Mind of Mike: Thoughts on National Signing Day
Not as exciting, huh? The drama just wasn’t there like it has been in the past, right? That’s the way things have been since the institution of the Early Signing Period a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t news. Four-star defensive back Terrion Arnold has been very quiet, but when Alabama is heavily involved with someone of his caliber on National Signing Day, the Crimson Tide are automatically seen as a favorite. So, despite Georgia putting in serious effort and at times being seen as the favorite, the Tide accomplished what they normally do on signing day and landed him. Alabama was his early favorite, and then it was Florida and then Georgia, but he came around in the end and is the biggest catch of the day. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH NICK SABAN*****Four-star defensive tackle Tywone Malone made it known from the start that baseball would play a pivotal role in his recruiting process for football. So with Southern schools immediately having an edge for the New Jersey prospect – and after trimming his list down to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Florida State – he committed to the Rebels on Wednesday. Ole Miss had been considered the favorite for several months, and despite taking physical visits to each of the schools, none of the others were able to overtake the Rebels. This was a huge win for Lane Kiffin to close out the 2021 year, and this kid has a chance to be great in Oxford.*****Amidst some rumors that he might delay his decision, Texas A&M received the good news that four-star running back LJ Johnson had decided not to do so. His commitment to the Aggies – over Texas, LSU and Oklahoma – is a huge in-state grab, especially since the Longhorns and new coach Steve Sarkisian made a big late push.
Logan Diggs (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)
Ever since he decided to not sign in December, three-star running back Logan Diggs was rumored to be flipping from Notre Dame to home-state LSU. Many thought that it was basically a formality, but to the surprise of some he signed with the Irish on Wednesday. Diggs’ addition adds even more depth to a running back group that has several promising future contributors, and most felt he would bolt when four-star Jersey running back Audric Estime flipped from Michigan State to Notre Dame in December. LSU got in too late and the last three-star running back from Louisiana that happened to leave the state was a guy named Travis Etienne. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN KELLY*****The first notable flip of the day was four-star defensive tackle Rayshaun Benny going from Michigan State to Michigan. This was equally important to both the Wolverines and Spartans. Michigan picked up an important in-state defensive playmaker, and for Michigan State it was a big loss after feeling very confident with Benny until the last week. Benny had said he was delaying signing so he could do so with his team, but the changes made on the Michigan staff between December and now flipped him. *****The Wolverines then pulled off their second flip of the morning by pulling three-star defensive tackle Iwunnuah Ikechukwu away from Colorado. Ikechukwu had just committed to the Buffaloes a few weeks ago, but soon after Michigan began to put the full-court press on the defensive lineman from Texas. After a few online visits with the coaching staff, the Wolverines became a serious threat and made it official, adding another key defensive element. This was as strong a close as could be expected for Jim Harbaugh, and this new staff is set to do something big in 2022. *****Four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis’ commitment to USC was an important get for the Trojans, as they regained some of their recruiting swagger during the closing stages of this recruiting class. Ohio State made a late run and received an in-person visit from Davis, and Oregon was also in contention, but Davis decided to join Korey Foreman, Ceyair Wright and others in deciding to stay close to home. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH CLAY HELTON*****After four-star linebacker Trevin Wallace decommitted from Boston College in late November, a number of schools jumped to the forefront. Initially it was Auburn that seemed most likely to grab his signature, and then Ole Miss, but it was Kentucky that put on the full court press and quickly became the leader. He didn’t pull any surprises Wednesday by signing with the Wildcats, which is a huge win for coach Mark Stoops as they land a guy who could be their next Josh Allen.*****Three-star Florida CB Dontae Balfour chose UNC over Auburn and LSU in a huge win for Mack Brown on Wednesday. Balfour’s stock has been rising as one of the best defensive backs left on the board. UNC wanted him badly. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH MACK BROWN
Avante Dickerson (Rivals.com)
When four-star cornerback Avante Dickerson decided to not sign with Minnesota during the early period, many thought that home-state Nebraska would swoop in and grab his signature. That seemed to be the case for a couple of weeks, but when Oregon made Dickerson a priority, everything quickly changed. This is a nice win for the Ducks and a big in-state loss for the Huskers, and it really speaks to the struggles of Nebraska in recruiting these days. Dickerson helped secure a top three class for Mario Cristobal at Oregon. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH MARIO CRISTOBAL*****Vanderbilt received some good early news when three-star linebacker Michael Mincey decided to stick with his commitment to the Commodores. There were several rumors swirling that he was looking at other schools, including Auburn, which recently hired Derek Mason as defensive coordinator after he was fired by Vanderbilt.ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH CLARK LEA*****Tennessee received plenty of negative press this week after dropping four-star tight end Roc Taylor on the eve of National Signing Day. While there was some discussion that Taylor might delay his decision after this sudden news, he did find his future home this morning at Memphis. Taylor’s career will be an interesting one for Vols fans to follow. *****Needing to plug some holes immediately, Tennessee pulled in three-star JUCO offensive lineman Jeremiah Crawford on Wednesday. While his process was relatively quiet, Crawford did also hold offers from Baylor, Kansas State, Houston, Ole Miss and Maryland. Look for him to make an immediate impact this fall. *****With defensive back being a position of need at South Carolina, the Gamecocks addressed this by grabbing three-star LaDareyen Craig. South Carolina, which didn’t offer Craig until early last week, joined Mississippi State and Oregon State in the late chase and came out on top. The Gamecocks later strengthened their class by adding four-star JUCO linebacker Bam Scott and solidifying the commitment of in-state three-star defensive tackle T.J. Sanders. A good day overall for new coach Shane Beamer. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH SHANE BEAMER*****An impressive under-the-radar addition Wednesday was speedy three-star Calvin Johnson II committing to Northwestern. The Wildcats, who just offered last week, beat out the other finalists, Penn State, Duke, TCU and Vanderbilt, for Johnson. Academics proved to be a very important factor for Johnson after he was initially committed to Navy for most of 2020. *****Aside from a few random rumors, not a great deal of serious drama surrounded five-star running back’s Camar Wheaton’s signing day announcement of sticking with Alabama over Oklahoma. This was despite some substantial coaching turnover in Tuscaloosa that helped create some of these questions. Wheaton adds another thoroughbred back to the Tide running back stable, which will continue to be very fun to watch in the coming years.*****While there is usually some indication where most recruits are heading on National Signing Day, four-star defensive end Davon Townley remained a mystery. With up to eight schools competing for his services this week, this was still a toss up as of Wednesday. In the end it was Penn State that reeled him in. It was his relationship with coach James Franklin and his staff that put the Nittany Lions over the top. Arizona State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Washington and Nebraska were also in the chase. Towney is an excellent basketball player and very raw as a football prospect, but he has elite athleticism. ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH JAMES FRANKLIN
Destyn Hill (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)
Florida State closed strongly by adding four-star wide receiver Destyn Hill. This didn’t come as a surprise as the Seminoles have done a great job establishing a very strong relationship with Hill, but with Alabama and Florida also under consideration it was a must-get grab for Mike Norvell.ZOOM INTERVIEW WITH MIKE NORVELL*****Michigan State added a nice offensive piece when wide receiver Keon Coleman picked the Spartans over Tulane. Kansas, Ole Miss and Auburn were also considered the last few weeks. Coleman gives Michigan State a big-bodied receiver with a great deal of upside who should become a key part of the offense for the Spartans. *****New coach Steve Sarkisian has done a very good job bringing in immediate excitement to the Texas program. That excitement helped the Longhorns reel in three-star defensive end David Abiara. The former Notre Dame commit also considered Washington and Oklahoma at the end, but the opportunity to play closer to home won out at the end.ZOOM CALL WITH STEVE SARKISIAN *****Deciding not to sign with Auburn during the early period, there was plenty of doubt whether three-star athlete Tarvarish Dawson would end up with the Tigers. However, after speaking with new coach Bryan Harsin and building a quick relationship with the coaching staff, Auburn was able to hold off Texas A&M and Tennessee down the stretch to keep him with the Tigers. *****Despite being a South Alabama commitment, three-star safety Cayden Bridges was thought to be down to Auburn and Mississippi State, which both came in with late offers. The Tigers, who offered last Thursday, ended up with the recruiting win. The Bulldogs offered a day later, but it seems to have been a day too late as Bridges acknowledged that Auburn being his first SEC offer meant a great deal to him. Another late offer also went out to three-star in-state cornerback Juwon Gaston. As with Bridges, the offer meant enough to him that he committed to the Tigers over South Carolina and Tennessee. These were all much-needed wins in a turbulent class for Auburn.*****The Bulldogs missed out on Bridges, but it wasn’t all bad for Mississippi State. The addition of in-state three-star defensive end Tyvoris Cooper, who had been a priority for the coaching staff since the spring, was a nice win. He eventually chose the Bulldogs over Ole Miss and Colorado. *****Stanford has had previous recruiting success with offensive linemen from Texas, most notably Walker Little. That continued that on Wednesday with the addition of three-star Austin Uke. The one-time Holy Cross commit had seen his process explode over the last few months, with new offers coming in daily. With a multitude of offers, he surprised many by choosing the Cardinal over USC, Texas and Northwestern. *****Oregon State pulled off a signing day surprise by flipping three-star offensive lineman Jason White from Boise State. The Beavers were in White’s top three when he committed to the Broncos in October, but Oregon State turned up the pressure when he didn’t sign in December. This is nice late addition for the Beavers, who had recruited White since his junior season.