National Signing Day 2017 live blog: College football recruiting updates

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Tuesday January 31st, 2017

National Signing Day is here, and that means the road to a college football national championship starts now. Somewhere in the class of 2017 is a Heisman Trophy winner, an All-America quarterback and the player who will lead his program to the College Football Playoff title.

Find out where the top recruits are headed as Sports Illustrated’s team of writers break down all the biggest signings, flips and recruiting news throughout National Signing Day. We’ll analyze the biggest moves of the day as they happen, including the commitment of Marvin Wilson, a five-star defensive tackle and the highest-ranked uncommitted recruit in the country.

All rankings are according to Scout.com.

Five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson commits to Florida State

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Less than a month removed from a season that seemingly pushed the ACC to the top of the Power 5 pecking order, the top uncommitted recruit in the country announced that he's going to play for one of the conference's best teams. Five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson revealed in a televised ceremony on National Signing Day that he will join Florida State.

Wilson drew scholarship offers from more than 20 programs, but he narrowed his list to five finalists in late December: Oklahoma, LSU, Florida State, Ohio State and South Florida. The Tigers and Seminoles were viewed as the two favorites for the Episcopal (Texas) High product entering National Signing Day. Ultimately, Wilson went the program that should begin the 2017 season amid a wave of national title hype.

Wilson’s decision is in keeping with the outflow of elite talent in the class of 2017 from Texas. Only two of the top 11 prospects (five-star linebacker Anthony Hines to Texas A&M and four-star center Jack Anderson to Texas Tech) in the state in this recruiting cycle chose programs located within its borders. Earlier on Wednesday, another one of Texas's most highly touted defensive lineman, North Shore Senior High five-star K'Lavon Chaisson, picked LSU over Texas.

A hulking, powerful presence in the trenches, Wilson should excel at stuffing the run and rushing the passer. Scout.com rates the 6’4", 329-pounder as the nation’s top defensive tackle and No. 10 prospect overall. He’s the most highly regarded of a trio of players at his position to announce their decisions on signing day: Lee County (Ga.) High’s Aubrey Solomon, the No. 2 DT in the country, picked Michigan and Bingham (Utah) High’s Jay Tufele, the No. 3 DT in the country, picked USC earlier on Wednesday.

Just last season, a highly coveted defensive tackle from the Houston area, Ed Oliver, laid waste to American Athletic Conference offensive linemen as a true freshmen, earning All-America honors from Sports Illustrated and drawing late Heisman Trophy buzz while starring at the University of Houston. Wilson’s immediate impact may not be quite as big, but at the very least he should provide quality depth for the Seminoles while acclimating to a higher level of competition.

Wilson will bolster a defensive line rotation that should rank among the ACC's best despite losing first-team all-conference member DeMarcus Walker to the NFL. The Seminoles bring back tackles Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas as well as ends Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. Plus, they're signing one of the nation's top pass rushers, IMG Academy (Fla.) five-star Joshua Kaindoh. The combination of experienced contributors and freshman talent will give Florida State a deep and talented front.

While the addition of Wilson is the biggest story of the day for the Seminoles, they scored another significant recruiting win earlier on Wednesday in Brookwood (Ga.) High four-star linebacker Leonard Warner.

Here is Scout.com’s complete scouting report on Wilson:

Wilson is a massive defensive line prospect who dominates at the point of attack. Possesses the strength and power to overwhelm most opponents at the high school level. Tall, long-armed, thick-trunked. Consistently gets off blocks to make plays vs. run and as a pass-rusher. Powerful bull-rusher, sometimes even when doubled. Explosion off the ball looked noticeably better on junior tape compared to sophomore film. Pursues well for such a large interior defender. Potentially scheme-versatile as even-front 3-technique DT and multi-position prospect in odd front. Can play a bit too high at times because of his height. While pursuit ability is impressive, can sometimes (understandably) get off-balance laterally. Must be ready to acclimate to a significant jump in competition going from private school football in Texas (a state ruled by public schools) to Power 5 college level. Overall, one of the top prospects in Texas—and the nation—in the 2017 cycle.

USC lands five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

California’s top wide receiver prospect is staying in the Golden State again. Five-star Joseph Lewis announced in a televised ceremony on Wednesday that he’ll play for USC, following in the footsteps of Bishop Amat Memorial High’s Tyler Vaughns a year ago. Lewis picked the Trojans over Nebraska. Moments later, his teammate at Augustus F. Hawkins High in Los Angeles, four-star athlete Greg Johnson, revealed that he'll join Lewis in cardinal and gold.

Lewis's decision was not surprising, as he had long been considered a USC lean, and he took an official visit to the school’s campus the weekend before National Signing Day. Though the Cornhuskers have succeeded recruiting in California this cycle (three Scout 300 signees), a recent commitment from four-star class of 2018 cornerback Eric Fuller, a teammate of Lewis’s at Augustus F. Hawkins High, provided false hope. Lewis wasn’t leaving Los Angeles.

His choice punctuates a strong closing stretch for the Trojans in this recruiting cycle. In the two weeks leading up to signing day, USC flipped one of the nation’s top defensive tackles, Central (Ore.) High’s Marlon Tuipulotu, from Washington and secured a commitment from a heralded defensive back out of Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) High, Isaiah Pola-Mao. The Trojans got more great news on Wednesday: Johnson, Westlake (Texas) four-star linebacker Levi Jones, North Canyon (Ariz.) High five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, Bingham (Utah) five-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele and Inderkum (Calif.) High four-star tight end Josh Falo all announced for USC.

Lewis could be its most important late pickup. He’s a strong, athletic pass-catcher prized for his route-running and ability to win battles for jump balls. Scout.com rates him the No. 2 wide receiver in the country, behind only Michigan signee and Cass Technical (Mich.) High product Donovan Peoples-Jones, and the No. 24 prospect overall.

The addition of Lewis and Johnson comes at a favorable time for USC, as the program is losing its two most productive receivers (JuJu Smith Schuster and Darreus Rogers), as well as all-purpose threat Adoree’ Jackson, this off-season. Lewis will provide another weapon for sophomore quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Darnold in an offense that brings back talented playmakers like running back Ronald Jones II and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe.

Here is Scout.com’s complete scouting report on Lewis:

Lewis is young for his grade but has a college body right now. He has size, down field speed, is a fluid route runner and catches the ball very well. He has excellent body control, is an explosive leaper and is great in jump ball situations. Lewis really elevated his game last spring on the 7v7 circuit dominating against high level competition. As he continues to fill out and add strength, his game will rise to another level.

Five-star WR Devonta Smith commits to Alabama

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Louisiana’s top recruit is leaving the state to play college football. Five-star wide receiver Devonta Smith announced Wednesday that he’ll play for Alabama, picking the Crimson Tide over finalists LSU and Miami.

Alabama and LSU were viewed as the favorites to sign Smith, especially after he didn’t take a planned visit to Coral Gables the weekend before National Signing Day. However, the departure of Crimson Tide wide receivers coach Billy Napier to become Arizona State’s offensive coordinator in late January cast doubt over Alabama’s wide receiver recruiting efforts late in this cycle.

The Crimson Tide had already landed two esteemed wideouts in the class of 2017, four-star Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High standout Jerry Jeudy and four-star Lewisville (Texas) High product Tyrell Shavers, but Smith was a key target at the position, in addition to Robert E. Lee (Ala.) High product Henry Ruggs III.

Alabama managed to add both on Wednesday. Of the two prospects, Smith is more highly regarded, thanks in part to his hands, ability to elude defenders after the catch and capacity to beat defensive backs for deep balls downfield. Scout.com rates him the No. 3 wide receiver and No. 26 recruit overall in the class of 2017. As a senior at Amite High Magnet School this season, Smith recorded 1,160 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns and was invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7.

Smith's decision rounds out a staggering collection of talent at one position group in the Crimson Tide's recruiting class. Alabama may be losing three of its top four pass-catchers in wide receivers Ardarius Stewart and Gehrig Dieter and tight end O.J. Howard, but it's bringing in a quartet of dynamic playmakers capable of contributing from the jump. Plus, the Crimson Tide return one of the nation's top wideouts in Calvin Ridley. 

Smith initially committed to Georgia in August 2015, but he reopened his recruitment the following January after the Bulldogs parted ways with former coach Mark Richt and hired former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace him. Smith eventually settled on another program in the SEC, albeit in a different division.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Smith:

A smooth wide receiver who plays fast. He gets off the ball quick and really sets up defenders well. He is explosive on the football field. He catches the ball well and knows how to make adjustments on the ball. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he is elusive in the open field. He is on the lean side, so he needs to get stronger, add mass to his frame and start to fill out, but that will come. He constantly runs away from defenders. He really knows how to stick his foot in the ground and shoot out of his breaks when running routes. Overall, he is a dynamic playmaker. He knows how to make big play after big play.

LSU wins recruiting battle for five-star defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Ed Orgeron has worked hard to improve LSU's 2017 recruiting class since having the interim tag removed from his coaching title in December, but his biggest prize didn’t come until National Signing Day. Five-star defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson announced Wednesday that he will sign with the Tigers.

Chaisson’s decision will help ease the sting of LSU's whiff on a highly touted prospect in the same position group on Tuesday. That's when Phidarian Mathis, a four-star tackle out of Neville (La.) High, picked SEC West rival Alabama over the Tigers. LSU rebounded from its loss of a coveted in-state DL by swiping another one from a different state.

Chaisson is an explosive edge rusher renowned for his high motor. Scout.com rates the North Shore Senior (Texas) High product the No. 5 defensive end and No. 33 player overall prospect in the 2017 class. He shined among some of the nation’s best players at the Under Armour All-America Game last month, tying a record with three sacks and recording six tackles. While Chaisson drew more than 20 reported scholarship offers, he announced Monday that he would choose one of Texas, LSU or Florida.

In the end Chaisson elected to leave the Lone Star State, a move in keeping with the outflow of top-end talent from Texas in this cycle. Only two of the top 11 prospects (five-star linebacker Anthony Hines to Texas A&M and four-star center Jack Anderson to Texas Tech) in the state in this recruiting cycle, according to Scout.com, chose programs located within its borders. Chaisson’s choice is a clear manifestation of LSU's recruiting prowess in Texas. The Tigers have raided the state for elite players in recent years, including five in this cycle: Chaisson, Memorial High four-star cornerback Kary Vincent Jr., Crosby High four-star wide receiver Mannie Netherly, Cy-Fair High four-star offensive guard Austin Deculus and De Soto High four-star offensive guard Edward Ingram.

And for Texas, Chaisson's choice is a painful reminder of the difficulty the Longhorns could have in restoring the program's status as the top destination for in-state talent. Herman has extensive ties in Texas, and there's no doubt the Longhorns' pitch will carry more resonance if the program shows progress on the field. But with programs like LSU and Alabama making major inroads in the territory Texas used to dominate, the Longhorns won't be able to rely on their brand alone. The state's best high school players have so many appealing alternatives now.

Chaisson becomes the second highest rated prospect in LSU's class, behind only Oakland (Tenn.) High five-star safety Jacoby Stevens, and its third defensive end, along with Spanish Fort (Ala.) High three-star Justin Thomas and Catholic (La.) three-star Aaron Moffitt. Chaisson projects as a better player at the next level. He’ll provide defensive coordinator Dave Aranda with a talented pass rusher who can line up at multiple positions.

Chaisson's decision also continues a run of good news on signing day for the Tigers. Earlier on Wednesday they landed Lanier (Ga.) High four-star linebacker Tyler Taylor and Plaquemine Senior (La.) four-star safety Todd Harris.

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National Signing Day 2017 live blog: College football recruiting updates

Here is Scout.com’s complete scouting report on Chaisson:

Chaisson has what we like to describe as a very high motor and is a player who can get after the quarterback early and and then he will do it often. We like that he stepped up on the big stage to help his team win a state title, earning defensive MVP honors in the contest and making a play inside the 10-yard line to secure the win. Big players make big plays on the big stages. He has great speed rush abilities and instincts, but is also strong enough to hold his ground and play tough against the run. A well-rounded prospect who has room to grow and mature into a top-tier physical specimen.

USC lands five-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

College football fans across the country anticipated Jay Tufele answering a consequential question on National Signing Day: Did the five-star want to leave his home state to play for a more heralded program? Yes, he did: Tufele announced on Wednesday that he will sign with USC.

The Bingham (Utah) High product was courted by programs around the country, but in late December he released a list of five finalists: Utah, BYU, Michigan, Ohio State and the Trojans. The Utes were thought to be in strong position for Tufele late in the recruiting cycle, but USC seemed to have made up ground after hosting Tufele for an official visit last month and flipping one of his friends, Central (Ore.) High four-star defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, from Washington. Tufele’s final official visit, the weekend before signing day, was to Utah.

Although the two Big Ten East heavyweights on Tufele’s list continued to pursue him as signing day neared, the Utes and USC were perceived as the top two contenders entering Wednesday.

Ultimately Tufele decided to head to Los Angeles. His addition is a massive win for the Trojans, as Tufele projects as a big-impact run defender with top-end athleticism for his size and position who can get into the backfield to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Scout.com rates him as the No. 3 defensive tackle, the No. 1 prospect in the Beehive State and No. 36 prospect overall in the class of 2017. As a senior at Bingham, Tufele recorded 57 tackles and 10.5 sacks, and he drew positive reviews for his performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.

Tufele and Tuipulotu may be pressed into action right away. With USC losing Stevie Tu'ikolovatu to graduation and Noah Jefferson to transfer this off-season, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could plug in either of the Trojans' shiny new toys up front and reasonably expect good results. Either way, the duo should develop into a nuisance for opposing Pac-12 offensive linemen by the end of their college careers.

Tufele's choice adds to a scorching run to the recruiting finish line for USC. Late last month, the Trojans flipped Tuipulotu, and they followed up four days later by securing a commitment from Mountain Pointe High four-star safety Isaiah Pola-Mao​. On signing day the Trojans landed Westlake (Texas) four-star linebacker Levi Jones and North Canyon (Ariz.) High five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, and they're considered major contenders for Augustus F. Hawkins (Calif.) High five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis, Inderkum (Calif.) High four-star tight end Josh Falo and four-star athlete Greg Johnson, Lewis's teammate at Augustus F. Hawkins.

Tufele is one of three five-star players at his position to announce their decisions on signing day: Lee County (Ga.) High’s Aubrey Solomon, the No. 2 DT in the country, picked Michigan and Episcopal (Tex.) High’s Marvin Wilson, the No. 1 DT in the country, will reveal his choice later on Wednesday.

Here is Scout.com’s complete scouting report on Tufele:

Tufele is the top player in Utah this year and is part of what looks like an incredibly deep year for defensive tackles. Tufele is a relentless player with a non-stop motor. On film you'll see him taking on a triple-team block and still holding his ground. He might be the quickest of the defensive tackles and is able to get in the backfield and finish off a play. His first few steps are a blur and he's able to run down backs from behind. He pursues laterally extremely well and his upside is off the charts.

USC lands commitment from five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Less than a week after securing a commitment from Arizona’s No. 2 prospect, USC signed the state’s No. 1 prospect. Five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson announced on Wednesday that he will play for the Trojans, joining Mountain Pointe High safety Isaiah Pola-Mao. Jackson chose USC over two other Pac-12 programs, Washington and Arizona State.

Jackson’s choice will come as no surprise for anyone who has followed his recruitment. USC was considered the frontrunner to land him entering National Signing Day, even as the Sun Devils pressed to keep him in the desert. Though he spent his prep career in Phoenix, Ariz., Jackson is a Trojans legacy, as his grandfather played for the program in the 1970s.

The decision also continues the trend of the Grand Canyon State’s top prospect spurning Arizona’s two FBS programs, Arizona and Arizona State. Not since 2008, when four-star Hamilton High wide receiver Gerell Robinson picked the Sun Devils, has the state’s top-rated prospect elected to stay home, according to Scout.com.

While it would have been one of signing day’s bigger recruiting upsets had Jackson not chosen USC, the pick adds to the program’s fruitful closing stretch in the 2017 cycle. Late last month, the Trojans flipped one of the best defensive tackles in the country, Central (Ore.) High’s Marlon Tuipulotu, and they followed up four days later by securing a commitment from Pola-Mao.

Those two additions were only the beginning of USC’s late push. On signing day the Trojans landed Westlake (Texas) four-star linebacker Levi Jones and Bingham (Utah) High five-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele. They're considered major contenders for Augustus F. Hawkins (Calif.) High five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis, Inderkum (Calif.) High four-star tight end Josh Falo and four-star athlete Greg Johnson, Lewis's teammate at Augustus F. Hawkins.

In a year in which the Trojans had already reeled in four offensive line prospects, Jackson represents the biggest recruiting victory. Scouts praise the 6’5”, 290-pound pass-blocker for his footwork and lateral mobility. Jackson is the No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 30 prospect in the nation, according to Scout.com. Although offensive linemen often need more time to develop than prospects at other positions, USC could move to use Jackson early in his college career after losing starting tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner this off-season.

Jackson will join four-star Clayton Valley Charter (Calif.) High tackle Jalen McKenzie, four-star Bishop O’Dowd (Calif.) High tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, three-star Kingsburg (Calif.) High tackle Andrew Vorhees and four-star Santa Margarita Catholic (Calif.) High center Brett Neilon in USC’s class. He’s the second highest-rated prospect in the Trojans’ haul, behind Summit (Calif.) High running back Stephen Carr (No. 8) but is expected to fall to third when Lewis his decision later on Wednesday.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Jackson:

Has the frame and athletic ability to be an elite level prospect. Jackson has excellent feet, likely from his basketball background. Watch him in pass pro, he is able to move his feet and change direction with ease. He can reach, pull and get to the second level. Usually with young, athletic tackles, you won't see aggression. Jackson has it. He finishes guys. Has big time ability.

Miami poaches four-star receiver Jeff Thomas out of Midwest

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

At Miami, second-year coach Mark Richt has enough talent in his backyard to build an ACC powerhouse. But on National Signing Day, he reached into the Midwest to pluck one of the nation’s top wide receivers. Four-star Jeff Thomas announced in a televised ceremony on Wednesday that he will play for the Hurricanes.

The East St. Louis Senior (Ill.) School standout had identified Illinois as the leader in his recruitment in early January, but Miami overtook the Illini in the lead up to Feb. 1. Thomas announced a top three comprising the Oregon, Louisville and Miami and took an official visit to Coral Gables later in January.

In Thomas, the Hurricanes are getting an explosive pass-catcher who excels at eluding defenders in tight quarters and ripping off big chunks of yards after the catch. As a senior at East St. Louis this season, Thomas hauled in 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. No player showed better than Thomas at the Under Armour All-America Game last month. The diminutive (5’10”, 167 pounds) playmaker recorded two touchdown catches and set a record with 148 receiving yards.

With several highly regarded prospects on its board entering signing day, Miami could come away as one of Wednesday’s biggest winners. It already added St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High three-star wide receiver Michael Harley. But Thomas ensures the day will be a success even if a few of the Hurricanes’ targets head elsewhere.

Thomas can pair with second-team All-ACC wideout Ahmmon Richards, a four-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Wellington (Fla.) High, to give the Hurricanes one of the better wide receiver tandems in the ACC. That concentration of perimeter skill talent no doubt will help smooth Miami’s transition from star quarterback Brad Kaaya, who’s headed to the NFL draft.

In a more general sense, Thomas’s decision manifests Miami’s rising stature under Richt. Pulling a recruit like Thomas from Big Ten country is a remarkable feat, and other prospects, both within talent-rich South Florida and beyond, are sure to take notice.

This is not to suggest Thomas is the only big fish Miami reeled in this cycle. On offense, he joins three other Scout 300 prospects in Miami Central (Fla.) High four-star offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson, American Heritage (Fla.) High four-star offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert and Vanguard (Fla.) High four-star quarterback N’Kosi Perry. The Hurricanes also are adding three top 250 defensive prospects in Luther Burbank (Calif.) High four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson, Christopher Columbus (Fla.) High four-star safety Trajan Bandy and Lake Worth Community (Fla.) High four-star defensive end Jonathan Garvin.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Thomas:

Fast, explosive athlete who has outstanding burst, acceleration and ability to cut while moving full speed. Creates a lot of separation with that and is not only a deep threat, but a guy who can take short passes and go the distance at any time. He is also an excellent return man. He is not a big receiver and currently must get stronger to supplement his speed and athleticism.

Five-star DT Aubrey Solomon commits to Michigan

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

The state of Georgia’s top defensive recruit is leaving the Peach State to play college football. Aubrey Solomon announced in a televised ceremony on Wednesday that he will sign with Michigan.

This marks the second time Solomon has publicly said he will join Michigan. Last summer he committed to the Wolverines, only to back off that pledge after a couple of months. He later revealed that Michigan had sent him a letter thanking him for coming to a barbeque event he did not attend and that the missive contained spelling errors.

But apparently the mailing snafu was not disqualifying for Michigan. The Wolverines eventually got back in the picture for Solomon, and Jim Harbaugh went all out to lure him to Ann Arbor. The coach was seen racing a go-kart while visiting Solomon in Leesburg, Ga., in January. That effort was enough for Michigan to secure a spot on the list of four finalists Solomon released last month (along with Alabama, USC and Georgia).

Entering National Signing Day, the Wolverines and Alabama were viewed as the two leaders in this recruiting battle. In the end, Solomon decided to leave the Southeast for Big Ten Country. His decision comes less than a month after the Crimson Tide beat out Michigan in another recruiting battle for the nation's top overall recruit, Antioch (Calif.) High five-star running back Najee Harris. Solomon isn't quite as highly regarded as Harris, but that hardly diminishes the significance of his choice.

For Wolverines fans, celebrating the addition of an elite defensive lineman on signing day is nothing new. Last year Rashan Gary, the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2016, picked Michigan over Clemson. Solomon gives the Wolverines a talented piece in their front seven with the potential to make a similar impact. He'll help Michigan retool at a position group, the defensive line, that loses veterans Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow and Matt Godin this off-season. 

The 6’3", 204-pound Solomon is highly regarded for his quickness and pass-rushing aptitude. Scout.com rates him the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country and No. 11 prospect overall. He’s the first of three esteemed players at his position to reveal their decisions on signing day. Episcopal (Texas) High’s Marvin Wilson, the nation’s No. 1 DT, and Bingham (Utah) High’s Jay Tufele, the nation’s No. 3 DT, will announce their choices later today.

The disappointment of Solomon’s decision will feel familiar for Georgia fans. The Bulldogs watched the state’s top defensive tackle (and overall) recruit in 2016, Derrick Brown, pick Auburn over Georgia. Coach Kirby Smart has assembled arguably the best class in program history, and he and his staff did well to sign a hefty collection of local talent, but Bulldogs supporters will lament missing out on the best in-state player at a critical position in consecutive years.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Solomon:

An athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.

Four-star LB Willie Gay commits to Mississippi State

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Willie Gay played high school football in Starkville, Miss., only a couple of miles away from Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium, and the Bulldogs convinced him to stay home for college. The four-star linebacker revealed Wednesday that he will play for Mississippi State, choosing the Bulldogs over LSU and Michigan.

This is the second time Gay has announced his intention to join a program. He issued a verbal commitment to Ole Miss last June, only to back off that pledge in October. He subsequently said that the Wolverines were the leader in his recruitment, and the Tigers were considered a strong contender entering National Signing Day, but the Bulldogs overtook both of them. 

Gay becomes the highest-rated prospect in Mississippi State's class and its second linebacker, joining St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High four-star Tyler Dunning. His decision gives the Bulldogs two of the top four prospects in the state of Mississippi, along with Columbus High four-star running back Kylin Hill. Mississippi State can't match SEC West rivals Alabama and LSU in their depth and quality of talent, but prospects with star potential like Gay, a rangy playmaker who can run down ball-carriers in space and assist in pass coverage, can help the Bulldogs compete in the toughest division in the Power 5 conferences.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Gay:

A linebacker who is very athletic. Shows he can play inside the box or drop into coverage. A little light, but good length, and he can run. Will come up and pop the running back. Can blitz from the outside linebacker position. His speed is one of his biggest strengths. He really closes well. Can tackle a little high. Needs to drive through the offensive player better. Plays well in space. Plays with his head up and is strong in coverage.

Watch: Four-star Levi Jones fakes out Florida, FSU before committing to USC

Wednesday February 1st, 2017

Four-star outside linebacker Levi Jones committed to USC on Wednesday with a dramatic reveal. The Austin Westlake (Texas) High product unzipped his sweatshirt to first unveil a Florida T-shirt, only to take that off and reveal a Florida State T-shirt underneath. Not finished undressing, Jones pulled off the Seminoles T-shirt to show off a USC shirt, announcing “Fight on.”

Jones’s commitment is big victory for coach Clay Helton. As the No. 179 overall recruit and No. 11 outside linebacker recruit, he joins a Trojans class that includes 12 prospects ranked four- or five-stars currently. Jones adds to a flurry of high-profile recruits picking USC in the closing stretch, as four-star Marlon Tuipulotu flipped from Washington on Monday and four-star safety Isaiah Pola-Mao committed on Friday.

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Jones:

Jones is a player who rose through the recruit ranks powered behind a strong junior year. He made a ton of plays as Austin Westlake made a deep march into the playoffs. He is always around the football and is physically a dominant force. He forces the action, making a good amount of plays behind the line of scrimmage and shows bursts of speed in the open field allowing him to chase down plays from sideline-to-sideline. He is long and lean and has the frame to be an even more impressive specimen as he matures. The brother of Cayleb Jones, who was also a Scout 300 prospect.

Florida scores sorely needed recruiting win with Tedarrell Slaton's commitment

Tuesday January 31st, 2017

Amid heavy scrutiny over his inability to lure top talent to Gainesville, Florida coach Jim McElwain scored a major recruiting victory on National Signing Day. Five-star prospect Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton announced that he will play for the Gators, picking them over SEC East rival Georgia.

Slaton had identified Florida as the leader in his recruitment last month, and he took an official visit to the program’s campus the weekend of Jan. 21. Unlike many other programs, according to Slaton, the Gators pursued him as a defensive lineman. Slaton had indicated that he prefers to play on that side of the ball, despite him spending most of his time on the offensive line in high school and every major recruiting service listing him as part of that position group.

Scout.com rates him the No. 2 offensive guard in the class of 2017, behind only St. John Bosco (Calif.) High’s Ohio State signee Wyatt Davis, and the No. 32 player overall. It’s difficult to say how Slaton will acquit himself as a defensive player in college, but his status as one of the top interior offensive line recruits in the country owes to his size (6’4.5”, 341 pounds) and power. That combination should ease Slaton’s transition to the other side of the trenches.

He’s a valuable pickup for Florida as it waves farewell to projected early-round draft pick Caleb Brantley and fellow defensive line starters Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr.

In choosing the Gators, Slaton will join two of his class of 2017 teammates from American Heritage (Fla.) High in Florida’s class: four-star cornerback Marco Wilson and three-star linebacker James Houston. Another American Heritage prospect in the class of 2017, four-star offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert, was viewed as another potential Gators pledge after decommitting from Michigan last month, but he chose Miami instead. Florida signed only one (Slaton) of the top 15 prospects in the Sunshine State in this cycle, according to Scout.com.

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National Signing Day 2017 live blog: College football recruiting updates

Here is Scout.com’s full scouting report on Slaton:

Slaton looks like a grown man on the hoof. He is extremely strong in his lower body and upper body. He just overpowers his opponent much of the time. His punch is impressive and he really shoots his hands well. Plays tackle and could be a right tackle, but projects as an elite guard on the next level. Really bends well for a young man his size and fires off the ball. Needs to improve his footwork in pass protection and his hand placement. Simply nasty OL.

National Signing Day schedule

Welcome to National Signing Day 2017. After months of anticipation, commitments, decommits and flips, players can finally sign their National Letters of Intent.

Some of the most highly touted prospects in the country will be announcing their decisions today, including 10 of top 51 recruits. That includes eight five-stars.

Where will these elite talents head? Which school will end National Signing Day with top class in country? The next 12 hours will tell us.

As the day gets going, keep an eye out for these prized commitments:

8:00 a.m. — Tedarrell Slaton (No. 32 overall, No. 2 guard)

9:45 a.m. — Aubrey Solomon (No. 11 overall, No. 2 defensive tackle)

10:00 a.m. — Willie Gay (No. 51 overall, No. 3 outside linebacker), Jeff Thomas (No. 41 overall, No. 5 wide receiver)

11:30 a.m. — Jay Tufele (No. 36 overall, No. 3 defensive tackle)

11:35 a.m. — K'Lavon Chaisson (No. 33 overall, No. 5 defensive end)

Noon — Austin Jackson (No. 30 overall, No. 5 offensive tackle)

3:00 p.m. — Devonta Smith (No. 26 overall, No. 3 wide receiver)

4:10 p.m. — Joseph Lewis (No. 24 overall, No. 2 wide receiver)

4:30 p.m. — Marvin Wilson (No. 10 overall, No. 1 defensive tackle)

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