National Signing Day is that special time of year for college football fans that proves to be a mix between Christmas Day and Mardi Gras — the time when college coaches and fans alike receive gifts in the form of high school and junior college talents putting ink to a letter of intent followed by a reason for a rowdy celebration about the potential future of a program.
The first Wednesday in February is always a scramble for every FBS football program to put together and finalize a recruiting class that is to ensure wins, conference titles, and a hopeful appearance in the College Football Playoff. A top 10 finish in the recruiting rankings does not always equate to wins and losses on the field, but is a pretty good measuring stick of future success.
Per 247Sports, over the past four recruiting classes (2014-17), Alabama has taken home top honors with the most talent putting their players to good use for a 53-5 overall record with three playoff appearances and two national titles. On the flip side, Tennessee finished No. 7 in 2014, No. 4 in ‘15, No. 14 in ‘16, and No. 17 a year ago but finished 29-20 over the same time span missing out on a fourth consecutive bowl last season ending with a 4-8 record.
Heading into National Signing Day on Wednesday, a new king of recruiting may be crowned. Ohio State, with 24 commits, sits atop 247Sports’ Composite rankings followed by Georgia (22), Texas (23), Penn State (23), and Miami (22). If there is a team that can make a last-minute surge on Wednesday to unseat Ohio State, Alabama, sitting at No. 6 with 18 commits, could make the move.
Two other teams to watch that could make a late run are Georgia and Clemson. The Bulldogs have six 5-star commits and 12 4-star prospects with room to add three more players. Clemson, currently rated No. 8 in the country with 15 commits, has a lot of room to add top players if a full class of 25 players is wanted.
The bottom half of the top 10 consists of Alabama, Oklahoma (22), Clemson, Notre Dame (22), and Auburn (23). Watch for USC (14), Florida State (15), and Florida (16) to challenge for a spot in the final top 10 when all the ink is dry.
The following is a breakdown of which players remain uncommitted, along with the potential programs vying for their signature and an educated guess on which program gets it. There are slim pickings among the perceived best of the best this year due to the early signing period that happened in the middle of December. Unless some players flip on their commitment at the last minute, only nine of the top 50-ranked players are currently undecided.
Class of 2018 Top Uncommitted Recruits
CB Patrick Surtain Jr. (6-1, 199)
5-star, American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The rush is on for Surtain. He is the ideal corner with size, speed, cover skills, and he can play the run. Typical stats for a corner like Surtain have to be viewed in a different light. Instead of how well he has done, look at the low stats in 2017 — 17 tackles and one interception in eight games played — because no offensive coordinator wanted to test him.
Contenders: Official visits have been taken to LSU, Alabama, Clemson, and his last visit was to Miami the weekend before NSD. The Crimson Tide have made multiple coaches visits to south Florida to let Surtain know how badly they want him.
Prediction: With 32 offers to choose from, LSU fans feel like they are the team to beat.
OL Nicholas Petit-Frere (6-6, 272)
5-star, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
The hype on Petit-Frere is on his upside based on his current athleticism. He has room on his frame to add weight, and at least 30 more pounds will be needed before being able to be an every-down Power Five conference offensive linemen.
Contenders: In the neighborhood of 30 reported offers, official visits have been taken to Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama and Florida. Michigan made a big push for him ahead of the early signing period, but that did not take. Big Ten rival Ohio State gets his last official over the weekend.
Prediction: If he stays in state, the Gators will get him. If he goes out of state, Ohio State may add a third 5-star recruit.
CB Tyson Campbell (6-2, 180)
5-star, American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
The other half of the Patriots' secondary that helped snag a third Florida 5A state title in four years was Campbell. Campbell was more active than Surtain with 34 stops and two interceptions in 11 games in which stats were posted. Campbell brings something else to the table in the return game. He took back three kicks for 94 yards.
Contenders: Miami has a lot of eggs in the basket of the final weekend hoping to sway both Patrick Surtain and Campbell to stay home for college. Official visits have been taken to Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. There's some speculation that Surtain and Campbell are a package deal, which would mean LSU could be out of the picture for either since the latter did not visit the Tigers. If the duo splits then it's back to Campbell's official visit list with the Hurricanes hoping for the last word.
Prediction: Buzz has Georgia in the lead for Campbell.
CB Olaijah Griffin (6-0, 170)
5-star, Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
Griffin was a standout on both sides of the ball for his Orange County area team in 2017 pulling in 33 passes for 875 yards with 12 scores and coming up with 34 tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception. College coaches will be sure to use his blazing speed in the return game after he took back four punts for 122 yards during his senior season.
Contenders: Griffin decommitted from UCLA on Dec. 30 after a Dec. 15 official visit to Tennessee. January has been a busy month with new offers coming in from Clemson and Florida State. USC, Oregon, and Alabama have all hosted Griffin in January. Auburn got the fifth and final one the weekend before NSD.
Prediction: Unless Auburn blew away Griffin, this could come down to Alabama and Tennessee. USC is favored on 247Sports’ crystal ball prediction, but there has not been a lot of reported contact between the Trojans and Griffin.
CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart (6-2, 187)
4-star, Helix (San Diego)
Taylor-Stuart has been one of the most widely recruited players in the 2018 class with more than 50 reported offers. Taylor is big and fast, with a reported 4.3 time in the 40-yard dash. His speed will always allow him to play corner, but a college team could end up putting him at safety if he gets much bigger.
Contenders: Texas A&M received Taylor’s first official visit back in October, but then there was a coaching staff change. USC, Georgia and Alabama hosted Taylor in January. Tennessee got the last chance to impress ahead of NSD.
Prediction: Hard to see USC not keeping Taylor in Southern California.
QB Tanner McKee (6-6, 220)
4-star, Centennial (Corona, Calif.)
McKee is the highest-rated quarterback left on the board, and is considered a five-star by some recruiting outlets. McKee is that a talented dual-threat signal-caller with speed, a gun for an arm, size, great mechanics and a high football IQ.
Contenders: McKee has around 30 offers with Texas, Texas A&M, Washington, BYU and Stanford all making last-minute pitches to him with in-home visits within the last two weeks. Waiting two years to get McKee onto campus after he completes his Mormon mission has not detoured any of the top programs.
WR Jaylen Waddle (5-10, 175)
4-star, Episcopal (Bellaire, Texas)
Waddle is one of those dynamic playmakers that just has a knack for taking something small and turning it into something big. His route running and burst of speed contributed to 1,382 receiving yards off 48 receptions with an eye-popping 26 touchdowns scored against 4A Texas competition.
Contenders: The Knights' star player has 25 offers to choose from with a lot of in-state fighting between Texas A&M and Texas for his commitment. Waddle took an official to Alabama on Nov. 4 with head coach Nick Saban hoping to get him at the early signing period. The Crimson Tide have stayed on him with Mike Locksley and Josh Gattis visiting him in-person recently.
Prediction: Texas A&M was supposed to host Waddle over the weekend, but that visit reportedly did not happen. This could swing the door wide-open for Alabama.
— 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.