Mark Lindquist

Recruiting Roundup

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Early Signing Period Breakdown

Thursday, December 21, 2017


The inaugural early winter signing period booted off on Wednesday and will run through Friday. We’re here to examine the successes and failures from Wednesday’s session. Fortune's still have time to turn around -- initial proceedings almost exclusively centered on the SEC -- and even those programs who fail to make bread in the early portion will still have another month-plus to do work before the traditional February signing period arrives.



Winners


Georgia -- The beauty of the Bulldogs haul doesn’t just come in star-rating (though they had those in spades, anyway), but more in the balanced breadth of it all. Dual-threat QB Justin Fields, the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, denied us any drama after reaffirming his UGA commitment earlier in the week. He signed. As did a pair of stud running backs in Zamir White and James Cook, who was considered a potential flip candidate to older brother Dalvin’s old stomping grounds at FSU. Kirby Smart also signed elite offensive line prospects Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays at guard and tackle, respectively. Those won’t get the fanfare, but they’re crucial, particularly in the case of Mays, who had been committed to Tennessee before the Vols entered the Upside Down in November and was no sure thing to join the gang in Athens in the face of fellow finalists Ohio State and Clemson. Georgia wrapped up their monster day with a signature from five-star DE Brenton Cox and a commitment from four-star LB Channing Tindall. We’ll see if Smart can hold onto his freshly minted No. 1 class come February, but they’re in the midst of an Alabama-esque effort.


Clemson -- We love Georgia for the wide swathe they carved through Wednesday’s signing day, but Clemson was right behind them in wrecking the place. The Tigers got it started with five-star T Jackson Carmen and finished it with five-star DE K.J. Henry, adding three-star RB Lyn-J Dixon along the way. Those three prospects were their only fresh ones on Wednesday, but they also got previously-committed No. 1 overall prospect and five-star QB Trevor Lawrence to sign his letter of intent. The Tigers now have four of the top-10 recruits in the 247Sports composite in their corner. And, to boot, conference foe Miami did not add onto their top-10 class with any unexpected signings on Wednesday.


Memphis/Toledo -- Both high-scoring mid-major programs targeted and landed quarterbacks on Wednesday, in three-star Brady McBride and Carter Bradley, respectively. There’s a line of thought that the early signing period will end up hurting smaller schools, but it’s not one that we buy, at least not completely. What the early signing period does is allow quarterbacks like McBride and Bradley to make definitive, realistic decisions in a timely manner, rather than wait through January as they attempt to scrounge up late (potentially pointless) interest from the bigger programs in the country. McBride and Bradley enter perfect situations at their new schools.


Tennessee -- This could have been a much, much better day for the Vols, as they bled out multiple recruits in the wake of Butch Jones’ demise (the aforementioned Mays among them) and currently sit at a middling No. 28 in Rivals’ team rankings. And that’s after Wednesday’s work. But rag on the Vols at your own peril. They connected on four-star RB Jeremy Banks and four-star T Jerome Carvin, plus the nation’s top JUCO tight end in Dominick Wood-Anderson. Carvin makes for a fine Mays substitute, while Banks brings the kind of thump that will play well early in his career alongside the speedier, shiftier Ty Chandler. Jeremy Pruitt still has another month-plus to try to cover a myriad of holes, but the further the program gets away from its comedy act of a coaching search, the more that will fade to a distant memory. We like the Vols to come up with a few big gets in the coming weeks.


Ole Miss -- Speaking of disgraced programs, the Rebs were dealing with a far, far more damaged hand than the Vols, with sanctions causing huge transfer desertions (Shea Patterson, Van Jefferson) and leaving the program in Oxford a massive rebuilding project. Consider that project off to a respectable start. Ole Miss was the only program to find the soft underbelly of the Georgia crocodile on Wednesday, flipping four-star WR Elijah Moore from the Bulldogs and likewise swaying three-star DE James Williams from Mississippi State. Three-star LB Vernon Dasher and three-star DT Jalen Cunningham rounded out the haul. It’s as good a day the Rebs have had since Shea Patterson tore his PCL.


Florida -- The Gators didn’t finish with quantity on Wednesday -- they signed just two new players -- but the quality was there in spades. Dan Mullen’s big headline move came in flipping Emory Jones over from Ohio State. Just how ready the four-star gunslinger is for the spotlight remains to be seen, but he picked himself a perfect spot to battle for playing time down in Gainesville. This is actually a move that we would have liked for Justin Fields, whose landing spot at Georgia offers far, far less opportunity for playing time. As is, Jones enters the program as a potential savior figure after years of failed quarterbacking by the Gators. It’s probably a matter of when he starts, not if. Florida also inked up four-star S Trey Dean, less splashy than the Jones signing but playing very much into the tradition of stout secondaries at the university. We only wish Dan Mullen had some more time to work his magic. The Gators are currently sitting outside the top-20 in Rivals team rankings. We don’t expect them to finish with a top-10 class, but we do expect them to challenge with a top-15 outfit.



Losers



The Big 12 -- If this list feels SEC-heavy, that’s because Wednesday was an SEC-heavy kind of day. The Big 12 wasn’t much in the conversation outside of Texas snaring the signature of five-star CB Anthony Cook, a big-time get for HC Tom Herman, who is rapidly closing in on securing a top-five class. Beyond the Longhorns, Kansas State signed a pair of three-star prospects. And the rest was silence. West Virginia did not make a run that was expected in some corners, while conference powerhouses Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU all held steady. That’s fine for the Sooners, who boast Rivals’ No. 8 class right now, less fine for the Cowboys and Horned Frogs. This action will heat up over the next month. Also, don’t look now, but Baylor is putting together a potential top-20 outfit.


Florida State -- The Seminoles were clear losers for most of Wednesday, but that muddied in time. At the time three-star LB Rosendo Louis flipped over on his pledge to sign with South Carolina, that left FSU with just eight commitments to their credit. It was a horrendous beginning to the Willie Taggart Era in Tallahassee, especially considering just how much of power player Jimbo Fisher was in recruiting. And then, after a long, long wait in the evening, Taggart pulled a true rabbit from his hat, flipping five-star S Jaiden Woodbey over to FSU from Ohio State. Somewhat remarkably, the Seminoles did not extend an offer to Woodbey while Fisher was overseeing matters and just got involved earlier in December. This doesn’t make up for Florida State’s thin, thin collection of prospect, but it is a reminder of Taggart’s flair for recruiting magic, flair that he’s shown at every one of his coaching stops in his young career.


Ohio State -- Two ways to look at the Buckeyes’ open to the early signing period. First way, the more charitable way -- Urban Meyer entered with a No. 1 class and even a few setbacks on that front don’t change the behemoth that he’s building. Second way? Cracks in the armor. They lost Emory Jones to Florida (see above) and potentially more devastating, they lost the pledge of five-star S Jaiden Woodbey to FSU. Factor in a whiff on all of their major uncommitted targets -- four-star DE K.J. Henry had them as a finalist before he opted for Clemson -- and the Buckeyes find themselves sitting below Georgia on the charts. But again, it’s all relative. Ohio State was one program that could afford to take a few hits without falling over.



Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.
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