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National Signing Day: Breaking down the team rankings

Dabo Swinney and Clemson
Dabo Swinney and Clemson (AP Images)

The bulk of the Early Signing Period’s action typically takes place on its opening day and this year seems to have been no different. So with day No. 1 officially in the books, there’s no better time to glance at the Rivals.com team rankings and see what stands out about the way things are shaping up.

MORE: What's left to watch for in Early Signing Period | How every Power Five school announced signings | NSD blog | Rivals studio show

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

THE TOP SPOT  

Success tends to lead to more success in college football. There's no need to look any further than Clemson’s rise to prominence in order to see that. Winners of their last 28 games, the Tigers now seem headed for their first-ever recruiting title on the back of an Early Signing Period effort that saw the program sign 23 players, including six five-stars and 13 four-stars.

Dabo Swinney’s Wednesday haul was highlighted by No. 1 overall prospect Bryan Bresee (DL) and No. 2 overall prospect D.J. Uiagalelei (QB). The Tigers’ six five-star signees hail from five different states. Clemson has announced itself as a true national recruiting power on the level of Alabama or Ohio State, and the momentum it has built isn’t showing signs of fading whatsoever.

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LSU TAKES THE GOOD WITH THE BAD 

Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron (AP Images)

Speaking of success building upon success, LSU’s fourth-ranked class is at least partially the product of its emergence as a national title contender. Wednesday, the Tigers reached into Florida to grab Rivals100 offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil, who spurned the in-state Gators in order to head to Baton Rouge. They also secured the signature of four-star linebacker Phillip Webb.

So while Ed Orgeron and company were dealt two surprising blows when five-star receiver Rakim Jarrett flipped to Maryland and they lost four-star wideout Jermaine Burton to Georgia, LSU’s 2020 class is still a juggernaut. The Tigers have letters of intent from a pair of five-stars in cornerback Elias Ricks and tight end Arik Gilbert, in addition to more than 10 four-star prospects. LSU is also considered the favorite to land five-star running back Zachary Evans, who is set to announce early next month.

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ROUNDING OUT THE TOP FIVE  

Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia finished the day in the second, third and fifth spots, respectively. Georgia had a massive day to surge its way into the fifth spot, as the Bulldogs landed Rivals250 wideouts Arian Smith, locking down offensive lineman Tate Ratledge and flipping receiver Jermaine Burton from LSU.

Alabama sits in second place on the back of a 20-member class led by five-star quarterback Bryce Young, in addition to five-star linebackers Chris Braswell and Demouy Kennedy. Nick Saban’s program also added Rivals100 running back Jase McClellan, who the Tide flipped from Oklahoma on Wednesday evening. Holding off Florida to sign Rivals100 defensive tackle Timothy Smith was also a notable signing day victory.

Ohio State’s major Wednesday wins were headlined by the program signing a trio of five-star prospects in Paris Johnson Jr. (OL), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR), and Julian Fleming (WR).

AN UPHILL BATTLE FOR USC 

Clay Helton
Clay Helton (AP Images)

The events of Wednesday were less than ideal for USC, as it became clear that recruiting under embattled head coach Clay Helton is likely to be a major issue going forward. Helton will need a successful 2020 season to bury the perceived job security issues that are hampering him on the trail.

A program that used to consistently compete for recruiting titles, USC currently sits outside the top 60 and will need some luck to break into the top 40 in February. Its current, 11-member class includes just one four-star prospect and zero members of the Rivals100. Top-flight recruits are clearly taking a wait-and-see approach to Helton’s future, so things may not turn around unless he starts rattling off wins next fall.

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TOPS IN THE GROUP OF FIVE  

As of Wednesday evening the Group of Five’s top-ranked recruiting class belonged to Cincinnati. The Bearcats signed 17 prospects on Wednesday, a group that included four-star quarterback Evan Prater and four-star linebacker Jaheim Thomas. Cincinnati’s class currently ranks 51st in the country, ahead of programs such as USC, Arizona, Virginia Tech and others.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH CINCINNATI FANS AT BEARCATREPORT.COM