Looking for potential intrigue in the run-up to National Signing Day? Keep an eye on Mississippi.
Five of the top 13 players in Mississippi’s Class of 2019 — running back Jerrion Ealy (No. 2, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings), defensive linemen Nathan Pickering (No. 3), Byron Young (No. 4) and Charles Moore (No. 8) and quarterback John Ryhs Plumlee (No. 13) remained unsigned, despite making public commitments, after college football’s early signing period.
“I’m committed, but I’m open,” Ealy said at the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Florida. “I’m still looking, making sure it’s the right fit for me.”
Contrast that to Alabama, where 14 of the 15 members of AL.com‘s A-List signed early, with several joining college teams for on-campus bowl practice.
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With the recruiting dead period now over and only a few weeks remaining before the February signing date, the unsigned Mississippi players will become increasingly coveted. That could produce fireworks.
The dominoes started falling last week when Moore, a 6-foot-4, 268-pounder, de-committed from Mississippi State. Auburn remains one of his top suitors, and he told 247sports his top three schools are Auburn, Florida State and Tennessee.
Pickering remains committed to Mississippi State, but Alabama remains an option. The Crimson Tide appears to be in a tight recruiting battle with LSU for Ishmael Sopsher, the nation’s No. 1-ranked defensive tackle, but Pickering would be a promising consolation prize for the Tide.
Ealy ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Under Armour All-American Game earlier this month, solidifying the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ole Miss commit as an elite player. He’s also a top baseball prospect and could opt for pro baseball.
“The only way I’m coming to school there is if I can do both,” said Ealy, who added Alabama and Southern Cal remain in the mix.
Young is committed to Alabama and hasn’t shown signs of wavering, although Pickering said he’s been trying to convince the West Jones (Miss.) lineman to stay home and sign with Mississippi State.
Plumlee planned to head to Georgia as a blueshirt, but quarterback Justin Fields’s transfer to Ohio State may open up an immediate spot for the Oak Grove (Miss.) dual-threat quarterback.
It’s possible that all five uncommitted Mississippi players head out of state.
“This is maybe Mississippi’s best year ever in terms of talent,” said 247Sports recruiting analyst John Garcia, “so it was going to be dramatic, no matter what.”
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke failed to maintain the national recruiting profile built by Hugh Freeze, thanks in large part to NCAA sanctions and a bowl ban. Winning 16 games in the last three seasons has also hurt.
Joe Moorhead enters his second season as Mississippi State’s head coach, having signed the nation’s 27th-best class last year and the 2019 group is ranked No. 23 after early signing day. That’s probably not going to cut in the SEC West against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, all of which ranked in the top five for 2019 recruiting.
“I’m just looking for closure, making sure I’m making the right decision,” Pickering said.
The clock is ticking.