NCAA Football News

Brian Burns to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Florida State Seminoles secured their future off the edge by landing a commitment from 4-star defensive end prospect Brian Burns on Wednesday, according to 247 Sports' Josh Newberg.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native is ranked 51st among all 2016 prospects and eighth in the state, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

At 6'4 ½" and 209 pounds, Burns isn't the largest defensive end in terms of weight, but what he doesn't have in size he makes up for in athleticism. He has an explosive first step and speed that will constantly see him disrupting plays from the edge. 

Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports captured video of Burns before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and it provides a good look at his build:

His pairing of size and athletic ability will make him tough to stop in the ACC.

While participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Burns impressed Rivals' Mike Farrell, who marveled at the young pass-rusher:

If Burns can manage to bulk up a little, he'll be a force along the defensive line in the future, given his athleticism. That's only going to help Florida State moving forward.

Burns will join a defense that was ranked 19th last season—one that's returning sack leader and fellow defensive end DeMarcus Walker. 

He'll also be joining fellow 4-star defensive end recruit Janarius Robinson, the seventh-ranked weak-side defensive end, per 247Sports

Walker, who will be a senior, added 56 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2015. Having that kind of presence available and at the disposal of a developing defensive lineman like Burns could prove invaluable in the long run. 

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2016 NFL Draft: Illinois' Jihad Ward Poised to Continue His Rise Up Draft Boards

Throughout the draft season, there is much discussion over “winners” and “losers” throughout the process. While that’s generally overblown and not indicative of how NFL scouting departments function, there can at times be prospects who surprisingly rise in the minds of evaluators after a portion of the draft process.

Illinois' defensive lineman Jihad Ward certainly maximized his 2016 Senior Bowl opportunity, impressing physically at his weigh-in and throughout the week of practice. Entering the week with zero buzz, Ward left Mobile, Alabama, forcing scouts to re-evaluate his game film and see if his flashes at the Senior Bowl could be more than just flashes at the NFL level.

Upon reassessing Ward after his Senior Bowl impression, the position-versatile defensive lineman showcased plus-interior strength coupled with explosiveness on the perimeter to quietly emerge as one of the best top-100 upside talents in the 2016 NFL draft. And his rise may not be done yet.

A starting receiver and defensive end in high school, Ward went the junior college route before working his way to the FBS. He left the JUCO level as the sixth-best college prospect in the country, opting to sign with Illinois. Over his two-year career at Illinois, Ward never made an All-Big Ten team and finished with just 4.5 career sacks.

But Ward was destined to be a better professional than college player, offering Illinois' defensive line versatility it couldn’t maximize, core strength it didn’t entirely exploit and explosiveness off the edge it couldn’t develop. 

Despite a less-than-stellar college career, Ward’s Senior Bowl proved his flashes could be more than just that, and his potential was still remarkably untapped. 

 

Position Versatility: Tackle and End

Measuring in at the Senior Bowl at 6’5", 296 pounds with an 81 3/8" wingspan, Ward’s body type fits exactly what NFL teams covet for a developing defensive lineman. Looking the part of an NFL 5-technique, Ward’s experience in college at both defensive tackle and end aids in his transition to the pro level.

As a pass-rusher, Ward is both able to extend and drive on the interior against guards and inside-leveraged tackles, as well as bend around the perimeter when playing outside. That versatility both encourages teams about his NFL transition as well as highlights his still-untapped potential to do either on a consistent basis. 

On the interior, Ward (No. 17) extends in isolation with great initial and consistent push, transitioning his hand positioning at the start into a persistent pushback thanks to a powerful lower half and flexibility to bend at the knees and keep his power. Notice in the play below how Ward maintains leverage throughout his rush, yet his decision to stay linear forces the quarterback to remain in the pocket since Ward can adjust to either side of himself to finish the sack.

And when playing end, where Ward saw most of his college sacks, he displays the ability to sink, extend and bend around to attack the quarterback. While the Penn State left tackle was among the worst in the Big Ten last year, notice how quickly Ward attacks off the edge, adjusts his lower half as he bends and maintains speed in his quarterback pursuit.

The flip-side concern for Ward’s versatility, however, is his relative inexperience and technique refinement at either position. On the inside, Ward is erased by double-teams or trap blocks too easily to be reliable on run downs early in his career. And on the perimeter, outside of “running the arc” on the edge, Ward doesn’t offer much in terms of developed initial or counter-rushes.
 

Run Defense: Interior Strength

Despite possessing a “leggy” body type, Ward offers a sudden ability to sink low, generate force and maintain balance through his upper-half explosiveness on the interior. With his NFL future likely requiring at least part-time work inside the tackle box, Ward’s initial leverage win coupled with his wingspan will need to continue to win him battles on the inside.

Ward struggled with double-teams at times in college, exposing too much of his midsection and allowing combo blocks to force him off the initial holding point. But when he had the opportunity to work one-on-one on the inside, especially against zone-blocking schemes, Ward highlighted his leverage strengths. 

As in the play below, Ward repeatedly was able to hold his ground and keep his blocker at bay with his inside shoulder. He splits a subtle double-block and maintains vision on the ball-carrier, using his plus-wingspan to finish the tackle despite the run working away from his initial position. It’s flashes like this that, once he’s able to correct his combo-block woes, can allow him to emerge as a high-quality interior run defender. 

 

Pass Rush: Explosiveness on the Perimeter

As highlighted earlier, Ward is able to run the arc on left tackles with remarkable bend and quickness for a 6’5", nearly 300-pound defensive lineman. But for Ward’s future as a pass-rusher, his explosiveness will be more indicative of his production than his ability around the edge.

While he didn’t get the sack, his pursuit on the play below highlights his explosive potential when his motor is in full gear on the edge. His first two steps get him immediate and balanced penetration in pursuit of Christian Hackenberg. It requires three blockers to slow down his pursuit, and even then his length nearly allows him to reach through blockers to finish the sack.

One of the concerns that began to show through Ward’s film evaluation was a bit of an inconsistent motor throughout the game. As a pass-rusher, Ward seemed to labor a bit and take non-third-down passing downs off. And in the run game, Ward’s tendency to be erased by double-teams was partially due to a lack of effort in keeping his pad level low and working through blocks.

Underappreciated at Illinois, Ward’s Senior Bowl opened plenty of eyes for evaluators. His college film flashes first-round upside but highlights his concerns and staunch need for development.

But Ward’s rise from forgotten at Illinois to showing flashes in Mobile isn’t a finished story yet. The ideally-built, highly-athletic defensive lineman should certainly impress at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. And more importantly, as NFL teams bring him in for private workouts in March and April, his natural position across multiple schemes can finally be realized by individual teams. 

His sudden rise in the draft process has his value and intrigue at an all-time high, but NFL teams aren’t quite sure how they’ll use him yet. As the 2016 draft process continues and they begin to peg Ward’s position in their specific scheme, don’t be surprised if Ward begins to receive top-50 overall talk among evaluators.

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Nigel Warrior to Tennessee: Volunteers Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

Nigel Warrior has kept schools guessing for months now, but he squashed the speculation Wednesday and officially committed to the Tennessee Volunteers.

Matt Slovin of the Tennessean relayed Warrior's decision after the safety made his announcement at a press conference.

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, the 4-star recruit out of Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia, is the fourth-ranked safety in his class, the seventh-best prospect in Georgia and the 58th-ranked player overall.

Tennessee has been the most viable destination for the coveted defensive back all along, despite heavy interest from SEC competitors like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU.

Warrior is a Vols legacy, and his father, Dale Carter, broke out as an All-American during his time in Knoxville.

"I'm going to continue my father's legacy at the University of Tennessee," Warrior said, per Josh Ward of Sports Radio WNML.

Now, Warrior will be tasked with stepping out of his father’s shadow and forming his own identity as a stalwart in the Vols defensive backfield.

“He’s a grinder,” Carter told Scout.com’s Danny Parker, “I tell him about the things and what he to expect before even when he gets to school—when he gets to Tennessee. I just tell him the things that you’ve got to expect. He’s not going to live in my shoes. He’s got his own path.”

In three seasons with the varsity team at Peachtree Ridge High School, Warrior amassed 119 solo tackles, nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries, according to MaxPreps. Warrior also blocked two punts during his breakout junior campaign.

The prominent prospect should also be presented with a golden opportunity to break out right away. As Bleacher Report’s Sanjay Kirpalani noted, both of Tennessee’s starting safeties were seniors who are now out of eligibility.

As a result, the door is wide open for Warrior to make an impact upon arrival.

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Brendan Ferns to West Virginia: Mountaineers Land 4-Star LB Prospect

Brendan Ferns is a difference-making linebacker in the 2016 recruiting class who will be heading to West Virginia.

Ferns announced his decision via Twitter:

It's not surprising that schools in that region would be all over Ferns, who attends St. Clairsville High School in Ohio. He's considered to be the nation's No. 7 inside linebacker and No. 136 overall prospect by 247Sports, which explains why schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Oklahoma had their hooks in him. 

Per 247Sports, Ohio State was a strong favorite in the crystal ball projections with 70 percent of support. Urban Meyer is a star recruiter, as has been proven numerous times throughout his career, and a 4-star stud linebacker is like catnip for the Buckeyes head coach. 

According to ESPN's scouting report, the 6'3" Ferns is lacking in muscle right now at 223 pounds, but he possesses the kind of speed and tackling ability to line up at linebacker or defensive end. The report also notes there is some stiffness in his actions and movements that will need to be cleaned up, but the raw ingredients make him a potential star. 

There was a developing sibling rivalry, with Ferns' brother opting to attend Michigan as part of the 2014 recruiting class before opting to transfer to West Virginia in January of 2015. But the younger Ferns told Ari Wasserman of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that a college decision would be his alone: "We don't really talk about football much. He understands that it's my decision and that's really all we talk about it. ... It's my choice. I have to do what I want." 

Whatever Ferns' future as a football player holds, it's obvious he exhausted his decision-making ability before this momentous decision. Now, the linebacker can put all of his focus and energy toward making an impact either right away or as a redshirt freshman in two years.  

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen got a much-needed boost to his 2016 recruiting class with the addition of Ferns. The Mountaineers, whose 2016 class is ranked 36th by 247Sports, have not been recruiting giants so far, so an impact linebacker will provide plenty of help. 

Defense is also an area of need for West Virginia. The team finished 44th in points allowed per game, so finding a player on the second level who can use his speed to create problems for opposing offenses anywhere on the field is a massive upgrade. 

The Mountaineers have fallen behind teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU in the Big 12. They need a cornerstone player to build their recruiting class around, a role which Ferns will play very well. 

Regardless of the path Ferns takes to getting on the field, there's little doubt that his passion, ability and instincts for finding the football will make him a star as soon as it happens. 

 

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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College Football Recruiting Rankings 2016: Projecting Top Classes and Programs

National titles might be won in January, but the road to those championships begins with national signing day in February. 

There won't be any football games played on Feb. 3, but the decisions made by the best athletes in the class of 2016 will drastically impact the college football landscape for years to come. 

This year's recruiting cycle has brought plenty of intrigue. Alabama—which has won every recruiting title since 2010, per the 247Sports composite rankings—might finally see its reign come to an end. The Tide enter the big day ranked No. 4 in the latest composite rankings from the site. 

Here's a look at the projected composite top 10 when it's all said and done, including each team's current ranking and a look at the team's hoping to be the biggest winners of signing day. 

 

LSU Tigers

A lot can change on national signing day, but the LSU Tigers are hoping their status as the No. 1 class can remain the same. 

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the Tigers already have pledges from one 5-star, 17 4-stars and four 3-stars, but they're likely to win big on signing day as well. At least one 5-star is expected to head to Baton Rouge. Ninety-six percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions for cornerback Kristian Fulton out of Metairie, Louisiana, point to LSU being his destination. 

That would give the Tigers one more blue-chipper to go along with an already-stacked class. In fact, it's the astonishing depth of the class that has the Tigers as the prime suspect to dethrone conference rival Alabama as the recruiting champions. 

Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN.com commented on the overall quality of the class if signing day goes well for the Tigers:

Les Miles may have had to finish the season strong to keep his job, but it certainly hasn't affected recruiting. At the very least, the Tigers are looking at a top-three class and should be sitting atop the rankings by the end of the day. 

 

Alabama Crimson Tide

It might not be time to start dancing on the grave of the Alabama recruiting dynasty quite yet. Yes, the Crimson Tide would have to jump three spots on national signing day for the No. 1 class, but it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility. 

Alabama has just 17 commits coming into the day and has a reputation for being one of the strongest closers in college football. That means there is plenty of time for that ranking to change. 

The fact is the Tide are in the hunt for plenty of big names, including 5-star linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson. There's enough remaining talent out there that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee made a case for Bama still finishing with the No. 1 class in the video below:

Wilson is a particularly interesting case because he seems to have developed a strong relationship with now-Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.

“Me and coach Smart, we have a great relationship,” Wilson told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. “That really kind of gave them a huge boost in my recruiting. ... [He is] like a father figure to me. I feel like I can talk to him about anything.”

Smart's abilities as a recruiter were once a big factor in Alabama reeling in No. 1 class after No. 1 class. Now, he's taken those skills to Georgia, which is in play for both Davis and Wilson, along with other big-time recruits such as 5-star Mecole Hardman

If Smart is able to convince a few blue-chippers to go to Athens on national signing day, he will ultimately be the one who ensured Alabama doesn't repeat as recruiting champions. 

 

Michigan Wolverines

When Jim Harbaugh became the head coach at Michigan, it wasn't as though the program struggled with recruiting. In 2014, the university finished with the No. 20 class in the country. 

However, in Harbaugh's first full recruiting cycle as the head coach, it's clear that the Maize and Blue are going to be a nationally prominent program under his watch. The Wolverines are already in the top 10 and have the capability to wind up in the top five when everyone has signed on the dotted line. 

The fiery head coach has taken a non-traditional path to turning signing day into a big deal. Michigan will live stream its signing day festivities on the Players' Tribunewhich will include appearances from Derek Jeter, Tom Brady and Ric Flair.

However, the grand prize of the entire day will be the decision of the overall No. 1 player, Rashan Gary. The New Jersey defensive tackle is down to Clemson and Michigan, with the Wolverines being the pick of 80 percent of 247Sports experts. 

Should the No. 1 player in the nation choose to go to Michigan, it wouldn't only be a huge statement for the program, but it would also represent a bit of a shift in the landscape for the Big Ten. According to Crabtree, it will mark the first time the top player has gone to a Big Ten school since 2006:

It might not be a big enough deal to take Michigan to the top of the recruiting list, but it would go a long way toward the Wolverines continuing their upward trajectory under Harbaugh. With rival Ohio State sitting just ahead of them, snagging an immediate-impact freshman like Gary on signing day will only make the rivalry that much more interesting moving forward.

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National Signing Day 2016: Final Recruit Announcement Schedule and Predictions

Wednesday's national signing day is a big production. Every blue-chip recruit has an elaborate, unique individual story leading to the shining moment he enjoys in front of TV cameras and troves of witnesses as he announces his decision on where to play college football.

These prospects who save national signing day for their final decision are among the heads of their 2016 class. They're popular in the student body and among coaches and recruiters at big-time football programs.

Hence the fanfare and attention this day garners, as ardent fans also await with eager anticipation to find out which high school studs will play for their team.

Below is a schedule of the players from the class of 2016 who will make their announcements Wednesday. Also featured is analysis on a couple of the best prospects headlining the slate.

 

Predictions for Marquee Recruits

Rashan Gary, DT, Paramus Catholic HS: Michigan

After Michigan fared far better than it had any business doing in its maiden year under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the masterful leader has his first real shot at luring talent to Ann Arbor.

And what an addition Gary—the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, according to 247Sports—would be to a Wolverines defense that was already one of the best in college football this past season.

But in Rivals expert Mike Farrell's opinion, Clemson has a real shot to land Gary as well:

Dabo Swinney brings his own unique brand of player-friendly leadership at Clemson and has a strong case to make.

The Tigers' official Twitter account also mentioned its track record of successful defensive linemen on Tuesday. That group includes 2015 NFL draft first-round pick Vic Beasley and another former top recruit in Da'Quan Bowers, among others.

Gary is the type of gifted player who seldom comes along and has been eyed since middle school as someone who could go on to play in the NFL. To go with a 6'5", 293-pound frame, a 4.74-second time in the 40-yard dash and freakish athleticism, Gary has the fundamentals to be dominant at the NCAA level right away.

"He is two years ahead of almost any high school lineman in the country when it comes to college-level technique," said Gary's trainer, Peter Kafaf, per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue. "That technique builds off itself, so I expect him to be perfecting it during these next few seasons while other kids are just attempting to learn it."

Donohue mentions Gary received his first scholarship offer in eighth grade.

It's not often one hears of a football prodigy so honed in on the nuances of the game; rather than obliterating the competition with his natural ability, Gary seems to have the work ethic and desire to be truly great.

Harbaugh is known for his intensity and competitive nature. He demands the absolute best out of his players, so someone like Gary is right in the coach's wheelhouse.

The fit in Ann Arbor seems too logical for Gary to not don the Maize and Blue beginning this next season.

 

Lyndell Wilson, OLB, George Washington Carver HS: Georgia

Rated by 247Sports as the second-best outside linebacker in the nation, Wilson's announcement will come with plenty of anticipation.

It could be argued there are superior players on the slate, but the domino effect is definitely in play in Wilson's case. The only player from the state of Alabama ranked ahead of him in 247Sports' composite rankings, Ben Davis, happens to be a close friend.

Asked about playing alongside Davis in college, Wilson hinted a package deal is feasible, per John Garcia Jr. of Scout.com:

It's a possibility. We're like brothers. We really only met two years ago but it's grown and gotten better. I trust him and he's just like a close brother to me. … For real, we talk about it and talked about it more in the beginning. But now we can't stand each other. But we're still boys. We just got that little brotherly bond.

Wilson is listed at 6'2" and 220 pounds. With incredible range and speed, surprising ball skills for a player at his position and the versatility to not only commit and stuff the run but also drop in coverage, there's little Wilson can't do on the gridiron.

With Davis announcing at 10 a.m. ET, per the Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer, the hand may be tipped on what Wilson might decide later in the afternoon.

After his official visit to Auburn last weekend, Davis indicated there was no leader among his choices (h/t AL.com's Wesley Sinor). Davis is deciding between Auburn, Alabama and Georgia primarily; LSU and Notre Dame still have a chance to land him.

But considering Wilson appears to have narrowed down his destinations to Tuscaloosa and Athens, it stands to reason he'll go wherever his pseudo-sibling does.

Davis' father played at Alabama and is the program's all-time leading tackler. What makes a dilemma between Georgia and the Crimson Tide so fascinating is the fact that former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart left his post to become the Bulldogs' head coach.

In a fascinating development, look for Wilson to join Davis and play under Smart at Georgia, as the reigning national champions suffer a rare recruiting loss of sorts.

 

All recruiting ratings and rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise indicated.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting 2016: Top Remaining Recruits, Class Predictions

Ohio State coaches and fans will have a more relaxing national signing day than many other top college football programs, with the Buckeyes knowing they have already brought in one of the top classes in 2016.

From defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper to offensive stars Dwayne Haskins, Austin Mack and Demario McCall, there is no question why this group is currently No. 2 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, trailing only LSU for the best recruiting class in the nation.

Of course, you can never have too much talent at this level, meaning head coach Urban Meyer and Company will keep things going to bring in some missing pieces before the end of the cycle on Wednesday.

Although there aren't many needs for this team, here is a look at the signing day announcements the Buckeyes are most interested in as well as a prediction for the final 2016 class.

 

Top Uncommitted Players to Watch

Mecole Hardman Jr., ATH

Usually the top players have narrowed their decision by the time they get to signing day, but Mecole Hardman Jr. still has a lot of options available. The speedster (4.42 40-yard dash) officially has seven teams in the running before making his announcement, including Ohio State as well as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee, according to Chad Simmons of Scout.com.

We don't yet know where he will end up, but Hardman has a lot of appeal as one of the fastest players in the class. He will likely play receiver at the next level, potentially giving Meyer yet another offensive weapon who can make things happen with the ball in his hands.

He also played for the United States' under-19 team, catching passes from future Buckeye Dwayne Haskins:

This is a connection fans would like to see a lot more of in future seasons.

Despite the possibility, it will be difficult to get the Georgia native out of his home state with new head coach Kirby Smart pushing hard for the Bulldogs. Ohio State is certainly in the running, although it seems like more of a long shot at this stage of the process.

 

Malik Harrison, ATH

Sometimes it isn't necessarily what a recruit does that is telling; sometimes it's what he doesn't do. In the case of Malik Harrison, his decision not to continue the recruiting process could be very telling.

According to Max Givler of Rivals.com, Harrison was set to take official visits to Michigan State and Syracuse but instead canceled those trips shortly after his visit to Columbus. While Indiana and Wisconsin are still in the running, it seems likely the athlete saw something he liked at Ohio State and made his decision right there, whether it was public or not.

As far as where Harrison will play for the Buckeyes if he does commit, that remains a mystery. The 6'4", 215-pound player is considered the No. 49 athlete in the nation, although few in this category have as much versatility as the Ohio native.

In an interview with Steve Helwagen of 247Sports, Harrison's coach, Byron Mattox, explained the player was a three-year starter at quarterback while also spending time at linebacker and punter.

When asked about his player's potential role with Indiana or Wisconsin, Mattox explained, "They are thinking about him more on offense, probably as a wide receiver or as a hybrid wide receiver/tight end type." He clearly has the ability to spend time at multiple positions on either side of the ball, but his coach argued Harrison is "the kind of athlete where you want the ball in his hands."

No matter where Harrison ends up, Ohio State wants someone of his ability in the program.

 

Carlos Becker, CB

Florida State has been considered the favorite for the Kissimmee, Florida, native. But Ohio State has made a lot of progress with Carlos Becker, and it is now a two-team race.

The cornerback has great size for the position at 6'2", 185 pounds with excellent speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and good instincts, enough to make him worthy of a 4-star ranking. Although he is still a bit raw, he has All-American potential if he develops to his ability.

At this point, though, the question is where will he find that development. Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel is one person who has seen the legitimate shift toward Ohio State:

The problem is there was still a lot of ground to make up, and the Seminoles have a lot going in their favor. It is close to home, there are only two true defensive backs in the team's current class and the program has shown the ability to produce top cornerbacks in recent years. It could go either way, but the best prediction might be Becker ending up in Tallahassee.

 

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings unless otherwise noted. 

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Michigan Football Recruiting 2016: Top Remaining Recruits, Class Predictions

Michigan has already put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country, and somehow it still has a chance to get even better on national signing day. With a number of elite players still considering the Wolverines, Wednesday could be a memorable day for the program.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, head coach Jim Harbaugh has already brought in the No. 6 recruiting class in college football, trailing only Ohio State in the Big Ten. The group is headlined by quarterback Brandon Peters and running back Kareem Walker, both of whom are early enrollees and will try to make an early impact in Ann Arbor. A long list of 4-stars such as Ben Bredeson, David Long and others will help out soon enough.

However, the coaching staff and fanbase will have their eyes on a few other recruits yet to make a decision. Here is a look at the biggest targets still considering Michigan along with predictions for the final class.

 

Top Uncommitted Players to Watch

Rashan Gary, DT

This is the recruitment everyone has been watching since Day 1. Rashan Gary is the No. 1 recruit in the 2016 class and is arguably the safest prospect to come out in years. He has all the tools to be a star on the defensive line and to make an impact right away.

Unsurprisingly, the New Jersey native had offers from just about everyone in the country, but he is now down to just two teams heading into signing day. Brian Dohn of Scout.com reported Monday that only Michigan and Clemson have a chance, although he might not be as heavily leaning to the Wolverines as many have anticipated.

Mike Farrell of Rivals.com reported the Tigers have a realistic shot of bringing in the defensive tackle:

A recent visit to Clemson might have Gary and his family reconsidering a decision many thought was easily going to be Michigan. However, the connections he has to those currently on the roster and others in the 2016 class could be enough for him to stick with Harbaugh and Company.

It is enough to make Michigan fans nervous, but the top overall player should end up in Ann Arbor.

 

Devin Asiasi, TE/Boss Tagaloa, DT

Although there is no guarantee Devin Asiasi and Boss Tagaloa are a package deal in this recruitment cycle, there are certainly signs they will play together at the next level.

The De La Salle teammates have had a similar list of schools, with both players considering Michigan, UCLA, USC and Washington. Asiasi also has Alabama on his list, while Tagaloa has Cal in contention. But in all likelihood these players will pick one of the four in common. Considering they will announce at about the same time, listed at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN2, there shouldn't be any surprises.

These two stars are also close, with Tagaloa considering Asiasi his "brother" since seventh grade, as explained in this video:

In case you were wondering what these teammates would look like in Wolverines uniforms, Asiasi tweeted a picture recently:

Though it seemed like Asiasi was more likely to consider Michigan early on as one of the top tight ends in the class, Tagaloa is also seeing his opinion swayed a bit. Shane R. Kinnee of Wolverine Daily quoted the 4-star defensive lineman about his visit:

The problem is there is still a lot of competition for both of their services, most notably from local schools UCLA and USC. Jason Fraychineaud of Fox Sports discussed the connection both players have with the current Bruins coaching staff and how that could make a difference. The Trojans also won't go away quietly with the nearby recruits.

If the two go to separate schools, Asiasi seems like the more likely to end up at Michigan, but it appears the realistic scenario is both staying in Los Angeles at either USC or UCLA. 

 

Lavert Hill, CB

Every in-state battle for a recruit is a big one, especially one as talented as Lavert Hill. The 4-star cornerback doesn't have ideal height at just 5'10", but he is extremely athletic with the instincts to be a shutdown player in college.

The Detroit star is down to Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, although in all likelihood the choice will come down to one of the in-state schools. Both the Spartans and the Wolverines have shown they can develop big-time secondary players in recent years, so the decision will likely come down to which spot he feels most comfortable.

After making his final visit to Michigan this past weekend and getting a good look at other times, it seems most likely he will end up being another valuable addition to this impressive 2016 class.

 

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings unless noted otherwise. 

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USC Football Recruiting 2016: Top Remaining 2016 Recruits, Class Predictions

USC's recruiting efforts for the 2016 class have been understandably messy. The Trojans fired head coach Steve Sarkisian in October, spent most of their 2015 campaign under the uncertainty of an interim head coach and then made the somewhat surprising move to eschew big names to hire Clay Helton.

As of Tuesday, USC ranks 23rd in 247Sports' recruiting rankings. Only 13 players have committed to making the move to Los Angeles, the fewest of any team ranked in the Top 50. That leaves seven spots that can still be filled Wednesday, although that seems unlikely. Helton has only recently begun to finish hiring his coaching staff, and there are few things that make recruits more wary than uncertainty.

It will probably take at least a year before Helton establishes himself nationally as a recruiter, but there are nonetheless a few targets who could send USC inside the Top 20 on Wednesday. Here's a look a few remaining recruits who will at least give a cursory glance at the Trojans on national signing day.

 

CB Jack Jones

Of the major targets on USC's recruiting board, Jack Jones is the likeliest to sign on the dotted line. The 5-star cornerback is a local Long Beach Poly product who's seemed destined to be a Trojan throughout his recruiting process. 247Sports' crystal ball metrics give USC a 100 percent chance of landing Jones. Texas A&M and Alabama are the only other schools receiving consideration. 

Jones spoke about his decision with Raul Dominguez of USA Today:

It’s pretty hard. It’s the biggest decision of your life. Making the wrong decision could lead you in the wrong direction. Making the right decision could lead you in the right direction. It’s just a thoughtful process. Take your time with it and just see who really has the best intentions for you.

Jones would be a major boost to a class that features only one defensive back. Listed at 5'11" and 164 pounds, Jones is a speedster who played both sides of the ball in high school and brings a big-play ability that could transition to special teams. Eleven of his 42 receptions in 2015 went for touchdowns, and he's excellent at breaking on the ball in coverage.

“Jack is a really good athlete,” wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who is committed to Ohio State, told Dominguez. “He plays everything, receiver, corner…he could probably even play quarterback. He’s a great athlete. I kind of thought he was taller, but he’s explosive for his height, he’s really good. I went against him at DB, he’s a great defensive player.”

Jones might need to put on a little size before he's ready for the major college transition, but Helton would be more than thrilled to see his letter of intent.

Prediction: USC Commit

 

OT E.J. Price

While the Trojans will be hoping Jones sticks close to home, they'll have their fingers crossed E.J. Price wants to make a cross-country journey. The Archer High School(Lawrenceville, Georgia) product has been leaning toward staying in his home state. Georgia currently has a 79 percent crystal ball rating, with USC (14 percent) and Auburn (7 percent) rounding out the odds.

Price discussed Georgia's situation with Kipp Adams of 247Sports:

Georgia, they need me at left tackle. They got Isaiah Wynn playing left tackle right now. He is a great player and plays great there, but he was kind of forced into that role. He is more of a guard/center. I would definitely have to come in and compete, but it is a great opportunity for me to come in and work hard. I control my own destiny at this point.

It'd be a shock at this point for Price to pick USC. Despite the crystal ball percentages, Auburn has been more regularly linked to Price in recent weeks. The Tigers brought in Herb Hand from Penn State to lead their offensive line, and Price was complimentary of the relationship he had with Hand and head coach Gus Malzahn, per Wesley Sinor of AL.com:

We already had a pretty good relationship. He's a very likable and personable guy. I enjoyed the experience and we are definitely on the same page. This is a huge weekend for me and he definitely did a great job of just explaining to me some more about his coaching strategies and how he works.

The Trojans appear to be a distant third here.

Prediction: Georgia Commit

 

DE Connor Murphy

Connor Murphy is, at the very least, among the most notable recruits remaining to make his decision Wednesday. The 6'7" defensive end was part of a handful of recruits to draw national attention due to their relation to Jim Harbaugh's...interesting antics. Murphy was at the forefront of Harbaugh's "Netflix and chill" recruiting efforts, hosting the Michigan head coach at his house last month.

"When got there after midnight, my family and him stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. eating banana bread, drinking milk and just talking," Murphy said, per Brandon Justice of Maize n Brew. "He slept in my six-year old sister's bedroom, so that was pretty funny."

Despite the attention Murphy has drawn from Michigan, USC is still seen as the favorite in his recruitment. Eighty percent of 247Sports predictions have sent Murphy to Los Angeles, with Ann Arbor coming in a distant second.

However, there are some red flags here. Murphy is the brother of Washington linebacker Trent Murphy, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford. Trent was present for the pair's Netflix and chill session, so there is some room for him to be swayed. It's also worth noting that Alabama received Murphy's final official visit over the weekend, and the Wolverines received an official visit the week before.

This feels closer to a 50-50 decision between Michigan and USC at this point. The Wolverines have been on an upward trend, but it's tough to go against the insiders here—especially after they've so decidedly went with USC.

Prediction: USC Commit

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Alabama Football Recruiting 2016: Top Remaining 2016 Recruits, Class Predictions

It's happening again.

The Alabama Crimson Tide football juggernaut is retooling, and there are no signs of a slowdown. Less than a month after capturing their 16th national championship, the Tide are already well on their way to securing another stellar recruiting class.

Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Alabama's current haul has its recruiting class ranked fifth in the nation behind the LSU Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Florida State Seminoles and Ole Miss Rebels, respectively. However, the Tide could leapfrog a few teams if they clean up Wednesday on national signing day.

Here's a look at three top recruits who are still undecided but are reportedly on Alabama's radar:

 

Rashan Gary

Like every other program in the nation, Alabama would love to sign Rashan Gary. The 6'5", 293-pound defensive lineman is the No. 1 prospect in the nation, per 247Sports' composite rankings. While the Tide obviously have a history of stud defensive tackles they can show Gary as an example, it doesn't appear the behemoth from Paramus, New Jersey, is going to choose Alabama.

Brian Dohn of Scout.com reported Monday that Gary is choosing between the Clemson Tigers and the Michigan Wolverines. Barring a massive swing—which isn't unprecedented—Gary won't be coming to Tuscaloosa.

Failing to sign him won't hurt too much. You can bet Alabama will lock up a good number of top prospects on NSD.

 

Lyndell Wilson

Is Tuscaloosa ready for its next uber-athletic outside linebacker? Lyndell Wilson from Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama, might just be one of the guys set up to follow Tim Williams and others. Here's Wilson working on his sack dance with the hosts of the 5-Star Super Show:

Per 247Sports' composite rankings, the 6'2", 220-pounder is a 5-star prospect. He's currently ranked No. 2 among outside linebacker prospects in the country.

Wilson seems like a lock to choose the kings of his home state on Wednesday despite overtures from two other Alabama schools, the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.

 

Ben Davis

Just as Williams and other outside linebackers will need successors, so too will senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland. If Ben Davis of Gordo High School in Gordo, Alabama, chooses the Tide as expected, he could challenge junior Walker Jones and sophomore Adonis Thomas for playing time as a true freshman.

Max Preps shows us his top five plays from 2015:

Davis is the No .1 inside linebacker prospect in the nation, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and he already has the size to play a high volume of downs in the SEC at 6'3", 240 pounds.

While the linebacker's 247Sports profile still says he's leaning toward Alabama, Davis did recently take a visit to the Auburn Tigers that appeared to leave him impressed:

Because Auburn is also a local school for Davis and an SEC program, we could have the makings for a dramatic swing on Wednesday. 

 

Class Prediction

Despite the late push from Auburn, it looks as if 'Bama will sign Davis, Wilson and more than likely one or two more 5-star prospects who are still uncommitted. That could give the program as many as five top-level recruits and a host of 4-star prospects.

Nothing adds juice to a January recruiting campaign like a national championship. 'Bama is the only school that can use that in its pitch to every recruit. When you consider the school also has Blake Barnett, next year's likely starting quarterback, delivering drop-the-mic tweets like the one below, it's hard to count the Tide out in the chase for any recruit:

Conventional wisdom says when the Spring A-Game rolls around, fans will have a host of new highly regarded talent to follow. Alabama may not finish with the top recruiting class, but it'll be in the top three.

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National Signing Day 2016: Tracking Top 100 College Football Recruits

National signing day is a celebration for college football fans, programs and coaches around the country with hopes of winning big in the near future.

The picture for that future begins with welcoming a new batch of recruits who dream of finding success at the next level.

Some recruits—such as 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the nation's top overall prospect in the 2016 cycle—have already become household names. Others will fly under the radar and develop into stars in the coming years.

While some recruits have ended the process and already enrolled early at their schools of choice, others such as Gary are deciding at the final moment or solidifying the commitments made earlier in the process.

Stay tuned as Bleacher Report keeps you updated on when the nation’s top 100 overall recruits in the 2015 cycle are signed, sealed and delivered.

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National Signing Day 2016: 5-Star College Football Recruit Tracker

National signing day has arrived, and it's time to discover where America's most impressive high school football players plan to attend college. Thousands of recruits will seal deals with their signatures on Wednesday, and many have already announced their intentions. 

The spotlight will be squarely focused on the country's coveted 5-star players, who earned elite status with sustained success at the prep level and present immense potential to help alter the fortunes of programs for years to come. More than half of the 25 composite 5-star prospects committed to schools prior to signing day, and some already enrolled for the spring semester. 

For those who remain undecided, this final stretch has undoubtedly been a demanding and stressful time. It's not only been hard on them, but on their families and the collegiate coaches who've invested so much time in pursuing them as well. Here's a look at the signing day outcome for every 5-star recruit in the 2016 class, with updates occurring throughout the day.

 

Player order based on appearance in 247Sports composite rankings.

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The Commitment: Watch 4-Star S Brandon Burton's Epic Paintball Announcement

It is officially national signing day, and 4-star safety Brandon Burton decided to make his commitment in an awesome way.

Which school did Burton choose in his epic paintball announcement?

Watch the video above to see where Burton is headed.

Personalized Song by Ghetty
Music Courtesy of Entertainment One Music
Artist: Driicky Graham featuring Roscoe Dash, French Montana and Ca$h Out
Song: "Snapbacks and Tattoos Remix" (iTunes)

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D'Andre Christmas-Giles to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Class of 2016 defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles will be heading to the University of Texas in the fall.

He announced the news Tuesday night on Twitter:  

The New Orleans product is the No. 32-ranked defensive tackle prospect and the 21st overall recruit out of his home state, per 247Sports' composite rankings.     

Originally slated to make his decision on Wednesday afternoon during national signing day, per 247Sports, Christmas-Giles decided to make his announcement on Tuesday night on WWL-TV New Orleans, where he chose between LSU, TCU and Texas. 

At 6'3", 290 pounds, Christmas-Giles doesn't have a ton of speed, just like many interior linemen. However, he does have a nice set of moves that helps him penetrate the offensive line and make his way into the backfield. 

It's that kind of skill set that can be vital against the running game. Not many running backs can do much when they have a defensive lineman in the backfield before they take their third step. 

According to EJ Holland of 247Sports, he wasn't getting as much recruiting attention until this season.

Per Holland, Christmas-Giles recorded 49 tackles and 5.0 sacks in 2015. Those numbers would surely be welcomed by a Texas defense that's looking to build its program back up to relevancy in the Big 12.

After missing most of his junior season at St. Augustine High School because of injury, Christmas-Giles committed to Tennessee in August of 2015. But a stellar senior season saw some big schools such as TCU, LSU and Texas send offers his way. 

Shortly after those offers, Christmas-Giles backed out of his commitment to Tennessee and weighed his other options. According to Holland, defensive tackle was a high priority for the Longhorns, and there were some big reasons why.

The Texas defense struggled mightily last season with a unit ranked 106th in the nation, allowing over 450 yards per game. 

The Longhorns' rushing defense deserved much of the blame, as it gave up 219.2 rushing yards per game. Only 16 schools in the FBS allowed more yards on the ground than the Longhorns. 

Christmas-Giles' presence will be cherished on the Texas defensive line, as he could be a vital piece to help improve those subpar numbers in the coming years. 

 

Stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

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Morgan Mahalak to Transfer from Oregon: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Quarterback Morgan Mahalak didn't attempt a single pass for the Oregon Ducks in two years with the team, and he officially arrived at the decision to transfer on Tuesday.

Mahalak explained on Twitter his rationale for leaving Eugene:

The young signal-caller didn't specify his impending destination, but there's reason for other high-profile programs to be intrigued. He was a 4-star recruit who was the fifth-ranked dual-threat QB prospect from the class of 2014, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.   

As Ryan Thorburn of the Register-Guard pointed out while reporting last month that Mahalak was considering a transfer, the young signal-caller succeeded Jared Goff at Marin Catholic High School in California before arriving at Oregon.

Familiar with taking over for a legend at the most important position on the field, Mahalak had a redshirt year to learn from Ducks Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and presumably set himself up for the starting job.

Unfortunately, that's not how everything unfolded. Vernon Adams Jr. took over for Mariota this past season, and Mahalak never took a snap in 2015. Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich explained the decision to keep Mahalak on the bench in October, per the Statesman Journal's Pete Martini:

The redshirt year, for some guys, they take great advantage of. We probably didn't do that as much as we possibly could in his case. And that's just reality, and we learn from it. And that happens at multiple positions. A couple guys, two or three guys every year, unfortunately. Again, the human nature. You know, the human being part of it.

So it appears Mahalak wasn't fully capitalizing on his opportunity to play in an offense that's become known for its explosiveness and uptempo tactics in recent years.

Unable to capitalize on his talent and pick up what's thought of as a QB-friendly system over the span of two seasons, Mahalak must make the proper move when he does make his transfer decision.

Chief among Mahalak's priorities should be to dismiss any concerns about a lackluster work ethic. He'll need to dig into the playbook as he attempts to learn a new offense to position himself for a shot at a starting spot, particularly if he goes to a football program of Oregon's caliber.

The unpromising start to his career in Eugene, coupled with the tremendous competition on the depth chart that figures to materialize in 2016, made it logical for Mahalak to move on. A fresh start is probably best for both sides.

Senior Jeff Lockie, graduate transfer Dakota Prukop and redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen figure to be in the mix for the Ducks' starting QB job.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Recruiting: Where Each School Stands Ahead of National Signing Day

If you're anything like myself or ESPN's Ryan McGee, you look forward to any college football news in the offseason, particularly national signing day.

National Signing Day is an opportunity for every coach to strengthen his team and build up the program for the next three or four years.

As we all know, though, a top-25 recruiting class doesn't always guarantee success on the field, as teams such as Texas and Tennessee have found out in recent years.

However, this article is not going to focus much on the national recruiting scene, but rather those in the Pac-12 conference.

The Pac-12 finds itself in a troublesome spot as the only Power Five conference to not make an appearance in last year's College Football Playoff.

Strong recruiting classes in 2016 would certainly boost the talent level of the teams out West, as many teams look to bolster their rosters after their 2015 campaigns.

For all you Pac-12 fans looking for the latest conference recruiting news, enjoy!

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LSU Student Fails to Answer Back-to-Back SEC Football Questions on 'Jeopardy!'

C'mon, dude.

Tuesday night, a student at LSU named Kevin Brown botched back-to-back Jeopardy! questions pertaining to SEC football.

The Steve Spurrier one isn't totally embarrassing. But even casual fans know where Derrick Henry played.

ESPN's Mackenzie Thirkill called Brown out:

Brown is an Idaho native majoring in environmental engineering, per the Advocate.

Maybe sports just aren't his thing.

[Twitter]

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National Signing Day: Biggest Undeclared Recruits Left on the Table

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.

 

Rashan Gary

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 11th-ranked player in the country named Alabama as his top school earlier in his recruitment, according to 247Sports, and Nick Saban’s program is favored to get his commitment.

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

Tyrie Cleveland is technically committed to Houston. He announces his final decision, however, tomorrow.

The 4-star wide receiver is down to Arkansas, Florida, Houston and TCU. He has taken official visits to all four schools, with the final one to Florida last weekend.

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.

 

Ben Davis

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Recruiting: Latest Buzz Ahead of National Signing Day

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.

Five of the top eight current recruiting classes are held by SEC schools, including top-ranked LSU and No. 6 overall Alabama.

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.

Including Brown, the Dawgs are well in the mix for five of the top seven uncommitted prospects, including in-state 5-star recruits Mecole Hardman Jr. and Demetris Robertson.

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Where Super Bowl 50's Top Stars Ranked as College Football Recruits

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. 

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