NCAA Football

5 Teams with the Most Work to Do Before 2015 National Signing Day

In two days, fax machines across the country will feel useful for a change. 

With national signing day on Wednesday, programs around the country are finalizing classes and making some last-minute pitches to key, undecided recruits. Or, in other cases, schools are desperately trying to flip prospects who are verbally committed elsewhere. 

After all, nothing is set in stone until the national of letter of intent is faxed. 

For many teams, a majority of the work is done. For others, there are still plenty of opportunities in the final 48 hours or so. Which teams still have work to do before signing day? The following programs still need to either fill out their classes or are in the running for major recruits. 

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Notre Dame Football: Where Should Brian Kelly Turn to Replace Kerry Cooks?

Brian Kelly has spent the past few weeks hustling to finalize Notre Dame's 2015 recruiting class. It looks like he's going to have to sign a new secondary coach as well.

News broke Sunday that Kerry Cooks was leaving the Irish coaching staff to join Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. TheFootballBrainiacs.com first reported the move, with Irish 247 confirming the news from South Bend that Cooks would be leaving and headed to Norman, likely as the new secondary coach. 

It's the first departure from Kelly's staff in a non-head coaching role since Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton left Notre Dame for Ohio State between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

It's a move that most closely mirrors Warinner's, with Cooks—like Warinner—being passed over for the defensive coordinator job last offseason, when Kelly decided to bring in Brian VanGorder instead of promoting Cooks, who held the co-coordinator title for one season with Bob Diaco. 

Kelly's first priority was making sure the news of Cooks' move didn't affect his current recruiting class, a group that will be finalized on Wednesday. Irish Illustrated connected with Cooks' recruits and it appears the move won't have an impact on their decision. 

Now Kelly is tasked with finding a new secondary coach. How he plans to go about doing that will be quite interesting. 

A look at Kelly's past hires gives us a good indication as to how he'll likely proceed. Outside of Harry Hiestand, professional and person connections usually play a large role in the decision. 

Kelly tapped Chuck Martin to coordinate his offense, his most trusted lieutenant making the unorthodox switch from coaching safeties to running the offense. When he needed to replace Tim Hinton, Kelly promoted from within, shifting his offensive assistants to promote Scott Booker from the GA ranks. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur worked for Kelly as well. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Kelly has deferred to his coordinator. The hiring of Bob Elliott had Diaco's fingerprints all over it. Elliott had coached not just Diaco, but Cooks when they were players at Iowa, a veteran hire who knew both assistants very well. 

After a rocky first season, Kelly will almost certainly let VanGorder have a say in the hire. After spending the past four seasons playing a mostly Cover 2 defense, bringing in a secondary coach who has experience coaching VanGorder's scheme makes a ton of sense. 

With that in mind, most eyes have turned to Tennessee assistant Willie Martinez. The former Georgia defensive coordinator has ties to Kelly and VanGorder at Grand Valley State and worked under VanGorder during his successful run with the Bulldogs and again during his season at Auburn.

Martinez had success at Oklahoma as a secondary coach and would know both of his bosses in South Bend quite well. 

Also worth a look is current graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy. The former Irish captain spent this season battling cancer and assisting with the secondary, earning praise for his determination during such a chaotic time in his young life. But Irish Illustrated reports that McCarthy has just accepted a job at a sports agency, likely putting an end to that promotion opportunity. 

If a connection to Notre Dame is important, kicking the tires on former Irish star Todd Lyght could make sense. Hired just weeks ago as the cornerback coach at Vanderbilt, Lyght was the No. 5 pick overall in the 1991 NFL draft before a successful 12-year professional career that including a Super Bowl win with St. Louis. 

Lyght began his coaching career at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where Notre Dame's inroads are well established. He also worked for Chip Kelly at Oregon and with the Eagles, a referral that Kelly will no doubt seek if he's interested in bringing Lyght back to South Bend. 

The opening on the staff could also serve as an opportunity for Kelly to bring former assistant Jeff Quinn back into the fold. After being fired as Buffalo's head coach, Quinn could look to reunite with his former boss and help set the offense on course for next season. 

How that move would work in the offensive staff room remains to be seen, with Hiestand entrenched as offensive line coach and Mike Denbrock entering his second year as offensive coordinator. But it could happen if Kelly and VanGorder decide to move tight ends coach Scott Booker into Cooks' vacated spot. 

Booker played four seasons at safety at Kent State. He spent four years coaching defensive backs at his alma mater before taking the same job at Western Kentucky. That transition might not be too difficult, though it would place a much larger responsibility on Booker, the least-established coach on the staff who already seems to have enough on his plate with the tight ends and special teams. 

Whoever Kelly decides to bring in, he's earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to building a staff. So far, the Irish head coach has turned three assistants into first-time head coaches and lost assistants to only Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops. 

Notre Dame begins spring practice on March 2, giving Kelly some time to make the decision. But whoever takes over the position will have his hands full, needing improvement from a secondary expected to do big things in 2015.

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JUCO RB Chris Carson Flips Commitment from Georgia to Oklahoma State

Butler Community College running back Chris Carson, the No. 23 JUCO recruit in the country, announced Monday that he has flipped his commitment from Georgia to Oklahoma State.

"I have flipped," Carson texted Dawgs247. "I talked to UGA yesterday. My final decision is OSU."

One day prior to flipping, Carson told Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he would stick with the Bulldogs. In January, though, he admitted to Carvell that he was worried about their depth at running back, saying, "I've got to think about how much playing time I'm going to get at Georgia."

In the end, that was too much to overcome.

Carson was the only running back in Georgia's 2015 class, but because of that aforementioned depth, which includes sophomores Nick Chubb and Sony Michel along with injury-plagued junior Keith Marshall, the Bulldogs will be fine without him.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, was in desperate need of Carson, a 6'1", 200-pound bruiser with college-ready skills.

Last year's leading rusher, Desmond Roland, was a senior, and his presumed replacement, Tyreek Hill, was dismissed from the team in December. Ronald Jones II, the No. 39 overall player in the 2015 class, decommitted from the Cowboys Dec. 14, two days after Hill's dismissal, and committed to USC at the Under Armour All-America Game.

Rennie Childs and Raymond Taylor combined for 364 yards on 96 carries last season, but neither cuts the mold of a feature back. Each has proved serviceable, but Carson has a real chance to pass them in fall camp and start beside Mason Rudolph next season.

Carson is the seventh Georgia commit to flip away from the program this cycle, per Carvell, although the Bulldogs still boast the No. 6 class on the 247Sports team rankings. Oklahoma State is No. 37.

This was probably in Carson's best interest.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Return of Ed Orgeron, College Football's Most Charismatic Recruiter

It was the call I had been waiting for, although I didn’t expect it to arrive on a Sunday night just as I sat down for dinner. The California area code came into focus. Seconds later, the most recognizable voice in all of college football greeted me, tossing a comforting arm around my shoulder from more than 1,000 miles away.  

“Adam, my man,” the man said in his unmistakable Cajun drawl. “It’s Coach O. Always a pleasure.”

“Coach O” is the name the football world has bestowed upon Ed Orgeron, LSU’s recently hired defensive line coach and one of the nation’s premier recruiters. He also still bench-presses more than a good chunk of his players and cooks one hell of a gumbo. Although coaching at LSU, he might have met his match in both departments.

I had reached out to Orgeron earlier in the week in hopes of doing a profile—this profile—on his new football digs and gaining some insight into his magical recruiting wisdom with national signing day near. What ensued was a splendid five-day game of phone tag, which should come as no surprise given the timing.

Please note: The worst possible time to request an interview with an assistant coach is the week prior to national signing day. It would be like asking a fireworks salesman to babysit your children on July 3.

But Orgeron, being the person that he is, obliged.

At the time of his call, however, I was miles from my office and without a tape recorder. The interview wasn’t happening. I told Orgeron of my situation and asked if we could reschedule. This is not a request that is typically well-received in the profession, especially with a full calendar like his.

“Of course,” Orgeron said. “I’m jumping on a plane to Tampa and I will call you as soon as I land. Have a wonderful dinner, and tell your family that Coach O says hello.”

Tell your family Coach O says hello.

In one impromptu response—just natural courtesy from a man who is seemingly beloved by all—Orgeron pretty much wrote this profile. He recruited me simply by being himself, which is precisely why some of the nation's elite decide to play for him.

Some coaches make their mark as X's and O's guys; others are motivators. Ed Orgeron is a people person and a recruiter, maybe the best one this side of Nick Saban. Here's how he gets it done. 

 

How Coach O Got His Groove Back

Orgeron’s own unexpected phone call came a few weeks earlier. It was Tuesday, Jan. 13, to be exact.

He was cooking when LSU alerted him that the vacant defensive-line job was his if he wanted it. The Tigers wanted him in Baton Rouge the next day to make it official.

By morning, Orgeron had arrived, and the paperwork was signed. By sunrise of the day after he signed, he and new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele were 30,000 feet off the ground, off to recruit with little time left before national signing day. He has not been home since.

“We were in four states and saw five different recruits in 36 hours,” Orgeron said.  

And just like that—one year after leaving USC—Coach O was back in the game. 

As he racked up miles and wooed recruits while endorsing a new logo, Orgeron changed his voicemail. People change their voicemails all the time, although typically these modifications aren’t showcased on sports websites.

Orgeron didn’t just personalize his voicemail to reflect his new position with LSU; he added his own flavor and broke out a brief rendition of “Hold That Tiger,” a song near and dear to the program. Baton Rouge-based radio station 104.5 ESPN managed to record his voice while calling the coach live on air.  

“I’ve cheered ‘Hold That Tiger’ since I was about three years old,” Orgeron said. “I had some friends that thought it would be a great thing. I took it to heart.”

Although his profession has taken him many places—from Los Angeles to Miami to the NFL to Mississippi—Louisiana is where Orgeron and his family call home. He was born there. He played his football there. He coached both college teams and NFL teams in this state. When USC told him he would not be retained despite resurrecting the Trojans following Lane Kiffin’s dismissal, he headed home to Louisiana.

When I first spoke with Orgeron back in the fall, he was driving home from the Northwestern State campus after being inducted into the school’s hall of fame. Before Orgeron became one of the nation’s best recruiters, he was a dynamite defensive lineman.

At the time we spoke, Orgeron’s future was uncertain. Embracing Saturdays with the stress and strain that comes with them was something he didn’t necessarily miss at the time. But he did miss the game dearly, and he sat out the year in hopes of landing the right opportunity.

While the plan was to find a head-coaching vacancy, it’s hard to envision a better fit than LSU.

“It means a lot to represent the people of Louisiana,” Orgeron said. “I have close friends, family, ex-coaches all the way from North Louisiana to South Louisiana. I’ve been all around the country, but LSU is a place I’ve always respected. It’s just an honor to be coaching here. I understand the tradition.”

 

The Art of Recruiting

There is one enormous advantage Orgeron holds over almost every other coach he will recruit against: He has an IMDb page, and they do not.

“The movie The Blind Side has given me so much notoriety,” Orgeron said. “I walk in and people kind of know who I am because of it. I get it a bunch.”

Orgeron appeared as himself in the 2009 movie about Michael Oher, a player he recruited to play at Ole Miss. His brief cameo in the movie has prompted a slew of living-room conversations on the coach’s appearance in the film. It’s another trick in a robust bag.

Oher isn’t the only notable recruit Orgeron has landed: Leonard Williams, a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, committed to USC in large part because of Orgeron’s influence.

Others who were charmed by Orgeron over the past few decades include Pro Football Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy. There are many, many more, and it's a group not just restricted to the defensive line. Orgeron has recruited numerous positions and the hype (or lack thereof) that comes with them.

“I get the same amount of satisfaction when I recruit a diamond in the rough,” Orgeron said. “You may not know it when you recruit them, but the Mike Pattersons, the Dexter McClusters and the Greg Hardys—the 2- and 3-star guys that become All-Pros—give me just as much satisfaction.”

For Orgeron, whether he’s securing a commitment from the nation’s most coveted player or a difference-maker down the road, the process begins early. A solid class isn’t built in a matter of weeks or in a flurry of phone calls.

It takes years to earn trust from a player and his family, which is something Orgeron tries to do the moment he makes a connection. In fact, upon learning that he had landed the job with LSU, Orgeron reached back out to players he had already started recruiting as sophomores when he still worked with USC.

These relationships stayed intact through a year off and a cross-country move. It’s not just about saying the appropriate things the player and his family want to hear; it’s being one of the first to say these things.

“One of the things we’ve had success with is early identification,” Orgeron said. “If you can be first to identify them, get to know them and get them to your camp, then you’ve got a chance. It’s a process.”

Once a player has been identified, the real work begins. This is where Orgeron is in his element.

Although recruiting has evolved into a more digital craft, it’s much harder to work the room and let your personality shine through text messages. Face-to-face contact—being able to look a player in the eye—has always been Orgeron’s desired route.

“The communication with the guys is more accessible, but I’m still an old-fashioned recruiter,” Orgeron said. “I believe that being there in person and in someone’s home is my strength. Being able to go in there and letting the parents know they can trust me, I think that’s an important thing.”

Once Orgeron is welcomed inside, he doesn’t spew an over-the-top sales pitch. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Instead of loading up on promises and trying to suffocate the family in guarantees, Orgeron approaches each new visit with the utmost care. There is little talk of actual football at first, as Orgeron guides the conversation to academics and traditions before ever moving to the chalkboard.

“I really want to be a good listener and find out what they’re looking for in a university,” Orgeron said. “I want to find out who is the decision-maker and get them to trust me. I don’t try to sell hard.”

Eventually, football will be at the forefront of the conversation. Of course it will. But the process of securing a commitment from a player stretches well beyond one visit. And even when a verbal is finally secured, there are the prospects of keeping it.

That’s what makes recruiting so incredibly difficult. Making an impression is one thing; holding off dozens of other successful people delivering a similar message is another. To appeal to a potential player, authenticity is critical. It can’t be forced or manufactured, but rather something unique that somehow separates one sales pitch from another.

This is where Orgeron’s path takes a sharp turn from that of most other recruiters.

“That’s my secret. I just go in there and I am who I am,” Orgeron said. “They can feel it, and that’s what they want. Players want a coach that’s real. They want a guy they can relate and talk to. They also want a guy who has had success. I don’t think I have to go in there and tell them about myself, most of them already know me.”

 

For the Love of the Grind

Between visits, Orgeron spends his nights in unfamiliar hotel rooms. His workouts, which were an integral part of his college-football-less routine last fall, have been condensed to push-ups and sit-ups on the hotel floor. It’s all his schedule over the past few weeks has allowed.

Meals are consumed on the road or in a recruit’s dining room. 

Recruiting at this level takes a special kind of person. It demands a road warrior. It requires someone willing to toss his life aside in favor of the task at hand. It takes a genuine human being who genuinely enjoys being around other people.

Orgeron meets all of the necessary criteria, which is precisely why LSU wanted the coach to go to work in his backyard.

“I enjoy this just as much as I enjoy being on the grass,” Orgeron said on recruiting. “I enjoy coaching. But when I went to the NFL, recruiting was what I missed the most.”

His success and passion have intertwined. Orgeron has found an extreme niche where he can leverage his gifts—perhaps more effectively than any assistant coach going right now—and he also embraces the extreme timeline.

This Wednesday, that timeline will come to a sudden halt. LSU will tie the bow on one of the nation’s finest recruiting classes with national signing day. Elite talent in Louisiana and elsewhere will fax their letters of intent to Baton Rouge, making it official. Orgeron, although new to the program, will have played a significant role in the ritual.

With so little time left to make an impression and so much to gain, now is not the time to stop. In reality, however, it never truly stops. Orgeron has already moved on.

There’s always another town to visit and a family to woo, even when the cycle has reached a conclusion. While fanbases will celebrate the end of the recruiting cycle as one, Orgeron won’t be partaking in the festivities. In fact, intensive recruiting for the 2016 class—the next batch of recruits to join LSU—began this week. After all, early identification is key.

“It’s a celebration,” Orgeron said. “Then the cycle starts again. There’s no time to rest now.”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

A stellar USC football recruiting class is finalized Wednesday on national signing day. The Trojans are already on the right path for 2015, with six players enrolled and on campus for the spring semester.

Among the early enrollees are 5-star offensive lineman Chuma Edoga and ballyhooed 4-star quarterback Ricky Town.   

Other prospects already at USC are 4-star cornerback Isaiah Langley4-star linebacker Cameron Smith, 3-star offensive tackle Roy Hemsley and 3-star wide receiver Isaac Whitney

Much of head coach Steve Sarkisian's signing class is accounted for, either via the early enrollees or the 14 other verbal commitments already pledged to the Trojans. But USC has room to make a big splash with its remaining scholarships.   

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USC Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

A stellar USC football recruiting class is finalized Wednesday on national signing day. The Trojans are already on the right path for 2015, with six players enrolled and on campus for the spring semester...

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CeCe Jefferson Announces Final 4: Where Will 5-Star Playmaker Sign?

The list of potential landing spots for CeCe Jefferson continues to dwindle.

Jefferson, a prized 2015 defensive end prospect, is prepared to choose between four SEC programs on national signing day:

LSU is noticeably absent from the list of choices. The Tigers hosted him this past weekend, representing his final official visit of a frenzied recruiting experience.

The 6'2", 275-pound playmaker is rated second nationally among strong-side defensive ends and seventh overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. He secured 40.5 sacks through his first three campaigns at Baker County High School in Florida, per USA Today, before missing most of the 2014 season with a shoulder injury. 

His skill set and size indicate a strong chance for immediate playing time in college, depending on how his recovery progresses.

Jefferson grew up in a Gator-friendly environment. He has a long relationship with the program as both a fan and recruit. 

He received an offer from Florida as an underclassman, when each of his finalists extended scholarships. 

“He understands this whole recruiting thing. I guess because he’s been highly recruited since his ninth grade year," Baker county coach Tom McPherson told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel. "I think he has a big future ahead of him. I project him to do a lot of big things no matter where he goes.”

Florida has remained diligent in this pursuit, despite its recent coaching change. Jim McElwain and his staff have made Jefferson a top priority since inheriting the program and throughout the final push toward signing day.

Former Florida coach Will Muschamp is the one who cultivated Jefferson's recruitment in Gainesville. Now the defensive coordinator at Auburn, he continues to chase after the talented edge-rusher. 

Muschamp is also targeting Florida defensive standouts Jeffery Holland and Byron Cowart, who both joined Jefferson at Auburn during a weekend in mid-January. Though it still seems improbable, the trio could become a "package deal" with either the Tigers or Gators for years to come.

“In order to change a program you can’t do it alone,” Jefferson told First Coast News (via USA Today). “We trust each other and we just came to the conclusion that if we are going to go in with anybody why not be us three.”

If they ultimately go their separate ways, Ole Miss and Alabama become more likely destinations. 

The Crimson Tide currently hold the nation's No. 1 recruiting class. Nick Saban's latest haul includes 5-star defensive tackle Daron Payne, and Alabama is already home to a stockpile of elite perimeter talent along the front edge.

Jefferson traveled to Tuscaloosa in December. The team followed that interaction by sending both offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart for an in-person visit last month. 

Ole Miss has managed to remain a stealth top contender in this pursuit, and I view it as an overlooked favorite among Jefferson's finalists. His rapport with the program is strong, and he certainly appreciates campus life, evidenced by multiple visits to The Grove.

He named the Rebels his leader in late December leading up to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

"I would say Ole Miss is my top school right now," Jefferson told Barton Simmons of 247Sports. "I took my official when they played Bama and it was like no other. They treated me well. The program's great. The guys are great and I just know if I go there I'll get taken care of."

Nearly five weeks removed from those comments, our anticipation remains the same.

The news will hurt to accept on three other campuses within the conference, but the future SEC star should give Oxford a reason to celebrate on signing day.

 

Recruit info and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Fresh off their national title win, Urban Meyer and his staff at Ohio State are pounding the pavement on the recruiting trail in hopes of finishing the 2015 cycle strong and laying the groundwork for the 2016 class.

The Buckeyes began the week by offering 3-star defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, who was previously committed to Kentucky, according to Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.

The 6’3”, 285-pounder flipped to the Buckeyes shortly afterward.

The Buckeyes are nailing down the final spots in their 2015 class, but the 2016 cycle is just beginning to heat up.

Meyer and his staff offered a trio of out-of-state standouts who are set to begin their senior seasons on the prep level.

Among those to net a Buckeyes offer is the nation’s top overall prospect for 2016, 5-star offensive tackle Gregory Little. The current Texas A&M commit tweeted out the news of the Ohio State offer:

A pair of 2016 defensive ends were also targeted by Meyer.

Scout.com’s Corey Bender reports that 4-star Florida native Patrick Bethel picked up an offer from the Buckeyes.

Michigan standout and 3-star DE Khalid Kareem was also tendered by Meyer and his staff. The Buckeyes will have to fight off some competition from other schools for Kareem, who was also offered by Notre Dame last week.

The Buckeyes are already off to a fast start in the 2016 cycle, and their flurry of activity last week is proof that their sights are set on making a run at the nation’s top class.

 

Texas A&M After 2016 Studs

Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M are wrapping up another strong class, but the Aggies hosted a number of top prospects for a junior day recently.

Brian Perroni of GigEm247 reports that among the 2016 standouts to receive an offer from the Aggies were 4-star defensive tackleBriston Guidry, 4-star running backTre Turner and 3-star running backTrayveon Williams.

According to Adam Gorney of Rivals, 4-star offensive lineman Frank Martin was another 2016 recruit offered by Texas A&M. Fellow California native and 4-star quarterback KJ Costello also earned an offer from Sumlin and his staff.

The Aggies got off to a quick start for the 2015 class and they’re hoping to repeat that with the 2016 cycle.

 

Florida Nets 2016 Pledge

The Florida Gators have struggled to make waves in the 2015 class, but new head coach Jim McElwain and his staff were busy last week tendering top underclassmen.

Included in that group was in-state receiver Rick Wells, according to ESPN’s Derek Tyson. It didn’t take long for the 6’0’, 185-pounder to jump on the offer from the home-state power, as he announced his commitment to Florida via his Twitter account:

Wells became the third commitment in the Gators' 2016 class.

 

Florida State, USC Among Those After 2016 Golden State Star

Serra High School in Gardena, California is no stranger to producing big-time prospects.

The 2015 class from Serra High includes standouts such as 5-star defensive tackle Rasheem Green and 4-star linebacker John Houston.

The next man up from Serra may be 3-star dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate, who announced his recruiting offer from Florida State via Twitter:

The 6’2”, 200-pounder also picked up offers from Utah and USC last week.

That trio of offers pushed his list to four. With heavyweights such as the Trojans and Seminoles showing interest, Tate’s list is likely to expand even more in the coming months.

 

Best of the Rest

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With national signing day closing in, Alabama is putting the finishing touches on a loaded 2015 class. There won’t be too much drama for the Crimson Tide, who already have 23 commitments.

Still, Alabama is after a few more top targets and could end up with a few more cherries on top of a class that currently ranks No. 1. A lot can happen between now and Wednesday afternoon.

Let’s look at each position and predict who will sign with Alabama on signing day.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Former 4-Star Dee Liner to Transfer from Alabama

Alabama defensive lineman Dee Liner, a top-50 recruit from the 2013 recruiting class, has been granted his release from the university and is free to pursue transfer.

The rising junior from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, has played sparingly the past two seasons, appearing in just four games and recording three tackles.

He confirmed the news in a tweet Monday afternoon:

Liner was an Under Armour All-American and one of the best recruits in the country two years ago. He is 6'3", 295 pounds and capable of playing defensive end or tackle, depending on the scheme.

But a stacked Alabama defensive line made playing time hard to come by. Jonathan Allen, A'Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, D.J. Pettway, Da'Shawn Hand and incoming 5-star recruit Daron Payne blocked him on the depth chart. For that reason, Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report called this move inevitable:

Liner chose Alabama over Auburn on national signing day 2013, announcing his decision on ESPNU. He is best suited as a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense, where he can rush with quickness from the interior.

Scott Carasik of Bleacher Report suggested Tennessee and Georgia as potential scheme fits, although it's too early to confirm mutual interest. Kentucky and Miami offered him scholarships in high school, too.

Either way, Liner will have to sit out next season, per NCAA transfer rules, unless he drops to the FCS level or earns an eligibility waiver. Those waivers are granted for extenuating circumstances, and as Liner appears to be transferring over playing time, it's unlikely he will get one.

Alabama has the star power and depth to survive without Liner, but whichever team lands him will be getting a high-upside piece to build around. You can't teach size and quickness, both of which Liner has, but you can teach scheme and technique.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more about his future.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

National Signing Day 2015: College Football Teams Who Could Win Big

We're less than 48 hours away from national signing day, and while several programs are sitting in great places, others have the opportunity to sit even better by Wednesday.

According to the 247Sports composite ratings, there are eight 5-star athletes still uncommitted, including four of the top 10 players. Additionally, there are 11 4-star uncommitted athletes ranked in the top 100.

Alabama is the team to catch, according to the 247Sports team rankings. It'll be tough for a team to overtake the Crimson Tide's No. 1 spot, but it isn't impossible.

By early Wednesday evening, most of the questions concerning the future of the nation's top athletes will be answered. Here are five teams to watch as signing day approaches. These five teams, with a commitment or two, can significantly boost their recruiting.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will sign roughly 16 student-athletes to the Wolverines' 2015 recruiting class. 

So far, the newly appointed leader has nine commits.

However, he has a few more days to tie up loose ends and convince prospects that choosing Michigan is in their best interests. With national signing day just around the corner, it's time to predict which players will sign with Harbaugh's Wolverines. 

Each position targeted will be included in this slide. There will be a note if said position isn't applicable to this year's class. 

Factors in the predictions include players' interest in Michigan, per 247Sports, latest visit and credible reports indicating that they'll either sign or join another team. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.

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National Signing Day 2015: Rapid-Fire Predictions for Uncommitted Recruits

National signing day is right around the corner, and there are plenty of 4-star and 5-star recruits waiting to make decisions about which colleges to attend in 2015. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer give predictions on where the top uncommitted recruits will land.

Where do you think these top recruits will end up?

Watch the video and let us know!

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Mike Riley Steps Up Big in Final Recruiting Weekend

It was another big weekend for Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and his staff. As the Huskers prepare for national signing day, this was exactly what the 2015 class needed.

Going up against new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Riley was faced with the very real possibility that Nebraska could lose three commits to the Wolverines. The Huskers already lost one in defensive end Reuben Jones, who originally committed to Nebraska last November. On Jan. 24, he chose Harbaugh instead.

The Huskers could have lost both defensive end DaiShon Neal and tight end Matt Snyder in similar fashion. Harbaugh and Michigan were making a strong case for both; they even sent a letter of 42 reasons to attend Michigan to Snyder.

Riley's staff didn't back down, though. Instead, the Huskers stepped in and won those recruiting battles.

Reaffirming commitments from players Harbaugh wanted wasn't Riley's only victory this weekend. He and his staff also secured new commits who can fill the void at important positions.

Who are those commits? They are defensive end Alex Davis, linebacker Antonio Reed, wide receiver Lavan Alston and long snapper Jordan Ober, per Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star.

Considering Nebraska has needed to fill specific spots at defensive end and linebacker, it couldn't have worked out much better. It's also clear, per Mike Schaefer of Huskers Illustrated, that Riley and his staff did not downplay what they can do for recruits like Alston.

“I feel the three heads involved in that—the offensive coordinator coach Danny Langsdorf, coach Mike Riley and coach Keith [Wiliams]—are all involved in that individually,” Alston told Schaefer. “I think I’m a perfect fit for this offense. They know how to put athletes in space. They can get their athletes the ball. They know how to run. I think we’re going to do great things here."

That wasn't all that sold Alston on Nebraska; his decision had a lot to do with the coaches themselves.

"I love all those coaches, man. They're very genuine, they're very real," Alston said, per Christopherson. "They all have knowledge for years. I can learn a lot from them."

Alston wasn't the only recruit that felt this way.

"I had an idea of what Nebraska had to offer, but the final step to me was getting a chance to talk to these coaches," Davis said, per Christopherson. "Once I did that, it was very good."

And the weekend's hard work has paid off in more ways than one. The Huskers jumped four spots to No. 30, according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings. Nebraska also moved up to No. 4 in the Big Ten rankings.

The final weekend before national signing day could have taken any turn. For Riley and his staff, it was as good a return as Husker fans could have hoped for: The 2015 class now boasts four early enrollees and 16 hard commits.

It was clear by the time the weekend ended that Riley's staff was pleased with the results. They took to Twitter to express just that:

Riley and his staff should be pleased. The weekend put Nebraska in a good position come national signing day with players who can make immediate impacts at key positions, like Alston at wide receiver and Davis at defensive end.

With a little time left, there's still the potential for Riley to snag a few more players. Regardless, his staff made sure that the final weekend to recruit was a solid one.

It was exactly what the Huskers needed.

 

Rankings and player information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — National signing day is right around the corner, and Notre Dame football is putting the finishing touches on its class of 2015.

The Irish currently have a 22-member class, including the four early enrollees already taking classes and participating in workouts in South Bend.

The expectation is for those 18 players to sign their national letters of intent with the Irish on Wednesday. Between them and other potential pledges, let’s predict the entire group of players who could sign with Notre Dame.

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