Signing day: Blue chips tying up loose ends

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

The February signing period in college football is now about tying up loose ends.

Most of the scholarships throughout the Bowl Subdivision are accounted for. Almost all the blue-chip players are off the board and the super-power programs have few openings left in their classes.

But there are still questions to be answered when the traditional signing period opens Wednesday:

—Will five-star defensive tackle Jordan Burch sign with South Carolina?

The-6-foot-5, 275-pound Burch is a potential immediate-impact player out of Columbia, South Carolina, home of the Gamecocks. When the early signing period opened in December, he announced he would stay close to home. But he didn’t actually sign, leaving open the possibility LSU could be his final destination.

For South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, coming off his worst season in four with the Gamecocks, landing Burch would be a welcome offseason victory.

—Where will Zachary Evans land and when will that happen?

The talented running back from Houston quietly signed with Georgia in December, but was later released from his national letter of intent by the Bulldogs. Exactly what went down is unknown, but Evans apologized to his college coaches during the UnderArmour All-America game in Januarym, where he was the offensive MVP.

He is now free to pick another school and play right away, but rules prohibit him from signing another NLI. Evans could announce his intention Wednesday — or not. Texas A&M, Tennessee and Mississippi have been in pursuit. They are all likely to hold a spot as long as it takes the five-star to make up his mind.

—Who else is undecided?

There are very few true undecideds among highly rated players. Most have signed and most who have not are verbally committed.

Among the uncommitted, the most notable seems to be defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson from Mississippi. The 320-pounder is being recruited by all the usual SEC suspects, with Alabama considered the front-runner. Jackson could be stellar fallback option for the Crimson Tide if four-star defensive tackle Jayson Jones flips and signs with Oregon.

—Is Oregon prepping for a repeat?

Even without Jayson Jones, coach Mario Cristobal’s team appears to be on its way to securing the top class in the Pac-12 for the second straight year, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings.

The Ducks are taking advantage of Cristobal’s connections and USC’s issues to clean up. Oregon is building the foundation of perennial playoff contender.

—How are the new coaches doing?

Most notable among the 21 coaches hired in the recent cycle is Mike Norvell of Florida State. Norvell is trying to salvage a top-20 class Seminoles fans hope is the first step toward presenting a serious challenge to Clemson in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Jimmy Lake was promoted to head coach at Washington after Chris Petersen stepped down in December, a smooth transition that set up the Huskies to land a top 20 class.

Four Southeastern Conference schools changed coaches, and heading into signing day Mississippi State’s Mike Leach seems best positioned to crack the top 30. Behind Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss is in on Zachary Evans and McKinnley Jackson and could finish with a splash.

—Who’s No. 1?

Clemson’s class has gotten the most attention for the majority of this recruiting cycle with good reason. The Tigers have locked up the best class of the Dabo Swinney era, which already includes two national titles and five playoff appearances.

Still, it appears either Georgia or Alabama will finish with the top-ranked class nationally, according to 247 Sports. If the Crimson Tide ends up on top it will be the ninth time in 10 years. If the Bulldogs are No. 1, it will be the second time in three seasons.


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