How NSD turned out for coaches on the hot seat
Back in December, we ranked 10 coaches that were entering the 2017 season shaky ground. Here is a look at how they finished on Signing Day.
BRIAN KELLY, NOTRE DAME
Despite the subpar season and wholesale changes on the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame had a successful finish to the 2017 recruiting cycle. Six players committed to the Fighting Irish within a week of Signing Day and all of them, except for defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, flipped from another school. Kofi Wardlow and Jonathan Doerer were Maryland commits, Jeremiah Owusu was a Virginia commit, Jafar Armstrong was a Missouri commit, and Jordan Genmark-Heath was a Cal commit. All of these late commitments were two- or three-star prospects, but filled needs on both sides of the ball and helped Brian Kelly's squad finish in the top 15 of the team rankings.
Farrell’s take: For a 4-8 team to have a top 15 class is impressive, but I worry about a few positions here, mainly quarterback and linebacker. I don’t think Notre Dame helped themselves a ton at those key positions of need, but I love the tight ends, offensive linemen and there is potential along the defensive line. The job Kelly did being on such a hot seat and coming off such a horrible season is a good one overall, so I’d give it a B based on those factors.
TODD GRAHAM, ARIZONA STATE
The Sun Devils were finalists for Rivals100 offensive tackle Austin Jackson and Rivals250 defensive back Todd Harris, but neither signed with them. Graham and his staff managed to get six commitments in the last two and half weeks of the 2017 cycle, but all were either two- or three-star prospects. Even with the additions of kicker Brandon Ruiz, tight end Mark Walton, defensive tackle Shannon Forman, and defensive backs K.J. Jarrell, Evan Fields, and Langston Frederick, Arizona State finished outside the top 50 of the team rankings.
Farrell’s take: Things didn’t end well for Arizona State and they had two players, Ryan Kelly and K.J. Jarrell, who had very bad weeks at Under Armour and Army Bowl respectively. Eno Benjamin is a terrific back and there is some offensive talent here, but did they address the defensive needs enough. I’d give this class a C-.
JIM MORA, UCLA
January was good to UCLA. The Bruins pulled in 11 commitments since the beginning of 2017 and four of them were at least four-star prospects, led by five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes. Rivals 250 cornerback Elijah Gates and four-stars Rahyme Johnson and Stephan Zabie were big gets for Mora's crew. UCLA's class was also bolstered by commitments from three-stars Martin Andrus, Jax Wacaser, Moses Robinson-Carr, Odua Isibor, and Morrell Osling.
Farrell’s take: UCLA’s season was horrendous last year, but this class is a good one. Yes, there isn’t a ton of offensive talent overall and they have needs at offensive line that might not have been addressed enough, but the defensive help they are bringing in is excellent. There are a lot of high energy and high motor guys on defense in this class and based on the season he had, this is a B+ effort.
BUTCH JONES, TENNESSEE
It was a quiet Signing Day and relatively quiet January for Tennessee. The Vols were finalists for Rivals100 wide receiver Jeff Thomas, Rivals100 defensive end LaBryan Ray, and four-star Aaron Sterling, but Tennessee wasn't a favorite for any of them heading into Signing Day. Jones pulled in three-stars Ryan Thaxton and Josh Palmer and Tennessee finished at No. 15 in the team rankings.
Farrell’s take: The favorites to win the SEC East last year, Tennessee got killed by injuries and fell short. Recruiting has taken a hit as well from the early days under Jones, but this class still has some talent at key areas. I’m not thrilled with the in-state losses and they have a big question mark at quarterback, but there is immediate helping coming on both lines, at linebacker and at defensive back here. And the receivers are solid too. I’d give it a B-, mainly because they lost too many in-state players and five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson flipped to Clemson.
HUGH FREEZE, OLE MISS
Freeze isn't high on this Ole Miss recruiting class, reportedly referring this 39th ranked class as a penalty related to the NCAA investigation. Even with that in mind, the Rebels had an eventful last couple days of the 2017 cycle. Eleven players, led by Rivals250 defensive end Chester Graves and four-stars Kam White and Mohamed Sanogo, committed to Ole Miss on or right before Signing Day. Three-stars Sincere David, Tony Gray, Isaiah Woullard, Braylon Sanders, and JaVonta Payton helped finished out Ole Miss' 2017 recruiting class.
Farrell’s take: Things got ugly on the season for Ole Miss and recruiting stalled since the Laremy Tunsil gas mask nightmare. Coaching changes and the NCAA investigation hurt Ole Miss badly and it took some reaches at the end to crack the Top 40. I give this a C- based on previous recruiting efforts.
KEVIN SUMLIN, TEXAS A&M
Despite the 8-5 record this season, Texas A&M finished at No. 10 in the team rankings. The only late commitment the Aggies got was from three-star defensive tackle Joshua Rogers, who took an official visit to Ole Miss the weekend before Signing Day. Outside of Rogers, it was a relatively quiet and drama-free ending to the 2017 recruiting cycle in College Station.
Farrell’s take: This was a magnificent recruiting job after yet another great start and another weak finish on the field for the Aggies. This class is not only loaded on offense but they really helped the defense. This can be nothing short of an A grade for Sumlin.
Bielema guided Arkansas to a top 25 recruiting class even though the 7-6 record this season wasn't so hot. The last few days of the recruiting cycle produced some fireworks for the Razorbacks. Rivals100 cornerback Chevin Calloway committed on Signing Day and is the highest ranked prospect in this class. Three-stars David Porter and Melvin Johnson were the final three-star additions for Arkansas.
Farrell’s take: A Top 25 class highlighted by key additions at defensive back and wide receiver — this is a good class. Calloway is the highest-rated cornerback to commit to an SEC school and the Hawgs helped themselves on offense and defense. Overall, based on the up and down performance on the field, this is a B+ effort.
RICH RODRIGUEZ, ARIZONA
Arizona lost a commitment from Cody Shear to Oregon late in the process, but Rodriguez pulled off a quiet flip on Signing Day. Former longtime Temple commit Gary Brightwell committed to the Wildcats on Signing Day. Brightwell was one of three three-star commitments for Arizona late, along with Anthony Pandy and My-King Johnson. At No. 36 in the team rankings, Arizona did finish higher than the rival Sun Devils.
Farrell’s take: The Wildcats were horrid last year on the field and recruiting took a hit as well. What started off as a promising class finished as very mediocre overall. They missed on some serious needs in this class and let too many kids get away. Arizona also did not make themselves faster or more athletic. This is a C- effort, same as Arizona State.
KLIFF KINGSBURY, TEXAS TECH
The only thing that happened to Texas Tech's recruiting class in January was that it got smaller. Three-star defensive back Adam Beck, who was committed to the Red Raiders since June, flipped to Minnesota. Beck was one of the highest rated prospects in Kingsbury's class, which finished at No. 47.
Farrell’s take: The big question is whether or not Kingsbury addressed the horrible defense and that remains to be seen. He brought in a lot of JUCO kids, usually a sign that you’re unhappy with your current talent, and time will tell if the influx of college ready players will help on that side of the ball. With one four-star and a class ranked behind every program in Texas that matters, this isn’t a great class. C-.
DAN MULLEN, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Within the last week of the 2017 recruiting cycle, Mullen and his staff pulled in commitments from two two-stars, one three-star, and two four-stars. Rivals100 linebacker Willie Gay was the biggest addition for Mississippi State and instantly became the highest rated player in this class. Four-star defensive tackle Noah Elliss was also an important addition. Mullen's squad finished with a top 30 recruiting class even though they had a losing record last season.
Farrell’s take: Like Kingsbury, Mullen relied on a lot of JUCOs in this class to plug holes. But with some big additions like Gay, Elliss and especially quarterback Keytaon Thompson, this class will help quite a bit. I like the JUCO guys better than Texas Tech’s haul and the help along the defensive line and at linebacker is big. I’d give this class a B+.