California cornerback Olaijah Griffin is one of the most coveted remaining players in college football recruiting. Credit: 247Sports
There are still a lot of top-tier prospects waiting to make their commitments public to their schools of choice before national signing day on Feb. 7, but just four 5-star prospects remain.
Defensive backs Patrick Surtain Jr., Tyson Campbell and Olaijah Griffin still have yet to make their final destinations public, and it looks like all three could wind up at an SEC school. The only one who could play elsewhere is Griffin, who may elect to stay home and go to USC.
Then there’s offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, whose signature commands a tight race heading into the final few days.
Where will the Fab Four wind up? Let’s make an educated guess, based on reading the tea leaves, recent visits and respective needs for the schools in the hunt.
Also, we’ll take a closer look at where every 5-star prospect signed or is committed, with a brief evaluation of what those respective schools are getting.
Plenty of drama remains between now and national signing day, but the biggest headlines will come when Surtain, Campbell, Griffin and Petit-Frere decide where they’ll spend their college days.
Clemson looks like it has a future star with top-ranked quarterback and overall player Trevor Lawrence. Credit: 247Sports
Trevor Lawrence, 6’6", 208-pound pro-style quarterback, Cartersville (Ga.) HS
Once the Clemson signee adds some weight, he’s going to be a star who could win the Tigers’ quarterback job as early as 2018.
Justin Fields, 6’3", 221-pound dual-threat quarterback, Harrison (Ga.) HS
Jake Fromm may have burst onto the scene this past year, but Fields is a generational dual-threat talent with the skill set and competitive spirit to battle him for the starting gig at Georgia next year.
Xavier Thomas, 6’3", 260-pound strong-side defensive end, IMG Academy (Fla.)
The uber-athletic edge-rusher has one of the highest ceilings in the class and could see meaningful snaps as a freshman at Clemson. Though with all that talent on the defensive front, he may not have to.
Eyabi Anoma, 6’5", 235-pound weak-side defensive end, St. Francis Academy (Md.)
Nick Saban has shown he’s not scared of playing freshmen, and Anoma is big and athletic enough to warrant a look. That’s even on a defense as talented as Alabama’s, where he’ll blossom into a star.
Micah Parsons, 6’3", 235-pound weak-side defensive end, Harrisburg (Pa.) HS
The jewel of James Franklin’s 2018 class was a major recruiting win over Ohio State and others. He will have every opportunity to be a difference-maker right away off the edge in Happy Valley.
Justin Shorter, 6’4", 213-pound wide receiver, South Brunswick (N.J.) HS
Shorter is a dynamic athlete who can play on either side of the ball. Penn State will give him his first shot at wide receiver, where he has the size to go up and high-point the ball and displays above-average speed for his size.
Zamir White, 6’1", 220-pound running back, Scotland County (N.C.) HS
If White can return from his season-ending knee injury in high school, he is a big, imposing back who will make highlight-reel plays for a Georgia team that could use the carries with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb out of eligibility.
Jamaree Salyer, 6’4", 342-pound offensive guard, Pace Academy (Ga.)
Salyer, yet another one of Kirby Smart’s recruiting victories, will have the chance to be an elite interior offensive lineman with his size and strength. A year of redefining his body could help him reach maximum potential.
Terrace Marshall, 6’2.5", 192-pound wide receiver, Parkway (La.) HS
This was a major in-state win for LSU, because Marshall is probably the best pure receiver in the class. He will emerge as one of the SEC’s top weapons if the Tigers can find a quality quarterback on the Bayou.
KJ Henry, 6’5.5", 235-pound weak-side defensive end, West Forsyth (N.C.) HS
The Clemson signee has raw power and skills, and the coach’s son will be able to be brought along slowly. He has a ceiling of a guy like Clelin Ferrell, who just finished an electrifying career for the Tigers.
Palaie Gaoteote, 6’2", 235-pound inside linebacker, Bishop Gorman (Nev.) HS
The USC signee played for one of the top programs in high school sports, and he has a clear path to playing time with Cameron Smith heading to the NFL if he can improve his lateral quickness.
Jackson Carman, 6’6", 330-pound offensive tackle, Fairfield (Ohio) HS
This was a major recruiting win for Clemson over in-state Ohio State and others because Carman is a road-grading tackle who will be able to fill the void Mitch Hyatt leaves when he heads to the NFL.
Taron Vincent, 6’2", 285-pound defensive tackle, IMG Academy (Fla.)
In a down year for defensive tackles, Ohio State got the best one in Vincent. He is by no means a finished product but displays the strength and body type to blossom into a star once he gets stellar college coaching.
Adam Anderson, 6’4", 214-pound outside linebacker, Rome (Ga.) HS
With Roquan Smith leaving, Anderson has the skill set to be Georgia’s next, great elite outside linebacker. He’s a guy who can get after quarterbacks, drop back in coverage and tackle with the best of them.
Cade Mays, 6’6", 318-pound offensive tackle, Knoxville Catholic (Tenn.) HS
The longtime Tennessee commit wound up signing with rival Georgia. The Bulldogs will have a good one on their hands if Mays dedicates himself in the weight room and keeps playing with the mean streak he showed in high school.
Tyreke Johnson, 6’1", 191-pound safety, Trinity Christian Academy (Fla.)
The Ohio State commit looks like he’s going to be the next great one in a long line of star Buckeyes secondary members with his speed, aggression and ability to play anywhere on the back level.
Brey Walker, 6’7", 320-pound offensive tackle, Westmoore (Okla.) HS
The heir to Orlando Brown Jr. is about to find his way to Norman. He may have the chance to step in and work his way into a starting lineup that will need impact offensive linemen.
Brenton Cox, 6’4.5", 247-pound strong-side defensive end, Stockbridge (Ga.) HS
Smart kept most of the Georgia guys he wanted home, and Cox flipped from Ohio State to give his new head coach a jumbo athlete who looks like an ideal end in a 3-4 scheme.
Lorenzo Lingard, 6’0", 190-pound running back, University (Florida) HS
This is exactly the kind of recruiting battle Miami won when it was known as "The U." Lingard has the speed and frame to be a dominant force in the ACC once he gets in a weight room and learns the system.
BJ Foster, 6’1", 188-pound safety, Angleton (Texas) HS
Of all the Texas defensive back signees, Foster is the most ready to play. He has a great size-speed combination with big-hitting ability that will help him see the field in Austin in a hurry.
Ricky Slade, 5’9", 185-pound all-purpose back, C.D. Hylton (Virginia) HS
Though he isn’t big, Slade is a big-time playmaker who can get to the house as quickly as anybody in the country. As the third 5-star in Franklin’s Nittany Lions class, he’ll have the chance to step in and get some of the carries Saquon Barkley vacated.
Caden Sterns, 6’1", 192-pound safety, Steele (Texas) HS
Sterns earned his fifth star with a U.S. Army All-American Bowl defensive MVP performance, where he had two interceptions. He should team with Foster to give Texas one of the most dynamic defensive backs in college football.
Derion Kendrick, 6’1", 184-pound wide receiver, South Pointe (South Carolina) HS
With Hunter Renfrow and Deon Cain running out eligibility, there are valuable snaps to be won at Clemson. Kendrick is a polished pass-catcher with game-breaking ability who could get catches right away.
Amon-Ra St. Brown chose USC over Notre Dame, Stanford and others. He’s yet to sign. Credit: 247Sports
Amon-Ra St. Brown, 5’11.5", 191-pound wide receiver, Mater Dei (California) HS
The silky-smooth St. Brown is as good a pass-catcher as anybody in this class, and he is the same kind of playmaking target as Texas A&M’s departing star Christian Kirk. This is going to be an immediate-impact player for the USC Trojans.
Will he flip?
Nope. Though his brother Equanimeous played at Notre Dame, and the Fighting Irish were in the running for his pledge, St. Brown hasn’t wavered since committing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He favored the Trojans for the longest and wound up committing to them over Notre Dame and Stanford.
JT Daniels, 6’2", 205-pound pro-style quarterback, Mater Dei (California) HS
A lot of the hype in this quarterback class swirled around Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, but Daniels needs to be discussed more. He has a high upside, and though he was originally supposed to be part of the 2019 class, USC got its quarterback of the future when he elected to come out early.
There are snaps to be had with Sam Darnold leaving, and Daniels will battle for those in 2018.
Will he flip?
No way. Why would he? He’s going to one of the most well-known colleges for developing signal-callers in the nation, and the race to replace Darnold will be wide-open. This is the ideal situation for a marquee quarterback, and Daniels is definitely one of those.
Plus, he has high school teammate St. Brown to help ease him into the situation. This will be a dynamic duo for years to come.
Tyson Campbell, Cornerback
Cornerback Tyson Campbell is one of the most difficult prospects to read in the class of 2018. As great as he is (and he’s an excellent player), he isn’t even the top defensive back in his own high school.
That would be dynamic cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. Still, that hasn’t stopped the nation’s top programs from beating down Campbell’s door.
What separates Campbell from most prospects is his elite ball skills and closing speed. He started his high school career as a wide receiver, but he’s a cornerback in college, and he has as high a ceiling as any in this incredible class of defensive backs.
The 6’2.5", 180-pound defender is coveted by the nation’s top teams. While he has taken visits to Alabama and Tennessee the past two weekends, remaining quiet after both stops, this feels like a Georgia-Miami battle.
It’s hard to discount UA coach Nick Saban’s development of defensive backs. And Jeremy Pruitt, one of the top assistants under Saban who helped develop some of the best, is now Tennessee’s head coach. Both schools could have left an impression on the quiet Campbell.
But he also has been high on Georgia’s board for a long time. With the class Kirby Smart is putting together in Athens, Campbell could go right in there and play on a team full of loaded prospects. Yes, he’s good enough to earn immediate snaps.
If the Dawgs don’t get him, it’ll be a surprise, but Miami isn’t out of the running yet.
Olaijah Griffin, Cornerback
One of the late risers in this class is Olaijah Griffin, the Mission Viejo (Calif.) cornerback who has excellent size, speed and quickness and is going to be a great player in somebody’s defensive backfield next season.
So, just who is going to win the big prize?
A little less than a month ago, Griffin visited Knoxville and was blown away by Tennessee on his visit. It looked at the time like the Vols and new head coach Jeremy Pruitt may wind up with another recruiting coup, this time going cross-country to get the coveted cornerback.
He even told ScoopDuck.com’s Justin Hopkins that the Vols were at the top of his list. It wasn’t the only outlet he mentioned that to, either. But the former UCLA commitment’s recruitment was only beginning to heat up.
Griffin visited USC since then and loved the Trojans as well. Though Griffin has family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is less than two hours from Knoxville, USC is basically home. So, those two geographic ties have major pull for the 6’0" cornerback.
Oregon and Alabama were the other two visits Griffin took over the past month. While he won’t go anywhere this weekend to allow himself some time to mull over his decision, this feels like a Vols-Trojans battle.
Tennessee was right there at the end of the race for Adoree’ Jackson a few years ago, but the elite cornerback chose to stay home and play for the Trojans. Will Griffin do the same? This is a toss-up, but the lure of home is strong.
Go with the Trojans here.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, Offensive Tackle
As strong as this year’s recruiting class is at quarterback and in the defensive backfield, it’s just as weak along the lines of scrimmage. There aren’t a lot of elite players in the trenches, but Nicholas Petit-Frere doesn’t contribute to the mediocrity.
The 6’6", 272-pound offensive tackle from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa is big, athletic, has violent hands and looks like a prime candidate to anchor an offensive line for the next three years.
The offensive tackle would be the jewel of Dan Mullen’s first class in Gainesville, and the Gators have a huge chance to pull him after he visited this past weekend. Alabama should like its chances as well because the Tide hosted him recently, and they always close well.
Also looming is a visit to Ohio State this upcoming weekend, and you can never count out Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, especially when he has the final visit. In years’ past, he’s had a way of convincing players that he’s the right coach for them.
But right now, Ohio State seems like a long shot. This seems like it’s going to be an Alabama-Florida battle, and it depends on whether Petit-Frere wants to stay home and help build a program or whether he wants to go to the nation’s established powerhouse and keep that factory churning.
This one, as well, is a toss-up. Many think he’ll stay home and play for the Gators, and 62 percent of his 247Sports Crystal Ball picks point toward Florida. Alabama is behind the Gators in the prediction game.
It’s hard to know what an 18-year-old is thinking, but the lure of the national champions remains key. Give the slight nod to the Tide.
Patrick Surtain Jr., Cornerback
Cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., the most complete defensive star remaining on the recruiting board, is going to make some team (likely in the SEC) happy come Feb. 7.
The American Heritage (Fla.) High School product is a shade taller than 6’1", has great size and length for a defensive back, excellent ball skills and is about as polished a product as you’re going to get at the position coming out of high school.
An argument can be made that Surtain is not only the best defensive back in this class but also the best defensive player, period. He’s that good.
For the longest time, Surtain was thought to be an LSU lean, and the Tigers still have just as good a chance as anybody heading into the final few days to land his signature. But Alabama has made a strong push recently, and you can never count out the Crimson Tide.
Surtain visited Clemson last weekend, and Miami looks like Surtain’s destination this upcoming weekend. It’s hard to count out the Hurricanes, who are close to Surtain’s South Florida home.
BamaOnline.com writer Tim Watts believes it’s going to come down to a two-team race between the Tide and the Bayou Bengals. While LSU has been the longtime favorite, Nick Saban’s pedigree of putting defensive backs in the league looms large.
Though an overwhelming 92 percent of the 247Sports Crystal Ball picks favor LSU, we’re going to go against the grain here and say the Crimson Tide pull a late-game shocker.