Weekend Visit Preview: Five programs with plenty on the line
The 2018 calendar has given college football programs an extra weekend to host official visitors. In most years, just two weekends occur between the end of the regular season and the start of the winter dead period, but this upcoming weekend is a bonus one ahead of the December Signing Period for the 2019 class, and several schools are taking advantage.
Ole Miss already has the largest non-service academy recruiting class in 2019, with 26 commitments in a class ranked top 20 nationally, and they are welcoming 15 prospects in for official visits this weekend. Like a lean-framed competitive eater you may be asking: Where are they going to put it all? Remember, however, this was the program that remarkably signed 37 prospects in a single class back in 2009. Ole Miss knows how to maximize their allowances.
Ten of this weekend’s official visits are among those 26 commitments. That means, however, that five are not. Only two of the five non-Ole Miss commits officially visiting Oxford this week are actually uncommitted: three-star offensive tackle Charles Cross and three-star cornerback Jamar Richardson. Head coach Matt Luke and his staff will also be bringing in four-star Alabama commit Brandon Turnage, four-star Georgia commit Zion Logue and three-star Auburn commit Jamond Gordon for official visits this weekend.
It required a regular season finale victory over Texas Tech, but Baylor is headed back to a bowl game. Although which bowl game the Bears will play in has not been determined, Matt Rhule and his staff are going to host a huge recruiting weekend in conjunction with bowl game practices. This is the first major official visit weekend of the 2019 class for Baylor, and they will be packing them on the banks of the Brazos this weekend.
The list of official visitors this weekend could number as many as 16, and just nine are currently committed to the Bears. The list of uncommitted prospects expected in Waco is headlined by high three-stars Isaiah Hoofkin and Brant Banks, a pair of in-state offensive linemen for whom Baylor has plenty of competition. There are also prospects currently committed to Illinois and Louisville on the expected official visitors list, as Baylor looks to build on its current 16-man 2019 class that ranks 40th in the country.
This could turn out to be one of the biggest recruiting weeks of the year for LSU. The Tigers got their quarterback of the future in 2020 Rivals100 four-star Max Johnson on Wednesday, and are hosting several top 2019 targets for official visits this weekend. Although LSU will not have mega numbers like Ole Miss or Baylor, the Tigers are bringing in a star-studded group of prospects that includes two highly ranked targets and two current commits.
In order to compete in the SEC, conference programs need to recruit top talent all the way until the end. LSU’s 2019 class features 20 commitments and ranks sixth overall, but Ed Orgeron has plenty in store for the final few weeks before the Early Signing Period, starting with the group headed to Baton Rouge this weekend. The biggest name expected in is five-star Auburn wide receiver commit George Pickens, but four-star tight end Keon Zipperer out of Florida is also a big-time target who will be on campus this weekend.
The battle for five-star defensive tackle Ishamel Sopsher is billed as one between Alabama and LSU, but Texas A&M is going to try to make this a three-team contest by hosting the Louisiana native for an official visit this weekend. Texas A&M’s other official visitors this weekend includes Ainias Smith, a versatile three-star athlete from nearby Sugar Land who has emerged as a top target late for several schools, as well as four-star in-state tight end Jalen Wydermyer.
The Aggies are absolutely rolling on the recruiting trail in Jimbo Fisher’s first, full class with the program. The class is currently ranked No. 2 in 2019 behind fellow SEC West member Alabama, and already has commitments from five-stars Erick Young and Kenyon Green. Even though Texas A&M would be considered a long shot for Sopsher, taking a five-star away from the Crimson Tide would go a long way in its bid for a recruiting national title.
The focus this weekend in Gainesville will be on trying to flip prospects committed to other schools. There are currently four official visits slated to be in Gainesville this weekend, led by four-star in-state offensive tackle Michael Tarquin, who is committed to Miami. Another Miami commit, three-star defensive end Kingsley Eguakun, will also be an official visitor after picking up an offer from the Gators on Tuesday.
Two more three-star defenders - Virginia Tech commit Brandon Dorlus and uncommitted linebacker Derick Hall II out of Mississippi - are expected to join Tarquin and Eguakun at Florida this weekend for official visits. Dan Mullen is looking to finish strong with his first, full class at Florida, and he has the room to do it with just 16 prospects committed so far in a class that ranks No. 23 nationally in 2019.