Too-Early Top 25 recruiting update

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
10:40
AM ET

The 2013 season -- and the BCS era -- may have just come to a close, but it's never too early to take a look ahead to next season. And whichever teams find themselves battling for next season's national championship, odds are they will receive contributions from some true freshmen along the way.

So, with signing day less than a month away, here's how the teams in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 are looking on the recruiting trail:

1. Florida State Seminoles
Who they have: The Seminoles previously held the No. 1 spot in the class rankings before falling to No. 6, but a big week at the Under Armour All-America Game could propel FSU back into the top two by signing day. Dalvin Cook, a former Gators commit, and Lorenzo Featherston, both top-30 players in the ESPN 300, committed to the Noles before the game and No. 61 Travis Rudolph pledged during the contest. Now with 29 commitments, the Noles are close to done in what should be a special class. ESPN 300 linebackers Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy highlight the strongest LB class in the country. ESPN 300 QB J.J. Cosentino could eventually succeed Jameis Winston, although ESPN 300 athlete Treon Harris might get a shot at QB, too. Florida State needed offensive linemen more than anything to protect its quarterbacks after 2014 and found a few. Chad Mavety, No. 8 in the ESPN Junior College 50, committed in December and is ready to contribute right away. Six-foot-9 three-star OT Brock Ruble followed a few days later, as did ESPN JC 50 prospect Kareem Are.
Who they want: Florida State is still in search of a landmark commitment at offensive tackle -- at least among high school prospects. Damian Prince will commit after signing day, but four-star prospects Roderick Johnson (an ESPN 300 OT) and Frank Ragnow officially visited Dec. 13. Johnson has FSU as his leader and Ragnow has FSU as a finalist. The icing for this class would be a five-star signee, and the most likely prospect is cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who is down to FSU and Alabama.
Signing day surprise: The hope at Maryland was to land both Damian Prince and Jalen Tabor, both among the top 30 in the ESPN 300. Now that Tabor is off to Arizona, the odds have increased that Prince could sign elsewhere, too. Florida State is the main competition for Prince, and when he announces a little more than a week after signing day, Prince will utter the words "Florida State" instead of "Maryland" to complete FSU's offensive line haul. -- Jared Shanker


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The long-expected exits of key LSU underclassmen appear to be underway.

Junior wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will give up their collegiate eligibility to enter the NFL draft, a source confirmed to ESPN's Joe Schad.

Yahoo! Sports reported the receivers' decisions earlier Sunday.

They join defensive linemen Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson, both of whom had already announced their intentions to turn pro, as early entries to the draft.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. in November listed Beckham as the No. 6 non-senior receiver among possible draft prospects, while ranking Ferguson and Johnson fourth and fifth among non-senior defensive tackles.

Landry, Beckham and running back Jeremy Hill combined with senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger to form one of the most prolific combinations of offensive talent in school history. Together they helped LSU become the SEC's first team to boast a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers.

Beckham, who is second nationally in all-purpose yards per game (178.1), won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player and was a third-team All-American as an all-purpose player. All-SEC juniors Landry (77 catches, 1,193 yards, 10 TDs) and Beckham (59 catches, 1,152 yards, 8 TDs) this season became the sixth and seventh LSU players to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in one fall.


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Al Golden has yet to leave his post at Miami, but uncertainty surrounding the Hurricanes coach has led to the first decommitment for Miami.

Following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, ESPN 300 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic) told The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) he was no longer committed to Miami.

"Since Miami ain't looking so good now, until further notice, I'm decommitting from Miami University because I'm not sure about Al Golden so far," Valentine told The Times-Picayune. "I'm just going to weigh my options for right now.”

Valentine, No. 170 in the ESPN 300 and a top-10 tackle, was already wavering on his commitment, which he made in July. Kentucky and LSU were making pushes for Valentine, who finally decided to reopen his commitment following news that Golden was reportedly interviewing with Penn State on Saturday.

Golden played at Penn State under Joe Paterno and was previously an assistant for the Nittany Lions.

An official visit to Miami is still slated for Jan. 31, although he will first make visits to LSU (Jan. 17) and Kentucky (Jan. 24). He told The Times-Picayune the Tigers are his new No. 1 school. LSU has been considered the school Valentine would most likely end up at if he reneged on his Canes commitment.

"For right now yes, until I take that official visit, LSU is number one," Valentine said. "All of the commotion about Penn State and this and that right now. Al Golden is a great coach. He told me I was going to see things that I've never seen before. So for right now, I'm decommitting."

Miami now has 28 commitments in its 2014 class, which is No. 4 nationally. The Canes had one of the country’s best defensive line hauls with Valentine in the fold, although they still have three ESPN 300 linemen. Miami has four remaining defensive tackles committed, including ESPN 300 prospect Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) and ESPN JC 50 lineman Calvin Heurtelou (Springvale, N.Y./Scottsdale Community College).

SEC lunchtime links

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
12:15
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The SEC took a hit with Alabama’s loss to Oklahoma, but the conference still has a chance to finish strong, beginning Friday with Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Take a look around the league with the latest news and notes.
  • Auburn’s offensive line has developed into one of the nation’s best, but it will face a Florida State defensive line that features a quartet of former five-star prospects.
  • After a flight from Birmingham was canceled due to weather, Auburn fans try to find new ways to get to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game.
  • James Franklin’s career at Missouri has been full of ups and downs, but the quarterback’s journey will come to an end Friday at the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
  • After a 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Alabama coach Nick Saban has to find a way to right the ship again in Tuscaloosa.
  • Vanderbilt didn’t begin the season with Patton Robinette at quarterback, but the Commodores are confident in the freshman heading into Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl.
  • Running back Leonard Fournette, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, saved the day for LSU when he committed to the in-state school at Thursday’s Under Armour All-America Game.
  • On the same day Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans declared for the NFL draft, the Aggies picked up a commitment from five-star wide receiver Speedy Noil.
  • Despite a disappointing 8-5 finish for Georgia, stability isn’t a bad thing for the Bulldogs heading into next season.
  • Take five: Five reasons why Mississippi State could be in for a special season in 2014.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour Combine in St. Petersburg, Fla. Here’s a look at who stood out among the 150-plus competitors.

Campbell steals the show
George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) showed why he is ranked as the No. 2 player in the ESPN Junior 300. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Campbell tested off the charts with a 4.36-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.06 shuttle. He then backed it up with a strong performance in the one-on-one and seven-on-seven portion of the combine. Defensive backs lined up to face him and, in most cases, he burned them with either his speed or his ability to go up get the ball at its highest point. “I felt good about what I did today,” Campbell said. “I wanted to test myself against the best-of-the-best.” Consider the test passed. On the recruiting front, Campbell recently backed away from his commitment to Michigan and said at Wednesday’s registration he’s slowing down the process.

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Army Bowl notebook: Jan. 2 

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
8:10
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SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday’s practice session for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl saw players in more of a rhythm on offense, but it also saw defensive players showing their skills. If Thursday is any indication, Saturday’s contest could be a low-scoring affair.

Here are a few notes:

Cannon reaffirms Baylor commitment … again.

For the Baylor fans who read the late-Wednesday tweet coming from ESPN 300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), don’t read anything into it.


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Fournette could make Tigers roar

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
8:03
PM ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- LSU's drive for five commitments at the Under Armour All-America Game ended shortly after it kicked off. Tigers fans vented their frustrations when receiver Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) committed to Texas A&M and his high school teammate, defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, picked Florida. It mushroomed when Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) committed to SEC West rival Alabama later in the game.

But LSU still managed to walk away with the biggest prize of the 2014 recruiting calendar when No.1-ranked Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) committed to the Tigers. In the end, Fournette wasn't some consolation prize. His decision will mean more to LSU fans than any of the other players who got away. Fournette -- who had 44 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving in the game -- is the best running back to come out of the high school ranks since Adrian Peterson was tearing through defenses as a Texas high school legend. Just like Peterson, Fournette has lofty expectations for himself when he arrives in Baton Rouge, La.

"I plan on winning a Heisman and a national championship with my fellow teammates," Fournette said while surrounded by a throng of microphones and television cameras. "I can handle the pressure. I can handle it."


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Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert join Adam Amin to break down top performers from the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Anthony Johnson off to NFL

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
7:53
PM ET

Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson became the first LSU underclassman to announce his plans for 2014, revealing Thursday that he will enter the NFL draft.

"These last three years at LSU have been good to me, but I have made the decision to enter the 2014 NFL draft," Johnson announced on Twitter.

Johnson led the Tigers with nine tackles for a loss and tied for second on the team with three sacks this season. He also recorded 35 tackles and an interception.

Johnson -- the nation's No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPN 150 when he signed with LSU in 2011 -- was rated as one of the top defensive tackle prospects for the 2014 draft when the season started. However, teammate Ego Ferguson, who missed Wednesday's Outback Bowl with an unspecified medical condition, passed Johnson in some draft analysts' estimation during the season.

In his position-by-position prospect rankings from November, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. rated Ferguson fourth and Johnson fifth among non-senior defensive tackle prospects.

Ferguson has not yet announced his draft plans, but his decision could come in the next several days -- as could those of LSU receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, tailback Jeremy Hill, and offensive tackle La'el Collins.


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Les Miles and LSU kept the nation’s No. 1 prospect, RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) at home. It’s a crucial commit for the Tigers, and one that could pay dividends right away.

What will Fournette bring to Baton Rouge? Let’s break it down:


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ESPN 300 safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) committed to LSU on Thursday at the Under Armour All-America Game. The nation's No. 23 overall prospect and No. 3 safety gives LSU another crucial commitment in a perennially dominant secondary.

How will Adams fit in defensive coordinator John Chavis’ defense? Let’s break it down:


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SEC's lunch links

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
12:00
PM ET
After New Year’s Day, the SEC is now 5-1 in bowl games. But four teams still have games left to play, including Auburn in Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. For the latest news and notes from around the conference, check out today’s lunch links.

Three takeaways from Outback Bowl

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
11:30
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Aside from notching a 10th win for four consecutive seasons, LSU's 21-14 win over Iowa in Wednesday's Outback Bowl didn't mean a great deal. However, it gave us a glimpse into the future -- one that will become a bit clearer over the next few days.

Let's examine three takeaways from the Tigers' bowl win and what the coming week might hold for the LSU program.

Next few days are huge: This is shaping up as a roller coaster couple of days for LSU's 2014 roster. It starts today with the Under Armour All-America Game, where the Tigers could wind up as the day's biggest winner. ESPN will air the all-star game at 4 p.m. ET, and LSU targets Leonard Fournette, Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis will announce their college decisions.

The biggest prize is tailback Fournette, whom ESPN rates as the nation's No. 1 overall prospect. LSU commits Garrett Brumfield, Brandon Harris and Jacory Washington are also competing in the game. The Tigers could make a huge jump from their current No. 12 spot in the ESPN's class rankings with a big day today.

Landing some combination of the elite prospects in today's all-star game will help absorb the roster hit that is almost certainly coming. Nobody officially announced a decision after Wednesday's game, but it seems likely that the Tigers will lose a number of underclassmen to the NFL draft. Receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, tailback Jeremy Hill, offensive tackle La'El Collins and defensive linemen Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are all names to watch -- and their decisions should come shortly.

Defense made strides: This was a maddeningly inconsistent season for an LSU program that prides itself on stifling defense. But Wednesday's finale provided glimpses of what this group can be. Iowa totaled just 233 yards, went 6-for-19 on third down (1-for-9 in the first half) and twice tossed interceptions inside the LSU 10-yard line.

There were only two seniors among LSU's bowl starters -- linebacker Lamin Barrow and safety Craig Loston -- and we'll see what Johnson and Ferguson decide to do, but this defense will return the bulk of its two-deep, regardless. For a group that will finish the season ranked in the nation's top 20 in total defense (they were 21st entering the bowl game and end it by surrendering an average of 340.7 ypg), that seems like a sign that 2014 will be a big year for the defense.

Jennings has work to do: After his remarkable performance in leading LSU to a comeback win against Arkansas when Zach Mettenberger went down with an injury, expectations were high for first-time starting quarterback Anthony Jennings on Wednesday. Jennings played like a freshman against Iowa, though.

On an unusually cold, nasty day in Tampa, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron initially took the game out of Jennings' hands, calling 12 straight running plays to open the game. The freshman was mostly shaky once he started putting the ball in the air, finishing 7-for-19 for 82 yards and an interception (he also ran for a touchdown).

That wasn't terribly surprising against an Iowa defense that is considerably more effective than Arkansas', but it served notice that this will be an enormous offseason for Jennings -- particularly with Harris, the No. 58 overall prospect on the ESPN 300 and No. 3 dual-threat quarterback, planning to enroll this month and participate in spring practice.

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