Rivals Roundtable: Most drama, best team battle, biggest storyline
The Early Signing Period is a day away and the Rivals.com national analyst team discusses some topics to watch heading toward Dec. 19.
1. If any prospect will cause drama this Early Signing Period, who will it be and why?
Mike Farrell: Five-star Trey Sanders seems to be the guy that has everyone guessing down the stretch, so whatever he does could be considered somewhat dramatic. He was once committed to Alabama, decommitted but eventually became viewed as a near lock to re-commit to the Tide. Late visits to Georgia and Florida have clouded things. I am still guessing Georgia, but it could be any of the three.
Rob Cassidy: That depends how you define "drama," I guess. I mean there are players that may flip. Ohio State commit Jordan Battle is taking a hard look at Alabama. Penn State commit John Dunmore is considering Miami. Then there are prospects that have a flair for the dramatic. Lakeland tight end Keon Zipperer will likely sign with Florida, but he could troll a school or two in the process. We’ll see. It’s hard to predict the most insane Signing Day shenanigans because the unpredictability is what makes them memorable.
Adam Friedman: My bet is on Quavaris Crouch. The drama will surround whether or not he signed in the Early Signing Period and if the last-minute visit to Tennessee did in fact swing momentum away from Clemson and toward the Vols.
Adam Gorney: In some recruiting cycles, the top of the board is pretty boring in terms of Signing Day drama. This is not one of those years. Five-star running back and No. 2 prospect overall Trey Sanders could provide some serious drama. Alabama seemed to hold an edge in his recruitment but Georgia is storming in there and a recent visit - plus IMG teammate Nolan Smith is committed there - cannot be discounted. Sanders visited Florida this past weekend and his brother is there, but this will be an Alabama/Georgia battle to the very last minute.
Josh Helmholdt: It looks like five-star safety Daxton Hill, who flipped his commitment from Michigan to Alabama earlier this month, may yet cause some drama in this signing period. Almost since the switch happened, there was talk Michigan might be able to flip him back. Well, now it appears Hill may not even sign with a school on Wednesday and take this thing into January. There's a lot of moving pieces here and a chance we might not get a resolution this week.
Chad Simmons: I have to stay with a name I have used in this category before - Jadon Haselwood. The five-star receiver is hoping to keep his decision quiet until Jan. 5, when he announces it in the fourth quarter of the All-American game in San Antonio. Will he even sign a letter of intent this week? That is still not known. The buzz has been that he may just sign Financial Aid with at least two, possibly three different schools, then announce at the game and show up in January. It will be interesting to see this play out.
Woody Wommack: My vote goes to Trey Sanders, who will likely have a straightforward announcement, but will still grab plenty of attention if he picks Georgia over Alabama and Florida. The one-time Alabama commit is a rare talent and it would be quite a shock to see the Bulldogs grab yet another five-star running back.
2. What's the most intriguing team battle right now heading into the early period?
Mike Farrell: It's clearly Georgia-Alabama to me with Trey Sanders, Evan Neal and Nakobe Dean all considering the two schools among others. It's even more intriguing because Kirby Smart is the protege of Nick Saban and they have battled over other prospects in 2018 and 2019.
Rob Cassidy: I’m enjoying Miami and Georgia going back and forth for five-star wideout Jadon Haselwood. Haselwood won’t sign during the early period, but that has been a fun battle to watch, as has the one for defensive back Tyrique Stevenson. The two schools are in different states and different conferences, but they have gone head-to-head often as of late.
Adam Friedman: The Alabama versus Georgia battle for five-star running back Trey Sanders will be very interesting to watch unfold, and both schools are also fighting over five-star linebacker Nakobe Dean as well.
Adam Gorney: The most interesting team battle to me right now is Alabama versus The World. The Crimson Tide have a legitimate chance of landing many uncommitted five-stars, some of them, or it could be a really disappointing early signing period for them. Trey Sanders is one name to watch. Others are offensive linemen Darnell Wright and Evan Neal, defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher, linebacker Nakobe Dean and others. The Crimson Tide could realistically land all those prospects on Wednesday. If not, Alabama should still be just fine but it would be a disappointing close if at least some don’t head to Tuscaloosa.
Josh Helmholdt: Five-star Zach Harrison is going to try and continue to keep this recruitment low key by just signing and sending out a tweet on Wednesday, but the actual college selection is causing significant intrigue. Michigan fans have been supremely confident for several months, yet Ohio State is the hometown school. And, just when it seemed like this was a two-team race, there has been legitimate Penn State talk escalating recently. There are people who are dead set they know what is going on here - and I do not believe any of them. This will be one to watch, because no matter the decision at least one fan base is going to be left shocked.
Chad Simmons: The battle for No. 1 inside linebacker Nakobe Dean has many schools guessing. Some think it’s Alabama. Others say Georgia or LSU. Ole Miss has made this very interesting, too. Can we even truly eliminate Auburn or Texas A&M? It looks like a three-team battle between Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss, but who really knows at this time. There is more than one college staff that feels like they have a legit chance.
Woody Wommack: It has to be Alabama versus Georgia. This is quickly becoming the most interesting recruiting rivalry in the nation, with Nick Saban and Kirby Smart going head-to-head basically year round. Last year, Smart got the best of Saban and there are some indications it might happen again. The Dawgs and Tide are going head-to-head on at least three five-star prospects and Wednesday will be fun to watch as it all shakes out.
3. What will be the biggest storyline coming out of the Early Signing Period, heading into the late period?
Mike Farrell: I don't want to belabor the point, but it will be the battle between Alabama and Georgia for the No. 1 class in the country. I expect one of them to finish the Early Signing Period at No. 1 with the other on its heels. It's become a great recruiting rivalry.
Rob Cassidy: I think schools like UCLA and Miami are going to be behind the eight-ball a bit, as I don’t see either having the kind of luck for which they have hoped in the early period. Miami shapes up much better long-term, as the Bruins’ class is a mess as things stand. Meanwhile, we’ll be talking about Oklahoma and Georgia as two of the biggest winners.
Adam Friedman: Finding out which players did sign during the Early Signing Period and are trying to keep it quiet until a scheduled announcement date will dominate the conversation until early January. Quavaris Crouch, Chris Steele and a few others will be the main players to come up here.
Adam Gorney: The storyline that seems to be picking up a lot of traction this year are guys who plan to sign a letter of intent to a respective school on Wednesday but then hopefully keep their decisions secrets leading into the all-star games where they can announce their pick on television. Five-star Chris Steele along with Tyrique Stevenson, Jadon Haselwood, John Dunmore and Khris Bogle are a few prospects who have mentioned doing this in recent weeks - where they will privately tell schools where they are headed and hope it doesn’t leak before they can announce the following couple weeks at all-star games. We will see how all that works out as college coaches who don’t land those players turn their attention to other recruits.
Josh Helmholdt: The team rankings picture should at least be close enough to lend some doubt as to who the overall champion will be when the February period is complete. Assumptions based on expected commitments and available numbers still have Alabama as the odds-on favorite, but Georgia has the advantage of just 18 commitments and two spots of full points still to add to their list.
Chad Simmons: Tennessee has really caught my attention. The Volunteers have flipped the script with five-star athlete Quavaris Crouch. The Vols got him on campus last weekend, and now, they have taken over the lead based on the information that has leaked out. Can Clemson get him back?
Also, No. 1 offensive tackle Darnell Wright was set to visit Georgia officially last weekend, but just hours before the visit, it came out that he would be at Tennessee instead for an unofficial visit. The Vols are really trending there, so did they convince him to sign early? That is something to watch.
Former Michigan commit, running back Eric Gray is another top prospect considered a strong Tennessee lead. Jeremy Pruitt and his staff are putting together an impressive first full class.
Woody Wommack: Alabama's continued dominance will still be the story, even if the Tide don't get all their major targets. People will really be talking about the state of Florida, though, as the Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles are poised to watch several elite prospects leave the state. With all three teams out of the national championship discussion on the field, recruiting has suffered off of it. Each school should have some spots left and will need to get some major grabs to get back to recruiting the way the Big Three's fan bases are used to.