National Signing Day is finally upon us, as teams across the conference look to button up their latest signing classes in hopes of taking strides forward in 2017. Although many players have already made their decisions for where they will play college football next season, there are still a handful of notable recruits to keep an eye out for on Wednesday.
Without further ado, here is the list of five key recruits to watch for on National Signing Day.
1) 4-Star WR Jeff Thomas, 5’10”, 175 lbs. (East Saint Louis, Illinois)
The Miami Hurricanes received a majority of their offensive production in the passing game this past season from freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards, who accounted for 934 yards on 43 catches for three touchdowns. With so much of their offensive prowess coming from a young difference-maker, it is no surprise that ‘Canes fans will be watching intently for the decision of 4-star Illinois native Jeff Thomas on National Signing Day.
Miami is the heavy favorite for the 5’10”, 175 lbs. burner from East St. Louis High, but Thomas is also being sought after by Alabama, Illinois, and Michigan. If Thomas commits to Mark Richt and the Hurricanes, there is a chance that he can be an immediate impact player in the offense, especially with receiver Stacy Coley moving on to the NFL, and tight end David Njoku’s 43 catches to replace, as well.
2) 4-Star OLB Levi Jones, 6’3″, 215 lbs. (Austin, Texas)
Austin, Texas product Levi Jones leaves high school as one of the most highly touted defensive players in the state, mixing run-stopping prowess with adequate pass coverage as a 6’3″, 215 lbs. 4-star recruit.
As a product of football powerhouse Westlake High School, Jones received numerous scholarship offers throughout his recruiting process, with the most prominent offers coming from University of Southern California, as well as the ACC’s Florida State Seminoles. The ‘Noles are looking to edge out USC on Signing Day to add to the long line of historic linebackers that have played for Florida State.
The Seminoles defense was considered at times to be one of the few weak spots at on the 2016-17 team that finished a “down year” with a 10-3 record. As long as Jimbo Fisher is the coach, the ‘Noles will always be in the mix for the nation’s top recruits, as they are hoping to add Jones as a depth piece initially, but as a future star linebacker for them down the line as well.
If the Seminoles are able to edge out the rebounding USC Trojans for Jones’ services early in the day, it could spell fireworks throughout the rest of the 2017 National Signing Day for Florida State.
3) 4-Star OG Tedarrell Slaton, 6’4″, 360 lbs. (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
South Florida consistently seems to churn out excellent high school prospects on the offensive line, and it is safe to say that 4-star guard Tedarrell Slaton perfectly fits into the continued narrative of the success of prospects from that part of the Sunshine State.
The 6’4″, 360 lbs. prospect has been heavily pursued by a couple of key in-state ACC schools in Miami and Florida State, but the favorite at this point appears to be the Florida Gators. Although Florida is perceived as the favorite at this point, Slaton’s size, speed, and athleticism on the offensive line would be a welcomed addition to either one of the Hurricanes and Seminoles.
Both Miami and Florida State value run-first offenses that have linemen who can get to the second level of the defense and break open lanes for their respective running backs, a task that Slaton has proved that he can do at the high school level.
Only time will tell if Slaton will ultimately commit to the University of Florida, or if he will pick an ACC school in an upset.
4) 4-Star RB A.J. Davis, 5’11”, 190 lbs. (Lakeland, Florida)
A.J. Davis is an electric back out of Lakeland, Florida, who provides a great mix of size and speed when he carries the football. Davis is one of the top 2017 running backs in the state of Florida, and is likely heading north to the University of Pittsburgh, where he will have an opportunity to become the next impact player at running back for the Panthers.
Pittsburgh’s primary competition for Davis appears to be South Florida, according to 247Sports, but the Panthers are the clear favorite heading into the National Signing Day decision. Davis will have an excellent opportunity to play right away for Pat Narduzzi’s 2017 offense, as Davis should be in the mix for carries with rising junior Qadree Ollison.
5) 3-Star ATH Dazz Newsome, 5’10”, 165 lbs. (Hampton, Virginia)
Dazz Newsome is one of the more underrated prospects in the ACC who will be making his decision on National Signing Day. The 5’10” 165 lbs. athlete from Newport News has his list of schools down to North Carolina, which many perceive as the favorite, and Virginia Tech, the school where his older brother Deon plays in the secondary. Newsome likely projects as a defensive back at the next level, although he played on both sides of the football throughout his high school career.
For North Carolina, a Newsome addition would further bolster a secondary that has already signed 4-star corner Tre Shaw, and is expected to sign upper-tier 3-star safety Caleb Rozar on Wednesday. The hot pursuit of Newsome further displays the Tar Heels’ recruiting emphasis on the defensive side of the football, an area which has proved to be an achilles’ heel in recent seasons.
As for Virginia Tech, a Newsome signing would provide yet another play-maker who could potentially impact both sides of the football. With the going assumption that Newsome projects as a member of the secondary, he would add to a strong class that already possesses one of the top safeties in the country in 4-star prospect Devon Hunter. Newsome would also provide an instant difference-maker on special teams, where Dazz, much like his brother Deon, could return kicks and punts for the Hokies and provide a spark to the return game.
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