National Signing Day is less than a week away. Some college football prospects have already enrolled at their new schools for the spring semester, and the 2017 players who haven’t can put pen to paper for next fall on Feb. 1.
We’ve reached the point where the vast majority of the country’s top 2017 prospects are already verbally committed to some school or another. Most of those commitments will stick, though not all will. This post is a rundown of the 12 highest-rated prospects who don’t have a current verbal commitment to any school. It’s an update of a post from earlier in January, before a few committed.
The players featured here are ordered by their ratings on the 247Sports Composite, which aggregates industry player evaluations. SB Nation Recruiting’s Bud Elliott (@SBNRecruiting) weighs in, as well.
Marvin Wilson, five-star DT, Episcopal (Texas)
Wilson is the consensus best uncommitted player available. It’s not hard to see why. At a listed 6’4 and 329 pounds, he’s already got the size to play immediately in whatever scheme his coaches require. Wilson recently told SB Nation that Florida State and LSU were at the top of his list. He could wind up as a gap-plugging nose guard for the Tigers in their 3-4 defense, or as a three-technique tackle for the Seminoles in FSU’s 4-3. Oklahoma and Ohio State are also still chasing.
Bud’s intel: LSU folks are feeling good about Wilson since the Tigers were tied at the top with FSU, yet Wilson still had his LSU visit remaining, and had already taken his trip to Tallahassee. But, Florida State’s recruits have been the most vocal recruiters and have the Seminoles squarely in the mix. Neither the Tigers nor the Seminoles would surprise me here. I definitely think FSU has a greater shot than many.
Aubrey Solomon, five-star DT, Lee (Ga.) County
Solomon is a former Michigan commitment, but he decommitted in August, leading to this headline: “A four-star tackle says he decommitted from Michigan because they sent a thank-you card for an event he didn't attend and also spelled his name wrong.” He’s been a late riser in recruiting rankings, going from highly rated to really highly rated. Alabama, Georgia, USC, and former home Michigan are highly involved.
Bud’s take: I have no idea where he will go. Solomon told me during the Army All-American Bowl week that Alabama leads, but he has changed his visit plans around several times. Michigan and Georgia do not think they are out of this race, despite his unflattering comments about the Wolverines. Solomon might be truly torn, or he may be trying to create some drama for his final call. I am going to go with Michigan, but my confidence is low.
LaBryan Ray, five-star DE, James Clemens (Ala.)
Ray is a listed 6’4 and 260 pounds, and his mix of oomph and quickness makes him a moldable and attractive prospect for everybody. He could project as a three- or five-technique. Ray’s been dealing with a torn labrum but expects to have that fixed up soon enough. He’s taken or expects to take visits to Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Alabama.
Bud’s intel: Ray has two teammates committed to the Tide in corner Kyriq McDonald and tackle Kendall Randolph. Alabama has far more stability than any of his other contenders, and pumps out top picks at his position. I don’t believe he will say no to Alabama.
Joseph Lewis, five-star WR, Hawkins (Calif.)
Lewis is a complete receiver. He was one of the better receivers at last summer’s Nike Opening showcase in Oregon, and he’s gotten interest from just about every major program in the country. He’s fast enough to dangerous from anywhere, and at 6’2, he’s not limited to playing in the slot. The industry consensus is that Lewis will land at USC, but Nebraska has also pushed hard.
Bud’s take: USC makes the most sense. The Trojans get Lewis’ last visit. But watch out for Nebraska if the Cornhuskers are able to get Lewis, and four-star teammate Greg Johnson back to Lincoln before National Signing Day.
Austin Jackson, four-star OT, North Canyon (Ariz.)
Jackson is a listed 6’6 and 280 pounds, and he draws great reviews. It’ll probably help him to fill out his frame a little bit, but he’s good already. The 247Sports Crystal Ball overwhelmingly projects he’ll land at USC.
Bud’s intel: Nothing I gathered during the Army All-American Week, or since leads me to believe he’s going somewhere other than USC.
K’Lavon Chaisson, four-star DE, North Shore (Texas)
Chaisson’s been a late riser in recruiting rankings, and he nearly reached five-star status at the end of the cycle. He’s a bit lanky, but he’s a terrific athlete who can shoot quickly through gaps and be a real pass-rushing force. If Chaisson fills out enough to knock down powerful running backs in the open field, he’ll be a pretty complete edge defender.
Bud’s take: While Texas seems to be banking some of its scholarships in the first year under Tom Herman, Chaisson is a player the Horns badly want. I think the Longhorns will keep the Houston product in the state, with LSU finishing second. My confidence level here is low.
Jeff Thomas, four-star WR, East St. Louis (Ill.)
At The Opening, the Nike recruiting showcase last July, Thomas was named the camp’s fastest player. There are a lot of fast recruits, but Thomas might be the fastest one right now. He’s a playmaker, and someone’s going to get a receiver who can burn people out of the slot or on fly routes from the outside. Miami is the crystal ball favorite. Thomas is so fun to watch, so we really hope he qualifies and does not have to go the junior college route.
Bud’s intel: I previously picked Louisville over Miami, but after bad weather prevented Thomas from visiting the Cards, and the uncertainty of rescheduling that trip, I will go with Miami.
Jay Tufele, four-star DT, South Jordan (Utah)
Tufele is solidly built but not massive, and he’s athletic. He seems like he’ll fit well as a three-technique tackle somewhere if he’s not lining up at the nose, and most of the smoke around his recruiting has come from out West.
Bud’s take: I do not have great Utah connections, but the people I trust at Michigan and Ohio State are not confident. There is some smoke about USC here, and some about BYU. In the end, I think he joins up with the USC Trojans.
Devonta Smith, four-star WR, Amite (La.)
Smith is another speedster, but he’s more than that. Watch him work at The Opening, where we thought he performed excellently. He catches the ball with his hands, and his routes are so smooth.
He’s got great leaping ability, great hands, and great speed. There’s no reason he can’t be a star at the next level. Alabama, Miami, FSU and LSU seem well-positioned.
Bud’s take: It is hard to discount his camp’s connection to Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The feeling from Alabama people is similar to the one they had with Shyheim Carter’s camp last year, who lived just 20 minutes away from Smith. (Alabama signed Carter, who followed Pruitt from Georgia to Alabama). As of now, I am picking Alabama. But the Tide are going to be fighting competition from the Hurricanes and Seminoles down the stretch, both of which have better situations for early playing time. If Alabama has room, I think it will land Smith. He loves Alabama. In fact, when I asked him for his top two NFL comparisons, he named Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, both former Crimson Tide stars.
Deommodore Lenoir, four-star CB, Salesian (Calif.)
Lenoir is a former Oregon commit, but he decommitted at the end of the Ducks’ disastrous season, right before they fired Mark Helfrich. He’s a terrific athlete with speed and leaping ability, and he can shut down deep routes on one side of the field without any safety help. If the team that gets him wants to use him on offense and special teams, he’s good enough to help on either, too.
Bud’s take: I am picking Oregon to regain Lenoir’s commitment. While Nebraska made a great impression on him during his January 20th visit, I believe the Ducks have been around the longest, and have some momentum on the recruiting trail.
Tedarrell Slaton, four-star OL/DL, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.)
6’4, 360 pounds, and with moves like someone who weighs 50 pounds less. Slaton loves basketball, and wants to play defensive tackle in college. He’ll probably be a good one. If he would focus full-time on playing guard, however, he might be the best guard in the country. Slaton’s balance and body control for his size are excellent. He’s also good at finding linebackers and defensive backs in space and not getting overextended.
Bud’s take: Florida and Kentucky are recruiting him at defensive tackle. I like Florida’s chances to keep Slaton in the Sunshine State.
Willie Gay, four-star LB, Starkville (Miss.)
Gay’s tape shows a player who’s already completely dominant against the run, and who’s got the physical tools to eventually be an elite collegiate pass-rusher, too. He’s the second star recruit in two years from Starkville, the hometown of Mississippi State. Last year’s, four-star receiver A.J. Brown, picked Ole Miss and then talked down the Bulldogs’ recruiting prowess. We’ll see if the hometown school does better this time.
Bud’s take: While Mississippi State and Michigan have been working hard, and fellow Mississippi five-star RB Cam Akers, of Florida State has been recruiting him, LSU is my pick. The Tigers have a major need at linebacker, and Starkville is less than five hours from Baton Rouge.