National Signing Day 2014 live blog
SI.com's team of writers will provide running analysis of the various developments throughout National Signing Day. Our partners at Rivals.com will chime in with the latest news. All listed times are ET. For additional coverage, be sure to check out the Top 100 recruits, team-by-team commitment list and more.
Zac Ellis: So, what can we make of National Signing Day? It depends on the school and conference. The SEC finished with seven of Rivals.com's top-10 classes, and no program was more impressive than Alabama.
The Crimson Tide entered the day with the country's top-ranked class, and the rich got richer on Wednesday. Five-star linebacker Rashaan Evans, an Auburn native, spurned the Tigers and pledged to the Tide. When the dust settled, Evans' commitment marked the sixth five-star prospect in coach Nick Saban's crop, which rated No. 1 in the nation for the fourth year in a row.
USC was another program that shined. The Trojans secured three blue-chip prospects -- safety John "JuJu" Smith, athlete Adoree' Jackson and offensive tackle Damien Mama -- as part of a banner day for first-year coach Steve Sarkisian. USC's gain was UCLA's loss. The Bruins missed out on Mama, four-star defensive end Solomon Thomas (Stanford) and five-star receiver Malachi Dupre (LSU). It will be interesting to see how Wednesday's developments impact the rivalry in Los Angeles moving forward.
A little drama took place in the Big Ten, too, as five-star defensive end Malik McDowell committed to Michigan State over Michigan and Ohio State. However, McDowell had yet to sign his National Letter of Intent by Wednesday afternoon, and his mother has been vocal about not wanting her son to head to East Lansing. For the moment, McDowell's college football destination remains up in the air -- something that should play out in the coming days.
As the final prospects fall into place, we're faced with more questions than answers. Can Tennessee and Kentucky translate top-15 classes into on-field success? Can Michigan bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season and a relatively uneventful haul? How will Texas coach Charlie Strong fare with his debut class under his belt?
Much remains to be seen, but the future is taking shape. For a recap of National Signing Day 2014, check out SI.com's coverage below.
Ben Glicksman: John "JuJu" Smith is one of those super athletes who can play anywhere, though he is projected as a safety in the college ranks. He collected more than 750 all-purpose yards on offense and 71 tackles on defense during his standout senior season, and he's the second-oldest of seven children.
On Wednesday, Smith announced his long-awaited college destination. The five-star prospect declared to USC over Oregon, Notre Dame and UCLA.
#USC two for two with the five stars today, keeping that streak alive. 5-star commit every year since 2003. Amazing.— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) February 5, 2014
Also (possibly) of note: Smith's favorite movie is Tropic Thunder, as he previously told Fox Sports Southwest. "That movie's funny," he said. "I don't know if you watched it or not but that movie's hilarious." For more, click here.
Zac Ellis: Myles Autry, a three-star receiver from Norcross (Ga.) High, has opted to stay close to home and play football at Georgia Tech. Autry announced his decision at a press conference on Wednesday.
Autry said that the university's proximity to Norcross influenced his decision to play for the Yellow Jackets, as did the opportunity to play with his brother, Anthony, a sophomore receiver at Tech. But Autry also said that he wants to be part of a turnaround at Georgia Tech.
"It's time for a change," Autry said. "GT used to be a great organization. I feel like we could make it happen and change things around."
Autry had reportedly narrowed his choices down to the Yellow Jackets and Florida State, but he also placed Florida, Oregon and Ohio State hats on the table at his press conference.
The 5-foot-10 Autry is a big get for Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson in what has been a somewhat tumultuous offseason -- starting quarterback Vad Lee unexpectedly transferred to James Madison last month. Though Autry might not be a major part of the offense as a receiver in the Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack, he said at his press conference that Tech's coaches have discussed finding other ways for him to contribute. Autry said that he will also return kickoffs and punts.
Martin Rickman: Lorenzo Carter, a four-star defensive end out of Norcross (Ga.) High, was so coveted by Florida State and Florida that coaches recently attended his basketball game and sat next to his family in some sort of awkward avant-garde comedy show. Ultimately, those types of visits didn't seem to make a difference, as the 36th-rated player in class of 2014 has signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Georgia.
Carter chose the Bulldogs over LSU and Notre Dame in addition to Florida and Florida State. His Rivals.com profile lists more than 30 offers, so it makes sense that teams were persistent (and creative) in their recruiting efforts.
The Bulldogs have a new defensive coordinator in former Florida State assistant Jeremy Pruitt. Carter said Pruitt's presence factored into his decision.
"That defense is going to be nasty," Carter said on ESPNU, "and I plan on being a big part of it." For more, click here.
Martin Rickman: It usually takes some time before it's fair to evaluate a new coaching hire, but the recruiting gods weren't doing Texas' Charlie Strong any favors in the days and weeks leading up to National Signing Day. The Longhorns lost Speedy Noil and Otaro Alaka to Texas A&M, watched Emanuel Porter flip (he ended up at TCU) and had to weather the decommitments of the Teuehema brothers (who made their way to LSU). That said, Texas doesn't typically make waves on Signing Day -- it usually has its class locked up well beforehand.
In many ways, the 'Horns did about as well could be expected on Wednesday. Three-star safety John Bonney, who had started looking at other schools, ultimately signed his National Letter of Intent with Texas. And both defensive tackles the Longhorns needed, Chris Nelson and Poona Ford, decided to #HookEm.
Texas has quality signees in running back Donald "Duke" Catalon, quarterback Jerrod Heard and defensive end Derick Roberson. The biggest recruiting win could actually come in the form of a non-2014 guy -- USC transfer Max Wittek, a four-star recruit from the class of 2011, seems likely to choose the Longhorns.
There's also the talent that is already on campus. Texas dealt with a lot of injuries in 2013, started the season 1-2 and had the cloud of Mack Brown's job status hanging over its head all year. A lot of people will count Texas out, but if the players buy into Strong's system, the Longhorns could be on the rise sooner rather than later.
Zac Ellis: No one knew exactly where blue-chip athlete Adoree' Jackson -- the nation's No. 6 overall recruit, according to Rivals.com -- would ultimately play college football. In fact, as of Tuesday night, Jackson didn't know himself.
😳 I'm glad I get to sleep on my decision because I still don't know haha !— SWEET PEA (@AdoreeKnows) February 5, 2014
On Wednesday, his mindset changed. Jackson announced his commitment to USC over Florida, LSU and UCLA.
Whichever school landed Jackson was expected to have a strong track and field program, as the five-star prospect is a talented long jumper with his sights set on competing in the 2016 Olympics. On the gridiron, Jackson plays cornerback and wide receiver while also serving as a punt and kick return specialist.
Jackson hails from the same high school -- Junipero Serra High in Gardena, Calif. -- that produced former USC receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. This is another big get for Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian, who already grabbed Damien Mama, the top-rated offensive guard in this year's cycle, earlier on Signing Day.
Meanwhile, Jackson's declaration marked yet another whiff by UCLA, which also missed out on Mama, four-star defensive end Solomon Thomas (Stanford) and five-star receiver Malachi Dupre (LSU). Jackson's family dressed in style for the ceremony. For more, click here.
Martin Rickman: Okay, maybe he doesn't have a Rivals.com profile. He doesn't have a star rating. And he didn't make his decision on national television. Still, Lion King (formerly Lion King Conway) and Eastern Michigan might have been the real winners of Signing Day.
Also, EMU athletics informs me that Lion King Conaway has legally changed his name to simply Lion King— Kyle Austin (@kylebaustin) February 5, 2014
This isn't the first we've heard of Lion King, who likes his name.
Martin Rickman: South Carolina got a big Signing Day boost when cornerback Chris Lammons picked the Gamecocks over Wisconsin, among other schools that he was considering. The four-star prospect from Plantation, Fla., will join fellow four-star defensive back D.J. Smith in the South Carolina secondary. Steve Spurrier's squad still has a few more big defensive back prospects on its recruiting board, and landing another one or two should help a defense that ranked 57th on passing downs, according to S&P+ ratings.
Zac Ellis: There was plenty of moving and shaking in the early hours of National Signing Day. Here are the winners and losers after the initial rush of commitments.
• LSU: Les Miles' crew has been cleaning up. The Tigers secured five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre, four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine and three-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao before noon on Wednesday. LSU already had the commitment of the country's No. 1 running back, Leonard Fournette.
• Alabama: The shocker of the day was the announcement of Rivals.com's top-rated outside linebacker, Rashaan Evans. An Auburn, Ala., native, Evans surprised the country by pledging to Alabama instead of the hometown Tigers. Evans' name and bio was already posted on the Auburn website, which made the decision a bit awkward. Evans' signature gave the Crimson Tide their sixth five-star prospect in this year's class.
• Florida State: The Seminoles added a nice piece to their offense with the commitment of five-star receiver Ermon Lane. Lane chose Florida State over Florida and became the second five-star receiver in coach Jimbo Fisher's haul, joining Travis Rudolph.
• Michigan: One of coach Brady Hoke's biggest targets was five-star defensive end Malik McDowell, the top-rated player in the state of Michigan. But the coveted defender committed to rival Michigan State. The saga might not be over, as McDowell's National Letter of Intent reportedly isn't signed, but this is a blow to Hoke after already missing out on the country's top overall player, Da'Shawn Hand.
• UCLA: The Bruins whiffed on a few big-time prospects in the early going. Four-star defensive end Solomon Thomas (Stanford), five-star receiver Dupre (LSU) and four-star offensive guard Damien Mama (USC) all committed elsewhere after including UCLA in their final consideration sets. Coach Jim Mora did secure the services of four-star linebacker Kenny Young, however.
• Texas: Coach Charlie Strong had some work to do for his first class. He landed three-star defensive tackle Poona Ford, but the Longhorns weren't able to land more highly touted recruits such as Thomas (Stanford) or Valentine (LSU).
Martin Rickman: After missing out on several other notable commitments, Texas needed to land a couple of defensive tackle prospects. Charlie Strong and the new Longhorns' staff did just that, securing three-star recruits Chris Nelson and Poona Ford. Ford, who had a little social media experiment with the #WhereWillPoonaGo hashtag, picked Texas over Purdue and Missouri. His mind was sharp and his thoughts were clear, presumably because he enjoyed a quality breakfast leading up to his final decision.
While Texas has swung and missed on a few prospects, Ford and Nelson were important gets.
Colin Becht: Five-star defensive end Malik McDowell appeared headed to Michigan State. Now, he might be this year's version of Alex Collins.
McDowell announced his decision to join the Spartans on Wednesday morning, but that decision may not be a done deal. According to Rivals.com's Mike Farrell, McDowell's National Letter of Intent has yet to be signed. His mother previoiusly told the Detroit Free-Press she doesn't want her son at Michigan State.
We'll have more on the McDowell signature saga as it develops.
Martin Rickman: Auburn's national championship appearance and improbable turnaround under Gus Malzahn has already paid recruiting dividends, with the Tigers holding a strong class entering National Signing Day. However, as of Wednesday morning, one of the program's top targets remained on the board: Five-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans, out of nearby Auburn (Ala.) High.
Signing Day is full of weird quirks, but the following may take the cake: Before Evans announced his decision, his profile appeared on Auburn's official site, listing him under the position of "Star." There was a YouTube video under the Auburn Tigers Athletics account and everything. It's possible that the school simply jumped the gun — a scenario CBS' Jerry Hinnen pointed out — but things became really strange when Evans, stunningly, declared for Alabama.
Think there's still the _possibility_ that's just a draft that published accidentally. It will be sooooo awkward if that's the case.— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) February 5, 2014
rashaan evans already up on auburn's official site pic.twitter.com/zZUuBy4Z2x— martin rickman (@martinrickman) February 5, 2014
Evans was down to Auburn, UCLA and Alabama, but the late push by Nick Saban and staff snatched the linebacker out of the Tigers' backyard. It's fitting, perhaps, that Evans played with Reuben Foster, last year's five-star linebacker who flipped from Auburn to Alabama after tattooing the Tigers' logo on his arm.
Not long after Evans' announcement, his profile was taken down.
and now the hyperlink leads to this so it is now down pic.twitter.com/ZbmYjb72bN— martin rickman (@martinrickman) February 5, 2014
As many have mentioned, schools create bio pages for most of their Signing Day targets. Otherwise, how would they prepare for the flood of faxes coming in? Still, to have that up there and to watch Evans put on an Alabama hat ... oof. For more, click here.
Zac Ellis: Steve Sarkisian made a nice pickup for his first recruiting class at USC by landing four-star prospect Damien Mama, the No. 1 offensive guard in the class of 2014.
At 6-5 and 360 pounds, Mama is one of the more physically imposing linemen in this class. The Bellflower, Calif., native is the No. 4 prospect in the state and chose the Trojans over UCLA, Alabama and BYU.
Grabbing a prospect like Mana is a strong move for Sarkisian, coming as it does in USC's last year of recruiting while under NCAA sanctions, which have limited the Trojans to only 15 signees in each of the last three years. Sarkisian can sign up to 19 this year because former coach Lane Kiffin only signed 11 in 2013. That the coach was able to secure a player like Mama is impressive. For more, click here.
Martin Rickman: Early in the morning, Les Miles received a cup of coffee live on ESPNU. If coffee is for closers, Miles has earned another few cups. The Tigers nabbed five-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre, four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine and three-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao in rapid succession right around 11 a.m., bringing LSU's class into the top five of Rivals.com's team rankings. Another few surprises are still potentially left on the board.
Florida State and UCLA were both in the mix for Dupre, but he went with another school that pumps out NFL prospects, including the recently departed Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Dupre boasts great size for the position and nicely complements running back Leonard Fournette, the top-rated running back in this year's class.
Martin Rickman: UCLA's linebacking corps -- which featured Anthony Barr, Myles Jack and Jordan Zumwalt -- might have been the best in the nation last year. It helped the Bruins land another blue-chip prospect at the position in Kenny Young, from New Orleans' John Curtis Christian High.
Young picked UCLA over Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas, among others. After announcing his decision on ESPNU, Young said: "They'll just have Kenny Young joining the party, making plays and taking our defense to a whole other level."
With a strong 2014 recruiting class, coach Jim Mora sticking around and quarterback Brett Hundley coming back for his redshirt junior season, the Bruins should be a trendy dark horse pick to win the Pac-12 next season.
Martin Rickman: Three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander picked Stanford over Notre Dame, marking another win for the Cardinal, who landed Solomon Thomas earlier in the morning. Even with defensive coordinator Derek Mason leaving for Vanderbilt, Stanford's program has gotten to a level where attrition doesn't have the crippling effect that it once did. The Cardinal appear to have a pretty nice crop of young defensive players coming to Palo Alto.
Zac Ellis: Maryland landed a big-name prospect when five-star offensive tackle Damian Prince committed to the Terrapins on Signing Day. He immediately becomes one of the highest-rated recruits ever to sign at the school under coach Randy Edsall.
Prince was rumored to be leaning Maryland for a while, although he took an official visit to Florida last weekend. Still, the 6-5, 292-pounder preferred to stay closer to his Forestville, Md., home.
During his announcement on ESPNU, Prince said the number of Big Ten linemen drafted in recent years factored into his decision to play for Maryland. As the Terps prepare for their debut season in the Big Ten, Prince could make an instant impact. For more, click here.
Zac Ellis: Florida State added another potential star to its offense when five-star receiver Ermon Lane announced his commitment to the Seminoles on Wednesday.
Lane had narrowed his college choices to Florida State and Florida; he took an official visit to Tallahassee last weekend, leaving most to assume he'd sign with the Seminoles. The Homestead, Fla., native is also reportedly good friends with Miami-area five-star running back Dalvin Cook, who is already on campus at Florida State as an early enrollee.
The Seminoles boasted college football's most talented receiving corps in 2013, but star Kelvin Benjamin -- who caught the winning touchdown in the BCS title game -- opted to skip town early for the NFL. The 6-2 Lane could be a nice addition to the Florida State offense and could turn into another talented target for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. For more, click here.
Martin Rickman: Things got heated toward the end of Malik McDowell's recruitment leading up to Signing Day, but the Southfield, Mich., product has officially made his choice. The top-rated player in the state of Michigan is headed to Michigan State.
McDowell made his choice shortly after 9:30 a.m., picking the Spartans over Michigan, Florida State and Ohio State. Typically, coaches make a late push, but in this instance, McDowell's parents were the ones employing negative recruiting tactics. From the Detroit Free-Press:
"We don't want him at MSU," Malik's mother, Joya Crowe, said Monday night, and she gave multiple reasons.
"Something happened, I don't want to put it out there what it was," she said of her son's recent official visit, "but I had a bad experience at MSU."
Ultimately, McDowell went where he thought was best, and that was with the reigning Big Ten and Rose Bowl champs. McDowell is the 26th-ranked propsect in the nation, according to Rivals.com. For more, click here.
Ben Glicksman: Booker T. Washington (Fla.) High is a perennial high school powerhouse; it went 14-0 last season and won the Florida Class 4A state championship. That success was thanks largely to stars such as defensive end Chad Thomas and quarterback Treon Harris, among many others, who announced their college destinations at the school's ceremony on Wednesday morning.
In typical Signing Day fashion, things didn't go as planned. Thomas delayed the festivities by arriving late, something that resulted in a bumbling, documentary-style, one-man camera search for the prospect. He eventually blamed on a "late breakfast" before declaring for Miami, which he verbally pledged to back in July.
Harris, meanwhile, changed his mind. The 5-11, 180-pounder, who threw for 2,159 yards with 28 touchdowns and four interceptions as a senior, flipped from Florida State to Florida. He's a huge pickup for the Gators, who finished 113th in the FBS in total offense (315.5 yards per game) while limping to a 4-8 record in 2013. Florida's offense did lots of things like this.
It will be interesting to see how new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper utilizes Harris, who previously told AL.com that he sees himself as a blend of Winston and Nick Marshall. "Jameis can throw the ball, and I can throw the ball," he said in January. "Nick can run the ball, and I can run the ball."
For more, click here.
Martin Rickman: It's not often you read the phrase, "Alabama commit flips to UCF," but that's exactly what happened with three-star safety Chris Williams out of Kingsland, Ga. Williams' choice of schools was impressive -- in addition to the Crimson Tide, he also had scholarship offers from Ole Miss and Ohio State. But it seems that the Knights' Fiesta Bowl win is already paying dividends for coach George O'Leary.
This is not a huge loss for Alabama; the Tide always have an abundance of talented defensive backs, anyway. As for UCF, landing the 6-2, sub-4.5 40-yard dash prospect is a great pickup.
Martin Rickman: In a declaration that comes as a bit of a shock, four-star wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie will sign with Georgia over Ole Miss and Virginia Tech. Notre Dame, Florida and others were in the running as well. The Plantation, Fla., native previously gave his verbal commitment to the Fighting Irish back in October.
McKenzie could make an immediate impact in the return game, and his speed should bolster a Georgia offense that was depleted due to injuries in 2013.
Zac Ellis: The Signing Day circus got off to a solid start with the announcement of four-star prospect Solomon Thomas, who committed to Stanford live on ESPNU. Thomas, Rivals.com's No. 3 strongside defensive end, pulled out a tree and donned nerd glasses as he committed to the Cardinal.
Thomas had narrowed his consideration set to Stanford, Arkansas and UCLA after previously eliminating Ohio State and Texas. He visited the Razorbacks two weeks ago -- his sister attends school in Fayetteville -- but ultimately decided to pledge his services to coach David Shaw.
After recording 78 tackles and 12.5 sacks as a senior at Coppell (Texas) High, Thomas should fit right in with the Cardinal's stout defense. For more, click here.
Zac Ellis: Derrick Nnadi, the first Rivals100 player to announce his commitment on Wednesday, is headed to Florida State. The four-star prospect had been considering offers from Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Virginia.
A lot of folks believed Nnadi, a Virginia Beach native, had his sights set on the Hokies. Coach Frank Beamer's program was considered the favorite to land him entering Signing Day. Now, however, Nnadi will join a Florida State class already positioned in the top five of Rivals.com's team rankings.
Nnadi would have been a big get for Virginia Tech, which loses two key defensive line contributors in Derrick Hopkins (to graduation) and Kris Harley (to transfer). Nnadi has a chance to help replace Seminoles star Timmy Jernigan, who opted to declare for the 2014 NFL draft.
Martin Rickman: You know what they say. In football, if you're not at least three to five hours early, you're late. That's what West Hills, Calif., quarterback Brad Kaaya thought as he faxed in his National Letter of Intent right around 4 a.m. Pacific time. The four-star prospect is officially bound for Miami now, and he even sent out a tweet to commemorate the occasion.
Never seen LA this dark— Brad Kaaya (@TrinidadBrad) February 5, 2014
Typically, around 4 a.m., I am dreaming about fighting zombies with Helen Mirren so I can eat the last pizza on Earth. But tomato-tomahto, right?
Ben Glicksman: Well, that didn't take long. The first surprise of Signing Day has already filtered through -- and, perhaps predictably, it involves Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer.
Three-star defensive end Darius Slade, who verbally pledged to Michigan State on Jan. 17, will not sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday and will instead take an official visit to Columbus on the weekend of Feb. 15, The Star-Ledger reports. Slade, a onetime Nebraska commit, is reportedly intrigued by the idea of playing for new Buckeyes assistant Larry Johnson, who accepted a job with Ohio State after Bill O'Brien left Penn State for the NFL's Houston Texans.
Slade racked up 67 tackles, 23.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a senior at Montclair (N.J.) High. If he flips, he could add to a Buckeyes' defensive line that already features Joey Bosa, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. But the biggest takeaway here? Despite the Spartans' thrilling Rose Bowl victory, Ohio State remains the recruiting class of the conference -- and Meyer has more sway during the final moments of a recruiting cycle than arguably any other coach.
Rivals.com: Four-star cornerback J.C. Jackson of Immokalee, Fla., had been committed to Florida since June, but was keeping his options open. In the end, he decided he made the right call.
Jackson signed with the Gators on Wednesday, picking them over Florida State and Miami. He is ranked as the No. 243 player nationally and the No. 37 player in the state of Florida.
It's finally here. After months of buildup -- of official visits and all-star showcases -- National Signing Day 2014 is here. Many of the nation's top-ranked recruits are scheduled to announce their college programs of choice, and the excitement should last well into the afternoon: Wide receiver Malachi Dupre is set to declare at 10:30 a.m., athlete Adoree' Jackson is poised to sign at 2:10 p.m. and safety JuJu Smith is slated to commit at 5 p.m.
We'll be here all day breaking down the latest signings, surprise flips and creative declarations, and our partners at Rivals.com will provide breaking news as it occurs. For more coverage throughout Signing Day, check out our 2014 announcement schedule, list of Top 100 prospects and Rivals.com's up-to-the-minute team rankings.
Which team will land the top class? Which prospect's decision may change the future of a program? We'll find out soon enough.