SEC: Winners and losers from 2020 late signing day
Once again, when you look at the Team Rankings on Rivals.com, you see a lot of SEC schools at the top. Georgia finished No. 1, then six others in the top 10 play in the same conference.
On Signing Day though, not all SEC schools were winners. We highlight some that won and a few that lost that day this cycle.
First-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman delivered on his first signing day as the Head Hog. The Razorbacks won a series of critical recruiting battles, securing signatures from their quarterback of the future, Malik Hornsby, who picked Arkansas over Baylor and Purdue; four-star offensive linemen Jalen St. John and Marcus Henderson, who chose the Razorbacks over SEC West rival Ole Miss. Pittman and co. also added quality players on the defensive side of the ball in three-stars Andy Boykin and Nick Turner.
Everything went Kirby Smart’s way Feb. 5. He kept No. 1 offensive tackle Broderick Jones from Auburn, he kept Sedrick Van Pran from Florida and he flipped Daran Branch from Ole Miss. The Bulldogs also signed four-star running back Daijun Edwards and added in-state talent Ladd McConkey (wide receiver) and Cameron Kinnie (lineman). Georgia, once again closed strong, and for the third year in a row signed the No. 1 class in the country.
In all fairness, National Signing Day in Missouri was relatively quiet from the early morning on, but it’s important to acknowledge Coach Eli Drinkwitz’s huge victory on the recruiting trail. Missouri won a tight recruiting battle for three-star Texas cornerback Ennis Rakestraw, edging Alabama and Texas in the process. Not too many schools can claim victories like that on National Signing Day, especially for a kid from Dallas.
Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols did not have too much room for additions, but they did had a couple of major targets left, and they landed both. It started with Dee Beckwith, a versatile athlete in Alabama that announced for Tennessee over Florida. That was expected. Then the battle that went on well into the afternoon was between Tennessee and Ole Miss, both working hard to flip Malachi Wideman from Florida State. This one went back and forth for days leading up to Signing Day, but then Tennessee closed the deal and landed the Rivals100 wide receiver. It was a strong finish for Pruitt and his staff.
Many people connected Rivals100 defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson to Alabama leading into National Signing Day, but the Mississippi four-star instead signed with Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher recruited Jackson when he was at Florida State and that relationship stayed strong as Fisher continues to upgrade the roster in College Station. Not only did the Aggies add a quality interior defensive linemen, but added a quality running back in Darvon Hubbard. That should quell any Zach Evans-to-Texas A&M rumors for the time being, which might also count as a victory.
Arguably the biggest victory of the day in the SEC came from Vanderbilt, which was able to hang on to Rivals250 defensive back Donovan Kaufman. The four-star safety from New Orleans saw his recruitment take off after taking home MVP honors in the state championship game, which led to new offers and interest from Florida State, Baylor and Ole Miss, among others. The Rebels came very close to flipping Kaufman away from Vanderbilt, but he elected to honor his commitment and sign accordingly last week. Kaufman is one of two four-stars in Vandy’s 2020 signing class and should be an instant-impact player in Nashville.
Was Alabama a loser overall with the No. 3 class in the country, absolutely not, but on Feb. 5, the Crimson Tide definitely lost the day. Alabama kept Javon Baker, Jamil Burroughs and Dameion George in the fold, and got that trio signed, but on the targets that entered the day uncommitted, they missed. It starts with Jackson, who surprised some by choosing Texas A&M over Alabama. Even a bigger shocker was Rakestraw signing with Missouri, when many felt he would end up in Tuscaloosa. Alfred Collins was expected to stay home with Texas, which he did, so that was not as big of a story, but it was a tough first Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, and that doesn’t happen too often.
The Gators pulled off arguably the biggest shocker of National Signing Day when Texas four-star defensive end Princely Umanmielen chose Florida over the Longhorns and Baylor at his signing day ceremony. While that was a great get for the Gators, they had less luck when it came to prized safety Avantae Williams, who wound up signing with in-state rival Miami out of nowhere. As we move past National Signing Day, Dan Mullen’s staff is also paying close attention to four-stars Marc Britt and Leonard Manuel, who did not sign last Wednesday.
Lane Kiffin’s first National Signing Day as the head coach of the Rebels was certainly less eventful as one could have imagined. Ole Miss signed a few offensive linemen in three-stars Cedric Melton and Brady Ward, but came up short for priority targets like Rivals100 wide receiver Malachi Wideman and also missed on tight end Allen Horace, who picked UTSA instead. Marcus Henderson and Donovan Kaufman were two other notable misses, while longtime cornerback commitment Branch flipped to Georgia.