National Signing Day 2018: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into NSD

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2018

National Signing Day 2018: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into NSD

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    Urban Meyer and Ohio State are chasing the No. 1 recruiting class, but they're not far behind.
    Urban Meyer and Ohio State are chasing the No. 1 recruiting class, but they're not far behind.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The closing stretch has arrived. Time is running out before the traditional national signing day of the 2018 cycle.

    Coaching staffs around the Football Bowl Subdivision have been working to lock up committed players, secure new pledges and give their final pitches to coveted prospects.

    As the first Wednesday of February approaches, we're going to take a step back, catch our breath and provide a layout of how the recruiting world stands entering signing day.

    New commitments, late flips and attrition will affect B/R's final rankings. This order will help show which programs endure the biggest changes—whether positive or negative—after Feb. 7.


    All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports and current as of Feb. 2.

Nos. 25-21: Michigan State, NC State, Tennessee, Maryland, UCLA

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    25. Michigan State Spartans

    Class size: 20 (Three 4-stars)

    Breakdown: One year after missing on most of the premier in-state talent, Michigan State signed three of the best nine players in cornerback Kalon Gervin, quarterback Theo Day and cornerback Davion Williams. The Spartans dipped into Ohio for 4-star tight end Trenton Gillison and athlete Xavier Henderson, too.

    Key addition so far: Though listed as a dual-threat quarterback, La'Darius Jefferson might be a running back for MSU. He passed for 1,213 yards as a senior in high school but shredded defenses for 2,095 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground, per The D Zone.


    24. NC State Wolfpack

    Class size: 22 (Four 4-stars)

    Breakdown: The program failed to attract any of North Carolina's top 10 prospects in both 2016 and 2017. This cycle, the Wolfpack secured the Nos. 4, 5 and 10 players in linebacker Payton Wilson, running back Ricky Person and defensive tackle Alim McNeill.

    Key addition so far: Laugh if you'd like, but place-kicker Chris Dunn is a valued signee. The Wolfpack have endured three brutal years at the position, and Dunndespite an inconsistent senior year after two good seasonsoffers a chance for improvement.


    23. Tennessee Volunteers

    Class size: 17 (Seven 4-stars)

    Breakdown: With four offensive and four defensive linemen in the class, Tennessee has a clear emphasis on rebuilding the trenches. Four-star receiver Alontae Taylor and tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson highlight an offensive haul that has a new player at every position.

    Key addition so far: Linebacker JJ Peterson is the marquee get for new head coach Jeremy Pruitt and should be one of few immediate-impact freshmen. As a senior, Peterson amassed 110 tackles with 19 stops for loss and recovered three fumbles.


    22. Maryland Terrapins

    Class size: 22 (Three 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Maryland is continuing its upward trend on the trail with D.J. Durkin leading the charge. And to compete in the Big Ten, the Terps need to get bigger. Durkin and Co. have accomplished that with a lineman-filled haul in 2018.

    Key addition so far: Three cycles ago, Byron Cowart was a consensus 5-star. However, he managed just 15 tackles before transferring from Auburn. Cowart is expected to provide an immediate boost on a defense that ranked 113th nationally in sacks last year.


    21. UCLA Bruins

    Class size: 21 (Nine 4-stars)

    Breakdown: After adding just eight players during the early signing period, UCLA has more than doubled its class size. Chip Kelly has secured verbal pledges from 4-stars in offensive guard Chris Murray, defensive end Elijah Wade and defensive tackle Tyler Manoa.

    Key addition so far: Though solidifying the trenches is hugely important for the Bruins, the increased bulk wouldn't matter as much without a great quarterback. Dorian Thompson-Robinson might not start in 2018, but he looks like a star for the future.

Nos. 20-16: Virginia Tech, TCU, Florida, South Carolina, Florida State

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    20. Virginia Tech Hokies

    Class size: 25 (Five 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Since 23 players are signed, Justin Fuente has officially assembled one of the highest-rated classes in Virginia Tech history. The staff added a player at every non-kicking position, emphasizing the offensive line and secondary along the way.

    Key addition so far: While 4-star receiver Tre Turner is their most heralded prospect, 4-star JUCO corner Jeremy Webb should help replace Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson. Webb collected 29 tackles and four pass breakups at ASA College in 2017.


    19. TCU Horned Frogs

    Class size: 20 (Five 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Led by dual-threat quarterback Justin Rogers, TCU picked up a quartet of 4-stars for the offense. Wide receiver Tevailance Hunt, running back Fabian Franklin and offensive tackle Anthony McKinney compete the group, and safety Atanza Vongor rounds out the top-rated group.

    Key addition so far: Jalen Reagor led the team in receiving as a freshman in 2017, and the Horned Frogs will be hoping for similar contributions from Hunt. The wideout tallied 1,944 yards and 28 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons.


    18. Florida Gators

    Class size: 16 (Nine 4-stars)

    Breakdown: The Gators lost wideout Corey Gammage in early January but brought eight players on campus for the spring semester. Emory Jones highlights the group of early enrollees.

    Key addition so far: Jones might climb the depth chart immediately. He might not. But the most important thing is Dan Mullena respected developer of quarterbackshas a young talent to mold into a multi-year starter at a position of immense need.


    17. South Carolina Gamecocks

    Class size: 22 (Eight 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Similar to Florida, South Carolina has a large contingent of signees who will participate in the spring. Twelve are already in Columbia, including 4-star dual-threat quarterback Dakereon Joyner.

    Key addition so far: Deebo Samuel is coming back for 2018, but South Carolina needed to stockpile talent for the future. No matter if Josh Vann cracks the depth chart as a freshman, he'll be expected to hold a significant role by 2019.


    16. Florida State Seminoles

    Class size: 15 (11 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Florida State has surged since Willie Taggart finalized his staff. Once ranked in the 30s, the 'Noles have climbed into the top 20 thanks to commitments from 4-stars in receiver Warren Thompson, linebacker Xavier Peters and defensive tackle Dennis Briggs.

    Key addition so far: During the early signing period, the coaches successfully flipped 4-star safety Jaiden Woodbey from Ohio State. FSU offered him on Dec. 12, received an official visit a few days later and earned his signature on Dec. 20.

Nos. 15-11: Oregon, Michigan, Washington, LSU, Auburn

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    15. Oregon Ducks

    Class size: 22 (11 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Not only does Oregon have 11 early enrollees, six of the program's top seven signees headed to campus for the spring semester. That includes 4-stars in safety Steve Stephens, quarterback Tyler Shough, safety Jevon Holland and linebacker Adrian Jackson.

    Key addition so far: The passing game disappeared when Justin Herbert couldn't play. Since the rising junior could depart for the NFL after 2018, bringing in Shough was essential. He threw for 3,071 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior, per MaxPreps, and could rise to No. 2 on the depth chart quickly.


    14. Michigan Wolverines

    Class size: 21 (Eight 4-stars)

    Breakdown: The current unit lacks top-tier star power compared to Jim Harbaugh's last two classes, but there's a respectable foundation. Two of the prized prospectscornerback Myles Sims and quarterback Joe Miltonhave enrolled early, along with defensive end Taylor Upshaw.

    Key addition so far: We'll go with two players: Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes, both 4-star offensive tackles. The simple truth is Michigan hasn't performed well enough up front in all three Harbaugh years, so the Wolverines need both Mayfield and Hayesespecially if they miss on 5-star Nicholas Petit-Frere.


    13. Washington Huskies

    Class size: 20 (10 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Washington signed six 4-stars on the offensive side of the ball, including a pair of 4-star quarterbacks in Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon. Those signal-callers are the only two early enrollees, but the Dawgs only have one unsigned commit.

    Key addition so far: If you exclude likely transfer Jacob Eason, the key addition is a player he should be targeting in 2019. Marquis Spiker set a California state record for touchdown receptions in his career and will likely crack the depth chart immediately.


    12. LSU Tigers

    Class size: 22 (One 5-star, 11 4-stars)

    Breakdown: The 2017 cycle was strange in that seven other programs beyond LSU swiped a top-15 recruit. That proved to be an outlier in a long-standing trend, considering the Tigers have already attracted nine of the top-15 talents.

    Key addition so far: LSU is still pushing for 4-star wideout JaMarr Chase, but the signing of 5-star Terrace Marshall provided the biggest boost to the class. Even if he doesn't start as a freshman, Marshall should be a contributor with No. 1 ability in the future.


    11. Auburn Tigers

    Class size: 23 (16 4-stars)

    Breakdown: Auburn's five-year streak of nabbing at least one 5-star is probably coming to a close, but there's still plenty of upper-tier talent. The Tigers have eight top-200 players in the class, most notably quarterback Joey Gatewood and wideout Matthew Hill.

    Key addition so far: Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway are headed to the NFL, so a powerful collection of running backs has thinned out. Asa Martin will join Kam Martin and Malik Miller in the backfield next season.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Class size: 22 (11 4-stars)


    Notre Dame lost its defensive coordinator, but the program is bringing in plenty of talent on that side of the football. Houston Griffith, a 4-star defensive back, is the best prospect, followed by safety Derrik Allen, linebackers Jack Lamb and Shayne Simon and D-tackle Jayson Ademilola.

    The Irish also hope they've secured a quarterback-receiver connection of the future in Phil Jurkovec and Kevin Austin, who are both top-85 players nationally.


    Number to know: 7

    Seven of the 21 prospects who signed in December are already on campus. In addition to Griffith and Lamb, tight end George Takacs, running back Jahmir Smith, receiver Micah Jones and linebackers Matthew Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo are on campus.


    Key addition so far: Phil Jurkovec, QB

    Brandon Wimbush accounted for 30 touchdowns, but he was unquestionably more threatening as a runner than passer. Ian Book and Avery Davis will compete for the starting role, and Jurkovec will only increase the level of competition at a position the Irish must improve.

9. USC Trojans

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    Class size: 14 (Three 5-stars, 10 4-stars)


    Marcus Johnsona 4-star cornerback, backed off his pledge in early January. Despite being ranked No. 415 overall, he was the second-lowest rated prospect in the class. Yeah, there's some star power here.

    Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and quarterback JT Daniels are 5-star teammates from nearby powerhouse Mater Dei. The Trojans also grabbed linebacker Palaie Gaeteote from Bishop Gorman, another nationally respected school, in Nevada.


    Number to know: 152

    It shouldn't be a surprise that Daniels chose to reclassify into the 2018 cycle. He had nothing else to prove at the high school level, considering he threw for 152 touchdowns compared to just 14 interceptions. And St. Brown caught 42 scores over the last three years.


    Key addition so far: Justin Dedich, OL

    Whether he plays guard or center doesn't matter; USC needs help up front immediately, and Dedich might provide some assistance. Expecting a freshman to excel right away is unfair, but Dedich enrolled early and could earn a place in the rotation this fall.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Class size: 22 (One 5-star; 11 4-stars)


    The 2018 cycle features plenty of bulk for Oklahoma. Of the team's 11 highest-rated commits or signees, six play on the offensive or defensive lineand two more are linebackers.

    Longtime commit and 5-star offensive tackle Brey Walker leads that group, and defensive ends Ronnie Perkins, Ron Tatum and Jalen Redmond are each top-10 players at their strong- or weak-side position. Two more 4-star offensive tacklesDarrell Simpson and Tramonda Moorecomplete the six.


    Number to know: 4

    Led by IMG Academy teammates Brendan Radley-Hiles and T.J. Pledger, Oklahoma snagged four recruits from the state of Florida. Over the last five cycles, the Sooners had signed just three prospects from the Sunshine State.


    Key addition so far: Jaquayln Crawford, ATH

    Crawford could line up on either side of the ball, but he'll play wide receiver for Oklahoma. During his last three years of high school, Crawford caught at least 47 passes each season. He totaled 2,569 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns in that span.

7. Clemson Tigers

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    Class size: 15 (Five 5-stars, five 4-stars)


    For the second straight year, Clemson went low on volume and high on talent. Dabo Swinney and his staff pulled off a tremendous feat and added quarterback Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 overall), defensive end Xavier Thomas (No. 3), defensive end KJ Henry (No. 14) and offensive tackle Jackson Carman (No. 17).

    The Tigers also kept three of the five highest-rated in-state prospects. Derion Kendrick, a 5-star wide receiver, stands atop the group. Defensive tackle Josh Belk is a 4-star, and linebacker Jake Venables is the top 3-star from South Carolina.


    Number to know: 1

    That's how many interceptions Lawrence threw as a senior in high school. He completed 69.0 percent of his 255 passes for 3,290 yards, 41 touchdowns and a single pick. Lawrence, a pro-style quarterback with a little mobility, also ran for 222 yards and two scores, per MaxPreps.


    Key addition so far: Jackson Carman, OT

    No matter what happens on the depth chart, snagging Carman from Ohio was a major victory for Swinney. The state typically produces a handful of elite talent, and Clemson will be more confident it can infringe on Urban Meyer's territory once again.

6. Miami Hurricanes

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    Class size: 22 (One 5-star, 13 4-stars)


    Mark Richt and Co. targeted a little bit of everything in this class. The Canes added 4-star players at every positional unit except for linebacker, which wasn't a pressing need for the 2018 cycle. Running back Lorenzo Lingard is the 5-star headliner.

    Additionally, a tetrad of 4-star defensive backs will bolster the secondary. Al Blades Jr., Gilbert Frierson and D.J. Ivey will begin their careers at corner, and Gurvan Hall will be a safety.


    Number to know: 12

    That's how many of in-state players are 4- or 5-star prospects. As long as defensive tackle Nesta Silvera signs, it'll be the first time in a decade the Hurricanes attracted that volume of top in-state talent.


    Key addition so far: Brevin Jordan, TE

    Lingard and wide receiver Mark Pope should be immediate contributors. Jordan could start immediately, though. Miami must replace tight end Chris Herndon, and Michael Irvin II doesn't have Jordan's ceiling. As a senior at Bishop Gorman, Jordan caught 63 passes for 1,111 yards and 13 scores.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Class size: 18 (One 5-star, 14 4-stars)


    In typical Alabama fashion, the program loaded up on defense. The Crimson Tide added an impressive quartet of defensive ends in 5-star Eyabi Anoma and 4-stars Stephon Wynn, Jordan Davis and Cameron Latu. Josh Jobe, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Saivion Smith are 4-star corners.

    Outside linebacker Quay Walker leads another three 4-stars on that point-stopping side of the ball. Defensive tackles Bobby Brown and Christian Barmore round out the ridiculous haul.


    Number to know: 3

    When a program wins five championships in nine years, recruits from everywhere want to play there. Teams typically try to dominate a couple of areas, but the Tide have plucked talent across the country. They hold pledges from no more than three players in any state.


    Key addition so far: Eyabi Anoma, DE

    Going with Skyler DeLong, the nation's No. 4 punter, admittedly is tempting because of JK Scott's departure. However, Anoma could end up being the best player in the 2018 class. Despite only two years of football experience, he shredded opponents for 98 tackles and 22 sacks as a senior, according to

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Class size: 23 (Three 5-stars, 11 4-stars)


    Penn State wants to keep up with Ohio State in a challenging Big Ten East Division. This is the level of recruiting that would make the Nittany Lions an annual national championship contender.

    Six players have enrolled early, including 5-star defender Micah Parsons and 4-star tight end Zack Kuntz. Wide receiver Justin Shorter and all-purpose back Ricky Slade, a couple of 5-star skill-position weapons, will join the group in the summer.


    Number to know: 353

    During his senior year, Slade assembled a terrific three-game stretch on one night. He amassed 353 rushing yards on just 13 carries in a 64-35 victory for C.D. Hylton. Slade accounted for eight touchdowns, which tied his own absurd school record.


    Key addition so far: Justin Shorter, WR

    Over the last two years, Penn State has lost a third-round NFL draft pick in Chris Godwin and a record-setting target in DaeSean Hamilton. Tight end Mike Gesicki used his eligibility in 2017, too. Shorter could provide a considerable boost at receiver for the Lions, who want to take advantage of Trace McSorley's senior season.

3. Texas Longhorns

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    Class size: 23 (Two 5-star, 15 4-stars)


    Texas attacked skill positions in the first full recruiting cycle under Tom Herman, and the coaching staff succeeded. Each of the Longhorns' top eight signees are either wide receivers or defensive backs.

    Caden Sterns is the most heralded player, but fellow safeties BJ Foster and DeMarvion Overshown are ranked third and sixth at the position, respectively. Wide receiver Brennan Eagles joins corners Anthony Cook and Jalen Green as top-65 prospects, too.


    Number to know: 2

    Texas has two returning quarterbacks battling for the starting job in Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele. Herman and Co. picked up two more 4-star signal-callers in Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson.


    Key addition so far: Caden Sterns, S

    Here's a not-so-fun-fact for the Longhorns: Since the 2010 cyclewhich followed a BCS National Championship appearancethe program had only secured the No. 1 player from the state of Texas in 2015 (Malik Jefferson). Sterns can help end that discouraging trend.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Class size: 24 (Two 5-stars, 19 4-stars)


    Considering the amount of talent in this haul, it's no surprise seven players are ranked Nos. 1 or 2 at their position. Still, it's impressive to see the prospects atop their respective spot. Defensive tackle Taron Vincent and all-purpose back Jaelen Gill highlight that group.

    Additionally, Ohio State has already signed 14 of the top 126 high schoolers in the class. The Buckeyes have a 4-star at every positional unit thanks to late-rising quarterback Matthew Baldwin.


    Number to know: 19

    Auburn (16) and Texas (15) are on their heels, but the Buckeyes have secured the most 4-star prospects in the 2018 cycle. Ohio State has those 19, including tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who is a versatile stud, and Teradja Mitchell, who could quickly land on the two-deep.


    Key addition so far: Max Wray, OT

    Ohio State failed to keep 5-star Jackson Carman in the state, so Max Wray is currently the marquee offensive tackle of the class. The Buckeyes are still chasing a few players at the position, but Wray could end up being the top tackle prospect.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Class size: 22 (Six 5-stars, 12 4-stars)  


    Games are typically won at the line of scrimmage, and Georgia has an impressive haul for the trenches. The Bulldogs attracted offensive guard Jamaree Salyer, offensive tackle Cade Mays, defensive end Brenton Cox and edge-rusher Adam Anderson.

    And that's not all. The Dawgs also signed several excellent 4-stars in center Warren Ericson, guard Trey Hill, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. Mays, Ericson and Wyatt are among the early enrollees.


    Number to know: 6

    In the last decade, Alabama and Florida State are the only other programs to sign six 5-stars in one cycle. Georgia joined that limited club by reeling in Fields, White, Salyer, Mays, Anderson and Cox.


    Key addition so far: Justin Fields, QB

    Cox is important because the defense will lose Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, but Georgia's quarterback depth took a significant hit. Jacob Eason is transferring, leaving Jake Fromm as the unquestioned starter with not much behind him. Fields should be the backup as a freshman, and the Bulldogs saw in 2017 just how valuable a talented reserve can be.