It was a historic day for the University of Alabama and Nick Saban who signed the highest rated class in Rivals.com history. The nation’s top program which continues to stockpile talent, finished first in the Rivals.com rankings for the third year in a row as they prepare to contend for their third straight BCS national title.
It was the fifth “Recruiting Title” for Nick Saban in six years.
However, it may have been Hugh Freeze who stole the show with a class that is unprecedented for the Rebels. Ole Miss landed a consensus top ten class that includes elite defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
It was a wild day, with countless top prospects who had once been committed to a different school, ultimately signing with another. Here is a breakdown of the top story lines of National Signing Day.
The Tide Rolls
Since Rivals.com became the ground-breaker in top notch internet coverage of recruiting, there has never been a class that was more highly ranked than the Class of 2013 for the Alabama Crimson Tide. The headliners are linebacker Reuben Foster, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, and defensive end Jonathan Allen as well as early enrollees running back Derrick Henry and tight end O.J. Howard.
The Tide also were able to compile such an outstanding class through quality, not quantity as they were one of only four teams in the Rivals.com top ten (Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Auburn were the others) to sign only twenty-five players or less.
Alabama was also able to accomplish the incredible feat of signing four Rivals100 prospects… from the running back position alone with Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, and Altee Tenpenny joining Derrick Henry in that classification.
With the previously named players as well as standouts like wide receiver Robert Foster, offensive lineman Grant Hill, defensive tackle Dee Liner, and athlete ArDarius Stewart, the Crimson Tide not only won a recruiting national championship, dominate with local talent, but added incredible skill players and major defensive standouts.
What’s going on in Oxford?
Ole Miss has rarely ever been more than a blip on the radar on National Signing Day. This class brought in by Hugh Freeze has changed that.
The Rebels entered the day with a solid class led by wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, and had they been able to simply hold on to those players, this would have been among the best classes in Ole Miss history.
However, it was what happened on National Signing Day that made this class one that will be talked about across the country. The Rebels were able to add Breitbart25 #2 prospect defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, Breitbart25 #14 prospect offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, offensive tackle standout Austin Golson, and elite safety Antonio Connor.
In addition to these headliner prospects, Ole Miss also was able to add several offensive skill players including quarterback Ryan Buchanan and running backs Mark Dodson and Jordan Wilkins. The only disappointments for Ole Miss came early in the morning when defensive end commit Elijah Daniel flipped to Auburn and Mississippi State commit Chris Jones passed up the opportunity to join the parade of elite prospects in Oxford.
While this class certainly will not immediately put Ole Miss in the same level as Alabama, it is now clear that the SEC West just got even deeper and more competitive.
When Gus Malzahn took over at Auburn, he inherited a 3-9 team and jettisoned all of the assistants that had built relationships with the top recruits. Expectations weren’t high on the Plains and Auburn certainly took their losses including linebackers Trey Johnson (Ohio State) and Foster (Alabama), defensive tackle Liner (Alabama), and running back Wilkins.
However, Malzahn and his staff of experienced recruiters were able to more than make up for those losses on National Signing Day.
The Tigers flipped Daniel from Ole Miss, added Breitbart25 #3 prospect defensive tackle Montravious Adams, and also added two four stars including offensive lineman Deon Mix and running back Johnathan Ford.
These prospects were added to holdovers from the Chizik class including star quarterback Jeremy Johnson, wide receivers Jason Smith and Earnest Robinson, and Breitbart25 #1 prospect defensive end Carl Lawson. Malzahn also was able to add several other pieces leading up to National Signing Day including elite wide receiver Tony Stevens and several JUCO prospects who look to make an immediate impact.
Optimism has clearly returned to the Plains.
Loaded SEC West
Obviously, the stories are mainly going to be about Alabama and Ole Miss with a good bit of chatter about Auburn’s class as well. However, LSU and Texas A&M also had number one classes and prospects like defensive end Frank Herron (LSU) and wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones (TAMU) will certainly be factors in divisional play for years to come. Mississippi State also had a top 25 class headlined by Breitbart25 #10 prospect Chris Jones and Arkansas had a solid effort finishing inside the top 30.
The SEC East also had a good day with Florida having a top 5 class and Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee all finishing inside the top 20. Kentucky finished inside the top 30, while Missouri was the lowest ranked SEC team finishing just inside the top 50.
Sanctions hurt … but not too much
USC, Miami, and Penn State were all schools battling the effects of sanctions, and, for the most part, they still managed to emerge with solid classes given the circumstances.
The Trojans, despite a terrible season and the uncertainty surrounding Lane Kiffin, landed a top-15 class that included some of the biggest names in the Class of 2013 like quarterback Max Browne (already enrolled), defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow, and safety Laquan McQuay III (already enrolled).
Miami, despite all their woes was able to land a top 50 class led by defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and wide receiver Stacy Coley. Penn State, on the other hand, maintained most of their class including elite quarterback Christian Hackenburg.
While such low finishes will not long be tolerated at these programs, and six de-commitments really marred the perception of a strong USC class, this was not a terrible performance by these three schools.
Urban Meyer v. Saban stage set
I have always felt like Urban Meyer was one of the best closers in college football, and he proved it again today, landing running back Dontre Wilson on Monday stealing him from Oregon, signing wide receiver James Clark today, landing safety Vonn Bell who most (though not us) had pegged to Tennessee, and holding onto running back Ezekiel Elliot who faced tremendous pressure from in-state Missouri to flip to them.
This effort allowed Ohio State to finish with the #2 class, or, according to some services, even finish above Alabama for the top class. We have touched on this dynamic before, but Urban Meyer is building the Buckeyes to be a program that does not just compete for Big Ten titles, but competes to bring national championships to Columbus year after year.
Notre Dame gets stronger
The Irish put together a stellar class as they also seek to close the gap between themselves and the Crimson Tide. Notre Dame won a head to head with Alabama for the signature of Breitbart25 defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and also landed Breitbart25 members running back Greg Bryant and linebacker Jaylon Smith. Running back Tarean Folston and athlete Max Redfield will also help Brian Kelly as he seeks to strengthen the program to a point where they can keep up physically and athletically with programs like Alabama.
Lots of “flippers”
This year’s class seemed even less “committed” than previous years with several players spurning schools they had previously pledged to. Whereas elite prospects like Nkemdiche (Ole Miss), Foster (Alabama), and Henry (Alabama) had de-committed from their original schools long ago, prospects like Richardson (Alabama),cornerback Jalen Ramsey (who salvaged Florida State’s NSD along with linebacker Matthew Thomas), Daniel (Auburn), and others all waited until the last moment to flip their commitments.
Defensive end Tashawn Bower may have set a record though by beginning the day as an Auburn commit, switching to Florida in the morning, then ultimately signing with LSU.