National Signing Day is finally upon us.
The final players will announce their future homes.
Almost 78 percent of athletes committed during the early signing period, ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said in a phone call.
But there are still a handful of top-level recruits, including two in the Chosen 25 and another five-star player.
Here’s a look at the race for some of the premier athletes in the class of 2019. They will be announcing live on ESPN2 beginning at 12 p.m. ET. and on ESPNU at 3 p.m. before switching back for the final commitment during College Football Live.
Can LSU keep two more top players in-state?
One of LSU’s top targets in the class all season has been Amite (La.) DT Ishmael Sopsher, No. 10 in the Chosen 25.
His size, strength and ability to get off the line quickly and bulldoze those in his path makes him one of the top physical specimen of the class.
He helped his team go 15-1 and win the state championship. At his side was wide receiver Devonta Lee, a four-star athlete considering LSU and Kentucky.
LSU is doing everything it can to keep them together — including offering Sopsher’s brother, Rodney Sopsher, who plays at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
If Sopsher doesn’t choose LSU, there’s a good chance he’s going to Alabama, though Oregon will also have a hat on the table.
But the Tigers have a good track record of keeping kids at home.
“They don’t have another power five competitor in their state… they’re THE big dog in the state,” Luginbill said. “They’re kind of one of those programs where if there’s a great player in that state, he’s LSU’s to lose. It’s (head coach) Ed Orgeron and the staff’s job to not allow a Landon Collins go to Alabama.
Was Darnell Wright serious about his top two?
It seemed like Tennessee was making the strongest bid for the Huntington (W.Va.) offensive tackle.
It was the only school Darnell Wright visited in the fall, and when his mother couldn’t go with him on a Georgia visit, he cancelled on the Bulldogs and instead went to see Tennessee, according to Rivals. He made an unofficial visit to Alabama, and then decided to also visit Tennessee that weekend, according to the outlet.
But Wright told USA TODAY on Dec. 31 his favorite schools were hometown WVU and North Carolina.
“I would say North Carolina and West Virginia are my favorites right now,” Wright said at that time. “West Virginia is my hometown school and I really like them and North Carolina has a new staff and one of my teammates is there. I’ll definitely take officials to those schools; the rest I’m not sure right now.”
He visited WVU on Jan. 18. On Jan. 30, the Mountaineers sent 10 coaches to see him.
Brown is going all out for Wright, gotta love it. pic.twitter.com/lKvSm5YA66
— Schuyler Callihan (@DVNCallihan) January 30, 2019
Wright’s 247Sports profile does not list a visit to North Carolina.
How serious is Wright about WVU?
“He feels like people have made assumptions about Tennessee because he’s been on campus so often,” Luginbill said. “I think what he’s trying to do is let people know that, ‘Just because I’ve been on campus there more than I’ve been to other places, doesn’t mean I’m a lock to that place.’
“Would that be a huge coup for West Virginia and (head coach) Neal Brown? Absolutely it would be. I think it would be a huge disappointment for Tennessee, cause Tennessee’s got a chance to close pretty strong, that’s their remaining prime target.”
Baseball or football for Ealy? Why not both?
Perhaps no player was as positively impacted by bowl season as Ealy.
When he received his Under Armour Bowl jersey in September, the Jackson Prep (Flowood, Miss.) running back was 247Sports’ No. 48 player in the country.
Then the running back rushed for a UA Bowl record 116 yards and was named MVP. He’s now ranked No. 29 and has five stars on 247Sports, No. 19 on ESPN, and while he’s ranked No. 58 on Rivals, he moved up 18 spots.
“It was really during the week (of the UA game), where you could see that big game coming,” Luginbill said. “He really made some, I thought, very, very impressive plays as a pass protector, as a receiver, showed a lot of versatility.”
As his stock rose, Ealy decommitted from Ole Miss and looked into other options that were pursuing him.
Mississippi State, Alabama and Clemson have jumped into the race.
That doesn’t mean Ealy’s no longer considering the Rebels. Last week, he posted a photo of himself in the Ole miss locker room with baseball jerseys, a bat and football pads.
Bat and pads
— Jerrion Ealy (@ealy_1k) January 28, 2019
That’s another question mark of Ealy’s recruiting. He’s a two-sport phenom, ranked No. 18 on MLB.com’s list of 2019 draft prospects.
Forget what college will he attend; what is the sport of his future?
The MLB draft is in June. If Ealy is drafted, he could elect to go play professionally. He could also choose the Kyler Murray route and play football and baseball in college.
Ole Miss and Clemson have particularly strong baseball history. Mississippi State has run out a strong team for the better part of the last decade, but it has a new coach this season. Alabama has consecutive sub-.500 seasons.
“I guarantee you that’s a recruiting tool that programs are using to try and lure him,” Luginbill said.
Could Colorado get a steal from the southeast?
Kair Elam jumped up recruitment boards after the Under Armour All-America Game as well.
“He’s so versatile, he can play on either side of the ball,” Luginbill said. “He’s a legit candidate to play on defense or offense.”
Playing cornerback and wide receiver at Benjamin High School (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), Elam had 500 receiving yards and three interceptions this season.
His final four list has three schools in the southeast — Georgia, Florida, Miami — and another on the opposite side of the country.
Colorado has made a final push for Elam.
University Of Colorado was legit… pic.twitter.com/4H18Ttka9f
— Kaiir Elam. (@Easymoney_Kai) January 29, 2019
The distance could make it tough for Elam to go cross-country to the Pac-12, but the Buffaloes’ simple presence in his top four suggests they’re right in the thick of it.
De La Salle’s success has colleges high on To’oto’o, Foskey
Linebacker Henry To’oto’o got injured during practice the day before the California state championship game. He played in it, but had to miss the All-American and Polynesian bowls.
Isaiah Foskey is ranked No. 209 on ESPN — a high-upside four-star athlete, but without the profile of most the other guys who will announce on ESPN.
Teams are intrigued by the two in large part because of the success at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), a team that has won 27 consecutive sectional titles.
“There’s something to be said about coming from a program where there’s a high expectation to perform and to win,” Luginbill said. “When kids have that expectation ingrained in them from middle school on, generally you see them make a much easier transition to next level because they know that there’s going to be an expectation level.”
That’s made schools like Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State interested in Foskey and Alabama and Tennessee vying for To’oto’o, despite the distance.
Over the weekend, To’oto’o announced those two schools and Washington make up his top three.
Foskey is interested in west coast Washington and California, in addition to the aforementioned programs.
Tune into ESPN2 and ESPNU on National Signing Day to see where they land.