5 Teams That Have Work to Do Before February's National Signing Day

Willie Taggart and Florida State have already experienced some losses on the recruiting trail

College football's early signing period has come and gone with little room for most schools sitting on the outside to maneuver into the top five in hopes of supplanting No. 1 Alabama followed by Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU, and Oregon. The greater test is for some of the blue bloods lingering on the recruiting trail to jump into the top 15, or even into the top 30, needing to save faith among their rabid fan base while bringing impact players into the fold to help post wins on the board for years to come. Some tasks are easier said than done.

 

One way to climb the recruiting rankings is to add a 5-star recruit. Unfortunately, there are just three left per 247Sports: Louisiana defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher, West Virginia offensive tackle Darnell Wright, and California receiver Kyle Ford. In fact, of the 4-stars left on the board ranked in the top 50, just four remain: cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (Fla.), athlete Quavaris Crouch (N.C.), cornerback Chris Steele (Calif.), and linebacker Henry To’oto’o (Calif.). There's still plenty of work left for several Power 5 programs wanting to impress their supporters, and some have a harder road ahead than others when it comes to securing the commitment of some of the best recruits in the nation.

 

Top Programs Needing A Push Before National Signing Day

 

Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles last had a top-five recruiting ranking with their 2016 class. The 2018 haul landed at No. 11 nationally and this year’s group is tenuous at best. On the opening day of the early signing period, FSU lost two 4-star recruits in quarterback Sam Howell to North Carolina and end Derick Hunter to Texas A&M. To make matters worse, also on Wednesday it was announced that starting quarterback Deondre Francois is leaving the program. This group can still finish strong but a quarterback is needed, especially since one was not signed in the 2018 class. Trouble is the pickings are slim. Just one top 30 pro-style QB remains uncommitted — No. 29 Justin Fomy (Ga.) — and two dual-threats in No. 5 Lance LeGendre (La.), and No. 20 David Baldwin (Fla.). If committed 5-star, in-state corner Akeem Dent has a change of heart, FSU's class ranking could plummet quickly.

 

Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes went the wrong direction on Wednesday, sliding from 34th to 38th in the recruiting rankings. One of the main reasons was teams around Miami adding players but another was losing 4-star linebacker Anthony Solomon from nearby St. Thomas Aquinas to Michigan. Miami only has 14 commits to the class, so there is room to make up ground, but one has to ask how head coach Mark Richt only has 14 commits with just six 4-star recruits located in such a rich location filled with top talent. A challenge for the Hurricanes, much like rival Florida State, is finding a quarterback of the future among limited prospects.

 

UCLA Bruins

Head coach Chip Kelly is known for being a micro-manager wanting certain things exactly his way, but perhaps his scrutiny is hindering recruiting? Even though the Bruins are located in a fertile recruiting ground, are a top academic program, and just minutes away from the Pacific Ocean, UCLA has only one 4-star commit, offensive tackle Sean Rhyan. One good thing about some of the 16 commits to the class is that there are some undervalued gems in safety William Nimmo, offensive lineman Josh Carlin, tight end Michael Martinez, junior college defensive end transfer Datona Jackson, and linebacker John Ward. But a lot of hard work is ahead for the Bruins' staff if they hope to crack the top 20.

 

Ohio State

The Buckeyes have a few challenges ahead with head coach Urban Meyer announcing his retirement. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will take over in 2019 trying to fill some big shoes. With Meyer wrapping up his tenure in Columbus after the Rose Bowl, some 2019 recruits appear skeptical when it comes to Day. Even though the offense should remain the same, 4-star quarterback Dwan Mathis had a change of heart on Wednesday, flipping to Georgia. The good news is that the coaching change did not stop in-state, 5-star end Zach Harrison from announcing he will be a Buckeye. With 16 commits and ranked 12th, Ohio State can climb the recruiting rankings ladder but it seems near impossible to see them come close to matching last year's second-place status.

 

Utah Utes

The Utes are the lowest ranked Power 5 team in the nation sitting at No. 70 with 12 commits. While not considered titans on the recruiting trail, Kyle Whittingham and his staff do an amazing job of landing players that fit their scheme, and this has showed on the field the past couple of seasons. But, a fan has to think what if, and only if the classes improved slightly from one year to the next what that could mean in terms of Utah's ability to contend in the Pac-12. The 2018 haul ended at No. 33 nationally, which could be had again, potentially, but the Utes must do a better job of keeping the in-state kids home. LSU snuck out with top-rated defensive tackle Siaki Ika while USC wooed receiver Puka Nacua. The rest of the in-state recruits, while they may be as talented as some of the 4-star players, are all 3-stars. There are six 4-star California prospects that remain uncommitted, but none of them appear to have the Utes high on their board. How high can this class climb in the rankings? Only time will tell.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.

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