National Signing Day: Winners and losers
The first day of the 2019 Early Signing Period is in the books, and while about 75 percent of the prospects in the 2019 class signed there was still 100 percent of the usual signing day action and drama. Most schools are putting on smiles to celebrate their classes, but not every fan base has a reason to celebrate after the day’s proceedings.
Here’s our breakdown of the winners and losers from Wednesday’s proceedings.
The Ducks landed one of the day’s biggest fish, reeling in five-star linebacker Justin Flowe, one of the highest-ranked signees in program history. It seems like every signing day since Mario Cristobal took over the Ducks are breaking recruiting records, and now having Flowe to pair with fellow five-star Noah Sewell, the Ducks will be mentioned among the nation’s top linebacker corps for years to come. The Ducks are also still very much in the conversation for five-star defensive back Kelee Ringo, who may have signed Wednesday but has yet to announce his decision, as well as uncommitted four-star quarterback Robby Ashford. Oregon sits firmly within the Top 15 in the team rankings and appears poised to sign the Pac-12’s top class once again.
The Vols finished with a flurry on Wednesday, adding five new names to their commitment list, highlighted by four-stars Tyler Baron and Morven Joseph. Baron is the highest-ranked member of the bunch and was a longtime priority of the staff. After long flirtations with Kentucky, he elected to stay close to home and play for Tennessee, where his father, Patrick Abernathy, works in the recruiting office. Joseph was a longtime Florida State commit and the Vols pounced when given the opportunity after the school’s coaching change. Add in the fact that the Vols already had a strong close to the fall with guys like Omari Thomas joining the fold and it was a great month of December in Knoxville.
New head coach Mike Norvell didn’t have much time to hit the recruiting trail after being named head coach earlier this month, but it was really hard to tell, considering how well the Seminoles closed on Wednesday. After flipping USF quarterback commit Tate Rodemaker earlier in the week, the Noles made a big move on Wednesday in nabbing four-star quarterback Chubba Purdy away from Louisville. With Norvell’s ability to develop quarterbacks combined with the need for depth at the position, this seems like a quality match. Overall, the Seminoles added five commitments on Wednesday and climbed all the way into the Top 25 in the Rivals.com team rankings. With a pair of quarterbacks and highly ranked wide receiver Bryan Robinson also on board, the rebuilding effort in Tallahassee got off to a good start.
The Wildcats didn’t get everyone they wanted but they almost did. Kentucky finished strong by adding four four-star linemen in the final 24 hours up to and including signing day and moved all the way up to No. 20 overall in the Rivals.com team rankings. The late additions bolstered the trenches for UK, with four-star defensive linemen Josaih Hayes and Oxtavious Oxendine spurning Ole Miss and Tennessee to chose the ‘Cats and four-star offensive linemen Jeremy Flax and Reuben Adams turning down Auburn and others. Add in that the Wildcats held on to longtime five-star defensive tackle commit Justin Rogers and it was a great day at UK.
Clearly in need of more talent on the roster, the Huskers reworked their class on the fly over the past few weeks with very impressive results. Since Dec. 11, the Huskers have added 11 commits, capped off by a signing day that saw four new players make the decision to pick Nebraska. The quartet was highlighted by a pair of Florida playmakers - the kind that Scott Frost used to turn UCF into a powerhouse - in four-stars Jaiden Francois (DB) and Marcus Fleming (WR). Getting more Florida players on the roster was a priority and all told the Huskers ended up signing seven Sunshine State natives. After a disappointing 2019 on the field hopes will be high for this year’s freshman class in 2020.
South Dade High School students
The students at South Dade High School gathered in the gym on Wednesday morning to watch a number of the school’s football players announce their college decisions and sign their letters-of-intent. But things took a turn when the ceremony started 30 minutes late and then four-star defensive back Jaiden Francois left the gym before announcing his choice. The delay went on for nearly an hour and students, excused from class, were left waiting in the gym for Francois to come back and reveal his choice. After a few different twists and turns, Francois finally got on the microphone and elected to commit to Nebraska over nearby Miami. The entire debacle and the livestream that went with it was a major hit on Twitter and got the signing day hijinx kicked off in a major way. Getting out of class is always a plus for a high school student, and even though he’s not staying to play for the Canes, Francois was likely still the big man on campus at South Dade on Wednesday.
After a great season on the field in which the team exceeded expectations, the Cardinals hoped to finish strong with a Top 25 class. But those hopes were derailed when the Cardinals lost two commits to Florida State: four-star quarterback commit Chubba Purdy and three-star defensive lineman Josh Griffis. The Cardinals picked up just one new commitment on Wednesday, two-star wide receiver Marqui Lowery, and are on the outside of the Top 35 in the Rivals.com team rankings looking in. The Cardinals staff is known for doing more with less and time will tell how their evaluations of this class pan out.
The Pac-12 - besides Oregon and Washington
It’s not to say that plenty of teams in the conference didn’t add a lot of talent, but once again the West Coast schools outside of the Ducks and Huskies were left to watch as five-stars left the region to sign with programs elsewhere. Of the 10 five-stars from the west region, only the Ducks (2) and Washington (1) were able to keep five-stars home, while six of the other seven available are headed outside of the Pac-12 footprint. After missing the College Football Playoff for the third straight year the conference can’t continue to let top players slip out of the region.
Florida and Miami
The Hurricanes missed out on Francois and lost three-star linebacker Romello Height to Auburn, all while not adding a single commitment in the month of December. Last year, the Hurricanes were dealt a tough hand with a late coaching change and used transfers to fill the void with mixed results. With just 18 signees will they be forced to do it again?
Florida finished No. 7 in the Rivals.com team rankings, so the Gators don’t have much to complain about, but the school came into the week with many big fish on the line and had to watch on Wednesday while most got away. The Gators failed to flip elite defensive linemen Timothy Smith (Alabama) and Clyde Pinder (North Carolina) and were left to watch as four-star defensive end/outside linebacker Donnell Harris pretended to commit to the Gators while donning a Florida shirt, only to toss it aside and reveal he was sticking with Texas A&M. Florida is still in much better shape than its two Big Three rivals, but Wednesday wasn’t the type of day fans were hoping to see.
There was some buzz over the weekend that the Trojans might actually make a strong late push and perhaps land Flowe and perhaps potentially flip five-star quarterback Bryce Young back from Alabama. Well, not only did those rumors not come to fruition but the Trojans actually added just one new commitment on Wednesday in three-star defensive end Tuli Tuipulotu. USC is on pace for its lowest ranking in the Rivals.com era and even if the Trojans can add some players in the late signing period, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USC look to the portal as well to help fill out holes.