Five storylines to watch for the class of 2020
The Early Signing Period took place in December and National Signing Day took place Wednesday for the 2019 class, so It is time to turn the page and put that group in the rearview mirror.
The class of 2020 is now the focal point for college coaching staffs, and there are many storylines to track across the country. Here, we highlight five big ones that will play major roles on how the 2020 Team Rankings play out this time next year.
1. The Tide are on fire early
Don’t look now, but Nick Saban and Alabama are off to a smokin’ start. The Crimson Tide already have 11 commitments, and nine are four-stars and the other two are three-stars. You can expect Alabama to sign multiple five-stars again this cycle.
Alabama again will make a strong run to sign the No. 1 recruiting class this cycle.
2. Longhorns must keep Evans home
We do have three five-star running backs in the 2020 class already, but there has yet to be any debate on who the top guy is at this position. Zachary Evans is the No. 1 running back and the No. 2 prospect in the country. He is out of Houston (Texas) North Shore and a real priority for the Texas Longhorns.
He is a must-get for Tom Herman for multiple reasons.
First: Evans is Evans. He is an elite running back, one of the best we have seen in recent years and he is a player at a position that can carry a football team.
The second reason is he is a home-state kid. He is the No. 1 player in Texas, so Herman needs to clean up at the top and reel Evans in to Austin.
The third reason is, there is a big need at running back for the Longhorns. Toniel Carter transferred to Sam Houston State and Tristian Houston and Kyle Porter have put their names into the transfer portal. On top of that, Derrian Brown, the lone running back the Longhorns signed in 2019, was hospitalized late last week due to an undisclosed illness, but reports indicate that he is not expected to play football in 2019.
Combine all those things together and it is easy to see why Evans is a huge priority in Austin. Not only is he extremely talented, but his position is a major need in 2020, and he is the top prospect in the state.
3. New head coaches will be worth watching
There were not as many high-profile job openings in 2018 as there were in 2017, but there were still some big names on the move and some old names re-appearing as head coaches. There could be some big differences when we evaluate the signing classes at some of these schools this time a year from now.
Ryan Day took over at Ohio State for Urban Meyer and we do not expect too much, if any, drop-off there. Meyer was a great recruiter, but Day is well respected and Ohio State sells itself much of the time.
How about Mack Brown and Les Miles getting back into coaching? It is good for football, right? Brown is not only returning to coaching, but going back to North Carolina, where he was head coach from 1988 to 1997 before moving on to Texas, where he won a national championship. He had the Tar Heels playing at a high level years ago, so can he do that again? He will have to have a lot of recruiting success for that to happen.
Miles is now the head coach at Kansas. Man, is that a tough place to win — unless you play inside Allen Fieldhouse where the temperature stays around 70 degrees year-round. Miles had a lot of success at LSU, including a national championship in 2007, but he does not have the home-state talent in Kansas like he did in Louisiana to feed on, so lets see what he and his staff do this next calendar year.
Georgia Tech hired Geoff Collins to take over for Paul Johnson. This will be the biggest change of all the coaches we mention. The triple-option is out, so Collins really has to recruit all new personnel and bring his own style, especially on the offensive side of the ball to Atlanta. The buzz (no pun intended) is at a whole new level around the Flats right now. It is hard to recall a time when there was this much excitement and chatter around the Yellow Jackets football team. It was simply time for a chance and Collins has hit the ground running.
Also keep an eye on Mel Tucker at Colorado, Matt Wells at Texas Tech and Mike Locksley at Maryland. Those three go into different situations, with Tucker being the only first-time head coach. He has coached at Alabama, Georgia and in the NFL, so most feel he is fully qualified for this job.
4. Nation’s best will stay in the news
When is the No. 1 player in the country not a storyline? Well, maybe in 2019, when for much of the cycle it was cornerback Derek Stingley. He was an elite talent in Baton Rouge that was a strong LSU lean until he committed for a second time to the Tigers in June.
That one was really over with early, but hey, this is a new class, a new year and we expect quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to keep everyone guessing much longer. Heck, he already has. Most had Stingley penciled in to LSU’s class years ago.
If being the top prospect and an elite quarterback aren’t enough to make him a hot news item, then the potential for him to be a high-round MLB Draft pick is something else all have to watch and keep in mind as programs recruit him.
He has the name, the talent and the story to be a major name in the news this cycle.
5. Clemson and Georgia will go head-to-head for elite talent
Clemson loves to recruit the state of Georgia, and not only is the University of Georgia working to keep its top talent home, but it also branching out to search for the best in the country that can help the Bulldogs win a national championship.
Georgia played for a national title just over a year ago. Clemson won one last month and that was the Tigers' second national title in the last three years.
Kirby Smart and Dabo Swinney went head-to-head for guys like Andrew Booth (Clemson), Travon Walker (Georgia) and Clay Webb (Georgia) in 2019, and there looks to be a few more big battles brewing in 2020.
Let's take a look at five of those possible battles. Yes, there are, and will be, other schools involved, but Clemson and Georgia are expected to be major players for this quintet until the time they announce.
Bryan Breese is a five-star defensive lineman out of Maryland who is strongly considering the Tigers and Bulldogs. Each school has made Breese a major priority this cycle.
Myles Murphy is one that could truly come down to Clemson vs. Georgia in the end. Auburn is another program involved, but based on what we know, Smart and Swinney may battle this one out for the five-star defensive end from the Peach State.
Will Clemson continue to have success at Central High School in Phenix City, Ala.? The Tigers signed five-star receiver Justyn Ross from there in 2018 and safety Ray Thornton out of there in 2019. Is four-star wide receiver Eddie Williams next? Williams is high on Clemson and Georgia. He is actually from Columbus (Ga.) and grew up following the Bulldogs, so this is another battle that appears to be brewing early.