In the NFL, it’s not about being the best team in the league. It’s about being the best team in January. The team that is clicking heading into the playoffs is the team that usually wins the Super Bowl. At that point, the regular season is nothing but a memory.
Nick Saban and Alabama could contribute to the continuing cold streaks at Auburn, Tennessee and Texas.
College football recruiting follows a similar outline. It doesn’t matter how many commits a school has in March if those same prospects are decommitting in January. Likewise a school sitting at the bottom of the team rankings in June can get hot in December and quickly transform into one of the top classes in the country.
With January just days away, we take a look at five teams with loads of momentum heading into the homestretch and five schools that are trying to regain their footing.
Sitting at No. 1 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings, No. 2 in the AP Top 25 and staring down an opportunity for its second consecutive national championship and its third in four years, everything is clicking for Alabama. As always, Nick Saban has the program clicking at exactly the right time too.
In December, Saban extended an offer to four-star Nebraska cornerback commit Jonathan Cook and he accepted without hesitation. Brandon Hill, a massive prep school lineman looked poised to sign as a midterm enrollee with Ole Miss but flipped back to Alabama (with whom he signed out of high school) after a December official visit. The cherry on top in December was the commitment from Robert Foster, a five-star wide receiver out of Pennsylvania that spurned the more local program of Pitt for the Tide.
With 21 commitments in the fold and players like five-stars Laremy Tunsil, Vonn Bell and Montravius Adams all still remaining as possibilities, Alabama is good on the field, good in recruiting and still getting warmed up.
Eddie Vanderdoes plans to visit USC in January but Notre Dame should get the last shot at him.
The Fighting Irish under Brian Kelly have parlayed their success on the recruiting trail into a national championship game appearance and a No. 1 ranking in the polls. Now they’re keeping the cycle alive and capitalizing once again in recruiting.
Sitting at No. 6 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings, Notre Dame has its national allure back in a big way. On December 9, the Irish landed four-star running back commit Greg Bryant out of Florida and they’ve got a great shot at fellow Sunshine State Standout Tarean Folston, also a Top247 back.
Notre Dame has got its California pipeline as wide as ever with a great chance at landing Top100 safety Max Redfield and a final shot at five-star DT Eddie Vanderdoes with a Jan. 26 official visit planned. The east coast remains friendly as well with Alquadin Muhammad out of New Jersey power Don Bosco leaning towards the Irish.
In simple terms, Ole Miss has suddenly become a cool destination for elite college prospects and all news seems to be positive news for the Rebels these days. Most recently, Ole Miss landed the 247Sports’ No. 1 JUCO prospect in defensive tackle Lavon Hooks. Head coach Hugh Freeze also picked up four-star defensive end Jarran Reed out of the junior college ranks.
On the heels of those two additions, Ole Miss appears to be chomping at the bit to make several more big splashes before National Signing Day. The nation’s top prospect Robert Nkemdiche remains a favorite to land in Oxford, Miss. joining his brother, redshirt freshman Denzel. Five-star safety Tony Conner looks to be a lean to link up with the Rebels and Top100 running back Kailo Moore just decommitted from Mississippi State and it could be just a matter of time before he joins the fold in Oxford.
Ricky Seals-Jones' commitment was the tri-fecta for Texas A&M.
It seems as though Texas A&M could land a commitment from anyone in the country if they just had enough room. With 34 commitments in the fold, recruits are still pushing and shoving to get into Kevin Sumlin’s 2013 class before the doors close.
Let’s start with Ricky Seals-Jones as a representation of A&M’s hot streak. His December 10th commitment was as good as it gets for the Aggies. The 6-5, 230-pounder is a 247Sports and 247Composite five-star prospect. Maybe of even more relevance is that Seals-Jones chose the Aggies after decommitting from Texas and over SEC West rival LSU. Justin Manning is a good indicator of where things stand as well. Manning is the younger brother of former Oklahoma defender Demarcus Granger but he chose Texas A&M over the Sooners in early December.
Don’t be fooled by a couple of recent decommitments from UCLA. The Bruins look like a program in position to make some serious moves heading towards National Signing Day.
Four-star safety Tahaan Goodman and his five-star friend Priest Willis are both realistic possibilities to join the Bruins in Westwood and that’s just the beginning. Players like Terrell Newby, LJ Moore, Devon Allen, fresh USC decommit Eddie Vanderdoes and several more are keeping the Bruins in heavy consideration and the momentum has already begun.
Of late UCLA added former USC commit Eldridge Massington, a four-star wide receiver. Head coach Jim Mora Jr. has also added major offensive line commits in the month of December in Alex Redmond (an Oregon decommit) and a future star in Caleb Benenoch.
It's going to take some work for Auburn to keep five-star Carl Lawson in the fold.
For a long time, Auburn was putting together an outstanding class despite its disappointing effort on the field. Of late, that 3-9 season has finally caught up with the Tigers on the recruiting trail. The decomitments have included three-star tight end Arshad Jackson, three-star cornerback Jahmere Irvin-Sills five-star linebacker Rueben Foster, four-star wide receiver JaQuay Williams, three-star linebacker Jarrad Davis, three-star DB Lemond Johnson and four-star linebacker Trey Johnson.
The Tigers are still fighting to slow the slide but new head coach Gus Malzahn isn’t out of the woods yet. Among the major commits that Auburn must continue to sweat out are Five-star defensive lineman Carl Lawson, four-star defensive end Dee Liner and four-star running back Jordan Wilkins.
Clemson has added one commitment since July. That one commitment came in the form of Demarcus Robinson – a player who had decommitted from Clemson only five days earlier. The class has become stagnant.
A decommitment from the nation’s No. 1 prospect in Robert Nkemdiche has taken the shine off of the Clemson class and there hasn’t been much that has happened since to get the gleam to return. There are prospects left that could give the Clemson class a boost heading towards signing day, including four-star DT Tyrone Crowder and three-star DE Ebenezer Ogundeko.
There hasn’t been a lot to talk about with South Carolina recruiting through the fall. The Gamecocks have landed two commitments since the summer. Kendal Vickers is a two-star defensive lineman that chose South Carolina over East Carolina and North Carolina. Kelsey Griffin is a much more highly-touted prospect as a four-star defensive lineman but even his decision came after Georgia told him they didn’t have room.
A commitment from big OL Na'Ty Rodgers could go a long way towards remedying South Carolina's cold streak.
The Gamecocks could be more equipped than others to break out of their current cold streak. Four-star OL Na’Ty Rodgers has a decision on the horizon and South Carolina looks to be in good shape. Four-star all-purpose back David Williams could also be a pending commitment for the Gamecocks and they are gaining ground on four-star D.C. linebacker Yannick Ngakoue.
Derek Dooley didn’t do Tennessee any favors for its 2013 recruiting efforts. He left the new Tennessee staff with some ground to make up on some major targets and some purging of the current commitment group was necessary once the keys were handed over.
Now the Vols sit at No. 48 nationally in the 247Composite team recruiting rankings. Among the Vols’ 14 commits, two more are wavering. Offensive lineman Dan Skipper is taking an official visit to Ole Miss and likely will visit Arkansas and one more as well in January. Meanwhile four-star defensive lineman Jason Carr has plans of visiting Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and possibly Vanderbilt officially in January.
With only 13 commitments in the class of 2013, Texas landed eight of them all the way back in February. Chevoskie Collins is the only commit to jump on board since the summer and the Longhorns have also endured an unprecedented number of decommits, losing the likes of five-star Ricky Seals-Jones and four-star TE Durham Smythe.
Even among its current commits, Mack Brown has had to do much more maintenance work than he’s accustomed to. A’Shawn Robinson in particular remains a prospect that is keeping Longhorn faithful guessing. He took official visits to Florida State and USC and has a January official planned for Alabama.