Mark Lindquist

Recruiting Roundup

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Winners and Losers of NSD

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The Winners and Losers of National Signing Day

 

Winners



Georgia -- At times over the course of the 2018 cycle, it appeared like Ohio State might just walk away with the No. 1 class in the country. Then the new early December signing period came and Georgia proceeded to roar into pole position. They’ve held steady ever since and did not ease off the gas pedal on Wednesday. Not only did the Bulldogs land the signature of five-star CB Tyson Campbell, they also stung Alabama in flipping over four-star LB Quay Walker. But wait, that’s not all. They additionally flipped four-star Michigan LB commit Otis Reese and signed WR Tommy Bush. It was a brilliant finish to what’s been a magical recruiting ride for Dawgs HC Kirby Smart (all while coaching his 2017 team to the national championship game). All told, UGA signed 10 players who achieved a five-star ranking on at least one of the three major consensus recruiting outlets (ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports). On the 247Sports composite board, Georgia signed 15 players in the top-150, a silly nine of those landing in the top-41. Even given the inevitable bumps in the road of development -- transfers, potential unfulfilled, injury and more -- it’s hard to envision a scenario where Georgia’s 2018 class does not make loud, loud noise as the potential nucleus of a championship team in a few years.


Texas A&M -- We’ll admit it, we were underwhelmed by what Jimbo Fisher had done in the first two months of his stay in College Station. It just seemed like a flat start, playing a stark contrast to what his former FSU team was achieving under Willie Taggart on the trail. We’ll have our helping of crow, now. Fisher and the Aggies made huge strides on Wednesday, landing four-star recruits at five different positions across both sides of the ball (RB, QB, G, DL, TE), one of whom was Bobby Brown, who turned tail on a commitment to Alabama in order to join Fisher’s crew. The Aggies rose all the way from No. 50 at the end of January to No. 16 following all of Wednesday’s action. This is the kind of push that will help make the SEC more competitive after was a very top-heavy 2017 season. We would now like some water with our crow.


Florida State -- Let’s jump back to Fisher’s old stomping grounds in Tallahassee. FSU did almost nothing during the early signing period, at least not until late on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 20, when they received a verbal commitment from five-star DB Jaiden Woodbey. That might as well be our line of demarcation, because ever since Woodbey thawed the ice, the Seminoles have been breathing fire on the trail. They closed out in style on Wednesday, snagging a trio of four-star recruits (ATH Tre’Shaun Harrison, DE Malcolm Lamar and WR Jordan Young, the last of whom flipped over from Tennessee) and finishing with Rivals’ No. 9 overall class. A top-10 finish was inconceivable two months ago. Incredible work from HC Willie Taggart and staff.


USC -- Same old, same old for the Trojans, who casually cleaned up the place on Wednesday. They did so specifically on the defensive side, where they signed a pair of blue chip corners in five-star Olaijah Griffin (son of rapper Warren G) and four-star CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart, plus four-star LB Solomon Tuliaupupu. Their lone fresh offensive signing came in four-star WR Devon Williams, a fantastic athlete who was earlier in the cycle committed to Oregon. Remember, they already had five-star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown committed and five-star QB J.T. Daniels signed entering action this week. The late defensive focus is understandable. On the whole, USC finished just behind leaders-of-the-pack Georgia and Ohio State in the final team rankings on Rivals. We expect them to face heavier heat from UCLA in the 2019 cycle, in what will be Bruins HC Chip Kelly’s first full cycle with the team. Kelly and company, by the by, finished at a respectable No. 18 on Rivals’ final rankings.


Nebraska -- In a Big Ten which boasted two top-five classes at Ohio State and Penn State and nobody else in the top 20, we’ll tip our caps to the Cornhuskers. They finished just outside that mark, clocking in at No. 21 in HC Scott Frost’s first miniature go-round on the trail in Lincoln. Included in his lot were a pair of four-star signees in DE Caleb Tannor and RB Maurice Alexander, plus a trio of three-star prospects to pad out the day. This might seem modest enough, but we like what they did in large part because it ran counter to the rest of the conference. That is, they actually signed a few players. Further up the conference ladder, neither Michigan nor Wisconsin made serious noise. Frost has ground to make up and we don’t expect it to happen immediately, but give him a year or two and let’s talk.


 

No Man’s Land


Alabama -- We just don’t know what to do with the Tide, here, in our narrow constrict of “winners” and “losers.” The defending champs came up with maybe the biggest previously uncommitted name of the day in five-star CB Patrick Surtain Jr., a corner who is physically ready to compete now, just say the word “go,” at 6-foot-1, 199 pounds. And Bama scored him over LSU, who had long been thought to have an inside track for the budding star. And they would sign four-star WR Jaylen Waddle, too, landing him over Texas A&M. All of this is grand, yet it’s hard to overlook several high-profile stumbles. Alabama could not hang onto the aforementioned Quay Walker, who they lost to Georgia, nor could they keep hold of four-star DL Bobby Brown, who turned on his pledge to sign with Texas A&M. Now, some of this might feel like quibbling. After all, the Tide did finish at No. 7 on Rivals. Still, it’s hard not to feel like the Bulldogs, in particular, put a few bruises on Goliath within the conference.


Losers


Stanford -- The Cardinal deal with recruiting hurdles which just don’t exist for most other teams given their lofty academic standards. Yours truly would have been soundly rejected without a second thought, for example. Yet even with those restrictions, NSD was a dud day for HC David Shaw and crew, who managed just one new signee before sunset. And we like that signee, in four-star QB Tanner McKee. McKee -- a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who (247Sports’ Greg Biggins’ comp, here) throws like Drew Bledsoe and runs like Marcus Mariota -- will be off on a two-year mission for the LDS church and won’t play until 2020 at the earliest. It’s a fine stash. Unfortunate that they didn't do anything else, though. All told, the Cardinal finished at a cringe-worthy No. 70 in the final rankings on Rivals, a far cry from their No. 19 close to the 2017 cycle. Our best guess for that massive drop? Due to those high academic admissions benchmarks and the timing of the early signing window (Dec. 20-22) it’s very possible that some players who might have been interested in Stanford did not have test scores in to the university by the time the early window opened. That’s a major storyline to watch for the next cycle.


Michigan -- The only noise that the Wolverines made on Wednesday came in the form of a pained yelp, as four-star LB Otis Reese jumped to Georgia. The loss of Rivals’ No. 56 overall prospect burns less than the fact that he was their only top-100 prospect, at all. And no more. The class is not completely devoid of talent, but there’s no way that this can be considered anything other than a disappointment for HC Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh came on with such a splash at UM in 2015, but that feels like a long ways off right now. All eyes turn to whether the NCAA will grant QB Shea Patterson immediate eligibility for the 2018 season, which would at least somewhat salvage what’s been an underwhelming start to the offseason. Michigan finished with the No. 25 class in the 2018 cycle.  


TCU -- This designation for the Horned Frogs comes just as much because of Texas’ and Oklahoma’s strong classes (No. 4 and No. 12, respectively) as it does with any weakness from TCU itself. They flipped three-star S ArDarius Washington from LSU, which is nice if inconsequential, at least in the moment. All in all, HC Gary Patterson and company wrapped with what was the No. 28 overall class on Rivals. The rise of Texas in all of this is what has to be particularly concerning for TCU -- the Longhorns are a terrifying player moving forward.


Texas Tech -- While the Horned Frogs lost ground at the top of the conference, the Red Raiders aren’t even within their field of vision right now. After much scrolling, you’ll find them at No. 77 on Rivals. That’s not good. They tied with Louisiana Tech. Respect to the Bulldogs, but that’s not good for a Power 5 team. The Red Raiders signed just three four-star recruits for the 2018 cycle. We liked their incremental baby steps during the 2017 season, but it’s hard to maintain momentum and continuity at the highest level of FBS ball when you begin to struggle bringing in warm bodies that can play football.




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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