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10 Storylines to Track Ahead of National Signing Day 2022

First-year coaches making moves down the home stretch of the cycle

It goes down on Wednesday morning, 7:00 a.m. ET. 

Maybe even before that, considering international recruits and other time zones, is when the college football world will get clarity on who is heading where in the recruiting class of 2022. By day's end, virtually all of the top undecided talent will have sent in a National Letter of Intent to the school of choice. 

Sports Illustrated will execute a live blog, name drop some winners and losers and end the day with a fresh Top 25 class ranking. Before that point, there are areas where the focus will be drawn most as the next phase of collegiate roster construction kicks off.

10. Conerly Holding Off

Come Wednesday evening, 98 of the 99 SI99 recruits should be signed and locked into a National Letter of Intent with their school of choice. The one not expected to be through the process in that time is the top tackle still on the board in Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach's Josh Conerly. The senior is considering Washington, Oregon, USC, Michigan, Oklahoma and Miami, where he visited over the weekend. Conerly is expected to take the process beyond February and into March. In the spring, he will be able to take multiple official visits, similar to 2021's No. 2 prospect J.T. Tuimoloau before he enrolled at Ohio State in the summer. Conerly has already used official visits to Miami, Michigan and Oklahoma. 

9. The Clemson Close

The new-look Dabo Swinney staff, at least from a title perspective, should have an interesting home stretch this week. Clemson has been busy adding recruits to the haul since the early signing day with five January commitments, including four on the defensive side of the football. More defensive help could be on the way Wednesday, too, with former Auburn pass rusher pledge Caden Story and one-time Oregon Duck commit T.J. Dudley still on the board. Each took an official visit to Clemson in late January. 

CU is likely the favorite for each defender and has a shot at late-rising Texas running back talent Andrew Paul. The breakout prospect ran for more than 2,500 yards as a senior at Dallas (Texas) Parrish Episcopal, adding 44 touchdowns (41 rushing) in 13 games along the way. Georgia and Michigan also received January official visits and the national champions have some momentum early in the week.  

8. The Oklahoma Close

Beyond trying to stay in the game for Conerly, the top overall lineman in the class is up for grabs as well in Devon Campbell. The rival Texas Longhorns have long been the favorite but OU has been steady in the race down the home stretch and a win in that recruitment would be the best singular victory early in the Brent Venables tenure. Beyond the big offensive linemen, there is room to improve the defensive haul up front as well. Recent Oregon decommitment Gracen Halton has been a priority for the new staff and fellow interior prospect Ahmad Moten is on the board, too. 

The program signed 17 recruits in December and has already added a new one in former Clemson linebacker pledge Jaren Kanak, but holding onto the long-tenured commitment of in-state star Gentry Williams is key, too. Florida and others made a real run at the two-way star, who SI ranks at safety in the SI99, but a final trip to Norman appears to have eased things over between each side after the abrupt coaching change at the end of the 2021 season. A top 15 class on short notice would be perceived well in Norman and it's a relatively safe bet at this time. 

7. The Miami Close

Sensing a theme here? The fascination with first-year head coaches won't soon slow with signing day approaching. Oregon's close hit a strong level with Jahlil Florence jumping back into the fold but the coach he originally committed to in Mario Cristobal is setting up for similar with Miami. The Canes hit above expectation in December and have the chance to do even more damage late in the game with targets like Matthew McCoy, Dave Iuli, Jack Pyburn, Trevonte' Citizen, Ahmad Moten and others on the board. 

But Miami's close, perceptionally, is all about Shemar Stewart. The top uncommitted recruit in the land spent the very beginning and end of January's contact period with Hurricane coaches as the clear top priority for the team come Wednesday. Texas A&M has long held momentum and Jimbo Fisher brought most of the staff out to create what felt like a 'party' at Stewart's house before the Miami trip. Georgia got him on campus prior and rolled out that fresh-off-of-the-natty red carpet no other program could this month. A statement win over the SEC for Stewart would be the story of signing day should Stewart elect to stay home. We know the visit was tough to forget, even the parts that had nothing to do with Cristobal's program.

6. The Florida Close

Many of the same top Miami targets lie for Billy Napier and UF down the stretch, especially Citizen and Pyburn. As of this writing, each seems more likely to be a Gator than a Cane and Pyburn just moved up his announcement date a whole day. Caden Story, Caleb Douglas, DJ Allen and Arlis Boardingham are heavily in the mix for the program, so the numbers will bump in the next 48 hours. The momentum UF created with it's near last-minute push and official visit with Pyburn feels tangible at this point. Pairing late regional wins with the five January commitments already on board will be big for Napier. 

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But the elephant in the room with Florida's finish is its shot at the perception-changer among top targets remaining -- Harold Perkins. The New Orleans native was in Baton Rouge over the weekend and there is chief competition here in multiple directions. Texas A&M is still efforting their former pledge and there is smoke about options beyond the SEC as well. A commitment to Florida would mean the staff edged the program he was once committed to and another with the family pull. 

5. The LSU Close

Naturally there is even more overlap with Florida and LSU down the stretch with Napier's Louisiana roots, prime prospects available because of the coaching change in Baton Rouge and more. Not only are Perkins and Citizen among those each program is battling for, but then there is the top uncommitted safety recruit in Jacoby Mathews. LSU and Florida each got the former Tiger commitment on campus this month and it created confidence with each staff. 

But Brian Kelly's staff, as the transfer portal has also been evident, is set up for a strong close even with a miss or two along the way. The trio of Louisianans are in the mix as is New Iberia's Danny Lewis, the tight end who was with Kelly during a certain viral video Saturday. LSU won't strike out in the home state and there are Texans in the mix late, too, like Douglas and Jaelyn Davis-Robinson in addition to Perkins. 

4. Harold Perkins's Pick

Speaking of Perkins, if you can't tell by now, there won't be a decision with more curious craniums attached to the conversation. The star two-way Texan with NOLA roots picked A&M just 29 days ago, admitting it was his dream to commit on television and that he would still take multiple visits. Each weekend has featured a new trip, with Florida and LSU getting him on campus officially in the process. Miami was mentioned at one point and there is Jackson State chatter out there around his name. 

Even if he does what most are beginning to expect, and pick LSU, then it creates a perception domino among the top targets and where they ended up on signing day. A&M's top class is weakened, Florida's strong close by volume won't have that headliner, and so on. Anything against the grain would certainly be notable, as mentioned above, especially if it ends up in the FCS ranks like two SI99 recruits have already proven is possible. 

3. Jim Harbaugh Movement?

A regurgitated storyline from December has new, strong legs again here at the end of January and it's surrounding Harbaugh's next coaching stop. Ok, so not his eventual jump to the league, but when it may happen. Reports surfaced Monday regarding legitimate interest between Harbaugh and the Minnesota Vikings. And of course the Miami Dolphins vacancy will be linked to his name until a hire there is made. 

Michigan is involved with several undecided recruits, where an impact will obviously be felt, but the bigger picture would be surrounding the 22 recruits, including two top 30 defensive backs in Will Johnson and Keon Sabb, who have already signed with the program. Precedent tells us the NCAA and the institution each lie lenient in releasing prospects from the National Letter of Intent after a head coaching change. 13 class of 2022 signees have already enrolled at UM. 

2. Will Deion Do it Again?

There have been subtle hints, similar to what the Jackson State head coach did leading up to the December signing day, but there have also been blatant calls to attention for what may go down this week on the recruiting trail. Sanders even publicly called for the top uncommitted recruit in America, Shemar Stewart, to be considering JSU in addition to a trio of schools he is publicly deciding between in Texas A&M, Georgia and Miami.  

"It's time for change," Sanders Tweeted, and then deleted, towards Stewart. 

The Opa Locka (Fla.) Monsignor Pace standout isn't the only undecided prospect JSU could be involved with. We've heard even more consistent chatter around the program and former Texas A&M commitment Harold Perkins ahead of his final decision. Could another elite target have a surprise in store for the next 72 hours? Keep in mind that No. 1 recruit Travis Hunter picked JSU without an in-home visit and No. 2 slot receiver Kevin Coleman did without even visiting JSU's campus at all, so the pull of Sanders' program is real. 

1. The Race for the No. 1 Class

At the end of the Early Signing Period, when Texas A&M vaulted Alabama due to its late surge in adding SI99 recruits, there was a feeling of stability in the move relative to the prospects left on the board. Since, A&M lost the pledge of Perkins and Alabama now has multiple recruits left on the table ahead of Wednesday. Texas A&M does, too, with Stewart, Perkins and Mathews still unsigned, so it can still push either way in the end. 

No matter how it shakes out, it will be a closer-than-we-thought finish come Wednesday evening. Georgia's No. 3 class, by the way, is expected to finish strong on the trail as well, so the SEC stronghold within the top three of the class rankings won't have moved an inch from the end of last year into February.