The introduction of an earlier signing period in December neutered what was known as national signing day in February. The third Wednesday in December has become the center of the college football recruiting calendar, as the majority of the top prospects from across the nation will sign with a school when the three-day early period opens Wednesday.
Only 30 of the top 200 prospects, per the 247Sports Composite rankings, are not verbally committed, and many of those 30 will make their intentions known Wednesday. A few will do so live on national television, including Rancho Cucamonga quarterback CJ Stroud and the nation’s top linebacker, Upland’s Justin Flowe.
Here’s a look at the top story lines in the Southland:
Where will Flowe go?
Flowe is the No. 4-rated player in the nation and the best linebacker seen in the Southland since Vontaze Burfict was terrifying quarterbacks at Corona Centennial. Flowe is also the nation’s highest-ranked uncommitted player, so many will be tuned in when he is scheduled to announce his commitment on ESPNU at 11 a.m.
Flowe took his time with his recruitment. He checked out a number of schools on unofficial visits in the summer and narrowed his list to Clemson, Georgia, Miami and Oregon. Flowe was long believed to be a Clemson lean, but many people think the Tigers have fallen out of favor. Possibly sensing Flowe slipping away, Clemson offered and picked up a commitment from four-star linebacker Trenton Simpson out of Charlotte over the weekend.
The perception in recruiting circles is that staying closer to home has become a bigger factor for Flowe and his family than initially anticipated. But that hasn’t wrapped things up in a bow for Oregon. Instead, USC has worked its way back into consideration.
Flowe took his final visit to USC over the weekend. He was very engaged and seemed to really enjoy himself while sporting a Trojans sweatshirt at USC’s basketball victory Sunday afternoon, including having a short conversation and photo taken with USC president Carol Folt.
Will the late push be enough or will the top Southern California prospect head to Eugene for a second year in a row, after the Ducks signed Westlake Village Oaks Christian’s Kayvon Thibodeaux last year?
Completing the exodus?
None of the top 25 prospects from California are committed to UCLA or USC. Can the Bruins or Trojans change that Wednesday? USC’s much-criticized class that is ranked No. 81 could get a significant boost, if so.
The Trojans still are in the running for a handful of top Southland prospects. They have continued to recruit five-star quarterback Bryce Young even after he flipped his commitment from the Trojans to Alabama. USC also will be watching NBC’s All-American Bowl intently on Jan. 4 when Corona Centennial receiver Gary Bryant Jr. and Darion Green-Warren of Harbor City Narbonne are expected to make their commitments.
The biggest enigma in this recruiting class has been Stroud. The late bloomer is set to announce his decision on ESPNU at 9:30 a.m. He is expected to choose between Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State, but UCLA and USC both made late offers.
“It’s a blessing just knowing that those schools have faith in me now and that they’re giving me a shot to play, so definitely somewhere where I can see myself,” Stroud said of the local schools last month. “I feel like those two programs just need a couple more pieces just to be able to be back on top again.”
The only other uncommitted local prospect in the top 250 nationally is Gardena Serra receiver LV Bunkley-Shelton, who was considered a USC lean until recently. Arizona State has emerged as his frontrunner. The Sun Devils could make a splash Wednesday. Former Long Beach Poly coach Antonio Pierce and former USC graduate assistant Prentice Gill have been working hard to add some Southern California weapons around former San Bernardino Cajon quarterback Jayden Daniels.
Not surprisingly, UCLA’s biggest news Wednesday may come from outside the Southland. The Bruins have commitments from only three local high schools (though they have four commits from Bellflower St. John Bosco).
The Bruins have attacked this recruiting class with a national approach, with commits located in nine states, and are hoping to get good news with a couple more out-of-state prospects. Four-star linebacker Damian Sellers of Scottsdale Saguaro in Arizona is announcing his commitment Wednesday, while Brigham Young linebacker commit Bodie Schoonover could be a candidate to flip to the Bruins.
Four-star running back Jalen Berger from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey took an official visit to UCLA over the weekend and is one the Bruins are hoping to sway in the final days.
Taking their time
Not everyone will be signing this month. Some will wait until February to mull and evaluate their decision. Late playoff runs made it difficult for some prospects to take all their official visits, while others are waiting to see how some coaching turnover shakes out after bowl games.