SEC winners and losers from National Signing Day Part II
And who said National Signing Day Part II was going to be boring?
OK, I’d be lying if I didn’t partake in the “it’s going to be the most uneventful signing day yet” conversation. What happened was entertainment throughout the day, and for most of it, at least one SEC team was involved.
So after all the shenanigans and fun that was National Signing Day Part II, who were the winners and losers, you ask?
I mean, it’s almost unfair. The Dawgs don’t really belong in this category with others. Kirby Smart is in his own galaxy right now on the recruiting trail. We knew that last month when he signed six 5-star recruits, and Wednesday all but confirmed that Smart is not of this earth.
Georgia closed with the nation’s top-ranked class, marking the first non-Alabama team to do so since 2010. I’m not even sure that’s enough praise for what Smart put together in 2018.
His day was just beginning when he got a commitment from 5-star cornerback Tyson Campbell. Smart stole longtime Michigan commit Otis Reese from Jim Harbaugh, then he flipped Alabama commit Quay Walker. Even better for Georgia, Walker gave Tennessee the ultimate fake out (via Radi Nabulsi):
— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) February 7, 2018
Just in case that wasn’t enough, the Dawgs added 4-star receiver Tommy Bush from the state of Texas. And just for good measure, Smart poached 2 SEC assistants to fill out his staff.
All in a day’s work, right?
2. Texas A&M
If you had asked me a few days ago, I would’ve said that Jimbo Fisher’s 2018 class was more likely to end up in the “losers” category. But as Wednesday unfolded, we all got a good reminder why Fisher is one of the nation’s elite recruiters.
You know you’re off to a good start when you surprise everyone by flipping a 4-star Alabama commit. The Aggies added 4-star defensive tackle Bobby Brown, which gave them their fourth top-20 recruit in the state of Texas. Considering how Tom Herman dominated the state, that was an impressive accomplishment.
Fisher did what some said couldn’t be done by getting an elite Florida recruit to come to College Station. Late in the afternoon, the Aggies picked up a commitment from 4-star all-purpose back Jashaun Corbin.
Also impressive was the fact that Fisher went out and got his quarterback. Four-star dual-threat QB James Foster picked the Aggies instead of Fisher’s old schools Florida State and LSU, as well as Alabama. Considering neither Alabama nor LSU had a quarterback, the Mobile, Alabama native was a key pickup for Fisher.
Fisher nabbed another top-10 Alabama recruit. Four-star offensive lineman Tank Jenkins chose A&M over Auburn, Ole Miss and Oklahoma. And Fisher might’ve even added his tight end of the future in Glenn Beal, who chose the Aggies over LSU.
The fact that Fisher somehow closed with a top-20 class considering where he was after the Early Signing Period projects well for his first full recruiting cycle in College Station.
This isn’t all about rankings. It’s about making the best of the circumstances that were in play heading into Wednesday. That’s exactly what Kentucky did. The Wildcats picked up commitments from their top 2 targets to close their 2018 class.
One of those was 4-star linebacker Chris Oats, who picked the Wildcats over Ohio State. The Cincinnati native was yet another big-time pickup in the state of Ohio for Mark Stoops. A lot of that credit goes to Vince Marrow, who sensed that Kentucky still had the edge over Ohio State when the Buckeyes were the team trending.
In addition to landing Oats, Kentucky fended off several big-time programs to land its top running back target, Kavosiey Smoke. The Alabama native took a late official visit to Kentucky and that made the difference. Smoke had offers from Florida, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and others. That was an important area for the Wildcats to address after Bryant Koback announced he was transferring.
Smoke is going to do some things in this offense if and when he gets the opportunity:
No Kentucky didn’t land as many 4- or 5-star recruits as Alabama, Florida or LSU (spoiler), but the Cats locked in on their top targets and won some key battles with big-time programs. Not many schools can say that.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t envy Jeremy Pruitt or any first-year coach who had to assemble a recruiting class with the new Early Signing Period. It was nearly an impossible task that Pruitt handled extremely well.
But man, it seemed like the Vols came up short on a whole bunch of recruits. And not only did the Vols come up short, but they happened in loud fashion.
There was 5-star cornerback Olaijah Griffin, who had his dad Warren G and Snoop Dogg by his side to pick USC over the Vols:
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) February 7, 2018
But having Snoop and Warren G witness the announcement barely made the podium for the ways that Tennessee was spurned on Wednesday.
The aforementioned Walker, who threw off the Tennessee hat and picked Georgia, obviously deserved a spot. The best one was actually 4-star receiver Jacob Copeland, who definitely didn’t get his mom’s approval to pick Florida over Tennessee and Alabama:
Video of 4* WR Jacob Copeland committing to Florida, his mother wearing rival gear walking off live on ESPN pic.twitter.com/uZcXO2fO0w
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) February 7, 2018
You can’t make this stuff up.
Tennessee always finds a way to be part of the conversation, even when it isn’t national relevant. It’s amazing, really.
But besides just being on the short end of the stick for some viral moments, Tennessee also missed out on late riser Eddie Smith (the guy that Nick Saban danced for), 4-star cornerback Taiyon Palmer, Notre Dame signee C’Bo Flemister and the aforementioned Beal and Corbin, both of whom went with Texas A&M.
It wasn’t completely empty for the Vols on Wednesday. They did hold on to U.S. Army All-American and Vols verbal commit J.J. Peterson, and they added 4-star JUCO defensive tackle Emmit Gooden as well as a couple of 3-star Georgia defenders. The fact that Tennessee didn’t finish with a class outside of the top 30 was impressive to me.
Still, though, it felt like Wednesday was one big missed opportunity for Pruitt to land some immediate impact guys.
Raise your hand if you were SURTAIN that Patrick Surtain would sign with LSU?
OK, that was mean. By now, Tigers fans already dealt with enough frustration over the 5-star cornerback picking Alabama after looking like a longtime LSU lock. The fact that Saban swooped in at the 11th hour certainly didn’t feel good, and neither did Surtain’s response as to why he picked Alabama over LSU.
The nation’s top DB Patrick Surtain Jr picks #Alabama. "Why Alabama? They win championships."
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 7, 2018
Salt, meet wound.
Oddly enough, that meant that 4-star safety Kelvin Joseph was the Tigers’ only defensive back in this 2018 class. For “DBU,” that’s extremely rare. In fact, that was the fewest amount of defensive backs in an LSU class since Les Miles’ first class in 2005 (via Ross Dellenger).
Unfortunately for LSU, the pain didn’t stop with Surtain’s surprising announcement. The Tigers whiffed on landing a quarterback when Foster picked the Aggies. That meant that LSU will go without a quarterback in this class. Ed Orgeron did open up the idea of getting a graduate transfer at the position, but to not have any new quarterback talent in his first full recruiting cycle is a tough pill to swallow.
Add that to the fact that the Tigers missed out on No. 4 ATH Mario Goodrich, who picked Clemson instead of LSU and Nebraska.
LSU did get some key offensive help by picking up a commitment from 4-star receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but it could’ve been a better first National Signing Day for Orgeron and Co.
I know, I know. The Surtain steal was huge. Really huge.
But entering Wednesday, we were talking about if the Tide could move from No. 6 into the top 3. What happened? Instead of moving up, Alabama moved to the back of the top 10. With the exception of Surtain, it was that kind of day for the Tide.
Look at all of these guys that Alabama missed out on:
- 4-star DE Malik Langham (Florida)
- 4-star DL Bobby Brown (Texas A&M)
- 4-star QB James Foster (Texas A&M)
- 4-star WR Jacob Copeland (Florida)
- 4-star LB Quay Walker (Georgia)
- 4-star LB J.J. Peterson (Tennessee)
- 4-star WR Justyn Ross (Clemson)
- 5-star OT Nicholas Petit-Frere (Ohio State)
- 5-star CB Tyson Campbell (Georgia)
And I’m probably forgetting some, too. Keep in mind that this wasn’t expected to be a big Alabama class and most knew that the Tide’s streak of No. 1 classes was going to end. But the way it ended said a lot.
Not only did Alabama finish with its lowest-rated class of the Saban era (with a full cycle), it had to watch Georgia claim that top spot. It was Georgia who put together the historic class with the most 5-star talent of any class this century. The Dawgs’ Alabama imitation was in full swing on Wednesday, just like it was during the Early Signing Period.
Is Saban taking a step back as a recruiter? I wouldn’t go that far. Until he stops winning national championships, that’s not a discussion worth having.
Just try and imagine how much the sky would be falling in Tuscaloosa had Georgia held on last month.