Some universal truths about National Signing Day rang true again Wednesday, yet there were also novel developments. New coaches scrambled to shore up a semblance of a recruiting class, traditional land-grant power programs locked up the country’s most impressive crops of talent and young players flocked to the coaches they found relatable, particularly if they have a history of winning.
Georgia — There are dominant classes, and then there is Georgia’s Class of 2018. The Bulldogs had six five-star signees before National Signing Day then promptly added another in five-star American Heritage (Fla.) cornerback Tyson Campbell. An hour later they flipped four-star Michigan commit Otis Reese, a linebacker from in-state power Lee County (Ga.), and wrapped up a dominant class with two defensive tackles. There’s nothing not to like about Georgia’s class, and given the sheer base of talent already on campus that came one overtime defensive stop away from a national title, this could be the group that puts Kirby Smart’s program over the top.
Texas — In 2017, new Longhorns coach Tom Herman scrambled to keep any commitments he could after the departure of coach Charlie Strong. He pledged to be right at or near the top of the rankings a year later. He wasn’t lying. Texas’ 2018 recruiting class is its strongest in years and includes a group of defensive backs that some call the best in college football recruiting history. The Longhorns finished No. 3 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Composite Team Football Rankings, with a number of five and four-star prospects who could see the field as freshmen.
Florida State — If coffee is for closers, someone needs to get Seminoles coach Willie Taggart an extra large double red eye stat. Taggart arrived in Tallahassee in December following the departure of longtime coach Jimbo Fisher and landed a signature signing in Jaiden Woodbey. He scrambled to shore up the recruits that Fisher left behind, got most to sign during the Early Signing Period, then added two West Coast four-star signees on National Signing Day in athlete Tre-Shaun Harrison and tight end Camren McDonald. Now that is hustling. Granted, it was only worth the number 11 overall class in the USA TODAY Composite Team Rankings, but it bodes very well for the Seminoles’ future, and even their present with the addition of talents like Woodbey.
Princeton — Sometimes a class is built around a single player and that’s enough. For the Ivy League Princeton Tigers, the signing of California-native four-star quarterback Brevin White is a full-on program builder. The four-star quarterback was also wanted by the likes of national champion Alabama, but chose the New Jersey academic powerhouse because of what it would provide in the classroom. In addition to White, the Tigers added seven three-star prospects from around the country to finish with the top-rated class in Division I FCS. That’s some achievement for a program that finished 2017 5-5 and just 2-5 in the Ivy League.
Ohio State — While the Buckeyes were burned by Clemson on the first day of the Early Signing Period when top-ranked in-state offensive tackle Jackson Carman chose the Tigers (and said Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was too old), Ohio State struck back on National Signing Day with the commitment of new top-ranked offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, who chose the Buckeyes in front of archrival Michigan and a host of other power programs. In the end, the Buckeyes’ class also includes the top player at center and defensive tackle as well as the No. 2 running back, tight end, safety and inside linebacker, per 247Sports. That’s some group for a program that reloads and sends a crew to the NFL Draft each and every year.
Michigan — It’s hard to call any top-25 class a loser, but by Michigan’s standards under Jim Harbaugh this group didn’t bring the same luster. The Wolverines finished at number 20 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Composite Team Rankings, but even that took a hit when longtime commit Otis Reese flipped his commitment and signed with Georgia on National Signing Day. Reese, a Georgia native, was the only member of the top-100 players in 247 Sports’ Top247 committed to the Wolverines, so his defection struck a stark contrast to just two years ago, when Harbaugh landed the nation’s top-overall prospect and the school’s class finished ranked No. 5.
Alabama — Alabama a loser? Believe it. The Crimson Tide had an uncharacteristically slow start to their 2018 recruiting class and added the nation’s top-ranked cornerback in American Heritage star Patrick Surtain Jr., but their National Signing Day loss of linebacker Quay Walker to rival Georgia hurt. That setback and missing on nearly all their other top targets on Wednesday kept Alabama from finishing with a top-three recruiting class in most recruiting services’ rankings for a 10th season in a row. In fact, they fell all the way down to No. 9 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Composite Team Rankings. As is always the case, it’s about what those players do when they reach campus, not what they did in high school, so there’s nothing for Crimson Tide fans to panic about … yet.
Arizona State — Let’s be frank: No one expected the Sun Devils to sign a top-10 or even top-25 class, particularly with a new coaching staff comprised of a former NFL coach acting as a program CEO still acclimating himself to college football. Still, for Arizona State to finish ranked 76th — seventy-sixth!! — by 247 Sports has to be incredibly concerning for everyone in the desert. Arizona State signed no four-star recruits whatsoever and finished with a 16-player group ranked below the likes of Toledo, Florida International, Tulane and Colorado State. And yes, the Sun Devils finished with the bottom class in the Pac-12, as if there was much doubt on that before Wednesday. Another concern? This quote:
Kansas State — Bill Snyder has had an epic coaching career in the little apple, but it’s not really sufficient to call him long in the tooth anymore. First we need to make sure the 78-year-old still has teeth. He certainly doesn’t have as much touch with recruits anymore, with the once-powerful and perennial bowl-bound Wildcats finishing at No. 66 in the 247 Sports class recruiting rankings. Kansas State added zero four or five-star prospects among their 21 signees (one was a two-star quarterback) and had more players ranked outside the nation’s top 1000 recruits than inside it. The Wildcats have never needed primo talent to succeed under Snyder, but they’ve generally had more than this to work with, which may be a testament to teenagers’ concerns about having to read the emotional reactions of an impending octogenarian.
Florida Atlantic — Wither Lane Kiffin? Coming off an 11-3 year, Kiffin’s program has been a trendy pick to compete for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game in 2018. If so, he’s going to have to do a lot more with less. The Owls’ recruiting class includes just 14 members, none of them ranked with more than three-stars. At No. 92 in the 247 Sports class rankings, the class failing to bring in any of the top-150 players in Florida and got just one top-150 player from the group of the state of Georgia. The group is heavy on junior college additions who may be able to step up to the level of competition more seamlessly, but it hardly feels like a group that will help FAU step up to genuinely compete against the likes of Oklahoma, UCF or Air Force (well, maybe Air Force, but you get the point).