National Signing Day: Coaches who need to hit home runs
National Signing Day is one of the biggest dates on the calendar for every college football program, but each year there are a few coaches for whom it means a little extra. That is the case again with the 2020 class, so we are highlighting five coaches who need to hit home runs by the time the Early Signing Period ends next Friday.
1. ELIAH DRINKWITZ
This signing day is vitally important to all the new head coaches across the FBS landscape, but I postulate it is most important for new Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. The former offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Boise State and NC State succeeds a defensive-minded coach in Barry Odom who had a different mentality when building his roster. Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk wanted an offensive-minded coach with this hire.
Now, it becomes Drinkwitz’s job to mold this roster to execute his vision, and he cannot wait until 2021 to get that done. Re-securing the commitments of prospects already pledged to the program who fit that vision is priority No. 1, but concurrently the new Missouri head man has to be identifying those prospects not currently committed he can get before they sign elsewhere next week.
2. JUSTIN FUENTE
I am not really sure what is going on with Virginia Tech’s recruiting in 2020, but I do know if this class does not expand next week, it will be woefully insufficient to address roster needs.
The Hokies boast just 10 commitments entering a big recruiting weekend that is expected to see a dozen or more official visitors descend on Blacksburg. Interestingly, head coach Justin Fuente and his staff have put an exceptional amount of recruiting focus on the state of Texas lately. The Hokies have only landed one Texas-based prospect during Fuente’s tenure, but several of the expected official visitors this weekend hail from the Lone Star State, including four-star Alec Bryant. Virginia Tech needs to be throwing its best pitches this weekend so it can reap the rewards next Wednesday.
3. CLAY HELTON
It is evident that Clay Helton hung on to his job at USC by the thinnest of margins. He will now lead every head coach hot seat report this off-season after new athletic director Mike Bohn announced earlier this month that Helton would be back for his fifth season with the Trojans.
In order to cool that seat down, Helton not only needs to meet expectations on the field but he needs to show there is reason for hope long term as well. A 2020 recruiting class that features just 10 commitments and is ranked outside the top 70 classes in the country will not engender that type of optimism. Helton needs to give USC’s recruiting a shot in the arm and he needs to do it right now.
4. TOM HERMAN
Texas’ record regressed from 10-4 with a Sugar Bowl win in 2018 to 7-5 this season. The discontent in Austin was evidenced when the Longhorns dismissed several assistant coaches, including both the offensive and defensive coordinator.
You only get one chance at a place like Texas to make a change of this magnitude, so the time for head coach Tom Herman is now and it starts next week. Texas has a top 20 recruiting class with just 16 commitments, but many of the coaches who recruited those 16 prospects are now gone. The focus in this first signing period, then, is keeping that group together.
Top prospects like quarterback Hudson Card, five-star running back Bijan Robinson and Rivals100 wide receiver Quentin Johnson are top targets of other schools trying to flip their commitments from Texas. This class may not grow much next week, but success will be achieved if the Longhorns can hold on to their top commits.
5. KIRBY SMART
No team has recruited better over the previous three classes than Georgia. Kirby Smart is not in rebuilding mode like some other coaches on this list, but 2020 is still a very important recruiting class for the Bulldogs as they look to break into the College Football Playoff.
Each of the last two seasons Georgia has finished at No. 5, one spot out of the playoff. Georgia has commitments from five of the top 50 ranked prospects in the class, so the top-end talent is present, but the Bulldogs have just 14 total commits so far in this class and no one has joined since August.
Georgia has shown the ability to maximize the number of prospects they sign every year. The spots are there to significantly bulk up this class, but it will require Smart and company to be nearly perfect down the stretch while they battle for top guys like Kelee Ringo, Darnell Washington and Jordan Burch.