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January 17, 2014

Weekend visits: Lone Star shift?


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Less than three weeks from National Signing Day, battles for the top uncommitted prospects are coming down to the wire. Just as important, coaching staffs are working to make sure they hold on to their current commitments.

So closing the deal during late official visits is key, and there are plenty of big weekends on tap. Here is a look at some of the top storylines developing around visit weekends across the country.

Official Visit Weekend Preview: Jan. 17, 2014
After eliminating Georgia earlier this week, it's down to 'Bama, Auburn and UCLA for Rashaan Evans. The No. 69 player in his class, Evans won't announce his decision until Signing Day, but he will visit Tuscaloosa this weekend. Committed five-star Bo Scarbrough and Rivals250 players Joshua Casher, Ronnie Clark, J.C. Hassenauer and Christian Miller will also be visiting the Tide.

Proof of Arizona State's ascendancy into the conference elite, last season's Pac-12 South champion has put together one of the largest official visitor lists to hit Tempe in years. Five players -- Eric Lauderdale, Kenyon Fryson, Ty Barrett, Kweishi Brown and J.T. Gray -- are either uncommitted or pledged elsewhere, meaning Todd Graham will have his hands full playing host. Fellow visitors and soft Sun Devil-commits Kalen Ballage and Alex Anderson -- he'll visit Texas next week -- will also make the trip.
It won't cure the sting of a lost BCS National Championship, but landing uncommitted four-stars Braden Smith and Andrew Williams, and flipping LSU-verbal Davon Godchaux over the weekend would be a considerable boost to the Tigers' future prospects. Alabama's freshly minted Mr. Football, Racean Thomas, will also be on campus.

It's coming down to a battle of heavyweights between current national champion, Florida State, and last year's title winner, Alabama, for one of the few remaining five-stars left on the board. The Seminoles get their shot this weekend when Hoover High's Marlon Humphrey visits Tallahassee. Humphrey's father says the departure of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, while disappointing, won't have an affect on his son's decision. Humphrey will visit Alabama next weekend, followed by Mississippi State on Jan. 26 and UCLA the first weekend in February.
In the same manner in which Vanderbilt is scrambling to allay recruits' concerns following the departure of James Franklin, so too is Louisville coping with the exit of Charlie Strong. The good news: Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino is accustomed to operating amid chaos. Among those visiting this weekend, redshirt candidates Micky Crum and Reggie Bonnafon, and outside linebacker Henry Famurewa are firmly committed to the 'Cards. But De'Eric Culver and Daniel Cage have clearly pumped the brakes, and the only four-star of the bunch, T.J. Harrell, no longer leans toward Louisville.

UNC was thought to have closed the book on its recruiting class several weeks ago, but with Eric Ebron declaring for the draft and fourth-year junior Sean Tapley slated to graduate, the 'Heels have invited wideout Devin Perry and punter Corbin Daly to join their 15 committed footballers in Chapel Hill this week. Quarterback Caleb Henderson and linebacker Tyrell Tomlin headline those already pledged.

Steve Spurrier looks to justify his recent wage increase by wooing a number of uncommitted prospects in Columbia. Corners Wesley Green and Chris Lammons are both solid, and defensive end Dexter Wideman would be a satisfying steal from Florida State, but the real prize is five-star offensive lineman Damian Prince. Prince and Jalen Tabor have long discussed joining forces at the next level, and with the latter's flip to Florida a week ago, the 'Ol Ball Coach has his work cut out for him.

Welcome to Texas Football, Charlie Strong. Fair or not, much will be made of how the Longhorns new head coach does with the brief recruiting window he's been given before Signing Day. So far, the returns have been good, and on Thursday, Strong received a verbal from four-star Edwin Freeman during a visit to the linebacker's school. He'll flash his burnt orange again this weekend when intriguing Louisville de-commit Poona Ford trips to Austin.

It's a different day in the Lone Star State, and that's a good thing if you're an A&M fan. Last Wednesday, Zaycoven Henderson made a last minute switch from the Longhorns to the Aggies. Now Kevin Sumlin has his sights set on flipping four-star defender Otaro Alaka. The 6-3, 210-pound linebacker remains committed to Texas, but the reshuffling of coaches has given him pause, and on Friday, he'll arrive in College Station for an official visit. Texas A&M also welcomes Kenny Young.

For the first time in more than a decade, USC found itself sitting outside the Top 10 in our team rankings last year. This time around, the Men of Troy are in danger of slipping even farther. Enter Fresno's Michiah Quick. A commitment from the four-star athlete would go a long way toward re-establishing SC's recruiting juggernaut and score an early victory for Steve Sarkisian. Expect current USC-commits Jonathan Lockett, Olajuwon Tucker and Rahshead Johnson to play the part of recruiter when they trip to campus this weekend, as well.



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