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Early Signing Period: Which teams should be excited, worried

There is no precedent here. The first ever early signing period opens Wednesday and while people have guesses about what may unfold during the three-day window, nobody has ever lived it to be sure. So while things could be quiet or they could be chaotic, Rivals.com takes a look at the programs that should be excited and those that should be worried on the eve of the unprecedented event.

MORE EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: Farrell's Predictions | Who gains from it?

Class of 2018: Rivals250 | Team rankings

WHO SHOULD BE EXCITED

Miami coach Mark Richt
Miami coach Mark Richt (CaneSports.com)

MIAMI HURRICANES

Miami’s first top-five recruiting class since 2008 is still standing and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere other than to Coral Gables. The first ever early signing period couldn’t have come in a better year for the Hurricanes. UM is fresh off a huge visit weekend that saw the program host most of its 2018 class, and nearly all of those prospects are expected to sign this week. That’s all to say that things are good for Mark Richt, as Miami continues to ooze momentum in the state of Florida and beyond. Five-star prospects Lorenzo Lingard and Mark Pope are expected to be among the players that sign with the Hurricanes during the ESP. Long gone are the days when some wondered if Miami’s impressive class would stick together for the long haul.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Georgia has every reason to celebrate the early signing window. The Bulldogs boast the No. 3 class in the nation. Five-star quarterback Justin Fields recently declared he’ll sign with the Bulldogs this week despite Florida and Florida State attempting to get back in the picture with their new coaching staffs. UGA’s class is a group that includes four five-star prospects, three of which look like slam dunks to sign. The only one that may have second thoughts seems to be running back James Cook, a former FSU commit who has waffled back and forth between signing early and waiting until February. The fact that Cook visited FSU over the weekend combined with the fickle nature of his recruitment to this point make him one to watch during the days ahead. But even if the Bulldogs somehow lose Cook, they have another five-star running back in Zamir White. As if the Bulldog class needs more star power, many expect UGA to land uncommitted five-star offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, who is expected to announce on Wednesday. Either way, there should be nothing but smiles in Kirby Smart’s office this week.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

The Longhorns currently sit in fourth when it comes to the recruiting rankings and that’s good news for a program looking to sign its best class since it finished the 2012 cycle ranked second. A top-five class in no sure thing, but the Longhorns certainly have a shot – a shot that will become even more realistic if they’re able to lock up a nice chunk of the class this week. Landing uncommitted five-star cornerback Anthony Cook on Dec. 20 would be a huge boost to a blueblood program that finally seems to be taking steps toward returning to its previous form.

CINCINNATI BEARCATS

Group of Five teams are always the losers down the stretch, as major programs tend to poach their players as backup options. That situation has been alleviated with the creation of the early signing period, and Cincinnati stands to benefit. The Bearcats currently boast the Group of Five’s top recruiting class, which is led by four-star defensive end Malik Vann, an early enrollee. The more players the Bearcats lock up this week, the better off they are from Power Five poachers that would traditionally attempt to raid their cupboard in January.

MORE CINCINNATI: BearcatReport.com

WHO SHOULD BE WORRIED

Florida State coach Willie Taggart
Florida State coach Willie Taggart (AP)

ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

Arizona State has changed head coaches and turned over both of its coordinators in the past month. So, you know, there’s that. There’s also the fact that the Sun Devils’ current recruiting ranking of 84 is second-to-last among Power Five programs. Herm Edwards and his staff have likely accepted that the 2018 cycle won’t be a memorable one when it comes to recruiting and are focused on the future, but the reality of the situation will begin to set in once a massive swath of players are off the board. Playing down-the-stretch catch-up in recruiting has never been harder than it will be in 2018. The Sun Devils currently have just 10 commits in the fold, one of which (linebacker Reggie Hughes) is ranked higher than three-stars. ASU probably isn’t so much worried as it is braced for impact.

OLE MISS REBELS

There’s not much to explain here. Ole Miss is facing another bowl ban and currently has just 12 commits in the fold. Add in the fact that four of the top five players in the state are committed to rival Mississippi State, and it’s easy to see why the early signing window is creating anxiety in Oxford. The Rebels have just two four-star prospects on their commitment list, which is less than ideal with a massive group of players in the region and beyond expected to close their recruitments for good on Wednesday.

FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

Everyone agrees Willie Taggart will be able to recruit to FSU. He’s already showing signs that he’s as advertised on that front. The problem here is that he was dealt a tough hand. Former head coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t exactly have a juggernaut of a class in place in a year where coaches can ill afford to play from behind the 8-ball in January. FSU’s class is still without a quarterback. And while Taggart is attempting to flip five-star Emory Jones from Ohio State, that taking place is no sure thing. Former Tennessee commit Michael Penix is a solid option for the ‘Noles, but he’s certainly no Jones. Should the Seminoles swing and miss there, elite options will be scarce after the signing window closes. FSU currently ranks in the 50s of the Rivals recruiting ranking.

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

Ohio State currently holds the nation’s No. 1 class and, regardless of context or sport, the team in the lead always wants the clock to expire. It’s why the worry level here isn’t on a macro scale. The Buckeyes land on this list only because there are caveats in play. Five-star quarterback Emory Jones has explored the idea of Florida State in recent weeks and may not sign with the Buckeyes as expected. That’s enough reason to worry, but Ohio State must also consider that five-star defensive back Jaiden Woodbey is also eyeing the Seminoles in addition to USC. The weeks leading into Signing Day have been stressful for the Buckeyes’ staff. That much is clear. And while the worry will all be for not if Jones and Woodbey stick with Ohio State, the anxiety is real. The good news is that the Buckeyes seem likely to grab five-star offensive lineman Jackson Carman, which would ease some of the pain if things with Woodbey and Jones go south. They say not to sweat the small stuff, but don’t tell Urban Meyer that this week.