National Signing Day is the most anticipated day of the year for high school and college football fans who track the recruiting process. All are eager to see which school earned their favorite player’s commitment and how respective collegiate programs may have set a path for future success. Each year brings a different level of anticipation with players making a last-minute flip from one program to another or when an uncommitted player picks a dark horse team as his favorite school.
The 2017 recruiting class draws a fair comparison to the ‘16 crop with highly skilled players across the country capable of making an immediate impact for a given team as a true freshman. Arguably the deepest positions in the 2017 class include offensive and defensive linemen, which is responsible for 13 (seven defensive, six offensive) of Rivals’ five-star prospects. Of the 34 players across the country earning the highly coveted five-star rating, only two remain uncommitted. Because of this, the biggest intrigue heading into Wednesday might just be where the remaining top uncommitted four-star recruits end up signing.
Heading into National Signing Day, Rivals’ top five classes line up this way – 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. Michigan, and 5. Oklahoma. Alabama (24 commitments), Michigan (26), and Oklahoma (27) have very little room to add any more recruits. The Buckeyes have 20 commits while Georgia has 23, leaving both programs below the typical 25-player limit. The rest of the top 10, with the exception of No. 8 Texas A&M (26 recruits), also have space available. So Florida State (No. 6, 20 commits), LSU (No. 7, 21), USC (No. 9, 18), or Penn State (No. 10, 19) could finish higher depending on how National Signing Day plays out for each program.
The following is a breakdown of which players remain uncommitted, along with the potential programs vying for their signature and an educated guess on which program gets their signature.
DT Marvin Wilson (6-4, 320) – 5-Star – Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Texas
No. 2-ranked player in the nation, Under Armour All-American
Wilson is the biggest prize left on the board. The consensus five-star talent was a force in the trenches as a four-year Texas varsity player in the Houston area. Official visits have been taken to Oklahoma (Sept. 16), Florida State (Oct. 28), Ohio State (Nov. 25), LSU (Jan. 14), and South Florida (Jan. 20).
Contenders: Oklahoma has made sure Wilson knows that he is a top priority, but do they have any room for him? Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer traveled to Houston on Jan. 25 for a coaches’ visit. Many believe LSU is the team to beat for Wilson.
Prediction: Unless the Sooners do something to open up a spot, Meyer's late visit pays off as the Buckeyes land the big man much to the dismay of LSU.
DT Aubrey Solomon, (6-4, 287) – 5-Star – Lee County High School, Leesburg, Georgia
No. 31 in the nation per Rivals, U.S. Army All-American
Solomon is the only other uncommitted five-star recruit in the 2017 class. Despite his production on the field and upside, Solomon has kept his recruitment under wraps with 13 reported offers even though the offer sheet is more than likely considerably higher. Official visits have been taken by the Peach State product to Michigan (Nov. 5) and Alabama (Nov. 26).
Contenders: Wolverines and Crimson Tide are definitely in it and the clubhouse leaders. But a variable was thrown into the mix on Jan. 13 when USC was able to fly Solomon cross-country for a visit.
Prediction: Trojans' late pitch goes for naught, as Solomon spurns USC and the Wolverines to stay close to home and continue the talent pipeline that runs through Tuscaloosa.
OT Austin Jackson (6-6, 270) – 4-Star – North Canyon High School, Phoenix, Arizona
No. 77 in the nation, No. 9 OT, U.S. Army All-American
Jackson is the top-rated offensive lineman left on the board, making his commitment important. Jackson has the frame, skills and base technique to be an impact player but will have to add 30 pounds to be FBS-ready, especially for a Power Five conference program. The addition of weight has not stopped more than 20 schools from offering. USC (Nov. 26) and Arizona State (Dec. 3) both hosted Jackson on campus and are making him a priority.
Contenders: The top contenders appear to be the Trojans and Sun Devils, along with fellow Pac-12 members Oregon and Washington. USC would love to add Jackson to put together an offensive line class that would rival Alabama’s and Georgia’s.
Prediction: The allure of playing at USC is too much for Arizona State to overcome, as Jackson heads to Los Angeles.
WR DeVonta Smith (6-1, 160) – 4-Star – Amite High School, Amite Louisiana
No. 42 in the nation, No. 6 WR, U.S. Army All-American
The top wide receiver left on the board is Louisiana standout DeVonta Smith. Smith’s quickness makes him capable of filling in at slot receiver while also possessing an ability to stretch defenses vertically.
Contenders: The top teams on the board are LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Miami. With Arizona State hiring Billy Napier away from Alabama as the Sun Devils’ new offensive coordinator, will that affect the Crimson Tide’s chances to land Smith? LSU fans are sure to put a lot of pressure on the in-state talent to stay home under the direction of new head coach Ed Orgeron.
Prediction: Napier's move west does impact Smith's decision, as he decides to stay close to home and gives Orgeron and his staff a much-needed early "win" on the recruiting trail.
DT Jay Tufele (6-3, 306) – 4-Star – Bingham High School, South Jordan, Utah
No. 37 in the nation, No. 4 DT, U.S. Army All-American
He may just be a four-star, but Tufele is the perfect example of how deep defensive line is this year. The Utah talent may lack the ideal height, which may be the only thing keeping that fifth star from appearing, but his abilities on the field speak volumes. With more than 20 offers to choose from, Tufele may break some in-state programs’ hearts while making a Pac-12 or Big Ten program’s National Signing Day. The teams to get his official visits were Michigan (Oct. 21), Ohio State (Nov. 25), BYU (Jan. 13), USC (Jan. 20), and Utah (Jan. 27).
Contenders: Among those who hosted Tufele, the Wolverines have the least amount of wiggle room to add him. Utes or Cougars would no doubt love to keep the big tackle in the state, but neither Buckeyes nor Trojans figure to go away quietly.
Prediction: Tufele spurns USC and Ohio State to stay in Utah and play for the Utes.
Other Top Uncommitted Four-Star Prospects
DE LaBryan Ray (James Clemens High School, Madison, Ala.)
No. 45 in the nation
Top Schools: Tennessee, Alabama and Florida
Prediction: Gators pick up a rare win over two of their biggest SEC rivals.
WR Joseph Lewis (Hawkins High School, Los Angeles)
No. 50 in the nation
Top Schools: Nebraska, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC
Prediction: Willie Taggart convinces Lewis to head to the Pacific Northwest.
WR/CB Deommodore Lenoir (Salesian High School, Los Angeles)
No. 54 in the nation
Top Schools: Decommitted from Oregon on Nov. 29 – Nebraska, Mississippi State and USC
Prediction: The Ducks' loss is the Trojans' gain.
WR Jeff Thomas (East St. Louis High School, East St. Louis, Mo.)
No. 57 in the nation
Top Schools: Miami, Louisville and Oregon
Prediction: Thomas will take his talents to South Beach.
LB Willie Gay (Starkville High School, Starkville, Miss.)
No. 73 in the nation
Top Schools: Ole Miss decommitment on Oct. 24; Michigan, Mississippi State and LSU
Prediction: Gay opts for the hometown team.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.