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January 9, 2013
Mike Farrell is the National Football Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. Want more of what's on Mike's mind throughout the week? Follow him on Twitter @rivalsmike.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell is never shy to express his opinion on everything from commitments to rankings to how on-field performance affects recruiting. In this weekly feature -- Inside the Mind of Mike -- the most experienced analyst in the industry gives some of his thoughts on the events of the past week.
With less than a month until Signing Day, there are numerous prospects in the Rivals100 who remain uncommitted or are committed and looking around.
In this week's Mind of Mike, I'll take a look at each one and where I think things stand. These certainly aren't predictions because, as you'll see, many of these players are quite unpredictable. Leading the way however is a player who appears to be predictable -- the nation's top prospect in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.
Let's start with the uncommitted ?
No. 1 DE Robert Nkemdiche: It's all Ole Miss, it appears, barring a huge surprise. LSU is a threat but it would be stunning if Nkemdiche spurns his mom's wishes and doesn't end up playing with the Rebels and his older brother.
No. 6 LB Reuben Foster: Foster has many schools on his list and everything could change depending on where former Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor lands. But I think Georgia is probably the team to beat here. Auburn is trying to get him back in the fold and is pushing hard and LSU is also a threat. Even Foster doesn't know right now and seems to be adding more schools than subtracting, so things could change quickly.
No. 10 WR Laquon Treadwell: Ole Miss is the team to beat right now heading into an official to Oklahoma State this weekend. Treadwell has two officials left after this weekend, if he wants to take them, so a surprise program could enter the picture. But right now, it's Ole Miss.
No. 11 OL Laremy Tunsil: Georgia and Alabama are the top two here and I think the Dawgs have the edge right now. Alabama has to be tempting after watching them dismantle Notre Dame Monday night, but UGA was his leader heading into his visit with the Tide and then things evened out. Whenever that happens, it is likely the previous favorite wins out, which is good news for Georgia.
No. 14 RB Derrick Green: Michigan leads the way here and it's hard to figure out the next biggest threat. Green has two official visits left and Miami and Florida State are in the mix, but he's already been to Ann Arbor many times, has also visited Auburn and Tennessee, both of which lost coaches, and it will take something special to beat the Wolverines.
No. 17 DT Montravius Adams: Like Treadwell, mom knows best. It appears Clemson and Georgia are in a two-team battle, with Alabama, Florida and others trailing. Adams has a huge visit to Clemson this upcoming weekend, and it appears his final visit will be to Georgia.
No. 18 LB Matthew Thomas: Miami and Florida State are the leaders, but watch out for USC. That visit to L.A. on Jan. 18 will be huge and the Trojans always seem to steal one or two players every year from the Southeast that you don't expect. My hunch has always been he'll stay home and play for Miami, but the Canes have never seemed to be his leader, at least publically. Alabama and Georgia are also in play.
No. 29 WR Marquez North: North was set to announce at the U.S. Army Bowl but decided not to so he could take an official visit to Clemson. North Carolina is the team to beat because it's a family favorite and he has connections there (such as current teammate Brian Walker) with Tennessee trailing.
No. 32 DT Eddie Vanderdoes: Vanderdoes de-committed from USC but will be on the Trojans' big visit weekend Jan. 18. UCLA is a real threat here, as is Notre Dame. Washington and Alabama are longshots. However, Vanderdoes said he will not decide until Signing Day so anything could happen, including a re-commitment to USC.
No. 39 DB Mackensie Alexander: Alexander has a bunch of schools he's interested in and many feel he will end up as a package deal with his brother Mackenro Alexander. He recently named Clemson and Rutgers as his leaders, but is also interested in too many other schools to mention. Clemson is the team to beat, according to a few of his teammates, but Alexander is one of those unpredictable prospects who could even take things beyond Signing Day.
No. 49 DB Tahaan Goodman: Goodman lists quite a few schools, but the feeling here is that he either ends up at UCLA with buddy Priest Willis or he heads out to LSU with Willis. I'd be surprised if the duo ended up at separate schools and if it wasn't either the Bruins or the Tigers but Goodman is tough to read.
No. 54 DB Antonio Conner: Conner said Alabama is his leader in a recent interview but Ole Miss could emerge after a tight battle. Conner has long been linked with the Rebels and I can see him being swayed if some big names start committing as expected. However, he could pull a move like Landon Collins and be an in-state kid we all assumed would stay home, only to head to the Tide.
No. 83 WR Stacey Coley: Coley appears to be down to Miami, Ole Miss and Florida State. He had long been linked to the Seminoles until Miami made a strong push to the top. However, when Canes wide receiver coach George McDonald left for Arkansas, everything changed. He won't make a decision until Signing Day and much depends on who Miami hires to replace McDonald. I think he stays in state and FSU might have the edge.
No. 89 DE Tim Williams: For the longest time this looked like an LSU layup, but the Tigers essentially backed off. Now it's between Alabama, Miami and Florida State with the Hurricanes having the most momentum. He visits them in order over the next three weekends but it wouldn't be a surprise if he ends things at The U on the weekend of Jan. 18.
No. 98 WR Shelton Gibson: Gibson should be committed to Ohio State by all accounts but something has held him back. Now with James Quick gone to Louisville, the Buckeyes will probably turn up the heat more. They should get him over West Virginia, even as Tennessee tries to make a strong late push.
Now let's look at the players committed but looking around. Note that these aren't all of them for sure, just the ones that come to mind the most.
No. 2 DE Carl Lawson: Lawson remains committed to Auburn but many feel he will end up at either Clemson or Ole Miss. Tennessee is also in the mix. Ole Miss is the new hot thing for Lawson and playing opposite of Nkemdiche wouldn't be a bad thing. However, he has not de-committed from Auburn and Rodney Garner is working hard to keep it that way. Keep in mind Lawson has a teammate committed to Ole Miss and the Auburn relationship has been up and down since the clean sweep of the coaching staff.
No. 15 DB Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey is committed to USC and I don't think that will change, barring something unexpected. He visited Florida, Mississippi State, Washington and could now visit Florida State. But the big visit is Jan. 18 at USC. As long as the Trojans hire a solid defensive coordinator who wants to play the defensive style Ramsey likes, I think things will be fine.
No. 22 DE Dee Liner: Liner remains committed to Auburn and will likely stay that way until Signing Day. However on Feb. 6, many, including me, expect him to flip to Alabama. I think this has been in the works for some time and essentially could be a done deal, but Auburn is pushing hard to keep him while others such as Miami are pushing to get him on campus.
No. 23 DT A'Shawn Robinson: Robinson is committed to Texas but loved his official visit to USC and is considering an official to Alabama on Jan. 18. However, it will be tough for him to de-commit from Texas and I think things get solidified with the Longhorns on his official Jan. 25.
No. 37 RB Altee Tenpenny: Tenpenny has been committed to Alabama for some time, but with Bret Bielema and his rushing attack now at Arkansas, Tenpenny's official visit to the Hawgs on Jan. 18 is a huge one. I get the feeling Tenpenny could flip and stay home.
No. 41 WR Derrick Griffin: Griffin is committed to Texas A&M but said he would visit LSU. I think he sticks with the Aggies here in the end. He's been committed for more than a year and nothing makes me think that will change. He still has some academic hurdles to get past.
No. 45 WR Earnest Robinson: Robinson remains committed to Auburn but might visit South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida, Florida State. He could be a sign-and-place like Griffin, and I think he sticks with Auburn.
No. 58 TE Hunter Henry: Alabama has pursued Henry hard since the coaching change at Arkansas but hasn't made much headway. It's doubtful he takes another visit and I can't picture him anyplace but with the Hawgs.
No. 71 LB Michael Hutchings: Hutchings is committed to USC but will visit Washington this weekend, and has flirted with others. However, at the U.S. Army Bowl it was pretty clear he was USC all the way and it would be a shocker if he flipped.
No. 80 OL Ira Denson: Denson is committed to Florida State and will visit Florida and Ole Miss before he makes a final decision. This one is interesting because Denson has been hinting at a huge Signing Day surprise on Twitter and many felt if Florida pushed hard the Gators could get him. I think he sticks with FSU in the end, but it wouldn't stun me if he was a late flip.
Two guys to keep an eye on are WR Robert Foster and DE Al-Quadin Muhammad who recently committed to Alabama and Miami, respectively. Both could stick with those commitments, but in following their recruitment for years I can see circumstances changing.
With Foster, his decision to choose Alabama over Pitt was a surprising one, since most people felt he was inclined to stay home. Keeping him in the Alabama class doesn't sound hard, especially when you consider the Tide's on-field dominance, but Foster will be a guy they need to continue to recruit right up until LOI Day.
With Muhammad, he wanted to follow friend and former teammate Elijah Shumate to Notre Dame and sources said he silently committed to the Irish in the fall. However, sources say Notre Dame wanted to push his visit back to January for academic reasons and in the meantime his Miami visit was a home run.
But what if he gets the test score he needs and ND still needs a defensive end/linebacker hybrid closer to Signing Day? A lot would have to happen here, but it's something to keep an eye on.
Speaking of the Aggies, they are the hottest team out there in recruiting. Fans can gripe about over-signing, and you can make a case for the seven teams ranked ahead of them recruiting better, but you can't question Kevin Sumlin for taking as many as he can while his team is hot. A&M is turning away players with interest and that speaks volumes. Ole Miss is up there as well, as Hugh Freeze is putting his program in position for an amazing finish.
Tennessee is going to pull a few surprises down the stretch. Butch Jones is a good coach, Tommy Thigpen is a great recruiter and the support staff just put in place is impressive. Look for at least a couple of four-star prospects committed elsewhere or uncommitted to sign with the Vols come Feb. 6. Wide receiver Ryan Jenkins is a three-star, but he's a good example of what the staff could do down the stretch.
Speaking of flips, there have been plenty lately, with the biggest being Robinson deciding to enroll at Florida after what seems like 16 changes, and DeMarcus Walker flipping from Alabama to Florida State.
With so many early commitments this is only the tip of the iceberg as the last month is going to be crazy.
Linebacker Yannick Ngakoue is likely to stay home and play for Maryland, which would be yet another re-commitment this crazy recruiting year. As for offensive lineman Na'ty Rodgers, the longtime South Carolina lean was all set to surprise many and choose the Terps at the Under Armour Game but delayed things a few days before it was time to say it out loud. I have a hunch that in-state pressure keeps him home as well.
Rivals' rankings meetings are next week and this will be a very interesting final cycle, perhaps one of the more interesting final rankings I've been a part of. So many questions to be answered, such as who will be our final No. 1 overall player?; Who will gain a fifth star?; Who will lose a fifth star?; Who will finish on top at some tight positions, such as running back, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, safety and especially cornerback? This will take some time to hash out.
The recent recruiting changes being proposed by the NCAA will do two things -- first it will make for a lot more contact between recruiter and recruit a lot earlier, which can be a good and bad thing. Second? It will essentially end any hopes for a social life for college assistants who will now never be able to put down their phones.
I'm not a big fan of unlimited texting but I like the idea of coaches getting to know families and recruits earlier. If they can just repeal that awful rule about written offers coming Aug. 1 of a player's senior year, I will be happy. Under the proposed legislation, coaches can be in players' homes after July 1 before their junior year (subject to the recruiting calendar), but can't tender a written offer until 13 months later? That's crazy. Oh yeah, and how about an early signing period? Don't get me started on that one.