PrepZone Preview: National Signing Day
PrepZone breaks down the best of the ...
Wednesday promises to be one of the biggest days in the history of Immokalee High School sports, yet no one knows exactly what to expect.
The eyes of the college football world will be on the tiny rural high school because of one player. Fans nationwide are anxious for the Indians' Mackensie Alexander to sign his scholarship offer, hoping the name at the top of the National Letter of Intent belongs to their favorite team.
Where Alexander will sign is anyone's guess. He and twin brother Mackenro, who also will sign a Division I scholarship offer Wednesday, have give few specifics about their recruitment as the biggest college coaches in the country compete for their services.
Those closest to Mackensie Alexander say he's a private, introverted person who shies away from attention. Other recruiting experts say the Immokalee star has been purposely secretive to stay in the limelight.
What's for sure is, as National Signing Day approaches, Alexander remains as mysterious as ever.
A HUMBLE STAR
Mackensie Alexander was ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Class of 2013 by ESPN's national rankings in April. Since then the 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback has fielded interest from the best college football programs in the country — at least 30 schools from Bowl Championship Series have offered scholarships.
Throughout his highly-publicized recruitment, Alexander hasn't revealed much. At times he's been reluctant to even say what schools he's visited or which ones have offered.
"Mackensie is very introverted," said Jerrod Ackley, Immokalee's head coach the past three years before resigning in January. "When he doesn't want to talk to the media, that's really an extension of his personality. He doesn't want to be part of the media circus."
The Alexander brothers did not return calls to their cellphones seeking comment for this story. Through Immokalee athletic director Tony Allen they declined an interview request.
Anyone who watched Alexander play at Immokalee the past two seasons might be surprised to see him decline interviews. The cornerback certainly isn't shy on Friday nights. It's not rare to see Alexander engaged in heated discussions with opposing wide receivers or demonstratively waving his arms to signal an incompletion after breaking up a pass.
"He talks a lot on the field, but that's about the only place," Ackley said. "Off the field he's a completely different person."
Toward the end of his senior season, as the recruiting pressure mounted, Alexander declined interview requests with the Daily News. When recruiting websites were able to pin him down, Alexander didn't say much.
In an interview with recruiting site Rivals after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, in which Alexander started for the East in early January, the Immokalee star wouldn't name his top schools or even where he planned to visit in coming weeks.
"He's definitely made things interesting," ESPN recruiting analyst Craig Haubert said. "A lot of times defensive backs are known for being boisterous and having flair. (Alexander) knows how to keep things quiet.
"His recruitment has been tough to read. A week out from Signing Day, it's as tough to read as ever."
Rivals national analyst Mike Farrell agreed.
"I can see a circus surrounding Mackensie Alexander somehow," he said in a roundtable on the recruiting website. "He's just hard to read and could decide not to sign that day at all."
PLAYING THE GAME
Whether he wants the attention or not, Alexander has increased the buzz around him by staying quiet. Speculation as to where he will sign has continued to build the longer he stays uncommitted.
Alexander is the second-highest undeclared player in the ESPN 150 list of the country's top recruits. No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Georgia, also has yet to make his decision.
"Alexander is smart," said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. "He's the only (uncommitted) guy left in the area. Now he's got all the publicity. It's gamesmanship. It's kind of a show business. I don't know that there's anything wrong with it."
Lemming has been rating high school football players for 34 years. As National Signing Day has turned an all-day national event covered by the likes of ESPN and CBS, he's seen players take advantage of the exposure.
"The kids love the limelight, loves the attention," said Lemming, who has Alexander rated as the fifth-best cornerback in the country. "More power to him. I'm pretty sure he knows where he wants to go. He's just waiting for the right time to announce it."
The right time will be Wednesday. Immokalee athletic director Tony Allen said both Alexander brothers will announce their college choices at a 10 a.m. ceremony in the school's auditorium.
Allen said there could be some national media in attendance, but he didn't know for sure as of late last week.
As quiet as he can be, Alexander might have some of the flashiness made famous by another top-rated Southwest Florida defensive back — North Fort Myers graduate and former NFL star Deion "Prime Time" Sanders.
At times Alexander has seemed like a quiet, humble young man — saying "No thank you" to politely decline an interview after being selected for the All-American Bowl. Other times he's leaned closer to the Neon Deion prima donna mold — holding his hand up to wave off reporters while repeating "No interviews, no interviews" after practice during the state playoffs.
THE OTHER BROTHER
Mackenro Alexander is Mackensie's identical twin, but that might be where the similarities end.
"They're very close in a lot of ways," Ackley said of the brothers. "They care a great deal for each other and watch out for each other. They feel each other's emotions and pains.
"That said, they're very, very independent as well. They have different personalities. Mackenro is a lot more outgoing, more socially oriented."
Mackenro's type-A personality might have developed growing up when he was the star of the family. An inch taller and 15 pounds heavier than his brother, Mackenro played varsity as a freshman while Mackensie was on junior varsity.
"Mackenro excelled more until their sophomore year," Ackley said. "Then Mackensie exploded on the national recruiting scene and became a household name. All the sudden Mackenro was the other brother. I don't think anyone could foresee how the future played out when they were younger."
Mackensie Alexander surprised many recruiting writers a few weeks ago when he said he would only play college football with his brother. Last week the Alexanders changed their mind and said they are no longer a package deal.
Even if the twins end up at the same school, experts said Mackenro isn't just riding Mackensie's coattails. As a linebacker this past year, Mackenro set the Immokalee single-season record for tackles and was named the Daily News Defensive Player of the Year.
"He's a good player in his own right," ESPN's Haubert said. "He's a legit three-star prospect. He'd still get (BCS) offers on his own even without Mackensie."
He's also not shy. In a Jan. 24 interview with Tiger Illustrated, Rivals.com's Clemson website, Mackenro called out teams who were recruiting him just to get to Mackensie and even took a few unintended shots at his brother.
"I feel I'm better than my brother," Mackenro said. "He shuts down half of the field, but I make more plays. I feel I'm the best defensive player on my team. He's an All-American, but I'm the best player."
In three days the recruiting process finally will be over, and the Alexanders can go back to being high school students the next few months. However, the final days might be the most stressful of the past two years.
A who's who of college football coaches has been through Immokalee in the past week.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Clemson's Dabo Swinney, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville all have been in a tiny town they probably couldn't have found on a map this time last year.
"It's a little hectic around campus," Allen said, "but (the Alexanders) are handling it gracefully."
The process began when Mackensie committed to Tennessee in January 2012, just days after impressing at the U.S. Army National Combine, only to decommit two months later. Mackenro said he committed to Florida State in July, but the Seminoles never accepted the commitment.
Mackensie Alexander has taken official visits to Texas A&M, Clemson, Mississippi State and Auburn in that order. Mackenro Alexander went with his brother to Mississippi State, while also visiting Kentucky and West Virginia, and independently going to Auburn.
The brothers' recruitment appears to be as wide open as ever.
"I think (Mackensie will pick) Auburn, but I'm just guessing," Lemming of CBS said. "They've got a new staff and there's a lot of pressure to land guys like Alexander. They'll do whatever it takes to get him."
ESPN's Haubert agreed, but said it could depend on where the Alexanders ended up this weekend, the final one before Signing Day.
"I think Clemson and Auburn are potentially in position to have big Signing Days," Haubert said. "Today I'm leaning toward Auburn, but talk to me in two days and I could change my answer."
As mysterious as the twins have been through recruitment, their former coach wouldn't even offer a guess as to where the Indians stars will land.
"No clue," Ackley said. "They both change their minds every day of the week. Nothing would surprise me."