College football prospects continued to commit at a faster rate this recruiting season, but that hasn't left the cupboard bare.
Among Rivals.com's top 100 prospects nationally, eight in the Deep South alone have yet to commit as Wednesday's national signing day looms. If that doesn't make for last-minute muddle, there also are players such as Alabama running back commitment Trent Richardson and Florida athlete commitment Marsalis Teague who have kept visiting other schools.
"What you're seeing is a lot of kids commit early but then take their visits even though they keep their commitment, and then they want to make their decision on signing day," Rivals.com national editor Jamie Newberg said. "That's kind of the theme this year. I think it's going to make for a pretty wild signing day, and one in which several teams could be left at the altar."
Most of the top undecided prospects will make grand announcements.
Gadsden City High teammates Kendall Kelly and Dre Kirkpatrick are among 10-plus prospects scheduled to make Wednesday declarations on ESPNU's nine-hour signing day program. Kelly, the nation's No. 26 receiver according to Rivals.com, is set for a 2:53 p.m. EST announcement; Kirkpatrick, the No. 1 cornerback, is scheduled at 3:05.
Kirkpatrick is expected to pick Alabama, while Kelly likely will choose between Alabama and Clemson. Last February, Gadsden City linebacker Jerrell Harris pulled out a Bear Bryant houndstooth hat to announce his signing with the Crimson Tide.
"I feel like Kendall and Dre have handled this with a lot of character, and they made the decision to wait last year," Gadsden City coach Joe Billingsley said. "As a coaching staff, it probably would be simpler if the kids committed earlier, but Jerrell Harris got to see where everybody else was when it got to the zero hour. He got to see a lot of cultures and situations with the places he visited, and I think that's the plus part to it.
"We've had coaches from Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia, USC, Alabama and all the Mississippi schools, and they all come in here cordial with the kid in mind. It can be tiring, though."
North Jackson linebacker Tana Patrick didn't wait this long to make a spectacle of his signing. He just wanted to know who he was dealing with.
"I wanted to take as many visits as I could to get a feel for the other players, the campus and how the team runs everything from practice to academic help," Patrick said. "I knew that not all the coaches who had started recruiting me would still be there later, so I wanted to wait and see how it all shook out and what coaches wound up where."
Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee were the only schools in which Patrick took official visits, and all three programs have undergone changes at linebacker coach in the past month.
"I didn't want to be one of those guys to commit somewhere and then have to come back and say I was going somewhere else later," he said.
Half of the top eight uncommitted prospects in the South are receivers: Rueben Randle of Bastrop, La.; Patrick Patterson of Macon, Miss.; Marlon Brown of Memphis; and Orson Charles of Tampa, Fla. Randle is down to LSU and Alabama, Patterson will choose among Alabama and the three Mississippi schools, while Brown will pick among Florida, Georgia, Ohio State and Tennessee.
Charles, who was a Plant High teammate of early Georgia enrollee Aaron Murray, may visit USC next weekend and sign later this month.
"I don't know that they're all watching each other to see what they're doing," Newberg said. "Who knows what Orson is going to do? It's crazy."
As signing day approaches, the two players drawing the most attention are Richardson and Greg Reid, a cornerback out of Valdosta, Ga. Reid committed to Florida last February but will announce Tuesday night from among Alabama, Florida State and Georgia.
Richardson, Rivals.com's No. 2 tailback and No. 6 prospect overall, visited Florida and LSU the past two weekends.
"Trent's a kid who's been committed to Bama for a long time, but he's always said he's going to take his trips," Newberg said. "Lo and behold, he's been true to his word."