The fortunes of future fall Saturdays and college football fanbases across the country hang in the balance every February when high school students take a break from studying AP Physics and preparing for the prom to let football-hungry Americans know which program they will be joining next season.
National signing day, which lands on Feb. 5 this year, has become something of a national holiday when it comes to college recruiting and football in general.
With offenses becoming more explosive every season, there is a new premium on landing defensive playmakers on the recruiting trail.
Coaching staffs across the country are making their final presentations to the nation’s best defensive prospects with the hopes of landing the next impact freshman. Some of them, like Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, had to deal with the elements when doing so:
Live update from ATL. I've moved .6 miles in the last hour. Yes, there is a decimal point in front of that number. pic.twitter.com/AbM9sIQhVv— Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) January 29, 2014
13 hrs and counting. Would it be bad form to leave my rental car on the freeway & just walk the 3 miles to my hotel? pic.twitter.com/59eFt5Mrns— Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) January 29, 2014
Many of the 4- and 5-star prospects have verbally pledged to a school at this point, but there are still some who have yet to officially decide. Let’s look at some of the best defensive prospects in the country that have not committed to a school.
The No. 7 overall prospect in the entire country is cornerback Adoree’ Jackson from Gardena, Calif.
You don’t become a top 10 overall player with only one skill set, but the thing that stands out most about Jackson is his speed. He has no issue keeping up with quick wide receivers, has excellent recovery and pursuit speed in the open field and can change directions effortlessly while reading the quarterback.
Which position is most important in college football today?
The only knock on Jackson may be his height (5’9.5”), but he makes up for it with impressive ball skills.
Jackson has been pursued by Florida, USC, LSU and UCLA among others, and the question looks to be whether he prefers to stay close to home with the Trojans or head to SEC-country with the Gators.
Whichever school lands him will receive a premium defender.
If you thought the Iron Bowl rivalry was only fought on the field, think again.
Both Alabama and Auburn (as well as UCLA) have shown interest in outside linebacker Rashaan Evans, who just so happens to hail from Auburn, Ala. Evans is the top-rated outside linebacker in the country and will immediately make the defense he chooses a better one against the run and pass.
Matt Scalici of The Huntsville Times believes this recruiting race will come down to the wire:
I'm going with the Tigers here but only by the thinnest of margins. Evans has grown up around Auburn football but his oldest recruiting relationship is with Alabama's Kirby Smart. The Alabama staff has gone all out in an attempt to pull a star defensive recruit out of Auburn High School for the second straight year and I think there's real appeal for Evans when it comes to playing in Alabama's defense as an outside linebacker. In the end, I think the appeal of playing for the hometown Tigers wins out but there's no question this has been an Iron Bowl recruiting battle for the ages.
Evans is a prototype outside linebacker who can rush the quarterback, make tackles in space and use his athleticism and lateral speed to help out when defending the pass. He has all the makings of a future college superstar.
Lorenzo Carter is another 5-star prospect who unsurprisingly has plenty of schools from the vaunted SEC hot on his trail.
Carter is a weak-side defensive end from Georgia who has received interest throughout the recruiting process from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia. The home-state Bulldogs have the proximity advantage, but anytime Nick Saban and his staff show interest, a recruit is probably going to listen.
Carter is a physical specimen at 6’5” and uses that frame to stuff the run, but it is his speed that is particularly notable.
His first step off the snap is always explosive, and once he is past the offensive lineman there is no stopping him until he reaches the quarterback.
Putting pressure on the quarterback with the front four is almost the only way to stop many of the explosive spread offenses that are taking over college football today, which makes players like Carter so important.
Note: Recruiting information such as star rankings, schools of interest, measurables and overall ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.
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