A new list of leaders for 5-star recruit JaCoby Stevens reveals serious SEC interest, as five of his top seven collegiate options compete in the conference.
The 6'2", 200-pound Tennessee standout tweeted this collection of contenders Monday night, providing fresh insight on where programs stand eight months away from national signing day:
The in-state Tennessee Volunteers land on his list, alongside fellow SEC competitors like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers. The Clemson Tigers and Florida State Seminoles represent alternative landing spots in the ACC.
Shortly after announcing the list, Stevens tweeted he was not specifying order of preference.
Monday evening's development presents a substantial overhaul for Stevens, who released an initial top-seven list in April. The Florida Gators, Oklahoma Sooners and USC Trojans no longer make the cut, while Alabama, Auburn and Clemson have climbed into the grouping.
The announcement was also accompanied by an updated commitment timeline, or rather, a sudden lack of one.
Stevens previously expressed intent to issue a verbal pledge on his birthday (July 19), according to Jeff Sentell of Dawg Nation. Instead, he now labels a decision date as "undetermined."
Rated No. 1 nationally among athletes and No. 25 overall in 2017 composite rankings, the rising senior at Oakland High School could be tempted to take his recruitment beyond football season. However, based on Sentell's report that Stevens anticipates early enrollment at the university of his choice, a selection will be made at least a month in advance of national signing day.
“If I do graduate early, I may just do it at one of the all-star games or just a big commitment at my school after the football season," Stevens told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani last month. "At the end of the day, I have to do a lot of soul searching and just dissect and find little things that separate that one school I will pick in the end.”
Given his fresh outlook on favorites and recruitment length, it's an appropriate time to reassess this recruitment. We've assigned odds for each suitor to sign Stevens, who collected 11 touchdown catches, 84 tackles and six interceptions last season, according Tom Kreager of the Daily News Journal.
15-to-1: Alabama, Auburn and Clemson
Each member of this trio has appeared in the national championship game during the past three seasons, but they seem destined for also-ran roles in this recruitment. Things could shift here if Stevens opts to make these schools a stop on his summer travel itinerary, but the other members of this list have been considered mainstays.
If one of these three makes a major splash by moving up his hierarchy, our money is on Alabama. He had an opportunity to FaceTime with head coach Nick Saban in May following a visit to Oakland from Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
"The fact he did that for me, and he felt I was worth his time was crazy with him being Nick Saban," Stevens told Kreager. "And he talked about me playing both sides of the ball. It was just a good talk in general."
12-to-1: Florida State
The Seminoles have been considered a contender for Stevens throughout the spring, though it's fair to say Florida State is on the fringe as a top-tier suitor. A big draw for the two-way star is how head coach Jimbo Fisher is willing to assign athletes various roles during their collegiate career.
"I feel like how they use their players is something that attracts me to their program," he told Kirpalani. "Like [2016 first-round NFL draft pick] Jalen Ramsey, for example, he got to showcase his versatility in playing nickel, safety and corner in three years. Little things like that can help you be more valuable to your own team and to NFL teams down the road."
Stevens is a versatile prospect himself, drawing interest at safety, cornerback and receiver. Seminoles assistant Randy Sanders has served as the point recruiter for Florida State and paid a visit to Oakland in April, per 247Sports.
The Volunteers are attempting to secure a few pivotal in-state pledges, and Stevens ranks near the top of that priority list. Despite the program's proximity, Tennessee is still perceived to be at least a few strides behind multiple teams on this list.
Stevens placed the Volunteers at No. 5 in his first top seven, which was actually ordered based on preference. Florida was in front of Tennessee at that point, and while the Gators have dropped off, other SEC schools have continued to entrench their place among his hierarchy.
The Volunteers remain a program to closely monitor due in large part to his longstanding rapport with a key staff member.
"They made a hire [at defensive coordinator] in Coach [Bob] Shoop recently that I really liked," Stevens told Kirpalani. "Him being there, it makes me feel good because I really like Coach Shoop. I knew him since my eighth-grade year when he was at Vanderbilt. That’s a relationship that has been going on for a while, and him being at UT is awesome."
Though Stevens continues to attract college coaches to Tennessee, he's a Louisiana native and has family ties to the area. He also has a strong connection to the Tigers, who actually landed his verbal commitment last September.
This pact didn't last, as Stevens backed off his decision two months later. The decommitment occurred during a tumultuous time at LSU when speculation centered on head coach Les Miles' job security.
Those rampant rumors have been quieted for the time being, and an impressive 2016 season in Baton Rouge could ensure Miles remains in town for the foreseeable future. Increased stability should help keep the Tigers in serious contention to reacquire a commitment from Stevens.
"They have a great DB coach who has put multiple players in the league in Corey Raymond," he told Kirpalani. "They have a charismatic coach and a players' coach in Les Miles. The competition there is amazing, so that’s why I’m interested in them."
The Bulldogs remain entrenched atop this list after Stevens anointed Georgia his clear favorite this spring.
“Georgia is my No. 1,” Stevens told Kreager in May. “We are both interested in each other. I just love Kirby Smart coming over. I love his vision. I love what they are doing in Athens."
Smart and his staff are surging with several blue-chip recruits as summer approaches. If Stevens elects to commit before the season, Georgia looks like a fairly safe bet to overcome a crowded pack.
The Bulldogs currently carry 69 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' crystal ball, including the past eight consecutive pledge projections. Georgia is the team to beat moving forward.
"I’m also really comfortable with my position coach in [defensive coordinator] Coach [Mel] Tucker dating back to when he was at Alabama," he told Kirpalani. "Those two being there and me being so comfortable with the head coach and the defensive coordinator, that’s two really big positives. Then, the school is just awesome."
Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.