College football recruiting: Top unsigned commitment battles ahead of National Signing Day
Committed but unsigned means 'game on' for opposing coaches
The early signing period has come and gone, and with its departure, so too departs the value of the term: commitment. Before the early signing period, a verbal commitment was the only available mechanism for prospects wanting to reserve a spot in a recruiting class. But while the early signing period offered the ability to convert that commitment into a signed Letter of Intent, some prospects balked, leaving the door open for a change of heart. As coaching staffs scramble to finish off their 2019 recruiting classes, any unsigned prospect -- committed or not -- is considered fair game.
Here, now, are the top unsigned commits, and where their recruitments stand just two weeks out from National Signing Day.
Auburn WR commit George Pickens (Hoover High School, Hoover, Ala.)
Auburn has been fighting to keep the No. 2 prospect in Alabama and No. 4 wide receiver in the nation since his commitment all the way back in July 2017, but Pickens is going to keep Gus Malzahn and his staff sweating. He took official visits to Auburn and LSU prior to the early signing period, but since the start of January, only Georgia has gotten him on an official. With two weekends remaining, Miami, Florida and Tennessee are among the schools in the running for visits, but it feels like Auburn is going to be able to hang on to him in the end.
USC WR commit Kyle Ford (Orange Lutheran High School, Orange, Ca.)
Though he missed most of his senior season due to injury, Ford committed to USC earlier this month on the All-American Bowl broadcast. At the time, he believed he was committing to an offense that would be steered by Kliff Kingsbury. He learned shortly after the commitment that Kingsbury would be the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, not the offensive coordinator of USC. Oregon continues to push for Ford and Washington was a factor before his USC pledge, but as of yet, the physical wide receiver hasn't shown much sign of wavering.
Mississippi State DL commit Nathan Pickering (Seminary High School, Seminary, Miss.)
There's always drama brewing in the state of Mississippi down the homestretch. Pickering has remained a solid commitment to Mississippi State publicly, but he's also shown no hesitation taking visits. He took a trip to Florida in November, he was at LSU last weekend, he's scheduled to be in Starkville this weekend and Alabama is slated to get his final visit before signing day. Ole Miss is also working to get him on campus. The Bulldogs look very capable of holding on to the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder, but they will have to recruit him to the end.
Florida State S commit Nick Cross (DeMatha Catholic High School, Hyattsville, Md.)
When he committed to Florida State back in September, it was Penn State that came in second for the athletic safety. Penn State expects to host Cross for his final official visit on the weekend of Feb. 1 and remains a very real threat to steal him from the Seminoles. Georgia is also making a serious push for that last official visit and has made Cross a late priority. Maryland has tried to join the fight with the arrival of Mike Locksley as head coach and the hiring of Cross' high school coach to the Terrapin's staff, but this one looks to be a Florida State vs. Penn State battle with Georgia making a late run.
Alabama DE commit Khris Bogle (Cardinal Gibbons High School, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
At the All-American Bowl earlier this month, Bogle made a public commitment to Alabama, but it took a gut-wrenching week for him to arrive at that decision with Tennessee and Miami nearly landing his pledge. Since that commitment, Alabama defensive coordinator and Bogle's position coach Tosh Lupoi has left for the Cleveland Browns. Currently, Florida is scheduled for his final official visit while Miami is hoping to get him on campus officially for a second time now that Manny Diaz is the head coach. Anything could happen here in a race that has always been extremely close, but as long as Nick Saban is the head coach at Alabama, the Tide are in a good position.
Alabama DT commit Byron Young (West Jones High School, Laurel, Miss.)
Another Mississippi native with some late January drama, Young is committed to the Tide, but his January is loaded with visits elsewhere. He was at Ole Miss last weekend, he'll see Mississippi State this weekend and then LSU hosts him on his final visit before National Signing Day. Alabama is still likely the favorite to hang on to him, but anything goes when official visits extend into February.
Ohio State OG commit Doug Nester (Spring Valley High School, Huntington, W. Va.)
Thanks to a coaching change in Columbus, Ohio State was able to host Nester on a second official visit last weekend, but it didn't do enough to convince him to cancel the rest of his scheduled trips this month. He'll be at Penn State this weekend and Virginia Tech after that. Both are legitimate threats to flip the West Virginia native.
LSU DB commit Maurice Hampton (Memphis University High School, Memphis, Tenn.)
LSU many fights on its hand in hanging on to the Memphis defensive back. Not only is it trying to hold off a charge from Auburn, but Hampton is likely to be a high-round Major League Baseball draft pick in the spring. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is set to host him on an official visit this weekend. The feeling here is that Auburn is LSU's biggest college football threat, but that the MLB Draft looms large.
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