On the eve of national signing day, a large number of recruits have yet to announce where they plan to sign.
Wednesday morning will bring a storm of high-profile announcements as players grab their preferred hats and sign their letters of intent. A top recruiting class is the start to building a national championship contender. The nation’s top undecided recruits will determine tomorrow what the perception and expectations for college football programs across the country will be.
Here’s a look at some of the top players who will make their decisions Wednesday.
The nation’s No. 1 recruit, Rashan Gary, is down to five schools: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Mississippi and USC.
Gary is listed at 6’5” and 290 pounds. He has the size to step in and make an impact on a team as a true freshman.
Adam Friedman of Rivals reported that Gary enjoyed his visit to Clemson, but Michigan is considered the favorite to land the 5-star defensive tackle. Jim Harbaugh has assembled the No. 5 class, and Gary could push the Wolverines even further toward the top of the rankings.
Mecole Hardman Jr.
Mecole Hardman Jr., a 5-star athlete from Bowman, Georgia, is down to a final two of Alabama and Georgia.
The Bulldogs now have former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as their head coach, however, and Josh Helmholdt of Rivals wrote that Hardman’s visit “appears to have the potential to change his mind.”
The Tide need a couple of big-name recruits such as Hardman to move their class higher than No. 9 in the class rankings. If Hardman chooses the Bulldogs, it will be a strong statement to begin Smart’s tenure in Athens.
Tyrie Cleveland is technically committed to Houston. He announces his final decision, however, tomorrow.
The 6’3” receiver could compete for a starting role on any of those teams right away. One of the deciding issues will be the style of offense in which he wants to play.
He could put up huge numbers in the spread schemes Houston and TCU run. Or he could be the go-to receiver in a pro-style offense such as Arkansas or Florida.
For 5-star linebacker Ben Davis, there appear to be two main contenders for his signature. Just like with Hardman, Helmholdt reported Georgia and Alabama are the last two programs fighting for Davis.
Davis announced that Georgia was his top school in December but later reversed course and said Alabama was on top, according to 247Sports. He is also considering Auburn, LSU and Notre Dame.
His father, Wayne, played at Alabama and holds the program record for career tackles. That could give the Crimson Tide the final edge.
Recruit rankings and info courtesy of Rivals.com unless otherwise noted.
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Following the trend set in recent years, the SEC boasts some of the top recruiting classes in the country. With only one day left until national signing day, however, its classes are far from complete.
While SEC schools will likely land some of the top uncommitted recruits in the nation, No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary won't be one of them.
Brian Dohn of Scout.com reported on Monday that Gary cut both Auburn and Alabama from his list of finalists. Gary is now down to two non-SEC schools: Clemson and Michigan.
With Gary now out of the picture for SEC teams, 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown becomes the top uncommitted recruit. Brown, the No. 9 overall prospect, is being heavily recruited by his home-state Georgia Bulldogs in addition to Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee.
Brown will be announcing his commitment on Wednesday at 3:10 p.m. ET on ESPNU, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, although he has already chosen his school. According to Cody Chaffins of Fox 5 Sports, Brown "will be calling coaches tonight" to let them know where he'll commit:
Georgia was long considered the favorite to land Brown, but Auburn has closed the gap after hosting Brown's Jan. 15 official visit.
247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions still have UGA as the favorite with 50 percent of the picks, but it's barely ahead of Auburn's 42 percent. It would be a major hit for the Dawgs to lose their home-grown talent to their most bitter SEC rival.
Though Hardman named Alabama his leader back on Jan. 3, Georgia has fought hard to get back in favor with the nation's No. 13 overall prospect, and it appears to be paying off. 247Sports considers Georgia a clear front-runner for Hardman, with the Dawgs garnering 91 percent of predictions.
Robertson's recruiting chase has been both interesting and unpredictable. After he decommitted from Alabama last April, Georgia emerged as the favorite to sign him.
In recent months, however, Notre Dame has emerged as a strong contender to land Robertson, and 45 percent of 247Sports' predictions are leaning toward the Fighting Irish compared to 40 percent for Georgia.
Even though Robertson will likely wait until after national signing day to commit—247Sports' Kipp Adams (h/t FoxSports.com) reported that Robertson booked a visit to Georgia for the weekend following national signing day—things look good for the Bulldogs.
Last Friday, Robertson told Kipp Adams of Dawgs247 that he was "sold" on UGA: "My mom...I need to take this visit to show her around," Robertson told Adams. "I am sold on the school, I just got to let her see the school."
Adding Hardman and Robertson to the No. 9-ranked recruiting class in the nation would be a nice welcoming gift for new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
Alabama is looking to bolster its strong class as well. The top two prospects in the state of Alabama—5-star linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell "Mack" Wilson—are nearing their decisions, and things look good for the Tide.
Davis, the son of Alabama all-time leading tackler Wayne Davis, has narrowed down his list to five schools:
Davis has been considered a lock for Alabama for quite some time, even when he named UGA his leader in the wake of Georgia hiring Kirby Smart as its head coach. 247Sports unanimously predicts that Davis will stay home to play for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Wilson's perceived choice is somewhat murkier. Having earlier named Florida as his favorite, he surprisingly dropped the Gators from his list last week. Like Davis, Wilson's top two choices are Alabama and Georgia.
Wilson raved about his Jan. 15 official visit to Athens, calling it "a perfect 10" and inspiring optimism among Bulldogs fans with this tweet:
Despite his apparent interest in Georgia, national recruiting pundits aren't buying it, as 96 percent of 247Sports' experts are picking Alabama to bring in Wilson.
Even with Davis and Wilson as likely options, Alabama is looking to land a trio of 5-star linebackers. It also has its sights set on 5-star linebacker Mique Juarez, a California native. Though Juarez is considered an overwhelming favorite to sign with UCLA and is also considering Ole Miss, his official visit to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 22 was a success for the Crimson Tide:
If Alabama can land even two of these three linebackers, its recruiting class could very well become the best in the nation.
In order for the Tide to claim the top spot, however, they would have to unseat LSU. The Tigers may not be in the mix for the likes of Brown, Davis and Juarez, but their top-ranked class is far from done.
Prized 5-star cornerback Kristian Fulton, the top recruit in the state of Louisiana and No. 21 overall player in the class, is a heavy favorite to sign with LSU. Fellow cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Shyheim Carter—both 4-star prospects—are also considering LSU. The Tigers are also in the mix for 4-star defensive tackle Stephon Taylor, a New Orleans native.
Much like the Tigers, No. 4 overall Ole Miss has already landed many of its top recruits. But if they can add in-state 5-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons, the Rebels would cement their impressive recruiting class.
Simmons will decide between Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn on Wednesday, and according to Yahoo Sports' Andrew Bone, he has gone to great lengths to ensure that he will pick the best school for him:
Although somewhat overshadowed by LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss, the Florida Gators have also put together quite an impressive recruiting class, ranked No. 7 in the nation.
The Gators have 25 commitments to date and are looking to steal Fulton from LSU. After his official visit to Gainesville on Jan. 29, that scenario looked much more possible:
The SEC is once again dominating recruiting, and it is landing prospects from all across the country. LSU's top-ranked class has thrived on in-state recruiting, Ole Miss has landed its big 5-star targets and the Crimson Tide can boast the top class in the country if things play out well for them.
Georgia and Florida are each a stone's throw—or a few blue-chip prospects—away from a Top Five recruiting class.
Much like in any other year, the SEC will boast many of the top teams in the nation come September. But each team's national title hopes begin with an elite recruiting class via national signing day.
Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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Two of the biggest days on America's football calendar are close—national signing day in the college game and the Super Bowl in the NFL ranks.
This intersection of recruiting hype and championship drama has made for an interesting look back at the players who will star in Sunday's big game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.
Both franchises have former blue-chip prospects who went on to have huge college careers and breakout stars who were severely underrated out of high school. Some had a laundry list of scholarship offers from schools all over the country, while others didn't even get a single one at first.
Let's take a look at several stars from both the Broncos and the Panthers—seven for each squad—and see where they were rated as high school or JUCO prospects.
All recruiting information here comes from 247Sports, which has historical composite rankings from industry leaders dating back to the 2002 season.
We’re down to the final hours until national signing day in college football, and while every Southeastern Conference coaching staff will be nervous about every commitment until the paperwork is signed, sealed and faxed, each will also be on edge about the players who haven’t made even a commitment yet.
Everyone has a wish list. For some coaches, that list includes players they’re certain they don’t have a shot at and others they think they’ll land but still don’t know for sure.
It’s a stressful and fun day for everyone to be sure, but here’s a last-minute look at who each SEC team hopes to see join its official roster Wednesday.
Chris Kirschner of SEC Country reported that Lashley chose Alabama over Mississippi State and LSU at a ceremony at his high school.
Lashley is a 4-star prospect who ranks among the top 20 offensive tackles and top 200 overall players in the 2016 class. He received offers from numerous top programs before making his decision.
The West Point High School (Mississippi) standout briefly committed to Mississippi State in May before deciding to reconsider the landscape.
Lashley decided to play out his senior season while continuing to gather information about the interested programs. He explained to Barton Simmons of 247Sports in December that getting on the field quickly was among his top considerations during the process:
Where I feel like I can fit in but not so much building a relationship with the coaches because coaches leave but really a place where I know I can come in and help them contribute. That's mainly the main factor.
I would like to play early. If I redshirt, I redshirt. You can learn from the coaches, learn the position. I'm still new to the game. This is really my second year playing football so I would like to go so somewhere and play early but if I do redshirt that would be OK.
His strong play earned him a chance to take part in the 2015 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game alongside several other top prospects. The group included prized defensive end Jeffery Simmons, and Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger spotlighted that matchup:
Lashley has the raw tools to become a top-tier college tackle. His combination of size (6'6'', 300 lbs), power and athleticism makes him the type of prospect a coaching staff can mold into a special player.
It's going to take a while before he can reach that level, though. He has plenty of work to do in terms of his technique, and there will be an adjustment period as he moves to the college level, where he won't be able to rely on outmuscling opponents.
Ultimately, Lashley becomes the latest in a long line of star recruits to land at Alabama. Perhaps it was that arcade basketball game with head coach Nick Saban that made the difference:
Choosing the Tide does make his path to playing time a little less certain. The loss of senior Dominick Jackson does open up a spot in the starting lineup, but the incoming freshman will have plenty of competition if he's focused on earning that spot.
The likelier scenario is he'll need to wait a season or two before he's able to make his presence felt.
Ultimately, Lashley opted for Alabama in what comes as at least a minor surprise after Mississippi State and LSU pushed hard for his commitment.
Lashley could be given a chance to prove himself right out of the gate, and if he's impressive enough, he may be given a chance to start as a freshman. His comments made it clear he'd like to contribute right away.
We'll see if he ends up getting that opportunity, but his long-term outlook will remain positive either way.
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