National Signing Day 2018: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes After NSD

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2018

National Signing Day 2018: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes After NSD

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    Trevor Lawrence
    Trevor LawrenceCredit: Student Sports

    Though less drama-filled than past years, national signing day still offered plenty of intrigue to close the 2018 recruiting cycle.

    Nine remaining top-50 prospects chose their college destination, unsigned commits sent in their paperwork, and the majority of available players solidified what the future holds. Other than waiting on a few decisions, recruiting classes are finalized.

    In B/R's final Top 25 of the 2018 cycle, USC made the biggest charge upward thanks to another excellent showing on signing day itself. Texas A&M and Florida State also climbed the rankings.

    Georgia and Ohio State entered NSD battling for the No. 1 spot, but one program pulled away to secure the best haul of 2018.

Nos. 25-21: Maryland, NC State, TCU, Virginia Tech, Michigan

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    25. Maryland Terrapins

    Class size: 23 (Four 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Maryland completed most of its work during the early signing period, so signing 4-star cornerback Ken Montgomery Jr. wrapped up a top-25 haul for Terrapins coach D.J. Durkin.

    Strengths/weaknesses: The class is heavy on offensive and defensive linemen, considering seven of the Terps' 10 highest-rated signees play up front. Maryland didn't add a running back.

         

    24. North Carolina State Wolfpack

    Class size: 23 (Six 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: The Wolfpack added one final 4-star on NSDreeling in cornerback Taiyon Palmer—and kept Derrick Eason from flipping to Notre Dame. Similar to Maryland, NC State didn't have much to worry about Wednesday.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Being involved with top players within the state is imperative for the Pack, and they secured three of North Carolina's 10 best talents. The coaching staff needs to make linebacker a priority next year, though.

         

    23. TCU Horned Frogs

    Class size: 22 (Five 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: TCU finished the day by flipping safety ArDarius Washington from LSU. The Horned Frogs didn't pull any surprises but also didn't lose any verbal pledges, so little news was good news.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Justin Rogers is the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country. And although the staff addressed major needs on the offensive line and at receiver, TCU only landed one defensive lineman. Granted, the Frogs did secure a big D-line class in 2017.

         

    22. Virginia Tech Hokies

    Class size: 26 (Seven 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: The commitment of 4-star linebacker Dax Hollifield solidified Virginia Tech's place in the Top 25. Their four remaining targetsnotably Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Jamarcus Chatmanweren't necessarily considered the Hokies' to lose, but the prospects all went elsewhere.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Virginia Tech landed a pair of 4-stars at linebacker and receiver while attracting 4-star quarterback Quincy Patterson. The Hokies have great development on the defensive front, but signing a couple of blue-chippers would be a welcome change.

         

    21. Michigan Wolverines

    Class size: 19 (Seven 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: It was a forgettable Wednesday for Michigan. The Wolverines lost top prospect Otis Reese to Georgia and missed on 5-star Nicholas Petit-Frere, who chose Ohio State.

    Strengths/weaknesses: The Wolverines attracted 4-star offensive tackles Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes, who will provide much needed support up front. After a frustrating 8-5 year, though, Michigan failed to land a single top-100 prospect. 

Nos. 20-16: Tennessee, South Carolina, UCLA, Oregon, Texas A&M

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    20. Tennessee Volunteers

    Class size: 22 (Eight 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Tennessee had a roller-coaster Wednesday. Five prospects committed to the school, two players backed out of their verbal pledges to the Vols, and the high-profile targetsOlaijah Griffin and  Jacob Copelandpicked different locations.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Behind prized linebacker JJ Peterson, most of UT's impact commits are defensive linemen. But there is a shortage of cornerbacks. Brandon Davis' pre-NSD pledge gave the Volunteers their only corner in the class.

         

    19. South Carolina Gamecocks

    Class size: 22 (Nine 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: South Carolina must've had one of the country's quietest war rooms. Rick Sandidge tabbed the Gamecocks, and John Mincey ended up picking Tennessee. That about does it.

    Strengths/weaknesses: While the 2018 cycle included a little bit of everything for South Carolina, its standouts include two 4-star offensive linemen and No. 9 dual-threat QB Dakereon Joyner. The staff addressed every position, too.

         

    18. UCLA Bruins

    Class size: 28 (10 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: UCLA's enormous haul finished with flips from Rayshad Williams (Vanderbilt) and Martell Irby (Arizona). Michael Ezeike and Otito Ogbonnia committed, too. The Bruins missed on Jarrett Patterson and Solomon Tuliaupupu, though neither was unexpected.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Dorian Thompson-Robinson officially signed, and he's a likely multi-year starter beginning in 2019. With this volume, UCLA didn't miss a position. But head coach Chip Kelly will be looking for higher-rated prospects to fix a broken defense.

         

    17. Oregon Ducks

    Class size: 22 (11 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Oregon nearly struck out on signing day. Tre'Shaun Harrison, Jeremiah Martin, Olaijah Griffin, Michael Ezeike and Devon Williams all chose different schools. Penei Sewell ensured coach Mario Cristobal wouldn't have a completely forgettable NSD, but it wasn't memorable, either.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Williams would've given the Ducks a trio of top-200 talents at receiver, but his choice left them with two wideouts and two safeties in that range. Oregon probably could've used a second quarterback in the class, but it could search the transfer market for a signal-caller instead.

         

    16. Texas A&M Aggies

    Class size: 21 (12 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Jimbo Fisher can finally catch his breath. The Aggies landed 4-stars in James Foster, Tank Jenkins, Jeremiah Martin, Bobby Brown and Jashaun Corbin, while also grabbing 3-star tight end Glenn Beal. Jaylen Waddle went to Alabama, and Isaac Taylor-Stuart chose USC.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Texas A&M doesn't have a particularly strong collection of players at a given position, but the coaching staff did well on the offensive and defensive lines. The Aggies don't have any linebackers in the 2018 haul.

Nos. 15-11: Florida, LSU, Washington, Florida State, Auburn

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    15. Florida Gators

    Class size: 19 (12 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD newsNoah Boykin and Nicholas Petit-Frere passed up the Gators, but the team still enjoyed plenty of good news. Florida hung onto verbal pledge Richard Gouraige and landed a quartet of 4-stars in Jacob Copeland, Andrew Chatfield, Justin Watkins and Malik Langham.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Three of the nation's top 30 safeties chose the Gators, who also boast the cycle's No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in Emory Jones. However, Florida doesn't have a natural cornerback in the class.

         

    14. LSU Tigers

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

    Biggest NSD news: Long considered a lean to LSU, Patrick Surtain Jr. donned an Alabama hat. Mario Goodrich headed for Clemson, and late flip ArDarius Washington signed with TCU. JaMarr Chase atoned for a little of the disappointment, but it wasn't a good signing day for coach Ed Orgeron.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Chase boosted a receiving unit that already featured 5-star wideout Terrace Marshall. But after losing two cornerbacks to the NFL draft, the Tigers failed to sign one in this cycle. That's inexcusable for Orgeron.

         

    13. Washington Huskies

    Class size: 21 (11 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: The most impactful news happened shortly before NSD when Washington nabbed 4-star safety Julius Irvin and defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa. Jeremiah Martin picked Texas A&M, but the Huskies ended the cycle well.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason has officially transferred to UW, and the staff added 4-star quarterbacks Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon. Since the class features a top-250 player at nearly every position, there's no problematic weakness.

         

    12. Florida State Seminoles

    Class size: 21 (13 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Willie Taggart and his staff finished strong. Tre'Shaun Harrison, Malcolm Lamar and Jamarcus Chatman all picked the 'Noles, Anthony Grant and Jordan Young both flipped from Tennessee. Key quarterback target James Foster chose Texas A&M.

    Strengths/weaknesses: FSU stocked up on receivers and defensive linemen, and its three highest-rated prospects play in the secondary. But the Seminoles might need to find a transfer to pad the quarterback room after Foster's decision.

         

    11. Auburn Tigers

    Class size: 24 (16 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Auburn wanted a bigger signing day, but the coaches locked up lingering verbal pledges. Matthew Hill and Coynis Miller, both top-125 players, finally sent in their paperwork. Caleb Johnson rounded out the class.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Hill finalized a three-man group of 4-star receivers, and the Tigers already had three 4-star running backs. Auburn only signed two offensive linemen, both of whom are 3-stars.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Class size: 27 (14 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Notre Dame secured five signatures on NSD, including a trio of 4-stars in Lawrence Keys III, Noah Boykin and Jarrett Patterson. It hurt to miss Petit-Frere, though Solomon Tuliaupupu picked USC, as expected.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Receiver and linebacker were clear priorities in the class, and Notre Dame added top-100 prospects at both spots plus a few other 4-stars. There's no real shortcoming for this 27-person group.

    Instant-impact potential: Dual-threat quarterback Phil Jurkovec will join the QB competition, but the Irish have other likely contributors. Summer arrivals Shayne Simon and Derrik Allen could crack the two-deep at linebacker and safety, respectively.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

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

    Biggest NSD news: The Sooners brought in 4-star defensive tackle Michael Thompson. However, they watched both Jeremiah Martin and Tank Jenkins pick Texas A&M.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Oklahoma focused on bolstering depth up front and succeeded on both sides of the football. Thompson bolstered the D-line on NSD. There's no glaring weakness in the class, since all three athletes are projected to be receivers.

    Instant-impact potential: Most of the Sooners' incoming defenders at least have a chance to play in 2018. The player with the best opportunity to secure a starting nod is cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles, and linebacker DaShaun White may be too disruptive to keep off the field. 

8. Miami Hurricanes

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    Class size: 23 (One 5-star, 14 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Miami should both be thrilled about the class overall and disappointed in the way it ended. Picking up Marquez Ezzard and keeping Nesta Silvera was great, but Mark Richt and Co. whiffed on five targets, including local 5-stars Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell.

    Strengths/weaknesses: The 'Canes loaded up on running backs, receivers and defensive backs, adding a top-100 recruit to each unit. But while Miami grabbed a few defensive linemen, the staff mostly added tackles. The lack of defensive ends is a concern.

    Instant-impact potential: Several prospects could secure a place on the two-deep, but Brevin Jordan is most likely to hold a No. 1 spot. The offense needs to replace Chris Herndon, and none of the other options at tight end are as dynamic as Jordan. 

7. Clemson Tigers

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    Class size: 17 (Five 5-stars, seven 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Mario Goodrich announced for Clemson in the morning, and Justyn Ross followed suit during the afternoon. A couple of targets went elsewhere, but going 2-for-5 wasn't so bad given the expectation of those prospects entering NSD.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Clemson added the No. 1 overall playerquarterback Trevor Lawrenceand a quartet of 4- or 5-star defensive linemen. Hollifield would've been a useful addition to the linebacking corps, but calling that a weakness is a stretch.

    Instant-impact potential: Had Clelin Ferrell and/or Austin Bryant bolted for the NFL, 5-star defensive ends Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry would have been obvious choices. Instead, playmaking wideout Derion Kendrick earns the nod because Ray-Ray McCloud is headed to the NFL. 

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Class size: 23 (Three 5-stars, 12 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: In an otherwise quiet day, Penn State picked up 4-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker. Solomon Enis chose Utah, and Shaquon Anderson-Butts backed out of the class, as expected.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Three of the Nittany Lions' five highest-rated prospects are defensive linemen. (Micah Parsons will start out at linebacker, but his best position is D-end.) They only signed one safety, so expect that to be a key position in 2019.

    Instant-impact potential: Since a majority of the 2017 team's pass-catching production is gone, Penn State should have no problem trying out young playmakers. Five-star wideout Justin Shorter, who will arrive in the summer, fits that title to a T.

5. USC Trojans

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    Class size: 18 (Four 5-stars, 13 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: USC lost Tuli Letuligasenoa to Washington shortly before NSD but otherwise enjoyed a terrific day. The Trojans signed Solomon Tuliaupupu, Olaijah Griffin, Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Devon Williams.

    Strengths/weaknesses: The staff added a potential star at quarterback in JT Daniels and signed five 4- or 5-star linebackers. However, the offensive line has been a major issue for USC, and the program only picked up two linemen in 2018. 

    Instant-impact potential: Amon-Ra St. Brown could make a difference on both offense and special teams. USC only has two established receivers, and the return units were just slightly above average in 2017.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Class size: 19 (Two 5-stars, 12 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Quay Walker flipped to Georgia and Brown went to Texas A&M, but Alabama made the day's biggest splash with Patrick Surtain Jr., the top uncommitted player. Jaylen WaddleJaylen Moody and Eddie Smith also joined the fold.

    Strengths/weaknesses: Four top-150 defensive ends, three top-125 cornerbacks and the best JUCO corner. Yeah, that's a pretty strong group. Losing Walker to Georgia left the Crimson Tide without a top-tier linebacker in the class, however.

    Instant-impact potential: Maybe it's boring, but it's true: Skyler DeLong, a 3-star punter, has the greatest chance to start for the reigning champions in 2018. Alabama must replace four-year starter and two-time Ray Guy Award finalist JK Scott.

3. Texas Longhorns

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    Class size: 27 (Two 5-stars, 17 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Keondre Coburn flirted with Miami but stayed in the class, which added 4-star defensive end Joseph Ossai and late-rising 3-star D-tackle Moro Ojomo.

    Strengths/weaknesses: If your favorite team wanted a top prospect from Texas, here's hoping your favorite team is Texas. The Longhorns signed 11 of the state's 15 best players, including three each at cornerback, receiver and safety. There are no weaknesses here, either.

    Instant-impact potential: Be it Caden Sterns or BJ Foster, one of the premier safeties may be a starter in 2018. Either way, both 5-star talents should earn immediate snaps for Texas.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Class size: 26 (Three 5-stars, 20 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: The Buckeyes wrapped a terrific bow on their recruiting class with Petit-Frere's commitment. They also added 4-star linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste.

    Strengths/weaknesses: One of the nation's best defensive fronts is only becoming more talented. The Buckeyes signed four top-100 linemen and the No. 1 overall JUCO player in D-tackle Antwuan Jackson Jr. Nabbing Petit-Frere eliminated Ohio State's potential weakness at offensive tackle.

    Instant-impact potential: Starting roles are unlikely for members of the 2018 class, but running back Jaelen Gill, defensive end Tyreke Smith and Jackson all should contribute.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Class size: 26 (Seven 5-stars, 15 4-stars)

    Biggest NSD news: Georgia flipped Quay Walker from Alabama and Otis Reese from Michigan, and that wasn't even the biggest coup. The Bulldogs managed to steal Tyson Campbell from Miami's backyard and Tommy Bush from the state of Texas as well.

    Strengths/weaknesses: In addition to signing a trio of 4-star cornerbacks, Georgia brought in a quartet of respected offensive linemen, most notably 5-stars Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays. The Dawgs have no holes in this massive haul.

    Instant-impact potential: Salyer and fellow guard Trey Hill might compete for a starting job, but Brenton Cox likely will be a valued member of the rotation. He'll open his Georgia career at outside linebacker and could thrive in pass-rush situations.