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Recruiting Notes on Wild Monday in College Football

Amid the college football coaching chaos, big recruiting dominoes fell Monday

Blink and you would have missed it. 

Monday in college football will perhaps forever be remembered for somehow standing as a combination of the surprising and bizarre in a sport where every onlooker is told to expect the unexpected. Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU hours after Lincoln Riley was introduced as the new leader at USC, where Kelly was rumored to have been the top target.

The day was so jam-packed with news that three of the biggest names in college football, including preseason Heisman front-runner Spencer Rattler, hit the transfer portal among triple-digit college football players and it was just a footnote as the break-neck pace of news gathering included more Twitter refreshes than any of us would care to admit. 

Washington made an official hire in Kalen DeBoer as did SMU with Rhett Lashlee replacing the departed Sonny Dykes, who is already recruiting for TCU. Speaking of which, let's circle back to the trail and empty the notebook on the prospect news that poured in amid the off-the-field chaos Monday will be remembered for. 

Oklahoma Decommitments at Six, Stoops Hits Trail

Between Sunday and Monday, as the Riley news resonated with prospects from coast to coast in that their decision to pick the program centered on who would be their head coach in college. Arguably the nation's top junior quarterback, Malachi Nelson, backed off of the Sooner commitment and some expect similar from his Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School teammates still publicly on board. Fellow elite juniors Brandon Inniss and Treyaun Webb, two of Florida's top skill prospects for next cycle, also backed off on Sunday. 

In the class of 2022 it wasn't much better, as three high school seniors backed off of plans to attend OU. Longest-tenured pledge and linebacker Kobie McKinzie saw enough to move on Sunday, and there is already Texas buzz surrounding his name. Two more decommitments came on Monday, from the trenches, in Maryland's Derrick Moore and Texas' Demetrius Hunter. That's six OU prospects to publicly back out of longstanding pledges, and counting. 

In the quest to maintain a strong class otherwise, OU's interim coach Bob Stoops isn't just picking up Riley's slack as the team awaits its bowl fate. The veteran has been working the phones and even took part in an in-home visit Monday evening with in-state Sooner pledge Robert Spears-Jennings from Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School. Stoops brought holdover staff members Roy Manning, Chip Viney and Cale Gundy, per the senior recruit. If Stoops' pitch is refreshed in the light of his comments Monday, than the hope to hold onto most of the other OU commitments should resonate. 

Riley's First USC Commitments Coming Soon

While the aforementioned Webb made a statement about specifically not following Riley to L.A., and 2022 wide receiver Caleb Douglas became the first public decommitment since Riley took over in L.A. Tuesday morning, the two will likely be in the minority among top Riley targets that carry over to the Pac-12. Especially with offensive recruits, expect tangible wins on the recruiting trail to come in short order. 

Riley made the quick, local trip to Santa Ana on Monday evening to spend time with the top skill position target USC will gun for in 2022, Raleek Brown. Of course the Mater Dei High School star has long been committed to Riley and has already teased a potential flip to "stay home" at USC. That roster has several important targets for Riley to work on in Brown and fellow SI99 recruits in cornerback Domani Jackson and pass rusher David Bailey.

Looking ahead to 2023, circling back on Nelson makes plenty of sense for Riley. In his decommitment post on social media Sunday night admitted what the rest of college football will soon realize -- the quarterback development and recent track record Riley has to his name is unmatched. It led Nelson to pick Riley's program halfway across the country and now his favorite head coach's office is less than 30 miles away. It could be a matter of when and not if with the biggest QB domino for the next cycle not named Arch Manning.  

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Evan Stewart Picks Texas A&M

Despite the highlight of toppling Alabama and becoming the first former Nick Saban assistant to do so, most would consider Texas A&M finishing fifth in the SEC West a disappointment. But in the latest example of the on-field product not affecting the recruiting potential of a program, A&M is rolling on the trail. The hottest team in the middle of its close are Fisher's Aggies, who landed the top offensive recruit in Texas Monday in Evan Stewart. 

The Frisco (Texas) Liberty star checks in as the nation's No. 12 overall recruit, second among slot receiver projections, as a truly explosive vertical threat with elite ball skills at the catch point to pair with razor sharp route-running from the inside or out. The win, over the program he was once committed to in Texas along with Alabama, LSU and Florida, is a critical one for Fisher individually and it addresses a major need for the class and immediate future of the roster. A&M was not explosive in the passing game in 2021, as Zach Calzada sat 94th nationally in yards per attempt, due in part to the lack of vertical talent at the wide receiver position. 

A&M's November won't soon be forgotten by the fan base and it should resonate as early as next fall. Bookended by landing the nation's top defensive recruit in Walter Nolen and Stewart, the Aggies also reeled in SI99 wide receiver Chris Marshall and picked up former Alabama running back commitment Le'Veon Moss. No contending program had a better month and plenty of top targets remain for Fisher and company down the home stretch.

Dykes Lands First Two TCU Recruits

When four SMU verbal commitments decommitted from the Mustangs on the same day, November 24, it was the first signal of Sonny Dykes' move to TCU making the rounds in the Lone Star State. Two more have since backed off of Lashlee's new program, but there is already a pair on board with Dykes at TCU. Both senior receiver Jordan Hudson and junior receiver Cordale Russell backed off SMU on the 24th and committed to TCU Monday. 

Hudson, of Garland (Texas) High School, is a particularly strong get within state lines, even if expected. The track and basketball athlete does his best work on Friday nights, fresh off of notching 22 touchdowns in 11 games in 2021. The complete wide receiver, who can win with speed and/or polish, averaged better than 100 yards per game throughout his high school career, with more than 50 touchdowns to his name along the way. 

Kelly Move Will Keep Top QB Committed to LSU

While reaction has been relatively mixed in the hours following Kelly's move from South Bend to Baton Rouge, including elite cornerback Eli Ricks telling a local podcast he will stay in the transfer portal, arguably the top Tiger priority in the recruiting class is likely to shut down the recruiting process. 

Walker Howard, the longtime LSU commitment who wanted to remain on board while doing due diligence, publicly endorsed Kelly's move. Ironically enough, it was Kelly and Notre Dame which served as the only other program to get him on campus (despite a push from Ole Miss) of late. Naturally, a relationship has been progressing between the two -- important given Howard's position as a top quarterback recruit, leader of the class and of course Louisiana roots. 

"Me and my Dad are fired up, that's for sure," Howard told the Daily Advertiser.  "The kind of guy he was, that's the kind of person my dad wanted me to be around. Coach Kelly, he's the best in the country, he's the most winning coach (in Notre Dame history).

"He's going to bring us to national championships."

That makes two coveted signal callers likely sticking with their programs though coaching changes in Howard and Florida pledge Nick Evers, who endorsed Billy Napier from the jump and is working to salvage the UF 2022 recruiting class as a staff is formed in Gainesville. 

"I love it," Evers told Sports Illustrated Sunday evening.