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Southeast spotlight: Playing the what-if game with star prospects

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson (Gail Kamenish)

Recruiting is a game of what-ifs, from projecting to where prospects will fit in at the college level and which school they will ultimately pick is all part of the fun. So with the slow period in recruiting in full swing, we decided to take a look at some players who nearly headed elsewhere for college and how they might have fit if they had made a different decision.

RELATED: Midwest spotlight: What if stars picked different schools


What-if school: Georgia

What a wild ride it was for everyone who had a connection to the recruitment of Robertson in 2016. For months he was considered a Georgia lean, and the Dawgs did all they could all the way up until Robertson headed to California to get him to Athens (Ga.). Georgia’s go-to wide receiver in 2016 was slot Isaiah McKenzie. Georgia did not have a playmaker on the outside who could stretch the field and if Robertson would have signed with Georgia, he would have been that guy as a true freshman. He would have brought an entirely different element to the Georgia offense, one that they are still searching for. He had 50 receptions, close to 800 yards and seven receiving touchdowns for Cal in 2016. That would have made a huge difference between the hedges. -- Chad Simmons, Southeast recruiting analyst

What-if school: Florida

This is a popular topic among the Florida fan base. How did the Gators miss on Jackson despite hosting him for an official visit late in the process? A variety of factors came into play and Jackson decided to stay loyal to Louisville, one of the first major programs to believe in him. With Florida’s dominant defensive play over the past few years, having a weapon like Jackson running the offense may have vaulted the team into the national championship discussion. -- Woody Wommack, Southeast analyst

What-if school: Ole Miss

This one went back and forth not only between Alabama and Ole Miss, but Mississippi State was right there too. Knott chose Alabama at the last minute and he did not play as a true freshman. What if he would have chosen Ole Miss, the school many felt up until a few hours before his declaration that he was going to choose? He would have seen the field last fall and Ole Miss would have been better on the back-end of the defense. Ole Miss was hit with numerous injuries last season, forcing them to move some guys around and Knott would be in a better place in terms of making an impact on the field. Plus, the Rebels would have a body suited for their scheme there for three more years too. -- Simmons

What-if school: South Carolina

Key has been one of the country’s best pass-rushers in his two years in Baton Rouge and looks like he will be a top NFL Draft prospect next spring. What stings for Gamecocks fans is the fact that he was committed to the school, not once, but twice during his recruitment. It’s fun to think about how exciting he would be playing in Will Mushchamp’s defensive scheme. -- Wommack

What-if school: Alabama

Auburn was in it due to their offense, Alabama talked a lot of defense and some offense, but Godwin chose to stay with Georgia in the end. What if he flipped to the Crimson Tide like he flirted with on Signing Day? He likely would have been put to work right behind Cyrus Jones at cornerback and punt returner when he arrived in Tuscaloosa (Ala.). He has played offense at Georgia due to his ball skills and the need the Bulldogs have had at that position. His upside may be higher on defense and Alabama coaches defensive backs up and puts them into the NFL at a high rate. Alabama has not had the depth the last year or two that they are used to having at the defensive back position, so Godwin could have made a big impact there. He has been solid on offense at Georgia, but not the game-changer many expected him to be. Maybe it is due to the offense, game-planning or quarterbacks, but if he would have chosen Alabama, he would have likely made a big impact on the third level of the Tide’s defense. -- Simmons

What-if school: Tennessee

Brown was a longtime Tennessee commitment who flipped to Oklahoma on National Signing Day back in 2014. Most schools saw him as a long-term project and Oklahoma’s decision to redshirt him paid major dividends. He’s become the team’s starting left tackle and would have looked great protecting Josh Dobbs’ blindside in Knoxville in 2016. Heading into his redshirt junior year, Brown would also be a steady presence for the Vols as they break in a new quarterback in 2017.