As usual, national signing day proved to be a pivotal moment in the world of college football.
Whether it was a championship contender reloading with talent or an up-and-coming school landing prized recruits to make massive jumps in the ranks, several schools rose above the rest.
Of course, no team was in the neighborhood of almighty Alabama. Nick Saban's team pulled in the top class, although the gap was not as wide as some may expect.
LSU was the team close on Alabama's heels by the time the day was over. Coach Les Miles was the man of day as he and his staff reeled in the No. 2 class headlined by a number of stars on both sides of the football, as ESPN's RecruitingNation illustrates:
The star of the show for LSU was wideout Malachi Dupre, a game-changing force with insane leaping ability who stands at 6'2.5" and weighs 187 pounds. Defensively, 4-star tackle Travonte Valentine (6'3" and 338 lbs) is simply the latest force in the trenches for the school that has earned the moniker, "Nose Tackle U."
As one can probably imagine, Miles was pretty ecstatic about the day overall, via Scott Rabalais of Louisiana's The Advocate:
Keep in mind, this is a class that already has the No. 1 overall prospect in running back Leonard Fournette, the No. 2-ranked safety (Jamal Adams) and No. 2-ranked outside linebacker (Clifton Garrett).
After a year in which the Tigers lost three games in the SEC, things just got a lot brighter for Miles' team.
Look, the biggest story of the day for Auburn will be about how the Tigers were burned by linebacker Rashaan Evans, a local product who ended up betraying the Tigers in order to join the Crimson Tide. The embarrassment got ugly as the team's website accidentally posted Evans' profile, as tweeted by Martin Rickman of SI.com (h/t Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel):
But Auburn pulled off a robbery of its own, albeit in under-the-radar fashion.
The Tigers were able to stun Alabama by reeling in the nation's No. 3 guard, Braden Smith, a 6'6", 290-pound mauler who fits perfectly with the run-first offense Auburn employs. ESPN captured the stunning turn of events:
Most important of all, the Tigers were able to land 5-star running back Roc Thomas, the No. 4 overall back who will be tasked with replacing the production of the NFL-bound Tre Mason.
Therein lies the key to what makes this one of the best classes—every top name does much to replace departing talent. Along with the Thomas-Mason situation, Ruffin replaces Chris Davis, and Smith helps to replace Greg Robinson.
Like LSU, there is a lot of roster turnover set to happen for Auburn. National signing day just made the process rather simplistic.
After a 10-4 season with a 6-3 mark in the Pac-12, the USC Trojans needed a big day to help turn the program around—especially considering they entered the day with the No. 26 class.
By the end of the day, the Trojans had jumped 15 spots to land at No. 11. Mandel put it best:
Three big names made this possible for the Trojans. One was John "JuJu" Smith, the nation's No. 20 overall recruit who had 49 catches for 752 yards and nine touchdowns on offense and added 51 tackles and six interceptions on defense last year.
The second was No. 1 overall guard Damien Mama, as captured by Lindsay Thiry of Fox Sports:
Finally, the shocker was Adoree' Jackson, the nation's top corner and lone top-10 undecided prospect, via ESPN:
For a program that has been through three head coaches in the span of one season, the Trojans did very well for themselves. The building blocks are now in place for a contender, and the alarming rise through the ranks speaks for itself.