As college football's recruiting "dead period" begins, where do the nation's top uncommitted recruits stand? Here's what we know about where they're looking and how they're leaning.
Beginning Monday, coaches have been prohibited from having face-to-face contact with high school football prospects for a month. When the “dead period” ends, National Signing Day will be less than a month away.
As we near the closing stretch of the 2015 recruiting cycle, here’s a look at the top five uncommitted prospects in the Rivals 250.
(No. 3-ranked recruit) Byron Cowart
Cowart indicated this week that he’s encouraged by Florida’s hiring of former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain to replace Will Muschamp. "I feel good about him,” Cowart told the Orlando Sentinel. “He has a good vision, and that's great. He wants to get Florida going, so that's good. He came to my school, and I met him in person. I wasn't worried about it defensively, and he's an offensive-minded guy. He wants to get the offense going."
The 6-foot-3, 252-pound defensive end said he “should be” taking official visits to Auburn, Florida and Florida State and plans to reveal his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 but could push it back to National Signing Day.
(4) Iman Marshall
Marshall spoke highly of his visit to Notre Dame this weekend, but the Fighting Irish will face stiff competition in the race to land the cornerback. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder is expected to take several other visits, including to Florida State on Jan. 16. LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan and Alabama are other potential destinations. It’s also believed Marshall, a standout at California powerhouse Long Beach Poly, will consider Pac-12 programs such as USC and UCLA.
Marshall learned last week that the Crimson Tide had offered him a scholarship, even though the offer reportedly was extended “a while ago.” Marshall’s father, Tony, described it as a “big, big offer.” He is not expected to announce his decision before taking all of his visits in January.
(5) Martez Ivey
Florida and Auburn are considered Ivey’s top schools. The 6-foot-5, 271-pound offensive tackle said his meeting with McElwain last week went well. ""I like the confidence he has and what he has to bring," Ivey said, according to Rivals.com. “He was just being himself. He wasn't trying to be like extraordinary, just trying to go out of his way to recruit me. He was just going to be that guy and who he is. He doesn't want to sell fake recruiting to me. That's what I got from him."
Ivey also said he has spoken with new Auburn defensive coordinator (and former Florida coach) Will Muschamp, who told Ivey, “Let’s be a Tiger, Let's be a Tiger,” according to the Sentinel. Ivey plans to reveal his choice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3.
(11) Damien Harris
Harris, a native of Richmond, Ky., has visited Kentucky at least 10 times and spoke optimistically about the energy surrounding Wildcats football. “People are talking about Kentucky being on the rise, [how they] can’t wait to go to games, great atmosphere -- things like that, things that I just didn’t experience when I initially got offered by Kentucky,” the running back told SI.com in November. “My freshman year -- it’s a night-and-day difference than how it is now.”
Harris also took official visits to Ohio State and Alabama and received visits from Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer (It's worth pointing out that Ohio State recently picked up a commitment from four-star running back Mike Weber). He plans to announce his decision on Jan. 9.
(13) Cece Jefferson
Jefferson raised eyebrows when he committed to Florida State in November because he was believed to be leaning towards Florida. In a subsequent tweet, Jefferson indicated that his teammates had pranked him. Jefferson also tweeted in October that he “about” committed to Ole Miss.
Where do things currently stand with the nation’s No. 2 strongside defensive end? Jefferson apparently convinced Alabama coach Nick Saban to try a new food (more on that below) and reportedly took an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa over the weekend. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder -- who was once viewed as a possible package deal with Cowart -- plans to announce his decision on National Signing Day.
Around the nation
- D’Andre Walker used an “Elf Yourself” video to announce his list of top three schools. “Elf Yourself” is an application produced by Magic Mirror in which one can insert images to serve as the faces of dancing elves. In this case, three of the elves displayed the football helmets of Walker’s finalists -- Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn -- and one displayed what appears to be Walker’s face.
A four-star defensive end from Fairburn, Ga., in the class of 2015, Walker drew scholarship offers from more than 25 programs. If he got this creative with his top-three reveal, I can’t wait to see what he has planned when he announces his final decision.
- Kyler Murray threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns and added 115 yards on the ground to rally Allen (Texas) High to a 52-34 win over Skyline High in a Class 6A Division I semifinal game. Earlier this month, Murray, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015, was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Allen will take on Cypress Ranch in the championship game Saturday at AT&T Stadium. Check out this feature on the Texas A&M commit from SI.com’s Lindsay Schnell.
- There was a minor scuffle late in the PIAA Class A championship game between Clairton (Pa.) High and Bishop Guilfoyle (Pa.) High on Friday at Hersheypark Stadium. According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, at least one Clairton player threw his helmet at multiple Bishop Guilfoyle players.
Hours after the game, a 19-18 win for Bishop Guilfoyle, the Clairton City School District issued an apology.
“Clairton City School District would like to apologize to the PIAA, the fans, and all involved in the Class A Championship Game in Hershey today for the incident that happened at the end of the game. That behavior does not reflect our school or community or how we represent the WPIAL. We hope our students learn from this experience and move forward positively. We as a district will strive to make this a learning experience for future endeavors and hope the public does not judge the entire season over this incident. We are proud of our team and coaching staff for their accomplishments and applaud their success as well as the Bishop Guilfoyle team.”
- It appears Alabama coach Nick Saban was trying hard to impress defensive end CeCe Jefferson at a recent meal together. Jefferson, the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the class of 2015, tweeted last week that Saban “never had gator tail before lol he loved it!”
This is particularly noteworthy considering Saban is known to abide by a strict diet. According to a 2013 GQ profile, Saban eats two Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies for breakfast and a salad for lunch every day so he doesn’t have to waste time thinking about what to eat.
- Jack Lenihan, a senior wide receiver at Barrington (Ill.) High, made a highlight tape that contains no actual highlights. The tape, produced by the sports video service hudl, showcases Lenihan standing on the sidelines and watching his teammates, save for one play in which he drops a pass. The “Lenihan Factor” is listed at a burly 5-foot-11, 145 pounds. If you can identify with the duties and mannerisms of the prototypical benchwarmer, you will enjoy Lenihan’s tape, which concludes with the message “*Division 1 offers only.”
- Da’Vante Phillips decommitted from Florida nearly a year ago, but the Gator apparently aren’t entirely out of the running. Phillips told the Orlando Sentinel that he’s waiting for a call from Florida, which recently hired former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain to replace the fired Will Muschamp. From the Sentinel:
"Yeah, they can get back in the picture," Phillips said after helping Miami Central win its third straight state title and fourth in the past five years Saturday at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. "I'm waiting for a coach to call, but I don't know what's going on there.
"That was really one of the schools I really wanted to go to ... anyway, I decomitted, so they never knew what was going to be my last plan. I don't know. The coaches aren't really on me like that anymore."
Phillips, the No. 11 wide receiver in the class of 2015, plans to announce his choice at the Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 2. He released his list of top five schools earlier this week
UL.UM,FSU,AU,UF 💯🏈💬FINAL 5‼️— OfficialPhillips (@duckedoff_v5) December 17, 2014
- Kansas signed eight junior-college players this week: Three-star cornerback L.B. Bates, three-star offensive lineman Will Smith, three-star cornerback Michael Mathis, two-star defensive tackle Jacky Dezir, three-star offensive lineman D’Andre Banks, three-star running back Ke’aun Kinner, two-star offensive lineman Jayson Rhodes and three-star cornerback Brandon Stewart.
In addition, new coach David Beaty gained commitments from the following high school players since his hiring was announced last week: two-star receiver Emmanuel Moore, three-star cornerback Shaquille Richmond, two-star athlete Arico Evans, two-star tight end/defensive end Jace Sternberger and two-star receiver Chase Harrell.
Harrell, who reportedly had been committed to Houston, said he knew Beaty from Beaty's time as an assistant at Texas A&M. "I felt like coach Beaty is a man of his word," Harrell told Rivals.com. "He is a good recruiting coach, and I think in two to three years this program will be doing something."
The Jayhawks’ 2015 recruiting class now counts 20 members and currently ranks 52nd in the country.
- TCU safeties coach Chad Glasgow was happy to learn Keshawn Somerville, a high school junior, had committed to the Horned Frogs. Somerville told PurpleMenace.com that the news caused Somerville to drive a little too fast.
"We were talking on the phone, and he was so excited that I guess he was speeding and got pulled over," Somerville said.
This tweet from Glasgow seems to verify Somerville’s account of what happened:
10 notable commitments
- Orangeburg-Wilkinson (S.C.) High senior Albert Huggins committed to Clemson. Huggins is the No. 6 strongside defensive end in the class of 2015.
- Atlee (Va.) High senior Ricky DeBerry committed to Oklahoma. DeBerry is the No. 10 outside linebacker in the class of 2015.
- Mesquite Poteet (Texas) High senior Malik Jefferson committed to Texas. Jefferson is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the class of 2015.
- Lawrence Central (Ind.) High senior Darrin Kirkland Jr. committed to Tennessee. Kirkland is the No. 7 inside linebacker in the class of 2015.
- South Oak Cliff (Texas) High senior Jordan Stevenson committed to Wisconsin. Stevenson, who decommitted from Texas last week, is the No. 28 running back in the class of 2015.
- Campolindo (Calif.) High senior Tyler Petite switched his commitment from Duke to USC. Petite is the No. 7 tight end in the class of 2015.
- Central Catholic (Ore.) High senior Cameron Scarlett committed to Stanford. Scarlett is the No. 5 all-purpose back in the class of 2015.
- Buford (Ga.) High junior Isaac Nauta committed to Florida State. Nauta is the No. 2 tight end in the class of 2016.
- Mesquite Poteet (Texas) High senior DeAndre McNeal committed to Texas. McNeal is the No. 24 athlete in the class of 2015.
- Stephenville (Texas) High senior Jarret Stidham committed to Baylor. Stidham is the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015.
All rankings according to Rivals.com.