The recruiting dead period is about to hit for the 2017 recruiting class. Here are the storylines that matter, and what you should keep an eye on as the cycle winds down.
College football’s recruiting dead period will go into effect on Dec. 12, which means all in-person contact between coaches and recruits will no longer be allowed until after Jan. 11. That leaves three weeks before National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
Coaches can still converse with prospects via text or other electronic communications, though. So, get ready, because we’re about to embark on a wild and crazy couple of months here — as is usually the case with recruitment around the holidays.
We’ll see some coaches put the finishing touches on classes they’ve been pursuing for months. There will be players who’ve long acted as brand ambassadors that end up flipping their commitments to another school right before or on NSD. It happens. It always happens every year.
With all of that in mind, here are some potential storylines to keep an eye on as we head into the dead period for the 2017 recruiting class.
- 5-star OT Alex Leatherwood – The 5-star offensive tackle has been committed to Alabama since June but a late official visit to Florida the weekend before the dead period starts could land the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle with the Gators. He’s an early enrollee, so a decision will have to be made soon.
- 5-star RB Najee Harris – It was once thought impossible for the nation’s No. 1 player to go back on his commitment to the Crimson Tide, but Michigan has been actively pursuing the 5-star running back for quite some time. He’s publicly reconsidered his Alabama pledge, and if he does flip, it’ll be to Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines.
- 4-star ATH Tray Bishop – The 4-star athlete committed to Auburn with the thought he’d be playing quarterback at the next level. He’s since accepted the idea of playing defensive back in college, and that’s where the Gators come into play. They’ve been surging with Bishop, and a flip to Florida seems very likely.
- 4-star OT Navaughn Donaldson – The 4-star offensive tackle has been pledged to Mark Richt’s Hurricanes since July, but both Florida and Florida State have kept their feet on their respective gas pedals. At one time, the Gators seemed to have the best shot to flip him, but now that honor goes to the Seminoles. Look for him to end up in garnet and gold when it’s all s aid and done.
- 4-star WR Omar Manning & 4-star WR Jalen Reagor – The nation’s No. 10 wide receiver committed to TCU in October, but a lot has changed since then. Tom Herman is now in charge at Texas, and he’ll need to add a few more weapons to go with 4-star quarterback Sam Ehlinger. There’s a chance Manning and 4-star Jalen Reagor, who flipped to the Horned Frogs from Oklahoma, could both make a move to Texas. But the odds of that happening aren’t great at the moment.
- 4-Star OT Kai-Leon Herbert – In July, the nation’s No. 26 offensive tackle committed to Michigan in a Walking Dead parody, but now there’s a chance he could end up somewhere other than Ann Arbor. Both Florida and Miami are trying to flip him from the Wolverines, and it appears as though he commitment is very much in the air right now.
- 3-star QB James Blackman – Who doesn’t love these high-profile Florida-FSU recruiting battles? We’ve seen it with Dalvin Cook, Dante Fowler Jr., Treon Harris, etc. James Blackman could be the latest. The 3-star quarterback pledged to the ‘Noles in August, but he recently landed an offer from Florida, who is looking to add a second quarterback commit in the class. With 4-star quarterback Bailey Hockman committed to FSU, a flip to Florida is possible, albeit not that likely at the moment.
- 4-star DB C.J. Avery – He’ll be announcing on the morning of Dec. 14, and it seems as though the home-state Mississippi State Bulldogs will beat out Louisville, Ole Miss, Auburn and others for his commitment.
- 5-star CB Lamont Wade – The nation’s No. 3 cornerback and No. 17 overall player will be taking his decision public on Dec. 17 . Wade is deciding between Penn State, Pitt, Tennessee, UCLA and West Virginia, but it appears as though the Nittany Lions have the upper hand.
- 4-star C Cesar Ruiz – The IMG Academy prospect and New Jersey native will be announcing on Dec. 18, but don’t expect any surprises. He’s going to Michigan, and anything else would be a complete shock.
- 4-star DE Joshua Kaindoh – The No. 6 defensive end in the nation, Kaindoh recently decommitted from Maryland. Expect Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State to all make serious pushes for his commitment. He’ll be announcing on Jan. 1 at the Under Armour All-America Game.
- 5-star ATH Deangelo Gibbs – Gibbs will also be announcing at the Under Armour All-America Game, and you can expect him to be donning a Georgia Bulldogs hat when does.
- 5-star OT Foster Sarell – The Graham, Washington native will commit on Jan. 7 at the Army All-American Bowl, and it appears he’ll be picking Washington over Stanford when he does.
- 5-star ATH Jeffrey Okudah – Okudah will also be announcing at the Army All-American Bowl, where he’ll decide between FSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State. He’ll likely be playing safety when he makes the transition to college football, and it appears as though Ohio State has the best shot to land him at this point.
Storylines To Watch
- Last year, we saw Charlie Strong pull a rabbit out of his hat when he took Texas from outside the top 30 up to the No. 3 recruiting class in the country. Now, Tom Herman has an uphill battle lying ahead of him. He’s already reaching out to some in-state prospects like 5-star linebacker Anthony Hines and 4-star athlete J.K. Dobbins. Texas currently sits outside the top 30 (again), and a lot of work is needed to flip recruits to the Longhorns.
- Jim McElwain did a helluva job taking the Gators from No. 83 to No. 29 in the month he had left in the 2015 cycle. The 2016 cycle saw Florida end up at No. 11. Now, McElwain and his staff are losing ground on the recruiting trail after a second consecutive loss to Alabama in the SEC title game. The Gators need to start pushing for commitments ahead of National Signing Day. If they don’t, Florida fans will continue to grow impatient — just as they did during the Will Muschamp era. The Gators currently sit at No. 2o in the 2017 recruiting class rankings.
- Oregon has sure taken its time finding a head football coach, and that could really benefit the USC Trojans. We’ve already seen 4-star cornerback Deommodore Lenoir decommit from the Ducks, and there’s a strong chance he could end up staying close to home with USC. Four-star cornerback Jaylon Redd could have a change of heart as well if Oregon doesn’t get its ducks in a row — pun very much intended.
- Lane Kiffin has been attached to seemingly every head coaching and coordinator position under the sun. If and when he does depart from Alabama, how would that affect the Crimson Tide’s progress on the recruiting trail? Odds are that it won’t change that much. Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to back off his pledge to Alabama, and it appears 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy won’t either. But Leatherwood could be further persuaded to flip to Florida if Kiffin left. Harris could feel more comfortable flipping to Michigan, too. A lot could happen if/when Kiffin departs Tuscaloosa.
- Jarrett Stidham is the most highly recruited non-recruit right now. It seemed like a lock at one point that the former Baylor Bear would be headed to Auburn. Then Texas A&M amped up its pursuit of the former 5-star quarterback, and now Florida is making a strong push. But Stidham could be the first domino to fall in terms of transfer quarterbacks. Blake Barnett is on his way to Arizona State, while Malik Zaire is still looking for a change of scenery. Ricky Town is on the move … again. Max Browne and Cooper Bateman are also looking to transfer. It’ll be interesting to watch how it all unfolds.