SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg tells us which players to watch who could soon hear their names called at the NFL Draft.
Good news — no, great news. Your team’s head coach believes this year’s signing class is chock full of difference-making talent, with a steady mix of plug-and-play athletes and developmental prospects set to contribute once they acclimate themselves to the college game. That quarterback your team signed? Well, he’s a future star. Likewise with the rest of the future student-athletes, including that two-star recruit — he’s a diamond in the rough.
Hope springs eternal during the early signing period. Instituted a year ago in the Bowl Subdivision, this change now gives a prospective recruit a second window to sign his letter of intent, joining the traditional signing day in early February. A year ago, nearly 75 percent of prospects signed in the early period.
Some big-name recruits will wait until February to announce their decisions. However, most classes will essentially be complete by the end of this week.
So it’s time to break it down: Here are the winners and losers of the early signing period. (Fax machine not included.)
The Crimson Tide pulled in another top-ranked recruiting class, to the surprise of absolutely no one, and in fact may have inked one of the most impressive classes of the Nick Saban era. That’s saying something, obviously. Alabama’s biggest win of the day came in Florida running back Trey Sanders, the nation’s top recruit at the position, who chose the Tide over Georgia, Florida, Texas and Florida State.
The Southeastern Conference
Another trend that shows no sign of stopping: SEC dominance on signing day. As of Wednesday afterenoon, teams from the SEC occupied the top four spots in the national team rankings compiled by 247Sports.com — Alabama, followed by Georgia, then Texas A&M, then LSU. The Aggies 24-player class includes a pair of five-star signings and bodes well for the program’s rise up the conference standings under Jimbo Fisher. LSU had a huge win in capturing local product Derek Stingley, the top-ranked cornerback in this class.
Oregon never signed a class like this even when it ruled the Pac-12 under Chip Kelly. The Ducks’ class ranks fifth nationally, per 247Sports.com, and is headlined by five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Coach Mario Cristobal is bringing in the top-rated recruiting class in program history.
Jim Harbaugh pulled off perhaps signing day’s biggest surprise when he convinced five-star Daxton Hill to recommit to the Wolverines after he gave his verbal commitment to Alabama. To flip once and then back again is extremely rare; the assumption was that Hill would remain part of Alabama’s class while Michigan dipped deeper into its Rolodex to find a replacement. Instead, Hill is the jewel of Harbaugh’s class and one of the top signings in the Big Ten.
Four-star quarterback Dylan Morris may be the biggest name in Washington’s recruiting class, but the Huskies’ signing haul is defined by an outstanding crop of defensive linemen. The best of the bunch is four-star Faatui Tuitele out of Honolulu, but he’s joined by another trio of four-star linemen set to keep UW atop the Pac-12.
It wasn’t a perfect day for the Buckeyes and new head coach Ryan Day, who lost out on a pair of four-star prospects on signing day. But one of those four-star losses might be telling: Oak Park (Mich.) quarterback Dwan Mathis’ flip to Georgia may foreshadow a quarterback swap, as former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields might be destined for Ohio State as Dwayne Haskins’ successor under center. And in landing five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, the state’s top recruit, Day showed that the Buckeyes’ smashing recruiting success might not stumble in the transition from Urban Meyer.
Heading into the early signing period, Miami’s class was notable more for the flurry of prospects who backed out of their verbal commitments. It’s fair to call a class currently ranked outside the top 25 by 247Sports.com a disappointment. But there’s still time for the Hurricanes to salvage this class by the traditional signing day, even if most of the top prospects are already off the board.
The Bruins are never going to be a recruiting powerhouse under Chip Kelly, who eschews player rankings and top 100 lists in favor of the sort of prospects who fit his very specific scheme. Still, it’s typically in a new coach’s first full recruiting class that he sells the promise of the future and, most importantly, the potential for early playing time. It was fair to expect more than a class currently ranked outside the top 50 nationally.
It’s never been easy for new hires to hit the ground running in recruiting, especially since the addition of the early signing period. Cases in point: Louisville and new coach Scott Satterfield inked just four prospects on Wednesday, while Les Miles’ class at Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 Conference and Maryland coach Mike Locksley’s haul currently sits last in the Big Ten. This will undoubtedly change in the case of Locksley, who will make Maryland a major destination. That recruits can sign at this point in December still puts these new hires in a tough bind.