National Signing Day 2016: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Damon Sayles@@DamonSaylesNational Recruiting AnalystFebruary 3, 2016

National Signing Day 2016: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

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    Defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the nation's top-ranked player in the 2016 class, signed with Michigan on Wednesday.
    Defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the nation's top-ranked player in the 2016 class, signed with Michigan on Wednesday.Associated Press

    The fax machine: a slightly outdated media device until right around this time of year. But ask any college football coach, and when national signing day rolls around, it's one of the most important pieces of technology on an entire campus.

    Fax machines nationwide received overtime work Wednesday, as college commits, as well as uncommitted targets, became college signees with the help of an official signature on a national letter of intent. And while some athletes sent over national letters of intent digitally through PDFs and tablets, many used the old reliable approach of the fax machine to make their college futures official.

    Wednesday provided the anticipated fireworks of a typical national signing day, with some athletes making last-minute verbal commitments that had their new coaches jumping for joy—and others feeling the agony of defeat.

    The 2016 recruiting cycle has come to a conclusion, and it is now time to evaluate the best of the best. Here are the nation's top 25 classes, according to Bleacher Report. Rankings are based on the player ratings, which stem from 247Sports' composite ratings.

25. Nebraska

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 21 (2 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Nebraska has a good spread of talent offensively and defensively. Quarterback Patrick O'Brien has a chance to be a solid game manager in the Big Ten. He'll have proper protection up front, as tackle Matt Farniok and guard John Raridon both are signed.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star S Lamar Jackson

    Nebraska's secondary received a boost when Lamar Jackson committed Tuesday and signed Wednesday. As the No. 5 safety in the country, Jackson is a big, tall defender who has excellent recovery speed. Jackson's quickness may be his best asset on the field.

24. Arkansas

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 20 (2 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    The Arkansas coaching staff is excited about its 2016 signing class. A team that loves to run the football, Arkansas signed a gem in Devwah Whaley, the nation's No. 3 running back. Defensive tackle Austin Capps, one of four in-state signees, is expected to compete for playing time early.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DE McTelvin Agim

    Keeping the in-state players close to home is a primary objective for the Arkansas coaches. McTelvin Agim was a huge commitment for the Razorbacks, and with him already enrolled, look for him to challenge for a starting defensive tackle position next season.

23. TCU

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 22 (8 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Coach Gary Patterson is used to turning 2-star and 3-star players into elite-level college athletes. He and his staff will have eight 4-star athletes along with several others to work with from the 2016 class. The Horned Frogs have offensive firepower, but it will be defensive end Isaiah Chambers, linebacker Tyree Horton and others that are expected to improve TCU's traditionally recognized defense.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star ATH Sewo Olonilua

    TCU has to be pretty excited about landing a player like Olonilua. There are so many different positions he can play at the next level, including running back, H-back, tight end, wide receiver, inside and outside linebacker. Olonilua will fill whatever void the Horned Frogs have next season, and he should be a major contributor in Patterson's system.

22. Michigan State

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 20 (6 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Michigan State picked up a nice, balanced signing class, one that includes 10 offensive players, nine defensive players and one special teams player. The Spartans had nearly half of its class rated as 4-star athletes, and they're all looking to challenge upperclassmen for starting jobs next year.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star DE Josh King

    Long, quick and athletic, King is one of those players who can be a major contributor early because of his motor. He brings a nearly 6'7" frame to East Lansing, and coach Mark Dantonio and his staff will use him as a menacing pass-rusher off the edge.

21. Miami

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 18 (5 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    The Hurricanes finished with more than half of their commits rated as 4-stars. For new head coach Mark Richt, national signing day was all about keeping as many players committed and ultimately signing them. The coaching staff did a good job of maintaining the nucleus of the class.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star WR Sam Bruce

    Bruce is a player who said on multiple occasions that he committed to a school and not the head coach there. So when Richt took over head coaching duties, Bruce was a man of his word. Look for Bruce to bring tons of speed and explosiveness as a slot receiver, and look for him to be a leader in the Hurricanes' offense.

20. Oklahoma

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 19 (5 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Oklahoma's class featured 11 offensive players, including five offensive linemen. Offensive tackle Erik Swenson, a former Michigan commit, could be the sleeper of the class. Defensively, the Sooners include cornerback Jordan Parker and defensive ends Mark Jackson Jr. and Amani Bledsoe

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OLB Caleb Kelly

    Kelly's Wednesday-evening commitment capped a good signing class for the Sooners. The nation's No. 3 outside linebacker, Kelly possesses athleticism, great instincts and excellent lateral movement. He's one of those athletes who is always around the football and could be a catalyst in Bob Stoops' defense.

19. Texas A&M

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    Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 21 (3 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    The Aggies lost a couple of commits, but still managed to land a solid class loaded with athletes. Texas A&M has had a lot of success at offensive lineman, and it loaded up at the position with five combined tackles and guards. The team boosted its class Wednesday afternoon with a commitment from 4-star athlete Aaron Hansford.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star DE Justin Madubuike

    The versatility of Madubuike makes him an intriguing prospect for the Aggies. He is a standout defensive end, but if needed, Madubuike can line up on the inside as a tackle or even find time as an inside linebacker. Look for Madubuike to be an impact player under head coach Kevin Sumlin and defensive coordinator John Chavis.

18. Penn State

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 20 (4 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Penn State signed one of its best classes in recent years, and coach James Franklin has a few players in the class who could earn starter's minutes as freshmen. Michael Menet could be a reliable interior offensive lineman, while Shane Simmons could be the face of a speedy, improved defense.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star RB Miles Sanders

    A longtime Penn State commit, Sanders closed the deal with his signature to a national letter of intent, giving the Nittany Lions a dynamic presence on the field. As someone with good size, a lot of speed and excellent field vision, Sanders will be an athlete who can give Penn State an added boost, whether as a rusher or a pass-catching option out of the backfield.

17. Baylor

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 22 (4 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    With Baylor, nothing's changed: speed kills. The Bears picked up some quality skill-position athletes to provide depth to their offensive and defensive arsenals. Perhaps more importantly for the program's success, the Bears landed a few defensive linemen, which was an area coach Art Briles and his staff wanted to improve for the upcoming season.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star WR Devin Duvernay

    Baylor brings a boisterous swagger to the football field; Duvernay, however, brings more of a businesslike attitude. He's a no-nonsense athlete who silently gets the job done for his team. A state champion in the 100-meter dash at Texas' highest classification, Duvernay personifies speed and is a stickler for execution.

16. Stanford

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 25

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Coach David Shaw's signing class is expected to be one to watch. The class features players at every position, and with the overall talent level, the Cardinal are looking to reload after a successful 2015 season. Keep an eye on Stanford for the next couple of years with this class.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star TE Kaden Smith

    Smith seemed to lose national publicity because of Georgia signee Isaac Nauta, but you can believe that Smith is looking to show he's every bit as talented as Nauta at the position. A huge receiving target who also is a solid blocking tight end, Smith will be a major weapon for the Cardinal as he prepares for Pac-12 play. Look for Smith's versatility to come into play early in his college career.

15. Tennessee

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    Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 21 (4 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his staff are excited about the future of the program. Offensively, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is viewed as the leader of the future and will be a player to watch. The Volunteers defense will feature cornerback Tyler Byrd, who flipped from Miami, and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo, the No. 1 junior-college prospect in the country.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star S Nigel Warrior

    Much is expected when your last name is "Warrior." The highly recruited safety is a complete defensive back, someone who can cover like a cornerback and hit like a linebacker. Warrior is following in the footsteps of his father, Dale Carter, who was a standout defensive back for the Volunteers before starring in the NFL.

14. Notre Dame

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 23 (5 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Brian Kelly's 2016 signing class will provide depth at a few positions, including safety, wide receiver and cornerback. Notre Dame has a good defensive class that includes linebacker Daelin Hayes and defensive end Khalid Kareem. Look for this Irish class to compete for valuable playing time early.

     

    Top Dog

    4-star OT Tommy Kraemer

    Notre Dame has a good group of offensive linemen coming in, and Kraemer is expected to headline the group. As someone with good size, Kraemer is a solid blocker who plays with great pad level. He's someone who is committed to keeping his quarterback's jersey clean in passing situations.

13. Florida

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 25 (12 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Florida finished Wednesday with a strong class loaded with talented players on both sides of the ball. The Gators have studs at wide receiver, including Tyrie Cleveland, who they flipped from Houston. Defensively, 4-star cornerback Chauncey Gardner has the goods—and the confidence—to be an all-SEC defender.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star DE Antonneous Clayton

    Clayton's rise in the recruiting rankings has been fast and consistent, but Florida is getting an athlete who is expected to be a game-changer upon arrival on campus. Long and athletic, Clayton plays larger than his 6'3", 218-pound size and will be a solid pass-rusher for coach Jim McElwain's defense. Additionally, he has the frame to add weight and not have it slow him down.

12. UCLA

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    Leon Bennett/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 28 (4 early enrollees)

    5-star Players: 1

     

    UCLA was hoping to close Wednesday by landing the in-state trio of linebacker Mique Juarez, defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa and tight end Devin Asiasi. UCLA finished with two of the three (Asiasi chose Michigan), and with the commitments, the program finished with 21 of 27 signees from the state of California.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OLB Mique Juarez

    Signing Mique Juarez was big for the Bruins, as he is a versatile athlete who can either play outside linebacker or line up as an inside linebacker, if necessary. Juarez has great lateral movement and loves to be in the middle of every play. He's a leader on the defensive side of the ball and should complement the Bruins well upon his arrival.

11. Texas

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    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 24 (4 early enrollees)

    5-star Players: 0

     

    Talk about an 11th-hour turnaround. Two weeks ago, Texas was trying to stay in the top 40 in the team rankings. With one of the best closings in years, the Longhorns managed to land 24 commitments on national signing day and 11 pledges overall since Jan. 28, including 4-star linebackers Jeffrey McCulloch and Erick Fowler. Coach Charlie Strong and his staff finished the day in high spirits.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star S Brandon Jones

    As a versatile safety, Jones can cover like a cornerback and play aggressively downhill like a linebacker. Jones announced days before signing day that he would stay in the state of Texas to play football, but Texas beating out Texas A&M and Baylor is huge for the Longhorns. Jones is a legitimate playmaker.

10. Auburn

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Total Signees21 (9 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have every right to be proud of the class they signed Wednesday. The Tigers added depth to their defensive line, including 4-star defensive end Marlon Davidson. Auburn also added talent to its wide receiver group. The offense will have weapons in 4-star receivers Nate Craig-Myers, Kyle Davis and others.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DT Derrick Brown

    Effective run-stopping defensive tackles are vital in a run-happy SEC, and Brown is one of those players who can be productive in the conference. Brown has college-ready size at 6'3 ½" and 317 pounds, and he's quick off the line. Look for him to use his athleticism and overall explosiveness to compete for playing time in the upcoming season.

9. Clemson

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 20 (4 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Although Clemson didn't land the biggest fish of the 2016 class in defensive tackle Rashan Gary, it still finished with a highly respectable class. Of its 20 signees, 12 are rated as at least 4-star prospects. The Tigers scored big early Wednesday morning when 4-star cornerback Trayvon Mullen announced his plans to play under coach Dabo Swinney's tutelage.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DT Dexter Lawrence

    No Gary? No problem. Having a defensive tackle like Lawrence already on campus is a plus for Clemson, and it's also a chance for the 6'4", 327-pound to get better acquainted with the Tigers' defensive scheme. Lawrence is a first-class run-stopper and someone who can alter an offense with the way he can bully a lineman.

8. USC

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 20 (7 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    With a couple of big-name commits on national signing day, USC quietly moved into the top 10 of the team recruiting rankings. The Trojans were able to keep 5-star cornerback Jack Jones close to home, and 4-star offensive tackle E.J. Price decided to make the move from Georgia to California.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DE Olowule Betiku

    As an early enrollee, Betiku simply needed to put his signature on a national letter of intent to make things official with USC. The Trojans get an athlete who not only is a physical specimen but also someone who plays the game with a high level of intensity. Betiku is a buzzsaw on the football field, someone who never takes a down off.

7. Georgia

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 20 (6 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 3

     

    Wednesday was a good day for the Georgia Bulldogs, as two in-state prospects decided to stay close to home. The Bulldogs scored big with 5-star Mecole Hardman Jr., the nation's top-ranked athlete, and 4-star Michail Carter, a top-15 defensive tackle nationally. First-year coach Kirby Smart even managed to flip a player from his old coaching home of Alabama in 3-star wide receiver Tyler Simmons.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star QB Jacob Eason

    Eason, physically, is the quintessential quarterback commit and has the tools to be the leader of Georgia's offense the minute he takes over starting duties. Eason has a cannon for an arm, tons of poise in the pocket and, most importantly, an ability to will his team to victory. The last Georgia signee to have such a high ranking: former Bulldogs star and 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford.

6. Ole Miss

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 24 (8 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 3

     

    With all the hype around other programs nationwide on Wednesday, Ole Miss seemed to quietly and methodically finalize a great 2016 signing class. Expectations for the Rebels are high, as the offense will feature the nation's top-ranked quarterback, 5-star Shea Patterson, while the defense will have 5-star defensive tackle Benito Jones. Hugh Freeze and his coaching staff will have tons to talent to work with.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OT Greg Little

    Laremy Tunsil is leaving? No problem. Ole Miss is looking to replace an NFL-bound offensive tackle with a tackle the Rebels are anticipating to follow Tunsil's footsteps. Little, the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle, is expected to push for that vacated starting spot as a freshman. Many believe he's good enough to fill in without any hiccups.

5. Michigan

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 28 (7 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    As anticipated, Michigan scored the nation's top-ranked player in defensive tackle Rashan Gary, who spearheads an excellent class that should put a huge smile on the faces of coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff. The state of New Jersey was well represented, as Gary, 4-star running back Kareem Walker and four others from the Garden State signed with the Wolverines.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DT Rashan Gary

    Consider Gary the prized get of the 2016 class. There are few flaws in Gary's game. He will bring power, explosiveness, speed and a mean streak to Michigan's defensive line. There's a competitive nature about Gary that will allow him to see early playing time. If Gary stays healthy, look for him to earn multiple accolades in a Michigan uniform.

4. Ohio State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 25 (7 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    The Buckeyes have another heavyweight class that will be called upon to contribute early and/or provide depth for Urban Meyer's already-talented program. Eighteen of the 25 Ohio State signees were rated at least a 4-star athlete, and Meyer seemed to hit all across the board position-wise.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DE Nick Bosa

    Big, strong and physical, Nick Bosa is the definition of a college-ready defensive end. Buckeyes fans were sad to hear of older brother Joey Bosa declaring for the NFL draft in late December, but with the younger Bosa preparing for his freshman season, don't expect a major drop-off at the defensive end position. Nick Bosa has the goods to be an All-Big Ten player very early in his career.

3. LSU

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 23 (5 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    LSU started the day ranked No. 1 in the team recruiting rankings, but even with elite-level additions to outside classes, the Tigers still managed to finish with a top-five class. LSU got better all over the field, but all eyes will be on that secondary unit, which includes 5-star cornerback Kristian Fulton, 4-star CB Saivion Smith and 4-star safety Eric Monroe.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DT Rashard Lawrence

    Recruiting its own state: It's what LSU does arguably better than any other school. The Tigers landed an excellent defensive prospect in Rashard Lawrence, a physical lineman who can be a run-stopping, gap-plugging option, as well as a pass-rushing force on third down. Lawrence's versatility meshes well with his aggressiveness. He is expected to be a problem for opposing offenses.

2. Florida State

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    Total Signees25 (7 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    From top to bottom, Florida State finished Wednesday with an outstanding class. Of its 25 signees, only seven are 3-star players, but those athletes are expected to be equally as competitive as the rest in the class. Look for 4-star Malik Henry, the nation's No. 4 pro-style quarterback, to be a class leader as the future starter of the offense.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star CB Levonta Taylor

    You're in a good spot when Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders speaks highly of you. Levonta Taylor is the nation's top-ranked cornerback and someone who can be an immediate impact player for the Seminoles as a freshman. Taylor's coverage skills, recovery speed and overall football IQ make him a player to watch for all college football fans.

1. Alabama

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Total Signees: 24 (7 early enrollees)

    5-Star Players: 3

     

    The champ is here...again.

    Alabama claimed the top spot of the team recruiting rankings for the sixth consecutive year, and it did so by closing strong on Wednesday. With the help of landing 5-star linebacker Mack Wilson and the commitment of 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall, the Crimson Tide moved from outside the top five to the overall top spot in the rankings.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star LB Ben Davis

    To say Ben Davis has a nose for the football is a blatant understatement. As the top-ranked inside linebacker, Davis is a guy who can make a beeline to deliver punishing hits each play—which will get him on the football field early. With an Alabama legacy to uphold, Davis hopes to have similar success on the field to his father, Wayne Davis, who is the Crimson Tide's all-time tackles leader.