With the college football season over following Alabama's triumph over Clemson, the college football world turns its attention to the recruiting battle. Winning a national title starts with finding and molding the best possible young talent.
Alabama under coach Nick Saban is a prime example. The Crimson Tide have consistently brought in top-flight classes of recruits. The work done assembling all this talent clearly pays off, per Scout.com's John Garcia Jr.:
Many of the nation's top recruits have already made commitments well in advance of national signing day on February 3. However, quite a few guys from 247Sports' top 50 have yet to make a decision.
Here's a rundown of the latest news surrounding some of the best uncommitted players, with predictions on where they might sign in a few weeks' time.
Rashan Gary, Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.), DT
Rashan Gary is the most coveted prep star in the nation. In fact, according to 247Sports' composite ratings, he's the consensus top prospect. Naturally, some of the top programs are in pursuit of him, but only one will win out.
Michigan is leading the way, with 64 percent of analysts predicting he will sign with the Wolverines, per 247Sports. Scout.com's Yancy Porter reported Sunday that Gary isn't making any unofficial trips in January:
However, ESPN.com's Tom VanHarren reported later that day he is indeed making an unofficial stop in Ann Arbor:
Gary isn't planning on revealing his decision until signing day, so it's possible a program other than Michigan could sway him in the meantime. Predictions that Gary will sign with Ole Miss have rolled in at 247Sports this month.
It appears USC will have a chance at a late pitch, but it's tough to see any program prying him from coach Jim Harbaugh. Gary's lethal blend of power and agility would make him a dream fit in Harbaugh's aggressive defensive schemes.
Considering Harbaugh showed in 2015 how quickly he can transform a program, especially its defense, there probably isn't a more exciting program beckoning this elite prospect.
Lyndell "Mack" Wilson,
It seems inevitable that Lyndell Wilson is going to break an SEC program's collective heart. According to Amos Morale III of NOLA.com, Wilson is down to three choices: Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
Since he's from Alabama, the Crimson Tide would appear to be the obvious, even inevitable, choice. Saban is clearly determined to keep Wilson from venturing out of state for his collegiate career, as Wilson tweeted that the esteemed coach gave him a call Tuesday, fresh off winning the national title:
It's hard to beat Saban's persistence, though Florida would appear to have a good shot. According to GatorCounty.com's Kassidy Hill, a couple of Alabama recruits who are heading to Florida have been trying to convince Mack to join them in Gainesville:
Lyndell, as his Christian name reads, is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and a native of Montgomery, Alabama.
In his own backyard is safety Jeawon Taylor and not far across the state is running back Lamical Perine, both of whom are committed to Florida already.
"Lamical Perine and Jeawon Taylor they tell me like ‘we need you’,” says Wilson.
Published on January 2, this little exchange between Hill and Wilson might worry some Bama fans, per Hill:
When it comes down to it, that’s what matters most for Mack Wilson. Can he create a home and his own name with the Florida Gators? Can he become a part of a Bama takeover in Gainesville? Perine and Taylor say yes; and Wilson is starting to agree because two words said more than an entire visit or stage of recruitment could.
“If signing day was today, would you be a Florida Gator?”
His reply—“Yes mam.”
Brandon Jones, Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches, Texas), S
It wouldn't be a recruiting article without a prep from the Lone Star State. Brandon Jones is the No. 1 safety and No. 15 overall player in the 2016 class. On 247Sports, 76 percent of experts predict Jones will go to Texas A&M, with the other 24 percent projecting Texas.
According to ESPN's Gerry Hamilton on December 28, two other schools are still in the mix: Baylor and Oregon. The Ducks are probably the long shot here as they try to pry away Jones from three of the biggest programs in his home state. Jones still has official visits on the docket with Texas (January 11) and even Auburn (January 29). He is reportedly still looking to visit with Baylor, per 247Sports' Colt Barber:
It's possible Baylor is in position to score a major coup here and sign Jones. Texas has played losing football in each of the past two seasons and has reached nine wins just once since 2010. The Aggies have undergone some upheaval as of late, most notably watching quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen transfer to Oklahoma and Houston, respectively.
The Bears can pitch Jones on a track record of recent success and potentially add him to what's shaping up to be an excellent recruiting class.
Mecole Hardman Jr., Elberton County (Elberton, Ga.), ATH
No matter what position he ends up playing, Mecole Hardman Jr. is going to make an impact at the next level. Hardman is the No. 1 athlete in the nation and No. 21 overall, with 68 percent of 247Sports experts predicting him to stick close to home sign with Georgia.
However, Hardman recently named Alabama as his top choice, per Raul Dominguez of USA Today. His reasoning was simple.
“They’re already at the top,” Hardman said. “Why not stay at the top with them?”
Alabama fans shouldn't be too quick to celebrate his words, as Hardman tweeted Tuesday that he is set to make something of a surprise trip to another powerhouse program:
Ohio State was at the top of the football world just one year ago, so it could be that Hardman is considering the Buckeyes for the same reasons he likes the Tide. It's also possible that Hardman sees himself as more of a wide receiver, especially after making casual plays like this one while prepping for the Army All-American Bowl, per Rivals.com:
Ohio State could offer a quicker path to stardom at wide receiver, considering Calvin Ridley is set to command most of the attention in Alabama's passing game and the team is a run-first school year in and year out. Plus, according to Dominguez, Alabama wants Hardman to play defensive back.
Tennessee is also apparently still in the mix, with Hardman telling SECCountry.com's Dave Hooker : "They've been there since the beginning." Hooker writes that the Volunteers give Hardman the chance to make a mark on either side of the ball.
"Tennessee could offer Hardman the opportunity to do both since receiver and defensive back are positions of need in the Vols’ 2016 signing class," Hooker wrote. "Most have Hardman pegged as a receiver. However, he has the ability to excel as a defensive back."
Alabama is on record as the top choice, but this trip to Ohio State is interesting considering it was mostly SEC schools on Hardman's radar. Ohio State is going to send tons of talent to the NFL in this year's draft, including potential first-rounders in wide receiver Michael Thomas and cornerback Eli Apple. Maybe Hardman wants to follow their path.
Prediction: Ohio State