What you need to know before national signing day

NCAAF


The dust has settled from the early signing period and the dead period is over, so let’s get you caught up on what happened and what is next leading up to the signing day on Feb. 7.

What happened in the early signing period

The early signing period saw 1,976 FBS prospects sign their national letter of intent, which is the majority of the available prospects. The recruits were able to sign from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22, and 70 percent of the prospects signed on the first day of the signing period.

Within the ESPN 300, 219 of the top 300 recruits are signed with their respective schools and off limits to any opposing coaches. Among the top-tier recruits, 11 of the 14 five-star prospects signed, including all of the top five recruits. All but three of the top players in each position group are signed, with the top recruit in the athlete, cornerback and outside linebacker groups still unsigned.

For many schools it was a success; most schools were able to lock up their class and now don’t have to worry about recruits flipping between now and signing day.

Of the top 10 ranked recruiting classes, Auburn is the only team with more than four commitments unsigned, which means that January will mainly be focused on a smaller pool of prospects and a lot of coaches will focus on the 2019 class.

Georgia came out blazing, eventually moving up to the No. 1 spot for class rankings after landing five-star Brenton Cox and ESPN 300 prospects Cade Mays, Luke Ford, Nadab Joseph, Divaad Wilson and Jamaree Salyer in the signing period. The Dawgs, Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Florida were some of the bigger movers in the class rankings after the signing period closed.

Who’s still unsigned

Cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., at No. 6 overall, is the highest-ranked prospect yet to commit. Fellow five-stars — athlete Devon Williams and defensive back Tyson Campbell — are also unsigned. Those three are among the 54 uncommitted ESPN 300 recruits who will most likely have a busy January with schools coming after them now that the dead period is over.

OL Nick Petit-Frere, athlete Justin Watkins, wide receiver Jalen Hall, athlete Joshua Moore, receiver Jacob Copeland and quarterback Tanner McKee are all top-50 recruits who are still uncommitted.

With the new signing period, those uncommitted recruits aren’t the only ones still technically on the board, though. There are also 27 recruits who are currently committed but unsigned. Some of them went through the early signing period committed to their school, but decided not to sign.

Defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, the No. 49 prospect, is one of two ESPN 300 prospects committed to Texas who didn’t sign, along with running back Keaontay Ingram. Coburn said he knew all along he wouldn’t sign, and after the fact, he feels he made the right choice.

“I respect 100 percent why [the Texas coaches] are worried, but if I was in last year’s class, I would’ve just signed in February, so what’s the difference,” Coburn said. “Whatever Nick Saban said about the early signing period, I would’ve retweeted it. He’s taking time out of his practice to focus on recruiting and I feel like this process, you should take your time and see what you want.”

Some prospects, including Amon-Ra St. Brown, Anthony Schwartz, Tyreke Smith, Kelvin Joseph, Brendan Radley-Hiles and Rondale Moore, are committed but unsigned because they wanted to commit at various all-star games, which took place in early January.

Either way, many coaches are looking at the recruits who are unsigned as fair game and will recruit them to the wire until they have their national letter of intent faxed in to their respective school.

Which quarterbacks are left

Quarterbacks typically commit earlier and the majority of the ESPN 300 signal-callers also decided to sign early. There are only four ESPN 300 quarterbacks who are currently unsigned in this class.

Of those four recruits, two are committed but decided not to sign in December. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is committed to UCLA and Brevin White to Princeton. While he didn’t sign, Thompson-Robinson said that new coach Chip Kelly doesn’t have anything to worry about, that he is planning to sign with the Bruins in February.

James Foster and Tanner McKee remain uncommitted. McKee is unique. As a member of the Mormon church, he is planning to take a two-year religious mission, so he will essentially be a 2020 prospect. Stanford has been heavily involved with McKee, as have USC, Alabama, Texas A&M, Texas and BYU, among others.

McKee took his last official visit to Stanford on Jan. 11 and said that he will potentially take an unofficial visit the last week before signing day. Foster has a ton of schools still after him and is scheduled to visit LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida State before signing.

Tagovailoa didn’t enter the national championship game until the second half, replacing starter Jalen Hurts and creating a quarterback controversy on his way to a victory over Georgia.

There are quite a few outstanding quarterbacks in this 2018 class who could have a shot at unseating the incumbent starter the way Tagovailoa did in the national championship game, or at least pushing the starter and creating an actual competition. Tagovailoa didn’t replace Hurts until the final half of the season, so this prediction doesn’t necessarily mean a new quarterback will supplant the starter right away, but rather there might be potential for a similar situation to happen.

Georgia QB Justin Fields

Ironically, Tagovailoa’s opponent in the national championship game, Georgia, might see a similar situation play out. The Dawgs landed Justin Fields, the top-ranked quarterback in the class, and Fields is already enrolled at Georgia, taking part in team activities. He has the ability to push Jake Fromm and create a competition between the two.

Fields might not replace Fromm, especially from the start, but his talent and ability are so great that with a few months under his belt and some actual college experience, Fields could be right in the mix.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

Clemson could also see a similar scenario. Trevor Lawrence, the No. 2 overall prospect and the No. 1-ranked pocket-passer, could challenge incumbent Kelly Bryant with his advanced passing skills.

Lawrence, much like Fields, is already enrolled at Clemson and later in the season should be well enough acclimated to get his feet firmly planted in the competition. That’s not to say that these two will take over the starting job, but there is an opportunity for both Fields and Lawrence to push the guys in front of them.

Teams that could have a big January

Florida State: The Seminoles were somewhat crippled by the coaching carousel as Jimbo Fisher dragged out his departure. Once Fisher left and Willie Taggart was hired, Taggart had only a few weeks to try to get as many prospects to sign as he could.

Now, through the dead period, Taggart and his staff have had time to build a plan and go out and fill this class with their bigger targets. Florida State still has a shot with quite a few ESPN 300 prospects, including quarterback James Foster, offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere and athlete Tre’Shaun Harrison, as well as previous Florida State decommits Jashaun Corbin and Antoine Green, among other targets.

LSU: The Tigers already have 23 commitments in the class, and likely only three more spots left, but there are some big names on their board for January. LSU has a shot with five-star defensive back Patrick Surtain Jr., wide receiver JaMarr Chase, quarterback James Foster and athlete Mario Goodrich among others. If LSU can close those last few spots out with some of the higher-ranked prospects, the staff has a chance to improve its No. 10-ranked class.

USC: The Trojans surged in December and the beginning of January, adding ESPN 300 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, linebacker Talanoa Hufanga and running back Markese Stepp among others. USC had the No. 30-ranked recruiting class on the first day of the early signing period and are now all the way up to No. 12.

That number could go even higher if the staff can reel in some of the bigger targets left, including ESPN 300 defensive back Isaac Taylor-Stuart, linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu, offensive lineman Penei Sewell and defensive back Olaijah Griffin among the other targets remaining. With only 14 commitments in the class, USC has room to add more to the equation and could see its stock rise into February.

Who needs to step it up

Texas A&M: Newly hired coach Jimbo Fisher will likely do very well recruiting at Texas A&M, but in the short term, he is currently sitting with the No. 30 class. Compare that to the Nov. 15 class rankings, when the Aggies were at No. 12. The staff has only 14 commitments, and the Aggies do have an opportunity to gain some highly sought-after commitments, but the switch hasn’t been flipped on just yet. Part of that has been because of the timing of Fisher’s hire and partially because he has just recently made some assistant coach hires, but they need to get running in the next couple of weeks.

UCLA: The Bruins are another team that was impacted by a coaching change, and so it only makes sense that they would fall in this category. UCLA is currently ranked No. 38 overall in the class rankings, so Chip Kelly and his staff have some work to do. There are quite a few prospects still available on the West Coast, but beating out some of the other teams for those targets won’t be easy. Kelly has some good foundational pieces already in the class, including quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but there needs to be more to accelerate what Kelly would like to do with this program.



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