Mark Lindquist

Recruiting Roundup

print article archives RSS

National Signing Day Primer

Sunday, January 29, 2017








*I’ll be using Rivals rankings unless otherwise noted. Let us dive in.


Who are the big uncommitted chess pieces left on the board?


All quiet on the Western Front at the top of the rankings, at least outside of Marvin Wilson (No. 2 overall prospect). LSU, Ohio State and Florida State are the three true swinging contenders for the 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive tackle out of Houston, with Oklahoma and South Florida (Wilson showing respect for Charlie Strong) on the outside looking in. Should LSU or FSU lock him down -- and Rivals recruiting director Mike Farrell sees a Tigers commitment coming down the pike -- it would give them four five-star blue-chippers (assuming their other top pledges hold). Ohio State is outpacing both the Tigers and Seminoles with a current six five-stars. Only Alabama, with seven as of Saturday night, houses more.


Looking past Wilson, Michigan had itself a flurry of December commitments and may well be in line for the biggest non-Wilson prize on National Signing Day in five-star DT Aubrey Solomon. Solomon was the target when Jim Harbaugh infamously went go-karting on the trail earlier this offseason. Alabama and Georgia are hoping to keep Solomon, a Georgia native, down south. Of the four other uncommitted prospects in Rivals top 50, two players -- WR DeVonta Smith (No. 42) and DE LaBryan Ray (No. 48) -- are being wooed heavily by the Tide. The other two are likely signees for programs out west. 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predicts that DT Jay Fufele (No. 37) will ultimately side with the Utes over the Trojans, while the same outlet foresees WR Joseph Lewis (No. 50) -- a Los Angeles native -- as a strong bet to sign with USC.  



When is all this action going to take place on Wednesday?

Signings and commitments will be coming in throughout the day, but there are two windows that will be must-watch TV (so far as these things go). About an hour into the workday on February 1, the first big boy will commit on ESPN in the aforementioned Aubrey Solomon. He will make his final choice public at 10:00 AM EST. Four-star S Todd Harris and four-star WR Jeff Thomas will also make their pledges at that time. That will serve as something of a primer for the day, but fans of teams pining for Marvin Wilson will have to be patient. Wilson won’t be making his announcement until 4 PM EST. Ditto for four-star WR and aforementioned USC-probable Joseph Lewis. The pledges of Wilson and Lewis will be aired on ESPN2.  


Is Alabama going to finish with the top recruiting class again? Is this just going to keep happening for the rest of eternity?


It probably will repeat for the rest of eternity. This cycle, only the Buckeyes truly have a shot at dethroning the perennial kings of the high school recruiting game. And they probably won’t. While Jim Harbaugh drew the big Twitter yucks with his go-kart escapades, Nick Saban has been helicoptering here and there this past week as he tries to seal a few more deals. Among the players he is hoping to feed into the Bama machine, four-star DE Jarez Parks. 21 of their 25 current commits are four- or five-star studs. That includes the No. 1 overall prospect of the 2017 cycle by both Rivals and Scout in RB Najee Harris (Trey Smith, a Tennessee pledge, sits atop the ESPN 300).


Who needs a big push to stabilize a disappointing class?


Florida holds Rivals’ No. 24 class and could be in trouble. Like trouble beyond Wednesday. They continue to leak talent to the NFL and they just aren’t bringing in equivalent recruits. This hasn’t shown on the field, yet, but it will as the team continues to hollow out. As Rotoworld’s Thor Nystrom points out, the talent that is currently heading to the NFL wasn’t even recruited on Jim McElwain’s watch. Players like Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are recruits from Will Muschamp’s relatively short-lived reign in Gainesville. Muschamp’s South Carolina team (No. 14), by the way, is outpacing Florida. So is Kentucky (No. 20). So is Nebraska (No. 23). You can expect reasonable movement in the final team ranks after National Signing Day, but even if Florida is able to bump into the top 20, we have seen a track record with McElwain over the past two-plus cycles which is not sustainable for SEC. Especially considering the continued ineptitude of the offense.


Have the recent off-field troubles at Oregon dented their recruiting class at all?


Strength and conditioning coach suspended, co-offensive coordinator set to be terminated. These would seem to be last minute wrenches, but nope, not so much. The answer to this, it would appear, is a resounding no. Taggart’s recruiting touch in Florida has carried with him over to the Pacific Northwest. Look no further than four-star athlete Bruce Judson, who committed to the Ducks on Friday. Judson calls Cocoa, Florida, home. He isn’t alone in taking flight from the Sunshine State to the Beaver State. Prior to Mark Helfrich’s firing, Oregon had exactly zero commitments from the richest football pipeline in the country. Since Taggart has come on board, different story. Oregon has pulled in five pledges from Florida natives under his watch. The program should be positively salivating at the thought of what Taggart might be able to do in a full recruiting cycle.


What’s a secret storyline to watch on Wednesday?


Whether Ed Orgeron can make up ground in the state of Louisiana. Under Les Miles, it would be sacrilege to suggest that the Tigers were not going to clean up the state. Just three of the top 15 prospects in Louisiana are currently on board with the Tigers. Orgeron and company do hold a pledge from five-star DT Tyler Shelvin  (the top player in the state), though, and it’s reasonable to assume they’re hiding a few more cards up their sleeve. 247Sports’ Crystal Ball sees both uncommitted four-star DT Phidarian Mathis and uncommitted four-star DB Todd Harris landing in Death Valley. The Tigers also have a shot at WR DeVonta Smith (No. 2 in the state), though they may lose out on him to Alabama.


Despite the much publicized death of the SEC this past season, the conference owns five of Rivals’ top 10 classes ahead of National Signing Day in Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (No. 3), LSU (No. 7), Texas A&M (No. 8) and Tennessee (No. 10). If, say, the expected commitments of Harris and Mathis come through, plus a Marvin Wilson declaration for the Tigers and a flip of Alabama LB commit Christopher Allen, the team could be brushing up against a top-three class. That takes a few things breaking right, but it’s not out of the question.   


Are there any quarterbacks available?


There are not. Sorry. There are literally no uncommitted quarterbacks remaining in the Rivals 250.  Stanford (Davis Mills), Clemson (Hunter Johnson), Georgia (Jake Fromm) and Texas A&M (Kellen Mond) all scored five-star gunslingers in this class. So no real quarterback drama. The same can be said for the running back position. Only Lakeland, Florida, back Anthony Davis (No. 247) has yet to make a pledge on Rivals’ big board.


In the past week, five-star LB Jacob Phillips flipped from Oklahoma to LSU and four-star DB Hamsah Nasirildeen went rogue on South Carolina in favor of Florida State. Any players to watch for National Signing Day flips?


We already touched on Alabama LB Harris. His is one name to watch, as he is from Louisiana and the Tiger pull can be strong. Beyond that, there’s an eerie stillness on the water. That isn’t to say that nobody will jump ship at the last minute, but as matters stand right now, 2017 is looking relatively sturdy. One name to watch -- four-star athlete Russ Yeast has been committed to Louisville since October, but Notre Dame is lurking and both Josh Helmholdt and Rob Cassidy of Rivals see the Irish as a legitimate threat to the Cardinals on this front. That would be a nice shot in the arm for a Notre Dame team which is on the verge of turning in a rock-solid class, with a star average of 3.5 on Rivals. That compares favorably with the likes of Michigan (3.65) and Oklahoma (3.63). Both of the latter two programs currently hold top-five classes. The Irish don’t have the same quantity of prospects (16 commits as compared to UM’s 26 and OU’s 27), but quality is still quality even without the quantity.   


Which conference is going to reign supreme at the end of the day?


The easy answer here is the SEC, which (as previously mentioned) houses five of the top 10 classes on Rivals. I’m more intrigued by a Big Ten which seems to be on the verge of actually being a fun thing to watch. Purdue unleashed under Jeff Brohm! Michigan and Ohio State treading into a recruiting arms race! P.J. Fleck just saying things! Wisconsin is also still there apparently! Calibraska! And on down the line. All good fun. Penn State predictably trails both UM and OSU in the team recruiting rankings, but they stand proudly at No. 11 and look to be carrying their hot-as-sun season finish onto the trail. They are followed up almost immediately by Maryland at No. 13. The Terps are riding high after picking up a pledge from four-star RB Anthony McFarland this week.


As for Nebraska, the so-called Calibraska movement has been a little overblown -- only three of the Cornhuskers’ 18 current commitments are actually from the state of California -- but it is an easily digestible sound bite and the California products that are heading out to the Midwest (WR’s Jamire Calvin and Keyshawn Johnson Jr., QB Tristan Gebbia) are all four-star names.


My alma mater of Iowa ranks just 53rd, but they have also managed to keep the commitment of five-star DL A.J. Epenesa since last February, which in and of itself feels like something of a miracle.    


Which conference is going to look like a dying fish at the end of National Signing Day?

The Big 12 should just be happy that Oklahoma is around. The Sooners hold a top-five class. And then, a desert for the conference. Oklahoma State doesn’t surface on Rivals until No. 32. The Cowboys are followed up in short order by Baylor (No. 34) and Texas (No. 36). Texas Tech (No. 40), West Virginia (No. 50), Kansas (No. 56) TCU (No. 59) and beyond are relative nonstarters, though let us all give props to the Jayhawks for hanging with those second-tier Big 12 squads. That is impressive indeed. Looping back up, let’s touch on Baylor and Texas, though. That the Bears have scrabbled together a recruiting class that actually ranks higher than the Longhorns’ at this juncture is remarkable given the fact that Baylor did their best to nuke their program from orbit last May. Texas was one of my favorite recruiting stories of the last cycle -- watching Charlie Strong on a Signing Day rampage was just a good time -- but I’m more dubious this go around. Tom Herman is no slouch in recruiting, but maybe we should acknowledge that Texas just isn’t viewed by an 18-year-old high school senior the way it might have been in the past. Eventually, if you want to keep the lights on, you have to win on the field. Even if you are Texas.  




Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.
Email :Mark Lindquist



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    NASCAR Fantasy: Bristol

    NASCAR Fantasy: Bristol
  •  
    Waiver Wire: Acquire Adames

    Waiver Wire: Acquire Adames
  •  
    Must Have: Keenan Allen

    Must Have: Keenan Allen
  •  
    Must Have: Kyle Rudolph

    Must Have: Kyle Rudolph
  •  
    MLB: Hold on Gordon

    MLB: Hold on Gordon
  •  
    Must Have: Chris Hogan

    Must Have: Chris Hogan
  •  
    Must Have: Rex Burkhead

    Must Have: Rex Burkhead
  •  
    Must Have: Marvin Jones

    Must Have: Marvin Jones