National Signing Day 2014: College Football Teams Who Could Win Big
No team is sleepwalking or standing pat in the week leading up to national signing day, but this closing stretch means more to some programs than others.
Whether it's because they've struggled to date or are still flirting with some of the top players in the country, certain teams stand to win or lose a lot when the cycle finally comes to a close.
The following teams are the former—they that stand to win. If they can close the deal on their top remaining targets, which are mostly made up of 4- and 5-star players, they can solidify a very strong class.
If not, they might end up disappointed.
Note: All star and class rankings via the 247Sports composite.
USC is still in play for two of the biggest fish in the pond.
USC needs the help, too. A traditional recruiting powerhouse, the Trojans are way down at No. 26 in the class rankings and struggling to keep up with their normal standard of success. The coaching change didn't help, but they should be higher than they are.
Unlike USC, Florida State doesn't really need the help on and before national signing day. The Seminoles will be fine either way.
But things could get even better. FSU is in the running for a number of high-profile uncommitted recruits, including receivers Ermon Lane and Malachi Dupre. Lane is the much safer bet to commit, but either or both, in conjunction with Florida State commit Travis Rudolph, would make this a special class of pass-catchers.
Also in play is Miami commit Chad Thomas, who took a visit to Tallahassee on Jan. 24 and is taking one to Alabama on Jan. 31. Clearly, his pledge to the Hurricanes is looser than it seems, so Jimbo Fisher might be able to sneak in and snag him.
Defensive end Malik McDowell is another potential coup for the Seminoles, although he's expected to stay in Big Ten country. He visited Tallahassee on Jan. 17.
Auburn needs to land Rashaan Evans.
The hometown product is one of the best, if not the single best, outside linebacker in the class, and he's choosing between the Tigers and Alabama. When he announces, Auburn will be a heavy favorite, but the coaches will still be biting their lips at the finish.
Scoring him would be a big deal.
But Auburn could win in other ways ahead of national signing day as well. It has its eye on Braden Smith, the third-ranked offensive guard in the country, and athlete Treon Harris, who is committed to Florida State and projects as a very good dual-threat quarterback.
Good interior line play and mobile quarterbacking helped Auburn reach the national title game in 2013. Recruiting the next wave of those things would keep Auburn competive again down the line.
Michigan State is far from a recruiting powerhouse, but capitalizing on the success of its 2013 campaign—where not only did it win but looked like a very fun place to play—it hopes to land (or steal) some blue-chip recruits toward the end of this cycle.
The big fish is Malik McDowell, who was previously mentioned for visiting Florida State. He's also considering Ohio State and Michigan, but Sparty is the tentative favorite to land him. And sticking a 6'7'' pass-rusher in Pat Narduzzi's system could be scary.
But MSU is also trying to poach some recruits from its Big Ten brethren. Offensive lineman Jamarco Jones (committed to Ohio State) and defensive tackle Craig Evans (committed to Wisconsin) are both in play this next week, and they would become a lynchpin of this MSU class.
It took a quarter of a century for MSU to get back to the Rose Bowl. If it can't capitalize on that success, who's to say it won't take as long again?
The Gators won't go down without a fight.
After losing Dalvin Cook to Florida State and having Ermon Lane decommit, Florida has made sport of poaching quality recruits from other teams. And with guys like athlete Treon Harris (committed to Florida State) still left on the board, it might not yet be done.
But the uncommitted prospects are the reason that Florida could win big. The Gators are right up there with USC in pursuit of 5-star corner Adoree' Jackson, and the pairing of him with Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor could be terrifying.
Florida is also a front-runner for 5-star offensive tackle Damian Prince, who is favored to attend Maryland but is a friend of Tabor's and might be willing to head south.
If they can land one or both of those 5-stars, the Gators will be big winners of the cycle.