B/R Recruiting: Predicting Where Recent Top-Tier CFB Decommitments Will Land
If you love recruiting, it's the most wonderful time of the year.
Chaos abounds. You've got transfer portal season kicking into high gear where colleges get to re-recruit players who already have some experience on film. As teams make coaching moves, guys leave classes and jump to others.
Also, as teams and players assess their recruiting classes and commitments, respectively, both parties make late moves with pledges not binding until pen meets paper in the early signing period beginning December 21.
So, those are some of the reasons we're seeing a flurry of players decommitting in the past few weeks. Since November 20 alone, according to 247Sports, more than 50 players have backed off their commitments (as of the morning of December 5). Fourteen of those guys are 4-stars, and nine have yet to find a home.
Of course, programs are courting them, and there are some big names out there.
Just last week, Nebraska named Matt Rhule the head coach and still lost two huge pieces to its recruiting puzzle. Cincinnati has been hit hard, too, following coach Luke Fickell leaving for Wisconsin.
With the recent activity, where are the recruits expected to land? In some cases, it's too early to tell, but based off articles listing schools of interest and where they'd best fit, here are some guesses to where some of the recent star recruits will head.
CJ Blocker, Cornerback
The Utah Utes have lost a couple of pledges from the Lone Star State, but the biggest one may have come recently when 4-star cornerback CJ Blocker decided to open things up.
The New Caney, Texas, defensive back is 6'0" but only 165 pounds. Still, that smallish size hasn't kept top teams from coming calling. He's blazing fast, as evidenced by his 10.47-second run in Class 5A 100-meter finals as a junior.
Despite the Utes winning the Pac-12 championship again Friday night, Blocker is looking around.
Things really caught fire for Blocker when he unofficially visited Alabama in late November and the Crimson Tide offered. He also has visits scheduled for TCU and USC, and his recruitment is more open now than it has been with suitors abounding. Florida State has offered, too.
Blocker told 247Sports' Hank South he is going to sign in February, which gives him plenty of time to regroup and reassess his decision. It's totally up-in-the-air what he's going to do right now, and while it's hard to discount the lure of staying close to home and playing for the Horned Frogs, that Alabama allure is hard to beat for some kids.
The cornerback seems enamored with the Tide, so we'll roll with them.
Malachi Coleman, Athlete
If you're a Nebraska fan, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Matt Rhule era in Lincoln, but you're going to have to get over the early exodus of recruits.
It's not been a pretty picture with the Cornhuskers losing two of their best potential playmakers from the 2023 class.
Perhaps the one with the most promise who is exploring his options is 6'5", 205-pound athlete Malachi Coleman, who is the No. 82-ranked overall player in the nation. He's ranked even higher on 247Sports.
If Coleman doesn't recommit and ultimately sign with Nebraska and Rhule, this one will hurt more than any because he lives right there in Lincoln, too. Coleman told Rivals.com's Clint Cosgrove he is a big relationships person and wants to be able to rebuild his connection to whatever school he picks.
He's also scheduled visits to the "new" Nebraska, as well as Michigan. When you talk about potential, Coleman is an exciting prospect. He could play wide receiver, and he also could grow into an edge rusher, so his position and potential are limitless.
Coleman wants to take more official visits, so anything can happen. But it feels like he is going to give the Cornhuskers and Rhule a chance to recruit him, and he is already talking to the new coach, who said he's going to use him as an offensive "weapon", according to 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong.
The guess here is he falls in love again with why he wanted to stay at home and play for Big Red.
Walker Lyons, Tight End
With former coach David Shaw stepping away after the Cardinal fell off the college football map the past few years, that program is going to see an overhaul as it decides which direction it needs to go moving forward.
You can't expect 18-year-old kids with short attention spans to wait around while things crystalize in Palo Alto, either.
The best of the bunch to seek other environs is 4-star tight end Walker Lyons, a 6'4", 230-pound prospect from Folsom, California, who was locked in with the Cardinal before this. He is the nation's No. 115-ranked overall player and the fifth-rated player at his position.
Normally, if Stanford wants a tight end, everybody should. And that's the case here as schools like Georgia and BYU were in the mix before he committed. The Bulldogs already have two players at his position in this class, and they struck gold the last time they went to the Golden State and pulled a tight end in Brock Bowers.
With Lyons doing a Church of Latter-Day Saints mission and not enrolling at his school of choice until fall of 2024, according to 247Sports' Brandon Huffman, current depth charts really don't matter.
Huffman believes Utah, BYU, USC and Georgia get "long looks" from Lyons, but my thought is if the Cardinal knock the hire out of the park, he could stick with Stanford. If they don't, the Bulldogs' recruiting brand could help them get him, but it's really anybody's guess. The lure to BYU for Mormon kids is obvious, too.
This one depends on the Stanford hire.
Adam Hopkins, Wide Receiver
Amid all the coaching tumult, former Auburn wide receiver commitment Adam Hopkins decided he wants to back off his decision to head to the Plains and look over what options arise.
The Thomasville, Georgia, native is an athletic, 6'0", 170-pound two-way player who could play either cornerback or wide receiver on the next level, but his highest upside is on offense. He's the nation's No. 206-ranked overall player.
So, where's he going to wind up?
Getting Hugh Freeze at AU is a big deal for the Tigers, and if Hopkins gives the school he chose a chance to re-recruit him, that would be a big deal for a coach looking to cobble together a quality class late in the game. But he decommitted from Auburn after it decided on Freeze.
Now, it appears Texas A&M, Penn State and perhaps even nearby Florida State could possibly jump back in the fold for him. Those are just some of the schools that liked him the first time around.
Hopkins seemed close to committing to A&M the first time around before deciding on Auburn, so if the interest is mutual this time around, it may be a fit. We're going to go with Jimbo Fisher and A&M getting this one in the end, thanks to a previous strong relationship with position coach James Coley.
Joshua Mickens, Edge
The LSU Tigers are putting together a loaded class of players in coach Brian Kelly's first full recruiting cycle with the Bayou Bengals with a group currently ranked fifth nationally.
But there are still a bunch of kids making emotional decisions, so it's likely to see some turnover. One of the biggest losses came recently when 4-star edge rusher Joshua Mickens decided to open things back up.
He would be a big loss for Kelly and Co., even despite a strong group of prospects and a great start to the 2024 class.
Mickens is a 6'5", 225-pound defender from Indianapolis who is the nation's No. 133-ranked player, and he is an explosive, violent edge rusher who plays with the consistent tenacity you love in high school kids.
While LSU is a hot name on the recruiting trail right now, Mickens has the opportunity to stay closer to home and play for Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State, and it looks like that may be the direction he's leaning right now.
His 247Sports profile has him having "warm" interest in the Buckeyes, and now nearly 86 percent of his Crystal Ball projections point to coach Ryan Day's program. That number is even higher on On3's prediction machine.
Mickens is the ideal player for the Jack linebacker position in Ohio State DC Jim Knowles' system, and he decommitted from the Tigers following a visit to Columbus. So, yeah, the writing is on the wall.
It would be a shocker if he went anywhere but the Buckeyes.
Omarion Miller, Wide Receiver
The day after Nebraska lost elite instate athlete Malachi Coleman's commitment, the Cornhuskers got more bad news when star receiver Omarion Miller also decided to open things up.
Again, it's too early to see whether the 6'2", 190-pound Vivian, Louisiana, prospect who is the nation's No. 277-ranked player allows coach Matt Rhule to try to re-recruit him. But it's almost certain the new coach will.
Miller is far too good of a prospect to just let walk without a fight.
The prospect is tall, fast enough and is excellent high-pointing the ball and can make a lot of the plays you're looking for. He's going to be a three-down wide receiver on the next level, and he's going to have a lot of suitors.
According to Husker247's Michael Bruntz, Miller originally decommitted from LSU and committed to the Huskers and cited Mickey Joseph recruiting him as a big reason why. When Joseph wasn't given the full-time Nebraska job after serving the last two-thirds of the season as the interim coach, Miller left.
According to Rivals.com's Adam Gorney, LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Auburn are giving Miller the most attention now, so it looks like he's trending away from the Huskers. This is a curious one because, unlike a lot of players from Louisiana, Miller had the opportunity to play for the Bayou Bengals and turned it down.
Will he get another chance? Does he want to stay home, considering he committed to LSU when Joseph was on former coach Ed Orgeron's staff? Arkansas was deep in it the first time around, so the Hogs may be the favorite here, or he could wind up being a big Hugh Freeze late pull to the Tigers.
We'll roll with the Razorbacks in an educated guess.
Braedyn Moore, Athlete
Cincinnati is moving to the Big 12 soon, so it was a bit of an unexpected turn of events when Luke Fickell decided to leave the Queen City for the head coaching job at Wisconsin.
But the bottom line is that Badgers job is an underrated terrific job in college football with great fans and tradition.
Fickell's departure has meant the Bearcats are dropping recruits left and right. Perhaps the biggest recent one is Braedyn Moore, a 6'1.5", 190-pound safety from Hamilton, Ohio, who was one of the big-name pledges heading to the Group of Five powerhouse.
Moore is the No. 334-rated player in the nation and has a ton of athleticism and upside. With the way the Bearcats have churned out top DBs in recent years, he looked like he may fall into that pipeline.
Instead, he now looks like he's heading elsewhere. Some of the programs on his list before were West Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse and Kentucky. Moore told 247Sports' Mick Walker the Wildcats have been in contact with him, so the lure of playing in the SEC may be a big deal.
One sleeper nugget in that article, though, was when Walker noted Moore's relationship with Cincinnati safeties coach Colin Hitschler, who is reported to be following Fickell to Camp Randall.
Moore is definitely a Power Five-caliber player, so if he has the opportunity to play for the Badgers, it's just a matter of whether he wants to head that far away or not. The belief here is Fickell and Wisconsin reach out to Moore, and he winds up in the Big Ten.
Ejani Shakir, Wide Receiver
Penn State enjoyed a resurgent season thanks to coach James Franklin slotting in a bunch of dynamic youngsters at key positions from last year's recruiting class.
The way the Nittany Lions are recruiting, they aren't going anywhere any time soon, either.
One player who decided he didn't want to be a part of it is wide receiver Ejani Shakir, who recently backed off his commitment to Penn State and opened things up. The Atco, New Jersey, native is going to reassess things.
The 6'0", 175-pound speedster is a return-game weapon and looks like a future slot receiver once he adds some weight. He is a low-rated 4-star prospect, the nation's No. 407-rated overall prospect, but he still has a lot of ability.
According to On3's Drew Schott, Miami, Ole Miss and South Carolina are some of the teams that have offered Shakir recently, and he is probably taking a long look at other programs. Rutgers, West Virginia and Boston College are potential destinations, too.
The Mountaineers have been a constant in Shakir's recruitment, but none of the recent articles detailing his decommitment has any mention of where he may be leaning, and neither do any of his recruiting profiles.
So, it really may be back at square one for him. A guess is the lure of the SEC is a big deal to him, and if Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin turns up the heat, he can get him to Oxford. It's really a matter of who winds up recruiting him the hardest.
Amare Snowden, Cornerback
If there's one thing we know about Luke Fickell's brilliant tenure at Cincinnati, it's that he elevated the program to heights we didn't expect to see from a Group of Five team. The other thing we know is the man could lure some top-shelf DBs to the Bearcats.
He was in line to do that again this year with Braedyn Moore (who is already on this list) and Amare Snowden, a cornerback who also apparently isn't interested in playing for Cincy now that Fickell is on his way to Wisconsin.
Snowden is a big-bodied DB who is athletic enough to play cornerback at 6'3", 187 pounds. The Roseville, Michigan, prospect is going to have plenty of opportunities, probably some of them better than you'd expect the nation's No. 414-ranked overall prospect to have.
West Virginia has moved quickly here to get Snowden on campus, and the Mountaineers are going to get an official visit from him.
"Sheesh man, I was so happy," Snowden said of the WVU offer, according to Fan Nation's Schuyler Callihan. "I talked to Coach Wright and he said he was impressed with me and wanted to offer me, so for the rest of the day I was a happy man. They're such a great school. The first thing I thought of was Tavon Austin."
Other schools are likely to jump in the mix, but Snowden seems genuinely happy with the opportunity to join coach Neal Brown's program. They should be considered the front-runner for now.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.