National Signing Day is a magical time of year. The sense of hope is in the air for some schools and their fans. The Christmas of college football came and went swiftly. The rich got richer in the case of schools like Alabama. Also schools like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have a new sense of vigor. These are the kids and classes that will be the future of football on Saturdays, and in the mean time made 35-year olds all over the country angry they did not pick their alma maters.
All Rankings based on the 24/7 Composite that compiles 24/7, Rivals, ESPN, and Scout into one average
Winners and Losers
1. Ole Miss
What Ole Miss did this recruiting cycle was nothing short of amazing. Hugh Freeze after his first season of being the Rebels coach has landed 27 players and the nation’s 6th best recruiting class. They have averaged 36th over the last three years. Their climb to the top started in May and June of 2012. They secured 4-star RB Mark Dodson and QB Ryan Buchanan as a backfield to build on. They followed that with a slew of solid 3 star players.
The #1 player in the country DE Robert Nkemdiche decommitted from Clemson and the rumors started swirling about him following his older brother Denzel to Ole Miss. Ole Miss used that buzz to work on other big name recruits. That buzz on high caliber players turned into official visits.
Players like 5-star WR Laquon Treadwell fell in love with Oxford, MS. He started the eventual trend of 5-star players pledging themselves to the Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue. The momentum would not be stopped as Nkemdiche started off National Signing Day by announcing his plans to attend Ole Miss. One by one most of Ole Miss’s major targets started to announce their plans. 5-star players OT Laremy Tunsil and S Tony Carter spurned schools like Alabama to complete the Rebels best recruiting class ever.
Can anybody remember the last time a 3-9 team landed the nation’s 11th best recruiting class cause I sure can’t? Gus Malzahn took over as head coach for the recently fired Gene Chizik. After suffering a wave of decommitments Malzahn built Auburn’s class back up.
Malzahn was the Offensive Coordinator for Auburn from ’09-’11 and was Cam Newton’s chief recruiter. He had a momentary leave for the Arkansas St. head coaching job but is now back to take rains of the Tigers. He is very familiar with their needs and addressed them quickly by mining JUCO players. He signed 4-star DT Ben Bradley, 3-Star OG Devonte Danzey and RB Cameron Artis-Payne.
Auburn’s coaching staff was also able to keep 5-star DE Carl Lawson in their camp. With a solid base of players Auburn made their pitch to prospects. High-caliber guys like 5-star DT Montravius Adams and Ole Miss decommit, 4-star DE Elijah Daniel bought in. The Tigers ended up with 23 players total.
3. Ohio State
Urban Meyer has taken over the Big-10. He is bringing the SEC up north in a big way. Coming off a 12-0 season that was one shady tattoo shop visit away from being in the BCS championship game the Buckeyes scored big. Meyer methodically made his move and pounced at the right time for 24 commits and the 2nd best class in the country.
Ohio State started off by sealing its borders with four 4-star players. Using that as a basis they started to move into the SEC area, Meyer’s former territory. Ohio State landed 4-star DE Joey Bosa who hails from Florida. The Buckeyes quickly started securing commitments from high caliber players that live in Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi.
The Buckeyes coming down to the wire flipped 4-star Oregon commit RB Dontre Wilson, held off Missouri’s late push for 4-star APB Ezekiel Elliot and beat out Tennessee for 5-star S Vonn Bell. That last signing day push gave the Buckeyes the 2nd best recruiting class in the country.
4. Texas A&M
Texas A&M has undergone a wave of change and rebranding. They nailed their first year in the SEC by going 11-2 with wins in the Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma and over eventual National Champion Alabama. First year head coach Kevin Sumlin and former offensive coordinator and new Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury brought the Air-Raid spread to the SEC. That offense blossomed under Hesimen trophy winner Johnny Manziel. All that success and buzz translates into 31 players signed and the 10th best recruiting class.
The Aggies recruiting class started off with a nice based of Texas 3 and 4 star players which lead to more home grown kids. A&M rival Texas, took a back seat to the Lone Star state’s SEC representative. A&M had 21 eventual signees before they played a down in the ’11-’12 season.
Then the Legend of Johnny Football happened and the’s Air Raid was taking apart the nation’s best conference. This buzz helped the Aggies dominate their home-state and pick off kids from neighboring Louisiana. A&M’s main jewel is 5-star WR Ricky Seals-Jones which will see playing time by catching Manziel’s passes next year.
5. Penn State
When you have the sanctions leveled against you that Penn St. had and still manage the nation’s 26th best recruiting class you are a winner. Head coach Bill O’Brian got these players to buy into something beyond the ins and outs of football. In spite of the fact these kids will first be eligible for post season play during their senior year of college they still signed on to rebuild Penn St.
That is a lofty task for these 17 new Nittany Lions. Penn St. had the stars of their recruiting class committed before the sanctions were levied. Most of those stars like 5-star QB Christian Hackenberg and 4-star TE Adam Breneman stayed.
With their elite level guys secured Penn St. had to fill out its class. The rest of the class is comprised of 3-star guys with a couple 2-stars sprinkled in. The class does have some national sleepers like OT Parker Cothren who passed on Auburn and Tennessee as well as OLB Zayd Issah who picked Penn St. over Oregon.
The University of Louisville retained their head football coach Charlie Strong. He got a massive extension and raise to keep SEC schools that came calling at bay. The team pulled the biggest BCS upset by dominating the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. And what do they have to show for it?
The 42nd ranked recruiting class, 16 players and an announcement they are moving from the Big East to the ACC. That means hello Florida St., Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Miami. The team only managed two 4-star players in WR James Quick (from Louisville) and QB Kyle Bolin.
As a school you can’t have a recruiting class in the 40s when you are moving to a tougher conference, signed your coach to a high dollar long-term deal and came off a dominate Sugar Bowl performance. That is the most momentum Louisville has had in years and it clearly was not cashed in on.
2. Kansas St.
Bill Synder may know how to coach but he needs some adjusting to the modern recruiting game. Kansas St. won the Big 12 this year, dominated in-state rival Kansas, beat Texas and Oklahoma. I highly doubt I will say all those words again in the same year for a long time.
Synder can coach a team up and bring the best out of his players with this past year as prime evidence but its hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the nation’s 58th ranked recruiting class. This team has zero consensus 4 or 5 star players. They signed 18 players and five of which are JUCO players that will only be with the program two years at the most. Kansas State would of had 19 but their high graded 3-star DE Jamone Boyd could not make grades and was then arrested for armed robbery.
Kansas St. was out recruited by its main rival Kansas who went 1-11. They are not a program that will consistently beat Texas and Oklahoma so winning the Big-12 in that fashion and failing to capitalize clearly makes this a failed year.
Missouri had all the momentum heading into this past season. They signed the number one recruit in the country WR Dorial Green-Beckham, switched conferences to the SEC and rebranded with new Nike Oregon-style uniforms. They had their borders sealed in recruiting, and had high graded 3-star OLB Nick Ramirez and 4-star OT Jake Campos firmly in their camp.
Then an injury riddle season with no brakes in the SEC took its toll and the Tigers finished 5-7. Ramirez and Campos both decommitted and ended up at Kansas State and Iowa St. respectively. The Tigers then found themselves falling out the mix for players they had take official visits and kids flipped days before signing day.
Missouri went 1/4 on signing day decisions with their main loss being 4-star APB Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot was the number one player from the state of Missouri and his parents are both former Missouri athletes (Track and Football). That capped a disappointing signing day that managed to sign 20 players and will rank them somewhere around 35th when JUCO S Duron Singleton is finished being graded. That is a huge problem when you play in the SEC.
USC at one time had 17 players in their class. It was smaller then most high end classes but was loaded in talent. Every single kid was in the Top-215 of overall players. Then it was announced NFL defensive revolutionary Monte Kiffin (created the Tampa-2 Defense used by the Buccaneers) would leave his son, head coach Lane Kiffin and head back to the pros.
The Trojans had their class locked up very early. They had limited spots with their sanctions and all they had to do was hold on to their guys. The men of Troy had what was supposed to a national championship season capped by a disappointing bowl loss to Georgia Tech.
What was supposed to be a dream season to reclaim their glory was turned on its head. The negative buzz leached onto Trojan recruits. Seven of them decommitted with two of them going to rival UCLA and two more going to rival Notre Dame.
Last season Stanford snagged itself a Top-10 class and kept the buzz going by winning the Pac-12 championship and the Rose bowl. The foundation left by current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is solid. But because it is so solid Stanford finds itself in new territory.
Stanford is legitimately putting guys in the NFL which means guys leaving early and therefore you need to replace them at a much stronger rate. Having a class that is only 12 players deep and ranked 63rd will not cut it. The class has nice 4-star players like QB Ryan Burns and ILB Peter Kalambayi but it does not have the depth needed.
Every class needs multiple guys for insurance in case high caliber players do not pan out. Also classes should have those 3-star players a school feels like they can coach up into successful starters. This is a time Stanford needs to pounce. USC is down and Chip Kelly left Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles. This class is squandering that chance.
Top 10 Classes/Players
1. Robert Nkemdiche DE– Ole Miss
2. Jaylon Smith OLB– Notre Dame
3. Vernon Hargreaves III CB– Florida
4. Laremy Tunsil OT– Ole Miss
5. Su’a Cravens S– USC
6. Eddie Vanderdoes DT– Notre Dame
7. Reuben Foster ILB– Alabma
8. Matthew Thomas OLB– Florida St.
9. Kenny Bigelow DT– USC
10. Montravius Adams DT– Auburn