College football fans and media members tend to focus on uncommitted prospects heading into National Signing Day. However, some of the most notable events from past signing days involved committed players changing their minds at the 11th hour. These flips often occur as a result of coaches pressing prospects to help fill out the final few spots in their classes. How many significant flips will we see this year? That’s hard to say, but here are 10 highly regarded class of 2017 prospects SI.com is putting on flip watch. Even if these players don’t ultimately switch their commitments, their recruitments bear monitoring over the next couple of weeks.
Christopher Allen, LB, Alabama
One of four linebackers committed to the Crimson Tide, Allen could be on the verge of joining a program that under coach Nick Saban has churned out All-Americans and NFL draft picks at his position. Another option for Allen would be to play college football closer to home, for a program that fired its longtime coach last season because he couldn’t beat Saban. The Southern University Laboratory (La.) School product recently took a trip to LSU and subsequently said in a radio interview with an ESPN affiliate that he has been thinking about the Tigers “more than ever.” The addition of Allen would be a huge boost to an LSU class that has secured a commitment from only one of Louisiana’s 11 highest-rated recruits in the class of 2017.
Kyshaun Bryan, RB, South Carolina
Bryan reportedly picked up an offer from Pitt earlier this month and plans to visit the program before signing day. The Panthers already secured a commitment from a highly regarded running back in Archbishop Hoban (Ohio) High four-star Todd Sibley. Yet they could use another back to power their ground game following the departure of star James Conner to the NFL (in addition to offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU). Like Sibley (5’ 10,’’ 202 lbs), Bryan (5’ 10.5,’’ 180 lbs) is short for his position, but Scout.com praises him for his toughness, and he showed off his strength on this impressive touchdown run for Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas:
Jhavonte Dean, CB, Alabama
Dean emerged as the No. 4 cornerback in Scout.com’s 2017 junior college rankings while excelling at Blinn College in Brenham, Tex, but he played his high school football at South Dade Senior High in Homestead, Fla. That’s why it’s no surprise he’s showing interest in Miami. After visiting the program earlier this month, there seems a decent chance Dean could join head coach Mark Richt’s first full recruiting class in Coral Gables. Dean would be a promising addition to a Hurricanes secondary that’s already set to bring in highly coveted Christopher Columbus (Fla.) High safety Trajan Bandy and should compete for playing time right away following the departure of second-team All-ACC member Corn Elder.
Maleik Gray, S, Tennessee
Gray currently ranks as the Volunteers’ top commitment on the defensive side of the ball. He pledged to Tennessee in June and seemed to solidify his word by taking an official visit there earlier this month. Yet the LaVergne (Tenn.) High standout reportedly is considering taking a visit to Florida State before ending his recruitment. If that happens, the Seminoles would have a good opportunity to convince Gray to renege on his commitment to the Volunteers and sign with Florida State, which already landed one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, Charles W. Flanagan (Fla.) High’s Stanford Samuels III. That would be a tough blow for a Tennessee program losing star DB Cam Sutton this off-season.
Jordan Genmark-Heath, Ath, Cal
Though Genmark-Heath issued a verbal commitment to the Golden Bears in October, the program has since made a coaching change, with Justin Wilcox taking over for Sonny Dykes. Genmark-Heath announced earlier this month that he received an offer from Notre Dame, and the Swedish-born playmaker reportedly plans to take an official visit to South Bend. Genmark-Heath could join an Irish defense in transition after firing defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and replacing him with former Wake Forest DC Mike Elko. Notre Dame has only one prospect listed as a defensive back in its 2017 class (four-star safety Isaiah Robertson) after losing four-star prospects Paulson Adebo and Elijah Hicks, but it signed seven DBs as part of its 2016 class.
Kai-Leon Herbert, OT, Michigan
A recent official visit to Auburn increased the Tigers’ chances of getting Herbert to step away from his commitment to Michigan, which dates to last July. Other reported planned visits to Miami and Florida before signing day could provide more cause for Herbert to withdraw from a Wolverines class that currently counts five other offensive line prospects. If he decides to switch his pledge to the in-state Gators, Herbert would join two of his American Heritage School teammates, four-star cornerback Marco Wilson and three-star linebacker James Houston IV (and possibly a fellow offensive line target, five-star recruit Tedarrell Slaton), but Florida’s pursuit of Herbert is complicated by the recent departure of offensive line coach Mike Summers to Louisville.
Mac Hippenhammer, WR, Penn State
Notre Dame has yet to fill the spot in its 2017 class vacated by the decommitment of Winter Park (Fla.) High wide receiver Jordan Pouncey in late December. Hippenhammer could be the solution. The Snider (Ind.) High standout committed to Penn State in August, but he received an offer from the Fighting Irish earlier this month and also reportedly took an unofficial visit to South Bend. It may not be easy for Notre Dame to convince Hippenhammer to renounce his pledge to a Penn State program that should begin next season in the top 10 of the polls, but the in-state Irish ultimately could be more appealing to Hippenhammer, who would join Destrehan (La.) High three-star Michael Young as wide receivers in Notre Dame’s 2017 class.
Bruce Judson, Ath, South Florida
Judson made clear his desire to play for Willie Taggart when he committed to South Florida last July. The three-star athlete still could end up playing for Taggart, only on the other side of the country. Oregon offered Judson in December and he subsequently named the program to his top four, which also included Kentucky, Virginia Tech and the Bulls. Judson reportedly plans to take an official visit to Eugene this month. Since the Ducks named Taggart their head coach last month, they’ve landed commitments from three Florida-based prospects in Fort Meyers High three-star running back Darrian Felix, Pinnelas Park High three-star defensive tackle Jordon Scott and Armwood High three-star wide receiver Darrian McNeal. Judson could be next.
Jacob Phillips, LB, Oklahoma
If LSU can’t flip Allen, maybe it will have more luck with Phillips. Right now he’s slated to join Oklahoma’s top-five class, but Phillips reportedly plans to visit Baton Rouge this month. It will be of the unofficial variety, since he has already taken official trips to Texas A&M, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon. While the Sooners already have earned commitments from four linebackers other than Phillips, including four-star Collinsville (Okla.) High’s Levi Draper, the Tigers have yet to land a player listed at that position (Though four-star athlete Patrick Queen projects as a linebacker). Whether or not Allen decides to play for his hometown program, getting Phillips on board would be a huge win for head coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Jamyest Williams, CB, South Carolina
When Williams committed to South Carolina last August, it marked an important off-the-field victory for Will Muschamp before his first game as South Carolina’s head coach. Yet for that victory to pay off, Muschamp will need to convince Williams to reject overtures from another SEC program before signing day. Williams reportedly plans to take an official visit to Georgia this weekend. The elite defensive back indicated recently that his pledge to the Gamecocks was solid, and he also reportedly plans to visit Columbia later this month, but it could be tough for him to resist joining Grayson (Ga.) High teammate and five-star athlete DeAngelo Gibbs in the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class.
* All rankings and star ratings via Scout.com