National Signing Day is one of the toughest sporting events to follow. Imagine trying to follow the NFL draft, but there are over 350 teams and the picks are all coming simultaneously. But as much as it tends to slip under the radar, dynasties are created in the recruiting process, which ramps up in the period between NSD and the US Army All-America Bowl in early January. Breaking down the whole process would frankly take more time than I’m willing to put in to write, and you’re willing to put in to read, so here are three schools who are in good shape heading into NSD, and three who will be playing catch-up.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Clemson: ESPN somehow has Clemson ranked as the 9th best class in the nation, despite signing THREE top FIVE recruits. Clemson has 14 commits so far in total, which is by far the fewest in the top 10, but thus far Penn State is the only other school that has multiple signees in the top 10 (players 7 & 8). Clemson’s top additions include defensive ends Xavier Thomas (3) and K.J. Henry (5). Both are excellent pass rushers, and play on opposite sides of the line. Basically, Clemson will have one of if not the most dominant pass rush in college football for 2-3 years at some point in the near future. They also added the 2nd ranked recruit in the nation, pocket quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Although he is listed as a pocket passer, the 6’6 Lawrence has some speed and agility to his game, and will be a perfect fit in the Tiger’s spread offense.
Georgia: Georgia was able to make their way into this year’s College Football Playoff despite having inconsistencies at the quarterback position all season. While Jacob Eason still has at least another year on campus, the Dawgs will now have a second option if he can’t live up to the hype, after signing the top player in the ESPN 300, quarterback Justin Fields. This marks the second time in three years that Georgia has landed the top QB recruit, after signing Eason back in 2016. Fields will have some help on offense heading to campus with him, after Georgia added running back Zamir White (15th) and tackle Cade Mays (19th).
Texas: Texas is back, folks? The Longhorns are within reach of their first top-5 class since 2012, currently ranked third by ESPN. Tom Herman has managed to balance both quality and quantity; even though he has yet to sign a 5-star player (of which there are only 14 in this class), the ‘Horns have added 16 4-star recruits, second in the nation to only Ohio State. In the often offense driven Big 12, Texas has loaded up on defense, adding the top ranked safety B.J. Foster, second ranked defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, third ranked linebacker Ayondele Adeoye, and eighth ranked corner Anthony Cook.
NEED TO CATCH UP
Alabama: Concerned might be a bit strong of a word given what Alabama has done in the last decade, but Nick Saban has not been up to his usual tricks this year. ‘Bama, who has had the top class in the nation in 4 of the last 5 years, is currently ranked 6th by ESPN, and has been ranked as low as 10. Given SEC opponents Georgia and Auburn and perennial rival Clemson are all ranked in the top 10, it’s not unfair to call Alabama’s start to the recruiting season a disappointment. That being said, they did land the 4th ranked prospect in the nation, defensive end Eyabi Anoma, who is expected to help bolster what has been a weaker than usual Crimson Tide defensive line this season.
Michigan: Isn’t recuriting supposed to be Jim Harbaugh’s specialty? The Wolverines currently sit outside of the top-10 have just one recruit in the top 50 (TE Mustapha Muhammad, #44) and only 3 in the top 150. They’ve pulled 20 total recruits so far, but half of those are three star or lower. While most schools would be happy with this class, the fact is Michigan is not most schools. After years of playing second fiddle to Ohio State (who currently have the second ranked class), you have to wonder at what point Harbaugh’s shtick runs out of favor in Ann Arbor, and if a weak class will heat his seat up quicker.
Florida State: The Seminoles are four years removed from a National Championship, but have only been able to add 8 commits so far, and just 4 in the top 300, the fewest of any team in ESPN’s top 40. Obviously being in the midst of a coaching change doesn’t help, but fans should expect better from a team that has had 7 straight top-10 classes. Perhaps the toughest miss is 4-star running back James Cook, brother of former FSU standout Dalvin Cook. From a roster construction point of view, the Seminoles have added just 2 offensive linemen so far. Given what we saw this year, it will be difficult for FSU to return to national prominence until they can fix their OL woes.
There are still plenty of pens to be put to paper in the coming weeks, but as top recruits continue to fly off the board, the picture of the Class Of 2018 is becoming clearer. Are there any schools I should have included on this list? Any prospects I failed to mention? Get at me on Twitter so we can discuss, and enjoy the next wild month of college football!
Written By: Alex Barth