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Mind of Mike: Thoughts from a busy National Signing Day

The Mind of Mike is a scary place, especially on National Signing Day. Here are his thoughts on how the first day of the Early Signing Period went down.

MORE: What's left to watch for in Early Signing Period | Biggest surprises | Breaking down team rankings | How every Power Five school announced signings | NSD blog | Rivals studio show

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

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

The first big flip of the morning came from Rivals250 DB Malcolm Greene. The LSU commit had been rumored to have been looking around, with Clemson being his likely landing spot, so the flip wasn’t necessarily a surprise. However, it further strengthened an already elite recruiting class for Dabo Swinney. Greene's friendship with former high school teammate and current Tiger K’Von Wallace definitely helped Clemson. The Clemson class is an embarrassment of riches.

A post-season coaching change can open the door for other programs to swoop in and grab a recruit late. That was the situation with three-star DE Jah Joyner, who committed to Minnesota this morning after decommitting from Boston College. A long, athletic end with plenty of potential, Joyner is a quality late addition for coach PJ Fleck and the Golden Gophers.

Another nice early morning three-star pickup came from Ole Miss when new coach Lane Kiffin was able to grab huge, promising offensive lineman Tobias Braun out of of Connecticut. Braun had taken recent official visits to both Ole Miss and Florida State. While the Rebels were considered the favorite coming into the day, Braun is still a very nice building block for their future offensive line.

The battle for four-star LB Kaden Johnson came down to a Big Ten duel between Wisconsin and Nebraska. The winner turned out to be the Badgers, who grabbed the highest-ranked, uncommitted prospect in the Midwest coming into the day. The Cornhuskers were thought to be the leader for the past several months, while in-state Minnesota was never able to get any momentum in his recruitment. Johnson is a long, athletic linebacker who has the potential to be an elite pass rusher at the next level. It oddly appeared as if Nebraska backed off Johnson for whatever reason and the Badgers were more than happy to scoop him up.

Javian Hester
Javian Hester (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

New Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz worked overtime to re-confirm the commitment of three-star WR Javian Hester. UCLA had become a major player, and while he never fully decommitted, there were questions if Hester would actually end up in Columbia. Keeping things relatively quiet over the last couple of weeks, he announced that he would stick with the Tigers, which adds a nice offensive weapon to the Tigers’ class. For new coaches like Drinkwitz it’s more about keeping kids in the fold with such a short time period to acclimate. I like this keep for Mizzou.

Missouri also unexpectedly lost two three-star recruits to Arkansas today. There were little to no rumblings regarding RB Dominique Johnson looking elsewhere, while OL Ray Curry just took an official visit to Fayetteville over the weekend and has a good relationship with coach Barry Odom, who joined the Razorbacks staff after leaving Missouri. This was a solid job by the Razorbacks and new coach Sam Pittman to swoop in silently and pluck two prospects from a conference rival.

Another very notable addition to the Arkansas recruiting class was four-star DB Myles Slusher, who had been committed to Oregon since late April. However, few people believed that he would actually sign with the Ducks today. Arkansas and Nebraska emerged as the two favorites, with the Razorbacks, who are only about two hours from his home, grabbing the commitment.

Rivals250 TE Jeremiah Pegues had recently been trending to Auburn, so while it was not a huge surprise that he signed with the Tigers this morning, it is still an important victory for the coaching staff to hold off both Ole Miss and Alabama. A late push from Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss was not enough to keep the four-star close to home.

Auburn continued its impressive morning with the addition of three-star LB Desmond Tisdol. After claiming that Tennessee was his leader only a couple of weeks ago, the Tigers suddenly made the Georgia linebacker a priority again. Tisdol's relationship with the coaching staff is what put Auburn over the top at the end.

Auburn started off the afternoon with another recruiting victory, flipping three-star LB Romello Height from Miami. Publicly, Height seemed to be all all-in with the Canes, even announcing that he was “1000% with The U” only six days ago, but secretly he had taken multiple visits to Auburn, including one this past weekend. So, when it was time to make a final decision, he pulled a surprise by committing to the Tigers. Auburn had a nice day overall.

Johnny Wilson
Johnny Wilson (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Three-star ATH Jimmy Holiday had been committed to TCU since early August, but the promise from Tennessee that he would have an opportunity to play quarterback in Knoxville was enough for him to flip his commitment this morning. The Horned Frogs mentioned the possibility of him playing wide receiver, which turned out to be a major factor in his decision. Harrison Bailey is the man at QB for the Vols' class but Holiday is a very good athlete.

One of the biggest under-the-radar keeps of the day was Utah getting the signature of three-star RB Ty Jordan. The one-time Texas commit flipped to the Utes in early December, but over the last week the Longhorns, and several other programs, continued the pressure on Jordan but to no avail.

The Utes also did a nice job grabbing four-star DE Van Fillinger, another one-time Texas commit. Overall it was a productive day for Utah and it could get better if the program flips four-star Ohio State commitment Clark Phillips as expected.

Kentucky has been one of the biggest surprises down the stretch, and continued its hot streak with a commitment from Rivals250 four-star DL Josaih Hayes, who had previously been committed to Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin made Hayes a priority since taking over the job, but at the end it wasn’t enough to keep Hayes in-state. This was one of the bigger surprises of the day.

Arizona State pulled out a big Pac-12 win in the morning by flipping Rivals100 four-star WR Johnny Wilson from Oregon. This had been rumored in recent days, but to actually get it done was a big recruiting win for coach Herm Edwards and his staff. Kudos must be given to new Sun Devils’ assistant coach Prentice Gill who recently made his way to Tempe from Eugene.

One recruit that suddenly decided to wait was four-star DT Clyde Pinder, who had been committed to North Carolina since late June. Florida made a serious push for Pinder in recent weeks, and while it looked like the Tar Heels had held the Gators off down the stretch, this decision caused concern in Chapel Hill. However, after scaring the staff a bit Pinder did sign later in the evening.

EJ Smith
EJ Smith (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Rivals100 OL Marcus Dumervil went back-and-forth between LSU and Florida for quite some time, with both programs feeling confident at different points. However, when it finally came time to put pen to paper it was the Tigers who pulled out the big recruiting victory. It is especially gratifying to gain another big recruiting victory from an elite high school program like St. Thomas Aquinas in the Sunshine State for LSU. The Tigers' ability to recruit nationally has been amazing.

Virginia has made a serious recruiting move into Louisiana recently, but on Wednesday morning the Cavaliers lost one of their most important commitments when four-star DB Ja’Darius Clark flipped to TCU. The Horned Frogs have also been making noise in Louisiana, so this just further solidifies their status in the state. They then continued to generate momentum in Louisiana when they flipped three-star DE Khari Coleman away from Kansas.

There was plenty of mystery heading into Rivals250 EJ Smith’s decision late this morning, as Stanford, Texas A&M and Florida all seemed optimistic. He decided to sign with the Cardinal, which while a huge boost for Stanford, was a blow to the Gators and Aggies. Stanford has long established itself as a program worth keeping an eye on in Texas, but this still came as a surprise to many. Now the Aggies' efforts will be focused on RB Zachary Evans, who will decide at the Under Armour Game.

Alabama and LSU have had plenty of recruiting battles over the last decade, and many thought that five-star Rakim Jarrett would be in the center of another. However, Jarrett pulled off a stunner late this morning by flipping to in-state Maryland. The Terps snagged an official visit a few weeks ago, but not many people thought they had a realistic chance to finish the deal. Mike Locksley re-asserted himself as a recruiting powerhouse with this victory and many are comparing this to the Terps getting a commitment from Stefon Diggs in 2012.

LSU rebounded by picking up a commitment from Rivals100 LB Phillip Webb. Auburn and Alabama were considered leaders at different times and Florida made a late push, but it was the LSU staff that he felt the most comfortable with throughout his process.

CJ Stroud
CJ Stroud

Rumors began to swirl in the last 24 hours that Rivals100 QB CJ Stroud may not be as much of an Ohio State lock as many assumed. Most of these rumors involved Georgia, which was making a serious late push. However, all those rumors amounted to nothing as Stroud did stay the course and signed with the Buckeyes early this afternoon. Michigan, Oregon and USC were also serious contenders.

Rivals250 WR Arian Smith’s recruitment came down to an SEC battle between Georgia and Alabama. The Bulldogs had been considered the leader during the weeks leading up to National Signing Day, but a Nick Saban home visit seemed to have evened things up a bit. But it did not do enough, as Smith committed to the Bulldogs this afternoon. Smith adds world-class speed to the Bulldogs’ receiving corps while it also means that the Tide missed out on both of their top receiver targets (Rakim Jarrett being the other).

Five-star LB Justin Flowe has had an interesting recruiting process, but at the end he found his home with Oregon. One time considered a Clemson lean, the Tigers recently ran out of room at linebacker after deciding to take a commitment from Trenton Simpson. This made it a race between the Ducks and USC for Flowe. The allure of playing closer to home was there, but the Trojans couldn’t pull out the huge recruiting victory and keep the five-star at home. This is also back-to-back years that the Ducks have pulled in the No. 1 prospect from California (Kayvon Thibodeaux last year). Flowe and Noah Sewell as a linebacker duo is unmatched in the country.

It is not often that a program can afford to drop a Rivals100 recruit, but that is what LSU did with DE Demon Clowney earlier today. Seemingly caught in a numbers crunch, the Tigers’ decision not to take Clowney’s signature is one that will be debated for several years, depending on where he actually ends up and how he performs. Now a February signee, there will be a multitude of schools looking to grab his signature, with Maryland, Tennessee, Miami and Virginia some of the early favorites.

It's not often that Alabama fans feel much stress on National Signing Day, but Rivals100 DT Timothy Smith was the cause of some. He committed to the Tide in July, but it was Florida’s late push that caught his attention. The Gators became a realistic threat and began to feel confident with their chances, but at the end they couldn’t overtake the Tide. Smith has the potential to be the next great defensive tackle in Tuscaloosa.

Eric Reed, Jr.
Eric Reed, Jr. (Rivals.com)

One of the more intriguing decisions of the day came from five-star DE Jordan Burch. A quiet kid, there was plenty of guessing and assumptions leading up to today, but with proximity to home being a major factor, South Carolina, Clemson and Georgia were considered frontrunners. However, the Gamecocks were thought to be third in this race by many, so when he committed to South Carolina this afternoon it proved to be a surprise and a huge recruiting victory for Will Muschamp. It is important to note that Burch has yet to actually sign his National Letter of Intent, which will surely cause some stress among South Carolina fans.

While four-star QB Chubba Purdy had been committed to Louisville since June, confidence in the Cardinals signing him had been slowly diminishing over the last couple of weeks. This quickly intensified over the weekend when it was discovered that he was taking an official visit to Florida State. Despite the Seminoles taking another quarterback commitment a few days ago from Tate Rodemaker, the visit to Tallahassee was enough for Purdy to flip his commitment today to Florida State. This is a big and important recruiting win for the Seminoles, who amazingly hadn’t signed a quarterback in the last two recruiting cycles.

The poaching among the SEC elite continued in the afternoon when Rivals250 WR Jermaine Burton flipped his commitment from LSU to Georgia. Adding Burton’s playmaking ability and speed to Arian Smith’s speed suddenly gives the Bulldogs one of the more dynamic wide receiver pairings in the 2020 class. For the Tigers, it was their second huge receiver loss of the day after Jarrett flipped to Maryland in the morning.

Oklahoma is no stranger to recruiting nationally and continued do so today with the addition of Florida three-star DB Kendall Dennis. The Sooners beat out Miami and Nebraska, while grabbing an elite athlete from one of the top high school programs in the Sunshine State. Yet another nice win for coach Lincoln Riley.

Tennessee also had success at a top Florida high school program with the addition of four-star DE Morven Joseph. Joseph committed to the Vols today over both Florida and Florida State, sending an elite rushing end to Knoxville. He picked the Vols mainly due to the close relationship he established with the coaching staff.

Rivals250 DB Eric Reed Jr. came into Signing Day as one of the bigger tossups. Some thought it would be Auburn, while others picked Georgia, especially since his most recent visit was to Athens. However, that visit was not enough to offset the Tigers, who continued their impressive day by adding the big, physical defensive back.

Florida had a rough day whiffing on Timothy Smith and losing out on an attempt to flip DE Donnell Harris from Texas A&M. Miami also struggled greatly today while Florida State has done well down the stretch.

My winners include Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Oregon and Maryland.

Losers? Florida, Miami, LSU and USC.