Though its a strange spring, two programs earn "A" grades
This has been as strange of a recruiting season as I've seen. Prospects are committing as a rate roughly 200% higher than normal numbers at this time. The lack of spring practice and camps have given coaches more time to watch actual game film to make evaluations. The prospects are also being much more aggressive with verbal commitments instead of choosing to wait until football "opens up" again.
That has left us with two classes that I would currently grade out as "A" grades - Ohio State and Tennessee.
Ohio State Buckeyes (17 commitments)
It feels like Ohio State is very close to another championship. The Buckeyes were close in 2019, closer than they have been since they won the first College Football Playoff title in 2014. Ohio State landed a top-10 class last year but lacked a game changer at running back. There is no such issue with the program's 2020 class as this group is stacked from top to bottom.
Ohio State has a roster full of talent led by potential Heisman favorite and future top-10 draft pick Justin Fields, but there might be a small drop-off in 2020 after losing running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive stalwarts Chase Young and Jeff Okudah. I expect the Big Ten to be tougher in 2020 too, as Penn State and Iowa are on the schedule. The Buckeyes might have a huge showdown with Oregon in Eugene at the beginning of the season if the conferences decide to hold non-conference games. Second-year head coach Ryan Day is quickly proving himself to be elite recruiter.
Key Prospects: DE Jack Sawyer; OL Donovan Jackson; QB Kyle McCord; RB TreVeyon Henderson; WR Marvin Harrison Jr.
Chances of Retaining "A" Grade: High. The Buckeyes don't face a lot of de-commitments, so this class should remain intact. If Ohio State can successfully recruit top defensive line target J.R. Tuimoloau, the No. 1 ranking might be a wrap.
Tennessee Volunteers (24 commitments)
Tennessee has really been able to take advantage of the CoVID-19 situation more than any other program. The Volunteers have nearly a full class, with 24 verbally committed prospects, and we aren't out of May yet. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt has always been a dynamic recruiter, and his defensive coordinator stints at Alabama, Georgia and Florida State have yielded national championships for the Crimson Tide and the Seminoles.
Tennessee had an AWFUL start to the 2019 season, with embarrassing losses at home to Georgia State and BYU and blowout losses to Florid and Georgia. But the Volunteers rebounded to win six straight and finish 8-5 after a Gator Bowl win over Indiana. Georgia and Florida are still at the top of the SEC East, but Pruitt is determined to make it a three-way race. If he can keep this class together, the gap will close sooner than later.
Key Prospects: DE Dylan Brooks; DT KaTron Evans; LB Terrence Lewis; RB Cody Brown; QB Kaidon Salter
Chances of Retaining "A" Grade: A little less than 50-50. I could see some de-commitments in the Volunteers' future. I don't think Alabama or Auburn will let Brooks leave the state without a fight. Lewis is also a prospect I'd watch as the summer and fall go on. The Volunteers need to continue to show improvements on the field, especially against Florida and Georgia.
The Next Five
Clemson: The Tigers are sitting on a very high, extremely high "A-minus". They did have an "A" class before the surprising de-commitment of top defensive prospect Korey Foreman. It was a rare de-commitment for Clemson, but Dabo Swinney and his staff has plenty of time to make it up.
LSU: There is lots of quality in the Tigers' class, and overall, it looks like a lock for a top-10 class. Right now, LSU needs that one major game-changing prospect to commit for it to be closer to an "A" class.
USC: Even with Clay Helton on shaky ground, the Trojans have made a strong play to lock down many of the top prospects in California. Foreman is the big fish USC must land to flip its class from very good to elite.
North Carolina: The Tarheels staff led by Mack Brown has executed the game plan of winning most of the recruiting battles for the top prospects in North Carolina. The program probably can't get to an "A" grade without a couple more major top-end commitments, but it's a top-10 class for certain.
Texas: Tom Herman has a long way to go with the 2021 recruiting class, but so far so good. The Longhorns staff is starting to pick up the pace too, with four targets verbally committing in May.
Waiting in the wings
Alabama: Everyone knows Alabama is going to have a top-five recruiting class, as there's no other way to do it under Nick Saban. Right now, the Crimson Tide have just five players with verbal commitments, but among them are arguably the two wide receiver prospects in Florida. By the end of the summer, Alabama will have made a surge and will probably be in the mix with USC, Clemson, Ohio State and Tennessee.
Closing the book on the 2020 recruiting cycle
Both signing days are behind us, and it's time to move on to the 2021 recruiting cycle with a whole new batch of prospects, commitments, de-commitments, and potential drama. But before we move on, it's time for one final wrap-up piece.
Three teams that rolled on signing day
I have to applaud at what Sam Pittman did to pull the Razorbacks into a top-30 position after taking over the job from Chad Morris. Arkansas signed quarterback Malik Hornsby, a high-end, red-chip quarterback who should thrive under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. Under Pittman's leadership, the Razorbacks will be stronger in the trenches with red-chip offensive linemen Marcus Henderson and Jalen St. John. Defensive lineman Andy Boykin is a top-40 player at the position as well.
Just thinking about the late secondary haul that includes the nation's top safety Avantae Williams and safety/corner Isaiah Dunson already had the Hurricanes back in the top 15 - they finished 13th overall. But now add in the Hurricanes' work in the transfer portal that netted them quarterback D'Eriq King, an All-AAC performer in 2018, and defensive end Quincy Roche, the 2019 AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Getting a flip from Malachi Wideman on signing day gives the Volunteers a big-play receiver to go with what's likely to be a more balanced offense with a new quarterback. Tennessee began making big moves during the early signing period and finished with a top-10 class.
One team that could still improve
It wasn't the best day for the Lane Kiffin era, as the Rebels lost cornerback Daran Branch on a flip to Georgia. But Ole Miss is heavily involved in Zachary Evans recruitment - more on that below - and will also be in play to potential flip two wide receivers from Florida - Marc Britt and Leonard Manuel, who both took late official visits to Ole Miss and are signing their papers at a later date. If the Rebels can get all three players, they would have a class ranked around the top 25.
Update on undecided prospects
Believe it or not, there are still some undecided prospects out there. One of the misnomers of National Signing Day is that it's the deadline; it's not, it used to be the first day of the signing period for non-early enrollees. That changed with the early signing period, so now National Signing Day is the start of the second signing period. The deadline for signing a letter of intent is April. But even that doesn't have to be the final day. If a prospect is academically qualified, he can just as easily sign the scholarship agreement and financial aid package at his leisure and enroll at the school of his choice. So that's the long and short of what signing day is all about. Anyway, back to those undecided prospects.
RB Zachary Evans (Houston, TX): Evans said he wasn't going to sign Wednesday and didn't. When January started, LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M were the main programs. All three of those schools signed other running backs and have seemingly moved on - although Texas A&M left the door slightly open.
Ole Miss and Tennessee are still out there, and Evans has another official visit he can take. I've heard Florida is the likely recipient of that visit, but I could also see a school that's desperate for a late recruiting boost looking at Evans. USC? God knows the Trojans could use some positive recruiting news. Florida State? The Seminoles don't have a legitimate starting running back going into 2020. Arkansas? Evans would make a nice pairing with Raheem Boyd next season. TCU? The Horned Frogs have pulled off some surprises this recruiting cycle. This recruitment might go deep into the spring.
QB C.J. Dixon (Loganville, GA): It is hard to say what Dixon's future holds. He took a visit to Arkansas on January 24, but the Razorbacks were already leaning toward Malik Hornsby to fill their quarterback needs and the Texas prospect signed with Arkansas on Wednesday. If it's an academic issue, Dixon will likely be heading to a junior college.
OT Tyki'east Crawford (Carthage, TX): Crawford's future became clear Wednesday when he announced he would be attending Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas. The projected left tackle had plenty of interested suitors, but he will need more time to overcome some academic hurdles. Whether Crawford plays two years in junior college or one remains to be seen.
QB Aidan Atkinson (Boulder, CO): Atkinson is embroiled in a serious legal issue and faces charges of sexual assault and unlawful sexual conduct after a police report had him sexually assaulting multiple women on a party bus in September of 2018. Atkinson is 18, but because of the time of the alleged incidents, he is being charged as a juvenile. He was committed to Northwestern, but the program put his scholarship offer on hold. It's safe to say that Atkinson's future is up in the air.
Prospects who haven't signed
There are a handful of prospects who are verbally committed and still haven't signed letters of intent.
DE Jordan Burch (Columbia, SC), verbally committed to South Carolina:
Well, this is a fun one. Burch made his verbal commitment to South Carolina on ESPNU during the early signing period. He did not sign his letter of intent in December and said he wanted to wait to sign in February with his teammates. Well, his teammates signed yesterday - four of whom are going to South Carolina - and Burch simply said that he was going to "go play with his friends". But South Carolina still hasn't received a letter of intent from Burch and there isn't a timetable for this happening. LSU is still in the picture for Burch and various reports suggest he's truly torn between the schools. UPDATE: At 9 p.m. Burch officially signed with the Gamecocks
ATH Marc Britt (Miami, FL), verbally committed to Florida:
Britt committed to Florida in January and was recruited to play in the secondary. Ole Miss is also in play for Britt and appears to be recruiting him as a wide receiver. Britt will make his announcement and presumably sign his papers on February 20.
WR Leonard Manuel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), verbally committed to Florida: Manuel committed to Florida around 13 months ago and will publicly say he remains solid to the Gators. The wide receiver, however, has taken some visits and Ole Miss is definitely in the picture. Manuel will opt to sign a scholarship agreement on April 1.
Notable signings from Wednesday
CB De'Arre McDonald (Murfreesboro, TN) signs with Cincinnati
McDonald was committed to Ole Miss and had other offers from Power Five schools, but fell in love with Cincinnati during a visit and the Bearcats stayed patient until McDonald made his declaration on signing day. From an earlier evaluation: Watching McDonald on film, he is longer than his listed height and the ground that he covers with his arms and legs. McDonald (5-11, 185) can create havoc in the secondary and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He looks like a red-chip player who could also contribute on special teams.
RB Lamy Constant (Brooklyn, NY) signs with Toledo
Toledo was only one of two non-Power Five schools to make an offer to Constant - Temple was the other -, and the Rockets landed the former West Virginia commitment, who backed away from that pledge a week before the early signing period. From an earlier evaluation: Constant (6-0, 190) can play on either side of the ball, but on offense, he's a bigger back who should grow to 210-215 pounds in college. He has quick feet and shows the patience necessary to let the play develop in front of him. Constant has good strength, both in his upper body and in his legs. Toledo has a good power running game, and Constant will add to that.
LB Tate Romney (Chandler, AZ) signs with BYU
The Romney family has a deep history with BYU. Tate's older brothers Gunner and Baylor have both went through the program. The younger Romney (6-2, 205) is projected to be an outside linebacker, and on film, it's easy to see his linebacker mentality come through as he plays with bad intentions. Romney is an aggressive player who is most comfortable attacking north south, but he's athletic enough to play in coverage and provide a little versatility. Romney is expected to serve his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to starting his college football career.
JUCO RB ZaQuandre White (North Fort Myers, FL) signs with South Carolina
White should be a very familiar name to people who follow recruiting. He was one of the top prospects in the class of 2017 and signed with Florida State out of high school. He had struggles at Florida State and was eventually switched to linebacker before deciding to go to junior college and give running back another try. White found a home at Iowa Western Community College and rushed for nearly 900 yards and 10 touchdowns for Iowa Western. He will have two years of eligibility and joins a running back room at South Carolina that is suddenly deep with talent, both young and experienced.
JUCO QB Danny Clark (Massillon, OH) signs with Vanderbilt
Clark is another throwback name for those who follow recruiting. One of the top arms in the class of 2016, Clark was an Ohio State commitment who eventually switched to Kentucky and was one of the first real top guys who signed with Mark Stoops. Clark didn't make a dent in two years at Kentucky and ended up at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Now, the left-handed thrower will try his luck at Vanderbilt, where the Commodores have four players competing for snaps and no scholarship quarterbacks from 2019 returning. Clark will have two years of eligibility to see if he can make it at this level of college football.
Quick Thoughts: Clemson closed the book on its class in December and was able to stay at No. 1 despite a serious push from Georgia. This class is full of stars on both sides of the ball, but the defensive line class, led by Bryan Bresee, will be the reason Clemson wins another national championship in the next three years.
Georgia Bulldogs (2nd overall)
Key Prospects: RB Kendall Milton, CB Kelee Ringo, OT Broderick Jones
Quick Thoughts: Georgia added players on signing day like red-chip Louisiana cornerback Daran Branch and in-state running back Daijun Edwards. The Bulldogs held on to verbal commitments like offensive lineman Broderick Jones and Sedrick Van Pran. It's another tremendous class between the hedges.
Alabama Crimson Tide (3rd overall)
Key Prospects: QB Bryce Young, DE Chris Braswell, RB Jase McClellan
Quick Thoughts: Alabama tried to go big but lost red-chip offensive lineman Jayson Jones to Oregon by pushing out of the class to make room for other targets. The risk didn't pay off, but any program in the nation would gladly take the players Alabama did bring in.
"A" Class Grades
LSU Tigers (4th overall)
Key Prospects: TE Arik Gilbert, CB Elias Ricks, LB Phillip Webb
Quick Thoughts: LSU dealt with a some late losses during the early signing period and then a lot of defections after winning the national title on the roster and the coaching staff. But running back Kevontre Bradford was a huge addition late in the recruiting period.
Ohio State Buckeyes (5th overall)
Key Prospects: WR Julian Fleming, OT Paris Johnson Jr., QB C.J. Stroud
Quick Thoughts: There were no changes to this class from December, as the Buckeyes are already putting together one of the top classes in 2021.
Auburn Tigers (6th overall)
Key Prospects: RB Tank Bigsby, LB Wesley Steiner, DE Zykeivous Walker
Quick Thoughts: Auburn continued to go hard after Georgia commitments Broderick Jones and Sedrick Van Pran but lost out on both. It was a far cry from the early signing period, when the Tigers hit on all their targets.
Texas A&M Aggies (7th overall)
Key Prospects: WR Demond Demas, DE Donell Harris, QB Haynes King
Quick Thoughts: Picking up defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson on signing day gave Texas A&M another piece on defense and kept him away from division opponent Alabama. The Aggies also grabbed former Ohio State commit Darvon Hubbard, putting themselves out of the Zachary Evans recruiting chaos.
Quick Thoughts: Texas was playing defense during the early signing period but closed strong Wednesday with commitments from Kelvontay Dixon and top in-state defensive lineman Alfred Collins.
Tennessee Volunteers (10th overall)
Key Prospects: S Keshawn Lawrence, DT Omari Thomas, QB Harrison Bailey
Quick Thoughts: Tennessee was out of the top 20 before the early signing period and shot to a top 10 class with an incredible close in December and another one in February. Wednesday's haul included Malachi Wideman, a flip from Florida State, and edge rusher Damarcus Beckwith.
Florida Gators (11th overall)
Quick Thoughts: The Gators had a rough day, striking out on many targets, most notably top safety Avantae Williams. But they did grab Texas defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen. However two of the prospects, wide receivers Marc Britt and Leonard Manuel are expected to sign elsewhere - Ole Miss -, so once again the class Florida shows on signing day will not be the same class that enters Gainesville in the summer.
Penn State Nittany Lions (12th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Penn State was done in December and is well into its 2021 recruiting.
Miami Hurricanes (13h overall)
Quick Thoughts: When you add in what they did in the past few weeks, capped by the signing of the top-ranked safety in the nation Avantae Williams, along with getting D'Eriq King and Quincy Roche out of the transfer portal, I think there are going to be high expectations for the Hurricanes over the next couple of years. Manny Diaz has to prove he can do it on the field.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14th overall)
Quick Thoughts: The Fighting Irish have long since moved on to 2021 recruiting and sat Wednesday out.
"B" Class Grades
Oklahoma Sooners (15th overall)
Quick Thoughts: The class has a lot of good offensive weapons and offensive linemen but where are the defensive linemen? The Sooners will not win a game of importance at the national level as long as they keep getting gashed along the defensive line.
Kentucky Wildcats (16th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Getting players like in-state safety Vito Tisdale and Ohio running back prospect Michael Drennen II made for a strong closing in the commonwealth.
Michigan Wolverines (17th overall)
Quick Thoughts:Michigan did not do anything of note Wednesday and is focused on the 2021 class.
Washington Huskies (18th overal)
Quick Thoughts: This is another solid class from a solid program. Washington tired to get in on tight end Jack Yary late, but he re-committed to USC. New coach Jimmy Lake will have to pull another top-15-20 class in 2021 with Oregon starting to pull away in that region.
South Carolina Gamecocks (19th overall)
Quick Thoughts: From what I know of Will Muschamp, he doesn't have time of for a lot of silliness. Jordan Burch still hasn't signed his letter of intent after two separate ceremonies. I feel like the situation is going to end one way or another shortly.
Arizona State Sun Devils (20th overall)
Quick Thoughts: The Sun Devils went big in California and had the most successful recruiting haul out of the Golden State among all the Pac-12 teams.
North Carolina Tar Heels (21st overall)
Quick Thoughts: Mack Brown did his best to build a fence around the Carolinas, grabbing 16 of 25 recruits from North or South Carolina.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (22nd overall)
Quick Thoughts: Scott Frost was more focused on building the walk-on class and added junior college players after December.
TCU Horned Frogs (23rd overall)
Quick Thoughts: TCU has perhaps the quietest top-25 class in recruiting history, but it is one of the best the school has ever had.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (24th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Head coach Geoff Collins is doing a splendid job of flipping this roster to fit the team's new direction. The on-field result may begin to show in 2020.
Wisconsin Badgers (25th overall)
Quick Thoughts: A great offensive line class and top running back Jalen Berger headline this group.
Florida State Seminoles (26th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Demorie Tate is a big-time player, but Mike Norvell and his new staff lost out on a few commitments and had to replace them with question marks. Florida State should never be outside the top 15 in recruiting.
Utah Utes (27th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Getting Clark Phillips III at the end of the early signing period was a big momentum boost for a solid close.
Arkansas Razorbacks (28th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Quarterback Malik Hornsby and offensive lineman Marcus Henderson are major signing-day additions.
Stanford Cardinal (29th overall)
Quick Thoughts: The top end of this class in top 15 worthy, but the depth of the class is questionable.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (30th overall)
Quick Thoughts: Minnesota turned a 10-win season into plenty of success on the recruiting trail. P.J. Fleck is among the best talent evaluators in the game.
Feb. 5, 2:45 p.m.
Today is officially National Signing Day - NSD. The introduction of the early signing period in December has changed NSD from the crazy free-for-all it used to be to a more subdued day on which programs are looking to finalize their classes or new coaches added in between the signing periods are trying to salvage a class or change around a roster.
Current 2020 Recruiting Class Rankings
These are the class rankings as they stand currently.
It'll be tough for Georgia to get much higher because I believe the recruiting work is done for that staff. Alabama did not get the late push it hoped for with its highest target on the board, defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson, committing to Texas A&M over the Crimson Tide. Tennessee might not reach the top 10, but it's been an impressive recruiting run for the Volunteers under Jeremy Pruitt.
Most of the Big Ten schools in the top 20 wrapped up their recruiting in December and are well into the 2021 class, so don't expect much more movement there.
Morning News Update
Miami lands Williams in a shocker
It seemed like top safety Avantae Williams was all but earmarked to Florida, but in a surprising twist, the top-rated safety in the nation chose Miami and signed with the Hurricanes. Williams (5-10, 170), from DeLand, Florida, completes an impressive secondary haul for the Hurricanes that includes Jalen Harrell, Keshawn Washington and Isaiah Dunson. Williams' relationship with the Hurricanes goes full circle after he committed to the program as an underclassmen before flipping to Oregon. Williams stayed committed to the Ducks for most of 2019, but he backed away a week before the early signing period. Miami's class is currently ranked in the top 20, at No. 18.
TCU finds another big receiver
The Horned Frogs got a signing from fringe blue-chip wide receiver Quentin Johnston during the early signing period. And on national signing day, TCU gets a signing from 6-foot-5 in-state wide receiver Savion Williams. Both receivers - Johnston is 6-foot-4 - will give TCU tall, long wide receivers to provide mismatches and big targets in the red zone. Williams rates as a player with a red-chip ceiling, although he's not quite there yet. He is still a very good signing day pickup for the Horned Frogs, who easily have a top-five recruiting class in the Big XII.
Tennessee gets off to a good start
Red-chip defensive end Damarcus Beckwith signed with Tennessee on Wednesday morning. The Volunteers held off Florida in a tightly-contested recruiting battle. One thing the Volunteers had in their favor was family. Beckwith's brother, Camryn, is at Tennessee as a preferred walk-on. The day could get better for the Volunteers as they are the favorites to flip Florida State wide receiver commit Malachi Wideman. Currently Tennessee's class is rated inside the top 15.
OL Henderson spurns Ole Miss for Arkansas
Do not doubt Sam Pittman when it comes to recruiting offensive linemen. The current Arkansas head coach just speaks a language that appeals to the big men in the trenches. This was kind of a tag team effort as Pittman, who had a relationship with Henderson from he was trying to recruit him to Georgia. And Arkansas offensive line coach Brad Davis had a relationship with Henderson from when he was trying to recruit him to Missouri. The coaches met in the middle with everything, including destination, and Henderson, a 6-5, 300-pounder from Memphis, is a Razorback. Arkansas is also expected to sign red-chip quarterback Malik Hornsby to cap off a solid effort for Pittman.
Yary goes full circle with USC
Tight end Jack Yary originally committed to USC when the Trojans were interested at putting him on the offensive line. Yary reconsidered that arrangement and decided to look around. But with a little arm wringing on both sides and a likely agreement to let Yary play his preferred position, the son of Pro Football Hal of Famer Ron Yary signed with the Trojans and will continue the family legacy. USC's struggles in recruiting have been noted, and the Trojans are outside of the top 50 in most services right now as Clay Helton and his coaching staff are hoping for some signing-day magic.
CB Rakestraw surprises many with Missouri signing
Congratulations to Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz for winning his first real major recruiting battle. Missouri was the significant underdog in the recruiting of Ennis Rakestraw from Duncanville, Texas. But the Tigers emerged ahead of Alabama and Texas to gain the signing of the 6-foot, 175-pounder. Missouri had been on Rakestraw for a while, but once Alabama and Texas decided he was a worthwhile target in this class, it seemed like the Crimson Tide would be tough to beat. Drinkwitz has built a class of 18 prospects at Missouri.
Updated Feb. 5
Today is officially National Signing Day - NSD. The introduction of the early signing period in December has changed NSD from the crazy free-for-all it used to be to a more subdued day on which programs are looking to finalize their classes or new coaches added in between the signing periods are trying to salvage a class or change around a roster.
Here is a small preview of what to expect Wednesday.
Current 2020 Recruiting Class Rankings:
These are the class rankings from most previous update after the early signing period. They will change and be finalized later today.
Isn't the "real" signing day in December now?
It certainly feels that way, with nearly 80 percent of the players and over 75 percent of the blue-chip and red-chip prospects already signed. Heck, there are more players enrolled at programs than players who will sign Wednesday. In many ways, the early signing period has done what it was supposed to accomplish. Many of the top programs will have quiet Wednedays and have already put together major junior day events for the top 2021 prospects.
Can Clemson Be Caught at No. 1?
I think both Georgia and Alabama could catch Clemson. Georgia probably has a better chance because it has more open spots. Alabama is trying to create more spots and will likely lose in-state recruit Jayson Jones to Oregon or Baylor. While the difference between the No. 1 and No. 3 recruiting classes is razor thin, it does mean a lot to these top programs to win the recruiting "national championship". The Tigers still have the inside track as their defensive line class is the stuff of legends.
Who else is moving up?
Texas A&M has a shot to jump into the top five with a strong close and maybe a signing-day surprise commitment from Zachary Evans. Kentucky is looking at a potential move into the top 15. Oregon, Texas and Florida could all swap spots. Look for Miami as a potential team to enter into the top 20, especially if the Hurricanes can snag top safety Avantae Williams. Ole Miss is another team that could make a big move into the top 20.
Who might we expect a signing day flip from?
Well, the big name out there is blue-chip defensive lineman Jordan Burch, who made a televised commitment to South Carolina on the first day of the early signing period. However, he did not sign his letter of intent. At the time, Burch said he wanted to wait until February to sign with the rest of his teammates, which is certainly admirable. But the truth is Burch continues to look hard at LSU. Whether the change of defensive coordinators from Dave Aranda to Bo Pelini has made a difference with that is hard to say. But Burch is definitely the biggest question mark out there.
Another name to watch is red-chip wide receiver Malachi Wideman, who is verbally committed to Florida State but did not sign during the early signing period. It was believed that Wideman held off because of uncertainty with Florida State's coaching staff. However, the same coach who recruited Wideman, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans, was retained by new head coach Mike Norvell. Florida State has tried hard to keep Wideman in the class, but Ole Miss and Tennessee are in the mix for him. It would be a considerable lost for the Seminoles, who struggled to keep the top-end recruits in their class during the coaching change.
There have been some rumblings that running back Jalen Berger is reconsidering his commitment to Wisconsin and could be a late flip to Rutgers, but that would be a real surprise. The big news is that Georgia looks like it'll hold on to its two big offensive line recruits, guard Sedrick Van Pran and tackle Broderick Jones, despite both players looking around in the final weeks.
Avantae Williams (No. 1-rated safety) Commitment Status: Undecided
Williams, from DeLand, Florida, was committed to Miami when he was an underclassman and switched his pledge to Oregon for much of this recruiting cycle. He backed away from his Oregon pledge a week before the early signing period began and is expected to choose a program closer to home. Florida - Jan. 24 - and Ole Miss - Jan. 31 - have official visits scheduled already, and it looks like Miami is in line for a visit. Georgia is also trying to get in the picture. Williams is expected to make his decision on or around national signing day.
Zachary Evans (No. 1-rated running back) Commitment Status: Undecided
Evans, from Houston, has had one of the most tumultuous recruitments of any prospect during this cycle. There's little question of Evans' talent, as he draws comparisons to Texas greats like Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson, but he's had multiple suspensions for discipline issues during his senior season at North Shore and missed the state championship game with another suspension.
Evans was planning on making his announcement at the Under Armour All-America Game, but word came out the day before that he was not was not going to announce. Kipp Adams, from 247 Sports, has reported that Evans signed with Georgia, but will not be going there and was given a clean release from his letter of intent with the Bulldogs. LSU and Texas A&M are schools that have recruited Evans and might continue. There may also be new schools in the picture. It's hard to predict what Evans will do.
Malik Hornsby (No. 15-rated quarterback) Commitment Status: Undecided
Hornsby, from Missouri City, Texas, is probably in line for a rankings bump in the final rankings before National Signing Day. Patience has been the key for Hornsby's recruitment since he backed out of his verbal commitment to North Carolina over the summer. Baylor has been a school high on Hornsby's list for several months, but that has likely changed with Matt Ruhle heading back to the NFL. Keep an eye on Arkansas though. Hornsby is taking an official visit to the school on January 24, and Razorbacks offensive coordinator Kendal Briles had real interest in Hornsby while he was in the same position at Florida State.
Jordan Burch (No. 4-rated defensive end) Commitment Status: Verbal to South Carolina
Burch, from Columbia, South Carolina, decided to keep it in the family when he made his announcement for South Carolina during an ESPN telecast on the first day of the early signing period. But Burch did not sign his letter of intent with the Gamecocks. He said the plan is for him to sign at the same time his high school teammates sign with their respective programs in February. The people around South Carolina don't seem too concerned right now, but Burch hasn't ruled out taking some visits. LSU is the school to watch here if Burch begins to have second thoughts.
Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 19-rated running back) Commitment Status: Verbal to Georgia Tech
Gibbs, from Dalton, Georgia, opted not to sign with Georgia Tech during the early signing period, and that move makes him one of the most sought-after recruits during this cycle. LSU has made Gibbs a priority and will host him on an official visit on January 24. Ohio State, another program looking for a feature back in this class, will have Gibbs on campus January 17. Florida might get a visit as well. Georgia Tech, however, will get the final official visit on January 31. Keeping Gibbs is essential for Georgia Tech's class. The coaching staff and program are all still reeling from the tragic death of wide receiver signee Bryce Gowdy.
Sedrick Van Pran (No. 6-rated interior offensive lineman) Commitment Status: Verbal to Georgia
Van Pran, a projected center from New Orleans, did not sign with the Bulldogs during the early signing period and appears to be interested in taking a few visits. Van Pran (6-4, 305) will take his official visit to Georgia on January 24, and it's possible Florida could get an official visit on the following weekend. Van Pran has already taken official visits to Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The announcement of his final official visit would likely come this week for January 17, unless he sneaks in a mid-week official visit somewhere. Alabama seems like a good possibility, but Arizona State is also out there and recruiting Van Pran.
Marcus Henderson (No. 15-rated interior offensive lineman) Commitment Status: Undecided
Henderson's recruiting has taken a few zigs and zags and could have a few more planned before it's over. One thing seems to be clear though: Henderson (6-5, 300) would like to play football in the SEC and has already scheduled visits to Georgia - Jan. 24 - and Alabama - Jan. 31. Those would be his third and fourth official visits after he previously visited Arkansas - Dec. 13 - and Missouri - Nov. 23. Arkansas was pushing for a signing heavily, but the belief is that time has cooled off the parties. Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee appear like prime candidates for a fifth official visit if Henderson decides to take one.
Daijun Edwards (No. 31-rated running back) Commitment Status: Undecided
Edwards, from Moultrie, Georgia, had been a long-time Florida State lean, and the general belief is had Willie Taggart not been fired, Edwards would've signed with the Seminoles during the early signing period. The new Florida State staff, led by head coach Mike Norvell, has been a little slower to recruit Edwards and looked at a couple of junior college options. But Edwards will take an official visit to the school on January 31. The other school in play is Georgia, and it's likely Edwards will visit the Bulldogs on January 17 or January 24.
TE/OL Jack Yary (Unranked) Commitment Status: Undecided
Yary was a former USC commitment. The Trojans were looking at developing him into a long tackle like his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Yary. The younger Yary, however, had second thoughts about playing offensive line and wants to be a tight end in college. He took an official visit to Washington on the final weekend before the early signing period, but he did not sign. UCLA and Arizona State are in the pictures for visits this month.
Updated January 7
The All-American Bowl - formerly known as the Army All-American Bowl - was played Saturday and shown on NBC. I have a few thoughts on the event and also the announcements coming from the event.
All-American Bowl Quick Thoughts
Noah Sewell is Special: I think don't know where Sewell will end up on the field. At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, my belief is he'll be one of the top defensive tackles in college football and a likely high NFL draft pick, but I also felt like Derrick Henry was too big to play running back and would end up as a tight end or defensive end.
Sometimes an athlete is so unique, they just can't be fit in a box. Sewell might be one of those guys. He gave viewers the full Noah Sewell experience on Saturday. He was making tackles as a linebacker, rushing the quarterback as a pass-rusher, dropping into deep third coverage and grabbing an interception off Tate Rodemaker. Then Sewell played offense, busting off big runs and catching passes out of the backfield. He wants to play both ways at Oregon, and you've got to think Mario Cristobal and his staff are figuring out all the ways they can utilize Sewell and get the most out of him. Sewell is woefully underrated at No. 106 in the WalterFootball.com Top 120, but he'll get a major bump in the final rankings.
Breese is next in line: Clemson has had some great defensive linemen in the history of the program, especially over the past five years with guys like Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell. Breese, the No. 3 ranked player in the WalterFootball.com Top 120, was not 100 percent going into the game and played with a club on his injured left hand, but he showed everything you want out of defensive lineman. He was versatile enough to play end and tackle, and he showed an exceptional burst off the edge to get to the quarterback. Breese seemed to be in on every play, and he was hitting hard, forcing turnovers and generally blowing up the West's offensive line at every opportunity.
QBs Young, Uiagalelei are a cut above: Despite being California prospects, quarterbacks Bryce Young - West - and D.J. Uiagalelei - East - were split up, so they could go head-to-head. Young looked like the best quarterback in the country. He's not the biggest player, but he has a good arm, is a true dual-threat player at the position, and can make great throws on the run. Uiagalelei is a much more physically imposing quarterback. He doesn't move as well as Young, but he can move within the pocket and buy time. The ball just comes off of Uiagalelei's hand so beautifully. He should get the benefits of a redshirt year to learn behind Trevor Lawrence. Young, however, might get on the field this fall.
Full disclosure, I worked for ESPN for a few years at the start of the 2010s and had a lot of involvement with the Under Armour Game during that time.
The full Zachary Evans experience: It's clear that Evans, the mercurial blue-chip running back from Houston, has ridiculous talent. He was arguably the best offensive player on the field in Thursday's game. The Under Armour Game is not always kind to running backs, but Evans had 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. He showed the full array of speed, balance and power that is expected of a blue-chip running back. He also hauled in a 19-yard pass and stood in on protection at times. Of course, the real story is the fact that Evans decided not to make his announcement public during the game. Kipp Adams from 247Sports is reporting that Evans definitely signed with a school, but that didn't stop him from continuing to communicate with other schools. It's all a little strange and who knows what the deal is. He wouldn't be the first prospect to have "signee's remorse," so it'll be interesting to see where this leads. If he did sign with a program, that coach can disclose the situation if they please.
The practices are usually more revealing than the game: ESPN used to televise the Under Armour practices, and those were far more telling than the game since the practices feature far more position work than 11-on-11. The game is as good as it can be considering everyone on the field is unfamiliar with their teammates. The practices used to be full pads and a lot of contact, but from what I saw this year, the practices are no longer padded and less physical. I am not sure why they made the changes, although I'll assume it's because of liability issues. I still have memories of the padded practice days. Watching Jadeveon Clowney battle in one-on-ones with Cyrus Kouandjio is still one of my favorite memories of Under Armour practices.
It was an up-and-down game for the QBs: Drew Pyne, the Notre Dame commitment, had the best statistical game, going 9-for-11 for 121 yards with a nice touchdown pass to Julian Fleming. Jeff Sims, a commitment to Georgia Tech, had 59 yards rushing and a running touchdown. Haynes King, a Texas A&M commitment, really struggled, going 3-for-12 for 48 yards, but he was also dealing with a lot of pass rush. The teams don't make it easy on the quarterbacks in this game, as the defensive lines are made up of players who are the best in the country. Oregon signee Robby Ashford also struggled with accuracy, going 1-for-8 passing. He did, however, rush for 44 yards.
Lots of good defensive performers, no true standouts: Usually, there's a Clowney or Daylon Mack or Rashan Gary or another player who records multiple sacks and looks like the next big thing. There were a lot of good looking players on defense, but no one player had really gaudy stats. Jordan Burch, who verbally committed to South Carolina, was the closest to a standout with a sack, two tackles for loss and five solo tackles. Sav'ell Smalls, a Washington commitment, had a sack and a tackle for loss. He's a good player, but I wonder if a move to inside linebacker is in his future. Mekhail Sherman, a Georgia commitment from the Washington D.C. area, also had a couple tackles for loss.
Thursday Signing-Day Wrap-Up
Usually the second and third days of the early signing period are much quieter, and that was the case Thursday, with most staffs either enjoying their handy work and heading away for the holidays before starting to zone in on 2021 prospects or trying to schedule official visits in January to put the finishing pieces to their respective classes. Notable Thursday news
Utah has a massive recruiting day
One program that decided to make Thursday eventful was Utah. The Utes started the day by adding in-state defensive lineman Xavier Carlton. Carlton (6-7, 260) had Ohio State and California also among his favorite schools, but the long defensive lineman from Juan Diego Catholic School in Draper, Utah will be staying close to home.
The big news for Utes was yet to come, however, and during the afternoon when blue-chip cornerback Clark Phillips III flipped from Ohio State and became the highest-rated recruiting signee in Utah football history. Phillips III (5-11, 180) was solidly committed to the Buckeyes until defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley announced he was leaving the Buckeyes to take the head coaching job at Boston College. As Halfley was working out his deal with Boston College, Phillips III decided to look around himself and took an official visit to Utah last weekend. Phillips, from La Habra, California, is not just a win for Utah, but it's a win for Pac-12, which saw many of the top prospects from California head to big schools in other conferences.
Utah finished its recruiting haul with a commitment from Hawaiian offensive lineman Solatoa Moea'i. The Utes have signed 15 players in this class and are approaching the top 25.
Kentucky adds CB Joel Williams to its class
This was already the best recruiting class in the history of the program, and Kentucky dipped into Baton Rouge, Louisiana to grab Williams and bring him to the commonwealth. Williams (6-1, 190) took official visits to Houston and Alabama - he was thought to be a pretty heavy lean to the Crimson Tide. But patience paid off for Kentucky after Williams waited the extra day to make his final decision.
The commitment should move Kentucky up another spot in the next recruiting rankings, which will come out Friday. If Mark Stoops is going to get Kentucky in serious contention for the SEC East, this class will be looked upon as the foundation for that surge.
Longhorns keep LB Jaylan Ford in state
The early signing period did not do Texas many favors, as a class that was once in the top five dropped to the back end of the top 10. But Ford (6-3, 210) committed to Utah back in October and Texas was able to flip him Thursday. The Longhorns need athleticism on defense, especially at the linebacker positions. Ford isn't among the elite Texas prospects, but he has length, can run, and plays with a high motor. Head coach Tom Herman is looking for guys who bring effort, and Ford will do that.
Some of the late Wednesday flips
RB Jase McCllelan makes rumored flip to Crimson Tide
Well, it took until about 7 p.m. on Wednesday night for Alabama to make some news, but the Crimson Tide eventually made the splash when McCllelan, a blue-chip running back from Aledo, Texas, backed out of his long-time commitment to Oklahoma and signed with Alabama. McClellan joined Kyle Edwards as the running backs in the Crimson Tide class. It's funny that Alabama's two top-rated skill players in the 2020 class, quarterback Bryce Young and McClellan were both prospects the team had to flip.
For Oklahoma, it's a loss, but the Sooners had running back Seth McGowan in the class already, so they recruited for additional depth, and McGowan has the tools to be a feature back. Still, it has to be frustrating for Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to be involved in a recruitment for an extended time and have Alabama swoop in and grab the prospect.
Georgia snags WR Jermaine Burton from LSU
When Wednesday began, it was arguable that LSU had the top wide receivers class in the nation with Rakim Jarrett, Jermaine Burton and Kayshon Boutte. But things began to unravel as the day went on. First, Jarrett flipped to Maryland in what was the shocking move of the day, and later in the afternoon, Burton flipped to Georgia.
The Burton flip had been rumored for a while, so it probably didn't catch the LSU staff off guard. By the end of the day, it was Georgia that could boast a terrific wide receivers class, with Burton joining blue-chip prospect Marcus Rosemy and red-chip prospect Arian Smith. If tight end Darnell Washington picks the Bulldogs, as predicted, at the Under Armour All-America Game, it would be an impressive haul of pass catchers. It's the type of young, exciting receiving corps that might convince junior quarterback Jake Fromm to return for his senior season.
S Myles Slusher leaves Oregon for Arkansas
This is a big catch for Arkansas, which wasn't expected to make many waves during the early signing period after making a coaching change in the past three weeks. But Slusher took an official visit to Arkansas last weekend, and the rumors of a flip emerged soon after. Arkansas only has nine prospects signed, but it was a quality group led by Slusher and wide receiver Darin Turner.
Meanwhile, Oregon lost its two top safeties in the matter of about two weeks between Slusher and Avantae Williams. There is no reason to cry for head coach Mario Cristobal though, not after he signed the two highest-rated inside linebackers, Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe, but still no program likes to lose elite prospects.
Blue-chip TE Washington visits Alabama, Oregon next
Las Vegas prospect Darnell Washington is continuing his official visit tour around the nation. This past week, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound pass catcher was at Alabama on an official visit and taking in the Alabama-LSU clash. Committed Alabama quarterback recruit Bryce Young was often in Washington's ear during his visit, making sure the tight end understand the potential a Young-to-Washington connection can have in the future at Tuscaloosa. Washington hasn't spoken much since his visit, but previously made it clear that he'd like to play in the SEC. He has already taken visits to Georgia and Florida.
Next up for Washington is a non-SEC program and the only school out west to get an official visit, Oregon. Washington's interest in Oregon seems legitimate, and he has already taken an unofficial visit to the campus and checked out the program's amazing facilities. Oregon will be Washington's fourth official visit, and his fifth is currently undetermined, but both Miami and Tennessee have been mentioned as possible destinations. With the other blue-chip tight end in the 2020 class, Arik Gilbert, committed to LSU, all eyes are on Washington. Both Alabama and Georgia are in desperate need of tight ends, and it's considered to be a battle between those two programs. Can Oregon jump in the mix after this weekend? It remains to be seen.
Top linebacker Justin Flowe takes in South Beach
Flowe, who is arguably the top uncommitted prospect in the 2020 class, is just beginning his official visits, and the first program on his list was Miami. The Hurricanes will be graduating their top three linebackers - Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Romeo Finley - after the season, and with nothing but freshmen at the primary backup positions, the depth chart appears friendly for a top prospect like Flowe to make an immediate impact. Flowe (6-2, 225) has an official visit to Clemson set up for this weekend, and the Tigers are widely considered the favorites to earn Flowe's commitment when he decides to make his announcement. Oregon and Georgia have also been batted around as potential visit spots for Flowe, but no official announcements have been made.
WR Fleming shuts down Penn State rumors on Twitter
Julian Fleming, arguably the top wide receiver prospect in the 2020 class, has been committed to Ohio State since May 31. Despite how solid his commitment might be, Fleming is from Cartawissa, Pennsylvania, and from the beginning of his recruitment, there have been different reports that linked him to Penn State. Those rumbles seemed to get louder this weekend with some reports that Fleming was going to officially flip to the Nittany Lions this week. Well, Fleming took to the Twitterverse with intentions on quieting down the chatter. The tweet read: "Just to clarify, any rumor or statement going around about me flipping is false. I am true to my commitment and will report in January to THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY. GO BUCKS!" Well, if it's in all caps it has to be true.
LSU gaining steam for RB Zachary Evans?
You get the feeling that Zachary Evans' recruitment won't be over until he signs his name to paper, and if there were a potential signing-day drama story to emerge in this class, all fingers point to Evans. In recent weeks, LSU has really seemed to put its best foot forward when it comes to the talented running back from Houston. The Tigers have locked up top talent from nearly every position in this class except for running back and Evans is their top target. He took an official visit to LSU last month and has not scheduled any more officials at this time. Both Alabama and Georgia are expected to get official visits and another SEC program, Texas A&M, has jumped in the mix as well, with Jimbo Fisher trying to keep Evans in the Lone Star State.
Florida State must salvage recruiting class after Taggart's dismissal
Florida State fired head coach Willie Taggart on Sunday after he went 9-12 over 21 games. Taggart had his share of struggles on the field, and despite his reputation as a great recruiter, he had mixed results in his short time at Florida State and failed to recruit a quarterback in two classes. Currently, Florida State's recruiting class ranked eigth by WalterFootball.com as of mid-September. It's projected to be between 12-15th in the next rankings in mid-November, barring any upcoming de-commitments. Although the Seminoles have had two defensive backs - Jalen Harrell and Derek Bermudez - leave the class in the past couple of weeks, the secondary class is still strong, led by blue-chip cornerback Demorie Tate and red-chip defensive backs Jadarius McKnight and Isaiah Dunson. Florida State needs to sign at least three running backs and 3-4 wide receivers in this class and is off to a good start with red-chip running backs Jaylan Knighton and Lawrence Toafili and wide receivers Malachi Wideman and Ja'Khi Douglas.
On the flip side, Florida State has some of the worst personnel in the Power Five at offensive line, quarterback and pass rush. The quarterback spot could be fixed if the new coach can convince red-chip quarterback Jeff Sims to stay committed, but the Seminoles lack quality depth at the position. The Seminoles coaching staff went heavy on finding outside linebackers, edge rushers and defensive ends for a hybrid 3-4 scheme they were trying to run. Red-chip outside linebacker Keyshawn Greene and edge rusher Morven Joseph are committed, but those commitments are shaky with Taggart gone. The offensive line class is currently four deep with the expectation that the staff would work to get two more high school prospects and two more players from junior college or through the transfer portal. All of the prospects in Florida State's current offensive line class would be helped with a redshirt, meaning there's no immediate help at the position.
Assuming the next coach can keep the current recruiting class intact, the Seminoles would need to sign a second quarterback prospect, another running back prospect, three more wide receivers, four more offensive linemen, another edge rushing prospect and another interior defensive lineman or two. There's youth on the roster in the secondary and at inside linebacker. The offensive line has a couple of building blocks in freshmen tackle Darius Washington and freshmen guard Dontae Lucas, but the right side is in need of a total overhaul and competitive depth is needed across the board. The Florida State coaches will have to rely on recruiting and taking advantage of the transfer portal to fix some of these holes in the fashion that the program's demanding fanbase expects.
LSU is setting up offense for years to come
Blue-chip tight end Arik Gilbert made the surprising decision of the recruiting cycle when he committed to LSU on Wednesday, spurning the months of chatter that it was a Georgia-versus-Alabama recruiting battle. Gilbert's commitment, along with a season in which LSU has shown to have one of the most explosive offenses in college football, further solidifies one of the best classes in the nation when it comes to offensive skill players. The Tigers have three of the top-10 receivers in the nation committed with Rakim Jarrett, Kayshon Boutte and Jermaine Burton. There have been rumors Jarrett was looking elsewhere, but he will be on his official visit to LSU this weekend and the likelihood of his commitment being solidified are high. The one thing LSU is missing in this class is a running back, but blue-chip running back Zachary Evans is scheduled to be at LSU this weekend on an official visit. Evans' recruiting has taken some strange turns given he has had some issues during his high school season. But if Evans makes it to Death Valley, would it surprise anyone if he left Baton Rouge with the Tigers as his favorite?
TE Washington might continue to slow play his recruitment
With Gilbert off the board, all eyes turn to the other blue-chip tight end in the 2020 class, Las Vegas prospect Darnell Washington. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound pass catcher has been linked to Georgia quite a bit, but whereas Gilbert was more willing to go along with the popular narrative, Washington seems much more unpredictable. He has taken official visits to Florida and Georgia already, and he has an official visit to Alabama on the schedule. Recently, Washington has talked about taking a visit to Oregon be it an official or an unofficial. Right now, he is scheduled to make his announcement at the Under Armour All-America Game in January, but if he doesn't go through with his official visits, I wouldn't be surprised if he pushed it back to National Signing Day.
North Carolina eyeing another top in-state prospect
Recently, blue-chip linebacker Trenton Simpson (Charlotte, NC) de-committed from Auburn, leaving the Tigers without their top-rated player in the 2020 class. Simpson's de-commitment came a couple of days after blue-chip defensive end Desmond Evans committed to the Tar Heels. Simpson (6-3, 220), a projected outside linebacker, is being linked to North Carolina now, and his commitment would give the Tar Heels the top three prospects from North Carolina in the class. Simpson, however, is going to be a highly pursued prospect while he is on the open market. You would expect the major SEC programs - Georgia, LSU, Florida and Alabama - to all be in play for Simpson, and don't be surprised if he takes a few official visits.
This week brings another heavy rash of de-commitments
As expected, there will be a ton of movement in the final weeks, months before the early signing period in mid-December. Recent de-commitments include:
LB Martavius French (Memphis, TN) became the second high-profile prospect to back out from a commitment to Arkansas. He flipped to Tennessee, joining two of his Whitehaven High School teammates.
LB Tamarion McDonald (Memphis, TN) backed out of his commitment to Mississippi State and flipped to Tennessee joining French.
DE Princely Umanmielen (Manor, TX) de-committed from Texas on October 23. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive lineman is looking at Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M, Auburn and LSU, but hasn't made any scheduled visits yet.
LB Rodney Groce Jr. (Pleasant Grove, AL) decided to move away from his commitment to Nebraska on Wednesday. Groce (6-1, 225) hasn't said much since his de-commitment, but Mississippi State was in play before he chose Nebraska.
DT Josaih Hayes (Horn Lake, MS) announced he was de-committing from Ole Miss on Thursday. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder is a projected nose guard, and it doesn't appear like Ole Miss is out of the picture, but Mississippi State and LSU are also in play. Hayes said he still plans on signing in December.
Oct. 18 Updates
Oregon is on the hunt for elite secondary prospects
The Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies have been trading off rights to the best recruiting class in the Pac-12. Both programs are currently hovering around the top 15, but Oregon seems to be ready to make a late charge at some of the nation's best cornerbacks. Blue-chip cornerback Kelee Ringo, considered by many to be the best cornerback in this class, took an official visit to Oregon this past weekend. It was the first official visit Ringo has taken, and clearly, he was impressed by what the Ducks had to offer. Earlier Thursday, he tweeted out: "The Oregon official last weekend will definitely make me do some thinking. Thank you to all the staff, players and Eugene for the amazing visit. #scoducks." Ringo's recruitment is a long way from finished. His top five is Oregon, Georgia, Texas, Ohio State and Alabama. Originally it looked like Ohio State was the team to beat for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound cornerback from Scottsdale, Arizona, but Georgia made a hard push over the summer. Mario Cristobal and his staff aren't done there as they have also locked in an official visit for cornerback Dontae Manning, a top-150 player out of Kansas City. Manning, a former Oklahoma commitment, will visit Eugene on November 16, and he has Oregon, Arizona State, Texas A&M and Georgia in his top group. Texas A&M received an official visit over the summer, and Georgia is scheduled for a visit on December 13. Oregon is expected to lose several defensive backs to graduation or early NFL entry, so the position is one of need.
Break-up season is here! De-commitments have hit top programs in the past week
From the start of October until after Thanksgiving is usually when the most turnover in a recruiting class will happen. At that point, most high schools have gotten through at least half their football seasons and new evaluations have been made. In some cases, the school backs off the prospect, and in other cases, the prospect has decided to search for greener pastures. Here's a small sample of players who have recently put themselves back on the market.
Red-chip cornerback Jacolbe Covington (Scottsdale, AZ) de-committed from Washington on October 15. Covington, a teammate of top-ranked cornerback Kelee Ringo, took an unofficial visit to Arizona State this past weekend and is also looking at USC, Colorado and Michigan State.
Red-chip cornerback Jalen Harrell (Hialeah, FL) de-committed from Florida State on October 14. Harrell is looking at Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Washington.
Defensive end Justin Beadles (Tyrone, GA) backed away from his pledge to Arizona State on October 14. Missouri and Purdue are among the schools that have offered Beadles.
Cornerback Nigel Williams (Richmond, VA) de-committed from Wake Forest on October 14. He immediately flipped to Northwestern after the Wildcats staff informed him that they had space to take another cornerback.
Red-chip offensive tackle Ty'kieast Crawford (Carthage, TX) backed away from his commitment to Arkansas on October 13. He is looking to stay in the SEC, however, with Alabama angling for an official visit later in the cycle. Crawford remains interested in Arkansas and is expected to take an unofficial visit to Fayetteville this weekend.
Two big targets will visit Georgia this weekend
One loss doesn't stop the recruiting process for Kirby Smart and his staff. If anything, the Bulldogs coaches will probably go harder on the recruiting trail. They host Kentucky this weekend and are hosting two blue-chip prospects. Tight end Arik Gilbert (Marietta, GA) is considered either the top tight end in the nation or No. 2 behind Darnell Washington. Georgia is in play for both Gilbert and Washington. Gilbert is taking his official visit to Athens this weekend; it's his third official visit, with the first one going to Alabama over the summer and the second one to Texas A&M in late September. Gilbert is definitely on commitment watch this weekend. Justin Flowe (Upland, CA), the nation's top-rated inside linebacker is also scheduled for an official visit. Flowe hasn't finalized the visit yet, but Georgia is in his top group with Oregon, Miami and Clemson. Miami will get an official visit on Nov. 8 and Clemson on Nov. 15.
Arkansas still recruiting hard despite on-field struggles
Chad Morris is on the hot seat in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are 4-14 and 0-11 in the SEC since Morris replaced Bret Bielema as the head coach. Despite the struggles, Morris has done a pretty good job of keeping his recruiting class together with only a recent loss of highly-touted offensive lineman Ty'Kieast Crawford as a black mark. But Morris continues to move along and will use this weekend's home game against Arkansas to see if some of his bigger targets will be impressed by the opportunities that may present themselves at Arkansas. Cornerback Dwight McGlothern (Spring, TX) and linebacker Bryson Eason (Memphis, TN) are two of the targets the Razorbacks are hoping to impress. Also, keep an eye on linebacker Tamarion McDonald, a Mississippi State commitment who will be making a visit. Currently, Arkansas' class is far outside of our top 20, but it is inside the top 40.
Oct. 4 Updates
Can Ohio State secure a running back this weekend?
It's a big recruiting weekend for the Buckeyes, who will face Michigan State in primetime this weekend. One of the more intriguing recruits on campus will be running back Kevontre Bradford. Bradford (5-11, 195) from Lancaster, Texas, took an official visit to Wisconsin in June and also has Nebraska, USC Arizona in his top list. His visit to Columbus this weekend will be his second official visit. Ohio State has a top-five recruiting class, but the program's issues securing a running back have been well-documented. At one time, the Buckeyes were the favorites for blue-chip prospects Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton, but Robinson chose Texas and Knighton decided to commit to Florida State. Ohio State might not take two running backs in this class so don't be surprised if Ryan Day and his staff make a hard push for Bradford to commit.
It's poaching season in Alabama
Last week, the Crimson Tide successfully convinced blue-chip quarterback Bryce Young to flip from USC and join their recruiting class. The next target on the hit list appears to be Washington D.C. wide receiver prospect Rakim Jarrett. Jarrett, who committed to LSU on April 27, has been rumored to be on the search. Originally, it was thought that Tennessee had the best chance to get him to flip from the Tigers. However, Tennessee has struggled mightily on the field and there are some who believe Jeremy Pruitt's job is on the line. But Jarrett is continuing to look around and will now take an official visit to Alabama on October 26 when the Crimson Tide will surely run laps around Arkansas. Don't be surprised if Alabama's coaching staff convinces Young to make a trip to Tuscaloosa for an unofficial visit so he and Jarrett can bond.
Florida needs a big weekend to salvage slumping class
The Gators' class, once in the top 10 over the summer, has been slipping fast behind some de-commitments and recruiting battles lost. But Florida is 5-0 and has equally undefeated Auburn coming into town for homecoming. The atmosphere in Gainesville should be electric, and that's why Dan Mullen and his staff are pulling out all the stops with recruiting. Running back E.J. Smith, a red-chip prospect from Dallas, will be taking his official visit. Florida should be able to make some headway here considering his father is former Gators great and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Defensive end Zykeivous Walker, a top-200 prospect out of Ellaville, Georgia, will also be taking his official visit. It would be big for the Gators to snag one a top target from their SEC East Division rivals Georgia. Walker has a busy period coming up with scheduled officials to Auburn on Nov. 1, Alabama on Nov. 8 and Georgia sometime after the regular season.
Blue-chip CB Manning has eyes on the west coast
Dontae Manning, who formerly committed to Oklahoma, has been pretty quiet for the past month. After he de-committed from the Sooners during the summer, it was believed he was a serious Texas A&M lean. And while that may be the case, Manning will take his final three official visits. Oklahoma and Texas A&M have already received official visits. Manning, who is from Kansas City, recently disclosed that Georgia will get a visit, and, in a bit of a surprise, Oregon is being seriously considered for a visit. The Ducks had a top-10 class earlier in the summer, but Washington has stolen a lot of the recruiting thunder in the Pac-12. If the Ducks can get Manning on campus, they will have a good shot.
Blue-chip tight end Arik Gilbert leaning to Alabama?
Nick Saban lives by the "Rule of Ricky Bobby" - if you ain't first, you're last. That's about everything and especially in recruiting. It's bad enough that Clemson has been parading around for the past nine months basking over its 44-16 win against the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff championship game, but the Tigers have also been the talk of the recruiting world with their No. 1 class. As of now, Clemson is still at No. 1, but Alabama isn't going down without a fight. The Crimson Tide staff has already flipped Bryce Young from USC and is now looking for complementary weapons. Saban will get his shot at LSU commitment Rakim Jarrett on October 26, and Saban really covets blue-chip tight end Arik Gilbert. Gilbert, from Marietta, Ga., has Tennessee, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson among his top schools. He has already taken an official visit to Alabama over the summer and has one coming up with Georgia on October 18. Expect Alabama to try to get Gilbert back on an unofficial visit, maybe on October 26 when Jarrett is in town.
Sept. 24 Updates
QB Bryce Young makes long-awaited flip to Alabama
Young had been committed to USC for well over a year, choosing the Trojans in July of 2018. The blue-chip prospect from Santa Ana, California seemed pretty set in his pledge to the Trojans, but Alabama began to eye Young as a target at the beginning of the year and has been aggressively pursuing him for months. At times over the summer, it felt like a matter of when, not if, Young would make the switch. But as the high school football season began, things started to quiet down and the commitment of athlete Kristian Story in July meant the Crimson Tide had a player who possessed the ability to play quarterback in college - even though Alabama would like to have him in the secondary. But even though things were quiet on the surface, Young was always high on the Crimson Tide's wish list, and they got some breaks at the start of the season that led nicely into his official visit to Tuscaloosa this past weekend. USC starting quarterback J.T. Daniels suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener against Fresno State. Backup Kedon Slovis, a true freshman, has been effective as a replacement even though he was hurt last week against Utah. Third-stringer Matt Fink came in relief of Slovis and threw for 356 yards against the Utes. The likelihood of all three players returning to USC for the spring game in 2020 is high. Whether all three make it to the fall of 2020 is another story, but as it currently stands, USC has some decent depth at quarterback. Alabama is another story. It's almost a guarantee that Tua Tagovailoa is leaving for the NFL after the season. The top backup, Mac Jones, is just that ... a reliable backup with experience. There's a very good chance that Young could enroll at Alabama in the spring and see the field in 2020 as a starter or a situational player. The commitment gives Alabama 23 players in the 2020 recruiting class, and the program remains the No. 2 class in the nation behind Clemson.
WR Troy Omerie makes a Lone-Star switch to the Longhorns
Omerie committed to Texas A&M on July 8, but from the start it was clear that the red-chip wide receiver from Sugar Land, Texas was torn between the Aggies and the Texas Longhorns. He took official visits to both programs over the summer and several unofficial visits to both as various times through the year. Omerie (6-3, 200) will give the Longhorns another outside receiver prospect to pair with their commitment of Quentin Johnston. Omerie is the 20th commitment for Texas, which has a chance to compete for the top recruiting class in the nation with a strong close. The Aggies lose a top target, but they still have one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation, led by blue-chip prospect Demond Demas.
Several top prospects heading to Georgia this weekend
The eyes of the college football world will be on Georgia this weekend as the Bulldogs host Notre Dame. Not surprisingly, Georgia will have a ton of visitors, official and unofficial, on campus checking out the game and the atmosphere between the hedges. Quarterback Carson Beck, who committed to Georgia, will be taking his official visit and will likely act as an additional recruiter for several top-ranked uncommitted prospects who will be on campus. Darnell Washington, the nation's top-ranked tight end, will be on his official visit, and the Bulldogs are in a very good spot to land the big athlete out of Las Vegas. The only other official visit Washington has announced is a trip to Alabama on November 8. Top linebacker prospect Noah Sewell will also be taking his official visit to Georgia. Sewell, from Orem, Utah, has kept his recruitment pretty close to the vest. The general feeling is that Oregon leads, and he has an older brother who currently plays for the Ducks, but Texas A&M is also getting an official visit on October 11 and the younger Sewell says he is wide open. Running back E.J. Smith is another big name taking an official visit to Georgia this weekend. The Bulldogs already have blue-chip prospect Kendall Milton committed, but they are looking for a second back. Smith, from Dallas, has a top five of Ohio State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Stanford and Florida. He will likely take official visits to all five schools.
Top California WR will take officials to Texas and Ohio State
Wide receiver L.V. Bunkley-Shelton, one of the top 20 prospects in California, hasn't announced a top group of schools yet, but it's safe to say that Ohio State and Texas will likely be among them. Bunkley-Shelton will be part of a large recruiting contingent heading to Columbus on Nov. 23 when the Buckeyes host Penn State. He has also said he will be taking a visit to Austin in the second half of the season, with the Oct. 19 game against Kansas looking like a good possibility. It's going to be tough for either of these blue-blood programs to take Bunkley-Shelton from the West Coast. The 6-foot, 185-pound pass catcher has already taken two unofficial visits to USC, and the Trojans are still considered a favorite. Arizona State and Washington are also two Pac-12 schools that are going in heavy on Bunkley-Shelton.
Alabama gets first shot at Texas DL Alfred Collins
Collins, from Bastrop, Texas, has been considered a strong favorite to Texas, but if Alabama is in the picture, you can never count the Crimson Tide out. Alabama is on the hunt for more top-end defensive linemen after the recent issues and likely departure of last year's top recruit Antonio Alfano. Collins (6-5, 275) is another recruit who is pretty quiet and keeps things close to the vest, so it'll be difficult to gauge how much progress Alabama will make this weekend. Texas A&M and Oklahoma have also made Collins a top target. Collins took an official visit to Oklahoma on September 6 and will visit the Aggies on October 11.
Top RB Daniyel Ngata head to Arizona State for the weekend
Herman Edwards has started to make serious inroads as a recruiter in his second season at Arizona State and has a class that's rated in the top half of Pac-12. One of the Sun Devils' biggest target is Ngata, arguably the top uncommitted running back on the west coast. Ngata, from Folsom, California, has been aggressively pursued by Texas A&M, but he'll be heading to Tempe this weekend to see if the Sun Devils can knock off Colorado and improve to 4-0. Ngata has high regards for Edwards and the Sun Devils program. He would be a legitimate game changer for Arizona State and put Edwards on the map as a recruiter to be reckon with. Utah and Oklahoma State are also in the picture for Ngata, who wants to make his decision close to Halloween.
Clemson has top odds to repeat as 2019 College Football Playoff Champions
To the shock of no one, the Clemson Tigers, fresh off a 44-16 whipping of Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game to end the 2018 season, are leading the way at +225 for odds on repeating the feat in 2019. The Tigers aren't at the top alone, as Alabama is also a +225. The two teams could meet for the fifth consecutive year in the College Football Playoff and fourth time in the championship game. Clemson and Alabama will also return their quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa, respectively. Both players are at the top of the betting odds for the 2019 Heisman Trophy. Both teams are 30-plus-point favorites in their openers to start the season.
Beyond the Tigers and the Crimson Tide is where the fun betting really begins. Georgia has 6-1 odds to finally get over the hump in Jake Fromm's third season as a starter. The odds like Michigan to possibly end the Big Ten's recent slump in playoff appearances. With Urban Meyer gone from Ohio State, the Wolverines are a 12-1 bet to hoist the trophy. Ohio State (14-1) and Oklahoma (16-1) are right behind Michigan. Vegas isn't high on the Pac-12 this year. Oregon (40-1) has the highest odds of any school on the West Coast.
Top QB prospect Malik Hornsby de-commits from North Carolina
Hornsby announced on Twitter that he was re-opening his recruitment. "This is a life-changing decision for me and I have to get it right." Hornsby would later state that there was no "love lost" for North Carolina and that he is currently wide open without a top school. Hornsby took an official visit to North Carolina in April and committed in mid-May. He also visited the school twice in June. Although Hornsby was the Tar Heels' highest-rated commitment, they do have a commitment from quarterback Jacolby Criswell and one from 6-foot-8 athlete Jefferson Boaz, who has played quarterback in high school and was recruited without a concrete position in mind.
Where Hornsby goes from here is unknown. It's the dead period in recruiting until July 24, so he has plenty of time to figure it out. He has four official visits remaining, and we'll likely get a better idea of his plans over the next few weeks.
Bleacher Report story outlines "mess" Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher left at Florida State
Matt Hayes from the Bleacher Report goes in deep with this story, adding greater description to the discipline issues that infected itself into the Florida State program over the final years under former head coach Jimbo Fisher. To the surprise of no one, some of these issues are centered around Fisher's treatment of quarterback Jameis Winston, who had a litany of issues at Florida State but was most notably suspended for one game in 2014 after yelling an improper and sexually suggestive phrase in a public place on campus. The story also highlights players missing class, which led to Florida State having the lowest APR among Power Five programs after last season.
Fisher, who left Florida State in December of 2017 to take over at Texas A&M, has generally brushed aside questions about these previously reported issues, and surely, this won't affect his status with the Aggies after he signed a 10-year, $75 million contract with the school. Currently, Florida State coach Willie Taggart has also generally brushed aside the excuses and says he's focused on running the program in an honest way.
Georgia dismisses WR Jeremiah Holloman after aggravated assault and battery charges
Holloman was involved in an incident in April after Georgia's spring game with a female victim. The report said that Holloman punched the woman in the face. Head coach Kirby Smart released a statement saying, "Jeremiah Holloman no longer represents the University of Georgia football program."
The move will leave Georgia without its FIVE leading receivers from 2018 as Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin and tight end Isaac Nauta have all gone to the NFL. Georgia does have quarterback Jake Fromm returning for his third and likely final year as a starter, but he will have to break in a very talented, but young and inexperienced group of pass catchers. The most interesting name of the bunch could be sophomore Matt Landers, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder out of St. Petersburg, Florida, who Smart has gushed about during the spring, comparing Landers' skill set to that of a young Randy Moss.
2019 recruit Jeffrey M'Ba de-commits from Virginia, reclassifies for Class of 2020
M'Ba, who came to the United States from France last year in hopes of drawing more college attention, apparently could not qualify to be enrolled as part of the 2019 class. He has since decided to re-classify himself as a Class of 2020 prospect and will go through the recruiting process all over again. M'Ba, who attends St. Thomas More Academy in Oakdale, Conn., has made it clear that Virginia is still among his favorites, but now the Cavaliers will have to fight with North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida and others for the services of the 300-pound defensive tackle.
M'Ba was the second-highest-rated commitment in the Cavaliers' 2019 recruiting class and was thought of as someone who could likely be an early contributor. On the good side, the Cavaliers' highest-rated prospect in the 2019 class was another defensive tackle, Jowon Briggs, a top-10 recruit at the position.
Penn State's wild recruiting ride ends with de-commitment from top LB recruit Wingo
It has been the good, the bad and the ugly for Penn State with recruiting this June. In a 3-day span from June 9-12, the Nittany Lions lost the commitments of offensive linemen Grant Toutant and Aaryn Parks along with cornerback Joshua Moten. James Franklin and his coaching staff bounced back, however, gaining the commitments of rising wide receiver Jaden Dottin and top-25 defensive tackle Cole Brevard.
But the worst news came over the weekend when top linebacker prospect Derek Wingo flipped his commitment to Florida after visiting the Gators over the weekend. Despite all the news, good and bad, Penn State still has a class that should be ranked around the top 15-20 as we approach the dead period.
Potential trouble brewing at LSU? The NCAA is looking into some booster payments
Whenever Yahoo! Sports drops an investigate story, there's a good chance that heads will roll. LSU confirmed to the outlet that it is cooperating with the NCAA on an inquiry into payments made by a booster to the father of former player Vadal Alexander, who played for the Tigers from 2012-2015. The payment from LSU booster John Paul Funes to James Alexander was said to be $180,000. Funes has his own legal issues right now, as he pled guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering after embezzling over a half million dollars from a non-profit foundation for his personal use.
The report is that Funes used that foundation's money to pay off Alexander. LSU isn't saying much, and there doesn't seem to be much of a tie to the current football program run under head coach Ed Orgeron. We'll just have to see where this goes.
Former Ohio State assistant says Urban Meyer will coach at USC next season
In the "please let this be true" category, former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith says that a friend told him that Urban Meyer's house in Dublin, Ohio "has had certified mail sent to and from the University of Southern California." Smith, who was fired from his job last season after reports of domestic violence against his estranged wife, has since got in the podcasting game where he just lobs Molotov cocktails at every bridge in his sight. In Episode 6, he goes into detail on Meyer's coaching future and why the Trojans could be his landing spot.
There's a lot to digest here, but this doesn't too farfetched. Urban Meyer isn't going to stay retired very long, and Clay Helton doesn't seem long for the Trojans job. If Helton can't turn things around, USC is going to go big with its next hire. The program will want someone with a national profile and a proven winner. Additionally, the Trojans have the deep pockets to pay the $9-10 million annually that Meyer will demand. Let's call this a really fun rumor with some juice right now. If USC struggles, expect this rumor to gain steam. By the way, USC's opener in 2020? Against Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban to start the 2020 season? SIGN. ME. UP.
Oklahoma continues to stockpile quarterbacks for the future, gets a commitment from Vandagriff
It's hard to even start thinking about the Class of 2021 with the rash of commitments happening in the 2020 class less than a week before the June 24 start of the dead period. But Oklahoma and head coach Lincoln Riley are ALWAYS in the quarterback game. Despite using graduate transfer in the starting spot last season and likely this season with Jalen Hurts, the quarterback room in Norman will stay stacked for the future with the verbal agreement from top Georgia prospect Brock Vandagriff.
Vandagriff had offers from all the top programs in the country, and he will likely serve as an arm for the future, as Oklahoma always has top quarterback prospects from the 2018 and 2019 class in Tanner Mordecai and Spencer Rattler, respectively, ready to battle for the starting spot in 2020 after Hurts leaves.