As we hit the home stretch of the 2014 recruiting cycle, coaching changes and last-minute pitches make just about anything possible, including the inevitable decision changes made by prospects already verbally committed to another program. Here are five coveted recruits that are worth keeping an eye on for potential flips as signing day approaches.
Running back Jeff Jones has been committed to Minnesota for some time, but a stock up showing at the Under Armour All-America Game practices and during the game itself has brought serious competition for the Gophers.
1- Jeff Jones, RB, (Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn)
After impressing in Under Armour All-America game practice and earning Team Highlight MVP honors during the game, Top247 running back Jeff Jones put his name on the national map, earning offers from Florida and Michigan. While Jones has been committed to Minnesota for over nine months, these new options have him intrigued enough to take official visits to the Gators and Wolverines. Since the new offers, three Crystal Ball predictions have Jones sticking to his commitment to Minnesota, two predictions have him flipping to Florida (including Gatorbait247 recruiting insider Luke Stampini), and 12 predictions have Jones flipping to Michigan. If Michigan State were to jump in the mix in the next few days, the Spartans would definitely cause a rift in the Crystal Ball trends.
2- J.C. Jackson, WR/CB (Immokalee, Fla.) A two-way athlete in high school, Jackson is being recruited as a cornerback by colleges, and makes this list having already flipped once, from Florida State to Florida back in June. There is a strong possibility the Top247 prospect does a 180 back to the Seminoles, as he intends on giving FSU his final official visit Jan. 31. Miami is in the mix as well, and had Jackson on campus for an official in Dec. The first 10 Crystal Ball predictions for Florida are before he committed to the Gators, while seven predictions for the Hurricanes came in Nov. and Dec., including 247Sports Director of Recruiting JC Shurburtt. Fourteen predictions for Florida State have come in the last two weeks, including Noles247 recruiting insiders Chris Nee and Josh Newberg.
3- Deondre Clark, DE (Oklahoma City/Douglass) Back in June, LSU earned a commitment from Top247 defensive end Deondre Clark, with Tigers’ head coach Les Miles connecting with Clark and defensive line coach Brick Haley selling him on a chance to become the next great defensive lineman at LSU. The staff successfully fended off advances by Ole Miss, and would appear to be in great shape to receive his NLI on signing day, but they will have to sweat out a push from an in-state program to stay closer to home. Oklahoma has come on strong as of late for Clark, with the Sooners providing an opportunity for him to be close to his mother as she continues to deal with health issues. Her preference has always been for Clark to stay home, just as his brother Stevie Clark did by choosing to play basketball at Oklahoma State. As of now LSU will still get the final official visit from Clark, but the Sooners will likely still see Clark on campus one final time as well, where the staff will once again be in his ear about staying home, likely with an assist from his mom. Sixteen Crystal Ball selections are still locked in from Clark’s commitment back in June, while four predictions have come in for Oklahoma in the last six weeks, including one by Joey Helmer, recruiting insider for OUInsider.
4- Otaro Alaka, LB (Houston, Texas/Cypress Falls) When Charlie Strong was hired to replace Mack Brown as head coach at Texas, Otaro Alaka stated he needed to meet with Strong before making any decisions, and intended on taking visits to other schools as well. A few days later the Top247 linebacker set official visits to Texas A&M Jan. 17 and LSU Jan. 24. At this point, it is beginning to look like Alaka is very open to other schools. Three Crystal Ball predictions are still locked in from Alaka’s April commitment to the Longhorns, while six predictions have come in the last month in favor of the Aggies, including one by Taylor Hamm, recruiting insider for Gigem247.
5- Kalen Ballage, ATH (Peyton, Colo./Falcon) In somewhat of a surprising move, Ballage committed to Arizona State a few days before his official visit to Nebraska. Ron Brown, the recruiter of record for the Huskers, has continued to recruit Ballage as if he was uncommitted, and Nebraska remains a strong contender for the four-star athlete, who has kept his intentions very close to the vest. Arizona State is still in line to get the next official visit Jan. 17, but also keep an eye out for Washington, who will likely host Ballage the following weekend. Chris Petersen is a coach Ballage has a lot of respect for. Another program to watch is UCLA, who is still evaluating its running back situation and could try to bring Ballage in the final weekend before signing day. Right now the Crystal Ball has one prediction for Oregon and one for Boise State, but look for that to change over the next few weeks as Ballage takes his final visits.