SEC winners and losers from Day 1 of the Early Signing Period
I hate to be that guy.
You know, the person who says a team won or lost on signing day. Fast forward through my preachy ways about “now is when it really begins” and let’s just pretend that we’re talking about teams either landing or missing out on big-time targets.
It counts as a loss if a bunch of blue-chip recruits have a certain school’s hat on the table and they seemingly never get picked. That’s what it felt like with Tennessee in the 2018 class.
So while some of these programs still signed elite classes, the day-of drama is how I base my Early Signing Period winners and losers.
Here they are:
Duh. Obviously we knew Alabama was going to be a winner Wednesday.
It wasn’t just that Alabama kept virtually its entire top-ranked class in place (though the loss of 5-star safety Daxton Hill was a surprise). It was that the Crimson Tide added 5-star recruits from IMG Academy in Evan Neal and Trey Sanders, and they flipped 4-star defensive back Jordan Battle from Ohio State..
There really wasn’t much doubt that Alabama would close the all-important Day 1 with the nation’s top class. Considering that Alabama was sitting at No. 5 at this time last year, Wednesday’s haul shouldn’t be taken for granted … even if it did put Alabama in position for its eighth top-ranked class in 9 years.
You might as well copy and paste the Dawgs in here for the next, I don’t know, ever? Once again, we saw Kirby Smart’s closing magic on display. On Wednesday morning, a day after Justin Fields’ transfer news became official, Georgia flipped 4-star Ohio State quarterback commit Dwan Mathis.
And yeah, it might’ve had a little something to do with Fields’ transferring.
Father of ESPN 300 QB Dwan Mathis tells me his son's flip "Had nothing to do with what Ohio State did. It's an opportunity for him to play at Georgia."
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 19, 2018
Smart’s day was far from over. While Georgia missed out on 5-star running back Trey Sanders, the Dawgs didn’t miss out on another 5-star pledge. The nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker, Nakobe Dean, committed to Georgia over Alabama and Ole Miss.
While the Fields news will still dominate headlines in Athens, Georgia didn’t suffer any last-second flips, and it finished the first day of the Early Signing Period ranked No. 2 nationally with an absurd five 5-star recruits. That’s winning in my book.
What Chad Morris did on the field this year was nothing to write home about. What he did off of it in his first year in Fayetteville was nothing short of brilliant.
Morris closed out Day 1 of the Early Signing Period with a top-20 class. He got there by landing several elite talents, including a surprise flip from 3-star Mississippi State commit Greg Brooks.
The Hogs already had big-time verbal pledges from the top 2 in-state talents Hudson Henry and Treylon Burks, neither of whom have signed yet, but still. Five of those 4-star pledges were inked Wednesday, and there weren’t any major flips that Arkansas suffered.
This has potential to be Arkansas’ second top-20 class in the past 15 years. That’s quite the starting place for Morris.
I’ll be honest. I was critical of Florida. Having just 1 commitment from a top-30 recruit in the state of Florida wasn’t a good look. But man, did Dan Mullen and his staff close strong.
The most notable get of the day for the Gators was landing 4-star Lakeland (Fla.) trio of Keon Zipperer, Deyavie Hammond and Lloyd Summerall was huge. As you recall, it was Summerall’s dad who rocked the full Gator uniform on an official visit earlier this month. Clearly, it worked.
Also impressive it was that Florida also kept 4-star linebacker Tyron Hopper, who had some late interest in USC.
The Gators ended the day with the No. 16 class after spending most of the cycle ranked outside the top 20 nationally. Is it an elite class like we’ve seen from Florida in the last decade? Not necessarily, but Mullen’s salvaged final day should give Gator fans some hope that he can not only recruit in state, but close in-state talent.
Don’t get me wrong. The Rebels signed a solid class. A whole bunch of schools wouldn’t be able to finish in the top 25 after consecutive seasons of a postseason ban.
But the misses were significant. Ole Miss whiffed on the aforementioned Dean, who already has a brother on the team. Dean could’ve provided an immediate impact to a Rebels defense that desperately needs help defending the run.
Not landing the top in-state recruit hurt, but it was the fact that Ole Miss didn’t dominate the border in the first year without the sanctions that probably won’t sit well. The Rebels missed out on another elite in-state talent in Oxford native Brandon Turnage, who signed with Alabama.
Our own Rick Stavig referenced an interesting stat. In the past 10 years, according to 247, Mississippi has averaged 7.5 4 or 5-star prospects a year. The 2019 class has 16 recruits rated as 4 or 5-star. Ole Miss only got 1 of them to sign on Wednesday.
Four-star running back Jerrion Ealy is still waiting to sign until February, but if Mississippi State steals him or he elects to play baseball, that would end the 2019 class on a sour note after it started with such promise.
It’s not a great day when one of your early signees suffers a torn ACL in bowl practice. That happened to incoming tight end Luke Deal.
I praised Gus Malzahn’s ability to still somehow put together a top-15 class given all the uncertainty about his future. It really is admirable. But just in terms of winning the day, Auburn didn’t necessarily do that.
The Tigers didn’t suffer any flips on signing day itself, though they did lose a commitment from 3-star defensive end Jamond Gordon on Tuesday and 4-star pledge George Pickens will be a down-to-the-wire race until February. But they did miss out on the likes of 4-star receiver Jalen Curry and 4-star running back Noah Cain, both of whom would have been major gets.
And yes, Malzahn nearly crept back into the top 10, but it’s still a small class with only 16 signees. That’s the smallest class in the SEC. For a team that’ll lose plenty of upperclassmen, surely Malzahn probably wished he could’ve had a few more additions to the class.
It might take until February until Auburn gets the numbers it wants with this 2019 group.