NCAA Football

Arden Key Commits to LSU: Will 4-Star DE Contribute Right Away?

Arden Key's third—and presumably final—collegiate commitment occurred Monday evening with LSU on the receiving end of a pledge from the 4-star defensive end:

The 6'5", 230-pound prospect picked the Tigers over fellow finalists Auburn and South Carolina. He spent two separate stretches of this recruiting cycle as a member of the Gamecocks' recruiting class. 

Key, rated fourth nationally among weak-side defensive ends and 82nd overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, decommitted from South Carolina a second time in early January, setting the stage for a frenzied final push toward signing day:

The Gamecocks remained in contention through the very end, viewed as primary opposition to LSU. Auburn, another possible landing spot, suffered a setback last month when Key cancelled his official visit to the university.

Despite having the coveted defender in his grips twice, Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier must ultimately look elsewhere for a speed-rusher off of the edge. Instead, he's an outstanding pickup for LSU and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.

"Schools want pass rushers, and that's what I can do," Key told Fox Sports South.

He earned a spot in the Under Armour All-America Game after dominating competition in Georgia.

Key tallied 87 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks as a junior at Martin Luther King High School. He transferred to Hapeville Charter in 2014, securing 16.5 sacks through his first nine games, per Phil Kornblut of SportsTalkSC.com.

Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Sanjay Kirpalani broke down his skill set during our recent CFB Recruiting 200 series: "Key is an intriguing prospect due to his length and the physicality he plays with. He’s aggressive off the line of scrimmage, and he’s already developed a nice blend of moves and power to his game. His frame can hold some added muscle, and he has a ton of upside heading into college."

If he arrives on campus with the will to mature physically and fundamentally, Key could contend for a spot in LSU's defensive front rotation as a true freshman. His quickest path to playing time would probably come as a situational pass-rusher, while he works on developing three-down abilities during underclassman campaigns.

The Tigers now hold 21 players in a 2015 recruiting class that rates sixth nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Top-rated inside linebacker Leo Lewis decommitted from Ole Miss on Friday while visiting Baton Rouge and could be the next defensive standout to climb aboard.

 

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Drew Richmond Decommits from Ole Miss: What's Next for Rebels, 4-Star OT?

The rumors about 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond had been out on social media for several days. He was believed to be a soft Ole Miss commit looking to explore other options—more specifically, Tennessee.

The rumors became reality on Monday evening, as Richmond officially decommitted from the Rebels, according to David Johnson of 247Sports. Richmond was Ole Miss' top-rated offensive tackle and had been committed to the Rebels since early September.

With national signing day happening on Wednesday, Richmond once again is a free agent. At least for a few hours. 

It would be considered something of an shocker if Richmond, the nation's No. 3-ranked offensive tackle, didn't end up signing with Tennessee. Per Johnson, Richmond is expected to sign his letter of intent with the Volunteers at his high school, Memphis University School, on Wednesday morning.

Richmond took his official visit to Tennessee over the weekend, took in a basketball game, met with head coach Butch Jones and the other coaches, reconnected with players and hung out with recruits.

Richmond's made the trip from Memphis to Knoxville several times on his own dime, so the experience wasn't new to him.

What he did leave with, however, was unexpected love from the Volunteers fans. At the Tennessee-Auburn basketball game, fans were on hand chanting his name.

The loss is huge for Ole Miss, as he was expected to form a talented duo with 4-star offensive guard Javon Patterson.

It's even more of a big deal because of the timing of it all. Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff now have roughly 24 hours before commits become signees—and the number of available elite offensive linemen around the country is slim.

At 6'5" and 310 pounds, Richmond is the kind of prospect that most offensive line coaches love to mold. He has great size already, but look for the school of his choice to add bulk to his frame.

Richmond is a solid run-blocker, someone who likes to block until the whistle is blown. Additionally, his length can make him a problem for many defensive ends in pass coverage.

Freeze and his coaching staff, however, still have solid commitments from 3-star tackles Alex Givens and Michael Howard in addition to Patterson, so the Rebels aren't bare in the cupboard when it comes to talent up front.

Look for Ole Miss to try and close on other positions from now until Wednesday. Landing athletes such as 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson, 4-star wide receiver Damarkus Lodge or 3-star cornerback Jalen Julius would cushion the blow of losing Richmond.

As for Richmond, look for him to be a college signee by 10:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday—most likely wearing the color of UT Orange.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Damon on Twitter @DamonSayles

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Analyzing the Twitter Buzz About Chris Clark as National Signing Day Nears

Top tight end recruit Chris Clark stands to be one of the more intriguing storylines once national signing day rolls around.

While once comfortably committed to Michigan ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State, Clark made it known that should Brady Hoke be fired, he would decommit from the program and reopen his recruitment. Once Hoke was relieved of his coaching duties in December, that is exactly what Clark did, with UCLA in particular waiting on the edges to see what happened.

But once Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh a few weeks later, Clark was back in play for the Wolverines, and he could be one of the most important pieces of the new coach's first class.

Despite decommitting after Hoke was fired, Clark started to show more and more interest in Michigan once Harbaugh was brought on. But it wasn’t that easy, as UCLA was ready pounce on the opportunity to bring Clark to the West Coast.

Things looked pretty good for the Wolverines when Harbaugh decided to pay a personal visit last week.

Some experts say Michigan, some say UCLA. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of consistency in the picks.

You can’t always tell based on social media interactions, but Clark has been following a few people in and around the UCLA program recently. Wide receivers Logan Sweet and Daniel Eaton and associate head coach Adrian Klemm are among the Bruins Clark has followed recently. He also recently followed the school's official Twitter account.

On the other hand, though, according to Derek Volner of ESPN Media Zone, Clark is supposed to announce his decision at 8:30 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, which will be little early for those all the way on the West Coast.

But as late as Monday night, Clark himself didn’t even know where he was going to end up.

Scary to think signing day is Wednesday and I still don't know where I'm going 😞 this is so tough

— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) February 3, 2015

Wherever Clark ends up, he is going to have an instant impact. Rated as the No. 2 two tight in 247Sports' composite rankings, any team would love to have him.

Although it is almost impossible to ever count out Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer in the recruiting game, it feels like the decision is going to come down to either UCLA or Michigan.

Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers wrote an article why Clark should choose the Wolverines over the Bruins, but things still don't seem to be decided for Clark.

It feels almost like a coin flip could be the deciding factor between the two schools, but my gut says Clark ends up sticking with his original commitment and heads to Michigan.

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Which Program Will Finish the Strongest on National Signing Day 2015?

National signing day is inching closer and closer, and with numerous big-name recruits still uncommitted, the nation's top programs are making their last-ditch efforts to secure the next big class.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder dish out which schools they believe will close out national signing day the strongest.

Who has the best shot of stealing the headlines on Wednesday? Check out the video and let us know! 

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National Signing Day 2015: Predictions for Most Coveted Football Recruits

Future college football championships will be decided Wednesday by a group of kids who are still worried about chemistry classes and who they are going to invite to the senior prom.

National signing day for 2015 recruits is Wednesday, and there are still a number of top-notch athletes who have not verbally pledged to a school. Some of the most important battles for college football coaches occur off the field as they give final pitches to these undecided recruits, hoping to secure a highly rated class.

Here is a look at some of the most coveted recruits who have not committed to a school yet and some predictions for their final landing spots.

*Recruiting information and star ratings courtesy of 247Sports’ composite rankings.

 

Recruiting Battle to Watch: Cornerback Iman Marshall

In today’s college football landscape with no-huddle offenses putting up 40 points a game like it's nothing, landing highly rated defenders on national signing day has become quite important.

One such defender, cornerback Iman Marshall, has not decided where he will play next season.

Marshall is a 5-star prospect, the No. 4 player in the country and the top-rated cornerback, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. He checks in at 6’1” and 190 pounds and has the skill set to be a playmaker at the next level.

Tom Luginbill of ESPN.com provided an enticing scouting report:

The versatile Iman Marshall is the complete package at the corner position. He brings size, ball skills and athleticism that could project at different positions throughout the secondary. He possesses great transitional quickness for a perimeter defender with his frame and closing speed to shut down receivers in man coverage. He also has the big frame and physicality, range and ball-hawking skills to add value at safety.

Marshall has everything you could ask for in a cornerback, and he even has the versatility to play safety if needed. His ability to play multiple positions, along with the speed and physicality to mix it up on special teams, will help him play right away, regardless of which school he chooses.

He certainly has an interesting choice ahead of him, considering USC, Florida State, Notre Dame, LSU, Michigan and Oregon are all involved in his recruitment.

He recently took official visits to Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, LSU and Oregon (he visited the Ducks this past weekend), but the schools are going to have to wait until signing day to find out which one he chooses, via Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN.com:

Greg Biggins, Scout.com's national recruiting analyst, explained how close the race for Marshall truly is, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

He'll visit Oregon this coming weekend and may try and fit in a USC unofficial visit sometime before the dead period. USC is the childhood favorite and where everyone has predicted Marshall would end up, but there has been some recent buzz that they may not be the lock everyone (myself included) assumed. Jim Harbaugh came in for a home visit Monday night and the Wolverines have made a very positive impression. Marshall's father, Tony, went on the visit to LSU (only one so far) and will likely visit Oregon as well.

If USC truly is his childhood favorite team, that carries a lot of weight. However, the Michigan angle is intriguing as a late play after it made a splash by hiring Jim Harbaugh as its coach. Plus, Marshall's most recent visit was to Oregon, which probably made every other school very nervous, considering the top-notch facilities and overall Nike flash he was likely exposed to in Eugene.

What high school kid wouldn’t at least be enticed to play in Oregon’s uniforms at an elevated tempo out West?

If we are talking about pure need, Michigan could probably use Marshall the most.

While the recruiting bump from hiring Harbaugh will come next season when he has more time to recruit and make inroads with different high school prospects and coaches, Wolverines fans can’t be thrilled that their class checks in at No. 73 in 247Sports’ rankings (as of Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET) behind powerhouses like Kansas, San Jose State and Western Michigan.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s archrival, Ohio State, is busy polishing its national championship trophy and landing another top-10 class. Convincing one of the nation’s top players to come to Ann Arbor would be a monumental boost for this lackluster Michigan class and keep the momentum rolling from an offseason that included the Harbaugh hiring.

Of course, we are talking about a kid from Long Beach, California. The combination of the weather and hometown lure of playing for his beloved Trojans may be too much. Even Oregon is on the West Coast, as opposed to Michigan, Notre Dame and LSU, which could be a factor if he wants to stay closer to home.

It is worth noting that a whopping 94 percent of the crystal ball predictions on Marshall’s 247Sports page peg him as a future USC Trojan. 

Ultimately, USC seems to be pulling on Marshall’s heartstrings as his childhood favorite and the local school of power. Look for him to choose the Trojans on national signing day.

 

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Ultimate Guide to 2015 National Signing Day

1. What

This is recruiting’s Super Bowl. It’s the day college football diehards anticipate for 364 days. It’s excessive, intense and wildly entertaining. National signing day is a national holiday, one last football high before the offseason darkness is collectively accepted. 

Using antique contraptions known as “fax machines,” the premier high school players in the nation will learn about ancient communication technology while submitting national letters of intent to their future universities.

It’s your day, fax machines. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Please enjoy this moment and soak up every person who stares at you wide-eyed and full of mystery.

Before each player can make this entire process official by faxing this signed piece of paper, however, there will be drama. Hats will be lifted. Props will be used. Live animals will (hopefully) make brief cameos, all to announce where a 17- or 18-year-old will attend college.

The emotional toll will hit players, families, coaches and probably a large number of fans. There will be joy. There will be sadness. There will be indecision and overreaction.

The spectacle that is national signing day will make its presence felt shortly after the sun rises, and it won’t close down until well after the sun sets. One exhaustive recruiting cycle will end. Another will find life.

Pull up a chair, won’t you?

 

2. When

Wednesday. No, it’s not next Wednesday. It’s this Wednesday, February 4.

To maximize enjoyment, avoid work, conference calls, appointments and all human interaction. There’s no reason to leave home, really. Shut the phone off and don’t come up for air until the final commitment has been announced.

If this is news, you’re already behind. However, the following should help get you caught up.

 

3. Where

The coverage will come from many places. Commits from coast to coast will announce their decisions on live television, doing so from high schools located across the country.

There will also be cameras at most major universities, hoping to capture the fist pumps and smiles from coaches as national letters of intent start rolling in. These same coaches will also deliver press conferences once their classes are complete throughout the day. They will all sound very similar.

We really like our class.

We really hit on a lot of areas.

We think there are some real diamonds in the rough with this group.

We expect many of these players to contribute immediately.

Coachspeak, press conferences and decisions will be broadcast on ESPNU throughout the day. Coverage will begin at 8 a.m. ET and run until 7 p.m. ET. 

Blatant and unashamed plug: Bleacher Report will provide wall-to-wall coverage, delivering grades for each class with videos, instant reaction to the day’s most surprising turns and analysis on what classes mean to programs moving forward.

It’s going to be a long, wonderful, coffee-infused day.

 

4. Who

This is the most important part. It’s where 2015’s version of national signing day could deliver in a way the day hasn’t seen in some time.

Although last year’s national signing day offered up little in terms of shock and surprise, that will not be the case on Wednesday. Three of the nation’s top four prospects on 247Sports' composite rankings remain uncommitted and will finally reveal where they are headed. 

Look down the rankings some, and you’ll find more decisions waiting to be made. The list of recruits anxiously waiting to announce is deep, immensely talented and versatile.

There are many more, too. Fitting all of this into 24 hours won't be easy.

 

5. Who (Part Two)

Names, rankings and schools only scratch the surface when it comes to national signing day intrigue. The storylines to come out of Wednesday—and they will be plentiful—could ultimately help shape offseason and recruiting momentum moving forward.

When it comes to the 2015 class, there are storylines galore.

 

New Coaches Hoping to Close Strong

Michigan and Florida will enter national signing day with classes ranked outside of the top 40, according to 247Sports' team rankings. It’s an unusual position for programs that have had no issues attracting elite talent over the past decade. Then again, with major coaching changes, this year has been anything but ordinary.

Michigan helped itself by flipping Zach Gentry (No. 8 pro-style QB) in recent weeks. It would love to add Chris Clark (No. 2 TE), although it feels as though UCLA has the upper hand. The Wolverines simply need bodies, and although they may not load up on 5-star players, they will be active. Jim Harbaugh won’t go quietly in his first abbreviated recruiting cycle. 

Florida is hoping to generate similar buzz under new head coach Jim McElwain, and the stakes will be remarkably high for his first national signing day. The Gators are still very much alive with Martez Ivey, Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson, three of the top seven players overall.

As a result, national signing day could be a historically successful day in Gainesville. With ample room in the class to fill, it could also be a momentum-killer if the majority of Florida’s targets head elsewhere.

 

Auburn vs. Florida: Touch Gloves, Guys

Hoping to spoil Florida’s national signing day festivities is Auburn, and there is no person more excited about those demolition prospects than new Tigers defensive coordinator and former Gators head coach Will Muschamp

These two SEC schools are going head to head for some of the prospects mentioned above. Throw in Alabama and Ole Miss—as is the case for CeCe Jefferson—and we’re looking at a lovely Battle Royale. 

It will be wildly entertaining from a distance. The coaches involved, however, would likely describe it with a far different word unfit for this website. 

The stakes are high for everyone on national signing day, but for SEC rivals Florida and Auburn, they will be slightly elevated.

 

Respect the Flip: “Committed” Players to Keep an Eye On

A verbal commitment is just that: an agreement with words and nothing more. In the recruiting world, many players who verbally committed to a program leading up to national signing day fax in their LOIs without controversy.

Others have a sudden change of heart, and they decide—with the clock ticking—to take their talents elsewhere. The surprises are inevitable; it’s simply a matter of locating where they may come from. Here are a few to keep an eye on. 

 

Kyler Murray (No. 1 Dual-Threat QB, No. 33 Overall)

After committing to Texas A&M, Murray took a visit to Texas, and many believed that Austin would be the QB’s future home. After recommitting to A&M following the uncertain stretch, will one of the nation’s most electric talents have one more trick up his sleeve?

 

Terry Godwin (No. 1 Athlete, No. 28 Overall)

Speaking of electric players, the nation’s top-ranked athlete could provide one of national signing day’s most fascinating developments. As it stands, Godwin is verbally committed to Georgia. But Gus Malzahn and Auburn are coming hard, hoping to have something to say about that. 

 

Deondre Francois (No. 3 Pro-Style QB, No. 65 Overall)

Francois has perhaps the biggest arm and best deep ball in the class. He’s also a Florida State commit, although a recent tweet—that he further stated was courtesy of a "hack"—said he was decommitting from the Seminoles. Florida could be a potential suitor if Francois decides to make a change. The Gators would love to have him. 

 

Torrance Gibson (No. 6 Athlete, No. 75 Overall)

Where will he play? That’s a question being asked about Torrance Gibson that carries quite a bit of meaning. The Ohio State commit is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback options, although some schools see him at a different position. His recruitment has been a roller coaster, and one more surprise—perhaps one working in Auburn’s or LSU’s favor—could cap off a wild ride. 

 

Kendall Sheffield (No. 4 CB, No. 20 Overall)

One of Alabama's prized defensive commits could be on the move. He will be, if Kevin Sumlin has anything to say about it. Sheffield, still committed to the Crimson Tide, could ultimately sign with Texas A&M. Nick Saban is not one who typically loses major recruits near the finish line, however, so perhaps the interest will be nothing more than text in a preview.

 

6. Why

This is a celebration. Whether you’ve been glued to the process for every turn or you’re only catching up now, national signing day has just the right amount of football. 

The class assessments, rankings and prognostications will be made in bulk quantities. The reality, however, is that no one knows exactly what an individual class will mean.

In a way, that’s what makes this day special. It’s about optimism. It’s about assessing needs and whether those perceived needs were answered. It’s about the potential and that rare glimmer of hope that fans can experience in unique ways.

More importantly, it’s about the kids who have waited years to embrace this day. That, more than anything, is why national signing day has become a magnificent spectacle.

There will be suspense, nerves, tears, awkwardness and overpowering joy, all packaged into one day. The full emotional spectrum will be explored, which is precisely why it deserves your utmost attention.

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The Ultimate National Signing Day Hype Tape

National signing day is upon us, and the hype is real. The 2015 recruiting class is chock-full of incredible athletes that can make an immediate impact in the college football world.

Check out the Bleacher Report hype tape for national signing day.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 25 Wide Receivers

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports' composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Here we present the Top Wide Receivers.  

Other Positions 

 

Elite athletes continue to shift toward wide receiver more than ever, making it one of the deepest positions in this class. Top-tier pass-catchers who can slice apart defensive schemes often serve as catalysts for high-octane college offenses and open things up for teammates.

We continue our review of the top 200 overall recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings by taking a closer look at these talented downfield targets. We scored each player on a 100-point scale that measures route running, hands, blocking, release, speed and agility.

 

*All prospects studied and graded by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue

*Players listed in order of 247Sports' composite rankings.

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College Football Recruiting 2015: Top Available Prospects and Predictions

A few names will single-handedly alter the landscape of collegiate football recruiting on national signing day. 

The event on Wednesday, February 4, will feature some of the top recruits' decisions as ESPN broadcasts the action for 11 hours and travels to 14 different campuses.

Suffice it to say, the recruiting world has come a long way since the time recruits would mail in a letter and news agencies and the globe would learn about the commitment a day later.

More than ever, fans understand the impact a single player can have, too, with the 2015 Super Bowl fresh on the mind—where unknowns Chris Matthews and Malcolm Butler made big plays to help birth an instant classic.

Of all the names set to make decisions, a few stick out the most.

 

Top Prospect Predictions

Martez Ivey, OT

Martez Ivey is the type of recruit who will drive fans and coaches mad.

That's a good thing—he does not seem to get tied to coaches because he understands the sport is a business. The Apopka, Florida, native reveals this in a recent interview with ESPN's Derek Tyson:

I'm not really big in to specific coaches. They come and go because it's a business. Nothing's guaranteed in their position so I'm not really a coaches guy. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I like a school because of ‘this coach and that coach.' That's just how I feel about it. Like coach Muschamp was at Florida recruiting me and now he's at Auburn recruiting me. So coaches-wise, I don't really get caught up in that.

Interestingly enough, Ivey's top two schools figure to be Florida and Auburn at this point.

A 5-star recruit and the top offensive tackle in the class, it is no wonder the top schools have an interest in Ivey, who comes in at 6'5.5" and 275 pounds. That size combines with strength and speed measurements normally not seen in a recruit at this stage.

Ivey is the type of tackle who can make a difference right away at the next level. His smart approach to the decision likely means that Florida wins out despite the departure of Will Muschamp.

Prediction: Ivey commits to Florida.

 

Byron Cowart, SDE

Auburn and Florida are also the main programs in on Byron Cowart, a 5-star defensive end out of Armwood High School.

At 6'4" and 250 pounds, Cowart touts the athleticism to apply pressure to quarterbacks on a regular basis, although he will need to further bulk to better stand tall against the run.

Regardless, the top programs see the long-term potential in Cowart, who now has a concrete announcement time, per ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree:

Truthfully, it is difficult to see how Cowart winds up anywhere but Florida.

The Seffner, Florida, native continues to come up in chatter surrounding the Gators, and it was not too long ago that another top prospect, CeCe Jefferson, revealed that he and Cowart may be a package deal, per Donovan James of rsenreport.com:

For a team with a new head coach, the Gators seem set to make out like bandits.

While Ivey boosts the future of the offensive trenches, look for the local product Cowart to do the same on the defensive side of things.

Prediction: Cowart commits to Florida.

 

Iman Marshall, CB

Defensive backs might just be the most important thing in football outside of the quarterback position these days. 

It makes sense, then, that USC, LSU, Michigan, Florida State, Notre Dame and many more are in a line that wraps around the block for Long Beach Poly High School's Iman Marshall.

Marshall is a 5-star recruit and the top corner in the 2015 class. At face value, his 6'1" and 190-pound frame is ideal for the position, as is his 4.5 40-yard dash speed.

Try not to forget great recognition and ball skills, either.

Many, including NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, are stressing over the announcement:

While the Marshall show made the rounds to a bevy of the nation's top programs, it would be a shock if he does not remain local.

USC remains the overwhelming favorite on his 247Sports profile page for good reason; ditto for Scott Schrader's crystal-ball projection that says Marshall signs with the Trojans.

Any other commitment at this point would be an upset.

Prediction: Marshall commits to USC.

 

Daylon Mack, DT

At this point, Daylon Mack's commitment seems a formality.

The allure to Mack is obvious. Rarely does a 5-star defensive tackle who weighs in at 6'0" and 330 pounds come around. Based on a tweet from the man himself, it seems Texas will win the sweepstakes:

ESPN's Gerry Hamilton seems to back up this thought process:

Then again, perhaps this is what Mack wants the globe to think. After all, Texas A&M and TCU are still in the running at 247Sports, distancing themselves from Auburn and Baylor.

One lucky program will land a space-eating tackle who will produce right away, making the jobs of linebackers and defensive backs behind him easier.

In crunch time, all signs point to Texas.

Prediction: Mack commits to Texas.

 

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

 

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