College Football Preseason Top 25 Ranking Post-2016 National Signing Day

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterFebruary 3, 2016

College Football Preseason Top 25 Ranking Post-2016 National Signing Day

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    Jim Harbaugh
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    National signing day has come and (for the most part) gone. High school prospects from around the country have made perhaps the biggest decisions of their lives, and now it's time to move forward.

    With that in mind, it's time to revisit our offseason Top 25 with the new roster additions. 

    Consider this an updated version of our super early Top 25, not a roundup of the top 25 classes on signing day. All the same projection criteria apply as before—which players and coaches are returning/leaving?—but with the addition of new faces who could contribute right away.

    With that, let's get to it. Here's your post-signing day preseason Top 25.

25. Texas

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    Nobody closed better on 2016 national signing day than Texas coach Charlie Strong. No-bo-dy. As Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports wrote, Strong was the No. 1 story on signing day. 

    Entering the week, Texas' class was ranked somewhere in the 30s nationally depending on which site you use. By Wednesday afternoon, the Longhorns had the No. 10 class and picked up some key last-minute recruits. Among them were safety Brandon Jones, linebacker Erick Fowler and defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and D'Andre Christmas-Giles

    Yes, a bulk of Strong's big commits were defensive players. There are still some concerns as to whether the Horns will have enough offense to win in the Big 12, but Strong showed once and for all he can recruit successfully in-state. 

    It's hard not to give Texas a bump given its recruiting success. Couple that with the team being closer than expected to turning a corner—three losses came by a combined seven points—and it's not unfathomable to think year three is the time Strong turns the program around. 

24. Miami (FL)

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    Mark Richt's first class at Miami wasn't huge, but he did a good job of bringing in a lot of blue-chip recruits. More than half are 4-star prospects, including big-time receiver Ahmmon Richards, who chose the Hurricanes over Alabama and Auburn.

    “It’s home to me,” said Richards, per Wells Dusenbury of the Sun-Sentinel. “I’ve been there about 10-12 times for visits and I’m just so comfortable there. That’s where my heart was.”

    If Richards breaks the two-deep as a frosh, he'll have one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC throwing to him: junior Brad Kaaya. Additionally, the Canes have 1,000-yard rusher Joseph Yearby. The entire offensive line returns as well. 

    There should be a lot of firepower in Miami. This team will be fun to watch. 

23. Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State's biggest problem from last year was in the run game. The Cowboys ranked ninth in rushing offense in the Big 12. 

    Head coach Mike Gundy sort of addressed this by bringing in a class heavy on offensive linemen plus a pair of all-purpose backs (Justice Hill and LaDarren Brown). Overall, though, this is a small-ish class with little star power. 

    The good news is a lot of these players probably won't be needed right away, giving the coaching staff time to develop them. The Pokes should be one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12 in 2016, once again claiming the label of dark-horse title contender. 

22. Oregon

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    Associated Press

    Oregon's signing day was all kinds of quiet, but the Ducks' biggest recruit might be a transfer, not an incoming freshman. For the second year in a row, Oregon will test the grad-transfer waters with former Montana State signal-caller Dakota Prukop. The Ducks had a lot of success with another FCS transfer—Vernon Adams Jr.—and expectations are high for Prukop as well. 

    However, Oregon has immediate needs to improve on defense. The pass D was dreadful last season, and the program demoted Don Pellum from defensive coordinator to linebackers coach. But the woes don't stop there; the Ducks have to replace practically their entire defensive front seven, including defensive end DeForest Buckner. 

    Some incoming players might be able to help, and 3-star linebacker A.J. Hotchkins is among them. Otherwise, this class has a good offensive vibe to it. The Ducks are bringing in a pair of quarterbacks to develop, and 4-star wideout Dillon Mitchell could be an immediate stud. 

21. TCU

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Quietly, TCU had a banner signing day. The Frogs finished with a top-25 class and picked up more junior college kids than normal to provide some immediate assistance. Additionally, B/R's Mike Felder loves 3-star safety Vernon Scott, who was the second-lowest-rated member of the class. 

    Head coach Gary Patterson is still going to have a rebuilding project in 2016, however. The offense will have a mostly new look to it. Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill should be the early favorite to succeed quarterback Trevone Boykin, but most of the O-line has to be replaced. The good news is utility player KaVontae Turpin will be back. 

    With so many injuries last season, TCU had to play a lot of young and/or inexperienced backups in bigger roles. That should pay dividends for the Frogs next season. 

20. Washington

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Post-signing day, I stand by Washington as my team du jour for 2016. This year's Huskies class was small, drama-free and didn't crack the top 25, but last year showed just why head coach Chris Petersen should have everyone's trust. Yes, the Huskies went 7-6, but this was a young team and one of Petersen's better coaching jobs spanning back to his days at Boise State. 

    There's some exciting talent. Quarterback Jake Browning came on at the end of the season, and running back Myles Gaskin was an underrated freshman performer. There's definitely room in the Pac-12 North for Washington to pick off a few signature victories that have been hard to come by in recent years. 

19. North Carolina

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    North Carolina didn't make a lot of noise on signing day, but the Tar Heels do have a solid nucleus returning for the 2016 season that should make them early ACC Coastal favorites. 

    Backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky was excellent in mop-up duty and should be the front-runner to secure the starting role. The Tar Heels have some outstanding young quarterbacks in the 2016 class, including Chazz Surratt, but it could be a couple of years before one of them emerges. 

    Most of the losses are on defense, which moved up the ACC thanks to defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, but the core of that unit returns. Overall, North Carolina should pick up where it left off last season. 

18. Iowa

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Signing day can be a circus of crazy stories and outlandish announcements. But Iowa signing a class of (at the moment) 24 players, all of whom are 3-stars, is the most predictable, Iowa thing possible.

    This isn't an indictment or anything. No one is hating on the Hawkeyes. But, goodness, even for Iowa that's pretty Iowa. 

    Anyway, Kirk Ferentz's team gets some help along the defensive line with guys like Cedrick Lattimore. The Hawkeyes need help at edge-rusher, especially if Drew Ott doesn't get another year of eligibility. 

    The core of Iowa's '15 team returns, which is good news for a program that wants to get back to the Big Ten title game. Quarterback C.J. Beathard could emerge as one of the conference's best, and running back LeShun Daniels Jr. is ready to be the full-time back with Jordan Canzeri moving on. 

17. USC

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Surprise, surprise—USC put together a top-10 class. It just goes to show that anyone can recruit at a high level in Los Angeles. The Trojans' class is big on wide receivers and athletes, but Clay Helton managed to flip 4-star athlete Jamel Cook from Florida State and land 4-star offensive lineman E.J. Price out of Georgia. 

    Overall, it was an eventful signing day. 

    Talent-wise, USC should be in a position to compete for a Pac-12 title again. Max Browne is the likely candidate to replace Cody Kessler at quarterback. At Browne's disposal will be a veteran offensive line, running back Ronald Jones II and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

    The concerns are on defense, which loses linebacker Su'a Cravens and other prominent members of the defensive front seven. Perhaps 3-star defensive tackle Joshua Fatu will help the rotation. 

16. Georgia

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    One of the biggest movers on our post-signing day Top 25 is Georgia. The Bulldogs have plenty of talent returning for 2016, including running back Nick Chubb, but first-year coach Kirby Smart did a nice job Wednesday.

    And, as a bonus, Smart stole a couple of recruits from Alabama's grip, including wide receiver Tyler Simmons and 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. 

    Still, there are things Georgia has to rebuild, including almost the entire starting defensive front seven. That could be problematic at first, but young players such as Trenton Thompson will be stars before too long. On offense, early enrollee Jacob Eason will compete for the starting quarterback job. 

15. Michigan State

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Michigan State will always be a contender under head coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans have largely achieved this despite not annually reeling in top-10 classes. This year's class is good, but there's one snag involving 4-star defensive end Auston Robertson, who re-opened his commitment in a brief statement on Twitter. Robertson is facing a misdemeanor charge of battery, according to the Detroit Free Press.

    As for what Michigan State faces in 2016: The quarterback competition to replace Connor Cook will be under an intense microscope, but the offensive line is a bigger question mark overall. Jack Allen and Jack Conklin are gone. Additionally, the Spartans' best outside weapon, receiver Aaron Burbridge, was a senior. 

    It could be the defense that wins games for Michigan State in '16. Nose tackle Malik McDowell came into his own as a sophomore, and the secondary, once a liability, should be a strength. 

14. Louisville

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Louisville's 2016 class didn't crack the top 25, but we should all know by now head coach Bobby Petrino is one of the better developers of talent in college football. Besides, the Cardinals return nearly all of the starting 22 that won six of the team's last seven games last season.

    However, Louisville gets Clemson and Florida State, thanks to its alignment in the ACC Atlantic Division, and Houston in nonconference play. And, my, oh my, the Tigers and Seminoles recruited lights out this year. Both will be preseason ACC and playoff favorites in '16. 

    Still, it's easy to like what the Cardinals have coming back. Nationally, Louisville could be one of the more underrated teams next year. 

13. Houston

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    The year of Houston and head coach Tom Herman continues. In addition to winning the Peach Bowl, the Cougars had a big signing day thanks to 5-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver holding true on his verbal commitment. 

    Houston was perhaps the most social media-savvy team on signing day, too. UH got Paul Wall, J.J. Watt and former Heisman winner Andre Ware, among others, to help welcome the 2016 class on Twitter. 

    As for next season, quarterback Greg Ward Jr. returns as one of the most electric playmakers in college football. If you're looking for a fun, outside-the-Power Five Heisman hopeful, Ward is your man. 

    Houston should pick up where it left off last season, but it has a huge game in Week 1 against Oklahoma. 

12. Notre Dame

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Last year was head coach Brian Kelly's best coaching job at Notre Dame. Despite a rash of injuries, the Irish still won 10 games and came within four points of making the CFP. 

    On signing day, Notre Dame had a nice showing but one that was low on drama. In a way, that's probably a good thing. The abundance of skill guys means a few could compete for starting jobs right away; one of the key players who need to be replaced is receiver Will Fuller. 

    Heading into 2016, there's a lot of potential with quarterback DeShone Kizer, running back Josh Adams and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Can Kelly take a new-look squad and rebuild it without much of a drop-off? That remains to be seen, but the talent should have fans excited. 

11. Ohio State

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Buckeyes are losing a whopping nine underclassmen to the NFL draft. While that says a lot about Urban Meyer's ability to recruit NFL-caliber stars, it also means there will be years like this when turnover is glaring. Still, it's the same old story for Ohio State: lose a bunch of talent to the NFL, replace it with more future NFL talent. 

    In addition to seven early enrollees, the Buckeyes landed 5-star defensive lineman Nick Bosa, the younger brother of recently departed defensive end Joey Bosa. Overall, this is an outstanding class that finished among the top five in the country. 

    There are some good pieces in place to start on both sides of the ball for next year. Edge-rusher Sam Hubbard and linebacker Raekwon McMillan are future stars, and J.T. Barrett is back at quarterback. It just feels like the Buckeyes are finally in line for a setback. Of course, a setback for Ohio State probably still means nine or 10 wins. 

10. Stanford

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    When you have a player such as all-purpose back Christian McCaffrey returning, you're going to get some offseason love. Stanford has been a model of consistency under head coach David Shaw, and there's little reason to think the Cardinal won't contend for a Pac-12 championship next season. 

    Replacing quarterback Kevin Hogan will be the storyline to follow. Hogan isn't the pro prospect Andrew Luck was, but he drastically improved in his final year and was the leader of the team. However, the overall bigger rebuilding project will be up front along the offensive line, which will be missing Outland Trophy winner Joshua Garnett, among others. 

    Stanford typically redshirts most of its incoming class, and this year's group is heavy on offensive and defensive linemen. Chances are we'll see the fruits of this solid recruiting effort in two to three years. 

9. Ole Miss

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    Ole Miss bumps up a couple of spots in our post-signing day Top 25. It's tempting to do this solely based on the insane skydiving announcement—yes, you read that correctly—of 4-star safety Deontay Anderson. Really, though, the '16 class is looking good for head coach Hugh Freeze. 

    Ole Miss will be without three staples from the '13 recruiting class moving forward: receiver Laquon Treadwell, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. But the Rebels are doing the next-man-up thing with the likes of Anderson, quarterback Shea Patterson, defensive tackle Benito Jones and tackle Gregory Little

    And, hey, whenever you get a shoutout from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on ESPN (via SportsCenter's Matt Barrie), that means you're being noticed. 

    With quarterback Chad Kelly coming back for a final year, Ole Miss should be one of the favorites to challenge Alabama for an SEC West (and maybe SEC) title. 

8. Baylor

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    Baylor finished the day with the the No. 2 class in the Big 12 after holding down the top spot for a long period. How the times have changed. 

    Biletnikoff Award winner Corey Coleman is gone, but Baylor churns out wide receivers without effort, and KD Cannon should take the leap as the No. 1 guy on the outside. Additionally, the Bears received a national letter of intent from one of the top receivers in the country, Devin Duvernay. Baylor stays rich in that department. 

    "Devin Duvernay is flat out the fastest kid we've ever signed," head coach Art Briles said, per Tim O'Donnell of KXXV (ABC) News in Waco.

    Quarterback Seth Russell will be back and healthy, too, after announcing on Twitter this week he's been cleared to return after a season-ending neck injury. 

    The concern about Baylor is what made this team so special this year: the trenches. The Bears were so physical up front. A good chunk of the starting offensive and defensive lines will be gone. That's not to say Baylor can't reload, but that process usually isn't as easy as it's made out to be. 

7. Tennessee

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    I regretted nothing when I put the Vols at No. 7 in the super early Top 25, and they did little to dissuade me on signing day. 

    The big get in the class is 4-star dual-threat quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Once Joshua Dobbs moves on, Guarantano should be in the mix to succeed him. In the meantime, Tennessee is stacked heading into the 2016 season. 

    We've already mentioned Dobbs, but the Vols have running back Jalen Hurd, defensive end Derek Barnett and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin returning for what will now be an experienced and talented group. Additionally, Tennessee upgraded its defensive coaching staff by bringing in Bob Shoop from Penn State. 

    Easily, this is the preseason SEC East favorite. 

6. Oklahoma

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    The reigning Big 12 champs had a solid but relatively quiet signing day. While this could be discouraging for the Big 12 as a whole—there's a whole separate topic about the Big 12's dwindling recruiting monopoly in the state of Texas—Oklahoma still managed to put together a top-20 class

    The defense needs some retooling after the loss of edge-rushers Eric Striker and Charles Tapper, but the Sooners picked up a nice, late commitment from defensive end Mark Jackson Jr., a longtime Texas A&M commit. Jackson should see some time in 2016 and has the frame to grow into a productive and valuable player. With him and Amani Bledsoe, Oklahoma did a good job of addressing a big need. 

    At the same time, it's interesting Oklahoma didn't land a big defensive tackle. With the way the Sooners defense is organized, there isn't a huge need for this position, but Clemson dominated Oklahoma in the trenches in the Orange Bowl. 

5. LSU

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    Get the billboards up, LSU. The Tigers didn't land the No. 1 recruiting class, but they did finish with a solid group highlighted by defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence and cornerback Kristian Fulton. Head coach Les Miles could always close strong, but this is a nice class even for him. Most importantly, Miles and Co. won Louisiana, which as Barton Simmons of 247Sports noted, hasn't always been the case in recent years. 

    Additionally, the Tigers kept cornerback Tre'Davious White and linebacker Kendell Beckwith for another year. With the addition of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, LSU should have one of the most feared defenses in college football next year. 

    Based on talent alone, the Tigers deserve Top Five consideration. Superstar running back Leonard Fournette returns for what will likely be his final season in college. If quarterback Brandon Harris continues to improve—he made some strides as a sophomore—then the offense should be more balanced in 2016. 

    Now, it's a matter of Miles coming through and winning big. The Texas Bowl isn't going to cut it anymore. 

4. Michigan

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    Could 2016 be the year head coach Jim Harbaugh gets Michigan back to where it wants to be in the college football world? He's certainly recruited lights out. 

    Michigan's class is heavy on two areas in particular: offensive line and offensive skill positions, namely wide receiver. Though the Wolverines lose center Graham Glasgow, they return almost everyone else, so there's a good chance most of these recruits won't be needed right away. Still, Harbaugh is building for the future. 

    On the other side, the D-line is going to be up there among the best in college football thanks to returning players such as defensive end Chris Wormley. Additionally, the Wolverines got the No. 1 overall recruit in Rashan Gary. It's a huge victory for Harbaugh, and Gary will push immediately to get into the playing rotation. Per Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News, the Gary decision came suddenly, but Harbaugh said "backstage they told me we got some really good news." 

    Michigan's signing day was big on glitz, and the class reflects this. If nothing else, Harbaugh's program is a show. 

3. Florida State

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Light up those cigars, because Florida State had a day on Wednesday. The Seminoles rose up and (briefly) claimed the No. 1 overall recruiting class for 2016 before sliding back down. Still, the Noles added elite talent to an already-elite roster. Competitions in the offseason are going to be fun in Tallahassee. 

    Recruiting at a top level is huge for FSU. After a rebuilding year—which, we should remind you, still meant 10 wins—Florida State is looking to get back to the playoff. 

    There are some losses on defense, the biggest being defensive back Jalen Ramsey. However, the future is undeniably bright with players such as defensive end Josh Sweat and safety Derwin James, both of whom were just freshmen.

    Head coach Jimbo Fisher continues to recruit at a high level. There aren't a lot of offensive skill players in the '16 class, but the ones who did sign could compete right away. The wide receiver group in 2015 was underwhelming, leaving room for new players, such as Keith Gavin, to work their way into the two-deep. 

2. Clemson

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    Associated Press

    The key piece of Clemson's offense, quarterback Deshaun Watson, is coming back. He is a rare talent for the program, and he'll have almost his entire offense returning around him. That's big news for a guy who led the ACC in total yards in 2015. 

    Clemson needed some help on defense and got it on signing day. Defensive end Xavier Kelly signed, joining early enrollee Dexter Lawrence on the defensive line. The Tigers also did a good job of addressing needs in the secondary with commits like Trayvon Mullen—a major talent, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

    The big news of the day, however, was No. 1 recruit Rashan Gary going to Michigan. Clemson made a late push, but it wasn't enough. Still, Dabo Swinney addressed some pressing needs on defense and put together a really nice group. And with the turnover on the defensive side of the ball, there's a good chance we'll see some of Clemson's new freshmen on the field in 2016. 

1. Alabama

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    For the sixth year in a row, Alabama is the recruiting champion. The Crimson Tide also remain locked as our No. 1 team post-signing day. Head coach Nick Saban never takes a day off in recruiting, and the results more than show it. 

    In addition to seven early enrollees, Alabama hauled in a class featuring defensive tackles Raekwon Davis (assuming academics aren't an issue), Quinnen Williams and linebacker Ben Davis. Yeah, that defensive front seven is still going to be just fine. 

    Offensively, Alabama should still be in good hands with freakish running back Bo Scarbrough. As long as the Tide can run the ball, and there's not a reason in the world to think they won't be able to, then they should be fine. With a defensive front that is ready to reload, Alabama will be tough to beat again.

    Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports


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