What to Expect for Remaining Top 2021 Recruits J.T. Tuimoloau, Brian Thomas Jr.

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2021

J.T. Tuilomoau
J.T. TuilomoauCredit: 247Sports (Brandon Huffman)

The overwhelming majority of college football prospects lock in their choices during the early signing period in December or national signing day in February. Occasionally, though, a top-rated player isn't ready to make an official decision by those dates.

First: That's great!

Some key prospects are eager to end the recruiting process or feeling the pressure to lock in a scholarship with a particular team in December. Plus, before the early signing period debuted in 2017, the first Wednesday of February had always been the moment for decisions. So, tradition still has a large influence on timelines.

But in the 2021 cycle, 5-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and 4-star wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. have become exceptions.

Tuimoloau is the marquee player, which is no surprise given he's the No. 3 overall prospect in the class. He's a 6'4½", 277-pound pass-rusher from the Seattle area and is considering Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, USC and local school Washington.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the NCAA has suspended in-person recruiting until April 15 and asked schools to pause official visits. As a result, Tuimoloau has been unable to check out his options throughout the last 10 months.

His father, Ponce Faletoi, told Brandon Huffman of 247Sports it's the reason Tuimoloau won't decide until at least April.

Nevertheless, two schools seemingly stand out.

"He wants to get out and see Alabama and Ohio State with us, just so we're all comfortable," Faletoi said.

No one factor is a foolproof way to predict a recruitment, but where a prospect visits is typically the strongest indicator of interest. While the pandemic altered trips in this cycle, that trend may be holding true for Tuimoloau.

If so, it'll be a "rich get richer" situation.

Ohio State will finish No. 2 in the team rankings for 2021, but Tuimoloau could be the sixth 5-star addition. The Buckeyes also signed defensive end Jack Sawyer, who is ranked fourth nationally—one spot behind Tuimoloau in the overall rankings.

Alabama has locked in the No. 1 classand the highest-rated group in recruiting historywith seven 5-star signees. If Tuimoloau joined the haul, he'd give the Crimson Tide four of the eight highest-ranked players in the 2021 cycle.

Incredibly, though, the Tide might not even be finished there.

Ranked as the No. 88 prospect in the class, Thomas has a final list of three SEC West programs: Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M. He unofficially visited both Alabama and LSU early in 2020.

According to Billy Embody of 247Sports, Thomas' father said a decision will come "hopefully soon."

One factor potentially working against the Tide, ironically, is the sensational job they did adding other top receivers in 2021. They signed 5-star Jacorey Brooks and 4-stars Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary, all of whom are top-10 players at the position.

That won't necessarily prevent Alabama from landing Thomas, especially since LSU managed the same on a smaller scale. The Tigers added top-100 prospects Deion Smith and Chris Hilton, along with 4-stars Malik Nabers (No. 258) and Jack Bech (No. 349).

Texas A&M, meanwhile, signed 4-star wideout Shadrach Banks and 4-star athlete/receiver Yulkeith Brown.

Depending on the player, favorable perception of a depth chart might be a strong factor or completely irrelevant. Where it fits on Thomas' priority list is likely a piece of the discussion, however, and might help Texas A&M close the gap on Alabama's undeniable championship pitch and LSU's recent title.

Since he has three excellent options, it's no wonder Thomas is still deliberating. He, like Tuimoloau, is bucking both convention and tradition to make the best possible decision.

That's one perk of being a blue-chip prospect: Teams wait on you. And now, we're all watching closely, too.


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.