It’s time for the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and that means plenty of excitement and looming surprises on the recruiting trail.
If you thought the 2017 recruiting class was already crazy, then I hope you’re ready for a steep, 90-degree drop into mayhem.
The recruiting dead period will end on Jan. 12, and college football coaches will do their best impressions of Steve Martin and John Candy. I’m talking planes, trains and automobiles, people.
Plus, we have the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl this weekend leading us right into the thick of it all — especially with this Najee Harris drama.
With that being said, let’s dissect the details of the 5-star running back’s recruitment and some other interesting takes.
Najee Harris’ Grand Finale
We thought the nation’s No. 1 overall player was going to announce his decision immediately following the Army game. But that is no longer the case. Instead, Harris is going to ball out in San Antonio and then hop on a plane to either Ann Arbor or Tuscaloosa because he’s enrolling early.
Now, my colleagues who cover the Alabama beat have been telling me the Crimson Tide expect Harris to honor his commitment. But the word on the street now is there may be growing concern coming out of Tuscaloosa. A source I have close to the situation in Ann Arbor firmly believes Harris will end up choosing the Wolverines. With Michigan, Harris can start right away. It’s true. From Day 1, he’ll be the starter, and the same can’t be said for Alabama.
Now, Harris’ brother has publicly stated he wants the No. 1 running back to play for Jim Harbaugh. But Alabama quarterback commit Tua Tagovailoa fully believes Harris will end up rooming with him at Alabama. This is a he-said-she-said situation, but I’m trusting my source in Michigan that Harris will be a Wolverine.
There are quite a few blue-chip recruits set to announce their decisions at the Army game, so let’s do a quick rundown of whom they are and where I believe they’re going, shall we?
Five-star offensive tackle Foster Sarell is either going to Stanford or Washington. The Cardinal already have a commitment from 5-star offensive tackle Walker Little, but I believe the Huskies hold a slight advantage here.
When it comes to 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah and 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes, I expect both to end up at Ohio State. The Buckeyes also have a shot at 4-star safety Bubba Bolden, but he’s likely going to re-join USC’s class.
As for Ohio State’s rival, it should be adding another piece to its puzzle, as 4-star offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga is expected to pick Michigan. The Wolverines were also in on 4-star running back Eno Benjamin, but with the Najee Harris situation unfolding, it appears as though Benjamin is choosing between Arizona State, Baylor and Texas. I expect him to pick the Longhorns.
Then there’s 4-star wide receiver Jamire Calvin, whom I believe will end up leaving Los Angeles to join fellow 4-star Californians Keyshawn Johnson and Tristan Gebbia at Nebraska.
Florida’s Jan. 13th Weekend
Jim McElwain is looking to build upon the first bowl win of his Florida tenure by translating that momentum into commitments. With the dead period about to end, the Gators’ biggest recruiting weekend will come a few days after on Jan. 13. Florida is set to host 5-star safety Devon Hunter, 4-star defensive end Jarez Parks, 4-star wide receiver James Robinson and 4-star linebacker Levi Jones.
Florida State is in play for both Parks and Jones, but the Gators set themselves apart with a great visit. Alabama is also in play for Parks, though if Florida can impress his mother one last time, it can keep the Sebastian, Florida native in state.
As far as Robinson goes and Hunter are concerned, Torrian Gray will have one last big pitch to deliver on why they should play in Gainesville. I believe Jones and Robinson will end up picking the Gators, but have grown less confident about Hunter. It appears he’s staying close to home at Virginia Tech.
Miami’s Official Visits
Another Power Five program in the Sunshine State is banking on its official visits to carry through to National Signing Day. The Hurricanes are neck-and-neck with the Gators in hopes of flipping 4-star offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert from Michigan. Miami will host him for an official visit on Jan. 20, which is the same time 4-star wide receiver Jeff Thomas, MVP of the Under Armour game, will visit.
One week earlier, Mark Richt and his staff will take a shot at landing former Notre Dame commit Jordan Pouncey, a 3-star wide receiver and cousin of Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. The ‘Canes need to bring their A-game to help their 2017 class finish in the top-15.
As I mentioned last week, Texas was expecting to get two commits. One of them was 3-star tight end Reese Leitao. I believe 4-star defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson will also end up joining the Longhorns’ 2017 class. That’s important, obviously, because he wreaks havoc in the trenches and recorded four sacks in the Under Armour game. But it also carries significance because 4-star defensive end Lagaryonn Carson’s status is still up in the air.
Carson told me he was expecting Tom Herman to visit after the dead period ends in hope of getting an offer from the new Longhorns staff. If Texas can combine Chaisson with Carson and 4-star defensive end Taquon Graham, that would create a devastating D-line.
In other Texas news, I also expect 4-star cornerback Chevin Calloway to commit to Herman’s program. He’s taking his official visit to Austin on Jan. 27, which should all but seal the deal.