Advertisement

Rivals Rankings Week: Immanuel Iheanacho becomes newest 2026 five-star

Immanuel Iheanacho now has more stars next to his name than years he’s been playing football. The new five-star in the 2026 class has only played two seasons of football so far but he’s already one of the most coveted prospects in the country.

“I feel like (the five-star rating) is a testament to my hard work that I've been putting in these last couple of months," he said. "This football thing being so new to me, (I’m) just (making) sure I keep my head level, head straight and just keep working. I’m not letting the rankings get to me. I appreciate it but I know this is just the first step.”

*****

RIVALS RANKINGS WEEK

Sunday: Who should be No. 1?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown

Tuesday: New Rivals250 unveiled | Gorney goes position-by-position | Biggest risers

Wednesday: New offensive position rankings released | QB rankings breakdown | RB rankings breakdown | WR/TE rankings breakdown | OL rankings breakdown

Thursday: New defensive position rankings released | DL rankings breakdown | LB rankings breakdown | DB rankings breakdown | ATH rankings breakdown

Friday: New state rankings released | Who is No. 1 in each state?

Saturday: Roundtable on the 2026 rankings

*****

First step or not, Iheanacho is on a path that could very well lead to the NFL. At 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds with natural athletic gifts, every football coach and scout has been thoroughly impressed when they first see him.

“Man, this isn't normal,” Georgetown Prep offensive line coach Sean McCleary said to himself when Iheanacho first began working with the team. “Some of those things that you could see just doing individual drills, for someone who was 15 years old at the time, you're like, this isn't normal and he did it without much coaching. Now as we continue to refine, just the sky's the limit for him.”

Iheanacho began playing basketball in fourth grade and played AAU basketball from the sixth grade until he was in ninth grade. It’s not often you see a massive 14- or 15-year-old on the AAU circuit.

“Through that there were always people like 'Do you play football?' and I'd always tell them 'No, I just play basketball because my parents didn't want me to get injured playing football.' Eventually my old high school coach persuaded my parents to let me play football my ninth grade year," he said. "I always just wanted to try it out to see if I was good at it and see how the contact thing was.”

Despite his physical traits, the finer points of football did not come naturally to Iheanacho.

“Initially it was pretty tough," he said. "I didn't know how long, how far I really could go with it. My freshman year was a little, it was a little tough. Our team wasn't really too good but I persevered through a lot of hardships. I didn't know if I was going to still play football after that season. I didn't know if I really wanted to take it seriously or not.

“I went to Bowie State's camp and I was talking to the coaches. There was something that stood out to me. One of my coaches told me I kept flipping my shoulders. He basically said, 'If you want to go far with this football thing, you got to get rid of those bad habits.'

“After that, I went to the Maryland camp and I got my first offer from Marshall and I really realized that I could really go somewhere with this football thing. From there, I ended up transferring to Georgetown Prep during the summer and the whole aspect of football just changed completely.

"I was open to better coaching, better facilities, better recovery stuff. They helped me develop my skill set, my IQ for the game and I'm here now still getting better knowing that I have a long way to go but still developing."

As Iheanacho put it, “Basketball is my first love but football is obviously my path.” However, without even realizing it at the time, the skills and athleticism he developed on the hardwood have given him a leg up on the competition on the gridiron.

“Him having that background of basketball honestly prepared him better than just focusing on a singular sport since he was in the fourth grade,” McCleary said. “I mean, the most important thing, especially the offensive line play, is nimble feet.”

The edge he had over other offensive linemen was immediately noticeable to Iheanacho.

“Coming in initially, I realized that there were a lot of offensive linemen that didn't really have that because they were only playing football their whole life," he said. "It was something that I realized that I had over them. They weren't really used to moving that fast or in certain motions like that. I knew that was something that really helped me.”

*****

THE BEST IS AHEAD

Rivals.com

Prospects like Iheanacho don’t come around too often. He’s an offensive lineman who checks all the boxes from a physical perspective but is also a lump of clay who can be molded and taught proper techniques without any predisposition to bad habits.

“He thinks what you say is the best thing since sliced bread,” McCleary said. “There's things that we need to work on, but you can see that the foundation is being laid now. He was always a large individual, obviously, but I really think since basketball ended, he's been taking the next leap, (making a) significant jump in such a short amount of time, especially with his dead lift, his squat, his bench.

“He always wants to get better, whether he's talking to me or the strength coach, he's doing those things (asking), 'How can I improve? What are the little techniques I can refine?' He's always wanting to perfect his craft to the extent he can and be able to see a barometer of how he is versus some of the other kids that are in his class.”

Describing a prospect like Iheanacho can sometimes sound too good to be true.

“Every time, it never fails, the respective college coach is sitting there and you tell them how big he is and he walks in, their eyes widen the same as everyone else's," McCleary said. "It doesn't matter who they are or which level they are and which school.

Ohio State compared him to (former All-American) Dawand Jones. Oregon said (former first-round draft pick) Penei Sewell. You have all of these other comparisons of people who are doing very well for themselves on Sundays that, with the proper technique and health, God willing he will be able to reach that ceiling one day.

“They've been gushing about him and now he's just got to be able to put it all together because it's all potential right now.”

*****

ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL

It’s still early in the recruiting process for Iheanacho but he is actively engaging with coaches and taking visits.

“I've been to Virginia Tech, Florida, Maryland, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia. I'm going to Florida State on June 9. I'm trying to lock in a date for Tennessee and I'm going to try to lock in a date for Georgia and Penn State.”

As for coaches who have made a strong impression on him, Iheanacho mentioned coaches from Penn State, Maryland, Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia.

Look for Iheanacho to spend time learning more about Georgia, Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama, LSU and USC before the end of the recruiting process.