National Signing Day: The Sting Factor
CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team
During the year, we here at Rivals.com do a feature called “Sting Factor” when an important prospect backs off his commitment from a school. We take reaction from the local, regional and national level to measure just how much of an impact losing a commit can have on a school’s class.
Now that signing day is behind us, we take a look at 10 prospects whose signing stung for particular opposing programs who missed out on landing prime targets.
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Who it Stings: Georgia
Why: The Bulldogs led for Elam most of his recruitment and it was almost a surprise when he didn’t make his commitment to UGA earlier. But over the last month his longtime ties to Florida started to take hold and the Gators surged to the front of his recruitment. Losing Elam stings for Georgia because of the effort the school put into recruiting him and the potential role he would have played for the Dawgs, but having him go to hated rival Florida makes it a little worse.
Why: Another elite Florida prospect who slipped out of the Sunshine State, Richards is headed to Auburn after seeming like a lock for Miami during long stretches of his recruitment. The South Florida native, whose older brother Ahmmon Richards starred for Canes, appeared to sour on Miami late for unknown reasons.
Florida was also heavily involved, pitching Richards on the chance to contribute early, but in the end a chance to be featured in a variety of ways in Gus Malzahn’s offense was too much for Richards to pass up. Miami is in need of playmakers all over the field, so losing Richards isn’t easy.
Who it Stings: Alabama, Clemson
Why: Ealy’s recruitment was full of drama, as the multi-sport star was committed to Ole Miss for more than a year before deciding to back off his pledge in January. At that time, most assumed he was bound for Clemson, and that was the case all the way up until late last week.
After Alabama secured his final official visit, it looked like he might be bound for Tuscaloosa, but a last-minute push by the Rebels helped lure him back into the fold. Ealy, who is also a top baseball prospect, will still have to be recruited by the Ole Miss coaches to play football instead of take a potentially lucrative MLB contract.
Who it Stings: Florida, Mississippi State
Why: Moore made the decision that most people expected coming into Wednesday, but that still doesn’t soften the sting for Mississippi State, which had the Rivals250 prospect committed for most of his recruitment. Moore was committed to the Bulldogs for more than a year but backed off that pledge last month, setting up a battle between the Gators and the Tigers.
Florida had the inside track because of the coaching staff’s previous relationship with Moore from its time at Mississippi State, but an excellent recruiting job by the Tigers led to Moore landing in Auburn. Despite Florida missing out, this one probably still stings more for the Bulldogs, who have to see Moore on a yearly basis going forward.
Who it Stings: Florida State
Why: LeGendre had emerged as a the No. 1 target for the Seminoles at the quarterback position over the past month and the need to land him increased even more with the recent dismissal of starting quarterback Deondre Francois. But the ‘Noles were left empty-handed at quarterback again when LeGendre made the surprise decision to commit to Maryland on Wednesday.
The Terps and new coach Mike Locksley have some talent in the quarterback room already, but LeGendre clearly fell in love with the Terps on his official visit. Landing him is a huge get for Maryland and now Willie Taggart, a former quarterback himself, will have to continue his search for a signal-caller, likely on the transfer market.
Who it Stings: LSU
Why: This one was another extended recruiting battle between LSU and Alabama for an elite Louisiana prospect and once again it was the Tide coming away victorious. Sopsher, who has been a fixture on the national recruiting scene for years, visited both schools several times and saved his final visit for LSU last weekend. Following that trip, buzz began to mount that the Tigers had finally taken the lead, making his announcement for The Tide sting that much more once he revealed his decision on Wednesday.
USC had hoped to get Vimahi into the fold in December, hosting him for an official visit just prior to the Early Signing Period. But he delayed his signing instead and Ohio State entered the picture late, making a strong pitch and ultimately landing his commitment on Wednesday. Watching a talented offensive lineman from its own backyard head to Columbus is a tough pill for USC to swallow. Oklahoma, looking to re-stock its offense following a number of departures, also felt good about Vimahi at times this month, so losing him has quite a bit of sting as well.
Who it stings: Arkansas
Most Razorbacks fans were waiting for when Henry would send in his letter-of-intent on Wednesday, not wondering if he would choose the school. But in the run-up to his announcement, buzz began to mount that Ole Miss had made a move and was going to be a factor up until the final minutes. As it turned out, the buzz was warranted when Henry announced it was the Rebels that got his commitment. With fellow Arkansas linebacker target Chris Russell committing to Texas A&M, it made the loss of Henry sting even more.
Who it stings: Alabama
Why: Alabama came into the week as a virtual lock for To’oto’o based on all the information available and if he was going to end up anywhere, most thought it was Washington that had the outside shot. Instead, as Wednesday afternoon came around, the momentum shifted toward Tennessee.
With Alabama needing to land To’oto’o to win the Rivals.com Recruiting National Championship, the sting was amplified as he spurned the Tide for the Tennessee. Meaning for the second consecutive year Alabama finished behind Georgia in the team rankings and it was because of the successful last-ditch effort by former Nick Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt.
Who it stings: Kentucky
Why: This was was a double-whammy for Kentucky, as the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Tigers for the pair of elite prospects all the way up until the end. Lee had been in Lexington multiple times over the past few months and Kentucky had a plan in place to feature Lee heavily from Day 1. Ultimately, the chance to stay close to home was too much for him to pass up.
While Lee was ranked higher, Ward might hurt even more, especially considering it looked like Kentucky was poised to beat out LSU for a defensive back, something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. But the lure of the Tigers, and specifically defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, helped changed Ward’s mind in the final hour, leaving the Wildcats empty-handed.
Losing out on Ward at the last minute hurts, but is made even more painful by the fact that Kentucky made an excellent early evaluation and also held his commitment for a long stretch during the fall.