National Signing Day: Winners and losers
Another recruiting class is closing up, and that means it’s time to review the winners and losers from Wednesday. While the late signing period is nowhere near as hectic as December there were still a lot of storylines, and some programs had a great day and others not as much. Here’s a look.
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The Crimson Tide have won a lot of team recruiting titles, but this class had the highest point total in Rivals history as Alabama was the only squad in the country to have a higher-than-4.0 average star ranking. The class was polished off when high four-star defensive back Terrion Arnold picked Alabama over Georgia and Florida. Plus, coach Nick Saban did a Zoom interview with Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell. It was a win-win for all parties.
Coach Bryan Harsin has been on the job for less than two months and neither he nor anyone on his staff can go out and recruit, but the Tigers still had some wins - and some losses - on Wednesday. Keeping three-star athlete Tarvarish Dawson was important and landing three-star CB Juwon Gaston by beating out South Carolina and others for the Montgomery (Ala.) Carver recruit were big moments. Auburn is almost certainly not done in 2021 as three-star RB Jarquez Hunter and others are out there as well. Missing on four-star LB Trevin Wallace and three-star DB Dontae Balfour was not ideal for the Tigers, however.
All was quiet on the 2021 front for Georgia on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs reeled in five-star defensive tackle Keithian Alexander from Denton (Texas) Ryan, and that’s cause for celebration. That was a massive recruiting win for coach Kirby Smart and his staff over Texas A&M and many others, and it comes just days after 2022 four-star QB Gunner Stockton, a former South Carolina pledge, also picked the Bulldogs.
There was one big target for Kentucky on Wednesday - and the Wildcats landed him. Thanks to the efforts of inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall and others on the staff, Kentucky did a phenomenal job recruiting four-star linebacker Trevin Wallace down the stretch and the Wildcats beat out Auburn and Ole Miss for him. Originally committed to Boston College, Wallace looked like he was off the board, but once he backed off his pledge Kentucky got in the mix and won out.
Maybe this is overblown, but maybe not: Michigan made a big statement on Wednesday as coach Jim Harbaugh looks for that spark to get the Wolverines going again. Four-star lineman Rayshaun Benny flipped from Michigan State, which was a huge win for the Wolverines, and Ikechukwu Iwunnah backed off his Colorado pledge and signed with Michigan. The Wolverines now have a top 10 class and momentum heading into the offseason.
Notre Dame flipped Audric Estime from Michigan State late before the first signing period and then the Irish held off LSU for three-star RB Logan Diggs from Metairie (La.) Rummel. LSU was his dream school, and the Tigers came after him hard but once coach Brian Kelly and his staff got wind that Diggs was rethinking things and might want out of his paperwork Kelly talked to Diggs every day and sold him on the vision. It worked.
The Rebels gave up more than 38 points per game and more than five yards per carry this past season, but help is on the way - big help. Coach Lane Kiffin and his staff closed on four-star DT Tywone Malone from Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic as the Rebels held on over Texas A&M. A new pipeline from Oxford to the New York City suburbs? Probably not. But Malone will be a big help in football - and baseball - immediately.
The big fish for Texas A&M on Wednesday was high four-star running back LJ Johnson, and the Aggies beat Texas for him as the Cypress (Texas) Fairbanks standout went back and forth for an agonizing few weeks in his recruitment. Johnson could be an immediate contributor in the A&M offense, and it was a battleground recruiting win for coach Jimbo Fisher. Four-star defensive tackle Tywone Malone was a miss, though, as he picked Ole Miss.
The last month has been incredible for USC - and it feels like the good ol' days of recruiting for the Trojans when the top players in the region headed to that program. Five-star Korey Foreman in the 2021 class and 2022 five-star corner Domani Jackson are locked in. Four-star Fabian Ross in 2022 committed as well, and Wednesday four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis, who was a longtime LSU commit and recently took a visit to Ohio State, picked the Trojans. It was a big finish for USC’s 2021 class.
Rayshaun Benny is a four-star lineman who could play on either side of the ball, and his commitment to the Spartans looked like it was going to stick. Losing out on him definitely hurts. But it was not all bad news out of East Lansing on Wednesday as versatile wide receiver Keon Coleman out of Opelousas (Mich.) Catholic surprised some by picking Michigan State.
Logan Diggs stuck with Notre Dame despite LSU being the dream school and the Tigers making a serious run at him. Starke (Fla.) Bradford three-star cornerback Dontae Balfour picked North Carolina over LSU and Auburn. Even three-star QB Cole Lourd from Beverly Hills (Calif.) Brentwood, who received his biggest offer from LSU in recent days, is going to hold off a few days before making his final decision. As of Tuesday night, Lourd was deciding between LSU and a preferred walk-on offer from Texas.
When four-star cornerback Avante Dickerson decommitted from Minnesota in late January it looked all but certain that the Omaha (Neb.) Westside standout was going to end up with the Huskers. He lives an hour from campus. He had never been to Oregon. Ducks coach Mario Cristobal had never seen Dickerson in person. But Nebraska couldn’t close and Dickerson wanted to go to Eugene, so Nebraska lost out on the state’s second-best player after getting three of the other top five.
The late signing period
Almost all the excitement has gone to December’s signing period, and while college coaches are more open to do Zoom interviews in February because pretty much everything is wrapped up now, there are only a few straggler commitments and not nearly as much drama. All the fun is in December, and if a pandemic year is not going to change that probably nothing will.
Josh Helmholdt's bookcase
Mike Farrell has a collection of helmets as his backdrop for interviews. I put up a Rivals screen to cover my bedroom door although my brother’s painting is poking out from the side, but still very acceptable. But Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt needs a little TLC, needs a fixer-upper in his life. During a Zoom call with new Penn State signee Davon Townley, Helmholdt’s bookcase has stacks of paper, a picture, an old Rivals Camp football and a lone hat. No books. No personal touches. Nothing. That could be called his Grand Rapids flair, but he needs a Barnes & Noble gift card desperately.