National Signing Day: Top 10 stings
Keithian Alexander to Georgia
Who it stings: Texas A&M, Texas, AlabamaWhy: Every top program was recruiting Alexander and making him a major priority in the 2022 class, but Alexander loved his experience when he camped at Georgia last summer. He hit it off with coach Kirby Smart and especially position coach Tray Scott, and he said Wednesday when he committed to the Bulldogs that he was picking the team he was most familiar with. No team is going to stop recruiting the Denton (Texas) Ryan five-star defensive tackle who plans to enroll early, but Georgia won a big one over the Aggies, the Crimson Tide, the Longhorns and many others.
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Terrion Arnold to Alabama
Who it stings: Georgia, FloridaWhy: Arnold’s recruitment was one of the most interesting to watch leading up to signing day because in the closing weeks Florida, Alabama and Georgia had reason to believe the high four-star defensive back was going to land there. The Gators trailed off in the closing days and then Alabama and Georgia were really battling it out. Either could have won on signing day as the Crimson Tide held a slight edge, and that’s the way it played out as the Tallahassee (Fla.) John Paul II Catholic standout went with Alabama.
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Dontae Balfour to North Carolina
Who it stings: Auburn, LSUWhy: Auburn was going to be Balfour’s pick if he committed during the Early Signing Period, but that did not happen and then North Carolina and LSU really stepped it up in the remaining weeks, with the Tar Heels winning out. Coach Mack Brown, assistant Dre Bly and others made Balfour a top priority and as Auburn was transitioning to a new coaching staff, the Tar Heels gained lots of ground and eventually ended up with his signature.
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Rayshaun Benny to Michigan
Who it stings: Michigan StateWhy: Benny committed to Michigan State over Michigan, Penn State and Kentucky in November, and it was a significant win for coach Mel Tucker and his staff since the Wolverines also pursued the four-star lineman. But the Michigan staff – and many new assistants in Ann Arbor – continued to pursue Benny in the closing months, asked him which position he would prefer to play and then planned to accommodate him. On Wednesday the Oak Park, Mich., standout signed with the Wolverines.
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Avante Dickerson to Oregon
Who it stings: NebraskaWhy: Dickerson was committed to Minnesota for about nine months, but in late January the four-star cornerback backed off that pledge and was seriously looking at Nebraska and Oregon. He lives about an hour from the Nebraska campus. Meanwhile, he has never visited Oregon and never even met with coach Mario Cristobal, but that’s where Dickerson wanted to play and so on signing day the Omaha (Neb.) Westside standout picked the Ducks over the Huskers.
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Juwon Gaston to Auburn
Who it stings: South CarolinaWhy: South Carolina looked like the leader for Gaston all the way through mid-January and even on signing day the Gamecocks were one of the top two. But Auburn offered on Jan. 20, and the Tigers quickly emerged as a major player in his recruitment. On signing day, the three-star defensive back from Montgomery (Ala.) Carver picked Auburn over the Gamecocks and Tennessee. Gaston talked about how Daniel Thomas, who is from Montgomery and picked Auburn, was an idol of his and that could have helped the pick.
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Ikechukwu Iwunnah to Michigan
Who it stings: ColoradoWhy: Iwunnah wrestled with his college decision for months, and in mid-January, the three-star defensive tackle decided on Colorado. But only a couple days later, new Michigan assistant coach Maurice Linguist extended an offer and things got muddled again. Bouncing back and forth in the days leading up to signing day, Iwunnah decided on the Wolverines. Colorado needed a big defensive tackle like Iwunnah, a player who could stuff up the middle, but it was not meant to be.
LJ Johnson to Texas A&M
Who it stings: TexasWhy: There was some incredible back and forth over the last few weeks when it came down to Johnson making his pick. He visited College Station and left without committing, so Texas fans felt good. He visited Austin and was rumored to have visited on numerous other occasions, but he left without making a decision. As the final days closed in, it looked like Texas A&M had emerged as the frontrunner as a new staff in Texas tried its hardest, but the Aggies won out for the high four-star running back.
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Tywone Malone to Ole Miss
Who it stings: Texas A&MWhy: Ole Miss worked really hard on Malone for the longest time. The Rebels did everything possible to convince him Oxford was the right spot for both football and baseball – which was an important part of Malone’s considerations – and the four-star defensive tackle fills an immediate need on an Ole Miss defense that allowed 38 points per game last season. Missing out on him would have really hurt. But it did not happen. Texas A&M battled until the end, and the Aggies have done so well in recruiting that it wouldn’t have been a shock if Malone picked that team. But Ole Miss won out and it was definitely a big moment for coach Lane Kiffin and his staff.
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Trevin Wallace to Kentucky
Who it stings: Auburn, Ole MissWhy: Wallace is a four-star linebacker that is outside the Rivals250, but he could be underrated as he’s shown the ability to make plays, get people on the ground and cover all over the field. An early Boston College commit, Wallace backed off that pledge and it looked like Auburn was going to land him, especially if the Tigers had kept coach Gus Malzahn. But that did not happen and Wallace hit it off with the Kentucky coaching staff, eventually signing with the Wildcats over the two other SEC schools that made a serious run at him.
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