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National Signing Day: Top storylines

Malik mcdowell 131230 120 1
MORE: Ranking the classes as Signing Day nears
National Signing Day arrives Wednesday and Rivals.com will have every twist and turn -- not to mention the hat-donning antics -- covered
throughout the day. Rivals.com analysts look at some of the top stories in each region.
Southeast Region
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Sunshine State trifecta in store?
One of the most enigmatic players in the class of 2014 is Immokalee (Fla.)
defensive back J.C. Jackson. The talented two-way player originally
committed to
href='http://floridastate.rivals.com'>Florida State in early 2013, only to flip to
Florida in
June. Since then he's been anything than solid to the
Gators, entertaining the Seminoles once again, taking an official visit to
Minnesota
and visiting
href='http://miami.rivals.com'>Miami multiple times. The Hurricanes
once owned Immokalee, and Jackson's father Chris was a high school teammate of
Miami legend and Immokalee native Edgerrin James. Jackson elected to take an
unofficial visit to Florida this past weekend and insists he's committed, but if
he flips to the 'Canes on Signing Day, he would be first prospect in recent
memory to commit to all three of the Sunshine State power players within a
calendar year.
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Rivals100 QB still on the board
Another Florida product still weighing his options between the three in-state
powers is Rivals100 quarterback
Treon Harris. He's been committed to
the Seminoles since July, but recently took official visits to Florida,
Auburn and
Miami. Harris is a non-conventional quarterback -- he's
listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds -- but he was under center all season for one of
the best high school teams in the country. He seems like a natural fit for
Auburn's offense, but the Tigers already have Rivals250 quarterback Sean White in their class.
New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper
bringing a more creative offense to Gainesville provides an exciting option, but
the Gators have
Rivals100 QB Will Grier committed. When it comes down to it, it looks like no
matter where Harris lands he'll have to fight for playing time; but his
versatility makes him a prize for any of the four schools on his list. Adding a
Rivals100 prospect and stealing him from the defending national champions would be
a major coup for the Gators, Tigers or Hurricanes.
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Same
story, different year?
A big-time linebacker from Auburn (Ala.) High seems destined for Auburn, but
Alabama makes
a last-minute move. We saw it last year when
Reuben Foster flipped from the Tigers to the Tide on National Signing Day and now Rashaan Evans is following the same trajectory. Evans
never actually committed to the Tigers, but it seemed like only a matter of time
before he officially joined the class. Now Nick Saban and company have
put the full-court press on Evans and could be in position to steal another
player right out of the Tigers' backyard.
href='http://ucla.rivals.com'>UCLA is also on the outside
looking in and hoping to nab this elite defensive player from SEC country. Evans
has shown that he's one of the best players in the country, so landing him would
be a huge signing day victory in recruiting version of the Iron Bowl.
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Volunteer
army
As of Tuesday,
href='http://Tennessee.rivals.com'>Tennessee had 33 verbal commitments; the question among
Vols fans and fans across the Southeast region is just how will they make the
numbers work? It remains to be seen whether Tennessee will ask
players to grayshirt or have them forgo signing on Signing Day altogether and
start in the fall as walk-ons. While I fully expect it to work, opposing schools
have been targeting Tennessee commitments in an effort to steal them away at the
last minute. The Vols need a major injection of talent, and this class is
expected to bring that, assuming everyone sticks to their word on Signing Day.
Tennessee is also in great shape to land Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth defensive
tackle and former
href='http://Vanderbilt.rivals.com'>Vanderbilt commit Michael Sawyers, who would
truly be the icing on the cake for the 2014 class.
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How will Georgia close?
After taking a big number of commits last year,
href='http://UGA.rivals.com'>Georgia doesn't have
quite as many spots to work with down the stretch, but one name that is at the
top of its list is Rivals100 defensive end Lorenzo Carter. He was on
campus over the weekend, and the Dawgs coaches have made him their top priority.
It's likely that Carter plays linebacker at the next level, and
Georgia still hasn't hired a position coach, which appears to be the one
weakness in its courtship of Carter. Florida and
href='http://LSU.rivals.com'>LSU remain a factor,
but Georgia needs Carter in the class. Uncommitted four-star defensive end
Andrew Williams also took an official and is reportedly high on Georgia
now, but will it be enough to overcome an early lead built by presumed favorites
Auburn and Clemson? A couple of other players already committed to Georgia spent the
weekend looking around, three-star defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard
visited Miami, while three-star defensive back Kendall Gant took a trip
to
href='http://marshall.rivals.com'>Marshall. If Georgia can land Carter and Williams and keep all of
its current commits in the fold, it will be a nice finish to the 2014 cycle.
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Can
Vanderbilt save face?
When James Franklin left Vanderbilt he not only took nearly his entire
coaching and support staff with him, but he also took several committed
Vanderbilt prospects. A few other big-name players were also quickly poached by
schools from around the country. Now new head coach Derek Mason is
tasked with trying to rebuild the class on the fly. This past weekend Vanderbilt
landed several recruits, although most are developmental prospects. One big name
that could help Commodores fans feel a little better is former Stanford commit
Nifae Lealao. He's very close with Mason and only de-committed after
Mason left Stanford for Nashville. If Vanderbilt can land Lealao and close with
legacy wide receiver Caleb Scott and three-star offensive lineman
Andrew Mike, it could help salvage what has been a disastrous
situation.
- Woody Wommack
West Region
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Everyone waiting on Adoree'
Five-star athlete
Adoree' Jackson is going to announce his college
commitment on National Signing Day, and this has been one of the more dramatic
recruitments this cycle.
USC, LSU,
onMouseOver="javscript:startDisplayTimer(event, 'Florida');" onMouseOut="startHideTimer();" href='http://Florida.rivals.com'>Florida and UCLA
are the four finalists for the
Gardena (Calif.) Serra star who could thrive on offense, defense and special
teams in college. Track is also an important factor in his decision since
Jackson wants to long jump in the 2016 Olympics.
Talk to different people and they all have an opinion on where Jackson ends up.
The three most likely destinations are USC, LSU and Florida. His parents are now
in Los Angeles and there will surely be discussions leading up to his
announcement. No leader has emerged in the closing days.
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Will JuJu
Smith pull a signing day surprise?
Every year on National Signing Day, there are things that happen that not many
people expect; and one could be
John Smith pulling a surprise with his
commitment. USC is considered the big frontrunner, and so many things make sense
for him picking the Trojans, but watch out for
href='http://oregon.rivals.com'>Oregon.
The Long Beach (Calif.) Poly five-star safety has been rumored to be concerned
about the depth at his position at USC and that the Ducks are making a serious
resurgence in the final days. Smith decided against a last-second unofficial
visit to Oregon this past weekend but there is a little smoke that the Ducks are
making a move.
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Ballage
the Bruin?
UCLA is the biggest threat to steal four-star running back
Kalen Ballage, who is currently a soft commitment to
Arizona
State. The Bruins received Ballage's final visit, and the package Westwood
offers has the Falcon (Colo.) High School prospect's attention.
Nebraska
and, to a lesser extent,
href='http://colorado.rivals.com'>Colorado, are also still
recruiting Ballage, but UCLA seems like the only legitimate landing spot outside
of ASU.
Ballage hasn't done many interviews in the recent past, so any change of heart
could come on suddenly and take most off guard.
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Brown to
announce
Junior college players are usually an afterthought come signing
day, but Grossmont (Calif.) Community College cornerback Kweishi Brown
is joining the fun. Brown, the No. 29 junior college player in the nation, will
announce his choice on a day that most of the spotlight will be on his high
school counterparts.
Brown's final visit was to Arizona State, and most think the Sun Devils will
land his signature. Nebraska is also in play, and Brown has visited
Arkansas as
well.
- Adam Gorney, Rob Cassidy
Mid-Atlantic Region
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The Prince and his subjects
The Prince is five-star offensive tackle Damian Prince and his subjects are the Maryland Terps and the Florida Gators.
The Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara standout just took an official visit to Gainesville and, by all accounts, it was a great trip and probably
the best of his four official visits. The Gators have a lot going for them right now. Five-star defensive back Jalen Tabor was an early
enrollee at Florida, and he is Prince's best friend. Prince has a very good rapport with Gators offensive line coach Mike Summers, and there is the
possibility of early playing time in the SEC.
Maryland also has a lot going for them. Prince has a lot of friends at Maryland and has visited the campus too many times to count.
His familiarity with the coaching staff and campus are a big draw for Prince. He also really likes Greg Studrawa, Maryland's new offensive line
coach. Three of the most important things to Prince are being close to his family, a good relationship with his position coach and a chance to
play early. Maryland can offer Prince all three of those things.
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Who will get the Nnadi?
Which of Derrick Nnadi's top five will get the nod? Virginia Tech and Florida State are the frontrunners but the
Rivals100 defensive tackle from Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes took an official visit to Virginia last weekend and Ohio State
and Penn State are still in the game. Nnadi took all five of his official visits and he liked the visits to Blacksburg and Tallahassee
the most. The official visit to Charlottesville was good as well, but Nnadi has changed his mind a lot throughout the recruiting process, so this
should be very close coming down to Wednesday's decision.
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Mid-Atlantic exports
At the beginning of the 2014 recruiting cycle, teams in the Mid-Atlantic were licking their chops because of all of the highly rated local
talent. Thirteen prospects rated four-stars or higher from the state of Virginia. Maryland and New Jersey had 10 each, Pennsylvania had nine and, in
an above-average year, New York City had three prospects rated four-stars or higher. Early in the process, it looked like a number of these
highly rated prospects were going to choose one of the schools close to their hometown; but they decided to go to a school outside the Mid-
Atlantic region. Virginia Tech had a very good shot with Da'Shawn Hand, Jalyn Holmes and Alec Eberle. At one point,
Maryland was the favorite for Jalen Tabor, Jared Cohen, D'Andre Payne, Rick Leonard and Sam Mustipher.
Pittsburgh natives Montae Nicholson and Chase Winovich opted to go to separate schools in Michigan. Thomas Holley
looked like a Penn State lock and Rutgers had a very good shot at Noah Brown.
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Virginia reels in some five-stars
Many people thought that, with the season Virginia just had, the Cavaliers would not be able to have that strong of a recruiting class, but
Mike London pulled off a miracle of sorts. Never has a team had a two-win season and then secured commitments from two five-stars.
Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding picking Virginia was far from an upset because of their Virginia connections, but it was hard to
understand from the outside looking in why two of the highest-caliber players in the country would decide to play for a team that has gone 18-31
and 8-24 in ACC in the last four years. In addition to Brown and Blanding, four-stars Jamil Kamara and Steven Moss are
committed to Virginia. The Cavaliers' 13 other commitments are rated two- and three-stars. Having such a disparity between the highest and lowest
rated players in one class is very uncommon.
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The dissolution of the Rutgers class
At one point during the 2013 season, Rutgers had commitments from five four-stars. As the Rutgers class stands right now, the Scarlet Knights
have commitments from zero four-stars, 15 three-stars and nine two-stars. Thirteen players de-committed from Rutgers between the middle of the
2013 season and early February. All of the four-stars left. Kiy Hester chose Miami, Saeed Blacknall went to Penn
State, Tyler Wiegers flipped to Iowa, Adonis Jenningswent to Pittsburgh and Jonathan Hilliman
decided Boston College was a better choice. Three-stars David Njoku, Pete Mokwuah, Lamont Simmons, Deion Hallmon, Justin Herron and Jordan Fuchs all de-committed and chose other schools. Each player, including two two-stars, had
their reasons for flipping, but this type of mass exodus doesn't normally occur when there isn't turnover at the head coach position and that team
makes it to a bowl game.
-- Adam Friedman
Midwest Region
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Five-star fireworks
The lone five-star in the region -- Southfield, Mich., defensive end
Malik McDowell -- is also the biggest story heading into National Signing Day.
Four teams remain in contention --
href='http://floridastate.rivals.com'>Florida State,
onMouseOut="startHideTimer();" href='http://Michigan.rivals.com'>Michigan,
href='http://MichiganState.rivals.com'>Michigan State and
onMouseOut="startHideTimer();" href='http://ohiostate.rivals.com'>Ohio State -- and a case could be made for
each school ending up with his signature. McDowell himself has been very high on
the Spartans, but his parents want him to look harder at other schools. Florida
State and Ohio State also impressed him and his parents on official visits in
the month of January, while Michigan was the favorite for a large portion of
this recruitment.
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Spartans look to finish strong
Michigan State is a factor in the majority of the top remaining recruiting battles in the region, including the two remaining Rivals100
prospects: McDowell and Chicago De La Salle offensive tackle Jamarco Jones. Jones is committed to Ohio State but took an official visit
to East Lansing this past weekend. MSU started out the week on a high note, landing former Wisconsin commit Craig Evans, a
four-star defensive tackle. The Spartans are also a top contender for four-star athlete T.J. Harrell out of Tampa and three-star defensive
tackle Daniel Cage of Cincinnati. A finish that includes multiple four-stars should boost the Spartans into the top three of the final
Big Ten recruiting class standings.
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Late commitment flips
While Michigan State is looking to flip another four-star prospect from a Big Ten program, several more committed recruits in the Midwest are
still considering other schools after taking late official visits or have already made the switch. Just in the last few days, we have seen Evans
change his commitment, three-star center Nathaniel Devers flip from Cincinnati to Marshall, three-star athlete Simmie Cobbs
flip from Purdue to Indiana and three-star wide receiver Conner Krizancic flip from Cincinnati to Minnesota. Another
potential loss for Cincinnati could be linebacker Kaleb Harris, who took official visits to Marshall and Western Michigan in the last
week.
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SEC invasion
A quarter of the four and five-star recruits in the Midwest have committed to
SEC schools, and the main aggressors have been Tennessee and
onMouseOut="startHideTimer();" href='http://Kentucky.rivals.com'>Kentucky.
Former University of Cincinnati coach Butch Jones has taken the reins
in Knoxville and his staff has deep ties to the Midwest. The Volunteers pulled
three four-star recruits out of the region in 2014, headlined by Rivals100
defensive end Dewayne Hendrix.
Kentucky, however, did the most damage in the region, pulling in 11 Midwest
prospects, all from the state of Ohio. Former coach Joker Phillips practically
ignored the neighboring state to the north during his tenure despite it being
one of the top five talent-producing states in the country, but
Mark Stoops has made Ohio a second home-state. Five of their 11 state of Ohio
commitments are rated four-stars.
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MACtion
Before 2014, the highest a Mid-American Conference school has finished in the
national team rankings since the they were first established in 2002 was
Kent
State's 2009 class, which finished at No. 62. That record looks
likely to be surpassed this year by
href='http://westernmichigan.rivals.com'>Western Michigan, which currently
boasts the No. 58 ranked class in the country. First-year head coach
P.J. Fleck started landing three-star prospects early in the class and has 14
committed heading into National Signing Day. The Broncos out-recruited BCS
schools for many of those prospects, including fending off the likes of
Arkansas, Florida,
href='http://Iowa.rivals.com'>Iowa, Nebraska,
href='http://oklahoma.rivals.com'>Oklahoma and
Virginia to
keep Southfield, Mich., offensive tackle
Chukwuma Okorafor in-state.
- Josh Helmholdt
Midlands Region
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Solomon Says
Solomon Thomas tells the world where he will play his college career on Wednesday. He has not said a whole lot to tip his hand one way
or the other throughout the recruiting process and has not rushed into any decision he has made throughout the process.
Now, the standout defensive end is ready to announce his decision on Signing Day at 8 a.m. CST. He has narrowed his options to
Stanford, Arkansas, and UCLA. He has taken multiple visits to each school, he has established strong relationships with
each coaching staff, and he has thoroughly researched each option.
Going into the big day there are some thoughts on where he will end up, and plenty of guesses. The good news is it looks like there will not be a
long wait to find out the answer.
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Patriot Watch
The eyes of college football coaches and fans across the country are focused on John Curtis Christian High School, in River Ridge, La., and the
big winners will be partying like it is Mardi Gras.
What is at stake? Only the top four uncommitted prospects in the state of Louisiana. There is five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre,
there's Rivals100 linebacker Kenny Young, and standout defensive backs Mattrell McGraw and Terrence Alexander.
Who will be watching? The list of interested parties includes the likes of Oregon, Ole Miss, UCLA, LSU,
Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Florida State, Arkansas, and Alabama. It's kind of a big deal.
When will we know? It will be must see TV at 9:30 a.m. CST Wednesday.
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Leaving Texas
Unless something crazy happens, history will be made on Signing Day. For the first time in Rivals.com history, more than half of the top 10
prospects in the state of Texas are heading outside the borders of the Lone Star State to play their college football.
It sounds crazy, but as for back in the database as you can go back, which is 2002, you will not find another class where six of the top 10 went
out of state to play their college careers.
A few years came close, five to be exact. In 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, and 2002 five of the top 10 prospects went out of state, but never did a
sixth one leave. So unless Thomas chooses a school outside of his top three, or Jamal Adams or Demetrius Knox have a change of
heart, history will be made.
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