There have been far more drama-laden National Signing Days, but the 2016 iteration brought plenty of intrigue.
Several of our Top 25 prospects made decisions on Wednesday, including Rashan Gary (Michigan), Ben Davis (Alabama), Derrick Brown (Auburn), Nate Craig-Myers (Auburn), Caleb Kelly (Oklahoma), and Mique Juarez (UCLA). While Alabama once again won the recruiting title (247Sports, Scout, and Rivals named the Tide #1 while ESPN gave the nod to FSU), optimism abounds across the nation’s best programs.
Here are the top storylines from National Signing Day:
1. SEC West Dominates Again—For the fourth straight year, the SEC West placed four teams in the top 10 of the recruiting rankings. Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, and Auburn all placed in the top 10 in 2016 (Alabama, LSU, and Auburn have been the three top 10 fixtures the last four years while Ole Miss has been included in ‘13 and ‘16 with Texas A&M breaking through in ‘14 and ‘15). National Signing Day itself saw Alabama add stellar prospects such as LB Ben Davis, LB Lyndell Wilson, and DE Terrell Hall, Ole Miss land WR A.J. Brown and S Deontay Anderson, LSU pull in DB Kristian Fulton, and Auburn haul DT Derrick Brown and WR Nate Craig-Myers to their classes. Standouts such as QB Shea Patterson (Ole Miss), OT Greg Little (Ole Miss), RB B.J. Emmons (Alabama), OT Jonah Williams (Alabama), DL Marlon Davidson (Auburn), WR Kyle Davis (Auburn), DB Savion Smith (LSU), and DT Rashard Lawrence (LSU) already committed to joining the SEC West. In short, college football’s toughest division got even more stacked.
2. Ohio State and Michigan Rivalry Intensifies—Both Big Ten programs finished top five—well ahead of their conference peers. Michigan enjoyed the stronger day, adding #1 prospect DT Rashan Gary, DB Lavert Hill, and TE Devin Asiasi on Signing Day. But Ohio State signed the slightly higher ranked class (#3 to Michigan’s #4). The talent surely intensifies this rivalry in the coming years. The competition that led to Michigan flipping RB Kareem Walker from Ohio State and the stark contrast of personalities that showed Meyer working his team at practice while Harbaugh gained much attention for over-the-top recruiting practices this cycle will only fuel the fire already burning in the cold Midwest.
3. Leaving on a Midnight Train Outta’ Georgia—Kirby Smart finished with a top-ten class for his first class as a head coach. However, Georgia is a state with exceptional high school talent and stands with Louisiana as the most talented states where one in-state school has prime pick of the litter. Not this year, though. When talent was nothing short of elite, the Bulldogs mustered only two of the top-ten players from inside the state according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings. Out-of-state rival Auburn pulled three while Clemson, Tennessee, Florida, and USC each grabbed an elite prospect from the state. Another, Demetris Robertson, appears set to decide between Notre Dame and Stanford at a later day. Overall, Smart has a class worth getting excited about, but the program is unlikely to thrive if it cannot better protect its turf.
4. Strong Close for Strong—Texas coach Charlie Strong has had his critics. A win over Oklahoma this season may have saved his job, and his recruiting class was mired in the muck. Texas isn’t used to losing on the field or in the recruiting wars and Strong was feeling the heat. Then, the last 48 hours happened. Six prospects ranked four stars or higher went to the Horns—five of whom play on defense. That was enough to allow Texas to rocket to #13 in the class rankings and cool the seat a bit. Winning needs to happen in 2016 and standing outside the top ten in recruiting won’t be tolerated for long, but Charlie Strong has put together a very strong couple of days.
5. New Age of Technology—Technology was a consistent theme on Signing Day. New rules made certain that outdated faxing machines did not become a story. A segment on ESPN focused on Clemson’s digital communications department—a massive staff that oversees social media, graphics, and new ways to communicate with recruits. Kirby Smart was featured Face-Timing a recruit. Compliance departments sent out messages to their fans reminding them not to tweet recruits, and Coach Dameyune Craig made certain to take a victory lap over his UNC counterpart who had done some trash talking after the Auburn coach sealed the deal with WR Nate Craig-Myers. While Jim Harbaugh proves that old school (?) methods like sleeping over at a recruit’s house still works, social media and technology increasingly factor into college football recruiting.
*** Unless otherwise noted, rankings cited come from Rivals.com