National Signing Day 2018: Where the Top 5-Star Recruits Committed on Wednesday

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2018

Patrick Surtain Jr., a defensive back at American Heritage High School, is interviewed after announcing he is signing with Alabama on national signing day, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Plantation, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Championships in college football are often won on the recruiting trail, and programs such as Georgia, Ohio State and Texas took major steps toward securing their place in future College Football Playoff discussions during Wednesday's national signing day.

According to 247Sports, the Bulldogs, Buckeyes and Longhorns secured the top three classes in the country, respectively, in 2018 and were followed by USC, Penn State, Clemson and Alabama.

The best way to propel up the team rankings is by landing 5-star recruits, and every one of those seven schools secured commitments from at least two from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Some 5-star prospects waited until Wednesday's signing day to choose their school, leaving fans and coaches waiting in suspense. With that in mind, here is a look at the 5-star prospects who committed Wednesday.

          

Patrick Surtain Jr., CB, Alabama

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The top 5-star prospect who committed Wednesday was a case of the rich getting richer, as the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide landed cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he is the No. 11 overall player, No. 1 cornerback and No. 3 player from the state of Florida in his class.

The Crimson Tide have beaten conference rival LSU seven times in a row on the field and earned another victory over the Tigers in the battle for Surtain. Dave Brousseau of The Advocate noted Surtain's father, Patrick Surtain, was an NFL player and New Orleans native, providing a local connection for LSU.

It still lost to Nick Saban once again.

"Coach (Nick) Saban has been doing a great job with his players, and every year they are competing for a national championship," Surtain said, per Brousseau. "It was a tough decision. LSU was my school, and last night when I was thinking about this, I broke down in tears. That's how tough it was. I think this was the right decision."

Surtain will be in the spotlight for a program that prides itself on defense but could use the additional help in the secondary.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projected Alabama defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace and Tony Brown to all be drafted in his latest mock, meaning Surtain has the chance for early playing time for a powerhouse team.

            

Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Ohio State lost to Clemson in the recruiting battle for offensive tackle Jackson Carman but responded in a big way by securing a commitment from Nicholas Petit-Frere.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Petit-Frere is the No. 9 overall player, No. 1 offensive tackle and No. 2 player from the state of Florida in his class.

The Buckeyes can use the depth in the offensive front as they look to break in a new quarterback after J.T. Barrett's departure and open holes for the dynamic running back duo of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins.

Bill Landis of Cleveland.com noted there was a connection in place for Ohio State during Petit-Frere's recruitment, as defensive coordinator Greg Schiano's sons were his high school teammates. Schiano also served as a volunteer coach at Berkeley Prep before taking the Buckeyes job.

The result was a marquee addition to Ohio State's offensive line as it looks to defend its 2017 Big Ten title and contend for national championships down the line.

             

Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Surtain wasn't the only marquee cornerback coming out of American Heritage high school Wednesday.

Teammate Tyson Campbell chose the SEC as well, committing to the Georgia Bulldogs. He is the No. 12 overall player, No. 2 cornerback and No. 4 player from the state of Florida in his class, per 247Sports' composite rankings, underscoring just how difficult it was to throw against the two defensive backs at the high school level.

Georgia reached the CFP National Championship Game and took a 20-7 lead only to give up three touchdown passes to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after halftime, including the game-winner in overtime.

Assuming head coach Kirby Smart maintains Georgia's position among the game's elite, it will need better secondary performances than that on the biggest stages.

Enter a playmaker like Campbell, who will help make up for the losses of defensive backs Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish. If h lives up to his potential, he could help the Bulldogs come out on top the next time they reach the title game.

          

Olaijah Griffin, CB, USC

Photo Credit: Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

Sometimes recruits are known for more than their football skills, and USC commit Olaijah Griffin fits the bill.

Daniel Rapaport of Sports Illustrated noted he is the son of rapper Warren G and the stepnephew of rapper and producer Dr. Dre.

He is also a formidable defensive back, checking in as the No. 33 overall player, No. 4 cornerback and No. 3 player from the state of California in his class, per the 247Sports' composite rankings.

USC gave up 30 points to Washington State and 49 points to Notre Dame in its two regular-season losses and finished an abysmal 98th in the country in passing yards allowed per game in 2017. It was also blown out by Ohio State in its bowl game.

Simply put, the Trojans need to play better in the secondary if they are ever going to fully turn the corner and compete for national championships again.

Winning on the recruiting trail for cornerbacks like Griffin is the best place for head coach Clay Helton to start doing just that.

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