National Signing Day is upon us. As college football's 2012 recruiting classes take shape, familiar faces are again paving the way: Alabama, Texas and Ohio State currently claim the nation's top three classes. But a number of dark horses are charging hard. After failing to finish in the top 20 last season, Texas A&M, Stanford and Vanderbilt could all crack the top tier with certain key additions on Wednesday.
With 15 of Rivals' Top 100 prospects currently uncommitted and others potentially poised to flip, much remains unresolved heading into Feb. 1. Here are 10 key storylines to watch.
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Green-Beckham already boasts the body of an NFL wideout. He also has the stats, having collected a national-record 6,447 receiving yards and 75 touchdowns during his career at Hillcrest, Mo. Yet despite his high-profile courtship -- Missouri's Gary Pinkel visited Green-Beckham via helicopter -- the receiver remains something of a recruiting enigma.
So where will the nation's consensus No. 1 prospect land? There's no easy answer. Since narrowing his list to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, he's provided little indication of his leanings. A report surfaced Monday stating Green-Beckham had committed to the Tigers, but was promptly refuted by his coach and adopted father, John Beckham. Even if Missouri is the frontrunner, don't discount Arkansas: The Fayetteville school is actually 20 miles closer to home than Mizzou, and Green-Beckham returned with glowing reviews after his Jan. 20 visit.
Wherever he winds up, expect him to make an immediate impact in 2012. And expect some very happy (and very depressed) fans following his 10:15 a.m. ET announcement.
On Jan. 7, Cal seemed poised to land the Pac-12's premier class, gaining commitments from safety Shaq Thompson, defensive end Ellis McCarthy and wide receiver Jordan Payton -- all Rivals100 recruits -- at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The trio beefed up a haul that already featured four-star quarterback Zach Kline and athlete Cedric Dozier and was on the verge of landing several others, most notably defensive ends Arik Armstead and Aziz Shittu.
Nine days later, everything changed. Ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi's departure for Washington prompted McCarthy to pledge to UCLA and several others to reevaluate their options (Thompson committed to Washington on Jan. 30; Payton followed suit on Jan. 31). The Bears' prized class, once brimming with potential, plunged into uncertainty.
With Oregon experiencing a down year (the Ducks currently have the No. 18 class even after landing Armstead), Stanford and USC have emerged as the West Coast frontrunners. The Trojans lead despite NCAA sanctions, with 11 of their 13 commitments rated as four- or five-star talents. Stanford could make a late push, though. The Cardinal have secured verbal commitments from four Top 150 prospects (guard Joshua Garnett, safety Alex Carter, linebacker Noor Davis and running back Barry Sanders Jr.) and remain in the running for several others. Three blue-chippers should settle the debate: offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (Rivals' No. 19), Shittu (No. 27) and offensive tackle Andrus Peat (No. 32) count both USC and Stanford among their final four.
Greg Schiano picked a bad time to pack his bags for Tampa. The 11-year coach bolted for the Buccaneers last Thursday, leaving Rutgers' recruiting in a state of total disarray. Devin Fuller, a coveted dual-threat quarterback once considered a Rutgers lock, committed to UCLA on Sunday. Michael Giacone, a committed three-star tight end out of Jersey City, N.J., took a visit to Boston College over the weekend. With the program in flux, it begged the question: Could the Scarlet Knights maintain their highly touted haul?
Five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton may have silenced those doubts. The Don Bosco Prep standout (72 tackles, 21 sacks in 2011) chose Rutgers over Miami on Tuesday night, seemingly setting the stage for forthcoming Signing Day success. And with verbal pledges from wideout Leonte Carroo, linebacker Quanzell Lambert and offensive linemen Chris Muller, J.J. Denman and Ryan Brodie, newly anointed coach Kyle Flood -- despite the recent chaos -- could emerge with the team's strongest recruiting class in recent memory.
As detailed extensively by Andy Staples, top-ranked prospects have a propensity to change their minds. Seventy-three Rivals100 prospects have flipped during their recruitment process since 2007, and some of the biggest switches have come on or after Signing Day: Last year, Cyrus Kouandijo (No. 4), De'Anthony Thomas (No. 5), Marcus Roberson (No. 37) and Brent Calloway (No. 38) swapped Feb. 2 or later.
It's difficult to predict, but several 2012 candidates made moves that call their commitments into question. Tampa, Fla., defensive end Tyriq McCord (a Miami commit), Denver quarterback Cyler Miles (Washington) and Bellflower, Calif., wide receiver Bryce Treggs (Cal) all visited USC over the past two weeks, and Florida State-bound linebacker Ukeme Eligwe traveled to Berkeley with his mother. Don't be surprised if one or more of these players delivers some drama Wednesday.
Flash back for a moment to the Nov. 26, 2011, meeting between Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes for the first time in eight years, and they held an equally strong advantage on the recruiting trail: Michigan boasted 21 recruits, 10 rated four-stars or higher. Ohio State had just 15, eight in the four-star realm.
Then the Buckeyes hired Urban Meyer. Now, archrivals Ohio State and Michigan are neck-and-neck, possessing Rivals' third- and fifth-ranked classes, respectively.
Whether Meyer or Brady Hoke finishes on top will depend on how things shake out in the coming weeks. Ohio State remains in contention for wideout Stefon Diggs (set to commit Feb. 10), athlete Joel Caleb and wideout Davonte Neal, while Michigan is in the running for four-star offensive tackle Jordan Diamond. It's a compelling precursor for the teams' next on-field duel in November.
Coming off a national championship heading into Signing Day last year, Auburn locked up the nation's No. 7 class, securing seven four- and five-stars after hoisting the BCS trophy Jan. 10. This year, the Tigers haven't been nearly as fortunate: They've landed just one recruit (offensive tackle Patrick Miller) since November and lost speedy receiver Ricardo Louis to Florida State Jan. 14.
Still, the Tigers could be primed for a serious Signing Day splash. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, wide receiver Diggs, defensive end Leonard Williams, cornerback Ronald Darby, linebacker Kwon Alexander and offensive tackle Avery Young all list the Tigers among their final group of suitors. Currently stationed at No. 20 in the team recruiting rankings, Auburn could still crack the top 10.
Meyer's impact has been well chronicled, but a bevy of other new coaches have plenty to gain on Wednesday. Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin could bolster a top 10 class by adding prized wideout Thomas Johnson (Rivals' No. 34), while Arizona State's Todd Graham could better his high-octane attack by adding running back Marion Grice. Arizona's Rich Rodriguez is vying for three prospects: Darby, Neal and four-star linebacker Deaysean Rippy.
The most intriguing case could be UCLA's Jim Mora. After taking the reins in mid-December, he's nabbed 16 recruits, headlined by blue-chippers McCarthy (No. 21) and Fuller (No. 37). With another five-star (Shittu) prospect still on the board, could the NFL lifer lead the Bruins to their third top 10 class since 2002?
Despite the clamor over all impending Signing Day announcements, one crucial development has gone seemingly unnoticed: Alabama might have already clinched the top class in 2012. As charted below, the Tide boast 15 four- and five-star commitments, and still have a shot at Goldman, Tracy Howard, Alexander and Dalvin Tomlinson.
With these recruits joining an already loaded squad, Nick Saban and the defending national champs should again field a powerhouse come fall.
By now, most of the nation is aware of Green-Beckham and the other crown jewels in the 2012 class. But what about the hidden gems? As Kellen Moore and Ronnie Hillman have proved, some of college football's top talents are vastly underrated coming out of high school.
Enter wideout Quinshad Davis (Rivals' No. 223) and athlete Jaydon Mickens (No. 142), a pair of under-the-radar offensive threats. Davis was named South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year after amassing 2,009 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns at Gaffney, S.C., and Mickens won Semper-Fi Bowl MVP honors following a season in which he collected 1,447 all-purpose yards and 23 scores at Dorsey High in Los Angeles. Davis is considering UNC, Tennessee and Wake Forest, while Mickens is weighing offers from Oklahoma State, Oregon and Washington. Keep an eye on where these two end up.
Forget the implications for programs' future BCS success. The most buzz-worthy Signing Day headlines often revolve around memorably staged announcements.
Last year, Columbus, Ga., running back Isaiah Crowell stole the show by bringing out a baby bulldog to announce his pledge to Georgia. Already this year, Geismar, La., safety Landon Collins has made national headlines by opposing his mother's wishes and committing to Alabama on national television.
No matter which recruits rise to the occasion this year, the results are sure to be entertaining.