Recruits have spoken: Georgia becoming the new Alabama
It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The first-ever early signing period certainly needs to be tweaked here and there.
Nevertheless, with so many recruits deciding to put pen to paper Wednesday instead of waiting until National Signing Day on Feb. 7, it’s clearly here to stay. Prospects from coast to coast made a monster statement on Day 1 of the three-day window.
In the SEC, Georgia is overwhelmingly on its way to signing the premier class in the conference for 2018 — according to the composite rankings at 247Sports, the Bulldogs are now No. 2 nationally behind only Ohio State — with 18 players already on the books. And it’s not just quantity. It’s quality, too.
UGA has received paperwork from six 5-star recruits. By the way, there are only 27 5-star kids in America for this cycle.
Almost one out of every five 5-star studs is on his way to Athens, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that coach Kirby Smart reels in one or two more when it’s all said and done seven weeks from now.
The headliner, of course, is quarterback Justin Fields. Despite the fact that Jake Fromm is coming off one of the best freshman campaigns in league history for a QB — he’s the SEC’s Co-Newcomer of the Year for 2017 — the product of Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison High School isn’t afraid of a little competition on the depth chart.
Fields is joined by tailback Zamir White, O-linemen Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays, linebacker Adam Anderson and D-end Brenton Cox.
So much for Smart and Co. being hopelessly distracted by preparations for the College Football Playoff. After breaking down film of Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning signal caller, Baker Mayfield, they went out and dominated on the recruiting trail.
Additionally, the Dawgs got a letter of intent from 10 4-star recruits. As a matter of fact, they only have four players currently committed to the program who are yet to produce a John Hancock. All four of them are 3-star kids — none are among the Top 400 prospects in the nation — and won’t make or break the class.
No question about it, Georgia got the word out: If you don’t sign now, you’re in jeopardy of losing your spot to somebody else.
That wasn’t the case at Alabama, which is coming off seven consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes. As of right now, the Crimson Tide have corralled just one 5-star player: Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances Academy defensive end Eyabi Anoma.
It’s not like ‘Bama did poorly, though. Ten of their other 13 signees — Anoma made it a total of 14 — are 4-star prospects. But of their four remaining commitments still out there, two are 4-stars and two are 3-stars. While the Tide are in play for a handful of 5-stars, those guys are looking elsewhere, too.
Remember, coach Nick Saban inked six 5-star kids for the class of 2017. Three were the top player available at their position, as well.
Everyone knew Dan Mullen (above) could really coach when he was at Mississippi State. That’s how he got the job at Florida. However, can he recruit blue-chip talent? He sure seems to have answered that question in Gainesville.
Most important, Mullen flipped 4-star field general Emory Jones out of his previous commitment to Ohio State. As if that wasn’t enough of a W, Mullen beat out rival Florida State for Jones’s signature — for what it’s worth, the Seminoles had an awful day under new coach Willie Taggart — to make it extra sweet.
Half a dozen other 4-star players are Swamp-bound. It didn’t take long for Mullen to make his mark in more high-profile living rooms.
Somewhat surprisingly, both of the Magnolia State schools did well for themselves. Even with additional NCAA sanctions being handed down recently, Ole Miss flipped 4-star quarterback Matt Corral from Florida and 4-star receiver Elijah Moore from Georgia.
As for Mississippi State, Mullen’s exit — and former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s entrance — didn’t destroy the class. Four 4-star recruits are now coming, and three of them are wideouts. That’s a good sign for QB Nick Fitzgerald, who has been plagued by inconsistent play from his pass catchers.
Don’t forget to include Kentucky among the winners. The Wildcats had 21 commitments yesterday, and 20 of them signed today.
Naturally, there were a few losers. Fortunately, no team in the SEC had as bad a day as FSU. With only three letters of intent on hand and just five more verbal commitments out there, the ‘Noles are projected to sign the country’s No. 63 class.
Still, first-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris is off to a very slow start. Nobody expected him to make miracles happen right away — this is a complete rebuild after the departure of Bret Bielema — although 4-star linebacker Bumper Pool and 4-star signal caller Connor Noland were the only signees of note for the Razorbacks.
It’s also going to take new coach Jeremy Pruitt some time at Tennessee. To his credit, he did add a quartet of 4-star recruits.
But no matter how you look at it, the major story of the early signing period is Georgia. Chances are, Alabama’s seven-year stranglehold on the top recruiting class in the land will come to an end.
The Bulldogs’ resurgence is a big reason why. The clearest evidence was UGA flipping 4-star cornerback Nadab Joseph from the Crimson Tide — he camped at ‘Bama over the summer, went to Tuscaloosa on an official visit Nov. 4 and then committed Dec. 5. Smart outright stole a defensive back from Saban, who might be the greatest DB coach of all time.
Every dog has its day, right? Well, the Dawgs had quite a day. Smart may have even shifted the balance of power in the SEC.