St. John’s running back Keilan Robinson strolled into his school’s auditorium Wednesday afternoon, head to toe in a gray Cadets tracksuit with his jacket zipped all the way up.
Robinson had committed to college football powerhouse Alabama in the summer, but had heard the recent rumors that speculated he would flip his commitment on Wednesday’s National Signing Day to Maryland and new Coach Michael Locksley, the former Alabama offensive coordinator who helped recruit Robinson to the Crimson Tide. Robinson had also heard the whispers of him flipping and signing with the University of Southern California, where he had taken an official visit last weekend.
So, with questions swirling about the four-star prospect’s decision on message boards and recruiting websites, Robinson said he decided to wait until Wednesday’s signing ceremony with the rest of his St. John’s teammates to make his college choice public. And, after waiting for his 10 other teammates to announce where they would be signing — including four-star safety Quinten Johnson (Michigan) and three-star tight end Brayden Bapst (Vanderbilt) — Robinson stood up, thanked his parents, coaches, trainers and even the “naysayers,” and unzipped his jacket to reveal an Alabama long-sleeve shirt.
Robinson, the No. 15 running back prospect in the Class of 2019 according to 247Sports, will officially be headed to Tuscaloosa, just like he had always planned.
“I did weigh each option back and forth every day and stuff like that, and I woke up yesterday and I woke up today and I was like, ‘I know where I’m headed,” said Robinson, who is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. “I cut the speculation out.”
Unlike Robinson, there was little doubt that Johnson would make things official with Michigan. The school’s academics, along with Coach Jim Harbaugh, sold Johnson early, and he decided to commit to the Wolverines in July. A versatile safety prospect, Johnson finished his senior year for the Cadets with 35 tackles, including 10 for a loss and one sack. He also recorded two interceptions, three forced fumbles, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. On offense, he caught 12 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.
“I was never really uncertain about where I wanted to go,” Johnson said. “I kind of knew from Day One, when I verbally committed that I wanted to go to Michigan. To sign and all that solidified it, but . . . I always knew in my heart it was Michigan.”
Other local recruits who signed to a Power Five school on Wednesday included Flint Hill running back Jordan Houston, a one-time Maryland commit who switched his college choice to N.C. State. Houston recorded over 5,400 rushing yards and 61 touchdown at Flint Hill, where he helped lead his team to back-to-back Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I titles. Additionally, St. Charles linebacker Kameron Blount stuck with his verbal commitment and signed with Maryland, as did Westlake defensive end Deshawn Holt.
Westfield four-star outside linebacker Eugene Asante signed with the University of North Carolina. Asante landed a handful of late Power Five offers after nearly signing with Virginia Tech during the early-signing period. He released his top schools last week and included Virginia Tech, UNC, Maryland, Rutgers and Nebraska.
Most of the Washington area’s top prospects signed their letters of intent during the second early signing period in December, including several from WCAC champion Gonzaga: Four-star defensive lineman Joseph Wete (Oklahoma), three-star tight end Justin Ball (Vanderbilt), three-star cornerback Dean Engram (Wisconsin) and three-star linebacker Hunter Stewart (Virginia). Maryland picked up a trio of recruits during the early period in Good Counsel offensive lineman Mason Lunsford, Ballou defensive back Lavonte Gater and Wise wide receiver Isaiah Hazel.
Wednesday’s biggest local surprise came in the form of a player who had not signed as of late Wednesday afternoon — DeMatha four-star safety Nick Cross, a Florida State commit. Cross had been committed to the Seminoles since September and has described the program as his “dream school” on multiple occasions. But once Cross did not commit during the early signing period, the race for other programs to try to get him to flip began.
Cross started getting recruited heavily by Penn State, Maryland, Georgia and LSU, taking an official visit to Penn State and an unofficial visit to Georgia within the past week. As Wednesday morning arrived, he was still undecided. A person with knowledge of Cross’s decision said Wednesday that he would not be signing during DeMatha’s ceremony, instead opting to continue to mull his decision, which has narrowed to Florida State, Penn State and Maryland.
Cross is the No. 1-ranked recruit out of Maryland and was viewed as perhaps the top recruit in Florida State’s signing class. Cross’s teammate in the DeMatha secondary, four-star defensive back DeMarcco Hellams, signed with Alabama during the early signing period.
Robinson said he felt similar pressures to Cross to flip to another school, like USC or Maryland. He said he really enjoyed his California visit, and the he obviously had a good connection with Locksley, but that neither alternative was enough to sway him from Alabama.
“I loved it out there [California]," Robinson said. “I loved the palm trees, I love the city, I love the weather. The offensive coordinator, the scheme, all the new things they’re bringing in, I loved all that, but at the end of the day I had to sacrifice the palm trees and all that to head down to Alabama to become the best player that I can be.”
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