National Signing Day 2014: Programs That Propelled Themselves Most at Deadline

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 6, 2014

New Southern California football head coach Steve Sarkisian smiles during a news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, in Los Angeles. USC hired Sarkisian away from Washington on Monday, bringing back the former Trojans offensive coordinator to his native Los Angeles area and the storied program where he thrived as Pete Carroll's assistant. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Many of the country's top recruits had yet to decide where they would play college football until 2014's edition of national signing day on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Two of the three biggest winners predictably came from the powerhouse Southeastern Conference, but one storied program in the midst of a coaching change made the biggest move of all in shooting up the recruiting hierarchy.

The last-minute commitments from so many high school superstars and the potential for a complete flip in their choices can cause plenty of volatility in the outlook for each team's future. Let's take a look at the trio of marquee schools that boosted their crop of incoming prospects the most on Wednesday's deadline.

Note: All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise stated.


Alabama Crimson Tide

Butch Dill/Associated Press

It was already going to be a strong pull for head coach Nick Saban as has been commonplace in recent years, but national signing day solidified the Tide's status as the No. 1 class in the nation.

The composite rankings from 247Sports have Alabama as the top-ranked recruiting lot, and it makes sense. Although a number of 5-star prospects were expected to sign letters of intent to head to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, the Tide got a nice surprise commitment from outside linebacker Rashaan Evans.

Originally a hard, hometown commitment to arch-rival Auburn, the No. 1 player at his position decided to make the worst change possible for Tiger fans and join on the other side of the Iron Bowl rivalry.

It seemed like Evans was such a slam-dunk Auburn commitment that the Tigers already posted a profile for him on their official website, per's Martin Rickman:


Evans only gives Saban's defense even more talent to work with and helps ensure continued excellence in the linebacker corps, which has seen the likes of Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower selected early in the NFL draft in recent years.

Strong-side defensive end Da'Shawn Hand stayed true to his commitment by signing with Alabama, as previous favorite Michigan came up empty along with the Florida Gators. Another 5-star defender to sign was cornerback Marlon Humphrey from Hoover High (Ala.), who brings to mind New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie:

That's a gaudy comparison, and Humphrey figures to follow in the footsteps of another Jet in 2013 first-round pick Dee Milliner. IMG Academy product Bo Scarbrough also earns the 5-star label as an athlete who figures to be an all-purpose running back.

Combine those additions with a slew of other 4-star players and a collection of more massive offensive linemen, and the Tide have the makings of being national title contenders for years to come.


LSU Tigers

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1:  Coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers directs play against the Iowa Hawkeyes January 1, 2014  in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Les Miles garners the nickname the "Mad Hatter" for his aggressive tactics, sharp wit in the media and unpredictability. Although the coach is a bit of a perpetual wild card, it's almost a guarantee that his teams will be among college football's elite—and that his players will have fun along the way.

That inevitably draws premier classes to Baton Rouge year in and year out, with 2014 proving no different after a successful national signing day push.

The prized possession of this class is running back Leonard Fournette—the No. 1 overall recruit in 247Sports' evaluation. Another big-time offensive addition came in the form of 5-star receiver Malachi Dupre.

CBS Sports Network's Tom Lemming compares Fournette to the likes of Adrian Peterson, via the network's Twitter account:

Since the Tigers lost RB Jeremy Hill and wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to the NFL draft, there is plenty of opportunity for both Fournette and Dupre to see the field immediately and emerge as LSU standouts.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis always has premium players to work with, and he got two more 5-star blue-chippers in outside linebacker Clifton Garrett and safety Jamal Adams—both second in the country at their respective positions.

LSU landed more 5-star recruits on national signing day than either of the other two programs mentioned here, so that in and of itself was enough to jump from No. 4 to No. 2 in the final class rankings.


USC Trojans

Feb 5, 2014; Gardena, CA, USA; Junipero Serra high school cornerback Adoree Jackson signs with the University of Southern California during national signing day at Junipero Serra High School. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Steve Sarkisian has to be thrilled with the first recruiting class he's managed to assemble as the Trojans seek a return to prominence after Lane Kiffin's turbulent tenure.

At No. 26 overall before national signing day began, USC catapulted up to 11th in the final 247Sports recruiting rankings. That was the biggest jump and is a testament to Sarkisian's persuasiveness and indicates that a foundation is being built for the Trojans to turn things around soon.

As impressive as this class is, Sarkisian is already looking ahead to the next one, per the Pac-12 Networks' official Twitter account:

Offensive guard Damien Mama spurned Alabama in favor of staying in state at USC, and another 4-star guard in Viane Talamaivao stayed in the Golden State to play for Sarkisian, too.

Electric wide receiver Rahshead Johnson is a 4-star prospect who is only 5'11" and 165 pounds but is explosive despite his diminutive size. It's conceivable he could contribute as a freshman and help compensate for Marqise Lee's departure for the NFL.

But what really bolstered USC's standing was the hard commitment from 5-star CB Adoree' Jackson. According to his 247Sports profile, Jackson runs a 4.44 40-yard dash and returned three of his six interceptions for touchdowns in his final high school season.

No. 20 overall prospect John Smith is a 5-star athlete who will also attend USC and play either defensive back or wide receiver. Whichever one he chooses, Smith should compete for snaps as the Trojans bring a revamped squad into 2014 that should be bursting with optimism.