SEC winners and losers of Signing Day 2020
Let me make this clear. Again.
By saying someone was a Signing Day “loser,” I’m no means saying that “Player X will fail” or “Team Y will struggle.” This is all relative. Did your team miss out on a big-time target? Or better yet, did your team miss out on several big-time targets? Your team probably lost the day.
Granted, there are exceptions. If you sign the No. 1 class, you didn’t lose the day even if there were more losses than wins Wednesday. The SEC finished with 7 of the top 10 classes nationally.
This is based on expectations going into the start of the day and where those expectations finished by day’s end. And to be clear, there were more winners than losers because when you have 7 of the top 10 classes like the SEC did, that’s a sign that things went pretty well.
So, with that, here are my SEC winners and losers of late Signing Day 2020:
For all the drama surrounding Jordan Burch’s past 6 weeks, Wednesday’s announcement really wasn’t much of an announcement.
The 5-star defensive end said that he’s staying home, which couldn’t have been better news for Will Muschamp after speculation that LSU would flip the Hammond School (S.C.) recruit. Just as we wrote after Burch’s December announcement, getting someone like that to stay on board could be massive for Muschamp heading into a make-or-break year. Burch could be the most crucial recruit of the Muschamp era, and ultimately, it seemed like that mattered to the future Gamecock.
He’s the program’s highest-rated recruit since Jadeveon Clowney, and like Clowney, Burch should get a chance to make an impact immediately. The Gamecocks need a new playmaker up front with the loss of Javon Kinlaw.
Muschamp won the day by avoiding what would have been the biggest loss of the recruiting cycle.
Any time you beat Nick Saban for an elite defensive lineman, it’s a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal when you go into Mississippi and nab the state’s No. 1 recruit.
Four-star defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson was a major get for Jimbo Fisher for a variety of reasons. By finding off the likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU, the Aggies also addressed a key area of need after the early departure of Justin Madubuike. The quickest way for Fisher to narrow the gap in the SEC West is to build up the interior, which Jackson’s addition will certainly help with.
A&M also landed a commitment from 3-star running back Darvon Hubbard, who was once committed to Ohio State. Hubbard also had late interest from LSU, and was once a Georgia target. Hubbard will add some much-needed depth to a backfield that had just 1 scholarship running back on the field for the Texas Bowl.
In Fisher’s second full recruiting cycle, he already signed a higher-ranked class than Texas. That’s a major win heading into key Year 3 in College Station.
I just wanted an excuse to post this video of Eli Drinkwitz finding out that he beat Alabama and Texas for Ennis Rakestraw:
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) February 5, 2020
Yeah, that won the day.
It’s clear how much that meant to Drinkwitz, who had his fair share of struggles with the Early Signing Period. There’s clearly an element of surprise there, which was probably partially because Rakestraw picked up the Texas hat first. That wasn’t the look of someone who thought he’d beat out Saban and Tom Herman, both of whom also got late visits from the Lone Star state defensive back.
Drinkwitz had a much better finish than start to his 2020 class, and understandably so. This was a fitting way for Drinkwitz to close after he built momentum down the stretch with commitments from coveted Alabama receiver Kris Abrams-Draine and 3-star Mississippi offensive lineman Dylan Spencer.
If you’re a Mizzou fan, you’re feeling much better about Drinkwitz’s long-term recruiting abilities after watching what he did the last month.
Holy cow, can Sam Pittman recruit.
I mean, we knew that based on his time stockpiling 5-star offensive linemen at Georgia, but what he did to land a top-30 class at Arkansas might’ve been even more impressive. If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Hogs were going to wind up with a top-30 class, I would’ve taken you to the doctor and demand you be prescribed crazy pills.
Pittman’s haul on Wednesday included getting the top uncommitted quarterback, Malik Hornsby, who is rated the No. 8 dual-threat signal-caller in the country. That was a major boost for Kendal Briles’ young quarterback room. And, in fitting Pittman fashion, he also signed Under Armour All-American offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. The 4-star offensive guard took visits to Mizzou and Ole Miss, and decided to skip an official visit to Athens.
The Hogs, who were sitting on roughly 6 verbal commitments into the Early Signing Period, hit 21 in such a short time period. That’s darn impressive. Credit Pittman and this Mizzou-filled staff that he surrounded himself with.
Speaking of that, Drinkwitz even appeared to call out Arkansas at day’s end by saying to the media “a school south of us kept seeming to recruit every player we offered.”
The Vols won the day by winning battles with multiple Florida schools. That in itself served as music to Tennessee fans’ ears.
In addition to signing No. 18 athlete Dee Beckwith over Florida, the Vols got some big news in the afternoon that 4-star receiver Malachi Wideman flipped his commitment from Florida State to Tennessee. Granted, Wideman was committed to FSU during the Willie Taggart era and wasn’t expected to choose the Seminoles. Tennessee ultimately beat out the likes of Ole Miss and Oregon.
That moved Jeremy Pruitt’s class all the way up to No. 10. It’s an improvement off the No. 13 class that Pruitt signed in his first full cycle last year.
That also doesn’t include the transfer of 5-star offensive lineman Cade Mays, who left Georgia following the departure of Sam Pittman.
It’s safe to say Pruitt’s reputation as an elite recruiter is only gaining steam at the conclusion of his second full cycle in Knoxville.
Yeah, the team with the No. 1 recruiting class in America (for the 2nd time in 3 years) won the day. That wasn’t a given, either.
Keeping 5-star offensive lineman commit Broderick Jones was huge for the obvious reason that the Dawgs have some massive holes to fill up front. It would have been brutal to watch Jones postpone his announcement after the Sam Pittman departure and then watch Auburn swoop in. That, however, didn’t happen.
What else didn’t happen? Georgia didn’t lose out on Sedrick Van Pran, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 center. He took late visits to Florida and Alabama but stayed committed and signed with the Dawgs.
What did that mean? Georgia’s biggest question mark — how big would Pittman’s departure be — was answered by keeping 2 of the top offensive linemen in the country committed. To recap, Georgia signed:
- No. 2 OT Broderick Jones
- No. 3 OT Tate Ratledge
- No. 13 OT Chad Lindberg
- No. 1 OC Sedrick Van Pran
Considering how big of a loss it felt like Pittman was a month ago, that’s not a bad offensive line haul at all. Matt Luke deserves a lot of credit for that.
And as Kirby Smart has been known to do, he also flipped Ole Miss cornerback commit Daran Branch on Wednesday.
What a close it was for Smart, who managed to move into that top spot last week when he got a commitment from 4-star running back Daijun Edwards. What’s the best way to respond to an offseason storyline that your rival is narrowing the gap? Go out and recruit your tail off to sign the No. 1 class. That’s what Georgia did.
Well, Wednesday wasn’t ideal for Dan Mullen. Besides watching Georgia sign the top-ranked class for the 2nd time in 3 years, Florida had miss after miss Wednesday. They came in a variety of ways, and perhaps even worse was who wound up with each target.
Four-star safety Avantae Williams was 100% to Florida in the 247sports Crystal Ball. But the former Oregon commit ultimately went with Miami. That hurts because not only was that the No. 7 recruit from the Sunshine State, but he would have been Florida’s 2nd-highest rated signee.
There was also Florida’s inability to pull off some late flips. No. 1 center Sedrick Van Pran was committed to Georgia but pushed back his signing after the Pittman news. The Gators, along with Alabama, hoped to make a late push to sign the 4-star offensive lineman, but he stuck with the Dawgs. Florida had a chance to take a major step forward on the offensive line with Georgia in flux, but instead, the Dawgs signed twice as many 4/5-star recruits on the offensive line as Florida.
The Gators also whiffed on flipping 4-star New Orleans running back Ashaad Clayton from Colorado. There was hope that after a late-January visit to Gainesville that Clayton would fill a need in this 2020 class. But that didn’t happen. The “we couldn’t even flip a Colorado commit” frustration among Gators fans was evident.
And just in case that wasn’t enough, the Gators whiffed on 3-star athlete Dee Beckwith, who chose Tennessee … and did so by faking out Florida:
— Charity Chambers (@CharityCSports) February 5, 2020
In other words, Florida missed out on 3 top targets to rival schools and 1 to Colorado.
The good news? Mullen got a nice late addition with 4-star defensive end Princely Umanmielen picking Florida over the likes of Auburn, Baylor and Texas.
It’s still a top 10 class, and one that Mullen can build with, but even he would admit it wasn’t the day he was hoping for.
Again, this isn’t just about the final rankings. Obviously Alabama had an elite class, and inevitably, it’s loaded with future 1st-round picks.
But as for Wednesday? It wasn’t great.
The Crimson Tide made late pushes for a pair of 4-star talents in Jackson and Van Pran, and both chose other SEC schools. It seems rare that an elite defensive lineman turns down Alabama at the last minute like that, and Saban was hoping to capitalize on the Pittman departure to flip Van Pran.
The aforementioned Rakeshaw might not have been Alabama’s top target, but he took an official visit to Tuscaloosa 2 weeks ago, and the 247sports Crystal Ball had 88% Alabama. It’s not the first time that Alabama whiffed on a kid who probably saw a clearer path to playing time at a less successful program, but it still mattered Wednesday.
It didn’t help matters that late in the day, Alabama watched longtime commit Jayson Jones flip to Oregon to play for Mario Cristobal.
Even if things had gone perfectly, Alabama might not have been able to catch Georgia for the top class after the day the Dawgs had. The Crimson Tide at least got a couple of victories by getting commit Jamil Burroughs to sign after an academic issue postponed his December signing, and they held off Georgia Tech to sign 4-star receiver Javon Baker.
And hey, it’s still the No. 2 class in America. Life could be worse.
Again, another extremely solid class was signed by Ed Orgeron. But the whiffs stood out.
LSU most notably missed out on Burch, who went on an LSU official visit after he delayed signing his National Letter of Intent with South Carolina. There was speculation that the Tigers could flip the 5-star defensive lineman, and that potentially some Wednesday drama would happen. It would have been an impressive way for Ed Orgeron to cap off an incredible 2019-20 year. But LSU didn’t even get a hat at the table.
The Tigers also missed on a pair of targets to Texas A&M. Jackson chose the Aggies over LSU, as did Hubbard, who would have added some backfield depth after the loss of Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Wednesday could have been an exclamation point on the year of the Tiger. Instead, there wasn’t much drama that fell LSU’s way.
Having said that, I bet Orgeron won’t lose sleep over signing a top 5 class for the 2nd consecutive year.