- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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The college football season is just heating up, but it's never too early to look ahead to signing day. With Feb. 5 just 100 days away, here's a look at 100 things to watch heading up to the big day. From top uncommitted players to key recruiters to class rankings predictions, this is everything you'll need to know as recruiting hits the home stretch.
Questions that will shape signing day
100. Who's next at USC? The Trojans' hire will shape West Coast and national recruiting. If the hire comes from a power program, then many a domino would begin to fall in the coaching world and affect more than one class.
99. Will Texas make a move? If the Longhorns win the Big 12, it's hard to imagine a coaching change. If Texas stumbles, all bets are off. Like USC, a coaching change at Texas could reshape the 2014 recruiting race.
98. Can Maryland keep the best home? The Terrapins have two of 2014's best in their backyard in No. 17 Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate) and No. 22 Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara). If Maryland can ink both, the Terrapins could finish higher in the class rankings than ever.
97. Could Virginia's five-stars be back in play? The Cavaliers could be looking at a three- or four-win season. With that, schools are trying to chip away at Virginia's top two commits, Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) and Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside).
96. Jameis Winston's impact? Florida State has the chance to grab momentum in the Sunshine State behind the play and draw of Winston. With up to six or seven spots remaining in the class, a finish near the top seems assured.
95. Will LSU keep them at home? Along with FSU, LSU has the biggest closing opportunity with seven of the top 30 prospects in the ESPN 300 in play. The Tigers can challenge for the No. 1 class if they come close to running the table in-state.
94. Could Tennessee finish No. 1? The Vols are the story of the 2014 class so far. With 28 commits and the No. 3 class, Butch Jones has a shot to contend for No. 1 with prospects such as No. 99 Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) and others on the board.
Important games down the stretch
93. Miami at Florida State, Nov. 2: A huge game for both teams. Florida State has the chance to grab in-state momentum, and give ace recruiter Tim Brewster an even stronger message in South Florida.
92. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9: Always a game that attracts big-time commits, this year may be even more important for LSU as it is fighting off Alabama to keep the best in Louisiana.
91. Missouri at Ole Miss, Nov. 23: With Missouri fighting to keep in-state players, this has become a big game. Ole Miss commit Andy Bauer (St Louis./DeSmet) will be watching.
90. Texas A&M at LSU, Nov. 23: After Alabama, Texas A&M is the school that serves as a legitimate threat to LSU on the in-state recruiting trail. There will be plenty of top 2014 and 2015 prospects on hand.
89. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 30: Auburn is emerging as the surprise team in college football this year, and the regular-season finale is the perfect opportunity to close on the trail in 2014, and get the 2015 class started.
88. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 30: With momentum rolling for the Seminoles, this game is huge for both teams in 2014 and beyond. All eyes will be on this rivalry game, including Florida commits Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) and Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead).
87. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 30: Another rivalry game with annual recruiting implications. With both 2014 classes nearing completion, the classes of 2015 and 2016 are the key ones who could be swayed.
86. UCLA at USC, Nov. 30: Despite a pair of tough losses to Stanford and Oregon, UCLA is ascending. USC would like nothing more than to slow the Bruins' momentum with many West Coast prospects watching.
Good Twitter follows
The following five players are active, funny and, most importantly, informative on Twitter, providing regular updates on their visits.
80. Quentin Gibson (Marrero, La./Shaw): The 6-foot-2, 190-pound quarterback is among the smoothest at his position, and a senior riser full of instincts and arm strength.
79. Isaiah McKenzie (Miami/American Heritage): The Notre Dame-leaning slot receiver on a loaded American Heritage team is an electric return man and playmaker.
78. Arkansas commit Henre' Toliver (Metarie, La./Archbishop Rummel): It's easy to get overlooked in the star-studded Louisiana class this year, but the 6-foot, 180-pound corner shouldn't be.
77. Baylor commit Blake Blackmar (Houston/Clear Lake): While Baylor skill players receive the most attention, the Bears' staff has done a terrific job evaluating offensive line prospects. This three-star's versatility makes him a good bet to be the next in line there.
76. Arizona State commit Christian Sam (Allen, Texas/Allen): The three-star outside linebacker can rush the passer and drop in coverage, doing so with quickness and burst.
75. Rutgers commit Justin Nelson (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic): The undersized end could play with his hand on the ground, as an outside linebacker or on offense at H-back. Wherever he plays, he is fast and physical.
74. Utah commit Dacorius Law (Haines City, Fla./Haines City): The running back is one of the least-talked-about 2014 Sunshine State prospects but also one of the most talented.
73. Colorado commit Cade Apsay (Canyon County, Calif./Canyon): The three-star signal-caller could be just what the doctor ordered for the Buffaloes with good feet and a quick release.
Top uncommitted recruits
72. No. 1 Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine): This one looks like an LSU-Alabama showdown with others on the periphery, including Texas A&M, USC and Michigan.
71. No. 4 Da'Shawn Hand: Hand will decide among Michigan, Alabama and Florida on Nov. 14 with the Wolverines thought to be the favorite. He has an official visit planned to Gainesville (Nov. 8) following one this past weekend to Tuscaloosa.
70. No. 6 Adoree' Jackson: Jackson has officially visited Oklahoma and LSU, and is still considering Florida State, Tennessee, Florida, USC, UCLA and others with an official visit scheduled to Tallahassee on Saturday.
69. No. 8 Speedy Noil: Noil has a top five of Texas A&M, Florida, USC, LSU and Oregon, and has already made an official visit to College Station with Florida set for Nov. 8.
68. No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover): Humphrey will officially visit Florida State on Friday with this recruitment expected to come down to Alabama and the Seminoles.
67. No. 11 Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross High): Carter officially visited Florida on Sept. 20, and still has officials remaining to Alabama and Georgia. Alabama is thought to have the inside track.
66. No. 13 Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen): Brown officially visited Ohio State on Friday, and is still considering LSU, Texas A&M, Texas, Alabama and Florida State with LSU being thought to be the leader.
65. No. 14 Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County): The long-time Ohio State lean visited Columbus on Friday, and still has officials remaining to Alabama (Nov. 8), Clemson (Nov. 22) and Florida (Nov. 29). He visited Georgia on Sept. 27, but it looks like Alabama and Florida may be the Buckeyes' two biggest threats.
Key conference battles
64. Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville): The No. 24 prospect in the country is down to LSU and Alabama with the Tigers trying desperately to keep the Under Armour All-American at home.
63. Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron): Texas A&M, Florida and Ole Miss are fighting hard for the No. 25 prospect.
62. Josh Malone: Georgia is working hard to get the Tennessee native, while the Volunteers could cap a terrific class by winning this SEC East battle.
61. Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln): The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder will likely come down to a battle between Penn State and Ohio State. He has officially visited both, and the Nittany Lions are considered the front-runner.
60. Dante Sawyer (Suwannee, Ga./North Gwinnett): Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Missouri are locked in a battle for the ESPN 300 defensive lineman.
59. Joshua Frazier: Arkansas is fighting off Texas A&M, Auburn and Alabama to keep the ESPN 300 nose guard at home in what is a huge battle for the Razorbacks.
58. Derrell Scott (Havelock, N.C./Havelock): Once a big South Carolina lean, Tennessee has made this a battle for Steve Spurrier.
57. Anthony Moten (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas): Miami is working to hold off Florida State and battling South Carolina for the four-star defensive tackle.
56. Josh Casher (Mobile, Ala./Saint Paul's): The one-time Auburn commit is a battle between hated rivals Alabama and Auburn with FSU in the spoiler role.
55. Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin): The massive nose guard is a must-get recruit for Kentucky. Alabama is the competition.
54. Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn): Auburn is fighting hard to keep the local star from heading to Georgia or Alabama.
53. Bishard Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue): Washington is working hard to keep the ESPN 300 playmaker from heading to Oregon or UCLA.
Eleven who could flip
52. Ole Miss commit C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian): The ESPN 300 safety has been in Tuscaloosa more than Oxford this season, and still has an official visit to Alabama remaining. Miami and others could receive visits.
51. Florida commit Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central): Florida State is making a move, and other visits are expected for the No. 23-ranked prospect in the class.
50. Washington commit Erik Brown (Fontana, Calif./Summit): Brown officially visited Nebraska in September and Notre Dame on Oct. 18; the Fighting Irish are a true threat to the Huskies.
49. Alabama commit Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa, Ala./IMG Academy): Scarbrough has visited Ole Miss and Notre Dame, and others are possible.
48. Alabama commit Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley): Georgia hasn't given up on the Under Armour All-American, and Miller was in Athens in September.
47. Iowa State commit Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale): The ESPN 300 wide receiver visited Notre Dame on Oct. 18 and will make a final decision between the Fighting Irish and Cyclones.
46. Florida State commit Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda): While Wideman is committed to FSU, the majority of the talk centered around his recruitment is about in-state South Carolina.
45. Alabama commit Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala./Opelika): Roberts has been to Auburn multiple times, which is just a few miles from his house.
44. Ole Miss commit Andy Bauer (St. Louis/DeSmet): The Missouri surge this season has the Tigers in the picture with more than three months before signing day.
43. Baylor commit Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau): Hall has officially visited Texas A&M, and has a visit remaining to Alabama.
42. California commit Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco): Oregon State, Utah and others are trying hard to flip the Bears' verbal.
Recruiters to watch
41. Billy Napier, Alabama: Napier is battling in North Louisiana against LSU for key targets, including No. 24 Laurence Jones. Keeping ESPN 300 outside linebacker Christian Miller is also key.
40. Travaris Robinson, Florida: Robinson has the task of keeping Dalvin Cook, Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead High) and Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation High) in the fold.
39. Mike Locksley, Maryland: The Terrapins' ace recruiter is trying to keep Jalen Tabor and offensive tackle Damian Prince home, a tough task considering the competition for each.
38. Ed Orgeron, USC: The dynamic ace recruiter is in charge of keeping USC prospects committed, and keeping many of the top uncommitted interested during the Trojans' coaching search.
37. Frank Wilson, LSU: There is not a tougher or more important job than working to keep Leonard Fournette, Speedy Noil, Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis High) and Gerald Willis III (New Orleans, La./Edna Karr High) home.
36. Clemson commit Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville): Watson will enroll at Clemson in the spring, and immediately be in the QB competition following Tajh Boyd's graduation.
35. Penn State commit De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro): The Nittany Lions need help at wide receiver, and Thompkins has the ability to come in and provide it.
34. Arkansas commit Bijhon Jackson (El Dorado, Ark./El Dorado): Arkansas needs depth to stop the run, and Jackson offers the size, strength and quickness to provide early help.
33. Tennessee commit Todd Kelly Jr. (Knoxville, Tenn./Webb School): There is opportunity in the Volunteers' secondary, and Kelly is certainly talented enough to start early.
32. Texas A&M commit Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin): While the Aggies return both starters at defensive end, Garrett has the ability to push early because of his size, strength and ability to rush the passer.
31. Virginia commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith): Has the physicality, strength, size and technique to be a starter from the beginning.
30. Leonard Fournette: He has been physically ready to start and compete at the next level since his sophomore season. His ability out of the backfield, and toughness are two more reasons he will be an immediate star.
29. Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic): Peppers will be an instant-impact player at corner and in the return game, and possibly on offense.
Give them a year
28. Matt Elam: The four-star defensive tackle needs time to adjust to the step up in level of competition, but he has everything one looks for in a nose tackle prospect.
27. David Sharpe: The No. 15-ranked Sharpe has all the physical tools coaches covet. With that said, a redshirt year and time to gain strength will do wonders for the talented offensive tackle.
26. Stanford commit Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto): While more and more quarterbacks are seeing the field as true freshmen, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder won't be forced into action at Stanford.
25. Alabama commit Christian Miller: Miller has all the tools to be a star at outside linebacker. And a year to get bigger and stronger will only enhance that ability.
Poised to close strong
24. Auburn: The Tigers have snatched momentum this season, and have room left in the class to make a late run.
23. Oregon: Sitting at 10 commitments with a number of talented prospects still in play and an undefeated season remaining intact places the Ducks in an envious closing position.
22. LSU: Seven top-30 prospects remain in play for the Tigers, and they will most certainly get their share of those, plus others.
21. Florida State: There is not a team with the ability to gain more momentum the last three-plus months to signing day, and the Seminoles have six or seven spots remaining, and the prospects still on the board to close with a flurry.
20. USC: The Trojans will have the momentum that comes with a new coach at a traditional power university. That, coupled with the number of prospects remaining in play, and USC is sitting in the catbird seat.
Replacing college stars
19. Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe): Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is likely to enter the NFL draft following this season, possibly paving the way for the No. 3 overall recruit to jump right into the mix and become a household name by the end of 2014.
18. Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain): Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is another who will likely bolt for the NFL. That means either current freshman Kenny Hill or Allen, an ESPN 300 signal-caller, will win the starting job next year.
17. Reggie Bonnafon (Louisville, Ky./Trinity): Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is off to the NFL after this season, and the Cardinals will be looking for the next starter under center. Bonnafon, the hometown favorite, could very well be a factor in the race.
16. Terrence Williams (Ennis, Texas/Ennis): Baylor could lose running backs Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk, meaning ample opportunity for the four-star Williams, who is very similar in size and ability to Martin.
15. Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial): Oregon is likely to lose playmaker De'Anthony Thomas after this season. While certainly different in style, Freeman, an ESPN 300 running back, will be in the mix to earn some of those touches.
Must keep them at home
14. Texas and Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell): Talented defensive linemen are at a premium; no one fits the bill better than Thomas for the Texas Longhorns.
13. Alabama and Marlon Humphrey: The uber-talented Crimson Tide can't afford to lose the son of Bobby Humphrey because they need size at corner and don't want to see him at Florida State.
12. North Carolina/NC State and Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page): While the long-armed end is an upside prospect who has to develop physically and improve technically, the in-state schools need to keep him.
9. LSU and Leonard Fournette: If there was ever a must-have recruit for LSU, it's Fournette, especially when considering the main competition is Alabama.
You remind me of …
8. Leonard Fournette and Adrian Peterson: These are different backs, to be sure, but they are similar in physical and mental ability to come in, put up big numbers and dominate from the beginning.
7. Jabrill Peppers and Charles Woodson: Easy comparison with the uniforms being the same, but the swagger and skill set is also eerily similar. Will Peppers walk off the field with a rose in his mouth and a Heisman in the trophy case?
6. Speedy Noil and Peter Warrick: Like Fournette and Peterson, these two are different in some ways but similar in their abilities as game-changers on offense and special teams.
Final class rankings predictions
Close but no cigar …
5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes will sign a terrific 22- to 23-man class to go with last year's No. 3 class, but it's a numbers game at this point.
4. LSU: The Tigers had a great shot to be No. 1 headed into the season, but the one team that can come into Louisiana and sign the best keeps LSU from sitting atop the rankings.
3. Tennessee: A class of 30-plus recruits, closing the state lines and making the most of the junior college ranks places the Vols in the top three.
2. Florida State: Despite a class of what could be 31-32 signees and having the most momentum the last three months of the cycle, finishing No. 1 will be a challenge. Look for the Seminoles to be on top of the 2015 rankings.
The winner is …
1. Alabama will again be crowned the recruiting national champions after inking the top-rated class the last two years. In addition to those No. 1 classes, the Crimson Tide finished second in 2011 and 2009, and third in 2010 and 2008.