10 Big-Name Recruits Who May Wish They Had 2020 Signing Window Do-Over

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2020

10 Big-Name Recruits Who May Wish They Had 2020 Signing Window Do-Over

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    South Carolina 5-star defender signee Jordan Burch is entering a tumultuous situation with the Gamecocks.
    South Carolina 5-star defender signee Jordan Burch is entering a tumultuous situation with the Gamecocks.Credit: 247Sports

    If college football coaches don't do most of their work early in the signing session, their programs are going to get left behind. Many prospects now elect to sign national letters of intent in the December recruiting window.

    For those who don't, it's a frenetic rush to February's national signing day.

    In some cases, those who waited may benefit by seeing the entire scope of the coaching carousel. In others, they may lose their spots on their preferred teams.

    Others simply make poor decisions and wind up in the newfangled transfer portal shortly thereafter. They either choose a school that is loaded at their position or find themselves buried behind a classmate.

    Then there are the players who think they can turn around a program by themselves. There's nothing wrong with leaps of faith, but they don't always equate to playing for winners right away, either.

    So, which prospects in the late signing period should have gone elsewhere? Let's take a look at some players who may wish they had do-overs after some time at their new homes and, in one case, a player who still can't find one.

Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh

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    Credit: 247Sports

    When 5'11", 161-pound athlete Jordan Addison chose to play for the Pittsburgh Panthers, he didn't have a ton of quality offers, and his list of interested schools still doesn't quite look as good as most top-300 players.

    But new Maryland head coach Mike Locksley coveted the potential college wide receiver late in the process and came hard after Allison to keep him at home. He could have teamed with 5-star Rakim Jarrett for a formidable duo to help the Terrapins get the Locksley era started off on the right foot.

    Locksley's recruiting acumen has been evident, but he needs some difference-makers to keep players in the area at home. Losing Addison hurt, and his decision to head to the Panthers was particularly puzzling.

    Though the Panthers went 8-5 last year, quarterback Kenny Pickett didn't exactly strike fear into defensive backs' hearts, throwing only 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

    Even though head coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters he plans to stay at Pitt rather than pursue the Michigan State job vacated by former boss Mark Dantonio, rumors will persist until the Spartans hire a coach.

    It's been a long time since Pitt had an explosive receiver like Tyler Boyd or Larry Fitzgerald, but perhaps Addison sees himself as that player. Still, a guy with his skill set likely could have found a place where he would have gotten more headlines.

    Chalk this up as a major recruiting win for Narduzzi, and it bears watching whether Addison regrets not teaming with Jarrett and staying at home.

Daran Branch, DB, Georgia

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    Credit: 247Sports

    As elite as Georgia's top-ranked recruiting class is, the Bulldogs took a few reaches late in the process to fill spots. Given their top-end talent, they could afford to.

    One of the players they flipped Wednesday was 3-star cornerback Daran Branch, who seemed all set to be part of Lane Kiffin's first class at Ole Miss. Instead, he elected to try to break into the Bulldogs' defensive backfield rotation.

    There's nothing wrong with Branch wanting to be part of the dynamic group of players head coach Kirby Smart is bringing in, but this is a tough rotation to crack.

    UGA's secondary is loaded with young, talented playmakers like Tyson Campbell and Tyreke Stevenson. The Bulldogs also secured guys like 5-star cornerback Kelee Ringo, 4-star cornerback Jalen Kimber and 4-star safety Major Burns.

    Branch is a rangy and fast defensive back who can develop over time. Perhaps he will be one of the few youngsters these days who is patient, waits his turn and stars as an upperclassman. But UGA has overrecruited several prospects in recent years because of the high level at which Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning are recruiting.

    This is another instance of a prospect deciding to step into a big sea and trying to be a big fish. If he can, he'll be on a team competing for championships every year. But he'll have to leap over a number of quality playmakers on the depth chart ahead of him.

Jordan Burch, DL, South Carolina

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    Credit: 247Sports

    5-star defensive tackle Jordan Burch could have gone to any program in the country and battled for immediate playing time. He is a top-10 overall recruit and can line up at a lot of different spots at 6'5" and 275 pounds.

    Rather than play for LSU, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon or some other powerhouse, Burch decided to stay in his home city of Columbia, South Carolina, and play for coach Will Muschamp's Gamecocks.

    A lot of recruits stay home every year, and Burch won't regret the bonds he has by sticking around where he's from. The only problem is how long the coaches with whom he's built a relationship will be around.

    South Carolina went 4-8 last year trying to navigate through one of the nation's most brutal schedules. With another season like that, Muschamp likely won't be around for Burch's sophomore season.

    Even if the Gamecocks turn things around after signing a stellar class, they are a long way from competing for conference championships. Burch could have stayed in-state and played for the Clemson Tigers, who expect to be in the national title game every year.

    Burch is strong enough to step right in and start, and he'll be an instant-impact difference-maker for the Gamecocks. He can step in for departed NFL prospect Javon Kinlaw and thrive, but what will it matter if it's for a bad team?

    There was plenty of drama surrounding Burch's recruitment. He didn't sign during the early session, flirted with the national champion LSU Tigers in January but wound up staying with his original decision.

    If there's a new group of coaches in town next year, he may grow to regret that choice.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Georgia Tech

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Honoring a commitment is commendable, especially in college football's ongoing recruiting-flip bonanza and transfer-portal frenzy.

    That's what 4-star running back Jahmyr Gibbs did when he chose to sign with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets despite being one of the hottest names in the January recruiting window.

    Teams like Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, LSU and others came after the Georgia native in a whirlwind final month leading up to Wednesday's ultimate decision. It ultimately came down to the Gators and Yellow Jackets, and Gibbs chose to stick to his word.

    But was that the right decision for him?

    From a national exposure standpoint, head coach Geoff Collins' program isn't there yet. He's doing great things in recruiting, and the Yellow Jackets are making the multiyear transition to a more modern offense from Paul Johnson's triple-option attack. Getting 4-star quarterback Jeff Sims is a big step forward.

    Gibbs is a huge piece of the puzzle for the Yellow Jackets, but they're still years away from winning big.

    While the Gators are bringing in star Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard at running back, Gibbs could have asserted himself in that backfield as a freshman and gotten some carries.

    What if he had gone to Ohio State and filled the vacated position of J.K. Dobbins? Yes, the Buckeyes have plenty of talented runners, but projected starter Master Teague is more of a bruiser than a home run hitter like Gibbs.

    He instead decided to take the road less traveled, which means he likely isn't going to compete for championships for the next few years.

Zachary Evans, RB, Undecided

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    Credit: 247Sports

    This may not age well if Zachary Evans (finally) makes a concrete decision in the next few days, but at this point, everybody in the recruiting world is sick of hearing about this cycle's most enigmatic recruit.

    There's no questioning the 5-star running back's talent. If he isn't the best runner in the nation, he's up there with Texas star Bijan Robinson. But he's in the midst of an "all-time crazy recruitment," as Chris Hummer of 247Sports recently noted, and there are still more twists and turns to come.

    Evans signed with Georgia in the early period, but he then backed out of his national letter of intent, which head coach Kirby Smart allowed. That made him the biggest prospect on the market in the late signing period.

    Texas A&M, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Florida and even Oregon and USC have been connected to Evans to some extent. But because he already signed a letter of intent with UGA, he likely can't sign another whenever he does commit to a school. That means there could be additional bumps in the road for the schools still pursuing him. 

    Despite his talent, some schools may decide he isn't worth the trouble.

    This is one of the most puzzling recruitments in recent memory, and if the end is in sight, nobody knows it.

Jay Hardy, DT, Auburn

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Speaking of bizarre recruitments, say hello to Auburn 4-star defensive tackle Jay Hardy.

    Hardy was one of the most coveted prospects in the Southeast. Though programs such as Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee went after him, he ultimately decided to commit to the Tigers.

    That was a smart move on the surface. Auburn is losing Derrick Brown, and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is a noted developer of defensive linemen. 

    But Hardy didn't sign during the early session and told VolQuest's Austin Price: "I'll hear what everyone has to say." According to AtoZSports Nashville's Zach Ragan, the saga didn't end there.

    Price later reported that Hardy did sign scholarship papers with Auburn in December and was just leading on coaches from other programs. Hardy denied it on Twitter, but 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr later proved that Hardy had indeed signed in mid-December.

    That isn't a good look for Hardy, who wasn't being honest with other programs and was trying to build up drama leading into national signing day. While doing so, he put other schools at risk for potential NCAA violations for continuing to recruit him.

    Hardy may wind up being a great player, and it's hard to fault a 17-year-old kid for doing something immature. But he'd probably like to move on from this episode and get his career on the Plains started.

Ennis Rakestraw, CB Missouri

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    Credit: 247Sports

    One of the lasting images of the late signing period was the sheer joy from first-year Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz when 3-star cornerback Ennis Rakestraw chose the Tigers over Alabama and Texas.

    The Duncanville, Texas, native was a late riser in the rankings who, according to Rivals.com's Mike Farrell, didn't even have a Power Five offer seven months ago. He became a coveted commodity late, though, and one of the big names who came calling was Nick Saban.

    You may remember a few other "afterthought" defensive backs Saban turned into NFL players, such as Eddie Jackson and Levi Wallace. Rakestraw could have been the latest. When the DB guru wants you and so do the home-state Longhorns, you go to one of those two spots, right?

    Especially when you're the nation's No. 893-ranked prospect and your offer sheet doesn't look like it.

    Well, Rakestraw didn't. He chose Mizzou, and he is going to help try to rebuild the Tigers under Drinkwitz, a good guy who is a good coach. But how close is Mizzou to competing in the SEC East? Also, he is showing a lot of faith in defensive coordinator Ryan Walters.

    This was a major victory for Mizzou, and, sure, Rakestraw may have been "just another guy on the depth chart" in Tuscaloosa or Austin. But not playing for Saban or new Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash is a huge gamble.

    Much like Jahmyr Gibbs (Georgia Tech) and Ashaad Clayton (Colorado), Rakestraw took a leap of faith and decided he believed in what Drinkwitz was selling in Columbia. Hopefully for him and the Tigers, it will work out.

Jonathan Vaughns, OLB, UCLA

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    Credit: 247Sports

    It is taking head coach Chip Kelly far too long to build a program at UCLA, and patience has to be wearing thin. If the Bruins don't make a bowl game in 2020, it may be time for a change.

    Kelly is sitting on a hotbed of talent in California, yet he still cannot land top-rated recruiting classes. This year's group wound up being ranked 32nd, and last year's class was 40th. Is that good enough to close the considerable gap in the Pac-12?

    The biggest issue is on defense, where the Bruins ranked 113th nationally. Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro has been on the hot seat for months, and questions about his job security figure to persist until UCLA demonstrates dramatic improvement.

    4-star outside linebacker Jonathan Vaughns committed to UCLA in November 2019 and has stuck with his pledge, even though his brother Tyler is a receiver at USC. Why would he play for the Bruins, considering how much they've struggled defensively the past few years?

    Top programs around the country like Penn State and LSU offered Vaughns the opportunity to play on quality defenses, but he decided to stay at home and try to rebuild a once-proud program. He's perhaps banking on Kelly's high profile keeping him in town and giving him more than only this year to prove himself.

    But if the defense doesn't improve in a hurry, there's no guarantee that will happen.

Avantae Williams, S, Miami

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    Credit: 247Sports

    One of the biggest decisions of the late signing period came when 4-star safety Avantae Williams chose Miami over Florida, giving head coach Manny Diaz his biggest signee of the entire 2020 class.

    Williams is a dynamite playmaker who should step right in and start for a defense that is rebuilding but now has a number of good, young prospects thanks to Diaz's solid first full recruiting class.

    Williams originally committed to The U in February 2017, but he decommitted the following May. The Gators thought they had a chance because they had recruited him for a while and his cousin, Lorenzo Lingard, recently left the Hurricanes for Gainesville.

    But Williams blazed his own path to South Beach, and he will be part of a green-but-growing defense.

    The only issue is that Florida is ready to win big now, compete with Georgia for the SEC East and perhaps do bigger things over the next few seasons. With head coach Dan Mullen at the helm, the program is nearly back to playing the way Gators fans expect.

    Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is putting out waves of defenders, and Florida has battled LSU for the "Defensive Back U" moniker in recent years. So Williams turned down a chance to be an instant-impact playmaker on a contender to help rebuild Miami.

    Maybe Diaz can do that, but several coaches before him have tried. There are a lot of prospects who believe he will, including Williams.

    Expect him to be a big piece of that puzzle, as he sacrificed winning now to help resurrect The U.

Jack Yary, TE, USC

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    Credit: 247Sports

    The 2020 USC Trojans recruiting class is one of the biggest disappointments in recent memory, as head coach Clay Helton's group didn't even crack the top 50. The uncertainty surrounding Helton's tenure at the program likely didn't help.

    Jack Yary, a 3-star tight end and the nation's 11th-rated player at his position, elected not to sign with USC in the early session. He told 247Sports' Greg Biggins that he was concerned about the future of the program, but there were other issues, too.

    Last year, offensive coordinator Graham Harrell primarily used tight ends to block, and he utilized receiver Drake London in the spot as a pass-catcher. That concerned Yary, but he told Biggins that he's become more comfortable with his likely role.

    "I think you'll see the tight end used a lot more this coming season. Drake London basically played the role of the tight end last season and he's very productive. This year, he'll move back out wide to receiver, and the position he played is up for grabs. That's the position I was told they want me to come in and play. I'm excited about that, and I'm coming in ready to compete for that spot and hopefully make an impact from day one."

    Yary is a Trojans legacy, the son of former All-American and College Football Hall of Famer Ron Yary. But did he make the right decision going to a program that has an uncertain immediate future?

    On one hand, playing with quarterback Kedon Slovis is exciting. But will USC utilize an in-line tight end enough for Yary to showcase his skills?

    He decided the family pull and the pros outweighed the cons. Time will tell whether it was the right decision.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.


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