Mark Lindquist

Recruiting Roundup

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Winners and Losers of NSD

Thursday, February 2, 2017


 

 

 

 



Winner: USC

USC not only won the Pac-12’s signing day, they won the universe in all its glory. Head coach Clay Helton, much beleaguered early in the season, was that kid at the gym who looks unassuming until you play him in basketball, at which point he proceeds to hit every shot he takes. The Trojans nailed all of their targets as the day progressed. Adding to an already loaded roster, USC signed four-star wideout Joseph Lewis, four-star offensive lineman Austin Jackson, four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele, four-star athlete Greg Johnson, four-star LB Levi Jones and four-star tight end Josh Falo. And that was just what they gained on Signing Day itself, not even counting the previous commitments who inked with Helton and company. USC was probably going to be a top-five team to open the 2017 season even before all of this goodness and all this goodness certainly doesn’t hurt.



Winner: Alabama


There is no use in resisting the power of the Dark Side. You know the Alabama drill. Their recruiting class is filled with your typical assortment of future high-draft NFLer’s, from running back Najee Harris to tackle Alex Leatherwood to LB Dylan Moses. On Wednesday, they added to the kitty with a pair of wideouts in four stars Henry Ruggs and project Devonta Smith. Smith might need some seasoning but has Odell Beckham Jr.-esque upside. Toss in four-star DE LaBryan Ray, who also signed on Wednesday, and, yeah, that’s an Alabama recruiting class. As Rivals recruiting director Mike Farrell points out, they ultimately signed the outlet’s No. 1 (Harris), No. 4 (Leatherwood), No. 19 (WR Jerry Jeudy), No. 25 (OL Jedrick Wills) and No. 32 (Moses) prospects. Which is insane. That’s not even hitting on top-100 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or elite JUCO crushers like offensive lineman Elliott Baker and defensive end Isaiah Buggs. Alabama might not be your cup of football tea, but it’s difficult not to stand in awe of what Nick Saban builds every year.



Winner: Michigan

If USC didn’t exist, Michigan might have come away as the big headline-winner of National Signing Day. As is, the Trojans do exist and that counteracts even the magnetic weirdness of Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh pulled in some huge names on Wednesday nonetheless, no doubt raising a goblet of milk to the sky when five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon signed early in the day. To go-karting, he might have said to himself, it works. The Wolverines followed up Solomon’s signing with that of four-star wideout Nico Collins, Rivals’ No. 120 overall prospect. That he stole Alabama native Collins out of Nick Saban’s backyard probably made it all the sweeter. Last season, Michigan sometimes looked completely unable to pass. Harbaugh more than made up for that on the trail, though, bringing in four-star QB Dylan McCaffrey and a quintet of wideouts in Collins, Oliver Martin, Tarik Black, Brad Hawkins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. The first three are four-star prospects. Peoples-Jones might be the best receiver in the class and pulls in a five-star grade from Rivals. We could be in store for some epic battles with the Wolverines and Buckeyes, as both teams finished with loaded stocks on National Signing Day. Ohio State did much of its damage over the summer.



Winner: Florida


The Gators looked on the verge of recruiting collapse about a week ago, when CB Elijah Blades decommitted. Then came the news early this week that Florida would be pulling their offer to Gator-leaning four-star wideout James Robinson following his marijuana citation during an official visit to Ohio State in January. Then, just as they were about to smack into the brick wall of National Signing Day and collapse into the shame of a top-25 recruiting class (expectations are relative, folks), Jim McElwain pulled the Gators out of their death roll. They reversed course on Robinson midway through Wednesday’s wildness. Robinson was far from their only get, though, as they also signed an additional trio of four-stars in safety Brian Edwards, tackle Tedarrell Slaton and cornerback C.J. Edwards. With their last-minute work, they managed to climb all the way to Rivals’ No. 9 class. Not a perfect class, though. The lone quarterback signing came from three-star Jack Allen. Lots of pressure on Feleipe Franks to show something. It would be a pity if wideouts like Robinson, Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland became the new version of Malachi Dupri and Travin Dural, forever sunk by poor quarterbacking play.



Loser: Virginia Tech

The Hokies might have ended the day with 25 signatures, but that rings somewhat hollow given that they managed just four four-star recruits in the cycle. Compare that to their in-conference foes, and it looks all the more pale. Florida State picked up 13 four-star or above prospects, Miami 10, Clemson nine. Perhaps most distressingly for a team which just lost Jerod Evans, Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges, the Hokies did not pick up an offensive player above three stars.


Loser: Syracuse

Not a great day for the ACC undercard. Dino Babers might have brought a sense of energy to the Orange in 2016, but they did little to restock, landing Rivals’ No. 64 class ranking for the 2017 cycle. That’s two spots better than Boise State -- who does not play in the Power 5 -- and six worse than UCF, who finished the 2016 regular-season with a .500 record, then proceeded to lose their bowl game. The Cuse had zero four-star recruits sign on the dotted line. Not a banner day for either the Hokies or Orange in the first full recruiting cycles for Fuente and Babers.



Winner: South Carolina


The Gamecocks fought off Georgia for the signature of athlete Jamyest Williams. I would have liked to see them bring in a running back (they had none in this class), but Rico Dowdle showed flashes as a freshman this past season in rushing for 764 yards and six touchdowns and it wasn’t an absolute imperative. South Carolina finished with Rivals’ No. 16 overall class.



Loser: LSU


Can you finish with a top-10 class and still be deemed a loser? The answer to that, as you see above, is yes. Yes with a caveat. LSU did fine work on the whole with their signings of four-star CB Todd Harris, DE K’Lavon Chaisson and LB Tyler Taylor on Wednesday. But the one who got away, the one who got away. The Tigers failed to get it done with consensus five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who spurned LSU for Florida State. ESPN described essentially a funereal scene at LSU after Wilson revealed that he was on his way to Tallahassee. That Wilson opted not to play in Death Valley puts something of a bruise on this recruiting class, but considering the upheaval at the university in their canning of Les Miles, the recruiting boat remained relatively stable on the whole. The Tigers also are bringing in two four-star quarterbacks (no, seriously, that is happening) in Myles Brennan and Rotoworld college football guru Thor Nystrom-favorite Lowell Narcisse. Wilson would have been the perfect cherry on this sundae.



Winner: Florida State


The Seminoles actually didn’t do much on National Signing Day beyond the already committed. But the two young gentlemen they did receive signatures from, oh boy. First, it was four-star LB Leonard Warner. Rivals’ No. 199 overall prospect, he was just an appetizer. A far bigger meal awaited them in the form of Marvin Wilson. They might not have done much in terms of quantity on National Signing Day, but they didn’t need to.



Winner: Miami


In Mark Richt’s first season with the Hurricanes, they finished out on a five-game winning streak. That momentum carried along through National Signing Day. Miami finished outside Rivals’ top-10 classes, but only just, hitting at No. 11. Wednesday saw them fortify their offense with Mike Harley and Jeff Thomas, a pair of four-star receivers. Don’t bet against Miami for a top-10 class in 2018, especially if they can put together a 10-win season. And as a sidenote, while the Hurricanes might not have Illinois State’s Kobe Buffalomeat (already internet famous), they have a slew of All-Name Team members in TE Evidence Njoku, ATH Deejay Dallas and QB N’Kosi Perry. We can only hope that Miami continues its resurgence and these become household names.



Winner: Maryland


The Terrapins were snapping at a possible top-20 class entering Wednesday and D.J. Durkin made sure that didn’t go by the wayside. They finished with Rivals’ No. 17 class, buoyed by signings of athlete Tahj Capehart and running back Cordarrian Richardson. Richardson’s signing is particularly fun, as he will pair with fellow four-star Anthony McFarland in what could be a dynamic rushing attack. Ty Johnson -- who posted multiple 200-yard rushing games in 2016 -- will be back to lead the way.


EDIT: Well, as of Thursday morning, Richardson now looks like he will be heading to UCF (those plucky Knights, at it again).



Loser: Iowa


Remember Oliver Martin, one head of that Michigan four-headed receiving monster? He hails from Iowa City. The Hawkeyes were unable to keep him in town. When you finish just above Rutgers (classes Nos. 40 and 43, respectively), at anything, you aren’t doing it right. That defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa signed with Iowa following a year-long commitment feels like some sort of small miracle. Nobody else in their class comes close to him in terms of upside. Their only other signee with more than three stars to his name is longtime tackle commit Tristan Wirfs, who somehow managed to best Epenesa in terms of time committed by initially pledging in December of 2015. Oh, and Michigan State swiped QB Rocky Lombardi from West Des Moines. But hey, at least Brian Ferentz will bring fireworks to the offensive coordinator gig.



Winner: Baylor


Anybody who said that the Bears would be finishing in the Top-35 back in early June was either psychic or possibly deranged. At the time, nobody wanted on board the sinking ship, seeing as though the sinking ship was also on fire and filled with bears. Among those who immediately jumped into icy waters, most of Baylor’s own 2016 class and most of their hopeful 2017 one. The sexual assault scandal at the school continued to hit the news from time to time throughout the autumn before exploding in the form of a lawsuit against the school in January. Matt Rhule -- who took over for Jim Grobe before the suit was filed -- somehow managed to unswamp the deck. The Bears ended the 2017 cycle with a healthy 27 recruits. Only two (OL Xavier Newman and DB Harrison Hand) are of the four-star species, but Rhule’s steady hand at the wheel has been exactly what Baylor needed. The earth is still scorched, here, but as after the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, there are signs of recruiting life where there were none before.  



Winner: Michigan State


Those thievin’ Spartans. We’ve already touched on their lifting of Lombardi, but they also struck back at Big Brother by wooing several of Ann Arbor’s darlings, notably four-star linebacker Antjuan Simmons and four-star wideout Hunter Rison. Michigan State might have been out in the wilderness for the 2016 season, but they landed solidly in the 30’s on Rivals for the 2017 cycle, sliding in at No. 33. While they received the typical Midwestern signatures one would expect, Mark Dantonio’s reach also proved elastic enough to make Stretch Armstrong blush. Seven of their 23 signings came from recruits in either the state of Florida or an SEC state.



Winner: Stanford


Two five-star offensive linemen in Foster Sarell and Walker Little. A five-star quarterback in Davis Mills. A raw-but-promising four-star athlete in Saiid Adebo. A four-star wideout in Osiris St. Brown. David Shaw is a master at finding ways to recruit on a playing field that is automatically tilted against him because of Stanford’s lofty academic admission standards. This particular class is beautifully balanced, with a lean toward the offensive side. We all saw the work of Ryan Burns last season. David Shaw saw the work of Ryan Burns last season. Did you care for an encore? I didn’t. Mills could well push for starting duties if he acclimates to the Cardinal system in August. The Pac-12 is the kind of defensive-optional conference that a freshman quarterback can learn in.



Winner: Oklahoma


While the Sooners did not add a five-star prospect to their ledger in this cycle -- linebacker Jacob Phillips flipped to LSU, they never truly seemed a true contender to sign Wilson on Wednesday -- and did not ink a player above No. 60 on Rivals, they offset the lack of top-end starpower by building a remarkable well of depth, landing 18 four-star recruits. Of their top four prospects who fall within the top 100 on Rivals, three -- WR Cedarian Lamb, QB Chris Robinson and WR Charleston Rambo -- come on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to that trio, they also added a pair of four-star running backs in Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon. They will need that kind of depth as they look to replace early-round NFL talents Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.



Loser: West Virginia


For all of the good things the Mountaineers did last season, they saw little reward on National Signing Day. Kansas (No. 55) finished appreciably close to West Virginia (No. 51), while Iowa State finished even better, and not by minor degrees either, as the Cyclones swirled their way to No. 44. No non-Oklahoma school in the Big 12 finished ranked higher than Texas at No. 31.



Winner: Colorado


We just talked about how West Virginia failed to capitalize on a surprise 10-win season in their National Signing Day spoils. Colorado would be the opposite case of that. 10 of their 27 signees committed in autumn or later, after the Buffs had become the nation’s plucky Pac-12 darling. Included in that 10-player pot are both of Colorado’s four-star signatures for the cycle in wide receiver K.D. Nixon and offensive lineman Jake Moretti.



Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.
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