Five-star running back recruit Lache Seastrunk, your preseason Heisman contender for 2013, has set his announcement date for Jan. 27.
That gives his suitors—ranging from Memphis to North Carolina to USC—a week to make their final pitches, unveil their boatloads of hostesses, and send really, really nice gift baskets on the thinnest of legal premises.
From a pool of about 20 schools, Seastrunk has selected a final five and a top three. Let's evaluate the candidates and assess how good their chances are for hearing their names called next Wednesday.
Seastrunk canceled his visit to USC scheduled for last weekend, but kept them on his list. He still has time to take his fifth official visit there before announcing next week.
The Trojans' depth chart is very favorable and the school has re-branded itself Skill Position U over the last few years. RBs Stefon Johnson and Joe McKnight are almost guaranteed a favorable draft position despite entering early and never seizing the tailback spot for themselves.
But in the immediate aftermath of Pete Carroll's departure, CBS's Tom Lemming included Seastrunk in a group of recruits who were choosing Carroll, not USC.
He later told ESPN affiliated site Memphis Roar the Carroll departure "affected him greatly." That explains why he skipped his visit and why the interest seems lacking.
Unless Lane Kiffin can drum up Seasttrunk's now-latent interest by doing his best Carroll impression, I would put USC in a group of odd men out.
The Tigers may seem like an odd choice, until you consider Seastrunk's past relationship with former LSU running backs coach/recruiting coordinator and new Memphis head coach Larry Porter.
LSU's loss could be Memphis' huge gain, and the pitch is perfect. Porter is a young, exciting African-American head coach at a rebuilding university that only a few years ago featured a breakout running back who is now making waves in the NFL.
If Seastrunk's play is that he wants to carry a team on his shoulders, there's really no better place for him than Memphis. If he wants to compete for national championships, that's another story.
I still like Memphis' chances and think they're coming on strong to close his recruitment. It's a dream scenario, but maybe Porter is persuasive enough to make it a reality.
Seastrunk's girlfriend goes to LSU, which is good news for you romantic Tigers fans out there. And LSU is part of Seastrunk's top three schools per Rivals.
But I think a few factors eliminate LSU from contention. The first and main one is the loss of running backs coach Larry Porter to Memphis. Porter's absence spread out his interest across two schools, neither of which now have his complete attention.
I don't think Seastrunk buys the "SEC as premiere conference" thing, but if he does, Auburn has been the more appealing option for him in that regard.
And LSU's new running backs coach, Frank Wilson, is a Louisiana guy who I don't believe has gelled with Seastrunk. Tennessee, amazingly, was one school Seastrunk seemed to have no interest in and formed no relationship with, and that's what impacted this season.
That said, the depth chart at LSU is favorable for early playing time and a takeover of the lead RB spot.
And the Tigers aren't new to the recruiting game—Miles will cook up some unholy jambalaya to entice Seastrunk to the Bayou. I just don't think it will be something the five-star RB cares to sample.
Auburn has remained "in the mix" for Seastrunk throughout his recruitment, past the commitment of fellow five-star Michael Dyer and the interest from five-star RB Marcus Lattimore.
Assuming that Auburn won't be insanely lucky enough to sign the top three running backs in the nation, I imagine they would focus their efforts on landing either Lattimore or Seastrunk, not both.
But which one? Seastrunk's interest in Auburn is "real," they're on his list of the top three schools, yet he hasn't taken an official visit.
Meanwhile, Lattimore has narrowed down his choices only to South Carolina and Auburn—how can Auburn's coaches resist that?—but most insiders believe that he's a South Carolina lock.
If they treat Lattimore as a lock for South Carolina, they will have to put more energy on Seastrunk, who also really likes Oregon. If they sense an opportunity with Lattimore that his final list suggests, they might treat Seastrunk as a backup option, which could backfire.
In my opinion, Lattimore is staying in South Carolina, while Dyer's commitment cooled Auburn on Seastrunk. Furthermore, several Auburn blogs are indicating that Seastrunk's interest in Auburn smacks of unrequited love.
As crazy as that sounds, there's a legitimate reason. Let's get to it...
What quick, explosive sideline-to-sideline back wouldn't want to play for the Oregon Ducks, right?
Seastrunk's visit to Eugene went great and Oregon insiders are whispering that he's a silent commitment.
What's more, the indication from Auburn insiders was that Auburn and LSU had backed off their recruitment for some undocumented but alarming reason that had to do with the legality of his relationship with a recruiting manager, much like the intrigue surrounding Tennessee commit Bryce Brown and manager Brian Butler last year.
So he won't go to Auburn because they stopped recruiting him. He won't go to LSU because Porter isn't there, and he won't go to Memphis because it's not in the right conference.
And he won't go to USC because Pete Carroll isn't there.
Couple that with the great official he just took and the fact that a plurality of Seastrunk's visits were to the Pac-10. Cal, USC, and Oregon all got looks, and the Pac-10 appears to be his conference of choice with Oregon as the lead dog.
There's still a week to go in his recruitment. I'll update as it all plays out.