab 50 picks. “It’s a small class, but each are solid,” one voter noted. UCSD tied for the most amount of Boys Fab 50 selections this year with five, joining the above-mentioned Lewis. This is UC San Diego’s highest appearance in the rankings since an honorable mention nod in 2019.
Tie 9. Penn State Nittany Lions
Incoming: Matt Cosgrove (6-6, OH, Fresh., Chesterfield, Missouri), Tyler Herget (6-2, S, Fresh., Darien, Connecticut), Cole Ignaszak (6-7, OH, Fresh., Buffalo, New York), Ryan Merk (6-0, Libero, Freshman, Chicago, Illinois), Owen Rose (6-7, MB, Freshman, Merrick, New York)
Outlook: Not a huge class, but one filled with talent for the Nittany Lions. Cosgrove, Ignaszak and Merk are all Boys Fab 50 selections. “Merk and Ignaszak highlight this class and both will likely break into the PSU lineup by their second year,” one voter stated.
Tie 9. Southern California Trojans
Incoming: Luke Hobus (6-5, MB-RS, Fresh., Palos Verdes Estates, California), Noal Keelin (6-5, OH, Fresh., San Clemente, California), Markus Olsson (6-7, MB, Fresh., Cupertino, California), Austin Stuard (6-0, Libero, Fresh., Manhattan Beach, California), Teddy Terrill (6-7, MB, Fresh., Los Angeles, California), Sam Kobrine (6-3, OH-RS-S, UCLA graduate transfer), Nate Tennant (6-4, S, Soph., Moorpark Junior College transfer)
Notable: Coach Jeff Nygaard brings a strong class to USC that features Fab 50 selections in Keelin, Olsson and Stuard. Kobrine is a UCLA grad transfer. “Keelin brings a great arm and is a great competitor, while Hobus will bring a high ceiling to the opposite position,” one voter noted.
Honorable Mention: BYU, George Mason, Grand Canyon, Hawai’i, Loyola-Chicago