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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.

Police investigating death of FCS player as suicide

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Sadly, there’s more tragic news involving a college football player on which to report.

According to multiple media outlets, University of Montana Grizzly football player Andrew Harris was found dead at his residence in Missoula Tuesday.  The Missoulian writes that “police are investigating the scene as a suicide.”

Harris was just 22 years old.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Andrew’s family and friends at this difficult time,” university president Seth Bodnar said in a statement sent out to the Missoulian. “The entire UM family mourns his loss and our hearts go out to all who knew him.”

A redshirt junior, Harris was a defensive lineman who played in 11 games during his time with the Griz.  Our thoughts, prayers and condolences going out to all of those impacted by Harris’ passing.

And for those in the reading audience: The phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.  Please, pick up the phone and call that number if you ever get to the point where you feel like you just can’t go on.  Or call somebody, anybody.

Houston adding pair of P5 safeties via transfers

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New Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen is busy compiling his first football roster with the Cougars. Two new additions to the roster will come from a pair of power conference programs with the additions of safeties Thabo Mwaniki and Jordan Moore.

According to a report from Tulsa World, Mwaniki is heading to Houston after making his decision to leave Oklahoma State last November. After starting the first four games for the Cowboys, Mwaniki was reduced to a backup role in the Cowboys defense.

Moore, who previously played at Texas A&M, announced his decision to transfer to Houston on Sunday night with an image on his Twitter account. The image of Moore in a Houston football uniform included the message “New chapter,” thus noting he was ready to start with a clean slate with the Cougars. Moore announced his decision to transfer from the Aggies just before Christmas.

Moore will be required to sit out the 2019 season and will be eligible to play again beginning in 2020 due to NCAA transfer rules. However, because he only appeared in four games for Texas A&M in 2018, he can preserve a year of eligibility under the NCAA’s redshirt rule. That would make him a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

Mwaniki still has a redshirt option to use as well. Mwaniki appeared in seven games for Oklahoma State last season so he would have to use his redshirt year for the 2019 season, which he would have to sit out anyway due to NCAA transfer rules. Mwaniki will have two years of eligibility to use at Houston.

Jauan Jennings to return to Tennessee for one more year

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The wild ride that’s been Jauan Jennings‘ collegiate playing career will include one more go ’round on Rocky Top.

The Tennessee wide receiver announced on Instagram that he will be returning to the Volunteers for a fifth season. Jennings had been considering making himself available for the April NFL draft before pulling the trigger on a return.

In November of 2017, Jennings went off on a profanity-laced social-media tirade aimed at the coaching staff. The day after, he was dismissed by interim head coach Brady Hoke, who made the decision in concert with then-athletic director John Currie.

Jennings subsequently met with head coach Jeremy Pruitt and athletic director Phillip Fulmer about a return; in March of last year, after Jennings pronounced that he would be playing “one last season” for the Vols, Pruitt confirmed the receiver was back on the football team.

This past season, Jennings tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three; second in receptions with 30; and third in receiving yards with 438.

Prior to the off-field issue that led to his dismissal, Jennings suffered what turned out to be a season-ending wrist injury that limited him to three catches for 17 yards in just one game. That injury led to an NCAA waiver that gave Jennings his fifth season of eligibility.

Jennings, who originally came to the Vols as a quarterback, was second on the team in 2016 with 580 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His 40 receptions were tied for second on the team as well.