National Signing Day 2018: Winners and losers
Another National Signing Day is essentially in the books, and while this year was supposed to be devoid of drama because of the Early Signing Period, there was just as much drama as ever. While most schools are putting on a smile to celebrate their classes, not every fan base has a reason to celebrate following the day’s proceedings.
Here’s our breakdown the winners and losers from Signing Day 2018.
GEORGIA: This is the easiest choice to put in the winners category as Georgia’s 2018 recruiting class will go down as the best in modern rankings history. Not only did the Dawgs sign five-star defensive back Tyson Campbell to tie the all-time record for most five-stars in a class (eight) but they also capped it off by flipping a pair of in-state Rivals100 linebackers in Quay Walker and Otis Reese.
Georgia’s close to the Early Signing Period was so strong that the Dawgs might have taken home the team rankings national championship even if they didn’t sign any players Wednesday, but signing Walker, Reese and Campbell as well as luring four-star receiver Tommy Bush out of Texas shows just how dominant they were on the trail this cycle.
CLEMSON: Tigers fans came into the day hoping for the best but bracing for the worst. Word had begun to circulate that top targets Mario Goodrich and Justyn Ross were likely headed elsewhere. But the clock hadn’t even hit 9 a.m. ET when Clemson got its first major dose of good news, as Goodrich announced his intentions to join the program. Things got even better in the early afternoon, when five-star Ross announced his intentions to spurn Alabama in favor of the Tigers.
Coming into the day with 15 signed players and just a few spots left, Clemson’s NSD went according to plan and the school continues to extend its reach nationally.
USC: The Trojans had to wait until one of the last commitments of the day to get the final big piece of their 2018 class in place, but it was well worth it when five-star defensive back Isaac Taylor-Stuart made his pledge to the Trojans. Taylor-Stuart joined fellow defensive back Olaijah Griffin as the second five-star to make his commitment to the Trojans on Wednesday. Add in nationally televised commitments from four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu and Devon Williams, and you have the makings of quite the day.
All of those moves came on the heels of a flip from four-star Oregon athlete Eli’jah Winston on Tuesday night. Over the past few years the Trojans have made a habit of closing strong and they flexed their muscle on National Signing Day once again.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
FLORIDA STATE: There was plenty of grumbling among Florida State fans during the Early Signing Period about the lack of signees but given the short window of time the new staff in Tallahassee had to work with, it wasn’t exactly surprising. But over the past month with a full staff in place, Willie Taggart and the 'Noles have made quite a lot of progress and they capped it off on Wednesday with a strong close to the 2018 class.
The morning started off with four-star athlete Anthony Grant flipping to the 'Noles from Tennessee and was followed by the addition of in-state four-star defensive end Malcolm Lamar, four-star Washington athlete Tre’Shaun Harrison and three-star defensive end Jamarcus Chatman. The day was capped off by another Tennessee flip, with three-star wide receiver Jordan Young leaving the Vols to sign with the Seminoles.
Florida State ended up finishing inside the top 10 of the team rankings, after ranking behind schools such as Kansas in mid-December. The school’s close is something to celebrate.
NEBRASKA: Another school in transition after a coaching change, the Huskers' staff had to work quickly after staying at UCF to coach the Knights in the Peach Bowl. Much like Florida State, the Huskers started to make breakthroughs as January moved along and capped it off with a very strong National Signing Day. The Huskers did enough to finish inside of the top 25, while winning five battles on Wednesday.
The group is led by one-time Georgia commit Caleb Tannor, who signed with the Huskers over SEC programs Auburn and Florida. Under Armour Game MVP Maurice Washington made his commitment to the Huskers on national TV, while three-star Southeast prospects Cameron Taylor and Willie Canty also announced and signed. Late in the day the Huskers also added three-star wide receiver Andre Hunt.
Given the short timeframe with which to work, Nebraska lands on the winners list for not only making such a strong close on National Signing Day, but over the past month as whole.
FLORIDA: Early Wednesday morning rumors of doom and gloom started to surround the Gators. It looked like Rivals250 wide receiver Jacob Copeland could be headed elsewhere and the status of several other major targets was also in doubt. But by the time the day closed, Florida had not only nabbed a much-talked about commitment from Copeland on national TV, but also kept longtime commit Richard Gouraige away from Clemson, and signed four-star linebacker Andrew Chatfield and four-star defensive end Malik Langham. Missing out on in-state five-star Nick Petit-Frere was a tough blow, but the strong push later in the day put Florida inside the top 20 in the Rivals.com Team Rankings and helped new coach Dan Mullen salvage a respectable first class in Gainesville.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies didn’t quite close the day like they would have liked after missing out on five-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, but after adding six new commitments and vaulting up the team rankings it’s only fair they are considered winners. The biggest get of the day was four-star defensive lineman Bobby Brown, who started the day by flipping to and signing with the Aggies after being previously committed to Alabama. Things only got better from there as four-star running back Jashaun Corbin, four-star offensive lineman Marcus Jenkins and three-star quarterback James Foster all made their decisions known as well.
The Aggies, who beat other SEC teams for three-star tight end Glenn Beal, finished inside the top 20 and landed seven total prospects over the last three days, a strong close to the cycle.
MICHIGAN: It wasn’t a great day for Michigan fans as the Wolverines whiffed on all their major targets and finished signing day without landing one new commitment. What made matters even worse was the loss of longtime commitment Otis Reese to Georgia, followed by top target and five-star offensive lineman Nick Petit-Frere signing with rival Ohio State.
Last year, Michigan had a great National Signing Day and the school was lauded by the college football world, but a finish outside the top 20 in the rankings is a tough way to finish the 2018 cycle.
TENNESSEE: You can’t fault new Volunteers coach Jeremy Pruitt for swinging for the fences and targeting five-star prospects such as Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Tyson Campbell and Olaijah Griffin but it was a rough day as Vols fans had to watch all three eventually sign with other schools. That all came after the day got off to a poor start with the flip of longtime commit Anthony Grant to Florida State and was made even worse when elite linebacker Quay Walker signed with Georgia instead of Tennessee.
Pruitt is known for his recruiting prowess and did manage to beat South Carolina for three-star defensive end John Mincey, and added four-star JUCO defensive lineman Emmit Gooden late, but all-in-all it was a tough day. With a full cycle to recruit in 2019, expect the Vols to bounce back and have a much better National Signing Day next year.
LSU: The Tigers did most of their work during the Early Signing Period and after landing a commitment from Kelvin Joseph during the Army All-American Bowl seemed to be poised to finish the cycle off very strong. But things got off to a rough start on Wednesday morning when Rivals100 defensive back Mario Goodrich announced his commitment to Clemson instead of LSU and then got even worse a few hours later when five-star Patrick Surtain chose Alabama instead of the Tigers.
Having led for Surtain for most of the process, losing him to Alabama is a major blow to LSU. The Tigers salvaged the day by landing a signature from Rivals100 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but not even that was enough to soften the blow from losing two elite defensive backs and watching quarterback target James Foster sign with division rival Texas A&M.
MISSOURI: The Tigers landed just one new commitment on signing day when they flipped two-star Memphis commitment Tyler Badie and while they didn’t exactly expect to have a big day in terms of commitments, losing out on in-state four-star defensive tackle Michael Thompson was a big blow.
It was the end of a rough in-state cycle for the Tigers, who saw several four-star prospects leave the state. Oklahoma signed Thompson and fellow four-star defensive tackle Ronnie Perkins, while USC signed four-star Trevor Trout, Clemson signed four-star defensive back Mario Goodrich and Ohio State signed four-star wide receiver Kamryn Babb. When there’s that type of competition in-state it’s hard to fault the Tigers for losing their share of battles, but signing just one of the state’s top nine players is troubling for Mizzou fans.