Where will the nation's top uncommitted prospects land?

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Monday January 23rd, 2017

Most of the top players in the class of 2017 have already announced where they’ll be playing college football. Yet with National Signing Day set for Feb. 1, a handful of coveted prospects remain uncommitted. Their choices will help shape the narrative surrounding the biggest day on the recruiting calendar. Programs that close well by reeling in big prizes at the last minute will be deemed winners, while programs that fail to land their top targets will be branded losers. SI.com breaks down the top 10 recruits, as ranked by Scout.com, who have yet to make their final decisions.

Marvin Wilson

Position: Defensive tackle
Ranking: No. 1 DT, No. 10 overall
High school: Episcopal (Tex.)

One need look no further than last season for evidence of the sort of impact a five-star defensive tackle recruit from the Houston area can have in his first college season. Wilson may not dominate opposing offensive lines the way Westfield High product Ed Oliver did for Houston in 2016, but there’s no doubt he has the potential to make a big impact as a true freshman. Unlike Oliver, Wilson won’t play for the Cougars; his list of finalists (LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida State and South Florida) did not include coach Major Applewhite’s team. There’s a strong chance he picks one of two powerhouses in the Southeast, the Tigers or Seminoles, but a late push from the Buckeyes could persuade him to head to the Midwest.

Aubrey Solomon

Position: Defensive tackle
Ranking: No. 2 DT, No. 11 overall
High school: Lee County (Ga.)

Solomon famously decommitted from Michigan last summer after he said he received a letter from the program thanking him for coming to a barbeque event that he did not attend. The Wolverines appear to have overcome the mailing gaffe, as they’re now viewed as a serious contender to pull Solomon out of the Peach State. To do so, they’ll have to beat out the program, Alabama, that currently ranks second in Scout.com’s national rankings and recently won a battle with Michigan for the nation’s top overall prospect, Antioch (Calif.) High running back Najee Harris. The appeal of Alabama’s track record of producing NFL-caliber defensive linemen is self-evident, but the Wolverines did land the top DL recruit in the country (and top recruit overall) last year in Rashan Gary.

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Joseph Lewis

Position: Wide receiver
Ranking: No. 2 WR, No. 24 overall
High school: Augustus F. Hawkins (Calif.)

Nebraska secured a verbal commitment last week from one of Lewis’s teammates at Augustus F. Hawkins, four-star class of 2018 cornerback/wide receiver Eric Fuller. Lewis could follow Fuller (as well as recent four-star WR commit Tyson Lindsey) to Lincoln, but the safer bet is that he winds up closer to home, at USC. Lewis is expected to take an official visit to Los Angeles before announcing his decision on signing day. If he picks the Trojans, Lewis would provide quality depth for a program that’s losing its top two wideouts (JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers) this off-season. It would also mark the second consecutive year USC landed California’s highest-rated receiver after Bishop Amat Memorial High’s Tyler Vaughns signed with the program in 2016.

Devonta Smith

Position: Wide receiver
Ranking: No. 3 WR, No. 26 overall
High school: Amite (La.)

Whereas Lewis’s recruitment is shaping up as a battle between a Pac-12 program (USC) and a Big Ten program (Nebraska), the competition for this elite wide receiver can be boiled down to two programs from the same division, the SEC East. Though Smith lists Alabama, LSU and Miami as his top three, and he recently visited Florida State, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are viewed as the frontrunners to sign him. Smith took official visits to Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge this month and could be close to joining four-star Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High product Jerry Jeudy and four-star Lewisville (Tex.) High product Tyrell Shavers (as well as four-star target Henry Ruggs III) in Alabama’s star-studded class. But don’t rule out LSU convincing him to stay home.

Austin Jackson

Position: Offensive tackle
Ranking: No. 5 OT, No. 30 overall
High school: North Canyon (Ariz.)

Lewis would give USC a top-tier perimeter playmaker to go with five-star Summit (Calif.) High running back Stephen Carr. Jackson would give the Trojans a foundational piece in the trenches, as well as a possible blind-side protector for four-star San Clemente (Calif.) High quarterback signee Jack Sears. They’re viewed as the leaders for the 6’5,’’ 290-pound lineman, but they’ll need to fend off a push from nearby Arizona State. Washington also is in the picture. Still, it seems more likely those two programs will end up game-planning against Jackson in the Pac-12 rather than signing him. His decision, along with that of Lewis, could help USC mount a strong finish for a class that currently includes only two players ranked in the nation’s top 100 by Scout.com (Carr and four-star safety Bubba Bolden).

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Tedarrell Slaton

Position: Offensive guard
Ranking: No. 2 OG, No. 32 overall
High school: American Heritage (Fla.)

The highest-ranked uncommitted offensive tackle in the class of 2017, Jackson, almost certainly will head to the West Coast. The class’s highest-ranked uncommitted offensive guard, Slaton, looks likely to stay in the Southeast. Although a handful of programs in the region have pursued Slaton, Florida seems to have an edge over the field. Despite his listed position on every major recruiting service, Slaton has mentioned a preference to play on the defensive side of the ball. At Florida, Slaton would join at least two of his teammates at American Heritage, four-star cornerback Marco Wilson and three-star linebacker James Houston IV, in the program's 2017 recruiting class; another Gators target from that school, recent Michigan decommit Kai-Leon Herbert, could wind up in Gainesville.

K’Lavon Chaisson

Position: Defensive end
Ranking: No. 5 DE, No. 33 overall
High school: North Shore Senior (Tex.)

Texas has earned verbal commitments from eight players since hiring Tom Herman as its head coach in the middle of December, highlighted by junior college linebacker Gary Johnson’s decision to pick the Longhorns last week. Chaisson could be an even more valuable pick-up for Herman and new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The five-star pass-rusher announced a top two of Texas and LSU last month and has since visited the campuses of both programs. The Longhorns already count All Saints’ Episcopal (Tex.) School’s Max Cummins and Temple (Tex.) High’s Taquon Graham as defensive ends in their 2017 class, but Chaisson would rank as the top overall prospect in the class.

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Jay Tufele

Position: Defensive tackle 
Ranking: No. 3 DT, No. 36 overall
High school: Bingham (Utah)

Tufele’s recruitment will come down to whether he wants to leave his home state to play for a more glamorous program in a different part of the country. He named a top five of Brigham Young, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and Utah last month, and the Utes are considered the favorites to sign Tufele. But the Big Ten East powerhouses included in his top five remain in pursuit of Tufele, while also staying in the mix for other prospects at his position on this list (Ohio State for Wilson and Michigan for Solomon). It would be foolish to discount those programs’ chances (Ohio State’s in particular), but Utah looks in good position to score a major recruiting victory by adding the Beehive State’s top-ranked player.

Jeff Thomas

Position: Wide receiver
Ranking: No. 5 WR, No. 41 overall
High school: East St. Louis Senior (Ill.)

Few prospects showed better during the postseason all-star circuit than Thomas, who hauled in two touchdown passes and set an Under Armour All-America Game record with 148 receiving yards. The speedy pass-catcher would fit well in pretty much any offense, but there’s a chance he joins Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in coach Bobby Petrino’s high-octane attack at Louisville. The Cardinals are one of the programs Thomas listed in his top three last week, along with Miami and Oregon, but the Hurricanes seem to have the edge over Louisville and the Ducks. Thomas, who visited Coral Gables this weekend, would form a talented young wide receiver tandem with second-team All-ACC member Ahmmon Richards.

Willie Gay

Position: Outside linebacker
Ranking: No. 3 OLB, No. 51 overall
High school: Starkville (Miss.)

After decommitting from Ole Miss in October, Gay said Michigan the was the leader in his recruitment. The Wolverines aren’t out of the running for Gay, but it won’t be easy for them to beat out LSU, which hosted Gay for a visit this weekend. The Tigers currently have only one class of 2017 commitment who projects to play linebacker, Livonia (La.) High’s Patrick Queen, after watching James Clemens (Ala.) four-star Monty Rice flip to Georgia earlier this month. But they’re trying to flip Oklahoma pledge Jacob Phillips (who was in Baton Rouge with Gay) and are pushing hard for Gay. Meanwhile, the talented defender continues to field pitches from nearby programs Ole Miss and Mississippi State. It could be difficult for either of them to convince Gay to continue his football career in the Magnolia State.

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