NCAA Football

Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

Nick Saban is at it again. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide's recruiting class ranks No. 1 overall at 247Sports heading into national signing day. Even after a few decommitments, the Crimson Tide sit pretty with six 5-star recruits and almost 20 points above the next team on the list, USC.

Now, national signing day is not going to be explosive for Alabama. Most of the major announcements for the future of the program are already in the books and top-tier prospects have plenty of options this time of year.

No matter what happens, Saban's 2015 haul is a home run. A few added signatures couldn't hurt, though.

 

2015 Class Predictions

 

Top Remaining Targets

Daylon Charlot, WR

Amari Cooper is on the way out the door, so it makes sense that Saban and his staff are all-in on a recruit such as 4-star wideout Daylon Charlot.

Charlot, a 6'0", 193-pound speedster who calls Patterson, Louisiana, home, already decommitted from Alabama in December. It's noteworthy that the news came out while he was on a visit with the LSU Tigers.

Really, though, Charlot is one of the more difficult recruits to figure out this year. As James Smith of The Times-Picayune captures, the Patterson High School product feels strongly about LSU and respects the wishes of those in Tuscaloosa:

Charlot was disappointed that it took LSU longer than other programs to offer him and the Tigers have been battling the sour taste in his mouth throughout the whole process. LSU wide receiver coach Adam Henry has kept things interesting by making leaving Louisiana a difficult decision for Charlot. He was supposed to take an official visit to Miami this past weekend, but cancelled the visit after Alabama took a firm stance about his impending travel plans.

At this point, proximity to home and pressure to stay there figure to weigh in on the decision. It seems Charlot always wanted an offer from the Tigers.

Now he has it.

Prediction: Charlot signs with LSU

 

CeCe Jefferson, SDE

CeCe Jefferson seems to want to make a big splash on signing day.

Wednesday he will choose between Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida and Alabama, with the Crimson Tide receiving some last-second hope thanks to an image provided by John Talty of AL.com:

The only problem when it comes to the 5-star defensive end is that each of the three other options make loads of sense.

Florida is a hometown favorite provided he hails from Glen Saint Mary, Florida, while Auburn is an emerging candidate thanks to Will Muschamp's arrival. He even went as far as to name Ole Miss his favorite some time ago.

Unless Jefferson is just playing games in order to make that aforementioned splash, the Crimson Tide appear a rather distant contender at this point. 

ESPN's Derek Tyson, for one, sees Jefferson staying close to home: 

It is hard to ignore the possibility. Auburn is a strong contender, but not the defensive powerhouses that Ole Miss and Florida can be.

The playing time, proven pro success for his position and proximity to home are with the Gators, unless Jefferson has some trickery up his sleeve.

Prediction: Jefferson signs with Florida

 

K.J. Hill, WR

There is a three-program race for the services of 4-star wideout K.J. Hill at the deadline.

Alabama, of course, is one of these programs along with local school Arkansas and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

At 6'0" and 188 pounds, the North Little Rock High School product made sure to go through all of the paces before making a concrete commitment.

It is worth pointing out, though, that Montez Peterson, his stepfather, says the visit to Alabama was "mind-blowing," per Drew Champlin of AL.com. Peterson goes on to detail where Hill's mind is at with the decision:

He never really got 'Bama out of his system. It's just one of those things where you want to make sure that you're sure. That's where it is with that. They knew that he really was still thinking about them. That's why he wanted to continue taking some of his visits, just to be sure.

Arkansas seems a distant third at this point. Thanks to this past season's reliance on the passing game, Hill surely finds it difficult to ignore what Alabama's staff was able to get out of Amari Cooper, who went on to become one of three Heisman finalists.

For Hill, Columbus is a bit too far from home and the Crimson Tide seem to have never really left his mind.

Prediction: Hill signs with Alabama

 

Player rankings based on 247Sports' composite ranking system. All recruit measurements and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish need to reverse a few trends on national signing day. 

A limp to the finish line this time last year gave way to a horrific late-season collapse a few months ago. If crunch-time performances do not improve, things will only become worse for Kelly and Co. down the road.

The good news is that the Irish rank just outside of the top 10 at 247Sports going into Wednesday's marathon of commitments.

Like last year, Kelly and his staff have a few big names they need to secure at the finish line.

 

2015 Class Predictions

 

Top Remaining Targets

Dexter Williams, RB

Not too long ago, Dexter Williams named Notre Dame his favorite.

This was cause for celebration in South Bend, as the 4-star running back comes in at 6'0" and 192 pounds with great 4.54-second 40-yard dash speed.

One problem—it seems Williams continues to weigh the pros and cons of both Notre Dame and Miami, as captured by Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel:

It’s very difficult because both schools are great and at both schools, the depth chart is looking very good and both schools have great coaches. The only real difference between them is the type of environment. ... Notre Dame is really different. Miami is like the city life, which is not bad and it’s something I’m used to, but Notre Dame is not a bad different. ... It’s a very good different.

Since the beginning of January, though, Williams seems to have started to lean toward Notre Dame.

The "very good different" figures to win out in this scenario. Kelly and Co. seemed to get Williams at just the right time close to the deadline, so expect a signature for the Irish.

Prediction: Williams signs with Notre Dame

 

Arrington Farrar, S

Things seem to move at a fever pitch around Arrington Farrar, a 4-star recruit out of Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stanford was Farrar's program of choice until admissions rules stepped in the way.

Now it seems to be a two-program race between Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Although Farrar was recently in South Bend for a visit, it sounds as if he prefers the Badgers, per Mike Farrell of Rivals.com:

While Wisconsin making such a big push is an interesting note, it is quite important to point out that Notre Dame got to Farrar last.

While Kelly and others have to make up ground with other top safety recruits, Farrar is a strong candidate to come on board considering how clear it is that Notre Dame is serious about the safety position.

Prediction: Farrar signs with Notre Dame

 

Equanimeous St. Brown, WR

The owner of the best name in the 2015 class has made just two official visits—one to Notre Dame, the other to Utah.

In other words, the Fighting Irish sit in a great spot when it comes to Equanimeous St. Brown.

A 4-star wideout who hails from Anaheim, California, players who measure in similar to St. Brown are quite difficult to find. Not only does he come in at 6'5" and 205 pounds, St. Brown runs a 4.44 40-yard dash.

As Irish Illustrated points out, things on national signing day seem to set up rather strategically:

All things equal, it is difficult to see a reality in which St. Brown does not join the Fighting Irish—especially after Notre Dame also offered his little brother a piece of the pie.

Look for St. Brown to spend his college days in South Bend.

Prediction: St. Brown signs with Notre Dame

 

Player rankings based on 247Sports' composite ranking system. All recruit measurements and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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USC Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

USC has already made a huge splash in the recruiting process ahead of national signing day. The Trojans are currently holding strong at No. 2 overall—behind only Alabama—in 247Sports' team rankings ...

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Oregon Ducks Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

How does a team that came within one victory of a national championship and then lost its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback pick up the pieces and move forward? Securing a top-notch class on national signing day would be a good place to start...

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FSU Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

For all the plaudits Nick Saban receives for being an expert recruiter, Jimbo Fisher isn't far behind. Fisher has gathered a top-10 recruiting class in each of his first five seasons as Florida State's head coach, including three top-five outfits.

On Wednesday, Fisher will almost certainly lock up his sixth straight top-10 and fourth top-five class. Despite some disappointments over the last couple of weeks, 247Sports' composite rankings have the Seminoles third coming into national signing day. Only Alabama has more 5-star recruits; only USC and Alabama have landed recruits with a better average grade.

That said, it's hard not to feel a little disappointed about Fisher's haul. As noted by Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat in a complimentary column, quarterback Kai Locksley, running back Jordan Scarlett and cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick have all rebuffed overtures from Florida State in recent days. Brian Bell, a 3-star linebacker who initially committed to Florida State, will also not sign his letter of intent due to ongoing off-field troubles, per Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation.

With a majority of the nation's top prospects decided, it's likely Florida State's recruiting haul has already been decided. A few lower-profile targets will probably ink their official commitments Wednesday, but the high-profile names are few and far between. Here's a look at the Seminoles' biggest remaining targets for national signing day.

 

Iman Marshall (CB, Long Beach Poly)

The odds are overwhelmingly stacked in USC's favor for the nation's best remaining defensive back. Marshall, while he did not take an official visit, grew up not far from the USC campus. He's been considered a near-lock to affirm his commitment to the Trojans for months, and in the process inch them closer to Alabama for the No. 1 class.

247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions give USC a 94 percent chance of landing Marshall. Florida State, the only other school to even get a nod, comes in at six percent. Officially, Michigan, LSU, UCLA, Notre Dame and Oregon are also still on the table.

Marshall is considered the nation's fourth-best recruit overall and the best cornerback by a pretty substantial margin. LSU commit Kevin Toliver II is the only other corner even in Marshall's general skill range. Listed at 6'1" and 190 pounds, he's a relentless ball-hawk who already has an advanced understanding of reading defenses and the fast-twitch movement to break on routes.

Should Marshall surprise and pick Florida State, the Seminoles would undoubtedly have the nation's best secondary class. They already landed 5-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and 5-star safety Derwin James. Barring a last-second change of heart, Florida State fans shouldn't bank their hopes on that scenario.

Prediction: USC

 

Terry Beckner Jr. (DT, East St. Louis High)

Florida State appears to be in a close race with Missouri and Auburn for Beckner's services. The St. Louis product has been thought to be leaning local for most of the process, but he's kept his cards close to the vest as signing day comes close.

"If you would've asked me last week, I would've said Mizzou strong and FSU edging in, but after coming back from this Auburn visit, he was more excited than I ever saw after a visit," East St. Louis assistant coach Harith Mitchom told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports. "Whatever they did down there really, really caught his eye."

As of now, few experts have flipped their prediction to Auburn. Missouri still leads with a strong 70 percent and Florida State is the next closest at 18 percent among 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. The most recent predictions have been split almost 50-50 between Florida State and Missouri, with more coming in on the former in recent days.

Where Beckner lands ultimately means more to the Tigers than the Seminoles. Missouri does not have a 5-star commit in its 2015 class and currently ranks 27th coming into national signing day. Beckner signing on the dotted line would not only improve the artificial rankings but also Missouri's standing among big-time SEC threats. Despite a couple of strong seasons, Gary Pinkel's program is still seen as being on the lower rung on the recruiting trail.

For Florida State, Beckner merely represents its last chance of grabbing a marquee recruit in this class. Sometimes that's enough. Call it a gut feeling, but I think Beckner would have picked Missouri by now had he been 100 percent sure he wanted to go there. The late-process dalliance with Florida State and Auburn gives me the sense he's just waiting to be swayed away from his home state.

Prediction: Florida State

 

Marcus Lewis (ATH, Gonzaga High School)

Another player where Florida State seems to be in the running based on reputation only. Almost no one expects the 4-star athlete to wind up in Tallahassee. Kentucky has put on a consistent hard charge and made Lewis its prized possession since jump street. Miami has been consistently near the lead of the charge and has been trending upward since December.

Only two of 247Sports' recruiting analysts, both with ties to Florida State, have Lewis landing with the Seminoles. In recent days, it's been Big Blue all the way—a trend I would expect to continue Wednesday. Kentucky has been in on this kid from the beginning; he's be by far the biggest coup in this class and the flattery goes a long way in these situations.

Prediction: Kentucky

 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

All recruiting info via 247Sports.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: Top Remaining 2015 Recruits, Class Predictions

New Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh's influence seems to be benefiting the program already. It has secured late commitments from 3-star wide receiver Grant Perry and 6'7" 4-star quarterback Zach Gentry.

Perry, a Michigan native, tweeted this image to celebrate his intentions to become a Wolverine:

He'll join his high school quarterback Alex Malzone in Ann Arbor. Malzone committed to Michigan under former head coach Brady Hoke's regime, and he stayed after the coaching change.

The best could be yet to come. If the Wolverines can pry 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall away from the west coast, he'll prove to be the crown jewel of Michigan's 2015 recruiting efforts. Per Rivals.com on Twitter, the Wolverines made enough of an impression to at least get the 6'1" corner thinking about the program after his Jan. 19 visit.

Coupled 2014's top recruit Jabril Peppers, the Wolverines would have one heck of a young and dynamic secondary.

Marshall is a long shot. However, the fact that Michigan could place itself in contention at this late date for such a highly regarded recruit from Pac-12 country is an encouraging sign.

This is one of the more potentially intriguing storylines to follow on Wednesday. Here's a look at the predicted signings for the Wolverines on Wednesday.

 

A Given?

A far more likely signing should come from 4-star athlete Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Yes, he's the son of former Michigan running back and recently hired assistant coach Tyrone Wheatley Sr. 

Junior is much bigger than his dad. At 6'6", Wheatley Jr. could be a tight end or defensive end for Harbaugh. Quite honestly, if the Wolverines can't secure the son of a former player and current member of the coaching staff, it would be pretty embarrassing.

Ultimately, the kid will make up his own mind, but you'd like to think there would be enough of a pull there to get Wheatley Jr. to sign on the dotted line.

 

UCLA or Big Blue?

Tight ends were a major part of Harbaugh's offenses at Stanford, and that figures to be the case at Michigan. That explains why a recruit like Chris Clark is so important. 

Before Michigan made the well-publicized Harbaugh hire, the 6'6" 4-star recruit voiced his desire to potentially play for the head coach in an interview with Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. Clark said:

"I've got to wait and see if it's 100 percent a done deal, but I'd really like to have the opportunity to talk with [Harbaugh] and just take it from there. But, yeah, Michigan would be a school that I'd have a lot of interest in again. Hopefully he'll be the head coach."

Not so fast, Big Blue Nation. Per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN, the UCLA Bruins might have swept Clark off his feet in a recent visit.

I don't know everything Clark is thinking, but we do know UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. has a reputation as more of a player-friendly guy than Harbaugh. It's also a lot warmer in California in the fall than it is in Ann Arbor.

Something tells me UCLA may have swooped in and taken a potential gem away from Michigan.

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National Signing Day 2015: Live Recruit Commitments and Reaction

National signing day 2015 is upon us, and with wire-to-wire coverage spanning the morning, afternoon and early evening, it will once again glue our eyes to the television and internet. 

Three of the top four, four of the top seven and seven of the top 14 high school football players in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings, are set to announce their decisions. The rest of the class will put ink to paper and fax in their letters of intent.

Where will Martez IveyByron Cowart and the rest of the 2015 class take their talents? Will any top recruits make a last-minute flip? Which teams and coaches will close the cycle with the strongest push? Who will win our hearts by announcing their decision with a live animal mascot?

Keep it locked right here at Bleacher Report throughout the day for all the latest news, commits, flips, highlights and more! 

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Darius Slayton to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star WR Prospect

One SEC school was celebrating on Tuesday night while another was despondent, as wide receiver Darius Slayton decommitted from Georgia and announced he would be playing for Auburn. 

Slayton tweeted the news himself:

Justin Hokanson of AuburnUndercover.com has more:

Slayton, a 6'1", 182-pound wideout, is considered a 4-star prospect by 247Sports. The rankings site lists him as the No. 141 prospect in the country, the No. 16 player from the State of Georgia and the No. 15 wide receiver.

Slayton is a fantastic athlete. Along with being invited to "The Opening," Nike's all-star camp for high school prospects, and the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he also won the Georgia Class AA 100- and 200-meter dashes in his sophomore year. 

The Greater Atlanta Christian School product may have been swayed by family ties at Auburn, among other factors. His mother's cousin, Darrell Crawford, played linebacker for the school in the late 1980s, and the family also has several friends who attended the school, as his mother told Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

This is a huge get for Auburn. Not only do they get a 4-star prospect at a position they really wanted to fill, but they also took a major prospect away from an SEC competitor. Auburn could potentially have a very big national signing day as well, as they appear to be in the running for several big names yet undeclared.

Slayton was a nice start. But the Tigers just may be getting warmed up.

 

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Jim Harbaugh Shouldn't Be Judged on 2015 Michigan Recruiting Class

The strength of Michigan's recruiting class hinges on national signing day far more heavily than almost any other program in the nation. 

No matter what happens, though, new head coach Jim Harbaugh is in the clear. 

Currently ranked dead last in the Big Ten and 64th in the country, per 247Sports' composite rankings, the Wolverines' 2015 class features just 10 commitments and is clearly feeling the effects of a 5-7 season and late December coaching change. 

But there is hope, as Harbaugh has a collection of talented targets heading into Wednesday's signing deadline. Cornerback Iman Marshall (No. 4 overall), linebacker Roquan Smith (No. 47), tight end Chris Clark (No. 85) and tight end/defensive end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (No. 312) all have the Wolverines among their final few.

Moreover, Harbaugh hasn't been shy about pursuing committed prospects. He has already gotten three players to flip toward the Blue and Gold, and Ohio State's Michael Weber (No. 78) and Ole Miss' Van Jefferson (No. 108) are candidates to do the same:

This feels like a boom-or-bust class for the Wolverines. They could finish with the program's most underwhelming class in the past decade, but if they land a handful of the above names, it's suddenly a group brimming with talent. 

Combine those high stakes with Michigan's recent struggles and the sky-high expectations surrounding Harbaugh, and there is going to be disappointment if the Wolverines don't have a banner day on Wednesday. 

But while some will claim there should be no such thing as a free pass at this level of competition, none of the blame should fall upon Harbaugh, who has only had a month to build this class. 

ESPN's Tom Luginbill, via the Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder, put it simply:

If they didn't sign another guy from what they have right now—that's not how it will work—but if they didn't, it wouldn't be any different than who they do sign on Signing Day, because it's going to be a little drop in the bucket compared to the bigger picture.

Many will point to Harbaugh's new rival, Urban Meyer, who was hired in November 2011 and still built the fifth-best class in the country. Or even Rich Rodriguez, whose first class at Michigan (after being hired in December) ranked 11th

But those are exceptions. Harbaugh inherited a whopping six recruits from Brady Hoke and was still coaching an NFL game just 38 days ago. Contrast that with Meyer, who had a year off (and was hired over a month early), and Rodriguez, who came over from West Virginia and was already tapped into the collegiate pipeline.

There was only so much the new Wolverines coach was going to be able to do. 

The fact Harbaugh, in so little time, is close on several of the country's top prospects, is an encouraging sign for the future—not a reason to criticize him if he doesn't land the signatures. 

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Twitter Chatter About Byron Cowart's Signing Day Decision

Byron Cowart is 6'4", 258 pounds and is the No. 1 recruit in college football, according to ESPN. Cowart has received an incredible 28 offers leading up to national signing day. The decision at hand is more important than where people want him to go, as Cowart must also consider where he can best improve as a player.

Fast Facts About Cowart

  • According to 24/7 Sports, Cowart has recorded 140 total tackles, 36 tackles for loss and 24 sacks over the past two years at Armwood High School in Seffner, Florida.
  • Won the MVP award for Team Highlight at the 2015 Under Armour All-America High School Football game, earning four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

 

Recent Talk

It is thought that Cowart has narrowed his decision to Auburn and Florida, and Twitter would agree that this much is confirmed. 

Cowart apparently had a much better visit at Auburn than he did at Florida, however. Due to family issues, Cowart cut his Florida visit short, which may give Auburn a distinct advantage, especially considering how important visits are for recruits.

Cowart has a lot tugging at him to stay in Florida, however, and it will be a difficult decision.

 

Cowart's Impact 

Cowart has apparently shown his ability over the past two years, but where could he make the most immediate impact and best improve as a player?

Cowart would make a much more immediate impact for new Florida coach Jim McElwain and the Gators, and while he would receive a solid defensive education at the hands of former Florida head coach and new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, he'd get immediate experience with the Gators.

There is more room for Cowart at Florida, and McElwain and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins would make sure he would receive plenty of game experience and a potential starting spot.

While Muschamp is a revered defensive mind in college football, the tools at his disposal at Auburn (three strong-side defensive ends, nine total defensive ends) may cause him to have to wait to play Cowart rather than give him an early chance at experience. 

 

***

Cowart's decision will have a huge impact no matter which university he selects, that is for sure. A player of his caliber will come back to haunt the teams that missed out on him, and whom he selects will have a distinct advantage for years to come.

While the majority of analysts and minds on Twitter seem to think that Cowart will likely choose Auburn, he can best capitalize on his upside at Florida with Collins. He needs game experience to improve on his natural ability, and he will get the most of that at Florida.

What do you think? Should Cowart go to the Tigers or the Gators? Which school do you think he'll pick? Post in the comments below.

Evan Reier is a first-year journalism major at the University of Alabama and a member of Bleacher Report's APSM program. Follow Evan on Twitter at @evanreier. 

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