|Kaleb Blanchard, the No. 30 rated running back, decided to sign with South Alabama. (247Sports)|
While Alabama and Ole Miss were grabbing most of the five-star kids on Signing Day, a few big-name players spurned the major schools to sign with a smaller school.
Whether it be staying close to home, getting more playing time or even better academics, not all the "superstar" high school kids end up in the SEC. Here are a handful of guys who landed at non-AQ schools who should be ones to watch in the next few seasons.
Michael Johnson, Marshall. The three-star defensive back had been committed to Florida State since last year but switched to Marshall. In a story with 247Sports last spring, he said "I'm good with Florida State. To the fans, be prepared for when I get on campus. I'm going to shock the world." And shock he did. After taking his official visit to Marshall just five days before Signing Day, he made the switch. "He's a tremendous guy who wants an opportunity to play early," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said to the Charleston Daily Mail. "Kids do things for different reasons. We were fortunate. We hung in there with him, he visited and he ended up signing with us. It was a good get."
Rodney Adams, Toledo: The four-star wide receiver, ranked No. 42 by 247Sports, was originally committed to Florida but decommitted before the start of the high school football season. Adams started taking visits to other schools, including Cincinnati and even got an offer from Minnesota, but in the end signed his letter of intent with Toledo. During his visit to Toledo, one of the host players was Rockets leading receiver Bernard Reedy, who just happened to go to the same high school as Adams in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Kaleb Blanchard, South Alabama. One of the bigger decisions to go to a smaller school is Blanchard, who ended up at South Alabama over Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. During his visit to Mobile two weeks ago, he attended the Senior Bowl, toured the campus and was impressed. The No. 30-rated running back committed to Arkansas last season but decommitted Dec. 19. According to RantSports.com, when Bret Bielema and the new staff came to Arkansas, they weren't as high on Blanchard as the previous staff.
Zach Greenlee, Fresno State: Greenlee stuck with Fresno State from the beginning even after a late push by Mississippi State. The California native was ranked the No. 22 pro-style QB by 247Sports and committed to Fresno last season. Mississippi State tried to get him to flip as Greenlee took an official visit two weeks ago. But in the end, he stayed close to home.
Devaris Brunson, East Carolina. Another player who committed early and stuck to it despite pressure from another school is Brunson. The No. 31-ranked outside linebacker had an offer from NC State, but the 6-foot, 200-pounder from Lake City, S.C., decided to sign with the Pirates. In an interview with the local newspaper, Brunson said, "That was a big decision to stay with East Carolina. They have a family-type atmosphere, and it really felt like home. On my last visit there, the coaches showed me the depth chart and said I would have a chance to play early."
Aaron Baltazar, Boise State. One of the top players in the Boise signing class is the No. 24-ranked RB in the nation. The 5-11, 185-pound back from California ran for 1,855 yards and 23 touchdowns during his senior year. He was recruited by UCLA and Washington but in the end landed at Boise State. With Boise losing Doug Martin and D.J. Harper in back-to-back seasons, Baltazar could produce right away and be the next great running back with the Broncos.
Joe Fennell, Western Kentucky. Is it the Bobby Petrino factor or just the love of Western Kentucky? The No. 38-ranked offensive tackle had offers from Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, West Virginia and Arizona but signed Wednesday with the Hilltoppers. Fennell, who is from Fort Myers, Fla., committed to Western Kentucky last year. But when Willie Taggart became the head coach at South Florida, Fennell switched to the Bulls. But on Signing Day, he went back to Western Kentucky. The 6-5, 320-pound lineman was the leader of his high school team that went 11-2.