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Mind of Mike: Reflections on a busy National Signing Day

Keanu Koht
Keanu Koht (Rivals.com)

The Mind of Mike is a dangerous place. Here are National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thoughts on the first day of the Early Signing Period.

MORE: Winners and losers from National Signing Day | Analyzing the team rankings | How every team announced commits on Twitter

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CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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Plenty of recent rumors had been floating about a possible flip from LSU to Alabama for three-star defensive end Keanu Koht. And after those rumors got even hotter Wednesday morning, it became reality, as Koht spurned the Tigers and signed with the Tide. At first it looked as though Florida may be the landing spot for a possible flip, but coach Nick Saban applied the pressure late and pulled off the recruiting victory.

LSU fans won’t be happy with this, but Koht has been set for a big rankings bump since his senior film came out a few weeks back. He’s an outstanding pass rusher and part of what is looking like an amazing class.

Alabama also stole slot receiver JoJo Earle away from LSU in what was a bit of a surprise. At first I thought Earle would delay his signing and perhaps look at Texas, but Alabama came on strong and landed one of the most electric players in the country. Alabama could also land three-star offensive lineman Jaeden Roberts, who decommitted from Auburn earlier.

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LSU had some recruiting losses early on but responded by flipping two Mississippi State commits, four-star in-state wide receiver Malik Nabers and JUCO three-star linebacker Navonteque Strong. Both seemed to be strong commits to the Bulldogs, but the LSU staff had been working behind the scenes to pull this off. They also grabbed four-star cornerback Damarius McGhee, who de-committed from Tennessee in late November, and landed running back Armoni Goodwin, who is a four-star who had been committed to Auburn before Gus Malzahn was fired.

And then the biggest prize of the day for LSU was the No. 1 recruit in the class, Maason Smith. The Tigers were the favorite for quite some time, but the staff still did an amazing job keeping Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Miami at bay for the in-state five-star. Despite the loss of Koht and Earle to rival Alabama, it was a solid day overall for Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers. Smith was a must keep. Had the Tigers lost him, this class would have suffered in national perception in a big way, and UGA made it close.

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After three-star wide receiver Joseph Manjack decommitted from Washington State in early December, the race started to get his signature. USC won that race, holding off Wisconsin, Utah, Houston, Colorado and others. It was a nice start to the day for the Trojans even though he’s a lower-rated three-star. He’s tall, very good with the ball in his hands and fluid for a bigger kid.

USC also picked up one of the top remaining quarterbacks in the country when four-star Jaxson Dart picked the Trojans over UCLA, Arizona State and BYU. USC emerged as the clear favorite after quarterback Jake Garcia decommitted, but both the Trojans and Dart were extremely serious about their interest, even if Garcia had stayed in Los Angeles. USC desperately needed quarterback depth on its roster and Dart gives the Trojans a dynamic addition. He had a stellar senior season and will complement four-star Miller Moss - who didn’t get to play his senior year in California - quite well. Clay Helton is excited about the way the two want to compete against each other.

And USC is still thought to be the team to beat for five-star defensive end Korey Foreman, who will announce Jan. 2.

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Jake Garcia
Jake Garcia (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Speaking of Garcia, he finally committed to Miami after a confusing Instagram Live situation. His coach was talking about each kid and called Garcia and said he was going to Miami. Garcia, stunned, quickly said his real decision would be made in his next video, and 15 minutes later he committed to Miami and signed. He’s a great get for Miami and it’s unfortunate for a talented four-star quarterback that he didn’t get his moment in the sun after moving cross country to play his senior season when California shut down. Miami is getting a good one in the former USC commit.


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Maryland pulled off a huge recruiting victory with the flip of Rivals100 linebacker Branden Jennings, who was committed to Michigan. The Florida backer, who at first was committed to Florida State, only strengthens coach Michael Locksley’s reputation as a top-level recruiter. Michigan then suffered another big blow later in the morning with the loss of four-star defensive end Quintin Somerville to UCLA. Somerville had been committed to Michigan since June. The Wolverines lost two key pieces of their defensive class in an hour.

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Michigan did right the ship a bit by grabbing in-state four-star running back Donovan Edwards, who committed to the Wolverines over Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame, Alabama and Penn State. Michigan had struggled with top-level in-state talent in recent years, so grabbing Edwards helps with that while also easing the pain of losing a couple of top recruits earlier.

Later in the day the Wolverines also kept Rivals100 wide receiver Xavier Worthy in the fold, which was a challenge with Alabama pushing very hard for a flip. They also kept Florida athlete Jaydon Hood in the class, which was unexpected and a huge deal as Hood was not planning on signing earlier in the day. Overall, I’d take Edwards, Worthy and Hood over the losses. Worthy could be a superstar in the Big Ten.

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Notre Dame received big news early when four-star linebacker Prince Kollie sent in his signed letter of intent. While he had been committed to the Irish since early August, several schools, including Vanderbilt and Louisville, were pushing for a flip or to have him wait until February. Everything became even tougher for Notre Dame when defensive coordinator Clark Lea made the move to Vanderbilt a couple of days ago. Despite all of this, the Irish staff did a great job keeping Kollie in the fold, and he’s a key to this class.

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Four-star linebacker Xavian Sorey was one of the top prizes of the day. And that prize went to Georgia, which held off Alabama and Florida. Sorey had taken visits to all three, with each being considered the leader at different times. He was a huge priority for the Bulldogs, so beating out the Tide and Gators was an important victory for coach Kirby Smart, especially with the loss of Smith and Edwards.

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Savion Byrd
Savion Byrd (Sam Spiegelman)

Rivals250 offensive tackle Savion Byrd was thought to be leaning toward Oklahoma, LSU and SMU at different times, but on Wednesday he signed with the Sooners. It initially seemed as though he would stay in-state, so the Oklahoma staff did a fantastic job getting him up to Norman. That's the good news, but the bad news is that five-star offensive tackle Tristan Leigh has decided not to sign this week and will sign in February after being considered an Oklahoma lean for a long time. LSU, and especially Florida, are in his head. And fellow five-star offensive lineman Bryce Foster is trending heavily toward Texas A&M now. So Byrd has become a huge get.

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Three-star defensive end George Wilson, who had recently decommitted from South Carolina, trimmed his list of top schools down to Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn before he committed to the Seminoles on Wednesday. Auburn seemed to be the leader, but the firing of Gus Malzahn helped Florida State grab Wilson, and he could have the highest ceiling in the entire FSU class.

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Would Deion Sanders make a splash during his first signing day as head coach at Jackson State? That was answered late Wednesday morning when he was able to flip four-star JUCO defensive back De’Jahn Warren from Georgia. While obviously surprising, it also shows that Sanders can’t be overlooked as a recruiter, especially when dealing with defensive back recruits.

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There are a few late bloomers that explode onto the scene each recruiting season. One this year was three-star wide receiver Jimmy Horn, who recently picked up offers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ole Miss. However, he surprised many by staying in state and committing to South Florida. Overall, it was a successful day for the Bulls, and they proved that they still have the ability to make their mark in the Sunshine State. Jeff Scott is adding some key talent to the program.

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Texas added a nice piece to its defensive line with three-star defensive end Barryn Sorrell, who committed to the Longhorns over Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Virginia. He was able to take a couple visits to Austin, which helped strengthen his ties to the program and coaching staff. He was once committed to Northwestern, but once the bigger offers came in, that was that. Texas didn’t close that strong, but this is a solid win.

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Auburn did a nice job getting the signature of three-star defensive end Ian Mathews, considering the Tigers currently don’t have a head coach. This was a battle between the Tigers and Georgia Tech, and despite the lack of a coach in Auburn, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t pull off the recruiting victory. However, based on the way Auburn was set to close a week ago, this 2021 class has been a disaster.

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While it was expected, it does not make it any less important that Purdue was able to reel in four-star linebacker Yanni Karlaftis, the younger brother of recent star George Karlaftis. The Purdue coaching staff didn’t take anything for granted and still recruited Karlaftis just as hard as any of its other targets. There was some talk of him making his own way in the Big Ten, so Purdue closed very well on this one. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most important legacy recruits in the country.

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There could be an interesting game of running back Twister going on. Notre Dame commit Logan Diggs announced that he will not be signing until February. This is mainly because LSU, his home-state school, recently offered. At the same time, Notre Dame has recently offered running back Audric Estime, who is still committed to Michigan State. The belief has been that if Estime received a Notre Dame offer he would flip.

So is the likely scenario right now that Diggs flips to LSU, Estime flips to Notre Dame and Michigan State is looking for a different running back to sign in February? Yep, that looks how this is going to play out.

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Tunmise Adeleye
Tunmise Adeleye (Rivals.com)

Texas A&M is trending for defensive end Elijah Jeudy, who will announce Jan. 2. The Aggies, who are also in the mix for Bryce Foster, landed a big fish when five-star defensive end Tunmise Adeleye was one of the last to announce on Wednesday. The Texas native chose Texas A&M over Alabama and Florida, and it looks like Jimbo Fisher is going to close very strongly.

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As had been rumored, Minnesota four-star cornerback commit Avante Dickerson announced during the morning that he was delaying signing. This is a blow to the Gophers and great news for Nebraska, which has put the full-court press on the in-state product in recent weeks. Dickerson’s inability to visit the Gophers’ campus has not helped their efforts, and Dickerson hails from Omaha. I think the Huskers will win this one in the end.

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Kentucky pulled off a nice surprise with the signing of three-star wide receiver Devonte Ross, who had been committed to Marshall. The Wildcats quietly made him a priority, especially after his ongoing impressive senior season, and were able to pull him away from the Herd even with just announcing a new offensive coordinator in Liam Coen. Ross could be a sleeper in this class, for sure.

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Three-star offensive lineman Makylan Pounders committed to Ole Miss about a week ago, but that didn’t last, as he surprisingly flipped to Memphis on Wednesday. He had also been committed to Mississippi State before he committed to the Rebels. This is a huge get for head coach Ryan Silverfield in Mississippi for the big man, and it’s odd Pounders left the state after being committed to each of the big in-state schools.

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After flipping athlete Elijah Howard from Tennessee on Tuesday night, Virginia Tech pulled off another flip on Wednesday with three-star defensive tackle Desmond Mamudi choosing the Hokies over South Florida. The Hokies offered late, but a virtual visit a couple of weeks ago was enough for the Florida defensive tackle to change his mind. These aren’t four-star kids, but they are both talented players who can fit key needs for Justin Fuente.

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Arkansas’ class seemed pretty set until it pulled what felt like a surprise by signing JUCO defensive tackle Jalen Williams, who also had offers from Florida State, Georgia, Auburn and others. Despite a short JUCO season, Williams impressed enough to earn All-American honors this fall, and he is arguably the best defensive player in this class for Sam Pittman. Williams is clearly the most college-ready.

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Three-star wide receiver Joshua Moore had previously been committed to USC and Stanford, but after reopening his process in early December and picking up a new offer from UCLA, the two sides quickly built a strong relationship that led to his commitment to the Bruins. It was a nice late pickup for Chip Kelly and his staff. ATH/DB Devin Kirkwood was thought to be a lock for USC at the beginning of the day, but he ended up with UCLA in the end. The Bruins also landed four-star DL Quintin Somerville from Michigan for a very good day overall.

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MJ Daniels
MJ Daniels (Rivals.com)

Mississippi State also lost in-state, three-star cornerback MJ Daniels to Ole Miss. When Daniels committed to the Bulldogs it was Texas A&M who finished second, but since that time coach Lane Kiffin and his staff were able to make up a ton of ground and pick up his signature Wednesday.

The Bulldogs did rebound by flipping three-star offensive lineman Canon Boone from Virginia Tech and also landed recently decommitted three-star athlete Simeon Price. Boone had committed to the Hokies soon after his offer late in the summer but had been talking to the Mississippi State staff throughout the fall, while Price recently parted ways with South Carolina and was made a late priority by the Bulldogs.

Coach Mike Leach also needed more elite wide receiver talent in his Air Raid offense, so adding four-star Antonio Harmon was a huge victory. Harmon chose the Bulldogs over Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia and Texas.

But when it comes down to the battle of Ole Miss versus Mississippi State, it is Kiffin who gets the win. He added some key pieces in addition to the recent flips of quarterback Luke Altmyer (Florida State) and tight end Hudson Wolfe (Tennessee). Ole Miss also beat out many for defensive back Markevious Brown and should land four-star wide receiver Malik McClain from IMG on Friday. The losses to Mississippi State hurt the Bulldogs enough to give Ole Miss the win here.

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Wide receiver Quay Davis, who has been committed to SMU, Texas and USC so far, will delay his decision until February and it’s unclear what schools could be in the mix because of academic concerns. Oklahoma State could be one to watch here.

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Linebacker Terrence Lewis, a former Tennessee commitment, will announce on Jan. 2 and it seems like Tennessee or Maryland are the choices unless someone else jumps in. The Vols had a rough day overall as defensive end Dylan Brooks decided to delay his signing and was rumored to be flipping to Auburn before Gus Malzahn was fired.

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Rivals100 offensive lineman Drew Kendall will sign Friday and he will choose between Boston College, Duke and Stanford, with the Eagles and the Cardinal the leaders. There were rumors he signed with Stanford, but Kendall denied those rumors.

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Defensive end George Rooks will be visiting Penn State on Thursday (if the Northeastern blizzard allows), and he is expected to commit and sign with the Nittany Lions over Boston College.