Several top defensive players still uncommitted as Signing Day nears
The unpredictable recruiting world continues to swirl as National Signing Day nears. National recruiting analyst Mike Farrell weighs in as the clock is ticking.
Looking now at five of the biggest names in the Southeast, I would have thought we'd be close to done with most of them as far as their recruiting is concerned.
After all, Loganville (Ga.) Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was committed to Clemson and has been essentially committed to Ole Miss for weeks. Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton defensive end Carl Lawson, Auburn, Ala., linebacker Reuben Foster and Muscle Shoals, Ala., defensive end Dee Liner were all happily committed to Auburn and it wouldn't have been a shock if Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County defensive tackle Montravius Adams had picked his school by now. But each player may very well be wide open.
It's expected that Nkemdiche will, eventually, land with Ole Miss. For Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 player, it appears to be only a matter of time before he announces for Ole Miss to play with his brother Denzel. However, the longer this goes without a commitment, the more you scratch your head. Wouldn't it be smart for the nation's No. 1 player to scream "Rebels" from the rafters to help this class?
For Lawson, the nation's No. 2 prospect, it appears to be a waiting game to see how long it takes for him to de-commit from Auburn. Multiple sources are saying it's more "when" than "if" and that Clemson and Ole Miss are lurking. However, a great defensive line hire by Auburn could change all of that.
The same could be said about Liner, who I think will remain committed until Signing Day but still decide among Auburn, Alabama and perhaps a few other schools. Liner is very likely to flip to Alabama, but again a great defensive line hire by new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn could change things. When it comes down to Foster and Adams, I think both are wide open. Georgia is in the mix for both, as is Auburn and Alabama. Clemson is considered a leader for Adams as well.
With all the early commitments this year, more than ever before, I expected a lot of them to fall apart. But with these five guys, I don't think anyone could have predicted these twists and turns.
We've covered Max Redfield before, but his recruitment still isn't finished yet. The Mission Viejo, Calif. safety was dropped by Oregon because the Ducks thought he was a done deal for Notre Dame. But he took an official visit to USC, the team he had previously been committed to, so the Trojans gave it the old college try. However, despite some optimism from some USC commits on the visit with him, all signs are pointing toward Redfield choosing Notre Dame at the Under Armour Game on Jan. 4. Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech offensive lineman David Dawson did indeed re-commit to Michigan despite having his offer pulled after a visit to Florida. Dawson's commitment will be big with Richmond (Va.) Hermitage running back Derrick Green because the two have become good friends and text daily. Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods linebacker Matt Rolin did in fact de-commit from the Gamecocks despite all the family connections and having surgery a few days before his flip by the Gamecocks team surgeon. This one goes down in history. Arlington (Texas) Martin running back Kyle Hicks, who de-committed from Texas to TCU, is joined by Belton, Texas, tight end Durham Smythe, who is now looking at Stanford and others. While neither player was a Rivals250 member, it's an alarming sign for the Longhorns, and if Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights five-star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson flips to USC, there will be real trouble in Austin. In my opinion, I think Robinson stays at Texas because of his mom, but sources tell me he really wants to go to USC. No matter what happens with him, it's becoming clear that Texas is starting to be looked at by recruits as a bit old and weathered while Texas A&M, with Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Football, is the hot program in the state. Texas is still ranked No. 13 in Rivals team rankings with only 13 commitments while Oklahoma is No. 20 with 15. The Aggies are No. 7 with 33 commitments (many of whom won't be making the grade) and it just seems like the gap between the new SEC power and the old guard in the Big 12 is widening. For Oklahoma, it's good news they got the nation's No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to visit, but it's bad news that his mom didn't come with him. His mom is a huge part of this process and a big reason why Ole Miss has the edge. I'm a bit surprised however that the Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee wideout dropped Michigan altogether. I know the Wolverines were fading, but I really thought the Wolverines would still be a player until the end. Now it seems Ole Miss will be hard to beat with Oklahoma State left in his final three. If mom doesn't make that trip, the nation's No. 1 receiver could join the nation's No. 1 overall player in Oxford. So how about Bret Bielema's change of heart the second he hits SEC country? After complaining about the tactics of Urban Meyer stealing away commitments when the latter arrived in the Big Ten, Bielema is getting the hang of things at Arkansas very quickly. Bielema and his staff have been very aggressive going after players committed to other schools, mainly Altee Tenpenny, who is committed to Alabama but will visit the Hawgs in January. Tenpenny will obviously be intrigued with Bielema's run-first offense and it is a crowded backfield in this class at running back in Tuscaloosa. Tyren Jones and Derrick Henry are already on board, but Tenpenny has been solid for the most part throughout the process. Arkansas is also after Knoxville (Tenn.) Christian Academy of Knoxville teammates Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith, who are both committed to Tennessee. Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley wide receiver Robert Foster makes his announcement on Friday, with little drama involved. Foster is down to Alabama and Pitt, but if he chooses the Tide, it'll be stunning. Since day one, Foster was one of those prospects who was clearly not going to leave home. He has been linked to Pitt from the start, despite the Panthers' recent coaching issues. This is a big week for Kansas State and the 'Cats are deserving after a terrific season. They added a four-star out of high school (a rarity for K-State) in Nick Ramirez, they roared back and beat Penn State at the last second for the quarterback of the future in Jake Waters and they added three-star defensive end Jamone Boyd, who could eventually be a home run if he gets his academics together. Throw in linebacker Dakorey Johnson and defensive end Devon Nash and that's quite a week. Kansas State usually won't finish that high in the national recruiting rankings, but they get kids and develop them and that's all that matters.
Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett linebacker Trey Johnson has now decided to announce his decision at the Under Armour Game on Jan. 4, and that makes Ohio State a near lock in my opinion. Florida filled its last linebacker position with another former Auburn commitment in Jarrad Davis, mainly because the Gators knew Johnson was heading up north to the Big Ten. Former Auburn coach Tommy Thigpen, who recruited Johnson and earned his commitment when he was with the Tigers, has thrown his hat in the ring with his new school Tennessee, but it should make little difference. In a Big Ten battle, watch out for Michigan State stealing away three-star defensive back Joshua Jones from the Illini. He has suddenly become a hot commodity and is not close to being solid to Illinois. I am mot really surprised that Louisville (Ken.) Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, a USC commitment since July, has decided to look around and take visits, especially to Louisville and Kentucky. His own head coach Bob Beatty said verbal commitments are "as trustworthy as a needle in a balloon," and he encourages his players to take officials. I have always had a gut feeling that Hatcher and teammate James Quick would end up at Louisville together if Charlie Strong stayed on as head coach. Confidence is high out of Ohio State regarding Quick and he could commit to the Buckeyes before Hatcher's final visit to Louisville the weekend of Feb. 1. But Louisville will push hard to have both on campus that weekend even though Quick has already taken his official. JUCO QB Tanner McEvoy is down to West Virginia and Oregon after a visit to Morgantown earlier this month. McEvoy originally committed to South Carolina out of high school, but transferred amid some problems on and off the field. Considering the two options, it will be surprising if he doesn't end up at West Virginia. Eugene Smith will be moving on to the NFL at Morgantown, while Marcus Mariota has the position locked down at Oregon. If McEvoy is looking for the possibility of early playing time, West Virginia will be his choice. While Damon Mitchell has long been committed to Georgia Tech, rumors have long been swirling regarding a potential flip to either Wisconsin or Rutgers. Now it seems as though he will likely take an official visit on Jan. 25 to Rutgers, which can't make the Georgia Tech coaching staff feel very secure that close to National Signing Day. An athletic dual-threat quarterback would obviously fit very well in Georgia Tech's offense, but supposedly the Rutgers coaching staff has also told him that he would at least get a shot at quarterback there. It will likely take a while to see how the move to the Big Ten helps Rutgers with recruiting, early reactions from recruits have been positive. This was proven on Saturday, as the Scarlet Knights hosted a number of their top 2014 targets for a mini-junior day. The event, which also gave the recruits a chance to see the team practice in preparation for their bowl game against Virginia Tech, was very well-attended. Aside from many of their top instate targets, such as four-stars Quenton Nelson, Saeed Blacknall and Gerald Owens, making their way to campus, it was more impressive that a number of top out-of-state recruits made the trip. Headlining this group were Troy Vincent, Damian Prince, and Caleb Henderson, while getting Taiwan Deal from DeMatha (Maryland) and Bo Baldwin all the way from South Carolina to make the trip was also important for Rutgers. After starting off the recruiting cycle as one of the most hyped prospects on the west coast, Upland, Calif., defensive end Joe Mathis will likely end up at either Utah or Washington. That's not as sexy as USC, Michigan, Alabama or Texas A&M -- some of the schools he visited or wanted to visit -- but it could be a great fit for him. Mathis is a bit of a hybrid between a linebacker and an end and might make an earlier impact at either school, rather than have to slim down or bulk up at some of the bigger programs.