Seven of the nation's best prospects announced where they intend to play college football, at the seventh annual Under Armour game in Florida on Thursday.
While a verbal commitment is literally worth nothing in the formal sense, many teams got a lot of good news yesterday. Until the paper work — i.e., the National Letter of Intent — is signed on the first Wednesday in February, these announcements amount to little more than a hill of beans technically. But when six of the top 30 players in the nation make a national television decision on where they will be playing their college ball, it is big news.
Here are the winners and losers from Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
Note: All rankings come from 247Sports
Under Armour Winners:
The Tigers had eyes on going “5-for-5” at the Under Armour event. While that was highly unlikely, Tigers fans everywhere started to get nervous when it missed out on instate talents Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis, along with Texas product Tony Brown. However, Les Miles and "The University of LSU" capped the day by landing the No. 1 overall player in the nation in tailback Leonard Fournette and the No. 2 safety in the nation in Jamal Adams. Picking up two top 30 prospects in one afternoon is a huge coup no matter who else the Tigers might have missed out on. LSU moved from No. 10 in the team rankings to No. 5 and is third in the SEC behind only Alabama and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M Aggies
The nation’s No. 1 quarterback Kyle Allen is playing in the U.S. Army Bowl on Saturday and will be in line to take over for Johnny Manziel in College Station in 2014. Allen and Kevin Sumlin got a big boost on Thursday from the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation. New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr playmaker Speedy Noil (5-10, 175) picked Texas A&M over instate LSU at the Under Armour event. He then went on to post a team-high 116 all-purpose yards, including three receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. The diminuative dynamo was electric all week in practice. Adding to that, the nation’s No. 2 defensive end in the nation, Myles Garrett, was unstoppable all week in practice and had a strong showing in the event. The Arlington (Texas) James Martin prospect is 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds and posted a game-high six tackles, including one sack. Sumlin had a good week in Tampa as the Aggies moved from fifth nationally in the team rankings to third.
The Pac-12’s biggest win of the day was Arizona landing Washington (D.C.) Friendship Academy cornerback Jalen Tabor. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound athlete is the nation’s No. 4-rated cornerback and the No. 24-rated overall prospect in the 2014 class. Tabor picked the Wildcats over Alabama and he would likely be the biggest recruit of the Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson. RichRod also pulled the switcharoo with big-time offensive lineman prospect Jordan Poland, luring the four-star tackle away from USC on Thursday. Arizona made a huge jump in the team rankings, moving from 24th to 15th in the 247Sports team rankings.
Florida State Seminoles
Early in the week, the Seminoles got some big news by flipping Dalvin Cook, the nation’s No. 2-rated running back, from his Florida commitment. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is the No. 12-rated overall player in the nation and hails from Miami (Fla.) Central. But then during the game in Tampa, Florida State snagged West Palm Beach star wide receiver Travis Rudolph. Not only did FSU get a commitment from Rudolph over Miami, Florida, Alabama and Auburn, but also watched Rudolph shine all week. He is one of the most developed players at his position nationally and posted four catches for 48 yards and a TD in the game.
Of the seven elite players who announced their college intentions in Tampa, the SEC landed five of them. The No. 1 running back (LSU), No. 1 wide receiver (Texas A&M), No. 2 safety (LSU), No. 2 defensive tackle (Florida) and No. 3 cornerback (Alabama) in the nation all picked to play ball in the SEC. According to 247Sports team rankings, the SEC now boasts the No. 1 (Alabama), No. 3 (Texas A&M), No. 5 (LSU), No. 6 (Tennessee), No. 8 (Auburn), No. 10 (Georgia), No. 11 (Florida) and No. 13 (Ole Miss) classes in the nation.
Under Armour Losers:
A team normally cannot win and lose on the same day but that is what happened to LSU on Thursday. A die-hard LSU friend of mine told me after the game on Thursday that the “fence that was once around Louisiana has definitely come down.” Watching two of the top five players in the Pelican State choose rival schools — Noil to Texas A&M and Willis to Florida — had to be painful. And watching Tony Brown, the No. 9-rated player in the nation, pick the rival Crimson Tide over LSU had to sting a bit as well. Landing the top player in the nation in Fournette and another top 10 athlete nationally in Adams obviously means the day was successful. But had LSU landed one or two more, giving them three or four top 30 commitments in one day could have been a historic moment for Miles and the Bayou Bengals. For the record, LSU has just one of the top six players in the state of Louisiana committed.
The day was saved for Will Muschamp and Florida when Willis decided to “take his talents to Gainesville.” However, the Gators are feeling the blow of a 4-8 record on the recruiting trail. Muschamp’s staff missed on Fournette, Rudolph and Adams to archrivals LSU and Florida State on Thursday. This coming on the heels of losing Dalvin Cook to the Seminoles earlier in the week. Willis is a huge get and keeps the Gators ranked in the top 15 nationally of the team rankings, but right now, Florida is seventh in the SEC team ranks.
The Trojans dropped from 28th in the 247Sports team rankings to 35th in one day. Not only did USC miss out on landing elite cornerback Tony Brown but the Men of Troy appear to have lost La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day School lineman Jordan Poland to a division rival. The four-star 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive tackle decommitted from USC and switched his commitment to Arizona.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide claims the No. 1 class in the nation and landed an elite talent in Beaumont (Texas) Ozen cornerback Tony Brown. However, Nick Saban and company missed out on Fournette, Tabor and Rudolph to LSU, Arizona and Florida State, respectively. The other angle to consider is how Cameron Robinson, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation, played all week and in the game. Robinson looked overmatched at times and was on his heels for most of the Under Armour event. If Robinson is going to slide inside to play guard, he has no business being ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the nation. All of this on the same day that Bob Stoops whipped Saban’s defense in the Sugar Bowl.
The most famous mother in football recruiting had yet another awkward moment on national television on Thursday. Justin, the mother of star defensive tackle Gerald Willis, clearly didn’t want her son to leave the state of Louisiana. Willis picked Florida and his mother responded with “It is what it is. LSU is still No. 1.” It was bizarrely similar to what happened two years ago at the Under Armour event when her other son, Alabama safety Landon Collins, picked Alabama over the instate Tigers. “I feel that LSU is a better place for him to be” was Justin’s response on ESPN when Collins picked Bama. Justin might be the only woman in the nation who could have two sons become All-SEC performers and not really be excited about it.
The Big Ten
Of the seven players who were committing live at the Under Armour All-American Game in Tampa, one player had one Big Ten school listed as a finalist. Tony Brown, the nation’s No. 3 cornerback, had Ohio State listed among USC, Texas, LSU and Alabama (he picked Alabama). But not one other school in the Big Ten was even a finalists for one of these elite prospects — five of which picked an SEC school. Michigan did have seven prospects in the game and Penn State had four but the Midwestern league was noticeably absent from any headlines in Tampa this week.