The trio of college football programs fortunate enough to remain in the picture for a commitment from Kerryon Johnson on Tuesday would qualify as dream finalists for many prospects in America.
The coveted recruit weighed offers from Florida State, Auburn and Alabama—teams that combined to claim the past five national titles while boasting three Heisman Trophy winners along the way. Johnson, a scintillating 6'0", 200-pound athlete from Madison, Ala., chose the reigning SEC champions from an elite mix of contenders:
He announced his decision to commit to Auburn during a ceremony at Madison Academy. It's another testament to the rapid turnaround under second-year head coach Gus Malzahn.
Florida State was the opponent who spoiled a potential championship party in Southern California three months ago. The Seminoles still couldn't sway Johnson, who visited Tallahassee 10 days ago.
Alabama is a program that prides itself on being the football flagship of its home state. Nick Saban provided a gut-punch on signing day when he pried top-ranked linebacker recruit Rashaan Evans away from Auburn High School.
In the latest tussle for a common in-state target, Auburn gained the edge.
The final stretch of his recruitment was viewed as an incredibly tight race with three powerhouse programs in play for a prospect who could potentially contribute on either side of the ball. He spent time on each campus during the past month but didn't provide a strong indication of any significant lean toward one team.
He was projected to commit to Auburn by 76 percent of experts in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Florida State followed with 16 percent of predictions, while Alabama held eight percent.
Johnson is rated No. 2 nationally among athletes and No. 37 among all recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's considered the consensus No. 2 prospect in Alabama.
His pledge to the Tigers gives Auburn six commits in its 2015 class. Johnson is the highest-rated member of Malzahn's current prospect haul.
He burst onto the scene as one of Alabama's top players as an underclassman. His three-touchdown performance in the 2012 state title game punctuated a dominant sophomore season with MVP honors.
Johnson sprinted 43 yards for a score in the 2013 championship game as Madison Academy captured another championship. He is already committed to play in the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
His dynamic skill set and speed make him a versatile option at the next level.
Johnson is a star at running back, exhibiting elite acceleration and balance as a runner. His downfield vision shines as he maneuvers through rushing lanes and bursts along the sidelines.
His length and speed serve him well in the defensive secondary where some coaches envision him as a high-ceiling safety prospect. However, it appears his future lies in the offensive backfield.
"From Day 1, Auburn has recruited him at RB, which is what he sees himself as being," 247Sports analyst Keith Neibuhr told AL.com.
Alabama and Florida State, freshly spurned by a key recruit, must look elsewhere to address roster needs.
The Crimson Tide already hold a commitment from impressive 4-star running back Desherrius Flowers but may look to bring another rusher on board. Top-ranked junior college recruit Jovon Robinson, a former Auburn signee, presents a strong possibility.
The team will also attempt to flip Fort Lauderdale running back Jordan Scarlett from FAU, along with several other suitors.
There's plenty of work ahead for Florida State, Alabama and Auburn on the way to national signing day. Today, however, Malzahn and the Tigers coaching staff can rest a tad easier knowing Johnson is on board.
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