Teenagers change their mind.
It’s a fact of life in most facets and college football recruiting, pandemic or not, is no exception. The class of 2021 recruiting cycle, which all but wrapped up with the National Signing Day holiday February 3, featured plenty of big decisions that ended up being the primary decisions.
Final decisions are its own category, becoming official during the Early Signing Period in December or in the traditional period from February through the spring months. The only SI99 prospect still on the board is No. 2 overall prospect JT Tuimoloau, but he’s never been committed to one program.
SI All-American shines a light on the top prospects who had a change of heart, meaning a commitment eventually followed a decommitment, before settling on the program when pen met paper.
Brock Vandagriff, Georgia
The longtime Oklahoma commitment was one of the biggest recruiting dominoes at any position in the 2021 cycle. When he picked Lincoln Riley and the Sooners back in 2019, there was always an underlying question about how locked in he would be having grown up about 15 miles from the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens. Sure enough, the Bogart (Ga.) Prince Avenue Christian star would change his mind on New Year’s Day 2020, decommitting from OU after after a six-month pledge. Three weeks later he made the expected move to verbal to Kirby Smart and company, where he would help UGA recruit a top five class in the cycle. Of course Oklahoma rebounded about as well as one could imagine, landing No. 1 overall prospect Caleb Williams on July 4. Each are now enrolled at their respective programs, kicking off college careers that may forever be linked.
SIAA was on hand for the Elite 11 event over the summer, the last time they worked out on the same field.
Under Consideration: Drake Maye (Alabama to North Carolina), Jake Garcia (USC to Miami), Aaron McLaughlin (Auburn to NC State) Luke Altmyer (Florida State to Ole Miss), Dematrius Davis (Virginia Tech to Auburn), Jalen Milroe (Texas to Alabama)
Running Back (2)
Unlike most of the quarterback’s changes of heart, the running back group appeared locked in much deeper into the 2021 cycle. Both Goodwin and Estime were committed to their initial programs in December, leading up to the Early Signing Period. For Goodwin, a longtime Auburn commitment from within state lines, the change was initiated by the program moving on from Gus Malzahn after the 2020 season. Several programs made a run at the SI99 back, who just set the indoor 60-meter dash record in Class 7A, but LSU won out in the end.
Estime was in a similar standing with Michigan State, but his 2020 performance on the field for Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional, totaling 2,000-plus yards from scrimmage, upped the profile of his game and recruitment all at once. Notre Dame offered Estime the day before the signing period began, December 15, and the big back took some 48 hours to make the decision to flip to the Irish. He signed on the same day, December 18, capping a torrid tail end to the recruiting process.
Under Consideration: Lovasea Carroll (South Carolina to Georgia)
A deep receiver group in the 2021 cycle left plenty of room for fluidity on the commitment list. One of the top talents to make an early decision was SI99 talent Thornton, who picked Penn State around National Signing Day 2019 as an underclassman. Just about two months later, the Oregon Ducks extended him a scholarship offer and his plans began to change. By the summer, more offers would roll in and a decommitment was made. Thornton, who told SIAA he wanted to play for the Ducks since he was five or six, would make a final decision on Mario Cristobal’s program in October of 2020.
Earle was one of the more unexpected prospects to have a change of heart in the recruiting process. The Texan, who was under SI99 consideration as a running back and slot receiver, jumped all over an LSU scholarship offer in the spring of 2020. There wasn’t much chatter surrounding the state champion talent into the month of December in relation to a flip, but it picked up right as the ESP approached. Earle would flip to Alabama and sign with the Crimson Tide on December 16, the first day of the signing period.
The PAC-12 recruiting title this cycle went to Oregon for a second-straight year, but it was by the slimmest of margins against recruiting rival USC. Each program finished in the top 10 and added big pickups late in the cycle, but one of the biggest head-to-head wins between the two went to the Trojans in Ware-Hudson. The elite two-way talent, who initially picked UO in December of 2019, was one of the longest-standing Duck commitments a year later. The Trojans offered in late November of 2020 and before the calendar turned over to December for the Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei star, he was back on the market. At that point it seemed like a matter of time before Ware-Hudson would join the strong close in Los Angeles.
Under Consideration: Jack Bech (Vanderbilt to LSU), Deion Smith (Mississippi State to LSU), Latrell Neville (Virginia Tech to Nebraska), Hal Presley (Baylor to Auburn), Markus Allen (Michigan to Wisconsin)
Tight End (1)
Hudson Wolfe, Ole Miss
It was a relative expectation when SI99 tight end prospect Wolfe picked the in-state Tennessee Volunteers leading up to his senior campaign at Savannah (Tenn.) Hardin County. He made the move in the summertime and said all the right things thereafter, even as the Vols sputtered on the field. However, as the chatter around Jeremy Pruitt’s future coincided with the on-field elevation of Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss’ profile, things changed. Wolfe decommitted from UT on December 10 and picked the Rebels a day later, where he has since enrolled.
Under Consideration: Lake McRee (Texas to USC), Landen King (Texas to Auburn), Nick Elksnis (Penn State to Florida), Khalil Brantley (Utah to Miami)
Offensive Line (5)
The high profile of the trench talent may not come with the fan fare of skill position prospects, but this theoretical starting five would be a group most Power 5 programs would have gladly inked. Some were relatively logical changes, like Roberts backing off of his Auburn commitment after the coaching change. Others, like Reese moving on from Rutgers and signing with Mississippi State, were because of late offers and performance-based opportunity. Barber, who signed with in-state Florida after a longtime pledge to Minnesota, had a similar recruiting trajectory. Wilson, one of the few North Carolina elites to not end up in Chapel Hill, decommitted in favor of Georgia in August. Crippen’s may be the most dramatic from the group, ending a longtime Notre Dame commitment in favor of Michigan with rumors of the move seemingly live for months before it went down.
Under Consideration: Michael Myslinski (Texas to Iowa)
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