National Signing Day 2017: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2017

National Signing Day 2017: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

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    After winning a national championship, Dabo Swinney and Clemson are ready to work with their 2017 recruiting class.
    After winning a national championship, Dabo Swinney and Clemson are ready to work with their 2017 recruiting class.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    After thorough study, evaluation of their top 50 overall recruits and internal discussion, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue ranked the top 25 recruiting classes in the 2017 cycle.

     

    National signing day marked the first day of the cyclical process resulting in the growth of college football programs. On Wednesday, members of the 2017 recruiting classes signed their national letters of intent and, legally, became college football student-athletes.

    Wednesday provided the storylines of a typical national signing day; while some athletes ended their recruiting processes with last-minute decisions, others closed their respective chapters after being committed for weeks, even months. The end results were the same for college coaches nationwide: There was joy and celebration in some offices, disappointment in other offices.

    With 2017's recruiting cycle wrapping up, here are the nation's top 25 classes, according to Bleacher Report. The class rankings are based on the player ratings stemming from Scout.com's ratings.

25. Texas Longhorns

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 18

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Tom Herman's first recruiting cycle with the Longhorns wasn't what some wanted, but it was still good enough to land quality players. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger leads the offense, and wide receiver Damion Miller can be a big-play threat. The defense got a big boost with top-ranked junior college linebacker Gary Johnson, as well as 4-star defensive end Taquon Graham.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star RB Toneil Carter

    A former Georgia commit, Carter is expected to make an impact early, particularly with D'Onta Foreman declaring for the NFL draft. Carter has great top-end speed and is shifty with the ball in his hands. He is also strong enough to run through attempted tackles.

24. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 26

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    The Hokies completed their first full recruiting cycle under head coach Justin Fuente and scored big on the defensive side of the ball. Among the names to watch are linebackers Nathan Proctor and Dylan Rivers and defensive end Tyjuan Garbutt, three 4-star guys who will challenge for starter's minutes early in their careers.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star S Devon Hunter

    The Hokies did everything they could to score Hunter's commitment. Now that they have the in-state recruit's national letter of intent, the Hokies are excited about the future of their secondary. Hunter can be an immediate playmaker at safety.

23. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 25

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Will Muschamp and his coaching staff filled some holes with the 2017 class. QB Jake Bentley and wide receiver OrTre Smith are two athletes to keep an eye on for Muschamp's offensive scheme. Linebackers Brad Johnson and Sherrod Greene will be key in building the Gamecocks defense.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star ATH Jamyest Williams

    Although he isn't the biggest athlete at 5'9", 173 pounds, Williams makes it a priority to enter every down as the most competitive. He frustrates wide receivers with stingy, one-on-one defense, and he could be one of the top defenders in the SEC a lot sooner than expected.

     

22. Oregon Ducks

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    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 24

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Willie Taggart's first class with Oregon has its share of offensive and defensive contributors. The secondary is solid with 4-star cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Jaylon Redd. Offensively, QB Braxton Burmeister and running backs C.J. Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio are potential difference-makers in the Pac-12.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star CB Deommodore Lenoir

    Lenoir was once an Oregon decommit, but he rejoined the class on national signing day—a huge victory for Taggart and his coaching staff. He is a disruptive defensive back who possesses great feet and hips and also uses his hands well against wide receivers.

21. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 20

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Nebraska's class is intriguing, as it looks, on paper, to be one that could operate in a pass-happy spread attack. QB Tristan Gebbia leads the offense, and he'll have high school teammate wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. to throw to, along with wide receiver Jaevon McQuitty. Linebacker Avery Roberts could be a defensive catalyst.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star WR Tyjon Lindsey

    Nebraska fans will be introduced to a player in Lindsey who is lightning-quick and a problem for defenders because of his ability to stop on a dime when running routes. He isn't the biggest receiver at 5'8", 165 pounds, but he has a knack for making game-changing plays.

20. Washington Huskies

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 18

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Washington's class features a few names who could be major Pac-12 contributors soon. Head coach Chris Petersen will have 4-star studs like cornerback Elijah Molden, athlete Salvon Ahmed and safety Brandon McKinney to bulk up the secondary. The wide receiver trio of 4-stars Ty Jones, Alex Cook and Terrell Bynum can give the offense an added boost.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star TE Hunter Bryant

    Washington will get a good-looking, in-state product in Bryant, an athlete who is equally good blocking as he is catching passes. He uses his strength and body control in red-zone packages and to move the chains on passing downs. 

19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 21

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    If you value offensive linemen play, you've got to like what Notre Dame did with the 2017 class. Offensive tackle Josh Lugg is a reliable bookend, and versatile offensive lineman Robert Hainsey can play guard or tackle. The Irish also have interior linemen Darnell Ewell, Aaron Banks and Dillan Gibbons in the class.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star TE Brock Wright

    At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Wright has excellent size as a blocking tight end. As good as he is blocking, Wright is also a reliable pass-catching option. His play should be able to help Notre Dame open its offense.

18. Florida Gators

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 24

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Florida managed to close the final week of recruiting with a couple of solid players, including 4-star defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe and 4-star cornerback Brad Stewart. The Gators also flipped 4-star athlete C.J. Henderson, a one-time Miami pledge. Additionally, Florida welcomed 4-star wide receiver James Robinson to the class, despite him recently being cited for marijuana possession, per the Plain Dealer.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OG Tedarrell Slaton

    The Gators on national signing day scored a massive offensive lineman—6'4.5" and 341 pounds—who can play tackle but will be most suited as an interior lineman. He could play defense, if necessary, but he'll likely be most valuable as a guard. 

17. Maryland Terrapins

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 29

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Maryland coach D.J. Durkin has high expectations for a class that has its share of potential big-name players. WR Tahj Capehart is a big scoop for the Terrapins, and cornerback Deon Jones and safety Markquese Bell can be leaders for an improving secondary.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star RB Anthony McFarland

    The combination of Richardson and McFarland can be a wonderful story for Maryland—and a major problem for Big Ten opponents. McFarland has the ability to hit a second gear in the open field, and he runs with solid vision and change of direction.

16. Miami Hurricanes

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 21

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Miami head coach Mark Richt's first full recruiting cycle includes a group loaded with talent. Defensive end D.J. Johnson is a big-play athlete on the defensive line, and safety Trajan Bandy can be a stud in the secondary. Look for N'Kosi Perry and Cade Weldon to battle for playing time at QB, while offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson will be called upon to be a brick wall.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star WR Jeff Thomas

    A player who is more about action than words, Thomas is a speedy, slippery wide receiver who can be one of the best slot receivers in the country. Thomas, in open space in a one-on-one situation, arguably is as dangerous as any college football athlete.

15. UCLA Bruins

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 17

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    UCLA's defensive class is one to watch, as several athletes have the ability to compete for starting spots as freshmen. One player to keep an eye on is cornerback Darnay Holmes, an outstanding defender and competitor. Greg Rogers and Martin Andrus can make up a dynamic defensive tackle duo because of their tenacity and noses for the football.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DE Jaelan Phillips

    Phillips has the size, speed and hunger to become the next great defender in the Pac-12. A beast at the defensive end spot, Phillips spent his senior season battling some of the nation's best tackles in elite camps and All-American games—and he won a lion's share of the reps.

14. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 28

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Tennessee's defensive class is promising, as 4-star athletes like defensive tackle Eric Crosby, safety Maleik Gray and cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza are joining Butch Jones' roster. Offensively, RB Ty Chandler, another 4-star prospect, can make magic happen with the ball in his hands.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OT Trey Smith

    Arguably one of the most consistent players among a talented offensive line class, Smith is someone who can see the field either at tackle or guard. Smith's athleticism works well with a competitive nature, and the Volunteers will look to turn him into an All-SEC player.

13. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 21

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    Penn State coach James Franklin will have several impressive athletes to work with next season. Wide receiver K.J. Hamler is tough to defend one-on-one, but he and cornerbacks Tariq Castro-Fields and Donovan Johnson in practice will be their version of iron sharpening iron. Offensive guard C.J. Thorpe will be called upon to protect QB Sean Clifford in the pocket.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star CB Lamont Wade

    As good as Wade is, before anything else, he is a competitor. It's that competitive edge that's going to allow him to challenge for starter's minutes early in his college career. Penn State signed a ball hawk, someone who is ready to make a play every down.

12. Clemson Tigers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 14

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Fresh off winning a national championship, Clemson will look to replace QB Deshaun Watson. Hunter Johnson is a 4-star talent who could be the next great signal-caller for Dabo Swinney. Defensively, 4-star safety A.J. Terrell is a playmaker, and 4-star athlete Logan Rudolph could see time either at defensive end or offensive linebacker.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star WR Tee Higgins

    Athletically speaking, there is little to despise about Higgins. He may remind Clemson fans of Mike Williams because of his size, speed and athleticism. He is an excellent go-route receiver and can be called upon to win jump-ball situations in the red zone.

11. Stanford Cardinal

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 14

    5-Star Players: 3

     

    Stanford's class isn't large, but it's loaded. Along with landing two 5-star offensive tackles, the Cardinal got three dangerous offensive options in 5-star QB Davis Mills, 4-star tight end Colby Parkinson and 4-star athlete Connor Wedington. Paulson Adebo is a 4-star talent who can play anywhere in the secondary or wide receiver.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OT Foster Sarell

    Imagine the possibilities for Stanford with Sarell at one tackle spot and fellow 5-star Walker Little at the other tackle spot. A true technician, Sarell has the football savvy and physical attributes (6'6", 300 lbs) to be the leader of a line that arguably could be the best in college football in a couple of years.

10. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 27

    5-Star Players: 1

     

    The future looks bright for Texas A&M, as head coach Kevin Sumlin signed a talented group of players on both sides of the ball. Offensively, QB Kellen Mond and wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon are two IMG Academy teammates from the state of Texas ready to shine. Another IMG product, 4-star linebacker Santino Marchiol is ready to compete for the defense.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star LB Anthony Hines III

    How do you answer defensive questions at the linebacker spot? You sign a guy with 640 tackles for his high school career, including 245 as a senior, per MaxPreps. Hines can be an immediate contributor, as he has the size, power and speed to play inside or outside linebacker.

9. Auburn Tigers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 22

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    With everything going on at Alabama, Auburn went through national signing day somewhat quietly. The Tigers signed signed 5-star JUCO QB Jarrett Stidham, and he is expected to immediately boost the offense. He'll have a chance to hone his skills against defenders like 4-star linebacker Tadarian Moultry and defensive end Markaviest Bryant.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star OT Calvin Ashley

    At 6'6" and 310 pounds, Ashley has prototypical size for an offensive tackle. His length will be an asset, primarily in passing situations, and he plays with good pad level. Ashley will only improve competing against some of the SEC's best defenders.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 27

    5-Star Players: 0

     

    Oklahoma has a well-balanced 2017 class that Bob Stoops will get the most out of. The offense is balanced with QB Chris Robison, RB Kennedy Brooks and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb signed. OL Tyrese Robinson can play either guard or tackle on the line. Defensively, linebacker Levi Draper and cornerbacks Tre Brown and Justin Broiles are in-state products ready for the college challenges.

     

    Top Dog

    4-Star S Robert Barnes

    Barnes can be a major contributor for that Oklahoma defense because of his nose for the football. He consistently puts himself in a position to make a play; credit that to his high football IQ. Barnes can make the big hit, or he can show his finesse and make a dazzling interception.

7. LSU Tigers

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 23

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    LSU missed on landing DT Marvin Wilson, but it still had a solid 2017 class full of elite athletes. The defensive side is loaded, featuring 5-star defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson, 4-star linebacker Jacob Phillips, cornerback Kary Vincent Jr., safety Todd Harris and several others.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star S JaCoby Stevens

    As someone with good ball skills and a knack for making plays, Stevens should be a catalyst for LSU's secondary. He's a natural athlete with excellent size for a safety at 6'2", 190 pounds, and he can be disruptive in both running and passing situations.

6. Michigan Wolverines

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 29

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    The Michigan Wolverines wanted to recruit the state well. Mission accomplished. The Wolverines landed several players from the state, including Detroit cornerback Ambry Thomas, Detroit safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Flint defensive end Deron Irving-Bey and Orchard Lake linebacker Josh Ross. Offensively, QB Dylan McCaffrey, from Colorado, and wide receiver Tarik Black, from Connecticut, are expected to provide fireworks.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

    Peoples-Jones has all of the tools and intangibles to be one of the best receivers not only in the Big Ten but also in the entire country. He's someone who meshes size, athleticism and an ability to up his play in big-game situations. Peoples-Jones knows his expectations, and he's ready to fulfill them.

5. Florida State Seminoles

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 22

    5-Star Players: 4

     

    One look at Florida State's class, and it's clear it is loaded with quality players. RBs Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White and wide receiver D.J. Matthews should have good battles in practice with defensive backs Stanford Samuels III, Cyrus Fagan and Hamsah Nasirildeen. Defensive line play should be stellar with with defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and defensive tackles Marvin WilsonJa'len Parks and Cory Durden leading the charge.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star RB Cam Akers

    So much hype is around Najee Harris, but Akers could be the freshman running back we're all talking about next season. With the departure of Dalvin Cook, Akers will have every opportunity to show himself worthy as a starter—and become a household name in college football.

4. USC Trojans

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 24

    5-Star Players: 4

     

    Of all the schools nationally, USC may have had the biggest national signing day. The Trojans closed strong with Wednesday commitments from 5-star WR Joseph Lewis, 5-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson and 5-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Add in 4-star pledges from linebacker Levi Jones, tight end Josh Falo and athlete Greg Johnson, and it was a slam-dunk day for the Trojans.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star RB Stephen Carr

    USC's impressive signing-day showing will put a smile on the faces of all rooting for the Trojans. Carr is one of several studs to sign, and he could be a guy who adds a new dimension to an already-talented running back arsenal.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Brett Davis/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 26

    5-Star Players: 2

     

    Georgia did a solid job of signing a balanced class that included studs on both sides of the ball. On offense, 5-star QB Jake Fromm and 4-star RB D'Andre Swift will lead the offense, while 4-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson headlines a talented offensive line group. On defense, expectations are high for 4-star safety Richard LeCounte III.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star ATH Deangelo Gibbs

    Whether he lines up as a receiver or in the secondary, Gibbs is expected to deliver early and often. He's a big, strong athlete who can frustrate defensive backs as a receiver or wreak havoc as a safety with his coverage on wide receivers.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 21

    5-Star Players: 6

     

    The Buckeyes had several 2017 athletes enroll early, including the 5-star trio of cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, linebacker Baron Browning and quarterback Tate Martell. Wednesday marked the official uniting of another stellar class, which also includes 5-star lineman Wyatt Davis, 4-star defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and 4-star wide receiver Trevon Grimes.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star DE Chase Young

    The first thing mentioned about Young is his ceiling. It's scary to think a 5-star athlete can get that much better, but Young could reach levels that would make him one of the most intimidating defenders in college football. He'll be a special project for the Ohio State coaching staff.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Total Signees: 26

    5-Star Players: 6

     

    You can name seven or eight players, and it won't be enough to gauge how good Alabama's class is. From offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and QB Tua Tagovailoa on offense to linebackers Dylan Moses and VanDarius Cowan on defense, the Crimson Tide once again loaded up with a class of elite-level talent.

     

    Top Dog

    5-Star RB Najee Harris

    After overcoming non-football-related obstacles, Harris emerged as the nation's top-ranked prospect, according to Scout.com. Big, powerful, fast and elusive, Harris is expected to be the next great running back coached at Alabama by Nick Saban.

     

    All player ratings and total signees lists are courtesy of Scout.com.