In what is college football’s equivalent to the NFL Draft, National Signing Day 2014 will allow some of the most widely celebrated high school football prospects in the country to sign their letters of intent, officially announcing which program they will play for in the upcoming season.
Many of National Football Post’s Top 25 senior prep players in the country have yet to commit, and some of the premier programs in the nation anxiously await an answer. Below are a few names who are set to make their decisions live on National Signing Day (Wednesday).
CB Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, CA)
Adoree’ Jackson is the top-rated prospect still on the board and is expected to choose between Florida, LSU, UCLA and USC. The 5’10” Jackson is a product of Junipero Serra High in Gardena, Calif., and many observers project him to stay in state and attend either UCLA or USC. According to Dave Miller of the National Football Post, Jackson has the athletic prowess of “De’Anthony Thomas mixed with the skills to be a shutdown corner.”
CalHiSports had high praise for California's 2013 Mr. Football:
Jackson is perhaps compared most to 2004 Mr. Football honoree Desean Jackson of Long Beach Poly, now starring for the Philadelphia Eagles. His return game also has some comparing him to Devin Hester when he was playing in high school in Florida. Hester now holds the NFL record for most kickoff return touchdowns.
It is widely believed Jackson may be interested in becoming a dual-sport athlete. Away from the gridiron, Jackson is California’s top long jumper and sprinter and has made public his aspiration of competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics as a track and field star.
Jackson is expected to make his announcement at 2:10 p.m. EST on National Signing Day.
OT Damian Prince (Forestville, MD)
Maryland coach Randy Edsall is doing all he can to land in-state prospect Damian Prince, the second-rated offensive tackle in this class, in preparation for the Terrapins first season in the Big Ten.
Prince, who is an exceptional run blocker and pass protector, is believed to have narrowed his options to Maryland, Florida and South Carolina, but Penn State, Auburn and LSU are making late pushes.
Daniel Martin of CSN Baltimore is still reporting a "toss up" for Prince between Maryland and Florida.
Though he was leaning toward Maryland after attending a basketball game there last month, Prince’s close friend and Florida-commit, Jalen Tabor, is recruiting Prince hard, according to Chris Johnson of SI.com, and giving the Gators the upper hand heading into Wednesday’s 10:20 a.m. EST announcement.
WR Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, LA)
Excelling in a run-oriented offense throughout his career at John Curtis Christian High, Malachi Dupre is the perfect receiver for the Southeastern Conference. At 6’3” and 187 pounds, Dupre is another dual-sport athlete—winning Louisiana state titles in the long jump, high jump and triple jump—and has impressed scouts across the nation with his athleticism and leaping ability.
Although Alabama coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin are making a late push to land the nation’s second-ranked receiver, it is likely Dupre will remain in state and sign with the LSU Tigers. Do not count out UCLA, Ole Miss, Alabama or Florida State in this one, though, as Dupre has made official visits to all five schools in January.
Dupre is expected to make his announcement at 10:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday morning.
S John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, CA)
While the in-state USC Trojans are likely the prohibitive favorites, it is believed that UCLA, Notre Dame and Oregon are in the mix to sign the class’s top-ranked safety, JuJu Smith.
If the Trojans are able to ink the 6’1” and 206-pound Long Beach native, Smith will join a defense already consisting of Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, giving USC three of the four No. 1-ranked safeties in the last two recruiting classes.
Although Smith is listed at safety, it is widely believed he could convert to wide receiver or play both ways for the Trojans. In his most recent visit to USC, Smith was hosted by sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor. During the same visit, Smith reportedly had conversations with USC receivers coach Tee Martin about the possibility of getting significant playing time as a freshman.
“He told me I could come in and get a lot of playing time,” Smith told Rivals.com (subscription required). “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.”
According to Yahoo! Sports, Smith is not only the perfect landing spot for Smith, but he is the perfect recruit for the Trojans:
Athlete is a label, but for USC, it's a need when versatility helps ease the Trojans lack of depth due to scholarship limitations. Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson were oddities in college football 20 years ago. With a roster of 70 scholarship players and a new brand of offensive football at USC, Adoree' Jackson and John Smith double their value as Trojan targets.
Smith is expected to make his decision at 12 p.m. on National Signing Day.
Aside from Smith, all the prospects detailed above seem destined for the SEC. This recruiting cycle is shaping up to be another one dominated by SEC programs, as the current landscape has at least 17 of 33 five-star prospects joining football's premier conference. While Alabama, again, leads the way with the highest rated class—and has an outside chance at the best recruiting class ever—LSU and Auburn are both set up for great classes.
Coming off a loss to Florida State in the BCS Championship Game, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn looks to be in the mix for a top-5 finish. According to CBS Sports, the Tigers have the best junior college recruiting class in the country led by five-star receiver D'haquille Williams. Despite losing a handful of top in-state prospects, LSU stands to have a top-three recruiting class; a really productive signing day could land LSU as high as the No. 2-ranked class nationally.
According to Rivals.com, the current rankings—without a handful of big-name SEC recruits—have Alabama, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State rounding out the top five.