The latest developments on college football signing day (all times EST):
BIELEMA BOMB: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is never shy about sounding off on opponents. During an interview on ESPN2 he took aim at Florida — and Mississippi.
“Florida is kind of the new Ole Miss. They’re doing some things recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.”
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Another blue-chipper for Alabama. Linebacker Mack Wilson picked the Crimson Tide. Not a big surprise, though when Kirby Smart left Alabama to become head coach at Georgia there was some speculation Wilson could end up in Athens with the former Tide defensive coordinator.
Wilson joins buddy and fellow linebacker Ben Davis, who committed to the Tide earlier in the day. The two took their official visit together.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The top junior college recruit in the country picks Tennessee. Jonathan Kongbo, a defensive end who played for Arizona Western College, chose the Volunteers over USC and Florida State.
Kongbo committed to Tennessee last year, the de-committed earlier this year before ultimately signing with the Vols.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Rashan Gary, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, picks Michigan. The defensive tackle from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey made his announcement on ESPN.
Michigan was the presumptive front-runner. His old high school coach works for the Wolverines, Michigan’s star defensive back Jabrill Peppers also went to Paramus Catholic and there are several other New Jersey players heading to Michigan in this recruiting class.
Clemson was in the running, as well as a few Southeastern Conference schools.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Offensive tackle Landon Dickerson picks Florida State over Alabama and Tennessee, adding to a great day for Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles.
A little earlier, Florida State flipped defensive tackle Shavar Manuel, who had been expected to sign with the rival Gators.
Florida State and Texas were in the running for strongest performances signing days.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: After losing out to Ole Miss on highly touted receiver A.J. Brown, a Starkville native, Mississippi State got a big win on signing day by landing defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, who was considered the top prospect in the Magnolia state.
The sleepover worked. Quinn Nordin, the nation’s No. 1 kicker, signed with Michigan. Nordin, you might recall, was previously committed to Penn State but Jim Harbaugh lured him away with a sleepover.
During the Wolverines’ signing day extravaganza in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh said his bed at the Nordin’s home was one of the most comfortable he has ever slept in.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Always nice to take a player from a conference rival.
Running back Vavae Malepeai from Hawaii flipped from his Oregon commitment to go to Southern California.
The Trojans also lured Jamel Cook, an athlete who could wind up in the secondary, away from his Florida State commitment on signing day and beat Michigan for defensive end Connor Murphy.
Rashan Gary, the top-rated recruit in the country from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, was scheduled to announce where he will attend school at about 1:10 p.m ET on ESPN. He was headed to Bristol, Connecticut, by limousine, from his high school.
Gary will choose from Michigan, Clemson or an SEC school.
THE SCOTT EFFECT?
Tennessee added former Miami interim head coach Larry Scott to its staff last month, and the move apparently is already paying dividends. Tennessee signed two Florida residents who previously had been committed to Miami. The two players to make the switch were athlete Tyler Byrd of Naples and wide receiver Latrell Williams of Lake City.
Scott, who served as Miami’s interim head coach for the final six games of the 2015 season after Al Golden was fired, is Tennessee’s new tight ends coach. — Steve Megargee reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The scores keep on coming for Texas. Linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch picked the Longhorns over Notre Dame and Stanford.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver Drake Davis is heading to LSU. He picked the Tigers over Alabama.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver Nate Craig-Myers from Tampa, Florida, pulled out a mini-statue of Aubie, Auburn’s costumed Tiger mascot, to choose Auburn over North Carolina.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver A.J. Brown is one of the best prospects in the state of Mississippi and he grew up in Starkville, home of Mississippi State. But he’s going to Ole Miss.
Brown told the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi: “I was going to stay (home), but I felt like they didn’t do a good job of recruiting. I didn’t feel wanted.”
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Linebacker Dontavious Jackson from Texas is heading to Florida State. Charlie Strong and the Texas made a later push to get Jackson, but the Seminoles closed the deal on him.
It’s the third big signing day commitment for the ‘Noles who also landed defensive end Brian Burns and cornerback Carlos Becker, who was considering Ohio State.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Deontay Anderson won the day as far as spectacular commitments go. The four-star safety released a video on Bleacher Report of him skydiving, landing and opening up his jump suit to reveal and Ole Miss T-shirt.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Houston lost one of its prize commitments when wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland switched his college choice to Florida. The receiver from Houston was rated as the nation’s No. 33 prospect in a composite ranking of recruiting websites compiled by 247Sports.
The Cougars did get a signed letter of intent from defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the nation’s No. 6 overall recruit according to the 247Sports Composite. The Oliver signing was expected but it’s still quite a coup for a program outside the Power 5.
— Steve Megargee reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Linebacker Ben Davis from Alabama was the first five-star commitment of the day for the Crimson Tide. No surprise. Davis came into the day undecided but seemed to be leaning toward the Tide. Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame were in the mix.
The national champs are also adding two highly-rated players for its secondary.
Nigel Knott and Shyheim Carter both announced at their respective high schools that they would play for the Crimson Tide. Knott was a star cornerback at Germantown High School in Madison, Mississippi, and picked the Tide over Mississippi State.
Carter, a cornerback from Kentwood, Louisiana, picked the Tide over Mississippi.
— David Brandt reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Georgia has signed the son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Running back Elijah Holyfield announced Wednesday he’ll play for the Bulldogs. The 5-foot-11, 209-pounder starred at Woodward Academy in suburban Atlanta.
Now, he’s looking to make a name for himself at Georgia, which adds some much-needed running back depth following a season-ending injury sustained by Nick Chubb.
— Paul Newberry reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Parrish Cobb, a 5-foot-11, 178-pound cornerback from Waco’s La Vega High School, is staying home to play at Baylor. Cobb had verbally committed to Oklahoma before his senior season last fall, but this week changed his mind. He made it official early Wednesday morning when he signed a letter of intent with his hometown Big 12 team.
Cobb had 56 tackles and four interceptions for La Vega, which went 16-0 and won a Texas Class 4A state championship. He was also a receiver with seven touchdown catches, plus returned kicks.
— Stephen Hawkins reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Ring up another one for Charlie Strong and Texas: S/LB Brandon Jones, the Lone Star state’s defensive player of the year, picked the Longhorns over Texas A&M and Baylor.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Trayvon Mullen, a cornerback from Florida, picks Clemson over LSU and Florida State. The Tigers had three starting defensive backs, including star cornerback Mackensie Alexander, enter the NFL draft early. Mullen could step right in.
Say this about Texas coach Charlie Strong: He is a closer. The Longhorns may end up with the highest-rated class in the Big 12. The Longhorns scooped up defensive linemen Chris Daniel and Marcel Southall early Wednesday and D’Andre Christmas-Giles late Tuesday night.
The bad news: That surge might not be good enough for Texas to crack the top-10 nationally.
It’s not just Texas feeling the squeeze with more competition (i.e. the SEC) in-state for top talent. The entire Big 12 is fighting to keep the Lone Star state from being poached.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Florida and Florida State typically butt heads for top in-state recruits. Defensive end Brian Burns picked the Seminoles over the Gators.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Mecole Hardman Jr., who gets compared to USC star cornerback Adoree Jackson, committed to Georgia over Tennessee and Alabama. The first good news of the day for new Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart.
Hardman used cakes instead of baseball caps to make his pick, but then jumped through a Georgia banner to commit to the Bulldogs.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The first uncommitted blue-chipper of the day is following in his father’s footsteps. Safety Nigel Warrior, the son of former Tennessee star Dale Carter, chose the Volunteers.
The consensus top recruit in the country will have a stage to himself to announce where he will be attending college. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary from New Jersey is scheduled to disclose his pick at about 1:15 p.m. on ESPN. Not just on ESPN, but at ESPN. Gary will be at the network’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. Fans of Michigan, Clemson and some SEC schools will be locked in for the big reveal.
SIGNING ON DOTTED LINE
College football’s annual restocking of the shelves is here.
National signing day is just the start of the period in which high school prospects can sign a letter of intent that binds them to their chosen school. But for most top recruits and FBS teams, signing day is the end of the process, when all those verbal commitments become official.
This signing day begins with the nation’s No. 1 recruit uncommitted, LSU in position to be the recruiting champs and Texas trying to finish strong. And of course, Alabama is expected to clean up.
AP College Football website: collegefootball.ap.org