5 College Football Teams with the Most to Lose on National Signing Day
We've officially reached that time of the year when all meaningful football is over and fans are resigned to turn their attention to the hardwood or the baseball diamond. But one last glimmer of hope remains before we're hurled into the long, cold offseason: national signing day.
While most college football followers have been lamenting the absence of real gridiron action since the conclusion of Florida State and Auburn in the BCS championship game, Wednesday gives everyone a chance to once again dive deep into the sport we so love.
Perhaps you don't bother with recruiting, and you're already looking forward to spring practice storylines. For everyone else, national signing day is a day filled with emotions ranging from excitement and anticipation to dread and disappointment. At the end of the day, it's hard to know how to really feel given that these are high school kids who have yet to play in a college game.
But while some programs are surging toward a strong finish in recruiting, others are doing their best to hold on to their verbal commits. And still others make the list of those with the most to lose simply because a lot of their targets are planning to commit on Wednesday.
If your sights are set on number of kids still waiting to commit and you fail to land some or all of them, national signing day goes down a loss regardless of how great the rest of the class looks.
Here now are five teams with the most to lose on national signing day.
Depending on how everything shakes out, USC fans are either going to be celebrating long into Wednesday night or they'll be bemoaning a mediocre start to the Steve Sarkisian era.
So while the Trojans could also be on a list of teams with the most to gain, they make the list of programs with the most to lose because of a trio of top-notch local-area kids making their college choices on national signing day.
That would be offensive lineman Damien Mama, cornerback Adoree' Jackson and safety John "Juju" Smith. Mama appears to be the most solid out of the three, with a 100 percent crystal ball pick for USC on 247sports. Losing him would be inexplicable and disastrous, especially given his 6'4" 370-pound frame.
Next in order of most likely to play for Sarkisian is Jackson, one of the top remaining uncommitted players with elite speed. Also in the mix are Florida, and to a much lesser extent UCLA. Were Jackson to head east to play for Will Muschamp and company, it would be a major blow to the 2014 class.
Smith is also considered to be a USC lean, however, there have been plenty of rumors recently about his potential interest in becoming a Duck, according to Justin Hopkins of 247sports.
If the Trojans keep Dorton and land the highly rated trio, the class will rise quite a bit. But losing two or more of these players would be brutal, making USC a team with a lot to lose on national signing day.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame heads into the final stretch of recruiting with the ninth-ranked class in college football, so regardless of what happens on national signing day, the Fighting Irish will be adding a number of key building blocks for the future.
But Wednesday could prove to be either a major victory or a disappointment depending on where some of the Fighting Irish's remaining targets choose to commit. Scheduled to make their decisions on Wednesday are several important players who could wind up making a big difference in South Bend.
Start with Isaiah McKenzie, one of the top 50 wideouts in the country who has speed to burn. McKenzie donning a Notre Dame cap would give the Irish three big-time receivers in the class of 2014.
That number could reach four, depending on what 4-star wide receiver Michiah Quick decides to do later in the day. He will be selecting between Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
Then there's the aforementioned John "Juju" Smith, who has Notre Dame in his final three. Smith is likely headed to USC, but if he spurns the Trojans and heads north, it would be a major victory for the Fighting Irish, who currently have just two secondary commits in the 2014 class.
Lastly, cornerback Terrence Alexander will be deciding between the Irish, Stanford and Ole Miss. Should the faxes come in for everyone listed, it would give Brian Kelly and his staff one of the top classes in the country. But failing to land several of these guys would have to go down as a loss here.
Of course, with so many talented kids already having pledged themselves to play football for Notre Dame, losing any guys who are currently committed would also be a major blow. The Fighting Irish look poised to finish with a bang, but they also have a lot to lose come national signing day.
Like several other teams on this list, Oklahoma may have a lot to lose on national signing day, but it also has a lot to gain.
Update: Tuesday, Feb. 4th, at 12:30 p.m. PT
Joe Mixon tweeted to apparently reaffirm his commitment to Oklahoma, though it's still a situation worth keeping an eye on.
--End of Update--
That's because Steven Parker, the ninth-best safety and the aforementioned Michiah Quick are both considering playing football for the Sooners.
With just the 14th-rated class at this point, the duo would be a welcome addition to a team that should be in contention for the first college football playoff following the 2014 season.
The biggest reason Bob Stoops' program is on this list, however, is because of all-purpose back Joe Mixon. The talented 6'2" 195-pound kid from California gave a verbal back on January 4th, but that hasn't stopped him from looking at other options.
As reported by Justin Hopkins of 247sports, the 5-star back was at UCLA this past weekend, a school he has been considering throughout the entire recruiting process. And while Mixon may not be the most important player of the class, which is a distinction fans like to make after that player has inked his name on a letter of intent, he's currently the top-rated Sooner commit.
He's also the kind of player who can come in and make plays immediately, which means yet another option for blossoming quarterback Trevor Knight. If Mixon does indeed flip his commitment to UCLA, it would be a tough blow to Oklahoma's 2014 recruiting class.
With a whopping seven UCLA targets among the top high school players making their college choice on national signing day, the Bruins have a lot to gain. But again, they have more to lose given that Jim Mora's current class is currently ranked 19th.
Failing to land more than a couple of the remaining targets would probably drop that number as well.
Among the players who will have a UCLA hat in front of them on Wednesday are wide receiver Malachi Dupre, linebacker Kenny Young and safety Budda Baker. Those are also three of the players that Bruins fans have to feel good about in terms of them winding up in Westwood.
By this point in the recruiting cycle, you should have a general idea about how your team's class is going to turn out. But with the recent trend of saving announcements for signing day, entire classes can look completely different Wednesday evening than they did in the morning.
If the Bruins are unable to land more than one of these key players, or they can't flip Joe Mixon from Oklahoma, it will go down as a ho-hum recruiting class.
We're willing to bet that's not the adjective Mora and his staff are looking for given the direction of the program, which will be very much in contention for a Pac-12 title next fall.
Florida State Seminoles
Nothing that happens on signing day should change the way Florida State fans are feeling right now. Their team just won a national championship, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston is back for at least another year and the future is brighter than ever.
But Wednesday has the potential to be one of the dark days of the offseason if Jimbo Fisher is unable to sway several uncommitted targets. If you thought UCLA had a lot up in the air on national signing day, consider that the Seminoles have eight potential recruits making their college decision.
Landing eight of the top players in the country would be more than most schools could ever dream of, but for Florida State, it's simply adding on to what is already a Top 10 class.
However, with players like wide receiver Ermon Lane, offensive tackle Roderick Johnson and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi still up for grabs, the 'Noles have to be counting on at least a few more commits Wednesday. Because of that, failing to add to the class would be a disappointment.
But there's also this piece from Bleacher Report's Edwin Weathersby which identifies 10 players who might flip their verbal commitments on signing day. Three of the players, Dexter Wideman, Jojo Robinson and Treon Harris are a part of Florida State's 2014 class. Losing one or two of these guys wouldn't be devastating, but it's far from ideal.
With so much up for grabs on national signing day, including several committed recruits that might be peeking elsewhere, Florida State has the most to lose.