National Signing Day 2014: The top 15 uncommitted recruits still left on the board
While most of the nation’s top prospects have already made verbal commitments, several blue-chip talents remain undecided as National Signing Day approaches. There is plenty of anticipation surrounding their choices, many of which could shake up the 2014 class hierarchy.
At the very least, fans can reasonably expect to see some drama unfold as players across the country deliberate about to whom they will fax their National Letters of Intent. Here’s a primer on the top 15 uncommitted prospects in this year’s Rivals100.
Adoree’ Jackson, ATH, Junipero Serra High (Gardena, Calif.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 1 athlete; No. 6 overall
The skinny: The nation’s top uncommitted prospect is expected to choose one of the following four programs: Florida, LSU, UCLA and USC. Jackson shone on both sides of the ball for Junipero Serra High, the same school that produced current and former Trojans receivers George Farmar, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Jackson could wind up playing offense, defense and special teams in college. It’s also believed that he is interested in becoming a dual-sport athlete; he is one of California’s top long jumpers and sprinters, and has Olympic aspirations. Most observers believe that USC is the frontrunner, and Jackson reportedly visited with both the Trojans and UCLA over the weekend. Whichever school he picks, follow him on Twitter. You won’t be disappointed.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 2:10 p.m. ET
Rashaan Evans, LB, Auburn High (Auburn, Ala.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 1 outside linebacker, No. 14 overall
The skinny: Evans canceled his planned trip for UCLA over the weekend after visiting his other two finalists, Alabama and Auburn, the two previous weeks. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn reportedly lined up Davis in formation with linebacker commits De’Shaun Davis and Tre Watson. Evans called it an “eye-opening” moment, telling AL.com, “[Malzahn] was like, this could be one of the best linebacker corps that have come through Auburn in recruiting history.” The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder has a 38-inch vertical leap and was clocked at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, according to Rivals.com. The Tigers are the perceived favorite, though many observers insist the Crimson Tide shouldn’t be written off. Malzahn and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart reportedly visited Evans’ house on Saturday.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 11:45 a.m. ET
Malachi Dupre, WR, John Curtis Christian High (New Orleans)
Rivals.com rank: No. 2 wide receiver, No. 15 overall
The skinny: Alabama is making a strong late push to land the nation’s second-ranked receiver. Coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin visited Dupre at his home last Thursday after he made an official visit to Tuscaloosa last month. Still, it could be tough for the Crimson Tide to pry the 6-4, 175-pounder away from his home state — LSU is considered the favorite to earn Dupre’s signature. The Veer offense employed by John Curtis Christian High is run-focused, but Dupre was still caught 34 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. His athleticism and leaping ability have scouts and, presumably, coaches salivating over how good he can be at the next level. Dupre recently announced that he was still considering the following schools: UCLA, Ole Miss, Alabama, Florida State and LSU. He visited all five in January.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 10:30 a.m. ET
Damian Prince, OT, Bishop McNamara High (Forestville, Md.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 2 offensive tackle, No. 20 overall
The skinny: Landing Prince would provide a nice momentum boost for coach Randy Edsall as the Terrapins prepare for their first season in the Big Ten. In fact, Maryland’s conference switch seems to be a big selling point for the five-star lineman. “Them making that jump, of course, to the Big Ten conference, they’re going to play up against some top, top players and, you know, that opportunity to play in that conference,” Prince told ESPN’s RecruitingNation. Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley reportedly visited Prince in his home last Thursday, but Prince also visited Florida’s campus over the weekend. The Terps’ appeared to have gained an edge after Prince attended a Maryland basketball game last month, but close friend Jalen Tabor — an early enrollee at Florida — is reportedly trying to persuade him to sign with the Gators.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 10:20 a.m. ET
John “JuJu” Smith, S, Long Beach Polytechnic High (Long Beach, Calif.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 2 safety, No. 24 overall
The skinny: If Smith signs with USC, the Trojans will have landed three of the four top-ranked safeties in the last two recruiting classes. (They signed Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay III last year.) There is a chance, however, that Smith will play receiver in college. Trojans sophomore wideout Nelson Agholor hosted Smith for his recent official visit, and Smith reportedly talked with receivers coach Tee Martin about the possibility of playing right away. “He told me I could come in and get a lot of playing time,” Smith told Rivals.com. “USC is known for playing their true freshmen. You could see that over the past couple of years with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. That would be great for me to come in and get some playing time.” Smith’s four finalists are Oregon, USC, Notre Dame and UCLA. He also reportedly took an unofficial visit to UCLA, and met with coaches of both the Trojans and the Ducks last week.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: Noon ET
Malik McDowell, DE, Southfield High (Southfield, Mich.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 2 strongside defensive end, No. 26 overall
The skinny: After visiting Michigan State and Florida State last month, McDowell made his final official visit to Ohio State over the weekend. Michigan is the other program in McDowell’s top four, and although he didn’t make an official visit, he has been to Ann Arbor, unofficially, numerous times. McDowell had 89 tackles and seven sacks as a senior, and scouts love his initial burst off the line of scrimmage. Opinions are mixed as to which school is the favorite to earn his signature.
Expected announcement time: 9:30 a.m. ET
Ermon Lane, WR, Homestead High (Homestead, Fla.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 5 wide receiver, No. 28 overall
The skinny: Lane decommitted from Florida less than two weeks after his close friend, five-star all-purpose back Dalvin Cook, announced on New Year’s Eve that he was flipping to Florida State. Like Cook, Lane — who visited Tallahassee over the weekend — is expected to sign with the Seminoles. Some believe that Lane is actually a “silent commit” to Florida State; it would be a surprise if he picks a different school on Signing Day. The 6-2, 175-pound receiver averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in his senior season at Homestead High. If the Seminoles get Lane’s signature, they will have landed two of the nation’s top-five wideouts. Travis Rudolph, from Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach, Fla., is the top-ranked receiver in the country.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 10 a.m. ET
Lorenzo Carter, DE, Norcross High (Norcross, Ga.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 3 weakside defensive end, No. 36 overall
The skinny: Assistants from Florida and Florida State are pulling out all the stops in their attempts to lure Carter, but the nation’s third-ranked weakside defensive end could wind up sticking with his home state school. Former Seminoles defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s move to Georgia would seem to make the Bulldogs an even more appealing option for Carter. The 6-3, 235-pounder ran a 4.65 40, according to Rivals.com, and made 132 tackles as a senior at Norcross High. Carter’s finalists are Florida, Georgia, LSU and Florida State. He made an official visit to Georgia last weekend.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 3 p.m. ET
Solomon Thomas, DE, Coppell High (Coppell, Texas)
Rivals.com rank: No. 3 strongside defensive end, No. 37 overall
The skinny: Thomas is expected to pick one of three schools — UCLA, Arkansas or Stanford — after recently eliminating Ohio State and Texas from consideration. The Cardinal are considered the favorite to land Texas’ fourth-ranked player, who has received at least 25 scholarship offers from major conference schools. Thomas visited Palo Alto and Fayetteville last month, and he went to Westwood in December. He also hosted Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema for an in-home visit last week. At 6-3 and 263 pounds, Thomas is a physical presence off the edge who excels at stopping the run. He was named second team All-USA in 2013 by USA Today and was selected to participate in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 9 a.m. ET
Damien Mama, OG, St. John Bosco High (Bellflower, Calif.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 1 offensive guard, No. 39 overall
The skinny: Most experts believe the massive offensive guard can step in and excel right away. Rivals.com has Mama listed at 6-5 and 360 pounds, but he is reportedly trying to slim down before he begins his college career. “You always want to get better,” Mama told MaxPreps last week. “Mainly for me it is dropping weight and getting stronger … I feel like I can get faster.” The consensus is that Mama, who recently dropped UCLA from his list of finalists (USC, Alabama and BYU), will pick the Trojans. His most recent official visit, however, was to BYU over the weekend. Mama is the nation’s top-ranked offensive guard and the fourth-ranked player in California.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 11:15 a.m. ET
Braden Smith, OG, Olathe South High (Olathe, Kans.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 3 offensive guard, No. 50 overall
The skinny: Smith drew some attention last month for this impressive display of bench press strength. He is the nation’s third-ranked offensive guard and the state of Kansas’ top-ranked player. He drew offers from Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford, among others, but is expected to pick between Auburn, Texas A&M and TCU. Smith, whose sister attends TCU, reportedly visited with the Horned Frogs last weekend. If he chooses TCU, he would be the only four-star player in their 2014 class.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 8:50 a.m. ET
Steven Parker, S, Jenks High (Jenks, Okla.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 6 safety, No. 53 overall
The skinny: Oklahoma is considered the favorite to land Parker, but it sounds as if the four-star defensive back had a great time on his visit to Auburn last weekend. “”No ifs ands or buts about it right there,” Parker’s father told AL.com on Sunday. “Very, very, very high impression on him.” Parker is the top-ranked player in Oklahoma and the nation’s sixth-ranked safety. The 6-2, 185-pound defensive back ran a 4.46 40, according to Rivals.com, and a four-second shuttle. Parker’s final three schools are Auburn, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. He also drew offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Baylor, among others.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 2:15 p.m. ET
Travonte Valentine, DT, Champagnat Catholic School (Hialeah, Fla.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 3 defensive tackle, No. 59 overall
The skinny: When Valentine announced that he was decommitting from Miami at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last month, he named LSU his new favorite. Hurricanes coach Al Golden visited Valentine last week, and it’s now a toss-up whether he’ll sign with Miami or the Tigers. Valentine told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald last week that the relationships he’s built with other players from South Florida who have already committed to LSU (including Hallandale High cornerback John Battle) are one of the primary reasons he’s high on the Tigers. The 6-3, 320 pounder drew more than 25 scholarship offers from FBS schools, including USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida State.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 10:30 a.m. ET
Budda Baker, S, Bellevue High (Bellevue, Wash.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 10 safety, No. 61 overall
The skinny: Cornerback Naijiel Haile (from St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, Calif.), the son of rapper Nate Dogg, believes he will be successful in convincing Baker to join him at Washington. Baker had narrowed his choices to Oregon, UCLA and Washington before decommitting from the Ducks last month. New Huskies coach Chris Petersen and his staff have made a strong push for Baker, and most analysts believe their persistence is going to pay off. If Baker picks Washington, he would join quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, who committed late last month, as the only four-star players in the Huskies’ 2014 class.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 4 p.m. ET
Michiah Quick, ATH, Central High — East Campus (Fresno, Calif.)
Rivals.com rank: No. 4 athlete, No. 76 overall
The skinny: After announcing his top six schools last month, Quick appears to have narrowed down his list to three: Oklahoma, UCLA and Notre Dame. Quick, who visited all three schools, was selected to participate in the Under Armour All-America Game last month and is the fourth-ranked athlete in the country and the seventh-ranked player in California. The 6-0, 170-pounder received scholarship offers from Alabama, Oregon and USC, among others, and projects as a wide receiver in college. Scouts praise Quick for his explosiveness, breakaway speed and ability to elude tacklers in the open field. It is believed Quick will pick either Oklahoma or Notre Dame.
Expected Signing Day announcement time: 5 p.m. ET