Ranking the classes signed by new Power Five coaches
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The coaching carousel among Power Five schools was busy this offseason, so it’s always interesting to see how those new coaches performed on National Signing Day. Here’s a look.
NO. 10 FLORIDA STATE
Remember when there was concern about Willie Taggart’s slow start to this recruiting class? All of those issues were resolved - as expected - in the closing weeks before National Signing Day and it was busy for the Seminoles on Wednesday. Florida State landed four-star DE Malcolm Lamar, flipped four-star ATH Anthony Grant from Tennessee, secured four-star ATH Tre’Shaun Harrison, a former Oregon pledge when Taggart coached there, and signed three-stars Jamarcus Chatman and Jordan Young. The Seminoles did a tremendous amount of working leading up to Signing Day, too, with four-stars WR Warren Thompson, DE Dennis Briggs and LB Xavier Peters all joining the class. A slow start turned into a flourish at the end as Taggart loaded up in his first class.
NO. 15 OREGON
There were some big hits and some big misses and as National Signing Day played out for the Ducks, who finished with a top-15 class nationally, third in the Pac-12 behind USC and Washington. The biggest pickup - literally - was four-star massive offensive lineman Penei Sewell, who picked Oregon over USC, Utah and Alabama. Adding three-star WR J.J. Tucker was also an important piece but the Ducks loaded up at that position in the last few days when four-star standouts Isaah Crocker and Jalen Hall committed. The big miss in this class was four-star athlete Devon Williams, because he could have been a star on offense or defense. He surprisingly picked USC.
NO. 16 TEXAS A&M
Jimbo Fisher did not have a ton of recruiting wins leading up to National Signing Day since getting hired by the Aggies in early December. He saved them all for Wednesday. Texas A&M was expected to have an incredibly busy day and it was just that as the Aggies signed six prospects, led by four-star defensive ends Jermaine Martin from California and Bobby Brown, who flipped from Alabama. Two days before signing day, four-star defensive back Leon O’Neal re-committed to the Aggies, the first pledge in what would be a hectic day. Texas A&M missed out on five-star receiver Jaylen Waddle from Houston (Tex.) Episcopal and that one hurt. He picked Alabama. The Aggies also didn’t sign any of the top six in-state players as Texas really dominated with the local recruits. It will have to be a focus for Fisher heading into 2019.
NO. 17 UCLA
When Chip Kelly was hired by the Bruins, he set out to revamp almost the entire recruiting class and he did that with great success through Wednesday. Four-star WR/TE Michael Ezeike picked UCLA over USC and Oregon. With his size and skill set, Ezeike could be a star in Kelly’s offense. UCLA also flipped three-star speedster Martell Irby from Arizona, went to Tennessee and Texas for three-star defensive players and kept a select group of standouts from the previous regime. Four-star QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the star of Kelly’s first recruiting class in Westwood but there are a lot of other players in this group who fit UCLA’s new style perfectly. It was a busy January and early February as Kelly reworked an entire class.
NO. 18 FLORIDA
First, the good news. Florida finished with a top-20 class, landed four-star linebacker Andrew Chatfield in the morning, signed four-star receiver Jacob Copeland even though there was some drama involving his mother during his ceremony, kept four-star OL Richard Gouraige from signing with Clemson and received a pledge from four-star DE Malik Langham (who also had Alabama and Auburn on his list) among other positive things on Signing Day. Now, some bad news. The Gators did not sign a single prospect among the top 20 in the Florida state rankings and have no five-stars in the class. Plus, longtime Florida lean Nick Petit-Frere, a five-star offensive lineman, chose Ohio State instead.
NO. 20 TENNESSEE
There were high hopes leading up to National Signing Day that the Vols could snag five-star defensive backs Olaijah Griffin and/or Isaac Taylor-Stuart out of California. That didn’t happen as both signed with USC. But Jeremy Pruitt kept four-star linebacker JJ Peterson in the class despite a late push from Alabama and he loaded up along the defensive line led by four-star DE Emmit Gooden. Pruitt also left some flexibility to add a possible grad transfer or to still search for some unsigned prospects in this class. There were no blockbuster flips heading to Knoxville and there were some swings and misses, but the Vols still have an enviable class.
NO. 21 NEBRASKA
Loading up at the skill positions and getting players that fit the new system was the main focus for Scott Frost and that was accomplished. Three-star running back Maurice Washington, who tore up the Under Armour game, was a big addition on Signing Day. So was four-star LB Caleb Tannor from Georgia on the defensive side. With Frost basically doing two jobs - since he coached his old UCF team in the bowl game - it was difficult, but the Huskers addressed needs especially when it comes to speed and athleticism. Winning in Lincoln is the focus now.
NO. 24 MISSISSIPPI STATE
Joe Moorhead had a productive first Signing Day with six signatures led by four-star linebacker Aaron Brule, who picked the Bulldogs over Arkansas, and it’s a boost to the new staff’s focus on recruiting the state of Louisiana. In the final weeks before National Signing Day, Brule, who had been committed to Georgia, was looking seriously at TCU and then Arkansas but Mississippi State entered the picture and landed him. Signing three-star teammates DT Fabien Lovett and DB Jaylon Reed was also important. Mississippi State finished one spot ahead of Ole Miss in the SEC team rankings and that’s another feather in Moorhead’s cap.
T-NO. 25 OLE MISS
It was a relatively quiet National Signing Day for Matt Luke but a lot of work was done in the last couple months and there were a lot of positives in recruiting during that time. Landing four-star receiver Miles Battle a few days ago was especially important since he had been committed to Oregon and still seemed enamored by the Ducks. Four-star receivers Elijah Moore and Demarcus Gregory could be special. And high four-star quarterback Matt Corral could be one of the biggest steals because he has all the talent on the field and could compete for early playing time.
NO. 36 ARIZONA STATE
There have been some cracks about just how much Herm Edwards understands the recruiting process in today’s day and age of college football but the Sun Devils closed strong and landed some highly-skilled prospects. Much of that credit could go to some assistants - namely Antonio Pierce, who has tremendous ties into Southern California - as Pierce helped land four-star DB Aashari Crosswell and four-star LB Merlin Robertson. Former Alabama pledge four-star OL Jarrett Bell was also a highlight of the class after it was thought Nebraska held an edge. After all was said and done, the Sun Devils finished with the fifth-best class in the Pac-12. Not a bad start for Edwards.
NO. 53 ARIZONA
Kevin Sumlin and his staff did not do a tremendous amount on National Signing Day but that was expected since Arizona was to have a slightly smaller class and Sumlin’s focus is more on 2019 and loading up with that group. Expect a bigger recruiting class next year coming out of Tucson - and they’ll be all Sumlin prospects. The biggest thing the new Arizona coach and his staff needed to do since the surprising departure of Rich Rodriguez was to stabilize things and make sure the recruiting class did not melt down. That meant securing four-star DE Adam Plant and three-star QB Jamarye Joiner, who has some qualities like current QB Khalil Tate. Sumlin accomplished that and is moving on.
NO. 66 ARKANSAS
Arkansas had the smallest class in the SEC with only 16 signees, although Chad Morris said some others could join that list in the coming days. Still, it’s not an incredibly highly-ranked bunch as it’s last in the SEC and is the only team other than Missouri that doesn’t have an average star rating of at least 3.0. LB Bumper Pool and DB Ladarrius Bishop are the only four-stars in the class as the Razorbacks look to address some defensive needs.
NO. 72 OREGON STATE
The Beavers finished last in the Pac-12 and was only one of two teams in the conference along with Colorado that had no four-stars signed. Oregon State, Colorado and Cal were the three conference teams that averaged below 3.0 in average star ranking. Still, there are some positives. Three-star Matthew Tago is highly skilled and could be an immediate asset in Corvallis. Oregon State also addressed issues along the offensive and defensive lines.