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NSD Roundtable: Which prospect will pull the biggest surprise?

From must-gets to the biggest surprises, Rivals’ team of analysts anticipate the biggest storylines heading into the Early Signing Period week in this roundtable discussion.


MORE ROUNDTABLE: Looking ahead to the Early Signing Period

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

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1. Which prospect could pull off the biggest surprise this week?

Davon Townley
Davon Townley (

Adam Friedman, East Coast Analyst: He doesn't get the national attention many other prospects do, but Rivals100 offensive lineman Drew Kendall hasn't made it clear if he intends to sign this week or wait until February. The Massachusetts prospect has been virtually silent on his recruitment for a long time but has narrowed his choices down to Boston College and Stanford. Kendall's dad, Pete Kendall, played for Boston College, the local school, but the academic opportunities at Stanford have a strong pull.

Adam Gorney, National and West Analyst: Let’s start at the top with the No. 1 prospect in the country, Maason Smith. The disclaimer here is that I still believe he ends up at LSU but I keep hearing that the five-star defensive tackle is getting more and more concerned about possible sanctions at LSU and the recent opt-out of Arik Gilbert is just another layer of this story to consider. Georgia is making a very serious push for Smith late and if he gets cold feet about what’s happening in Baton Rouge, then the Bulldogs could pull a stunner. It’s been almost a decade since the No. 1 player in Louisiana didn’t go to LSU so I’m not sold he’s leaving the state but watch this one.

Josh Helmholdt, Midwest Analyst: New four-star Davon Townley is one of the bigger enigmas in this 2021 class. The Minneapolis defensive lineman came to the game late and showed great promise in a short period of time, but has been almost completely silent about his own college recruitment. Townley is reportedly planning to sign in the early period and expectations are he will stay close to home and choose Minnesota. Coaches at schools like Arizona State, Michigan State and Penn State are hoping Townley pulls a surprise, though, and considering the lack of information around this recruitment, a surprise is definitely possible.

Chad Simmons, Southeast Analyst: This is USC keeping five-star Korey Foreman home. Clay Helton and the Trojans have played good football much of the season, there is some recruiting momentum there, and Foreman had been a top target from the beginning. He is a player at a position of need, but it’s not just that, but he’s one of the top players in the country and he’s in your backyard. This is a must-get for Helton.

Sam Spiegelman, South Central Analyst: Rivals100 wide receiver Quay Davis has been committed to USC since the beginning of May, but as the signing window gets closer and closer we are hearing more and more rumors that the Dallas native will not wind up in the Trojans' class. Davis was a huge get for USC out of the Lone Star State, a key recruiting territory for Clay Helton over the past few years. Davis was previously committed to both SMU and Texas, and while he has never closed the door on the hometown Mustangs, it'll be interesting to see if there is a new staff at Texas and whether Davis winds up being a fit. Oklahoma State, Florida and LSU were other schools were other schools courting Davis before pledging to the Trojans this spring.

2. Which uncommitted prospect is a must-get for one team this week?

Yanni Karlaftis
Yanni Karlaftis (Nick Lucero/

Friedman: LSU has to land Maason Smith's commitment. The Tigers are facing bad headlines on and off the field but they simply invested too much time and effort recruiting the in-state prospect not to get his commitment. Smith is also considering Georgia and a couple other schools but LSU has remained the favorite.

Gorney: George Karlaftis has been fantastic for Purdue early in his career and now his brother, Yanni, is making his decision this recruiting cycle. He’s a must-get for the Boilermakers to not only fend off Wisconsin and some Pac-12 teams but because Jeff Brohm needs to keep local talent home and especially prospects with family members already on the team. My prediction is that Yanni Karlaftis picks Purdue and he will be a huge addition to the defense and someone who can make that unit better almost immediately.

Helmholdt: I am going to agree with Adam Gorney here. Purdue losing Yanni Karlaftis would be catastrophic. The Boilermakers have the Big Ten’s worst class going in 2021 and lack star power. Fortunately for Purdue, I do expect Karlaftis picks the hometown school, and he would instantly become the class headliner.

Simmons: It has to be Maason Smith. He’s been considered, in my mind at least, very close to a lock to LSU from the beginning. Can he really leave his home state? Could he sign with Alabama? could be sign with Georgia? If he doesn’t stay home and be a Tiger, I will be very surprised. Yes, the interest is there, and he’s taken trips to Athens and Tuscaloosa, but taking visits and putting the pen to the paper to head out of state are two different things.

Spiegelman: Maason Smith. Just 11 months ago, the Tigers sat atop the college football world. Ed Orgeron coached them to a national championship and then double-digit players went on to get drafted with Joe Burrow off the board at No. 1 and both Justin Jefferson and Patrick Queen fighting for Rookie of the Year honors on each side of the ball. However, LSU's defense took a major step back under Bo Pelini and the defensive line is one of the issues. So long that Orgeron is the head coach, defensive tackle will be a key ingredient to the team's success. Smith is Louisiana's best defensive line prospect in years and he hails from Orgeron's neck of the woods on the Bayou. Losing him to a rival SEC team like Alabama or Georgia would sting in a big way.

3. Which team is getting ready to make the most noise in the Early Signing Period? 

Bryce Foster
Bryce Foster (Nick Lucero/

Friedman: Oklahoma is in a great spot for a couple of major recruits. Five-star Bryce Foster is going to choose between the Sooners and Texas A&M. Rivals250 offensive lineman Savion Byrd is going to choose Oklahoma or SMU. Five-star offensive tackle Tristan Leigh is going to sign during the Early Signing Period but will reveal his decision on Jan. 2. Oklahoma is the leader for his commitment despite pushes from contenders like LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida.

Gorney: Oklahoma is my team to watch. If things go really well, then the Sooners could load up on the offensive line with five-stars Bryce Foster and Tristan Leigh along with four-star Savion Byrd and the cherry on top could be five-star running back Camar Wheaton, who commits on Dec. 23. It’s been an incredible run for coach Lincoln Riley and staff.

Helmholdt: I would like to buck the trend and choose a different school here, but Oklahoma does appear poised to make a lot of noise this week. Does five-star wide receiver Emeka Egbuka’s decision on Friday signal a tide change for the Sooners? There was a lot of late momentum for the Sooners with Egbuka, but he went with Ohio State instead. That should also help the Buckeyes with fellow state of Washington five-star J.T. Tuimoloau, though he may wait to sign in February. Ohio State is also trying to flip four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis from LSU so there is a chance Ryan Day may make some more noise this week.

Simmons: Georgia looks primed to close strong Wednesday. They recently won a very tough battle for Nyland Green, and they are trending for Xavian Sorey, and there is chatter that Elijah Jeudy may go back to Georgia after decommitting earlier this fall. Then you have Maason Smith, Donovan Edwards and Korey Foreman who they are very much in the mix for. Kirby Smart is a strong closer, so it could be an entertaining Dec.16 for Bulldog fans.

Spiegelman: It's the Sooners because they have a chance to sign not only one, but multiple five-stars and add to their Big 12-best 2021 recruiting haul. Players like Bryce Foster, Saivion Byrd and Camar Wheaton are all on schedule to sign or announce their decision before the end of December. Offensive line and running back are both key needs for Oklahoma and these three Texans are not only the best available regionally; they're among the top uncommitted prospects nationwide. Adding two or maybe even a clean sweep of Foster, Byrd and Wheaton would have Oklahoma in the mix for one of the nation's best 2021 classes.