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Sting Factor: The 10 biggest stings of the Early Signing Period

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Nakobe Dean
Nakobe Dean (

NEWS FROM EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: Five teams that can still make noise | Headlines from the second day | The Farrell Awards | Big surprises | Winners and losers | Mind of Mike | 10 predictions | Blog | Bama at No. 1 | James Franklin talks NSD | Top uncommitted prospects

During the year we here at do a feature called “Sting Factor” whenever an important prospect backs off his commitment from a school. We take reaction from the local, regional and national level to measure just how much of an impact losing a commit can have on a school’s class. Now that the Early Signing Period is almost over, we take a look at 10 prospects whose signing stung for particular opposing programs who missed out on landing prime targets.

Who it stings: Michigan

Why: The five-star Harrison kept a pretty low profile throughout his entire recruitment, even though it was a hotly contested affair between hated rivals Ohio State and Michigan. However, throughout the fall the word was that Michigan was not only the team to beat, but seemed to be pulling away. All of that came apart late as Harrison decided to stay in-state with the Buckeyes, giving new head coach Ryan Day his first signature recruiting victory over Jim Harbaugh.

Who it stings: Florida State

Why: If there’s one thing that anyone who watched Florida State play this fall can agree on, it’s that the Seminoles badly need offensive line help. Enter Putnam, who was a major priority for the staff, especially considering Willie Taggart’s track record of recruiting the Tampa Bay area. The Seminoles also seemed like the team to beat heading into the week, so to see him stolen away by ACC-rival Clemson is a major blow. Florida State fans plan on getting back to contending status soon and in order to do that, winning battles for players like Putnam is key.

Who it stings: Texas

Why: It’s not like Texas is desperate at the wide receiver position, but anytime a player of Higgins skillset from right in the Longhorns backyard gets stolen away, it’s going to hurt. Stanford made a successful pitch to Higgins, luring him away with the promise of being the go-to receiver, similar to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Since taking over the job in Austin, Tom Herman has done a nice job of keeping in-state talent home, but losing elite in-city talent like Higgins still stings.

Who it stings: Ole Miss, Alabama

Why: It’s an old recruiting adage that it’s hard to pull elite recruits out of the state of Mississippi, with Alabama being one of the few programs to have success in recent years. Now Georgia can add its name to the list, after the Bulldogs went into the state and pulled Dean away from the Rebels and the Tide. Dean would have likely stepped right into the lineup for Rebels and the fact that Ole Miss fans have to watch him play in conference for years to come is going to continue to sting. Alabama also put a lot of effort into recruiting Dean, and will likely be seeing him for years to come as well.

Who it stings: Georgia, Florida, Texas

Why: While Alabama was long viewed as the favorite to land Sanders for most of his recruitment, Georgia had a ton of buzz heading into the final week and seemed poised to land him until the tide turned Wednesday morning. In the end, Sanders landed with Alabama, and after some slight drama over his letter-of-intent arriving in Tuscaloosa, he’s poised to be the next highly-ranked back in Alabama’s stable. Georgia will move on and still has two five-star running backs on the roster, so even though Sanders slipped away, it doesn’t sting as much as some others on this list. Sanders would have been a plug and play option in either Gainesville or Austin, but the sting was eased by the fact that neither school went into the day confident of its chances to land Sanders.

Who it stings: Texas A&M

Why: There weren’t many losses on the recruiting trail for Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies down the stretch, but the loss of Stripling to Oklahoma is one that stings quite a bit. Stripling was a regular in College Station over the past few years and while he didn’t talk much about his recruitment, many thought the Aggies were the team to beat. As it turned out, his long standing relationship with the Oklahoma staff was too much for Texas A&M to overcome. In the ultra competitive SEC West, elite defensive lineman are needed to compete, so losing a player like Stripling is tough, even in a banner year otherwise.

Who it stings: Miami, Georgia

Why: Things aren’t exactly going well for Miami on the recruiting trail lately and the loss of Neal on Wednesday was just another blow. The South Florida native was always high on the Canes, but with the way the season closed and the longtime overtures from Alabama were too much for the hulking offensive lineman to pass up. Hurricanes coaches and fans always preach about locking up the “State of the U” in Florida and five-star offensive linemen like Neal aren’t easy to find in that area. The fact that he got away and is yet another elite South Florida prospect to land in Tuscaloosa stings quite a bit. Georgia was also a player for Neal, but just like with Sanders, the Dawgs are loaded with elite offensive linemen and can withstand his loss.

Who it stings: Texas, Tennessee

Why: Cain started his high school career in Texas and Longhorns fans had been hoping he would end up back in the state to play his college ball. He spent long periods flirting with the Longhorns and with his skillset it seemed like he could have stepped right into the lineup. Tennessee also made a late run at Cain, hosting him for an official visit just prior to the signing period and the Vols were holding out hope they could pull the upset. Instead, Cain will join a talented stable of backs in State College.

Who it stings: Clemson, Michigan

Why: The race for Crouch seemed to be Clemson’s to lose when the calendar turned to December, at least until everything flipped following a surprise visit by Crouch to Knoxville the last weekend before the signing period started. That trip flipped things for Crouch, putting Tennessee in the lead and leaving the Tigers scrambling to get him to delay his signing. He ended up signing financial aid papers with all three schools, giving hope to both the Tigers and the Wolverines, but he pulled the rug out from both when he elected to sign with the Vols on Friday night. It was the second straight recruiting victory for Tennessee over Michigan, following the commitment of 2020 quarterback Harrison Bailey late last month.

Who it stings: Mississippi State

Why: Much like Dean, most thought that from the start of Hall’s recruitment, it would end with him landing at an in-state school in Mississippi. Even as last as earlier in the week, it seemed like Mississippi State was going to hold off Auburn and several others. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case, and Hall decided to head out of state, landing with the Tigers. Bulldogs fans will now have to face Hall on a yearly basis and he steps in at a position of need for Auburn as well, making the loss sting that much more.