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National Signing Day 2014: Predicting Where Top Undecided Players Will Land

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National Signing Day 2014: Predicting Where Top Undecided Players Will Land
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Truth be told, there are exactly zero committed players in the 2014 recruiting class at the moment. While the press conferences, Twitter messages and all other forms of commitment tie a player to a team verbally, that's all it really does. Coaches are trusting 18-year-old kids to stick to the word they gave—at times even years in advance of their high school graduation.

The recruitment cycle is strange in that way. Opposing coaches will try poaching highly touted talent until the very last second, until that point where the NCAA puts on the proverbial shackles and prevents further contact.

That point comes right about the time signings become official—the national signing period. Players can begin signing their national letters of intent on Feb. 5, at which point what they've been saying and what they will actually do adjoin together via contractual ties. National signing day itself is a weird spectacle, filled with middle-aged men watching still-growing boys sign their name on a dotted line.

The national overreaction to it on a yearly basis is at once amusing and concerning. But that's a whole different argument, left better said at a later time. Because despite all well-founded trepidation about the national signing process and what it actually means for players (a shackling of at least three years while a coach is free to gallivant as he pleases), it's still a fun process.

Seeing these kids decide the next three years of their life and help shape the college football hierarchy going forward does matter. No matter how much we may want to go back to the days of this being a relatively quiet affair.

And even though nearly all the players who have verbally committed will reaffirm their stance come national signing day, there are still a few elite players whose destinations have not been accounted for. Here's a look at where the most notable will head.

 

(Note: Top players highlighted are determined by 247 Sports' composite rankings.)

 

Adoree' Jackson (CB, Junipero Serra High School)

247Sports.com

Aside from having perhaps the coolest first name in the 2014 recruiting class, Adoree' Jackson is a stellar, ready-made corner for the next level. He lacks elite size, standing 5'9.5", but makes up for it with elite straight-line speed and excellent lateral quickness.

Besides speed, you're going to have a tough time finding flaws. At times, he gets a little lax in his fundamentals and that causes mistakes, but that's the case for nearly every high school player in the nation. These are elite talents too often facing off against players who are far below their talent level; taking a play off here or there is only natural.

Focusing on the positive, Jackson is perhaps the best athlete at his position in the nation. His agility might make him a possible kick returner at the next level, as he played both sides of the ball in high school. That two-way ability will only help him as a corner, where his fast-twitch movements and stellar closing speed made him an elite lockdown guy in high school.

247 Sports ranks Jackson as the top cornerback in the nation and eighth-best player overall. Florida and USC are said to be the two most likely landing spots for the Gardena, Calif., native. It depends upon whom is speaking which side is ultimately the favorite. 247's Crystal Ball feature puts the Trojans as an 82 percent favorite, while ESPN's prediction is that he'll land with the Gators.

Still, Jackson made it quite clear that he's open to other options while at the Under Armour All-America Game, per Jerit Roser of The Times-Picayune

It's nice, because if I can come in with a good class and come in with people I'm comfortable with and I already know, I come into a school, where it's already like friends or family basically. I'm hearing from the recruits from Florida, the Florida guys here, Tennessee, all those guys, Florida State, basically everybody who's got a school is coming up and talking to me.

Of the two favorites, I lean toward USC for two reasons: proximity and stability. Inherently, players are more likely to stay around the areas where they grew up than move the entire way across the country. That's only human nature.

The latter point is all about Steve Sarkisian being far more likely to be around for the next three or four years than Will Muschamp. The Gators coach was on the scorching-hot seat after this season, and I'd be surprised if anything short of a major turnaround saves his job. Sarkisian just signed in Los Angeles for the next five years.

That should be enough to sway Jackson if he's split.

Prediction: USC

 

Marlon Humphrey (CB, Hoover High School)

247Sports.com

Marlon Humphrey and Alabama commit Tony Brown are the two players currently nipping at Jackson's heels for the best corner in the country. From the hallowed Hoover High in Alabama, Humphrey is currently considered the "worst" of those three but is still the No. 11 player in the nation. And there were multiple points in his senior season where he was considered the best.

At 6'1" and 175 pounds, Humphrey already has the body and makeup of an instant contributor. You can tell he's been brought up through the Hoover program, as his well-coached fundamentals and heady play are beyond his years. His top-line quickness isn't quite at the level of Jackson's, but it's not far off, and he's strong enough to press at the line without getting beat.

On the surface, Humphrey's decision also seems simple enough. He's down to Alabama and Florida State as his final two choices, and the Seminoles would look to be a disadvantage after losing defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia. Pruitt handled Humphrey's recruiting, and though the two had a good relationship, it doesn't look like the Bulldogs are going to make a late play.

Still, Marlon's father, Bobby, told Jeff Sentell of AL.com that nothing was set in stone yet.

"I asked him 'Does this change anything for you?' and he told me 'No' and that it does not," Bobby Humphrey said. "He's still going to Florida State for his official visit on Friday."

Winning the national championship certainly helps giving Jimbo Fisher some cache. Remember, the last time the Seminoles switched defensive coordinators, going from Mark Stoops to Pruitt before the 2013 season, they wound up improving. So, Fisher might know a thing or two about hiring good assistants. 

That said, it'll probably take a whole metric ton of wooing to get Humphrey to leave his home state. Playing for Nick Saban and alongside Brown just seems like too good an opportunity to pass up—especially with his Hoover connection in Georgia.

Prediction: Alabama

 

Malachi Dupre (WR, John Curtis)

247Sports.com

Speaking of decisions that seem preordained, it'd be a massive surprise if Dupre wound up anywhere other than LSU. Both 247 Sports and ESPN have him heading to Baton Rouge, with the former putting the changes at a robust 100 percent. 

I'm not sure what you know about percentages, but 100 is the best you can get. Don't let those cliche mongers fool you.

Even if Dupre wasn't from Louisiana and seemingly a LSU lock for months now, the Tigers' current wide receiver situation has blown wide open. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are both heading to the NFL draft, and with running back Jeremy Hill also headed to play on Sundays, Les Miles is faced with the prospect of rebuilding his entire offense.

Dupre may be able to help out that transition. While he's far from a finished product—in large part due to circumstance—Dupre is a big target with elite, elite ball skills. Whoever takes over for Zach Mettenberger next season should find comfort in merely throwing the ball up in one-on-one situations and hoping Dupre comes down with the ball; in most cases, he'll probably reward that faith.

On the off chance he heads anywhere but LSU, Florida State and UCLA have the best chances. He visits Tallahassee on Jan. 24 and Los Angeles on Jan. 31, and it's not all that hard to talk a teenage kid into attending either campus. Florida State, as we established, is building something special. Jim Mora is actively challenging USC's place atop the Los Angeles football throne.

They're attractive programs. Just not as attractive as staying close to home while having a chance to play as a true freshman.

Prediction: LSU

 

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