National Signing Day 2015 is (mostly) over and Alabama is once again the champion of the recruiting trail, according to ESPN and 247Sports. In fact, it's almost boring how good Nick Saban and Alabama has been at luring talent to Tuscaloosa, landing their fifth consecutive recruiting championship.
Programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Clemson all signed elite top 10 classes but were mostly inactive on National Signing Day. That wasn't the case in the state of Florida, out West in the Pac-12 or down on the Plains.
NSD '15 Winners:
No one won National Signing Day more than Guschamp at Auburn. Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp have formed one of the nastiest recruiting duos in college football and it showed on NSD. Auburn landed five-star Byron Cowart and four-stars Jeff Holland, Ryan Davis and Carlton Davis on NSD to with Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. the night before. Guschamp also flipped four-star Darius Slayton (Georgia) and three-star Mike Horton (Florida) from SEC East powers on NSD as well.
UCLA dominated the headlines early on NSD, pulling elite talent to Los Angeles from all over the country. USC rallied in the afternoon, scoring elite-level talents like Iman Marshall, Rasheem Green and John Houston from instate. Both programs surged through Signing Day and secured top 10 classes. USC finished No. 2 in the rankings while the Bruins jumped 12 spots on NSD to No. 7.
Early in the day it appeared Jim McElwain and the Gators would be in the "losers" category for NSD '15. But as the day went along, Florida kept gaining momentum and McElwain was able to secure a top 20 class. This comes after taking over the worst-ranked class in the SEC. Florida jumped nearly 50 spots in the team ranks to 21st after landing two five-star prospects in Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson as well as four-star recruits D'Anfernee McGriff and Jordan Cronkrite.
SEC defensive lines
Five of the top seven players left on the board entering National Signing Day were five-star defensive lineman. Four of them signed with four different SEC schools. Cowart (eventually) signed with Auburn, Daylon Mack re-upped with Texas A&M and McElwain desperately needed to land Jefferson. More important, Missouri inked instate stud Terry Beckner in emotional fashion. The lone D-Line outside of the SEC to score a five-star on NSD was USC when it got tackle Rasheem Green. Additionally, Georgia signed the No. 1 player in the nation in defensive lineman Trent Thompson, Tennessee signed the No. 6 player in the nation in nose tackle Kahlil McKenzie and Bama got their own five-star D-Liner in Daron Payne.
Some (mostly older) fans don't enjoy NSD or the flamboyant nature of the event. But for most, NSD is a day of crazy plotlines, bizarre twists and creative announcements. Tennessee's Preston Williams won the day with his ensemble while Biggie Marshall won the day by announcing his commitment to USC in a way no one has ever seen before. Never change, National Signing Day. Never.
NSD '15 Losers:
Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Pitt and Kansas were the seven Power 5 teams that changed head coaches this year. Only Jim McElwain was able to build a top 25 recruiting class in that group. In fact, no class other than Florida even finished in the top 30. Oregon State, Kansas and Pitt — who dropped 15 spots in the team rankings on NSD — didn't finish in the top 60 nationally.
McElwain was able to salvage his class with a wild but successful NSD. Harbaugh did some good work down the stretch and all signs point to domination in 2016, but the Wolverines should not be satisfied with the 36th ranked class in the nation. The haul is small (14) and the Maize and Blue signed just three of the top 50 players in Michigan. Harbaugh had to take some players "Michigan University Wolverines" wouldn't normally take in order to fill the class.
The Big 12
Charlie Strong and Texas had the best class in the league but the 11th best class in the nation would only be good for sixth in the SEC. Oklahoma was also solidly ranked in the top 20. But as a league, the Big 12 once again should be concerned about landing elite level talent as those are the only two classes ranked in the Top 30. Additionally, in 2014, the Big 12 signed just six of the Top 100 players in the nation while the SEC signed 47. This year wasn't much better as the Big 12 scored just eight of the top 100 players in the nation.
The Horned Frogs were having one of the best classes of the Gary Patterson era when NSD began with a top 30 class. But after losing the best players in the class to Texas Tech (JF Thomas), TCU dropped 11 spots in the team rankings to outside of the top 40. Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and West Virginia all jumped TCU in the Big 12 team rankings.
They might have been a long shot, but Miami was in the mix with seven four- or five-star prospects on NSD. Al Golden and the Canes didn't win one battle among those seven, losing players to Florida, Florida State and Auburn among others. Golden has a young team and the '15 class is solid within the ACC. However, Miami didn't finish well, dropping six spots out of the Top 25.
Literally every single recruiting class was a huge success, loaded with future stars and will carry [insert school of choice] to a conference championship. At least, that's what every head football coach will tell you. Just once I'd like to hear a coach say something like "we missed on a lot of guys we wanted" or "this is a group that might get me fired in two years." National Signing Day is the purest form of coach speak.