In grand style new USC coach Steve Sarkisian capped off his 2014 class, landing three of the top kids from the state of California in five-stars Adoree Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), Juju Smith (Long Beach Poly) and Damien Mama (Bellflower St. John Bosco).
There was so much intrigue and mystery surrounding Jackson and Smith in particular. The dynamic Jackson, ranked No. 6 overall and No. 3 cornerback, kept his decision close to the vest until his announcement. There was speculation for all four teams still involved but in the end he selected Southern Cal over UCLA, Florida and LSU. Meanwhile, Oregon made a late push for Smith but he decided to follow his heart and sign with his dream school, USC. Smith is the No. 10 rated player overall and the No. 2 safety in the country.
Then there is Mama, a mountain of an offensive line prospect. He’s the No. 2 ranked offensive guard prospect in the nation. He will bolster the the Trojan offensive front.
Finishing with this trio was huge for Sarkisian and his staff and in more ways than one. They are impact players at need positions. In addition, it’s a huge statement, locally as well as regionally, that this traditional power isn’t going anywhere.
USC finished No. 10 overall and No. 1 in the Pac 12. These three are a big reason why.
Saban strikes again
Nick Saban did it again. For the second consecutive year they signed the nation’s top linebacker prospect in the country, who just happened to reside in the backyard of the Auburn Tigers. Last year it was Rueben Foster. This time around it was Rashaan Evans. They both played their high school football at Auburn high school. Many thought Evans would stay home and play for the Tigers. Instead, he elected to sign with the Crimson Tide.
Evans is a five-star recruit and the No. 9 ranked player overall.
Good close for champs
Outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, no one has recruited as well as Florida State over the past few seasons and this recruiting cycle is no different. Today was another good close for the Seminoles and Jimbo Fisher. They capped off their 2014 class by landing a handful of new recruits. Offensive tackles Roderick Johnson (Florrissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and Derrick Kelly (Havana, Fla./East Gadsden) join an already stacked offensive line class. Kelly didn’t get an offer from the Seminoles until late last night. FSU did well on the other side of the ball, landing the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle prospect in Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes). FSU beat Virginia Tech for Nnadi.
The offense also got a boost at wide receiver, finishing off their class with two outstanding in-state prospects. The headliner here is the state’s top wideout and five-star Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla.). He announced today to FSU. Lane made only one official visit and that was to Florida State last weekend. He has been pegged to Tallahassee for over a month.
However, the Seminoles didn’t go unbeaten today. They put up a huge fight for another five star wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) but lost out to LSU. But they had a plan just in case they failed and it worked to perfection, as Fisher and his staff were able to flip four-star wide receiver Ja’Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) away from Virginia Tech.
Les Miles and his LSU Tigers had a big day and closed with a roar. Headlining their class is the addition of five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis). He picked LSU over FSU, UCLA and Alabama. The Tigers got a serious challenge from the Seminoles but in the end he decided to stay home to play for Les Miles and the Tigers.
Not only did they land Dupre but they also picked up the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle prospect with the signing of Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic). The third time was the charm for Valentine. He first committed to the Gators and then the Hurricanes. LSU beat Miami for his signature. The news doesn’t stop there, as LSU also picked up today four-star outside linebacker Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas) and three-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren). They also signed in-state defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La.), who had been flirting with some other schools.
Not a bad day for Miles and the Bayou Bengals. Their strong finish vaulted LSU into the top five, finishing No. 2 over and second in the SEC behind Alabama.
Pac 12 strong in the South
The Pac 12 made a big statement today, as three programs picked up big commitments from prospects in Louisiana and Texas. Stanford landed the nation’s No. 4 defensive end in prized five-star recruit Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas). He stated that he loved education and diversity of Stanford. Three River Ridge (La.) John Curtis standouts also are heading west. Joining Thomas in Palo Alto will be cornerback Terrence Alexander. Teammates Kenny Young committed to UCLA and Kenny Young and Mattrell McGraw committed to Oregon.
There’s always one story that shakes the recruiting world and today it was in the state of Michigan. It was thought that five-star defensive end Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi.) would leave the state and pick the Buckeyes or Seminoles even though he wanted to sign with Spartans. The issue was his parents, who didn’t want him in East Lansing.
So where did McDowell commit to this morning? You guessed it, Michigan State.
But now there’s an impasse between McDowell and his parents. They won’t sign his national letter of intent. They question the academics of the school and believe Michigan State is too much of a party atmosphere.
At the time of this posting, McDowell has yet to sign.
Where will Law go?
One of the wildest stories of the day is that of Haines City, Fla. three-star running back Dacorius Law. He first signed with Ole Miss this morning and everyone assumed he was headed to Oxford to be a Rebel. But Law didn’t stop there. He also signed with Utah, as well as two different junior colleges. If you are keeping track at home that’s four different schools.
The NCAA rules states that you are obligated to go to the school who you first signed your national letter of intent with. In this case that would be Ole Miss.
But there’s a curve ball. Law has some work to do in the classroom so Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will release Law to become a Ute. His feeling is that Law will have an easier time getting qualified to play for Utah.
There were a few committed prospects who changed their decision and signed the different schools. Florida State commitment Treon Harris (Miami Booker T. Washington) signed with the Gators. There was much speculation that would occur, only no one knew what team Harris would choose. He visited Miami last weekend as well as Auburn and Florida in January.
This is a huge pickup for the Gators, as Harris is a very athletic quarterback prospect. He should fit the new offense in Gainesville very well. Florida doesn’t have that guy on their roster.
There was a twist in the Magnolia State, as four-star junior college cornerback Tee Sheppard (Holmes Community College) inked with Ole Miss rather than Mississippi State. Sheppard originally committed to the Bulldogs last week. The Rebels didn’t give up and continued their press coverage. Today, they flipped Sheppard and he will play his college ball in Oxford rather than Starkville. There's never a dull moment in Mississippi.
It’s been an interesting few weeks to say the least for defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood). This three-star was a long time commitment to FSU. Then Jeremy Pruitt left Tallahassee for Athens to become the defensive coordinator for the Dawgs. So McClain backed off his pledge and committed to Nebraska. Today, he flipped and signed South Carolina.
The Gamecocks were not done, they flipped Florida State commitment Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C.). He's a defensive line prospect.
OLs Make Decision
Two five-star offensive line prospects made their decisions today. Damian Price (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) committed and signed with Maryland. That was no big surprise for the nation’s No. 5 offensive tackle.
There was a huge recruiting battle for the top offensive guard in the country in Braden Smith (Olathe, Ka./South). He picked Auburn over TCU.
Dawgs land Carter, McKenzie
Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga.) was one of the most coveted prospects in the nation and the top recruit from the Peach State. Today, he announced and signed with the Georgia Bulldogs. That wasn't a big shock and an expected decision. Georgia beat LSU and Florida for his signature.
Running back/slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./ American Heritage) committed and signed with Georgia. What’s interesting is that this former Notre Dame pledge is headed to Athens without ever visiting the campus. The Bulldogs offered him late last week. It helped that his teammate and good friend five-star running back Sony Michael, has been a long time commitment to UGA.
In other announcements and signings today –
Four-star running back prospect Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside) signed with West Virginia.
Four-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods) signed with Notre Dame.
Four-star cornerback Chris Lammons (Plantation, Fla.) signed with South Carolina.
Four-star cornerback Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./MLK) signed with South Carolina.
Four-star outside linebacker Richard Yeargin (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School) signed with Clemson.
Four-star wide receiver Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central High East) signed with Oklahoma.
Four-star defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) signed with Auburn.
Jamie has been covering college football recruiting since 1992 and is entering his ninth year with Scout.com and FOXSports.com. He’s currently a National Recruiting Analyst and Manager for the state of Florida. Jamie is also covering the NFL Draft for the network.