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February 5, 2013
National Signing Day: Top story lines
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.
Anywhere but Virginia?
The 2013 class in Virginia is loaded with talent, but only five of the top 12 players decided to stay home, including only one of the four Virginia five-stars. Taquan Mizzell, Tim Harris, Holland Fisher, Bucky Hodges and Wyatt Teller are the only four- and five-star players from Virginia to commit to Virginia or Virginia Tech. What is even stranger is that none of the four Virginia five-star recruits decided to be a Hokie. The other five-star players, Derrick Green, Jonathan Allen and Christian Hackenberg, chose to go to Michigan, Alabama and Penn State, respectively.
Pennsylvania was full of surprises in this recruiting class. It was shocking and impressive that Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and his staff kept an excellent group of recruits committed, headlined by Hackenberg, Adam Breneman, Brendan Mahon and Garrett Sickels. Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley wide receiver Robert Foster stunned everyone in western Pennsylvania when he chose Alabama over the hometown Pittsburgh Panthers. Linebacker Alex Anzalone, from Wyomissing (Pa.) Wyomissing Area, kept everyone on their toes, committing to Ohio State and Notre Dame before settling on the Gators.
Where will Ngakoue and Bower end up?
The recruitments of Yannick Ngakoue and Tashawn Bower have been like a roller-coaster ride. Ngakoue was once committed to Maryland but opted to de-commit and explore his options. He took official visits to South Carolina and Florida State, but it looks like he will decide between the Terps and Gamecocks. He has close friends at both schools, so it will be interesting to see which one he chooses.
Bower was an early commit to Auburn, but then Gene Chizik and staff were fired and Bower opened his recruitment while remaining committed. He took official visits to Florida, Florida State and LSU before making one last unofficial visit to Auburn last weekend. The school he chooses hinges on his last visit to Auburn.
Will Levenberry, Boyd or Poggi flip?
An early commit to Florida State, E.J. Levenberry Jr. has become disenchanted with the Seminoles because of some of their coaching changes. He took an official visit to Tennessee last weekend, and there is a good chance he will flip.
Tyler Boyd committed to Pittsburgh at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but has since taken official visits to West Virginia and Tennessee. It has been reported that Boyd is conflicted, but his mother will not approve of her son choosing the Mountaineers. The possibility of a flip to Tennessee is real because of the relationship Boyd built with Butch Jones while he was at Cincinnati.
It has been well documented that Michigan has a strict no-visit policy for committed players. That makes it even stranger that Henry Poggi would visit Alabama. Since his trip to Tuscaloosa, the Poggi camp has gone silent, which is never a good sign.
[ Watch: National Signing Day Live! ]
Will Nkemdiche come through?
After a weekend trip to LSU, it's down to the wire for the nation's No. 1 recruit, Robert Nkemdiche. Ole Miss has long been the favorite to land the talented defensive end, with several other top talents already committing to the Rebels, presumably for the chance to play alongside Nkemdiche. But do the Tigers have a chance to make a last-minute steal? LSU has a history of producing big-time defensive linemen, and word out of Baton Rouge is that Nkemdiche enjoyed his trip. Now the folks in Oxford will be sweating the final hours before Nkemdiche announces his decision early on signing day. If for some reason he were to flip to LSU, the reverberations would be felt throughout the day.
Can Tennessee close on Bell?
Tennessee has a done a nice job of entering the conversation for several big names over the last few weeks, but after missing out on Carl Lawson will the Vols be able to close on fellow five-star Vonn Bell? After Alabama looked like the school to beat, it's down to Tennessee and Ohio State, with Bell keeping his decision under wraps until signing day. If he were to stay close to home and choose Tennessee, it would be a great selling point to the class of 2014 and an excellent way for the new staff to close out its first cycle. If the Buckeyes land Bell, it could be a preview of things to come with Urban Meyer & Co. making the Southeast a priority for the 2014 class.
Who else will Auburn land?
Auburn got great news over the weekend when five-star defensive end Lawson reaffirmed his commitment to the Tigers. Now the question is how many other big names can the school land? Lawson's teammate, three-star running back Peyton Barber, has flipped from Ole Miss, and four-star running back Tarean Folston is still in play. Add to that list four-star Ole Miss commit Elijah Daniel, four-star athlete Cornelius Elder and four-star defensive back Mackensie Alexander, and the Tigers could end up with a top 10 class. Nabbing all of the above names will be tough, but Auburn figures to be in much better position than we thought a month ago.
Back-to-back BCS national championships, no problem. Back-to-back recruiting national championships, looking that way too, as Alabama added five-star prospect Reuben Foster on Monday night to vault to the No. 1 spot in the Rivals Team Rankings. Foster committed to 'Bama as a junior before de-committing for rival Auburn, but after a coaching change on The Plains he decided to open things back up. Give head coach Nick Saban and his staff credit for staying on Foster. The No. 1-rated inside linebacker gives the Tide a trio of five-star prospects. It wouldn't surprise our experts if Alabama secures another high-profile player on Wednesday. Either way, it continues to impress on the field and on the recruiting front. But that's nothing new for the folks in Tuscaloosa.
Ole Miss already produced a recruiting first when the program landed Laquon Treadwell, ensuring it will finish with a five-star prospect in consecutive classes. The nation's No. 1 prospect, Nkemdiche, is a heavy lean to the Rebels and will announce his decision on signing day. If Nkemdiche selects the Rebs, it will be another recruiting milestone, marking the first time they will have signed two five-stars in a class since the inception of the Rivals.com rankings. Why stop at two? Lake City (Fla.) Columbia offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is down to Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. At one point the 'Dawgs were the favorite, but after Tunsil's official visit to Oxford he has decided to take a closer look at the Rebels. Ole Miss is still in the mix with four-stars Antonio Conner and Austin Golson, as well.
Despite a loss in the Sugar Bowl, Florida is coming off its best season since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left Gainesville. Head coach Will Muschamp and his staff have a pair of five-star commitments in Alex Anzalone and Vernon Hargreaves III to headline the class. They were able to flip Anzalone, Matt Rolin, Demarcus Robinson, and Jarrad Davis late in the process. They are still in good shape with four-stars Jaynard Bostwick and James Clark. The Gators will look to unseat the Tide for the No. 1 spot, but even if they don't reclaim the top spot it's a loaded class.
Fast finish for top prospects
The Midwest region -- comprised of the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin -- boasts a total of 45 four- and five-star prospects in the 2013 class. When defensive end Elijah Daniel committed to Ole Miss on Jan. 20, he became the last of the 45 to make his college selection. In fact Daniel, due to his official visit to Auburn this past weekend, is the only four- or five-star prospect in the Midwest whose college destination is reasonably in doubt.
Indiana has been a recruiting afterthought since the process of attracting the top football prospects to Division I schools became mainstream, but in 2013 head coach Kevin Wilson and staff put the Hoosiers on the front page. Their class of 19 commits boasts four players rated four-stars, and they beat out the likes of Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee for recruits in this cycle.
Buckeyes, Irish and Wolverines dominate
Of the top 45 ranked prospects in the Midwest's 2013 class, 23 have made commitments to Michigan, Notre Dame or Ohio State. The rest of the Big Ten combined will sign just 11 of the top 45 recruits in the Midwest, barring any last-minute changes of heart. Not surprisingly, having success in their own backyards has allowed each of those schools to compile a class that ranked among the top six nationally in the Rivals.com team standings entering the final week of the process.
No gentleman's agreement
At least 32 Midwest prospects rated three-stars or higher will sign with a school on Wednesday other than the one they originally committed to, and at least 11 of those who flipped commitments went from one Big Ten program to another. The conference that was famously rumored to have a "gentleman's agreement," among member programs' head coaches about not recruiting other Big Ten commitments has clearly left that thinking behind, as 2013 was open season on fellow conference programs' commitments.
Texas A&M takes the lead
In 2012, it was the year of the Aggie in the state of Texas for many reasons. There was the move to the SEC. It was a move many thought would lead to mediocrity. Surprise, surprise, Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M competed from the start and not only competed but won. The winning, along with an exciting brand of football led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, bled into recruiting in a big way. The Aggies took advantage of the moment and have swallowed up some of the top talents in Texas and have even gone national. Now looking at the landscape of recruiting in the state of Texas, the Aggies are the big dogs on the block.
Will Texas teams lose out on five-stars?
For the first time since Oklahoma swept the Texan five-stars in 2008, Texas programs are in danger of letting all the five-star talents take their talents outside of their borders. The only hope is Texas. The Longhorns held the pledge of five-star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson until just a few days ago, and now it appears he is headed for Alabama. Texas has not given up, but it is looking like both Mike Mitchell (Ohio State) and Robinson are headed out of state.
New staffs building momentum
A couple of big coaching moves shook up the Southwest, and rumors of others sent ripples across the landscape. Arkansas did surprisingly well on the recruiting front after the Petrino drama and the debacle that was the 2012 season. The hire of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin came as quite a surprise, but he wasted no time assembling his staff and hitting the recruiting front. He made some waves by trimming a few guys from the class in Kaleb Blanchard, Deondre Skinner, Tyler Cogswell, Jervenski Johnson and Lamar Jordan, but that has not stopped the Hogs' momentum.
Arkansas wasn't the only place with issues on the coaching front. Texas Tech saw the surprising departure of Tommy Tuberville. The Red Raiders replaced Tuberville with former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, and while time has been short they have pieced together a solid class.
It may not all come together in 2013, but these are two staffs to keep an eye on in the future.
Down year for the Big 12
It is has been an odd year for the Big 12 on the recruiting front. Recruiting superpowers Oklahoma and Texas are having solid years, but neither has been able to capture the momentum of years past. Six SEC programs come in before we get to the Big 12's first team in Oklahoma. There isn't a Big 12 team in the top 10 in recruiting for the first time since 2004. Is this a trend for the future? I don't know if I'll go that far, but it is certainly different.
It should be pointed out the top teams from the Southwest are currently two SEC programs -- LSU and Texas A&M. Both are ranked in the top 10.
It has been a wild year in the Southwest, and there are still plenty of players looking at their options. Robinson is the guy at the top of the list. The five-star appears to be headed to Alabama, but Texas is not going away quietly.
Southlake (Texas) Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill remains committed to Texas A&M, but he has expressed more than a passing interest in both Baylor and Kansas State. Waco (Texas) defensive tackle Andrew Billings is set to choose from Baylor, Texas and TCU on Tuesday afternoon.
Then there is the wild card of all wild cards in Lancaster (Texas) defensive end Daeshon Hall. He's committed to Washington, but the guesses on what happens on signing day are everywhere.
Big finish for UCLA
There is a very good chance UCLA fans will be overjoyed on signing day when five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and four-star defensive end Kylie Fitts make their decisions. There is also a good chance four-star quarterback Asiantii Woulard will end up with the Bruins, further bolstering an outstanding recruiting class. Vanderdoes and Fitts aren't talking, but one source said UCLA has locked them both up and that would be huge because both are quality talents and both are former USC commits.
Stanford takes a dip
Stanford finished strong last recruiting cycle, landing numerous players on signing day and finishing with the top class in the Pac-12, but the same will not be said this time. The Cardinal rank No. 11 in the conference and that could be seen as highly disappointing, but Stanford was not expected to have a big class anyway. There are four four-star prospects in the class, which is low, but the connection of quarterback Ryan Burns to wide receiver Francis Owusu could be a special one in the coming years.
Oregon's twin concerns
Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL added intrigue to the recruitment of Oregon commits Tyree and Tyrell Robinson. All of that will come to a head on signing day, when the two-sport stars are set to choose between the Ducks and Washington, which they visited last weekend. Some rumors say that the twins may actually split, with one joining the Ducks and the other headed to Washington, but that doesn't seem likely. There has always been a solid relationship between the Huskies' coaches and the Robinsons. And the fact that their high school coach is a former teammate of Washington assistant Marques Tuiasosopo doesn't hurt things. There's some serious intrigue here, and calling the situation either way would be a total shot in the dark. It's setting up to be one of the year's most intriguing signing-day announcements.