Is NIL impacting prep NLI ? You Betchya — Details on Ohio State's Anxious Day

Chaminade Madonna wide receiver and 5-star Ohio State commit Jeremiah Smith competed in the Class 1M state championship game on Dec. 7, 2023 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Chaminade Madonna wide receiver and 5-star Ohio State commit Jeremiah Smith competed in the Class 1M state championship game on Dec. 7, 2023 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.

Ohio State was kept in a state of angst until 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, the first of a three-day early-signing window for high school recruits. That's when the Buckeyes finally received official word that wide receiver Jeremiah Smith, the Hall of Football's No. 1-rated prep recruit, signed his National Letter of Intent (NLI).

Smith reportedly announced at 12:30 p.m. ET that he was staying with the Buckeyes after Miami pushed hard to flip him. On3 Director of Recruiting Chad Simmons said that Miami remained in contact with Smith throughout the rest of the day, and the announcement from Ohio State that Smith had signed his National Letter of Intent did not come until 10 p.m. ET.

See Hall of Football / updated rankings and commits

As of 3 p.m. ET, there were reports that Ohio State and Miami were both still aggressively pursuing Smith and that the Hurricanes, a team local to his Chaminade-Modonna Prep school in Hollywood, Fla., seemed to be gaining confidence.

Earlier Wednesday, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was in a press conference when he was told that Smith had signed. Day appeared physically and emotionally relieved and even buckled his knees, feigning imminent collapse. That was greeted with a laugh at the time, but the atmosphere became more serious with news of Miami putting on a full-court press. and Hall of Football sources indicate the increased injection of NIL money into the process has intensified what already is an annually chaotic recruiting scene.

Money. Imagine that. What a shock.

Nebraska coach Matt Rhule said this week that "a good quarterback in the portal costs $1 million to...$2 million a year right now." He added later that really top prep recruits "are not that far behind."

As of 8 p.m. ET,  ten of Hall of Football/'s top 100-rated players for the 2024 class flipped this week, including Buford (Ga.) standoout quarterback Dylan Raiola (No. 7 overall, No. 2 QB), who jumped again, this time on Monday (Dec. 18) from Georgia to Nebraska, which sort of made sense all along since his father was a star lineman there and his uncle is the current offensive line coach.

Interestingly, Georgia was on the receiving end of a flip Wednesday by Raiola's high school teammate, safety KJ Bolden, who previously committed to Florida State in August.

There are always explanations for such moves, including preferred coaches, competition for a position or, as in Raiola's case, good old nepotism. 

But whenever somebody says it's not about the money, you can bet some of yours that it damned well is.

So the holdups and changes for NLI signings can often be linked to NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness).

One interesting non-signing was that of 6-5, 295 OT Jordan Seaton, who has been a Colorado commit since Dec. 17. Buffs quarterback Shedeur (Son of Prime) Sanders could use a big blocker after being sacked a nation-leading 52 times this season. In an interview Wednesday, the Washington, D.C. native Seaton said, "I'm still a Buff," although he was still taking calls and did not sign an NLI. He has been recruited by Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Ohio State and Oregon.

“There has been a lot of coaches calling,” Seaton said. “Recently, Dylan Raiola and Nebraska has been my most recent DM.”

At the end of the first day of early signing, Georgia was sitting pretty with 13 recruits among the Hall of Football's top 366, including four of the top 24 and eight of the top 105.  

Fear of committment — players who flipped

Here is a peek at the chaos from Wednesday, starting with nine players within Hall of Football's Top 98 who changed their commitments, and a few others:

—As mentioned, five-star safety KJ Bolden, from Buford (Ga.) switched to Georgia from Florida State. Bolden (No. 10 overall) posted his decision on social media. He had been committed to the Seminoles since Aug. 5.

—Five-star DL Armondo Blount (No. 17 overall) showed his agility with a double flip, sticking the landing in Miami, his original commit school. He flipped his commitment to Florida State on October 22, when he reclassified to the 2024 class. But Miami rallied to get him back.

—Linebacker Adarius Hayes (No. 58 overall), from Largo (Fla.), signed with Miami after first commiting to Florida in January. 

—Wide receiver Jeremiah McClellan (No. 69 overall) flipped from Ohio State to Oregon, which means he will play against OSU in the Big Ten, right? McClellan, a 6-0, 195-pound prospect from Christian Brothers High School (Mo.) had been committed to the Buckeyes since Aug. 13. 

-—Oregon also flipped four star receiver Ryan Pellum (No. 94) who had been on USC's commit list since June 26. This was a tough loss for the Trojans as the Ducks stole him from neighboring Long Beach Millikan.

—Four-star running back Kevin Riley (No. 92 overall) changed from Miami to Alabama Wednesday, which shouldn't be too surprising since he is from Tuscaloosa County, and Miami went and stole four-star running back Jordan Lyle (No. 120 overall) from Ohio State on Monday. Riley's visit to Alabama  last weekend helped seal the deal.

—Four-star DL Amaris Williams (No. 98 overall) flipped his commitment from Florida to Auburn. His recruitment was hotly contested down the stretch, with both the Tigers and Ohio State making pushes to flip him away from the Gators. Williams had been committed to Florida since June 17.

—Four-star ATH (Athlete) Aeryn Hamption (No. 203 overall) flipped from Texas to Alabama. The Daingerfield (Texas) standout had been committed to Texas since July. Hampton initially chose the Longhorns over Alabama in a recruiting battle that was close the whole way. Then Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban made an in-home visit to Hampton earlier this month. Done.

—Four-star EDGE Armontrae Bradford (Unranked in HOF 386) signed an NLI with Georgia Tech. The Statesboro (Ga.) player originally committed to Colorado on Oct. 9. On3 ranks Bradford No. 282 overall and as their No. 30 EDGE. 

Making it official — for now anyway 

Plenty of players signed Wednesday with the team to which they committed, such as: 

—Five-star EDGE//DL Eddrick Houston (No. 18 overall, No. 4 DL) helped coach Day's nerves by signing with Ohio State. The 6-4, 275-pound Houston committed to OSU on Aug. 22, choosing the Buckeyes over USC and Clemson. Alabama made a heavy push for the elite recruit down the stretch, but Houston stuck to his original pledge and is headed to Columbus.

“The culture that they have set in their program,” Houston told On3 upon his commitment. “Also, just knowing that they can develop me on and off the field and make me the greatest I can be. Larry Johnson is an amazing coach that has shown multiple times that he can develop people into someone who can go to the next level.” 

Oh, and there is this. Houston has an On3 NIL valuation of $238K, so read the above quotes with that in mind.

—Five-star WR Mylan Graham (No. 19 overall, No. 5 WR) also signed with Ohio State. The New Haven (Ind.) five-star wide receiver is 185 pounds and a bit over six feet tall. He chose OSU in April over Michigan, Notre Dame and more than 20 others. He will need to bulk up on Buckeye chow and hit the weight room. Per his On3 scouting report: "He is already good at off winning off the line of scrimmage without being touched. Some muscle will make him even better. Turned in a productive junior season, catching 48 passes for 1,149 yards and 13 scores, racking up 23.9 yards per catch. One of the most technically sound prospects at the position. Projects as a Z-type or X-receiver at the next level and beyond."

—Five-star WR Ryan Wingo (No. 20 overall, No. 6 WR), from St. Louis University (Mo.) signed his NLI with Texas. Missouri made a late push to flip Wingo and keep him home, but Wingo sticks with the Longhorns.

—Five-star-plus QB DJ Lagway (No. 21 overall, No. 3 QB) announced on national television that he is signing with the Florida Gators. Lagway committed to Florida in December of 2022. USC and Texas A&M remained in communication with Lagway down the stretch, but it remained all Gators for the elite signal-caller. “I definitely sent it in, I just can’t wait to be a Gator,” Lagway said on ESPN. “I can’t wait to be coached by Coach Billy Napier, so I’m excited.”

—Four-star DL Ernest Willor Jr.  (No 112 overall, No. 16 DL), a Baltimore (Md.) Concordia Prep, signed with Wisconsin, choosing the Badgers over Ohio State, Maryland, Miami, Virginia Tech and others. Willor took an official visit to Madison in early December.


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