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Mind of Mike: Secrets and surprises

MIND OF MIKE: Jan. 7 | Dec. 28 |
Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmikeClick "target=newtarget="_blank">Dec. 19 Here to view this Link..
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In this weekly feature -- Inside the Mind of Mike -- the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week.
Deep Thoughts
As we head into crunch time with just a few weeks left until Signing Day, there are always a few things that I call "the worst-kept secrets in recruiting." However, these are offset by some major surprises. In the last week or so, I have seen my share of both and here's a breakdown of a few of them.
Worst-Kept Secrets
Muscle Shoals, Ala., defensive end Dee Liner had remained committed to Auburn for weeks after a very good source told me he was no longer committed and was all Alabama.
And Dee himself said he would likely stay committed to Auburn until Signing Day and then make his final decision. However, Liner did the right thing for everyone involved by de-committing publicly rather than wait and make a big flip on Feb. 6. Alabama is clearly the team to beat and it would be surprising if he ended up anyplace else.
Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee wide receiver Laquon Treadwell choosing Ole Miss would have been a stunner in the summer when he was all set to become a Michigan Wolverine. However, since he and his mom visited Oxford this has been pretty much a done deal, especially with mom not making a trip to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek cornerback Shaquille Wiggins talked about taking all five official visits and once had a list of about six or seven schools he was considering, despite being a Georgia commitment. While he followed through on one visit to South Carolina, hearing that he cancelled the rest is not a surprise, as it was pretty clear to most he was going to stick with being a Dawg.
Four-star wide receiver Tyler BoydClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link. from Clairton, Pa., committed to PittsburghClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link. at the Army All-American game and had hats from Michigan StateClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link. and West VirginiaClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link. on the table. However, Boyd spoke quite a bit about TennesseeClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link. all during the week and it was clear he was going to take a trip to Knoxville. The Jan. 25 visit to Tennessee was scheduled after three members of the Vols coaching staff, including Butch JonesClick Nico Falah from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco has considered himself a soft verbal commitment to USC and he was very interested in Washington, but there's no way he's going to be a Husky and should firm up with the Trojans this weekend, barring a stunner. Here to view this Link., stopped by to check on Boyd on Tuesday.
Wyomissing, Pa., linebacker Alex AnzaloneClick Biggest Surprises Here to view this Link. was packed and ready to head off to Notre DameClick Biggest Surprises Here to view this Link. last week but decided to enroll at FloridaClick Biggest Surprises Here to view this Link. instead because of Brian KellyClick Biggest Surprises Here to view this Link.'s interview with the Philadelphia Eagles.
While Notre Dame fans feel he was just looking for any excuse to flip to Florida, and I know for a fact he was a silent commitment to the Gators following his visit to Gainesville for the LSU game, Kelly and Bob Diaco had him firmly in the fold after his official visit following the Pitt game prior to news leaking of Kelly's interview.
Florida was always a threat for Anzalone, but he was 100 percent Irish before the final flip. So to get that text the Thursday morning before he was set to head to South Bend was indeed surprising. Monday morning quarterbacks will say this was all planned, but I can tell you for a fact it wasn't.
Speaking of the Philadelphia Eagles, Wednesday turned into a hectic day in Eugene after Coach Chip Kelly suddenly decided to take his talents to the NFL. This left the Ducks in an awkward position, considering National Signing Day is now less than three weeks away. It's a surprise only because Kelly withdrew his name from consideration a few weeks ago. Immediate responses, besides the obvious shock, have varied to this point.
However, the Ducks will likely struggle to keep their class intact. The priorities for the Ducks will be to keep the high-end core intact, which includes twins Tyree Robinson and Tyrell Robinson, plus five-star running back Thomas Tyner and four-star running back Dontre Wilson. All four are certain to receive a consistent flow of phone calls in the coming weeks.
The Robinson twins have already made it public that they will take a few visits, with USC and Washingtonthe most likely destinations.
For Wilson, Ohio State will get a visit next weekend, while Oklahoma State will get his final visit. Tyner seems to be the most secure of the four at this point, as he confirmed his commitment to Oregon when asked about Kelly's possible departure a few weeks ago. But now that his departure is reality, you can be sure that Tyner will be receiving pressure from many angles to at least take a few visits in the coming weeks. Oregon State would be the most likely to get a visit.
This one could probably go under Worst Kept Secrets and Biggest Surprises.
The nation's No. 1 player, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, will be visiting Florida this weekend, Ole Miss the following weekend and then possibly LSU after that. Florida is a surprise as the Gators came out of nowhere, LSU isn't surprising as the Tigers have been in the mix for awhile, but the visit to Ole Miss is the biggie.
I still think Nkemdiche's ultimate decision will be to head to Ole Miss to play with his brother.
Anything can happen on an official visit and taking a few other officials aside from Ole Miss before making a decision is interesting, but most have assumed he's been headed for Ole Miss for weeks. The bigger question appears to be whether he ends things on his Ole Miss visit or lets this play out until Feb. 6.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, wide receiver Shelton Gibson committed to West Virginia after months of speculation that he was headed to Ohio State. Good sources say that the Buckeyes simply couldn't take him for numerous reasons, which shouldn't matter to Mountaineers fans. They are getting a guy who can play slot or outside and be a huge factor in their exciting offense. But if you said he'd end up anyplace but Ohio State as recently as a few weeks ago, you're either a WVU fan or had some inside info.
Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab defensive end Tim Williams was supposed to commit to LSU long ago, but the Tigers essentially backed off for a few different reasons. After that I thought it would be Miami for sure so his commitment to Alabama following a great visit is a bit of a surprise.
However, whenever anyone commits to Alabama, I guess there shouldn't be too much shock since Nick Saban has finished first in recruiting three of the past four years and has won a couple of national titles.
Quick Hitters
DeSoto, Texas, running back Dontre Wilson is absolutely perfect for Chip Kelly's offense. The problem is that Chip Kelly will be in the NFL next season. So now watch out for Ohio State and Urban Meyer to make a tempting pitch.
This is the kind of kid that Texas should be pressing hard on and the Longhorns really need his speed despite being loaded at running back. Wilson will visit Ohio State and Oklahoma State. He's clearly not afraid to go far from home, so watch out for the Buckeyes.
Baylor has to be bummed that Irving, Texas, offensive guard Rami Hammad played in the Semper Fi Bowl a couple of weeks ago. Why? Because Hammad played so well he has earned double-digit offers since his performance and now Oklahoma is in the mix as well as Ole Miss, with LSU, Alabama and Texas showing a lot of interest as well.
He is still committed to Baylor and could stick with it, but it's unlikely all this attention would have come had he not been so good.
Not surprised that Texas A&M commitment Kenny Hill from Southlake (Texas) Carroll is taking some visits. He has visited Baylor and will visit Kansas State this weekend. With Johnny Manziel having at least two and possibly three years left under center with the Aggies, Hill has to be wondering when playing time will come. If he redshirts and Manziel leaves after his junior year, he would have three potential years as a starter, but you can bet Baylor and Kansas State are in his ear about competing right away.
Five-stars Carl Lawson from Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton and Montravius Adams from Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County visited Clemson last weekend but neither committed. Not that commitments were expected, but you had to know Clemson made a strong pitch.
This appears to be a battle between Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee and perhaps Ole Miss for Lawson, and Clemson and Georgia for Adams.
Others could still enter the fray for both and you can never count out Alabama for Adams with a big visit coming this weekend, or Auburn with his previous relationship with Rodney Garner.
If the Tigers don't come away with one of the two, it will be a disappointment. If they come away with both, it's clearly a home run. Right now they lead for Adams, according to a good source but Lawson is wide open even after a good visit and still remains a soft commitment to Auburn.
Huge visit this weekend for five-star Jalen Ramsey from Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy as he takes an official to USC, the team he has been committed to since July.
Lane Kiffin has reportedly hired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and you can bet he will be very active on campus for the weekend. Ramsey is essentially going to USC to meet the new defensive coordinator and there are plenty of defensive prospects on hand as well, so his first impression needs to be a good one.
Tennessee has become a true threat for Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry Jr. despite his long-time commitment to FSU. Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen has ties to Virginia (played his high school ball there), Tennessee was E.J.'s favorite school early and sources say there are some family concerns with some of the coaching changes in Tallahassee. If Levenberry takes that visit (and it's an if because he has cancelled other visits days before), then FSU fans will be sweating this one out.
Five-star linebacker Reuben Foster from Auburn, Ala., took an official visit to Washington last weekend and enjoyed it, but by all accounts this battle could come down to Georgia, Alabama and Auburn. Alabama will get the next crack at him this weekend, followed by Georgia the following weekend.
That will leave the final weekend before National Signing Day still open and Auburn is still trying to stay in the picture after a good visit with him this week. Currently, Foster seems to favor Alabama and Georgia, it appears, so his two upcoming official visit experiences should go a long way to helping him make his final decision.
Tray Matthews and Wiggins being Dawgs and friends with Foster will help Georgia, but if Auburn gets that last visit, watch out as there is a chance Foster could end up as one of many re-commitments this year.
Speaking of re-commitments, Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation running back Alex Collins could end up back at Miami if his official visit goes well this weekend. The Canes will do their best to try to lock him down before he can take his official visit to Arkansas the weekend of Jan. 25 because the Hawgs are a real threat with the running offense expected under Bret Bielema and the ties to the U with Randy Shannon and George McDonald on staff.
It appears to be a two-horse race right now barring a surprise. Where Alabama commitment Altee Tenpenny, who visits Arkansas this weekend, fits into the mix here is anyone's guess, but Arkansas really needs to sway Tenpenny away from the Tide or land Collins.
Huge visit this weekend for Laremy Tunsil from Lake City (Fla.) Columbia as he visits Georgia, the team considered to be the favorite for his services. He had a good visit to Alabama this past weekend and has trips to Ole Miss and Florida State as well, but this could be the trip that determines if he ends up in Tuscaloosa or Athens.
Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas will visit USC this weekend after a tremendous job by ace recruiter Tee Martin convincing him to keep the trip alive.
Thomas had originally planned to visit Miami this weekend, but will now take a mid-week visit to see the Canes sometime before LOI Day. Why is this not great news for Miami? Thomas' teammate Denver Kirkland will be at Miami on his official this weekend and the Canes wanted to two to spend their 48 hours together.
However, despite rumors that Alabama has taken the lead after his visit last weekend, I still think getting him out of state will be tough and it could be an FSU-Miami battle in the end.
Speaking of Miami, it looks like the NCAA will come down with sanctions in the spring or early summer, which leaves the Canes in limbo and will continue to hurt recruiting. When you have more commitments from New Jersey than Dade or Broward County at this stage, even with a smaller class, it's clear that the NCAA deal is having an impact.
If Miami strikes out on Kirkland, Thomas and Collins, the meltdown will be huge.
Don't sleep on UCLA when it comes to Eddie Vanderdoes. A lot of people are overlooking the Bruins because he already took his official visit and is focusing on USC, Notre Dame and Alabama, but one of the big reasons he de-committed was his high interest in the Bruins. Defensive line coach Angus McClure is pushing hard.
There are also some pro-UCLA folks at his school, according to sources. He could very well end up elsewhere, but those thinking UCLA is a heavy underdog here would be underestimating the Bruins.
I haven't had a chance to comment on the Kylie Fitts situation and USC, but to me the Redlands (Calif.) East Valley defensive end clearly got the shaft. Once USC landed safety Leon McQuay III, there wasn't room for Fitts to enroll early despite working hard during the summer to make sure he had all his classes set.
Being told at that point to delay enrollment to June just isn't right and anyone who has met or interacted with Fitts know what a high-character kid he is. Of course, this is a business and USC is in a situation where sanctions limit the Trojans' recruiting and roster scholarship numbers, but this was just wrong, especially since it was just a few days before he was set to arrive.
UCLA could benefit the most from this situation and it wouldn't shock me to see him commit this weekend on his visit. Notre Dame is in the mix as is Utah, and USC is still being considered, but if he re-commits to USC after what happened I'd be shocked. However, Fitts is likely more forgiving than me.
Washington could be the team to watch down the stretch in the Pac-12 to make a big run now that Kelly is gone from Oregon.
The Huskies are currently No. 11 in the country and No. 2 in the Pac-12, just ahead of UCLA, and it will be a battle between the two for that second slot behind the Trojans. Washington could end up landing Tyree Robinson and Tyrell Robinson as they seem unlikely to stick with Oregon and the Huskies seem to be involved with a lot of top guys down the stretch. If they pull some surprises, a top-10 class is possible, although I think the same can be said for the Bruins.
I don't think the Manti Te'o situation will affect Notre Dame recruiting at all, unless it's found out that the university itself was part of the hoax, which I seriously doubt.
Many recruits have said how much they admired and looked up to Te'o either simply watching him on TV or meeting him on visits, but now it appears his character will be questioned. However, unless evidence comes out that proves Notre Dame knew that Te'o was playing up this imaginary relationship, the Irish will continue to recruit at a high level.
N.C. State has a fight on its hands to keep wide receiver commit Kyrin Priester. New offers from Ohio State, Clemson and Mississippi began to stir the pot, and now Priester will likely take official visits to all three, beginning with the Tigers this weekend.
Clemson looks like the biggest hurdle for the Wolfpack, as Priester has long admired the program and the recent offer has definitely peaked his interest. If the Tigers push for a commitment during the official visit, don't be surprised at all if a flip happens.
Four-star safety Vonn Bell took his official visit to Ohio State this past weekend and came away impressed with his experience. However, by Monday night rumors began swirling that he had called Alabama and committed.
Bell has not spoken about these rumors since then, but contacts at his high school are denying this occurred. It is possible that he is waiting until his upcoming official visit to Alabama this weekend to truly make it official, or he may be looking to keep some drama until National Signing Day, which is when he was originally scheduled to announce.
Tennessee is hoping for the last shot at Bell and the Vols were once his favorite, but that was a long time ago. He's been a near Bama lock for some time.
Also still on the Texas A&M radar is wide receiver Sebastian Larue of Santa Monica, Calif. However, Larue's recruiting process has been chaotic recently and has the potential to stay that way until National Signing Day.
After his de-commitment from USC, it was assumed that Notre Dame was the frontrunner for his services, and while they still may be, the Fighting Irish definitely have some competition now. Larue will visit Texas A&M this weekend, Notre Dame next weekend and then has an open slot during the last weekend before National Signing Day that might go to Texas.
The Longhorns are a relatively new candidate, but they have made up a great deal of ground recently and he could be a key to an otherwise down class for Mack Brown and company.
It should definitely be noted that Coach Mark Stoops has hit the ground running at Kentucky. In January, the Wildcats have added three three-star recruits from Ohio, and two impressive JUCO additions, Javess Blue and Nate Willis, who should help the team immediately.
Stoops and Kentucky don't seem done, though, as they have a number of impressive players scheduled to take visits in the coming weeks, including Ryan Timmons, Marquez White, Marcus McWilson and Jarran Reed. The Wildcats are also firmly in the chase now for in-state four-star prospect Jason Hatcher, who is still committed to USC, but has opened the door to other schools. Usually at this time of the year, all eyes at Kentucky are on the basketball program, so credit has to be given to Stoops for getting people excited about Wildcats football in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day.
After such a great recruiting class last year and a great season on the field, what is happening with Stanford recruiting? Academic restrictions or not, there is no way the Cardinal should be ahead of only Colorado in the Pac-12 rankings at this stage of the game.
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