Charlie Strong and Texas came out of nowhere on National Signing Day to finish with a top-15 recruiting class
College football recruiting rankings are not the end all, be all but certainly give a pretty good indication of the kind of seasons that are to follow for the perceived winners and the losers on National Signing Day. With a lot of coaching and a little bit of motivation, some of the top 5- and 4-star players are sure to be difference-makers on the collegiate gridiron for years to come, but which teams came out on top and which teams fell off the recruiting trail at the worst possible time?
No matter what recruiting service one subscribes to for trusted spot-on rankings, Alabama rolled from outside the top 10 to the top spot in a flurry. Per 247Sports, the Tide ended up with three 5-star recruits, 14 prospects ranked as 4-star, and seven 3-star talents.
Alabama had nine commits on National Signign Day, highlighted by 5-star linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson along with 5-star defensive end Terrell Hall. The addition of 4-star defensive backs Jared Mayden and Shyheim Carter can only lead one to believe the Crimson Tide defense will be salty, per usual, again for the foreseeable future.
The biggest winner of National Signing Day from start to finish had to be the Longhorns. Over the weekend, Rivals rated Texas’ class No. 43. By day’s end the Longhorns were rated No. 13 by Rivals and No. 11 by both 247Sports and Athlon Sports’ consensus team rankings.
Head coach Charlie Strong had zero 5-star recruits and five 4-star prospects headed into the week, but railed big time, pulling in two 4-stars on Tuesday followed by 5-star linebacker Erick Fowler, a flip from LSU, and 4-star defensive tackle Chris Daniels, a one-time Oklahoma commit, on Wednesday. Texas has a fairly balanced class that may tilt slightly to the defensive side. The common theme with this class is threefold: size, speed and playmakers.
The Bulldogs had a solid day, landing four in-state recruits that included 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman and 4-star defensive tackle Michail Carter. What cannot be overlooked in Kirby Smart’s first recruiting class in Athens is the talent he kept committed to the Bulldogs. Smart overcame some negative recruiting about a first-time head coach after convincing 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason to stay with Georgia as well as landing 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta.
The Trojans were out in the cold before the National Signing Day fanfare began, listed at No. 32 by Rivals. With room still to add to its haul, USC skyrocketed up the rankings, landing at No. 8 on both Rivals and 247Sports and finishing ninth in Athlon’s consensus rankings before the day was done. The Trojans pulled in six commits on Wednesday, going into Arizona for 4-star defensive end Connor Murphy, Georgia for 4-star OT E.J. Price, and out to Hawaii for 4-star running back Vavae Malepeai.
The only downside to the class is its size (20 total commitments), but all of the signees are high-quality recruits.
Tough to call a team ranked No. 21 by Rivals, No. 20 by 247Sports and 23rd in the consensus rankings a “loser” on National Signing Day, but this distinction might have more to do with Mark Richt’s recruiting abilities while at Georgia and the immense amount of talent in south Florida.
The Hurricanes added five recruits since the beginning of February to get to 18 total commits. On Tuesday, landing 4-star defensive back Romeo Finely was a nice win but the only noise on NSD was 4-star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards.
The Razorbacks were in the running on Wednesday to potentially land five or more top recruits, but instead ended up going the wrong way when their only cornerback commit, Joseph Putu, flipped to Florida. Arkansas has a very strong class with four 4-star recruits and 14 3-star players but did not close as strong as hoped. Bret Bielema and his staff missed out on several targets, including defensive back Brandon Jones (Texas), wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (Florida), defensive back Kristian Fulton (LSU), running back Kyle Porter (Texas), defensive end Allen Cater (North Carolina), and linebacker Calvin Bundage (Oklahoma State).
Arkansas finished with a class that ranked a solid 32nd with Rivals, 25th by 247Sports and 26th in the consensus rankings. The group is highlighted by 5-star defensive end McTelvin Agim and a trio of 4-star recruits – running back Devwah Whaley, athlete T.J. Hammonds, and defensive tackle Briston Guidry. The Hogs being in the “loser” category is not an indictment on the haul or the effort, but more the letdown of not landing a couple of high-end recruits in the clutch.
Kirk Ferentz can make winners out of 3- and 2-star prospects, we get it. But one would think the Hawkeyes’ success in 2015 would land at least one 4-star talent. That was not the case. Iowa’s class, which includes 21 3-star recruits, finished ranked No. 41 by Rivals, No. 45 by 247Sports and 40th overall in the consensus rankings.
Per Rivals, Wisconsin, Oregon State, NC State, Houston, Minnesota, Iowa State, UCF, Boise State, Vanderbilt, Colorado State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Indiana, and Temple all finished above Georgia Tech’s No. 64 ranking. Something is wrong in Atlanta.
Head coach Paul Johnson is at a slight disadvantage with a stadium that only holds 55,000 against in-state rival Georgia’s Sanford Stadium that holds 92,000-plus. However, by virtue of being in a talent-rich recruiting state and playing in a Power 5 conference, the Yellow Jackets should be able to out-recruit several of the aforementioned teams ranked ahead of them. Tech has 18 signees with just one, defensive end Jordan Woods, considered a 4-star. To make matters worse, the Yellow Jackets have only had one verbal commitment since Jan. 25, 2-star defensive back Ajanji Kerr.
— 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. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.