The SEC's biggest winners and losers on National Signing Day
Starting early Wednesday morning, SEC programs fired up their fax machines and waited eagerly for coveted prospects to send in their signed letters of intent.
No two signing days were the same, however. Some teams added significant pieces as National Signing Day rolled along, while others watched their main targets announce their intentions to sign elsewhere.
Every year, there are programs whose futures are made much brighter after snagging several select prospects. Unfortunately, there are also major setbacks for other programs that can’t seal the deal. This year was free of drama for a lot of teams, but there was still one notable program that slipped for understandable reasons.
Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from 2017’s National Signing Day.
Florida: No SEC team had a bigger signing day than the Florida Gators. Jim McElwain woke up with the No. 19 recruiting class, and he ended the afternoon with the nation’s No. 10 class. Even the most optimistic Florida fans likely didn’t see this coming. Just a bit ago, the Gators’ class had slipped to No. 31 in the country and many feared it was heading in the wrong direction.
4-star guard Tedarrell Slaton became the first player to commit to Florida on Wednesday, choosing the Gators over rival Georgia. C.J. Henderson, a 4-star cornerback, followed suit by picking Florida over Alabama and Miami. Shortly thereafter, the Gators got another cornerback when 3-star Brian Edwards committed to the program.
In a surprise move, Florida signed 4-star receiver James Robinson. The coveted prospect was reportedly not going to be admitted by the school’s administration after receiving a marijuana citation while visiting Ohio State, but McElwain confirmed the major signing. To end the day, running back Adarius Lemons re-committed to the team. Lemons backed off his pledge due to academic troubles, but he was the school’s top priority at running back and the cherry on top of a memorable signing day.
Alabama: It might be hard to think that the team with the nation’s top recruiting class heading into National Signing Day could still take that class to another level, but that’s exactly what Alabama did.
The Crimson Tide landed several major targets on Wednesday. Henry Ruggs, an explosive 4-star receiver, was the first commitment on the day for the Crimson Tide, but he was not alone. Alabama scored a major commitment from the nation’s top defensive end prospect, LaBryan Ray, giving it six 5-star prospect for the 2017 class. To cap off the day, the Tide snagged another 4-star receiver when DeVonta Smith announced his pledge.
Wednesday wasn’t perfect for Alabama, which did miss out on 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and will grayshirt 4-star defensive end Jarez Parks, but when all was said and done, the Crimson Tide finished with their best class under Nick Saban.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks may not have moved up in the recruiting rankings, ending the day with the No. 21 overall class, but it was still a good day for Will Muschamp and his staff.
3-star defensive end Aaron Sterling became the first player to commit to South Carolina on Wednesday. Shortly after Sterling’s announcement, came the news that he would be joined on the defensive line by 4-stars Javon Kinlaw and Brad Johnson. The biggest news of the day, however, came when Jamyest Williams, the nation’s No. 8 cornerback, reaffirmed his commitment to the Gamecocks, choosing them over Georgia.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss fans likely want to forget this year’s recruiting cycle as quickly as possible. With an NCAA investigation casting a dark cloud over the program, Ole Miss struggled mightily on the recruiting trail and entered National Signing Day with the No. 53 recruiting class. That is shocking for a program that has recruited very well under Hugh Freeze.
The Rebels were able to salvage their class on signing day by landing nine commitment, but there still are very few blue-chip prospects. Among the most notable new additions for Ole Miss are 4-star receiver D.D. Bowie, 3-star linebacker Mohamed Sanogo and 3-star tackle Tony Gray.
Freeze seemed to verbalize what many Rebels fans were thinking when he spoke with the media on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve suffered penalties,” Freeze said. “This recruiting class was a penalty, to be under the cloud that we’re under.”
It could have been much worse for Ole Miss, but there isn’t much celebration happening down in Oxford this year.