College football's recruiting behemoths are at it yet again.
For a 10th consecutive winter, either Alabama or Georgia is expected to finish with the No. 1 class in the 247Sports.com team rankings following Wednesday's traditional national signing date. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide held the top spot annually from 2011 to 2017 and again last year, with Kirby Smart's Bulldogs breaking through to collect the premier haul in 2018.
Georgia and Alabama enter this almost forgotten signing date ranked 1-2 nationally, with Clemson, LSU, Ohio Sate, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas rounding out the top 10. The third Tennessee class of the Jeremy Pruitt era was 14th as of Tuesday night, according to the fluid 247Sports rankings.
Tennessee has not added any commitments since the December period but has been active via the transfer route, landing offensive lineman Cade Mays from Georgia and receiver Velus Jones Jr. from Southern California.
"It was definitely a very quiet January, but there is still a path for Tennessee to sign a top-10 class this year," Ryan Callahan, who covers Tennessee recruiting for 247Sports, said Tuesday afternoon. "The teams are really packed between ninth and 16th, so if they add a couple of guys, that would put them in the top 10."
Callahan said Tennessee's most likely signee would be Damarcus Beckwith, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound athlete prospect from Florence, Alabama. Beckwith visited Florida and Tennessee last month and is expected to choose between the Gators and the Volunteers.
The Vols also are in the mix for 6-4, 180-pound Florida State receiver commitment Malachi Wideman, a borderline top-100 national recruit who gave the Seminoles a nonbinding pledge nine months ago and has since visited Tennessee, Oregon and Ole Miss.
Expected to sign with Georgia are five-star offensive tackle Broderick Jones from the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, four-star center Sedrick Van Pran-Granger of New Orleans, four-star running back Daijun Edwards of Moultrie, Georgia, and three-star receiver Ladd McConkey of North Murray High School. Edwards committed to Georgia last Thursday, and the versatile McConkey revealed his decision Sunday.
Jones has been committed to the Bulldogs since April 2018, but he took an official visit last month to Arkansas, which is now under the guidance of former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman. The nation's No. 11 overall prospect had scheduled a visit to Auburn last weekend and was expected to choose between the Bulldogs and Tigers, but he reportedly canceled that trip.
Alabama is expected to add four-star receiver Javon Baker and four-star defensive tackle Jamil Burroughs, who are McEachern High teammates from the Atlanta suburb of Powder Springs. Also planning to join the Crimson Tide is Damieon George, a three-star offensive tackle from Houston.
George played at North Shore High and blocked for Zachary Evans, the nation's top running back recruit who reportedly signed with Georgia in December but then was released from his letter of intent. Evans, who was suspended twice during his senior season and used his appearance last month at the Under Armour All-American Game to apologize for his actions, is not eligible to sign on this traditional date per NCAA rules.
Evans has taken recent official visits to Ole Miss and Tennessee and could take more trips in March after the conclusion of this month's dead period, according to Callahan.
Tennessee may wind up with a fifth consecutive class ranked outside the top 10, with last year's contingent having been ranked 13th. The Vols had the N0. 4 class in 2015, when Butch Jones reeled in defensive tackles Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, defensive end Kyle Phillips, inside linebacker Darrin Kirkland, offensive tackles Drew Richmond and Jack Jones, athlete prospect Jauan Jennings, receiver Preston Williams and junior college running back Alvin Kamara.
"I don't think you always have to sign a top-10 class," Callahan said. "The thing I point to all the the time, and this is a little different because it's an ACC team, but before Clemson won the (2016) national title with Deshaun Watson, they had top-15 classes in three of the previous four years and one top-10 class mixed in there," Callahan said. "If you can stack top-15 classes on top of each other and can keep players on campus — that's something the previous staff at Tennessee did not do a good enough job of. If you can minimize the turnover and the attrition and keep getting top-15 classes, that can give you a chance.
"Signing that top-five class just gives you less margin for error, because you just theoretically have so much talent that you can overcome some deficiencies."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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