The first Wednesday in February has become a national holiday for college football fans, another reason to celebrate the post-bowl season and pre-spring practice — National Signing Day. On Feb. 5, the 2020 class will finish their recruiting process, putting their signatures down on a letter of intent to the program that is their ideal fit. With the early signing period in December taking up much of the recruiting action and headlines, there are still a few top recruits left on the recruiting trail for key teams to improve upon their incoming talent.
The early signing period wrapped up many of the top recruits being pursued, and the announcements at the All-American Games took away much of the rest of the suspense. Entering into NSD, per 247Sports, there are only two top-50 players left on the board, four in the top 100, and five total uncommitted and/or unsigned talents in the top 200.
Of the talent left available on the board, which program has the inside track on landing a potential game-changer that can help put wins on the board?
RB Zachary Evans (5-11, 200)
5-star North Shore (Texas)
Evans' recruitment has made national headlines and still holds intrigue. In December, Evans signed early with Georgia but requested to be released from his letter of intent. The Georgia staff released him with no restrictions, which leaves his recruitment wide open. Because Evans has already signed once, he cannot sign again on NSD, leaving this mystery lingering.
Contenders: The running back has made official visits to LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. All four programs have room for Evans should he verbally commit on Wednesday. LSU signed a five-star and four-star tailback in the 2019 class. The Aggies have signed 2020 all-purpose/scat-back Devon Achane; the pairing of Achane and Evans would work.
Prediction: Texas A&M
SS Avantae Williams (5-11, 170)
4-star, Deland (Fla.)
With 27 reported offers to choose from, the race to keep Williams, a four-star safety, in the Sunshine State is on between Florida and Miami.
Contenders: The former Oregon Ducks commit took an official visit to Miami on Jan. 17 and to Florida on Jan. 24. Being the last program to host Williams should go a long way in helping the Gators push their top-10 class up the rankings.
DT McKinnley Jackson (6-2, 327)
4-star George County (Miss.)
Jackson had a standout senior season with 76 tackles, 61 of those solo, along with a mind-blowing 37 tackles for a loss.
Contenders: His productivity colliding against 6A Mississippi competition has led to 22 reported offers, and he has taken official visits to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Texas A&M. The perceived top-three are Alabama, LSU, and A&M. The Aggies hosted McKinnley for an official over the weekend, but both LSU and Alabama staffs have taken coaches’ visits to Lucedale.
DE Alfred Collins (6-5, 284)
4-star Cedar Creek (Texas)
Labeled both a four- and five-star depending on the outlet, Collins is a wanted man. Big, fast, and strong, Collins was a one-man gang for his Eagles squad, pulverizing 5A Texas offenses for 86 stops and 35 tackles for a loss while jarring the pigskin loose four times in just 10 games played.
Contenders: His offer sheet at 15 seems under-reported given his talents. But the heavy-hitters for Collins appears to be Oklahoma, Alabama, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas. Alabama head coach Nick Saban made the visit to Texas to meet with Collins last month, while Baylor and Texas are pushing for him as hard as they can.
QB Malik Hornsby (6-2, 175)
4-star Fort Bend Marshall (Texas)
Seeing a player with Hornsby’s talents still on the board, especially given his dual-threat skill set, is a rarity. Hornsby guided Fort Bend to a 14-2 season in 2019 and made a state title game run before dropping a 45-42 thriller to Aledo. Hornsby threw for more than 2,200 yards with 29 touchdowns against just two picks and rushed for over 1,500 yards with 17 more scores.
Contenders: His talents have been sought after by 26 different programs with official visits taken to Purdue, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Baylor. This has the feel of a race between the Razorbacks and Bears. The Razorbacks are arguably in a bigger need for a talent of Hornsby’s caliber to help push the rebuild forward in a hurry.
OT Ty’kieast Crawford (6-5, 335)
4-star Carthage (Texas)
Crawford is another very talented offensive lineman who college programs are scrambling to sign. The one-time Arkansas Razorbacks commit opened his recruitment in mid-October after the former coaching staff had the wheels fall off the proverbial bus.
Contenders: Can new Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman, the former offensive line coach at Georgia, woo Crawford back to Fayetteville over 20 other offers? This appears to be a two-team race between Arkansas and LSU.
DE Princely Umanmielen (6-4, 249)
4-star Manor (Texas)
College football programs need ends that can seal the edge, play the run, and pressure the quarterback. Umanmielen can do it all. With the ideal build, Umanmielen leveraged his skills against 5A Texas squads, pushing his offer sheet to 28.
Contenders: He has taken official visits to Baylor, Florida, Texas, and Auburn, and both Texas and Auburn hosted Umanmielen last weekend. Can the War Eagles overcome pressure for Umanmielen to stay in the state?
RB Michael Drennen II (5-11, 196)
4-star Dublin Coffman (Ohio)
Given Drennen’s talents coming out of the backfield and his proximity to Columbus, one would think this pairing would be a shoo-in for Ohio State, but the four-star has not limited his options on the national landscape.
Contenders: Going off 38 offers to choose from, he has taken official visits to Kentucky, Arizona State, USC, and Florida. The Trojans have been pushing hard by making a coaches’ visit with Kentucky also trying to keep pace. The two-team race comes down to SEC vs. Pac-12 and location (close to home) vs. location (Hollywood).
— 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 and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.