Early Signing Day 2022: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Recruiting Class on Day 1

Morgan MoriartyDecember 22, 2022

Early Signing Day 2022: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Recruiting Class on Day 1

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    Dan Lanning
    Dan LanningAli Gradischer/Getty Images

    While most college football teams across the country are preparing for or playing in bowl games, there's a very important period happening on the CFB calendar: the early signing period. On Wednesday morning, high school football prospects started signing letters of intent to their prospective schools.

    For college football coaches and their staff, this is one of the most crucial times of the year. Recruiting is what you build your program around, and it's an essential part of winning championships.

    How did the teams ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 do on Day 1 of the early signing period? Let's grade them to find out.

    We'll grade these classes by a few different factors: number of 4- and 5-star signees, overall ranking of the class itself, landing big transfers and expectations relative to specific programs.

    Author's note: 247Sports rankings mentioned throughout are based off the 247Sports composite rankings.

Nos. 25-21

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    Marcus Freeman
    Marcus FreemanBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    No. 25 UTSA

    Key signees: 4-star OT Daniel Ogundipe, 3-star RB Brandon High and 3-star ATH Jakevian Rodgers

    Analysis: UTSA won the C-USA championship for the second season in a row in 2022. Although losing to Troy in the Cure Bowl was a disappointment, the Roadrunners are in a great spot thanks to its 2023 recruiting class. Its program-best ranking of 57th in the nation tops last year's finish of 73rd and is likely due to the addition of transfer Daniel Ogundipe, the nation's No. 2 JUCO offensive tackle and the sixth-ranked overall prospect from the class of 2023. Third-year head coach Jeff Traylor has this UTSA program in a great spot.

    Grade: A

    No. 24 Troy

    Key signees: 4-star WR Chris Lewis, LB Raymond Cutts and LB Steve Cattledge

    Analysis: Troy won the Sun Belt championship game for the first time in school history under first-year head coach Jon Sumrall. The Trojans also reached 12 wins for the first time in school history with a Cure Bowl victory over UTSA.

    Troy's recruiting class is headlined by a pair of JUCO prospects. Per a release from the school, Troy landed first-team All-American Raymond Cutts from Garden City C.C., as well as Steve Cattledge from East Mississippi C.C.

    The Trojans recruited heavily inside the state of Mississippi so far this cycle, signing five players from there. Four signees hailed from Troy's home state of Alabama.

    Grade: B

    No. 23 NC State
    Key signees:
    4-star S Daemon Fagan, 4-star WR Dacari Collins and 4-star TE Javonte Vereen

    Analysis: Head coach Dave Doeren did a good job recruiting from the Wolfpack's home state for 2023, getting seven prospects from North Carolina. In the transfer portal, former Clemson receiver Dacari Collins was a big pick-up for the seventh-best class in the ACC.

    The glaring hole in this class so far is a big-name quarterback. Four-year starter Devin Leary is at NC State no longer, and the only QB in the Wolfpack's 2023 class is 3-star Lex Thomas. We'll see if Doeren can land a signal-caller in the cycle.

    Grade: B

    No. 22 Mississippi State
    Key signees:
    4-star S Isaac Smith, 4-star QB Creed Whittemore and 4-star OT Leon Bell

    Analysis: The state of Mississippi State's 2023 class was put in quite a precarious situation, given the tragic passing of Bulldog head coach Mike Leach on Dec. 12.

    But you have to give a ton of credit to new MSU head coach Zach Arnett, formerly the Bulldogs defensive coordinator under Leach, for hanging on to the class Leach had assembled. The Bulldogs also landed the nation's No. 6 JUCO prospect in Leon Bell on Wednesday, who picked Mississippi State over SMU.

    The 2023 class checks in at 10th in the SEC, ahead of rival Ole Miss.

    Grade: A

    No. 21 Notre Dame
    Key signees: 4-star OT Charles Jagusah, 4-star RB Jeremiyah Love and 4-star LB Drayk Bowen

    Analysis: Marcus Freeman's first full recruiting class is shaping up to be in the top 10. While the Irish have not landed a prospect from the transfer portal just yet, the class includes 20 blue-chip recruits, with five from the state of Texas, and is ranked ninth nationally.

    But the Irish did suffer some losses this cycle. On Wednesday, 5-star safety Peyton Bowen signed with Oregon. Bowen was previously a longtime Notre Dame commit. 4-star RB Jayden Limar also flipped from ND to Oregon on Wednesday.

    The biggest loss for Notre Dame this cycle is 5-star DE Keon Keeley, who decommitted from the Irish in August. Keeley ultimately ended up signing with Alabama on Wednesday. Still, finishing with nearly a top-five recruiting class isn't a bad way for Freeman's 2023 class to end up. Losing multiple blue-chip recruits makes this class a bit disappointing, though.

    Grade: C

Nos. 20-16

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25: Texas Longhorns mascot Hookem dances on the field during the game against the Baylor Bears on November 25, 2022, at Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    No. 20 Texas
    Key signees:
    5-star QB Arch Manning, 5-star LB Anthony Hill and 5-star RB Cedric Baxter Jr.

    Analysis: Texas' 2023 recruiting class is headlined by 5-star QB Arch Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning. The No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2023, who committed to Texas in June, joins fellow 5-stars Anthony Hill, WR Johntay Cook II and Cedric Baxter Jr., the nation's No. 1 running back in next year's class. Unsurprisingly, the Longhorns' 2023 class is ranked third nationally.

    Outside of the four 5-stars, Steve Sarkisian's 2023 class includes 10 4-stars, including CB Malik Muhammad, S Derek Williams and WR Ryan Niblett. A top-three class before February's national signing day even gets here for Texas makes this one heck of an impressive class for Texas.

    The Longhorns went 5-7 in Sarkisian's first season and have a chance to reach nine wins with an Alamo Bowl victory this season. Getting a top-five recruiting class headlined by such big names puts Texas in a great spot heading into next season.

    Grade: A+

    No. 19 South Carolina
    Key signees:
    4-star OL Markee Anderson, 4-star DE Desmond Umeozulu and 4-star LB Grayson Howard

    Analysis: South Carolina had a successful season in Shane Beamer's second campaign with the Gamecocks. South Carolina ended the season with back-to-back upset victories over Tennessee and Clemson, knocking each team out of playoff contention. The Gamecocks have a chance to reach nine wins for the first time since 2017.

    Beamer has been able to capture some of that momentum on the recruiting trail. Thirteen blue chips have signed with South Carolina's 2023 class, which ranks tied for 13th nationally. That's a big improvement from the 2022 class, which ranked 24th in the nation.

    The biggest move South Carolina has made in the transfer portal so far is landing tight end Trey Knox, a former 4-star who was previously at Arkansas. The Gamecocks have yet to land a quarterback this cycle, which is a big need.

    Grade: B

    No. 18 UCLA

    Key signees: 5-star QB Dante Moore, 4-star WR Jeremiah McClure and 4-star WR Grant Gray

    Analysis: Regardless of how UCLA does in its upcoming Sun Bowl game, the Bruins have secured its best season since 2014.

    But UCLA's 2023 recruiting class has just four blue-chip recruits, ranks 36th nationally and is fifth in the Pac-12. The one bright spot is the addition of QB Dante Moore, who is the highest-rated player that head coach Chip Kelly has signed during his UCLA tenure.

    Still, signing just four blue-chip prospects for a program like UCLA isn't typical for a program that wants to compete each year in the Pac-12.

    Grade: D

    No. 17 LSU

    Key signees: 5-star OT Zalance Heard, 4-star DE Dashawn Womack and 4-star WR Shelton Sampson Jr.

    Analysis: LSU made it to the SEC Championship for the first time since 2019 this season. Furthermore, head coach Brian Kelly has put together an impressive 2023 class so far.

    The class checks in at sixth nationally, six spots higher than it finished last season when Kelly first arrived in Baton Rouge. LSU landed target Ka'Morreun Pimpton on Wednesday, who is the No. 16 tight end prospect from the class of 2023. LSU did lose out to Mississippi State for 4-star safety Isaac Smith, however.

    Although LSU's quarterback room is pretty loaded, featuring the likes of Jayden Daniels, Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard, the Tigers signed 4-star quarterback Rickie Collins out of Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

    Grade: B

    No. 16 Tulane
    Key signees:
    3-star DE Matthew Fobbs-White, 3-star S Jai Eugene Jr. and 3-star DE AJ Thomas

    Analysis: Tulane made history in 2022 with its first-ever ranking in the College Football Playoff. The Green Wave beat UCF in the AAC title game and will play in the Cotton Bowl against USC.

    The Green Wave signed 24 prospects on Wednesday, per a release from the school. One of the biggest flips Tulane pulled off came earlier this week with 3-star edge rusher AJ Thomas, who flipped from Indiana.

    Grade: B

Nos. 15-11

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    Dan Lanning
    Dan LanningAli Gradischer/Getty Images

    No. 15 Oregon
    Key signees: 5-star DE Matayo Uiagalelei, 4-star QB Austin Novosad, and 4-star ATH Kenyon Sadiq

    Analysis: Oregon's 2023 recruiting class is shaping up to be in the top 10, a big improvement from the Ducks' No. 13 class last year.

    The Ducks had an absolute monster of a day on Wednesday, successfully flipping QB Austin Novosad from Baylor, 5-star safety Peyton Bowen from ND, and 4-star CB Daylen Austin from LSU. If that wasn't impressive enough, Dan Lanning's staff also signed 5-star edge rusher Matayo Uiagalelei, the younger brother of former Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei.

    "To ultimately be a championship team, you have to get championship players, and it's about laying a foundation to do that," Lanning told 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong of his 2023 class. "We have the opportunity to do that with some of the guys we pulled into the class today."

    We'll see if Oregon can make noise over the next couple days of the early signing period.

    Grade: A+

    No. 14 Oregon State
    Key signees: 4-star QB Aidan Chiles, 4-star DL Kelze Howard and 3-star WR Montrel Hatten

    Analysis: Oregon State just put together its third season of 10-plus wins in school history, thanks to a Las Vegas Bowl victory over the Florida Gators. It's an impressive turnaround for a program that went 16-28 over the last four years.

    Head coach Jonathan Smith landing a pair of blue-chip recruits is impressive, considering the fact that the last time the Beavers had a blue-chip guy in their class was in 2017. Oregon State's class ranks eighth in the Pac-12, and although there aren't a ton of big-name guys in this class, it's a solid one for Smith and ranks higher nationally than his 54th-ranked class last season.

    Grade: B

    No. 13 Florida State
    Key signees: 5-star WR Hykeem Williams, 4-star OT Lucas Simmons, 4-star LB Blake Nichelson

    Analysis: Florida State finally had a winning season under head coach Mike Norvell in 2022. If the 'Noles can beat Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl, it'll be FSU's first 10-win season since 2016. Florida State didn't win enough to win the ACC, but it's a positive step forward for Norvell in Year 3 to finish the regular season 9-3.

    Florida State entered Wednesday with a chance to sign its first top-15 recruiting class since 2018. But the class suffered a big blow, as 4-star DL Keldric Faulk, who had been committed to FSU since July, flipped and signed with Auburn on Wednesday. Faulk is the No. 10-ranked defensive lineman in the class of 2022.

    Still, FSU's class ranks 20th nationally and third in the ACC.

    Obviously, FSU still ending up with a top-20 class isn't the end of the world, but 'Noles fans won't be happy with another late flip. Last year, longtime FSU commit and the nation's No. 1 overall recruit Travis Hunter flipped to Jackson State in December.

    Grade: B-

    No. 12 Washington
    Key signees:
    4-star CB Caleb Presley, 4-star CB Curley Reed and 4-star WR Rashid Williams

    Analysis: First-year head coach Kalen DeBoer has Washington in a great spot with its 2023 recruiting class. It's fourth inside the Pac-12 and ranks 27 nationally.

    The biggest get for DeBoer was getting cornerback Caleb Presley to flip, who is the No. 1 overall prospect from the state of Washington. Presley was committed to Oregon since early July.

    If Washington wants to win Pac-12 titles, it will have to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Oregon, USC and Utah. Since Washington has just five blue-chip prospects in its current 2023 class compared to the combined 34 between those three schools, the Huskies still have a long way to go.

    Grade: C

    No. 11 Penn State
    Key signees:
    5-star OT J'ven Williams, 4-star OL Alex Birchmeier, 4-star LB Tony Rojas

    Analysis: Penn State didn't compete for a Big Ten title this season, thanks to losses to Ohio State and Michigan. But a trip to the Rose Bowl with a chance to finish 11-2 isn't too bad of a consolation prize.

    Penn State's 2023 class is in great shape as of Wednesday. James Franklin's class ranks second in the conference behind Ohio State and checks in at 13th nationally. The biggest get for Franklin in this cycle is J'Ven Williams, the No. 1 prospect from Pennsylvania. The class also includes the state's No. 2 and No. 4 prospects, in edge rusher Jameial Lyons and Ta'Mere Robinson.

    Still, this year's class is ranked seven spots lower than the No. 6-ranked class of 2022. Not recruiting closer to how it did last year might make competing against Michigan and Ohio State that much more difficult.

    Grade: B

No. 10 USC

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    Lincoln Riley
    Lincoln RileyJason Allen/ISI Photos/Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star QB Malachai Nelson, 5-star WR Zachariah Branch and 5-star WR Makai Lemon

    Analysis: It's no secret that USC surprised some people this season under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley. USC finished the regular season 11-2 and lost a playoff bid in the Pac-12 title game loss to Utah.

    USC's 2023 class ranks 15th nationally and is second in the Pac-12 nationally behind Oregon. Those numbers don't sound like where a program such as USC should be competing, and for good reason. USC's 2022 class ranked 70th nationally. In 2021 and 2020, USC's classes ranked 7th and 63rd.

    Finishing behind Oregon and failing to crack the top 10 in the rankings makes this a disappointing recruiting cycle for the Trojans, even with the three 5-stars.

    Grade: D

No. 9 Kansas State

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    Will Howard
    Will HowardRon Jenkins/Getty Images

    Key signees: 4-star QB Avery Johnson, 4-star DE Jordan Allen, 3-star CB Donovan McIntosh

    Analysis: Kansas State made it back to the Big 12 title game for the first time since 2003. Not only did the Wildcats make it, but K-State also upset TCU in overtime to win the conference championship and has been the only team to beat the Horned Frogs all season.

    So it's no surprise that the Wildcats are on-pace to put together one of its most highly-rated classes in nearly 15 years in Manhattan. The last time K-State produced a top-40 class nationally was back in 2008.

    Kansas State's 2023 class checks in fifth in the Big 12.

    Grade: A

No. 8 Utah

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    Ja'Quinden Jackson
    Ja'Quinden JacksonRic Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Key signees: 4-star OT Caleb Lomu, 4-star DE Hunter Clegg, 4-star CB CJ Blocker

    Analysis: Utah won the Pac-12 for a second consecutive season, and the Utes have a chance to win the Rose Bowl against Penn State. So it's not too surprising to see the Utes' 2023 recruiting class ranked third in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and USC.

    Even before the early signing day began, Utah was on track to have its highest-ranked class ever. As of Wednesday evening, the Utes' class was ranked 22nd overall nationally.

    Having your best recruiting class in school history after back-to-back Pac-12 titles isn't a bad place to be for head coach Kyle Whittingham.

    Grade: A+

No. 7 Clemson

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    Dabo Swinney
    Dabo SwinneyJohn Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star DL Peter Woods, 4-star QB Christopher Vizzina, 4-star DL Vic Burley

    Analysis: For the second season in a row, Clemson is not in the College Football Playoff. Although the Tigers won the ACC Championship Game against UNC, Clemson's losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina kept the team out of the playoff once again.

    For the first time since 2017, Clemson's 2023 class will finish outside of the top 10 nationally. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made headlines Wednesday after he told reporters he built the Tigers' 2023 class on "God's name, image and likeness." OK, sure, I guess?

    One of the more interesting things about this class is that for the first time, Clemson used the transfer portal for a quarterback. The Tigers landed Arizona State transfer Paul Tyson.

    At 11th, this year's class is ranked a lot lower than some of Clemson's more recent ones. But the Tigers should be fine moving forward, especially since the playoff will expand in 2024.

    Grade: C

No. 6 Tennessee

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    Josh Heupel
    Josh HeupelMatthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star QB Nicholaus Iamaleava, 4-star DL Daevin Hobbs, 4-star DE Caleb Herring

    Analysis: Tennessee finished the 2022 regular season 10-2, and the magical campaign included a win over rival Alabama for the first time in 16 seasons.

    So it's not too surprising that Tennessee has been able to capture some of that momentum on the recruiting trail. The Vols' 2023 class is ranked 10th nationally, and it'll give Tennessee the first top-10 class since 2015, when Butch Jones was still the head coach in Knoxville.

    Five-star QB Nicholaus Iamaleava has a chance to see the field immediately for the Vols. That's good news for head coach Josh Heupel, who has to replace star quarterback Hendon Hooker this offseason. Tennessee's recruiting seems to match what it's been doing on the field this season, which makes the 2023 class a success for the Vols.

    Grade: A

No. 5 Alabama

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    Nick Saban
    Nick SabanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star S Caleb Downs, 5-star DE Keon Keeley, 5-star OT Kadyn Proctor

    Analysis: Alabama is also out of the playoff in 2022, but Nick Saban and his staff aren't recruiting like it. The Tide are slated to have the No. 1 overall class this cycle. The class includes a whopping six 5-stars, the most in the country.

    Two of those 5-stars signed with the Tide on Wednesday. Five-star DL James Smith and 5-star DE Qua Russaw, who are both teammates at Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama, signed with the Tide. Alabama also signed 5-star running back Justice Haynes, who is the No. 2-ranked prospect in the state of Georgia, in a big out-of-state get for the Tide.

    As long as Alabama keeps recruiting like this, the Tide aren't really going anywhere.

    Grade: A

No. 4 Ohio State

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    COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Ryan Day of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches a replay during the fourth quarter of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)
    Ben Jackson/Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star WR Brandon Inniss, 4-star WR Noah Rogers, 4-star OL Luke Montgomery

    Analysis: The Buckeyes may have lost to Michigan for a second consecutive season in 2022, but Ohio State isn't slowing down on the recruiting trail. The Buckeyes' 2023 class features 19 blue-chip prospects, and Ohio State has produced a top-five class for the fourth consecutive year in a row. The class is headlined by receiver Brandon Inniss, the No. 4-ranked receiver in next year's class.

    Ohio State had a key gain and loss from its 2023 recruiting class in the week leading up to Day 1 of early signing period. On Dec. 14, Ryan Day's staff successfully flipped 4-star QB Lincoln Kienholz, who was previously verbally committed to Washington.

    But the Buckeyes lost a verbal commit from their 2023 class too, as 4-star CB Kayin Lee flipped to Auburn. Still, Ohio State finishing with a top-five class, and one that leads the Big Ten, is right where the Buckeyes need to be.

    Grade: A

No. 3 TCU

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    Sonny Dykes
    Sonny DykesMatthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Key signees: 4-star DL Markis Deal, 4-star WR Cordale Russell, 4-star DL Avion Carter

    Analysis: TCU is off to a flying start under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes. The Horned Frogs will be playing in their first-ever College Football Playoff this postseason, and TCU's 12-1 regular-season finish was the best in Fort Worth since 2014.

    Dykes is carrying that success over to the recruiting trail, it seems. TCU is on the verge of signing its highest-ranked recruiting class in school history. Currently, the 2023 class ranks 18th nationally, and it is third in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma.

    TCU looks like it is on pace to be a national contender for years to come under Dykes.

    Grade: A

No. 2 Michigan

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    Jim Harbaugh
    Jim HarbaughMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Key signees: 4-star DL Enow Etta, 4-star RB Cole Cabana and 4-star WR Karmello English

    Analysis: Michigan's 2023 class is ranked just 17th overall, much lower than the Wolverines' No. 9-ranked class in 2022. What's even more surprising is the fact that Michigan doesn't have a single player ranked inside 247Sports' top 100 players for the first time since 2018.

    But the Wolverines did try to make up for the lackluster class by making some big moves in the transfer portal. Per 247Sports, the Wolverines do have the best transfer class in the country. Some of the biggest names include Indiana TE AJ Barner and QB Jack Tuttle and Nebraska LB Ernest Hausmann.

    The Wolverines added a lot of players in the transfer portal, but there's no question this class is lackluster compared to some of Michigan's more recent ones.

    Grade: C

No. 1 Georgia

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    Kirby Smart
    Kirby SmartRich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Key signees: 5-star CB AJ Harris, 4-star DE Samuel M'Pemba, 4-star S Joenel Aguero

    Analysis: It sure doesn't feel like a rebuilding year for Georgia in 2022. Less than a full year removed from a national championship season, the Dawgs will play for another one in 2022 while ranked No. 1 in the nation.

    Georgia is recruiting like a national power, too. The Dawgs have the No. 2 class overall, behind Alabama. It includes 22 blue-chip recruits, as well. The Dawgs added another 5-star to its 2023 class Wednesday, as 5-star edge-rusher Damon Wilson verbally committed to Georgia. The team also picked up a commitment from 4-star CB Daniel Harris on Wednesday.

    The one thing you could complain about if you're a Georgia fan is finishing behind Alabama. But there's a chance the Dawgs could overtake the Tide by national signing day

    Grade: A