Georgia Bulldogs: Michigan State Spartans

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From the beginning of Trenton Thompson’s recruitment, home state Georgia has been considered the odds-on favorite to land the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2015.

While the Bulldogs remain the team to beat, a nearby SEC program and ACC program with terrific momentum are making this at least a three-team race.

Signing day winners and losers

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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The ceremonies have concluded, the ink has dried and the fax machines have been turned off once again. And with that, the Class of 2014 is mostly in the books. As is the case annually, there were a number of winners but also some losers on national signing day. Here is a look at a few schools that excelled -- and a couple others that didn't.

THE WINNERS

LSU: The Tigers began the day at No. 3 in the RecruitingNation class rankings and ended with 2014's No. 2 class. The reason is simple: Les Miles and staff got the prospect they had to have in the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). The Tigers lost both Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson to the NFL, making defensive tackle a key position of need, and they inked a pair of talented tackles in ESPN 300 Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnant Catholic) and four-star Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren). Under the radar but significant is three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), who flipped from Texas to LSU. Teuhema’s younger brother Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller) is the No. 38 junior in the ESPN Junior 300 and has pledged to LSU as well. Holding off Auburn and UCLA to keep ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) was another win on Wednesday.

Florida State: The Seminoles entered signing day with the No. 4-ranked class but were poised to close with a vengeance, and Jimbo Fisher and staff did just that. While the Seminoles moved up only one spot to No. 3, the hits on Wednesday are significant. Leading the way was No. 2-ranked wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). The Noles weren’t done at receiver either, as Fisher and staff flipped Virginia Tech commit and No. 117 overall Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen). No. 158 Roderick Johnson (Saint Louis, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and No. 253 Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) were key gets at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, respectively. Three-star offensive tackle Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden) was another key win over rival Florida.

USC: The Trojans stood to have a big signing day, and Steve Sarkisian and staff certainly delivered. Not only did USC win the hotly contested battle for five-star athlete Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), but the Trojans won the race for ESPN 300 No. 24 Juju Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and signed No. 67 overall Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) as expected. More than the names and rankings, Wednesday was a huge perception win for the Trojans and Sarkisian. USC jumped to No. 14 from No. 24 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.

Georgia: The Bulldogs didn’t have a big day in terms of number of commits, but quality ruled the day. Mark Richt and staff signed the player they had to have in five-star outside linebacker/defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). While Carter’s announcement was the big one Wednesday afternoon, the morning started off with a bang for Georgia with the signing of No. 286 overall Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), who was first offered on Monday and never even visited Athens. Those two big signings kept the Bulldogs in the top 10 at No. 9.

South Carolina: One of the big movers in the class rankings on Wednesday was the Gamecocks. Not only did South Carolina make a jump from No. 27 to No. 19 throughout the day, but the Gamecocks also addressed major areas of need. Steve Spurrier and staff had key areas of need at cornerback and along the defensive front, and they delivered by picking up a pair of ESPN 300 corners in No. 87 overall Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and No. 120 Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), as well as flipping ESPN 300 defensive tackle Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and three-star defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. Fighting off the late January runs by Alabama and Georgia for ESPN 300 linebacker commit Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) has to be included in the huge wins in recent days.

Kentucky: Sure, Kentucky plucked only one key target on Wednesday in three-star former Vanderbilt and Penn State defensive end commit Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky./Seneca), but it was still a huge day at the finish line for the Wildcats. The 2014 class marks the first time in the nine years that ESPN has ranked recruiting classes that the Wildcats have finished with a top 25 class, and that includes a big win over Alabama for in-state four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin). Signing six defensive backs fills a huge need as well.

Michigan State: The Spartans had a near dream season on the field, and followed it up by closing strong in recruiting. Not only did Michigan State jump nine spots in the class rankings from No. 38 to No. 29 on Wednesday, but it did so while filling a big need on the defensive front with big-time talent. ESPN 300 defensive end Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) was a big win over Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan, while flipping four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) from Wisconsin earlier in the week was another huge win for the Spartans.

Pac-12: The conference as a whole was quite possibly the big winner on signing day. Of the 13 live commitments on ESPNU throughout the morning and afternoon, seven committed and signed with Pac-12 programs. The winner within the Pac-12 was USC, but Stanford also enjoyed a big day with No. 25 overall Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell) and three-star corner Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian).

THE LOSERS

UCLA: Along with USC and South Carolina, the UCLA Bruins came into today with the most to gain. While Jim Mora and staff scored with four-star linebacker Kenny Young (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian), it was mostly misses throughout the day. Jackson and Smith picked crosstown rival USC, while Dupre opted for home-state LSU. At defensive end, the Bruins missed out twice on Wednesday with Thomas selecting Stanford and Godchaux sticking with LSU. And finally, No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) stayed in state by picking Alabama over Auburn.

Ole Miss: It’s difficult to place the Rebels' No. 17 class with the losers on signing day, but that was the case in Oxford, Miss. Not only did Ole Miss drop a spot in the class rankings, but it also came up dry with explosive ESPN 300 receiver and return man Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), after Hugh Freeze and staff worked the Under Armour All-America Game standout all the way up until Wednesday morning before McKenzie announced for Georgia. While Dupre was a long shot, he was yet another prospect who went elsewhere. The Rebels also lost out on Alexander, who selected Stanford over Notre Dame. The bright spot for the Rebels on Wednesday was signing former Notre Dame transfer and No. 22 in the ESPN JC 50, Tee Shepard
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: The Class of 2014 will go down as one of the wildest recruiting rides in recent memory. With so many players switching commitments and some elite prospects still left on the board, here are five things to keep an eye on heading into recruiting’s biggest day.

Does Bama have the best class ever?


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Southwest Ohio has been good to Michigan in the past, and one of Cincinnati’s top 2015 prospects was on campus Monday.


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The football program at Locust Grove High School started in 2009 with a freelance Class AAA schedule, then continued to play in AAA for two more years before making the move to AAAA in 2012. Heading into last fall, the Wildcats had a record of 6-19, having won two games each season. For rising junior Cortez McDowell, it was time to help the fledgling program take the next step.

“My main goal was to help my football team since we have not done well the last two years, so my mindset was to help my team win more than two games,” McDowell said.

The 6-foot, 200-pound prospect was a major part in his program doubling its win total in one season, recording 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10 passes broken up, two interceptions, forcing two fumbles, recovering one fumble on defense while rushing 25 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns and catching 29 passes for 679 yards and eight touchdowns on offense. He took a leadership role on defense, and whenever the team needed a big play on offense, McDowell was there.

Syracuse and NC State had already offered him during the spring of his sophomore year, and after his junior season, scholarships started pouring in. This spring, McDowell has visited Florida State, Tennessee, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and North Carolina. While most visits were similar, a few of the trips left an impression on the talented athlete.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- Offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) awoke from a post-practice nap to find out that a longtime dreams of his had come true.

“I was actually sleeping around 9:30 when I got an alert on my phone from my Facebook account that I had gotten a message,” Sims said. “It was from the offensive line coach, Coach [Will] Friend. So I called him and he said they were offering me a full scholarship to come play at the University of Georgia.”

The 6-foot-4, 278-pound junior was taken aback.

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By mid-July, one of the top players in the country will have a pretty good idea as to where he will be playing his college football in 2014.

Paramus (N.J.) Catholic cornerback Jabrill Peppers, No. 2 in the ESPN 150, will visit Stanford in July. Following that trip, he will have his future program in mind.

“Definitely after I visit Stanford I should have it pretty clear where I want to go,” Peppers said.

The five-star cornerback is coming off April trips to LSU, Michigan and Ohio State, and while Peppers did not tip his hand, people close to the dynamic two-way athlete say Michigan has a sizeable lead of those three. He has listed Stanford as his No. 1 for several months and will visit Palo Alto before officially dropping them from the top of his list.


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When offer No. 31 came in for Washington (Pa.) running back Shai McKenzie last week, he figured it was time to start cutting his list. It sounds simple, but McKenzie had a harder time when it came to putting pen to paper.

“He struggled to make a list,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “He’s really unsure.”


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ATHENS, Ga. -- For most high school players, the end of practice means they get a break from the incessant nagging and ceaseless instruction of their coaches. They go home, eat dinner, study and enjoy the respite until the whistles start blowing next time. For ESPN Watch List safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School), that is not the case.

Wilson’s father is the defensive coordinator and the defensive backs coach at the University School, so Wilson jokes that he gets no respite.

“Oh no, there’s no break, there’s no break,” Wilson said. “Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, I get it at practice, before practice, after practice, in the car, at the dinner table ...”

The talented junior laughed about the nonstop instruction but he also credited his father with making him the player he is today -- one of the most coveted safeties in Florida.


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Coveted OLB names a top five 

March, 14, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Outside linebacker Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) isn’t exactly sure of how many offers he has. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has not counted them. Once he had received over 30 offers to the top programs in the nation, there really seemed no point in doing so. Pugh is more concerned about the five that he has on top.


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Watch List wide receiver Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) reopened his recruitment earlier this year, but didn’t officially decommit from Michigan State until Monday afternoon.

Despite the decommitment coming on the tails of three consecutive weekends visiting with Michigan coaches and players in Ann Arbor, Harris said the two aren’t related.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- The last time a running back traveled more than 600 miles to play for the University of Georgia, Knowshon Moreno wound up hurdling defenders and dropping jaws with his combination of balance and speed. After redshirting his freshman season, he played only two years before heading to the NFL draft, leaving Georgia fans wondering what could have been.

Now another top running back from the Mid-Atlantic region is looking at the Bulldogs, and now that Shai McKenzie (Washington, Penn./Washington) has the Georgia offer he wanted, maybe history will repeat itself.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- Considering that running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek) is only in his second year of high school but already has 25 scholarship offers, the case can be made that Patrick is one of the most coveted prospects in the Class of 2015.


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CLEVES, Ohio -- The state of Tennessee is making a move for one Watch List prospect in the Midwest.

Class of 2014 receiver Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike) added offers from Tennessee and Vanderbilt recently, and he made a return trip to Knoxville in January. It was his first time visiting the Volunteers under new coach Butch Jones, though.

“I’ve been to Tennessee before but it was real different with the new coaching staff,” Booth said. “I don’t know how to explain it, it’s a different atmosphere going on around there. Everybody’s a lot different. The last time [under former coach Derek Dooley] was real gloomy.

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Georgia offers Watch List DE Newell 

February, 15, 2013
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ESPN Watch List defensive end Peyton Newell (Hiawatha, Kan./Hiawatha) estimates that he has picked up seven new offers over the last two weeks. His offer list stretches from UCLA to South Carolina and from Texas to Michigan State. Twenty-seven schools so far have extended verbal offers to the 6-foot-3, 270-pound junior, including the Georgia Bulldogs who offered on Wednesday.

“Yesterday I got offers from Georgia and Michigan State on the same day,” Newell said. “So it has been definitely crazy. I think I have gotten an offer from every conference. It is overwhelming and exciting. And I am very blessed to be in the situation that I am in with being able to have my choice on where to go. So I am really excited for next year.”

The Bulldogs’ coaching staff may be the latest offer but Newell has been on Georgia’s radar for a while.

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