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Teams with the Most to Lose Between Now and National Signing Day

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

Teams with the Most to Lose Between Now and National Signing Day

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The twirling revolutions of the coaching carousel have eased toward a stop, and much of their fallout on the class of 2014 has already taken place. The James Franklins and Steve Sarkisians of the world have thoroughly pillaged their old programs, even if they lost some of their predecessors' former commits in the process.

    Still, with roughly two weeks separating now and national signing day, there remains some jockeying to be done this cycle. Programs have a lot left to gain and lose not just with unsigned recruits, but also lukewarm commitments. 

    A number of the most important dominoes these next two weeks have already pledged themselves to a school. If they leave and go somewhere else, it thus becomes doubly important, costing one team as much as it helps another.

    Here are six schools with a lot on the line.

     

    Note: All rankings and official visit information via 247Sports.

Alabama

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    He who has the most, has the most to lose.

    Alabama is the No. 1 team on 247Sports' class rankings, holding a significant edge over No. 2 Ohio State and (even more so) No. 3 LSU. Unless the Crimson Tide start hemorrhaging 5-star players, it's likely they won't move from that position. 

    But a couple of 'Bama's best committed prospects are looking elsewhere. Athlete Bo Scarbrough, perhaps dissuaded by the running back logjam in Tuscaloosa, took official visits to Notre Dame, Ole Miss and UCLA this past season. Linebacker Christian Miller is visiting Georgia on Jan. 24.

    Though Miller and Scarbrough are favored to remain with Alabama, losing one or both would be a significant blow to its class. Even in Tuscaloosa, where 5-star athletes seemingly grow on trees, it hurts to cough one up so late in the process.

Florida State

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The Seminoles have locked up some of their most important commits of the cycle, and they still have a lot to potentially gain—i.e. Ermon Lane. No matter what happens these next few weeks, the class will remain pretty strong.

    But some of Florida State's depth is in question before national signing day. Dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris has already visited Florida and has upcoming visits with Auburn and Miami. He seems a likely candidate to flip, as might defensive tackle Dexter Wideman, who just got done with a successful visit to in-state South Carolina.

    Jeremy Pruitt just left Tallahassee to become the new defensive coordinator at Georgia, replacing Todd Grantham. He is one of the best recruiters in the country and a big reason Florida State has a top-five class.

    His departure hasn't comprised the unit to date, but it gives defensive prospects an impetus to reconsider their decision, which is always the first step to decommitting. 

Miami

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    Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

    Miami has already suffered some losses these past few weeks. Talented players like running back Brian Powell, cornerback Nigel Bethel and defensive tackle Travonte Valentine all decommitted from the Hurricanes, hurting the class' depth.

    As a result, the Hurricanes' once-shiny class has lost some luster. They are still in pretty good shape, but the loss of one or two more blue-chip recruits could be crippling. Al Golden needs to lock his guys down.

    That could be a problem, as 5-star defensive end Chad Thomas and 4-star quarterback Brad Kaaya have both done—and continue to do—rigorous diligence on other schools. Thomas will visit Florida State and Alabama before national signing day, while Kaaya travel to Boise State.

    Kaaya and Thomas are two of the four most important players in this class, which is likely the most important one of Golden's Miami tenure. Locking up that duo will sustain momentum in the right direction. Losing them will make the class—though still very good—feel kind of bitter. 

Minnesota

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    There's no such thing as a "one-prospect class," but Minnesota comes pretty close.

    Running back Jeff Jones, a 4-star recruit and the MVP of his Team Nitro during the Under Armour All-American Game, is more than just the lynchpin of the class. He's the heart, the soul and the pulse. At No. 60 on the 247Sports composite rankings, he checks in more than 400 spots higher than any other future Gopher.

    But is he really a future Gopher? Jones' commit seems untenably soft, especially with Michigan and Florida in such eager pursuit of his services. His stock is on the rise and both of those teams are in need of a running back, so supply seems to fit with demand.

    According to the 247Sports Class Calculator, Jones' loss would move Minnesota down from No. 66 to No. 78 in the program rankings, behind the likes of Temple, Tulane and Western Kentucky. For a power-conference team that started 8-2 last season, a haul that soft would severely curtail momentum

Texas

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    Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

    Charlie Strong inherited a good group of commits from Mack Brown, and he has wisely made retaining them a priority over recruiting new talent. So far, that has worked out fairly well, and he's even been able to land guys like OLB Edwin Freeman in the process.

    But Strong's job is far from over. Some of the Longhorns' best committed players have scheduled or already taken visits elsewhere, including 4-star linebacker Otaro Alaka, who is looking at SEC powers like Texas A&M and LSU.

    Beyond Alaka, receiver Lorenzo Joe is visiting TCU and USC, while safety John Bonney just took a visit to Auburn. Strong is a very good recruiter and he's assembled a fine staff, but the loss of assistant coaches like Duane Akina and Bo Davis has thrown a wrench in the rest of this class.

Vanderbilt

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    It's hard to believe, but the bleeding at Vanderbilt might not yet be over.

    James Franklin has phlebotomized his former school since leaving for Penn State, draining its recruiting class dry at nearly every level. Five former Commodores have already flipped to Penn State, all quality 3-star recruits, and others could still follow.

    Now Vandy is left with just two 4-star guys carrying its class, devoid of any depth behind them. That duo—Kyle Gibson and Emmanuel Smith—are both entertaining visits from other schools and strongly considering defection.

    The quick hire of Derek Mason should help, but this ship continues to sink. That was expected in the wake of losing Franklin, as it is with any coach, but the extent thus far has been remarkable. Who knows how bad things will get by national signing day?

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