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USC recruiting class suffers yet another late defection, this time to Washington

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After losing 5-star Bru McCoy to Texas, USC’s recruiting class — already its worst of this century — has suffered yet another late defection. This one came in a more conventional fashion, though at a less conventional time.

4-star wide receiver Puka Nacua on Sunday night announced he would renege on his commitment to USC in order to sign with Washington. Unlike 4-star wideout Koy Moore, Nacua is a member of the Class of 2019, allowing Clay Helton and company no time to change Nacua’s mind. He waited five extra days past Wednesday’s traditional Signing Day in order to make up his mind once and for all.

“Every school is a great opportunity to pursue football and continue my education, but I felt like University of Washington is the best fit for me,” Nacua said on KSL-TV on Sunday night. “I’m excited to head up to Seattle.”

The Orem, Utah, native boosts what is already viewed as the best recruiting class in Washington history. The 23-man group includes 15 4-stars and ranks No. 16 in the 247Sports Composite rankings. With the loss of Nacua, USC’s 2019 class includes two more players than Washington’s, but eight fewer 4-stars. The Trojans will finish the 2019 cycle at No. 20 nationally — again, the worst in recruiting’s modern era for the Men of Troy.

There is some good news though: this stone has finally sunk to the bottom of the creek. Probably.

Dabo Swinney: Clemson may have mistakenly given players banned substances

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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says there are any number of possible ways for three of his football players to have consumed banned substances that led to their suspension just before the College Football Playoff last December. Although Swinney still believes his players may be vindicated, he is not ruling out the possibility those banned substances may have come from within the Clemson program by mistake.

“Oh yeah, I mean, there’s a chance that it could come from anything,” Swinney said in a story published by The Post and Courier. “They’re going to test everything and look at everything. And that’s the problem. As you really look at this stuff, it could be a contaminant that came from anything, that was something that was cleared and not a problem, and all of a sudden, it becomes there was something.”

It is true that the regulations and banned substances can sometimes be a tad complicated, and there are times when one ingredient slips through the cracks when a player consumes a substance. It is, therefore, possible a substance provided through the university may have been one that was overlooked in the process, although that would lead to some more questions about those responsible for handing out the drugs to players on the university payroll if that is the case.

This latest comment from Swinney doesn’t stray too far from his previous comment on the situation. Last December, when it was announced defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella and tight end Braden Galloway had failed a drug test, Swinney came to the defense of his players and suggested they had no idea how they could have failed their respective drug tests.

“They have no clue how it got in their system. This could have come from hair products, cream, protein, a product you buy online and you think nothing is wrong with it. It could be something in a drink,” Swinney said at the time. “40 or so athletes over the last year or so have had to deal with same thing, and several were vindicated.”

The players failed a drug test for ostarine and additional samples were not clean enough to reinstate the players for the semifinal game against Notre Dame or the national championship game against Alabama. While Lawrence is off to the NFL, Giella and Galloway remain on the team while the appeals process continues.

Clemson’s projected starting DTs to be sidelined for spring

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With Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins off to the NFL, Clemson knew it would need to replace a pair of All-Americans along the interior of its defensive line.  The favorites to be their replacements, though, will be forced to delay staking an official claim to the spots.

Wednesday, Dabo Swinney revealed that Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams will be sidelined for the whole of spring practice after they each underwent surgery recently.  The former had a slight tear in a pectoral muscle that required surgery, while the latter had a screw surgically implanted in one of his legs to repair unspecified damage.

According to the head coach, Williams suffered his injury playing basketball last month.

Both players are expected to be 100-percent healthy for the start of summer camp.

“The good news is both those guys got a ton of experience this year and really learned a lot,” Swinney said according to TigerNet.com. “And obviously had a great model in front of them with those guys as to what we got to do. I think they will provide great leadership. So that is the good news. They will be alright.”

Pinckney, a rising redshirt junior, played in 15 games during the Tigers’ run to their second national championship in three years, totaling 4.5 tackles for loss as part of the team’s line rotation.  A rising redshirt sophomore, Williams was credited with three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 12 games.

Georgia flips five-star WR George Pickens from Auburn

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And now we have our first five-star flip of National Signing Day 2019, and it not surprisingly involves a pair of teams from the SEC.

In July of last year, George Pickens announced his verbal commitment to Auburn and had seemed like a fairly solid get for Gus Malzahn‘s program.  The star wide receiver’s final visit, an unofficial one, came to The Plains on Feb. 3.

Three days later, however, the Alabama high schooler stunned many recruiting observers by announcing his commitment to Georgia.

“Every year, we usually know what’s going to happen, but this is one came a little bit out of left field,” 247Sports.com Director of Scouting Barton Simmons said. “High-profile kid commits to a team that we weren’t necessarily monitoring significantly as a program that was going to steal him. What a pick up for Georgia.”

Pickens is easily the highest-rated flip of signing day, ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama and the No. 4 receiver in the country as well as being slotted as the No. 24 prospect overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. The flip also means that UGA has pulled in the top two prospects from the state of Alabama.

UPDATED 11:29 a.m. ET: The Georgia football program has subsequently confirmed they have received Pickens’ signed National Letter of Intent.

From undecided recruits and potential flips, still some prizes to be won on National Signing Day this week

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The confetti in Atlanta has just been swept off the floor in Atlanta following the Super Bowl, but we are a little more than 36 hours away from the next big day on football’s calendar. That’s right, National Signing Day takes place this Wednesday, Feb. 6 as college football’s recruiting process looks to put the final pieces of puzzles in place for the Class of 2019. For the second straight year, an early signing period on the recruiting calendar has taken much of the steam out of the fun of signing day, but there are still some good players available as programs look to polish off their recruiting efforts on a high note this week.

According to a top 100 ranking of the Class of 2019, just seven players are classified as undecided. That includes five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright of Huntington, West Virginia. Tennessee appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for his commitment of the nation’s No. 16 player overall, although West Virginia is in the mix as expected. Mack Brown and North Carolina are also apparently high on Wright’s radar, with Penn State and Georgia likely fading. It’s worth noting the Vols got the last official visit on the schedule over the weekend, giving the Vols the last chance to make their sales pitch on campus.

Other notable undecided players include four-star athlete Jerrion Ealy of Mississippi (Clemson, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State all had official visits recently), four-star cornerback Kaiir Elam of Florida (expected to be a battle between Florida and Georgia), and four-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher of Louisiana (LSU is probably the favorite ahead of Alabama and Ole Miss).

Five more players on the board are labeled as verbal commitments, although you never know if one of those players could potentially flip. Four-star safety Nick Cross is currently verbally committed to Florida State, but Rivals notes a few programs have been busy trying to lure him away from heading to Tallahassee. The DeMatha product has been getting some heavy attention from within the state by the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland has some competition just north of the Mason-Dixon Line from Penn State, with the Nittany Lions getting a late official visit on the books and seemingly the most likely program to potentially get Cross to flip his commitment from Florida State. Georgia is also in hot pursuit, and the Bulldogs are not to be overlooked in this recruiting battle as it comes down the final stretch.

Another Florida State verbal commit, four-star defensive end Quashon Fuller, is also on flip-watch according to Rivals. Alabama and Florida are thought to be in the running before Fuller signs his letter of intent. Alabama is always a threat to snatch a talented recruit away from a school, and Dan Mullen and Florida turned in a solid recruiting effort within the state of Florida. Adding one more in-state recruit would bode well for the Gators, if there is any second-guessing from the Florida State commit.

Perhaps the most notable verbal commitment to watch for a potential flip could be Auburn commit George Pickens. The five-star wide receiver and the No. 7 recruit in the nation has been committed to the Tigers for a while but a late visit to Tennessee appears to be throwing some curveballs in the final days before signing day. Once again, Georgia is also thought to be in the mix as well. Keeping Pickens, a Hoover, Alabama recruit, in the pack for the Tigers would be a significant recruiting victory for Gus Malzahn and company.

Will we see any surprises? That remains to be seen. With many programs pretty much having their recruiting classes in good order after the early signing period in January, there could be a pretty light day of recruiting headlines coming our way this week. But even though the traditional signing day may have lost a bit of the shine it once had, that doesn’t mean it is any less important. There are some good football players still looking to bring an end to their recruiting process, and many programs would love to be able to add some of these players to their recruiting class.