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Mind of Mike: Thoughts from National Signing Day

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

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Doug Nester
Nick Lucero/Rivals.com

The Mind of Mike is a scary place. Here’s what he thinks about National Signing Day …

MORE NSD: Ranking the flips | Live blog | Announcement guide

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Several recruits were on flip-watch Wednesday morning, so who would be the first to actually make it happen? It turned out to be four-star WV OL Doug Nester, who committed to Ohio State last summer but after taking official visits to Virginia Tech and Penn State over the last two weekends, decided to sign with the Hokies. This is a big win for coach Justin Fuente, and a loss for the Buckeyes, who put in some serious effort to try and keep Nester. The Hokies have had a pretty good recruiting year coming off a rough season and the loss of some players, so Nester is an important commitment for momentum into 2020.

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Ever since four-star FL DE Khris Bogle committed to Alabama during the All-American Bowl, plenty of rumors began surfacing that his process was not actually over. Miami was thought to be the major threat, but Bogle turned in one of the biggest surprises of the day by signing with Florida earlier Wednesday. There were rumors of this during the last few days and Florida made a very strong late push. This is an important get for the Gators, both overall, but also to try and get back into the recruiting game in the Dade/Broward area of the Sunshine State. Florida continued its solid day in the early afternoon by adding four-star in-state DB Kaiir Elam. The Gators finished strong in this recruiting cycle and an addition like this just further solidifies the class. Florida arguably had the best day of anyone closing things out.

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Anytime a five-star flips it is big news. WR George Pickens had been committed to Auburn for months, but rumors continued to surround him with a possible flip to Georgia, Miami and Tennessee. He was very successful in keeping his process rather quiet, so when he finally signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday morning, it was a stunner for many. This is yet another huge recruiting victory for coach Kirby Smart, who continues to stockpile elite talent in Athens.

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Ole Miss started off a successful day by being able to fight off Mississippi State for four-star in-state WR Jonathan Mingo. After committing to the Rebels last summer, he decided to hold off on signing during the early period, which opened the door to several other programs. He took official visits to Mississippi State and Georgia last month, which only caused more stress in Oxford, but at the end of the day he decided to stick with the Rebels. The good day in Oxford continued when they were able to flip three-star DT LeDarrius Cox from Tennessee. While Cox flipping from the Vols was rumored, many assumed that he was leaning towards Auburn, so getting him to Ole Miss was a nice get for the coaching staff. This is especially true since the Auburn staff put in plenty of hours during the last month to try and get Cox to stay closer to home. But the biggest news came when athlete Jerrion Ealy decided to re-commit to Ole Miss, giving the Rebels a dynamic playmaker on offense. Ealy could end up playing baseball in the end, but getting him signed for football is a big deal, and it gives them a chance to convince him to play both.

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This signing may have gone under-the-radar a bit, but Kentucky added a very nice piece with four-star DB Marlin Devonshire. The Wildcats had a deep need for defensive back help in this class, so he should have an opportunity for immediate playing time. This was also a loss for both Pittsburgh and West Virginia, who thought they were in a good place with Devonshire during different times in his recruiting process. This commitment was especially important with the loss later in the day of Jay Ward (more below), who was a lock to Kentucky as of Tuesday, but decided to sign with LSU.

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Another nice under-the-radar get on Wednesday was the addition of three-star Garmon Randolph by Baylor. Listed as a tight end, the Bears actually recruited Randolph as a defensive end. LSU seemed to be his destination leading into Wednesday, especially after his official visit to Baton Rouge this past weekend, but he pulled the surprise by signing with the Bears, who had just recently started to recruit him. Randolph is a bit raw, but could turn out to be a big get when you look back at this class in a couple of years.

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It is always nice for a new coaching staff to make a splash on signing day in its home state. Georgia Tech and coach Geoff Collins accomplished that with the addition of four-star RB Jamious Griffin. Collins and his staff have done a very nice job reeling in other Georgia talent since their arrival, and more specifically top talent from the Atlanta area. The state and that area are loaded with talent, so if the Jackets can keep more at home they can quickly become a bigger player in the ACC. This was one of the biggest commitments that didn’t get the notice it deserved on signing day.

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Four-star DB Christian Williams was thought to be signing with Alabama during the Early Signing Period, but when he didn’t sign the Tide seemed to move on. With signing day approaching it was, LSU that had the most buzz surrounding Williams, but on Wednesday morning he surprised some by signing with Miami. This is a very big win for the ‘Canes and new coach Manny Diaz, who have had their fair share of struggles with this class and needed some good news. Miami is still last when it comes to 2019 recruiting for the Big Three in Florida, but between some talented transfers and guys like Williams, the Hurricanes will be interesting to watch in a few years.

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Nebraska needed more playmakers on offense, and received a nice one one on National Signing Day with three-star WR Demariyon Houston. After Houston de-committed from Texas in in early December, Nebraska began its push, which resulted in an official visit in January and then the eventual commitment. Houston brings track speed to the position, plus he will likely be relied on to return both kickoffs and punts during his time in Lincoln. Nebraska, which has the most surprising class in the country in my opinion, landed the top two receivers from the state of Oklahoma as Houston joins Jamie Nance.

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After a couple of disappointments in the morning, Auburn received good news with the addition of four-star DL Charles Moore, who flipped from Mississippi State. The Bulldogs remained in the picture throughout, while LSU and Florida both made serious pushes over the last month. Despite getting pulled in several directions, it was Auburn that remained the standout since his official visit to The Plains in December. This is also a big loss for Mississippi State, which Moore had been committed to for over a year and was its first commitment in the class of 2019. The good news then continued to roll in for Auburn with the addition of four-star ATH Mark-Anthony Richards. Grabbing Richards out of Florida was a big recruiting victory for the Tigers, especially since Miami led for his services for the majority of his process and is where his brother played. Florida also made a late push, but were never able to overcome the Tigers. So while the loss of Pickens was huge, rebounding with Moore and Richards and a few others was a nice recovery.

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This is far from a standard USC class, but they did pick up some good news this morning with the flip of four-star DB Adonis Otey from Arkansas. Otey had been committed to the Razorbacks since last summer, but after USC offered approximately a month ago everything quickly changed. His official visit to Los Angeles in January put the Trojans over the top and sealed the flip. USC needs to recruit better nationally and this is a big help in that department.

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When coach Mike Locksley took over the Maryland program, big things were expected to follow with the Terps recruiting. While that process has been a little slower than many expected, the Terps were able to snag a commitment this morning from four-star QB Lance Legendre. This is also a big loss for Florida State, which was thought to be in the driver’s seat for his commitment and was desperate for a quarterback in this class. Locksley is an elite recruiter and this is a great example of that.

*****

After losing Doug Nester early in the morning, Ohio State responded by grabbing four-star OL Enokk Vimahi a few hours later. What was most impressive in this get is that the Buckeyes didn’t even offer Vimahi until a few weeks ago, but then quickly made a big impression. And as big of a win this was for Ohio State, it was an equally big loss for USC, which has put together a disappointing class and needed a player like Vimahi to finish strong. Who will be better in the long run, Nester or Vimahi? That’s something Buckeyes fans will be sure to follow.

*****

The annual recruiting battle between Alabama and LSU continued this year, with once again the Tide raiding Louisiana for elite-level talent. Losing four-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher to the Tide is a huge blow for the Tigers, who spent an amazing amount of time and energy to try and keep him in-state. For the Tide it is yet another huge recruiting win, especially in the state of Louisiana, which just adds salt to the wound for the Tigers. The sting factor is extremely high in this one. While the Tigers will feel the loss of Sopsher, they were able to reel in four-star in-state ATH Devonta Lee and three-star DB Jay Ward this afternoon. Lee’s process seemed to drag on forever for Tigers fans, but at the end he decided to stay in-state. Both of these LSU wins were losses for Kentucky, which had a legitimate chance at both recruits but walked away empty handed.

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Kentucky took another loss later in the afternoon when four-star DB Jammie Robinson committed to South Carolina. The relationship that the Gamecocks’ coaching staff could not be overcome at the end, but the Wildcats put in a good amount of time and effort to sway him to Lexington. For South Carolina, almost two years of hard work proved to be fruitful, as Robinson is a tough safety who has the talent to become an early contributor.

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Since his sudden commitment to Texas during the summer, most assumed that the process for four-star OL Javonne Shepherd was not over. That only strengthened after he failed to sign during the Early Signing Period, which led to visits to Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M, which was thought to be his leader prior to his commitment to the Longhorns. However, Texas was able to get Shepherd back on campus before the signing day and solidified his commitment, leading to his signature Wednesday afternoon. While he has been committed for seven months, this was a hard-fought battle for the Texas staff, which won a big one at the end. He is arguably one of the most important recruits in this class.

*****

It was a relatively quiet day in Knoxville until the Vols pulled of a mild surprise by grabbing four-star LB Henry To’oto’o during the afternoon. It was only a surprise because To’oto’o remained very private during his process, so getting a read on him was never simple. It came down to the Vols, Alabama and Washington, but his connection to the Tennessee coaching staff is what put them over the top. This is a nice win for the Vols, since both Alabama and Washington made To’oto’o a priority over the last few weeks. The Vols then followed this up by adding five-star OL Darnell Wright, who despite being one of the locks of the day, was still a huge and much-anticipated commitment. Over the course of numerous visits to Knoxville, Wright had established a relationship that no other school could match. Full credit has to be given to the Vols staff for staying on top of Wright throughout his process and continuously showing him that Knoxville was the right place for him.