SANTA ANA, Calif. -- With the early signing period less than a month away, most top recruits are already verbally committed to their school of choice.
All that remains is putting pen to paper to lock in their college decisions when the window opens on December 15. However, there's still a select group of elite players unattached and on the market.
One of those players is SI99 recruit David Bailey from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High School. Playing for the nation's No. 1 high school program, Bailey was has attracted major attention from numerous football programs up and down the West Coast.
The front-seven standout has taken four of his five official visits and detailed what he saw at each of those schools as he eyes a commitment during the early signing period.
"My most recent official trip was USC," Bailey said. "I was hesitant on taking that cause I had just been there so many times kind of just here and there little trips. They’re persistent on me going there and kind of seeing the program as a whole. I was able to gain a deeper insight into the program and what Donte [Williams] has, his vision for them. It was a good trip."
The Monarchs have sent numerous players to one of the Pac-12's premier brands, including players like linebacker Raesjon Davis, as well as wide receivers Kyron Ware-Hudson and Bru McCoy in recent years.
The other Los Angeles school, UCLA, entered the picture late, but Chip Kelly still has the Bruins in good standing with the 6'3", 225-pound linebacker.
"UCLA, I think the main thing that stuck out was kind of the resources and I had a great talk with Coach Kelly," Bailey said. "He just talked about how he hopes that UCLA is the greatest fit for me and I attend the university, but overall his goal is just to kind of put the facts on the table and it’s just up to me to decide whether if that place is fit for me."
UCLA took a lot of the country by surprise early in the with a win over LSU, and now sits at 7-4 with one game remaining in the regular season.
Relationships carry a lot of weight in recruiting, which could be part of what has Justin Wilcox and the Cal Bears in contention for a high-profile player the program doesn't typically have a shot with.
"Cal was a great experience, that was my first official visit," he said. "They welcomed me with open arms. They did a great job of showing me the campus and just showing me the program."
Bailey stayed in the Bay Area to complete his slew of four official visits, taking a trip to nearby Stanford in Palo Alto. The Cardinal haven't had the most on-field success in recent years, but boast one of the most marketable brands in college athletics and have a proven track record of NFL development.
"Stanford, that was also a great trip too. I had a great talk with all the academic advisors, a lot of the players and the alumni too," he said. "Overall, it was a great experience on all those trips and there’s obviously no bad choice really it’s just what choice fits me best."
With one official visit remaining, one school sounds like it has the best shot to get the final trip. However, a bit of uncertainty at one of his other suitors could shake things up.
"I’m most likely gonna do Oregon as my last one," Bailey said. "And I’ll see obviously if USC gets a new head coach -- I’ll be eligible for another official visit, but honestly, probably Oregon and then after that I’m just gonna cut it off and just kind of decide from there."
Bailey said he plans on taking that visit when the Ducks round out the regular season against Oregon State on Saturday. With a decision coming in less than a month, a select group of schools have turned up the heat in their pursuit of the elite prep talent.
“It’s always been USC and Stanford and UCLA kind of got into the mix actually at the end," Bailey said of the schools he's hearing from the most. "I didn’t ever think I was gonna go there [UCLA], but it kind of like entered into the mix.
"Mainly USC and Stanford just cause USC -- they were the first people to ever start talking to me and recruiting me. And then Stanford’s always been a dream school. My mom always wanted me to go there. My whole family just loves that school and the weight of the degree that it brings. Those are the main schools and then UCLA is not far from behind and then Oregon, I’m building up a relationship with them right now.”
What leads Bailey to put the dream school tag on Stanford?
"It’s kind of like when I was little just kind of a cliché dream school like, ‘I wanna go to Stanford or Ivy league or something.' But overall, when you really get to know the coaching staff and the plan that they have for the players it’s a great school. They play pretty good football so I like that. The relationship I’ve built with Coach (David) Shaw and Coach (Lance) Anderson has been pretty strong."
When it comes time for Bailey to make his commitment, he's going to placing heavy importance on getting him ready for the next level as well as what opportunities a school has for him outside of football.
Bailey is ranked as the nation's No. 57 overall recruit and No. 4 off-ball linebacker in the class of 2022.