National Signing Day 2019: Winners and losers
Another National Signing Day is essentially in the books, and while the drama was subdued this year because of the Early Signing Period, there were still several twists and turns. 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 2019.
Kirby Smart and company figured out a way to do it again, this time pulling off the surprise of National Signing Day when five-star wide receiver George Pickens flipped to the Bulldogs from Auburn. Pickens had been committed to the Tigers for more than a year and even though he took an official visit to Athens, Georgia was never really considered a threat headed in Wednesday. As it turned out, not only did the Bulldogs steal Pickens away from Auburn, but they also managed to overtake Alabama for the Recruiting National Championship. Georgia continues to recruit on a national level and Wednesday is just the latest example of the impact Smart has had since arriving in Athens.
Dan Mullen was groomed under Urban Meyer and he channeled his old boss for the Gators' close to the 2019 class as Florida shot all the way up to No. 8 nationally. After an impressive close in December, Mullen and company did it again, stealing away Khris Bogle from Alabama and managing to hand Georgia one of it’s few losses of the day in landing Rivals100 defensive back Kaiir Elam. After a sluggish start where it looked like Florida might barely crack the top 25 nationally, Mullen and company have hit their stride and appear to be ready to go toe-to-toe for top talent in the state of Florida.
The Horns day didn’t feature much action, but they did manage to keep offensive lineman Javonne Shepherd away from rival Texas A&M and in doing so keep their conference recruiting title over Oklahoma. Of course, the biggest news for Texas came late last month when five-star athlete Bru McCoy transferred from USC and in doing so prior to signing day, was credited towards this school’s 2019 class. The decision to count McCoy wasn’t popular with opposing fan bases, but now Texas is celebrating its second consecutive Big 12 conference crown.
With the weight of NCAA penalties off the back of the program, Ole Miss is eligible for the postseason again and once again showed it can be a major force in recruiting. The morning started off with the Rebels flipping three-star defensive tackle LeDarrius Cox from Tennessee (and also beating Auburn in the process). Things only got better as the day went along with Rivals100 running back Jerrion Ealy spurning Clemson and Alabama to sign with the Rebels and then four-star JUCO linebacker Lakia Henry surprising many by signing with the school as well. By the time the day was over the Rebels finished ahead of rival Mississippi State and in front of perennial recruiting power Ohio State in the team rankings.
PROSPECTS THAT WAITED
Coaches often pressure prospects to sign during the early period or lose their spots but as it turned out for several prospects, waiting actually opened up more doors. Brett Seither is a prime example. After once looking at schools like Maryland and Michigan State, he ended up being in the middle of a battle between Alabama and Georgia once the market for tight ends dried up. The same goes for Lance Legendre, the four-star quarterback once committed to Kansas, who ended up with schools like Florida State lobbying for him to join the class before he ended up signing with Maryland, a school that hadn’t even offered before the early period. It’s always a gamble to wait to sign, but as several prospects proved, in the end it can end up opening doors that were previously closed.
The street cred of punters across college football increased exponentially on Wednesday when Miami officially signed 6-foot-4, 215-pound Australian punter Louis Hedley. When Hedley’s commitment was announced late Tuesday night, pictures of Hedley quickly went viral, with his number of tattoos and sheer size not exactly in the mold of the typical punter signee. Regardless of how effective he is as a punter in games, punters around the country can rejoice in the fact that if they ever into an Anchorman-style brawl with other specialists, Hedley will be a major asset.
WILLIE TAGGART AND THE FLORIDA STATE QB ROOM
Another Signing Day and another quarterback whiff for Willie Taggart and the Seminoles. After watching four-star quarterback Sam Howell flip from Florida State to North Carolina in December, Taggart and Seminoles fans were left stunned with four-star Louisiana quarterback Lance LeGendre committed to Maryland on Wednesday. Add in the Monday night miss on Mississippi quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who flipped from Georgia to Ole Miss despite visiting the ‘Noles last weekend, and it was another quarterback-less day for FSU. After losing dismissing quarterback Deondre Francois and the fall transfer of Bailey Hockman, the Seminoles will have to hit the transfer market in order to add depth at the position.
The new Cardinals staff did all they could to make the best of a bad situation and fill out the 2019 recruiting class but still finished ranked well below several Group of Five programs. After having just four players sign during the early period, Louisville got the total number in its class up to 15, but that was only good enough to finish No. 85 nationally, behind the likes of UTSA, Army and Navy. Now the staff will be tasked with hitting the transfer market hard, as well as trying current members of the team going elsewhere this offseason.
The state of California has historically been a breeding ground for the best talent in college football and despite states like Georgia making a claim to be part of the Big Three (along with Texas and Florida) that’s still the case today. But a look at this year’s California state rankings shows a disturbing trend for the schools in the state, just six of the state’s top 30 prospects are set to play their college football in the state. The usual suspects have done a nice job recruiting California, with Oregon and Washington landing multiple players. But what’s unusual is the national flavor among the signees. Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina and Michigan all signed players in the state’s top 10, with the Longhorns and Sooners signing multiple players in the top 30. In order for USC and others to get back to national prominence, keeping the best talent in state is key.
Can the Tide really be a loser after finishing with the No. 2 class in the nation? Well, considering that they were viewed as a virtual lock to win the recruiting national championship following the Early Signing Period, Wednesday’s proceedings didn’t exactly go as planned. First, the Tide saw four-star defensive end Khris Bogle flip to Florida, then they watched as tight end target Brett Seither signed with Georgia and linebacker target Henry To’oto’o committed to Tennessee. Alabama is still loaded and still a favorite to make the College Football Playoff next season, but having several players slip away on signing day isn’t the Nick Saban way.
THE VISOR INDUSTRY
Both five-star offensive lineman Darnell Wright and Rivals100 defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher chose to use visors to reveal their commitments on Wednesday and both had a difficult time getting them on their heads. Considering the duo is a combined 12-foot-9, 605 pounds, it’s not surprising the larger men had issues with the tiny visors. Assuming the visor trend continues, hat makers will need to start producing an XXXL variety.