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Ranking The Contenders: No. 1 ILB Riley Pettijohn

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Earlier this spring, we ranked the contenders for elite four-star linebacker Riley Pettijohn, the No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2025 class. There were five schools in the running at that time, but as time has gone, one school has been trimmed from the list.

Pettijohn now has four programs he is focusing on: Texas, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and USC. Each of the four are scheduled to receive official visits this summer.

Rivals breaks down the contenders for the top-50 prospect out of McKinney, Texas.

1. Texas

Ranking No. 1 is a pretty easy one here. The Longhorns are once again one of the premier programs in the country, back to competing on a national scale. Steve Sarkisian not only has the offense rolling, but is showing he can develop defenders at an impressive rate. The linebacker room at Texas is one that has seen a transformation in recruiting but would still allow for Pettijohn to play early in his career. Just one year ago, Texas landed No. 1 inside linebacker in Anthony Hill out of Denton, Texas, who went on to win FWAA Freshman All-American and co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Texas has a perfect roadmap to sell to Pettijohn. The four-star prospect has also been sporting a Longhorns backpack essentially the entire offseason.

2. Ohio State

The status and history of Ohio State’s defenders put them in line for just about any elite prospect they want. And Ryan Day doesn’t miss often, especially looking at how they finished the 2024 class and have started the 2025 class. He would be coached under new linebackers coach James Lauranitus as well as defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who has a deep background in coaching linebackers. Being the top power in the Big Ten will be appealing as is playing with the loaded recruiting class of defenders the Buckeyes have in 2025, which includes two five-star defensive backs.

3. USC

USC has done a lot to impress Pettijohn. A completely new defensive staff, and culture, in place has aided in the recruiting of elite defenders so far in the 2025 class. New linebackers coach Matt Entz, who left his head coaching job at North Dakota State to work under Lincoln Riley, is an attractive matchup for linebackers to develop under. Another interesting point here is that one of Pettijohn’s former McKinney teammates and good friend, running back Bryan Jackson, is now a freshman at USC. They took visits together previously and Jackson is pressing for Pettijohn to join him.

4. Texas A&M

The Aggies being an in-state program has always kept in the picture, but the hire of Mike Elko helped give them more of a presence in his recruitment. With an official visit ahead, Pettijohn may even feel comfortable with the direction of the Aggies, but it seems like a stretch to see him going to Texas A&M at this time.

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