National Signing Day 2019: Predictions for Top Recruits After CFP Championship

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2019

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 05:  The media waits on players an coaches from the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff National Championship Media Day at SAP Center on January 5, 2019 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With the national championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers in the rearview mirror, the 2018 college football season has officially drawn to a close. As the dust settles from Clemson's shocking drubbing, all the nation's programs will now turn their attentions exclusively to recruiting. 

Even though a majority of the most exciting 2019 prospects made their commitments known during the early signing period, plenty of other intriguing names still have announcements to make before or on national signing day on Feb. 6. 

Let's take a look at a few of the prospects whose decision may have been impacted by the newest NCAA champion and make predictions about which programs will be lucky enough to welcome these players come fall. 

      

Ishmael Sopsher, DT, Amite, Louisiana

If Ishmael Sopsher still had a high possibility of announcing his commitment to Alabama on national signing day prior to the College Football Playoff championship, his decision may have been impacted by what he witnessed Monday night. 

The No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, Sopsher has narrowed his search to Alabama and LSU, according to AL.com's Josh Bean

Prior to the title game, 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions feature gave Bama a 33 percent chance of landing Sopsher. But giving up 44 points in the national title game is a black mark on the Crimson Tide defense.

Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who have been recruiting Sopsher, will surely try to convince Sopsher that he's a solution for the future. But it hurts the program's sales pitch overall. 

The selling point for Sopsher will be the ability to get on the field and contribute right away. Alabama may be uniquely situated to allow him to do just that, as the Tide could have three starting defensive linemen—Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and Quinnen Williams—depart for the NFL.

But LSU has the hometown pull. Moreover, Sopsher also hopes to commit as part of a package deal with his older brother, Rodney (who played as a JUCO last fall), as Bean reported. LSU so far is the only team reported to have offered both Sopshers, which gives the Tigers the edge. 

Prediction: LSU

      

Mark-Antony Richards, ATH, West Palm Beach, Florida

There's plenty of competition for the services of Mark-Antony Richards, a 4-star recruit and the No. 4 athlete in the nation. According to 247Sports, Richards has had offers from 18 programs, including many by SEC schools. 

However, though he plans to wait until signing day to make his official announcement, Richards has narrowed his focus down to four programs, as he announced on a Miami radio show in December. The four schools who are still in contention? Auburn, Miami, Florida and Penn State. 

The hometown connection is an obvious weight in Miami's favor, but it's not the biggest one. Richards' older brother, Ahmmon, is a wideout for the Hurricanes. 

Still, the younger Richards has been clear throughout the process of his recruitment that he needs to commit to the program that provides him the best fit. He told David Furones of the Sun-Sentinel in July that "I just want to make sure that this is the school that fits me," and then Richards opted not to sign with the Canes during the early signing period. 

As a player who is getting different sales pitches from programs who want him to play offense or defense, Richards has a lot of variables to weigh. According to Furones, choosing the Hurricanes would mean a full-time shift to defense, even though the 6'1", 195-pounder grew up playing offense. 

With none of the programs landing on Richards' short list having participated in the College Football Playoff, we know as much about Richards' eventual decision today as we did a week ago, which is to say not a lot. Given what we do know now, however, Miami seems like the obvious pick. 

Prediction: Miami

        

Devonta Lee, ATH, Amite, Louisiana

Another 4-star athlete being recruited heavily by a who's who list of SEC programs, Devonta Lee has quite the array of options on the table. The nation's No. 6-ranked athlete out of Louisiana is narrowing down his options among a list that includes Georgia, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss, per 247Sports. 

While the 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions gives hometown LSU a 95 percent chance of earning Lee's commitment, the wide receiver was clearly charmed after his official visit to Kentucky in mid-December, just before the dead period. He tweeted as much, making sure to mention the coaches by name:

What's more, Lee's December official visit to Lexington was conducted along with his Amite quarterback, Amani Gilmore, who has signed with Kentucky. The appeal of reuniting with his high school signal-caller in college is clear and adds another weight on the Kentucky scale. 

Lee has official visits with Texas A&M and LSU on the books for January, however, according to Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. Those programs will begin making their final pitches now that the championship game is behind us. Even with his newfound love of Kentucky, it's hard to see Lee straying from LSU. Expect him to join high school teammate Sopsher there this fall.

Prediction: LSU

        

Recruiting information obtained from 247Sports.

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