Where might the top uncommitted recruits in the class of 2016 sign? We break down which schools are in the mix.
National Signing Day is less than a week and a half away, and while several of the nation’s top prospects have announced their college destinations, many have not. Recruiting is always a fluid situation, but these finals days are as important to a recruit’s future as any. And the foundation of several top teams could change with a pledge from a currently uncommitted blue-chip prospect.
So what are the biggest decisions to watch for on Signing Day? SI.com breaks down the top 10 uncommitted recruits.
1. Rashan Gary, DT
Hometown: Paramus, N.J.
Scout.com rank: No. 1
Schools in running: Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ole Miss, USC, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State
Gary, the consensus No. 1 player in the country, is a sizeable (6’4”, 286 pounds) yet quick (4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash) defensive tackle who can play all across the defensive line. The Paramus Catholic (N.J.) High senior showed off his versatility in the Under Armour All-American Game earlier this month, lining up at both end and tackle and earning Team Highlight MVP with six tackles, three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Gary has made official visits to Michigan, Auburn, Ole Miss and USC, and he took another unofficial trip to Ann Arbor over the weekend. Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney, told Scout.com her son will use his final official visit on either Clemson or Alabama; they might even visit one officially and the other unofficially. No matter where Gary lands, his new coach might not be able to keep him off the field right away.
2. Mique Juarez, OLB
Hometown: Torrence, Calif.
Scout.com rank: No. 8
Schools in running: Ole Miss, UCLA, Alabama, BYU
Earlier this month Juarez, the nation’s top-rated outside linebacker, announced he’d narrowed his recruitment to Ole Miss and UCLA. But the 6’2”, 226-pounder later added Alabama to the mix, and he took an official visit to Tuscaloosa last weekend. Juarez still has a trip to BYU scheduled for this weekend and is set to unveil his pledge on Signing Day. He was a one-time USC commit but decommitted after the Trojans fired Steve Sarkisian in October.
3. Derrick Brown, DT
Hometown: Buford, Ga.
Scout.com rank: No. 9
Schools in running: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Brown has already proven himself a beastly recruit out of Burford, Ga.: He became the first defensive player ever to earn National Player of the Year honors from MaxPreps.com. The 6’4”, 322-pound defensive tackle tallied 106 tackles (42 for loss) and 13 sacks for Lanier High last season. Georgia hosted Brown last weekend for the in-state product’s first face-to-face meeting with new Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. Brown has already visited Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State and will take a trip to Tennessee before announcing his commitment.
4. Jeffery Simmons, DE
Hometown: Macon, Miss.
Scout.com rank: No. 10
Schools in running: Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Simmons was a late addition to the group of five-star prospects on Scout.com’s board, landing his fifth star in the recruiting site’s final set of rankings this month. The 6’4”, 270-pound defensive end boasts a 4.96 40 time and recorded 105 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in leading Noxubee County (Miss.) High to the Class 4A state title as a senior last fall. A Macon, Miss. native, Simmons is being courted hard by both Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but Alabama remains a threat.
5. Ben Davis, ILB
Hometown: Gordo, Ala.
Scout.com rank: No. 11
Schools in running: Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame
Davis, the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker, named his top three schools as Georgia, Alabama and Notre Dame last week, with the Bulldogs holding a slight edge. However, after visiting the Crimson Tide over this weekend, Davis moved Alabama to the top spot. The Gordo, Ala., linebacker, who compares his game to that of former Alabama defender Dont’a Hightower, has reason to highly consider the Crimson Tide: His father, Wayne, played for Alabama. “He and my mom both went to Alabama, so of course they want me to choose Alabama,” Davis told AL.com in December. “But they're going to let me do my thing.” Notre Dame isn’t giving up with coach Brian Kelly reportedly set to make an in-home visit later this week.
6. Jack Jones, ATH
Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.
Scout.com rank: No. 15
Schools in running: Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC
Jones is expected to stay close to home and commit to USC, where he’d join former Long Beach Poly High teammate Iman Marshall, an elite recruit from the Trojans’ 2015 signing class. But Alabama, UCLA and Texas A&M remain in the running. Jones played both cornerback and receiver at Poly and earned Scout’s No. 1 athlete ranking in the country.
7. Mecole Hardman Jr., ATH
Hometown: Elberton, Ga.
Scout.com rank: No. 16
Schools in running: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State
Hardman announced Alabama as his top school at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this month, but poor weather prevented the nation’s No. 2-ranked athlete from taking an official visit to Tuscaloosa last weekend. He did, however, make it to Ohio State for an official visit a week earlier, after which the Buckeyes found themselves on Hardman’s short list. But can Urban Meyer snag the Elberton, Ga., native from the grasp of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, the presumed favorites in SEC country?
8. Caleb Kelly, OLB
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
Scout.com rank: No. 17
Schools in running: Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas
Kelly, a five-star linebacker from Fresno, Calif., was expected to pick between Oklahoma and Notre Dame on National Signing Day. But a recent in-home visit from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich pushed the Ducks into Kelly’s top three schools. Last week Kelly told The Oregonian he was “excited” to meet new Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke. Now the Ducks have seemingly closed the gap on the Fighting Irish and Sooners for the services of the nation’s No. 2-ranked outside linebacker.
9. Brandon Jones, S
Hometown: Nacogdoches, Texas
Scout.com rank: No. 19
Schools in running: Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oregon
Texas and Texas A&M are thought to be battling for Jones, the top safety in the class of 2016. But after taking official visits to both Austin and College Station in December, Jones scheduled a final official visit for Baylor this weekend. The Lone Star State schools will duke it out for the 6-foot, 190-pound Jones, who starred as a defender in high school: He rang up 124 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and two interceptions at Nacogdoches High.
10. Nigel Warrior, S
Hometown: Suwanee, Ga.
Scout.com rank: No. 20
Schools in running: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee
Earlier this month Warrior narrowed his list of schools to an SEC-heavy group of Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. But after an in-home visit from Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, Warrior took an official visit to the Plains this weekend ahead of a trip to Alabama. Family might play a big role in Warrior’s final decision: The Suwanee, Ga., native’s father, NFL Pro Bowler Dale Carter, is former Volunteers defensive back. Warrior has an official visit to Knoxville scheduled this weekend.