We've reached the home stretch of the 2014 recruiting cycle.
The next wave of college football superstars will sign the dotted line on Wednesday, Feb. 5, with several members of the class holding out to make their decisions until the last minute.
The rise in popularity of early enrollment and prospects and colleges using the January high school All-American games to get more bang for their buck has cut out some of the intrigue of national signing day itself. But there's still plenty to gain and lose on the home stretch.
There are 24 (and possibly up to 27) top-tier players committing on national signing day, with at least 16 considering SEC programs, according to MaxPreps.com's list of players committing over the next week.
Which schools have the most to gain or lose on national signing day?
No other program in the conference has more on the table on Wednesday than Les Miles' Tigers.
Wide receiver Malachi Dupre, a 5-star, 6'2", 187-pound wide receiver from New Orleans, is down to several schools, including LSU, Alabama, UCLA and Florida State. The Tigers are the favorite, and if they don't lock down the potentially game-breaking wide receiver, he'll join Speedy Noil, Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones as Louisiana superstar prospects who LSU let leave the state.
Don't count out a late push from Ole Miss, though. Dupre recently visited Oxford and appreciated the love he was shown.
Well Ole Miss was fun and the luvv was soo real 😏 pic.twitter.com/JC13uPK2xv— Malachi Dupre (@MalachiDupre) January 30, 2014
Kenny Young, Dupre's teammate at John Curtis High School, will also have an LSU hat on the table during the school's signing day event. Young is a 6'2", 220-pound linebacker who's also considering UCLA, along with Texas A&M and Arkansas. The 4-star prospect is one of signing day's biggest mysteries and could be a nice piece to defensive coordinator John Chavis' defense in Baton Rouge.
At the same time 860 miles away in Hialeah, Fla., 6'3", 338-pound defensive tackle Travonte Valentine will be making his decision at Champagnat Catholic. The 4-star prospect could join a long line of successful Tiger defensive tackles at what's becoming "defensive tackle U," including Glenn Dorsey, Bennie Logan, Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. LSU is the favorite, but don't count out Miami making a late push for the south Florida star.
If LSU can close strong on national signing day, it could jump up to the No. 2 spot in the national team rankings.
It's a make-or-break season for Florida head coach Will Muschamp, and building some semblance of momentum by closing strong on the recruiting trail would be incredibly beneficial to the fourth-year Gator head coach.
He's been making a strong push for Gardena, Calif. native Adoree' Jackson, a 5-star, 5'9", 182-pound cornerback. Jackson is considered a lean to USC, but Muschamp made the trek to the West Coast for an in-home visit in mid-January to put on the full-court press. If Jackson joins a defensive backfield that already includes studs like Vernon Hargreaves III, the Gator defense will be terrifying.
Ermon Lane, a 6'3", 193-pound wide receiver from Homestead, Fla., was once committed to the Gators before de-committing in early January. Now a heavy Florida State lean, he will announce his decision at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. It's not likely that he'll end up in Gainesville, but stranger things have happened. You know, like Alex Collins' mom stealing his national letter of intent?
Those two players are long shots for the Gators. Norcross, Ga., defensive end Lorenzo Carter, on the other hand, is a little more realistic.
The 5-star, 6'5", 232-pound speed rusher is visiting Georgia on the final weekend before national signing day and is down to the Bulldogs, Florida State, LSU and Florida. The Gators have been putting on the press for Carter, which included simultaneous visits from the Gators and Seminoles. His signature, combined with a few others, could vault the Gators into the top five nationally. It might be hard for Muschamp to pry him away from Athens and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, though.
A potential Gator who is visiting on the final weekend before national signing day is Damian Prince, a 6'5", 295-pound defensive tackle from District Heights, Md. Prince will announce at 10:20 a.m. ET on ESPN and is trending toward staying in-state at Maryland, but Muschamp and Co. will get the last shot to impress him on his official visit to Gainesville.
Auburn's class is nearly set, but there are a few outstanding pieces remaining which could make a good class even better.
On the top of that list is Rashaan Evans, a 5-star outside linebacker from Auburn High School—right in head coach Gus Malzahn's own backyard. He's narrowed his choices down to Auburn, Alabama and UCLA, but cancelled an unofficial visit to the Bruins on the final weekend of the recruiting season. Auburn is the favorite, but Alabama was able to snag linebacker Reuben Foster—who also played at Auburn High—from the plains last season.
Andrew Williams is another hot-shot defender who's trending toward Auburn down the stretch. The 6'4", 247-pound defensive end from Mcdonough, Ga., is down to Auburn and Clemson and could join a defensive line that already features a talented group from last year's class (including Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams).
The Tigers could spring an early upset on national signing day if Braden Smith commits to them at 8:50 a.m. ET on ESPN. The 4-star offensive guard from Olathe, Kan., is down to TCU, Auburn and Texas A&M, with the Horned Frogs and Tigers being the favorites. Smith's strength is run-blocking, and after what Malzahn did with the Tigers' running game in his first season as head coach, he'd be a tremendous asset.
Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will also be tuned in to the ceremony at John Curtis High School in New Orleans at 10:20 a.m. ET, because that's where 5'10", 180-pound defensive back Terrence Alexander will announce his college intentions. The 4-star cover corner is down to Ole Miss, Notre Dame and Stanford, and is one of the biggest mysteries left on the recruiting table.
He could be one of the final pieces of an Ole Miss class that is loaded with 4-star talent and is a perfect follow-up to the recruiting splash Freeze made last season.
Toss in Michael Sawyers—a 6'2", 300-pound defensive tackle who visited Ole Miss last weekend—and the Rebels could become the talk of national signing day. Sawyers hasn't scheduled a date or time to announce and could become one of the most talked about recruits if he waits it out.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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