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Analyst Roundtable: NSD flips, surprises, more

The Rivals analyst roundtable returns as our team of experts looks ahead to National Signing Day.

NSD PREVIEWS: ACC | Pac-12 | Big 12

1. Who is your No. 1 National Signing Day flip candidate?

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Russ West

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“The guys I’ve expected to flip keep decommitting in preparation for Signing Day. It seemed as though Mike Harley would flip from West Virginia to Miami but broke his pledge to WVU weeks ago. It also seemed like Orlando-based Nicholas Smith would flip from NC State to Florida, but he went ahead and called things off with the Wolfpack before deciding on a new school. It leaves me with LSU commit Neil Farrell, whom I think will land at Florida State.” - Southeast analyst Rob Cassidy

“For me it’s got to be Russ Yeast who has been committed to Kentucky and Louisville so far and I think he could flip to Notre Dame on Signing Day. The Irish are making a strong push and he would provide much needed speed for them in this class. It won’t be easy to shake him away from Louisville, and he could stick, but without a ton of flip candidates out there I’ll go with him.” - National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell

“There are some in other regions that I could put here but Penn State and Georgia fans should keep an eye on Mark Webb. The Rivals250 wide receiver committed to Georgia during the season and is extremely close with Dawgs running back commit D’Andre Swift but Penn State hasn’t stopped recruiting Webb. The Nittany Lions are hosting Webb this weekend and it seems like the conversations the Penn State staff has been having with Webb and his family could be heating up.” - Mid-Atlantic analyst Adam Friedman

“I still believe Arizona State is a significant player for four-star USC commit Bubba Bolden but there's no telling if he will flip to the Sun Devils at this point and my guess is that he probably will end up with the Trojans. Still, the four-star safety from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman has been high on ASU for a long time and his teammate and close friend Alex Perry is going to play there. So many rumors came out around the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that he was going to pick the Sun Devils, only to select USC on national TV. I won't be surprised at all if Bolden winds up at USC but I wouldn't be stunned one bit if a late flip to ASU could happen.” - National recruiting analyst Adam Gorney

“In the Midwest I will be watching four-star athlete Russ Yeast closely. After decommitting from Kentucky, his father's alma mater, last spring, he made a commitment to Louisville in October and was solid with that pledge until just a couple weeks ago when home-state Notre Dame came calling. Now, Yeast seems torn and is contemplating that decision. He may not wait until Signing Day to decide, but a flip to the Irish is very possible.” - Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt

“In Texas, my pick is Donovan Stiner. The high three-star safety is committed to Houston, but Florida came calling this week with an offer. He immediately was on board to take an official visit and would be a nice fit with the type of players the Gators look to stock its secondary with. Fellow Texas product Charleston Rambo also took a last-minute official visit to Gainesville as well, but I have less reason to think that his commitment to Oklahoma is in more doubt than Stiner’s is to Houston.” - Texas analyst Nick Krueger

“With so many of the top players in the country already committed there is bound to be some surprise flips that catch us off guard. The biggest one in my region happened last week, when Jacob Phillips flipped to LSU from Oklahoma. Four-star athlete Jamyest Williams is making a final decision and I think he sticks with South Carolina, so making a pick after that is tough. I guess my pick will be for three-star Neil Farrell, who I see flipping from LSU to Florida State.” - Southeast analyst Woody Wommack

2. Which assistant coach consistently impresses you on the recruiting trail?

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USA Today Sports

“Alabama assistant turned Oregon coordinator Mario Cristobal is my guy because of his wizardry in my region. We’ll test that in the years to come, however. It’s much easier to recruit to Alabama than it is to Oregon, so we’ll soon see how much credit we owe the salesman as opposed to how much credit we owe the product he was selling.” - Cassidy

Zach Smith at Ohio State always impresses me. He’s been one of our top 25 recruiters for a few years now and this year in addition to helping land Jaylen Harris and being the lead man on Trevon Grimes, he also helped pull Wyatt Davis and Haskell Garrett and Tate Martell from the west coast. Kids continue to rave about him as a recruiter.” - Farrell

“Again, there are so many assistant coaches out there that work ridiculously hard and have a ton of success. Sticking to my region, it’s hard not to be impressed by what Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has done this season. He is the lead recruiter for 10 of Maryland 29 commitments, four of their six four-star commitments, and their three highest rated commitments. Abdul-Rahim had a huge hand in landing Anthony McFarland’s commitment after he was seen by many to be a Miami lean, one of the biggest upsets in this recruiting cycle. Right now he is locked in a tough battle with Penn State for the commitment of four-star defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields, who will announce his decision on Signing Day.” - Friedman

Demetrice Martin at UCLA continues to do a fabulous job landing elite talent and this could be one of his better groups to date. Reeling in five-star Darnay Holmes was more complicated than many think because USC and Ohio State were legitimate contenders. Holmes could help in all three phases. Then Martin landed four-star cornerback Elijah Gates this past week and Gates has the ability to contribute in a big way as well. Other defensive back commits Jaylan Shaw and Quentin Lake are no slouches, either. It seems every year "Meat" is involved with a lot of top kids and he lands a lot of them. Nebraska assistant coach Donte Williams is a close second because he has the trust of many of California's top players and that should help the Huskers close out this class and in 2018 and beyond.” - Gorney

“The guy I hear a lot of positive feedback about in the Midwest is Joe Rudolph, Wisconsin's offensive coordinator. He has been recruiting the region for awhile with both Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, and really seems to connect with kids. Many of these recruits have dozens of coaches pitching them, and Rudolph comes through more than most as an assistant whom they trust and feel personally connected with.” - Helmholdt

“The coach that instantly stands out in my mind is Curtis Luper going back to his time at Auburn. Now that he’s at TCU, he has been proactive about closing out this class with a couple more strong commits in the state and looking like he’s having a blast doing so when I look at his Twitter feed. Otherwise, I would say that Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner has done a strong job identifying the guys he’s wanted, got them in his class early and kept them from wanting to go elsewhere.” - Nick Krueger

“This is another tough one because down here in the Southeast there are several coaches known for their recruiting ability. The one I would probably single out is Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott. Going back several years he has played a major part in landing many of the stars who helped the Tigers win the National Championship earlier this month. He has a great rapport and always seems to close on the guys he wants.” -Wommack

3.  When you look at the current team rankings, which class surprises you either in a good or bad way?

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“Say what you want about different recruiting strategies or a new regime or a new era or whatever. No matter what, the only SEC school in the country’s best state for high school talent should always have a top 10 class. Florida has so much working in its favor that its hard to fathom its shortage of truly elite prospects. It’s borderline baffling.” - Cassidy

“Texas A&M’s class is a pleasant surprise and fills a ton of needs. The Aggies' season didn’t finish that well after yet another great start, but recruiting never took a hit. I think this class could go a long way towards competing for a national title.” - Farrell

“Maryland and South Carolina are the only two teams in the top 15 of the team rankings that had a losing record last season. That’s very impressive for two new coaching staffs that didn’t have a lot of momentum at the end of this past season having lost their bowl games. I expected Tom Herman to have an immediate impact on the Texas recruiting class but that hasn’t happened yet and Florida only has 14 commitments in this class after losing some players to decommitments.” - Friedman

“Florida at No. 11 in the SEC shocks me because the Gators made it to the conference championship game again this year and things seem to be looking up in Gainesville, at least on the defensive side of the ball. Plus, Florida has routinely landed top classes in the Rivals.com era so that comes as a surprise. But the biggest one is Ole Miss. The Rebels are dead last in the SEC team recruiting rankings and have only one four-star pledge in their class of 14 commits. The SEC West is so especially cutthroat that a slip like this in only one recruiting cycle could be catastrophic. It seems so long ago that Ole Miss landed Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil all in the same recruiting class.” - Gorney

“Mississippi and how quickly the Rebels have fallen from the top tier of recruiting teams to now being dead last in the SEC and outside of the top 60 nationally is really glaring. That program had such a strong recruiting vibe around it just two years ago. Kids were attracted to their style of play and Oxford was a place kids wanted to play. But, Ole Miss has just one four-star commit so far in 2017 and the recruiting wheels seem to have come off.” - Helmholdt

“The easy answer is Baylor as the Bears sit at No. 33 in the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings after having just one commit at the end of the season. They’ve already been able to flip a few players, identify some that hadn’t been heavily recruited elsewhere and get up over 21 commitments in a very short period of time. Considering the state of this program following the events of the spring, to see new head coach Matt Rhule’s approach to building a staff that could pull this class together was really an impressive accomplishment.” - Nick Krueger

“I'm actually surprised with the success Texas A&M has had, especially considering where they sit in the current team rankings. The Aggies are firmly inside the top 10 and, if they can land a few more names down the stretch, they might be able to stay there as well. With they way the year ended for the Aggies on the field I thought there might be some attrition, but that hasn't been the case and overall I think they have a strong class.” -Wommack

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