Ultimate Guide to 2017 National Signing Day
The race to college football's mountaintop begins with winning big each year on national signing day.
The time-honored practice where recruits make celebratory announcements and coaches volley between awkward grins and full-faced smiles has become a holiday of sorts for fans of the sport.
Around the nation, college football aficionados are likely to eschew the day-to-day realities of life to stay tuned to message boards and social media in order to be abreast of the final twists and turns in the 2017 cycle.
What will they be paying attention to, and what storylines will dominate the hours that lead up to recruiting's version of the Super Bowl?
Here's what fans need to know about the spectacle that is national signing day.
Who Is the Best Player in the Country?
In some years, the recruiting community is united in placing its faith in the same prospect as the top overall player in the country.
This year, there has been some movement late in the cycle as various players occupy the ranking on different recruiting services.
247Sports went with fellow 5-star offensive lineman and Stanford commit Walker Little. 247Sports' composite rankings, which tabulate the average of each ranking from different industry sites, have 5-star defensive end and current UCLA pledge Jaelan Phillips as the nation's top overall recruit.
Harris, who rushed for 7,948 yards and 94 touchdowns during his career at Antioch High School in California, according to MaxPreps, also got the nod from Bleacher Report's panel of national recruiting analysts.
The 6'3", 225-pounder is a freakish athlete with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. Harris is the most decorated running back prospect since outgoing LSU star Leonard Fournette.
Alabama Is Going to End Up with the No. 1 Class Again, Right?
Think of this space as being reserved annually for Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Sure, the names and the faces might change in terms of the recruits and even the members of his coaching staff.
What doesn't change is the cavalcade of 5-star recruits who march to Tuscaloosa with the intention of maintaining the Crimson Tide's standard of dominance.
Alabama's 2017 class is no different.
Alabama enters the final hours just behind Georgia for the No. 1 spot in the Scout.com team rankings.
Regardless of how signing day shakes out, Alabama has a great shot to again finish the day on top of the recruiting universe once again.
Other Powerhouses to Watch
A handful of powerhouses plan to give the Crimson Tide a run for the top overall spot.
Let's break down a few of them here.
Last year, ACC power Florida State was one of the winners on signing day.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff sit on the No. 8 class currently. With 20 commitments, there is room for the Seminoles to move up if they hit on a few of their top remaining targets.
The elite targets who are considering the 'Noles down the stretch include 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, 4-star linebacker Levi Jones, 4-star defensive end Jarez Parks and 4-star receiver Henry Ruggs III.
How many of those targets elect to head to Tallahassee will determine how many spots the 'Noles can leap up on signing day.
Fellow SEC power Georgia is running neck and neck with Alabama for the nation's top class.
With Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart in the midst of his first full recruiting cycle since taking over in Athens, the program is enjoying a ton of recruiting momentum—especially with the top talent in its backyard.
Georgia is still involved in key down-to-the-wire battles for prospects such as 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, 4-star receiver Nico Collins, 4-star linebacker Leonard Warner and 4-star defensive end Markaviest Bryant.
Additionally, the Bulldogs are in the mix to potentially pull off a late flip for 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams.
With what is left on Georgia's board and where the program sits in the rankings, it's not out of the question for Smart to get the better of his old boss when signing day rolls around.
The Ed Orgeron era in Baton Rouge is off to a strong start on the recruiting trail.
Similar to FSU, LSU is a school outside the Top Five of the rankings capable of landing enough big fish to make a run at the top overall class.
Michigan holds the top-rated class outside of the SEC, as the Wolverines have landed 26 commitments heading into the stretch run before signing day.
That means the bulk of the work is done for Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff. It also means spots are limited for them to add more talent.
Still, Michigan is actively recruiting standouts such as Solomon, Collins, Gay and 5-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele.
However, unless they get a clean sweep of their top targets, it's hard to envision the Wolverines will make up enough ground on Alabama and Georgia while holding off other hard-charging programs below them in the rankings.
Right behind Michigan in the rankings is hated rival Ohio State.
Even though Ohio State's class ranks No. 4 nationally, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have put together an impressive group with an average star rating of 4.26, the best of any class in the nation.
Similar to Michigan, the Buckeyes have limited spots remaining in their class, which hinders their opportunity to move up in the rankings.
The Buckeyes are still recruiting Wilson, Tufele and 4-star offensive lineman Thayer Munford.
Unless Meyer and his staff pull off a few upsets, they are likely to finish somewhere in the Top Five on signing day.
Programs on the Rise
While a handful of the sport's blue bloods are competing for the top overall spot, a few upstart programs are also having banner years on the recruiting trail.
Here are some surprise schools that are enjoying success in the 2017 cycle.
Riding the wave of newfound attention after star quarterback Lamar Jackson took home the Heisman Trophy, the Louisville Cardinals are quietly putting together a strong 2017 class.
Head coach Bobby Petrino and his staff have landed 22 commitments in a group that rates No. 20 nationally.
Louisville's class ranks fifth in the ACC, trailing FSU, Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson.
While the Cardinals enjoy the fruits of their on-field labor in the ACC, Big Ten upstart Maryland is finding success under first-year head coach DJ Durkin.
The Big Ten has six schools among the nation's Top 25 classes.
The Terps' class to date is bested only by league superpowers Michigan and Ohio State.
This class could be the beginning of Durkin's elevation of the Terps program into an annual contender in the Big Ten's Eastern Division.
With first-year head coach Mark Richt firmly entrenched at Miami, the Hurricanes are enjoying the fruits of stability at the top on the heels of a 9-4 season.
The Hurricanes landed a Top 20 class that was heavy on homegrown prospects from the Sunshine State.
Standouts such as 4-star defensive back Trajan Bandy and 4-star offensive linemen Navaughn Donaldson and Kai-Leon Herbert are all from the talent-rich South Florida area. Bandy and Herbert were once committed to other programs before ultimately deciding on Miami, while Richt and his staff were able to hold off powers such as Florida and Florida State for Donaldson.
Overall, this is a strong group in Richt's first full cycle that should help Miami gain traction in competing for titles in the ACC soon.
NSD Burning Questions
Numerous storylines are filled with intrigue heading into signing day.
My Bleacher Report colleagues Tyler Donohue, Damon Sayles and I tackled some earlier in the month, but let's reset things and narrow the focus.
Which New Head Coach Fares the Best?
With high-profile new head coaches at schools such as Baylor, LSU, Texas and Oregon, among others, the coaches at those schools are now scrambling to salvage the best possible classes in a short time.
The early returns have been promising for Baylor's Matt Rhule and Oregon's Willie Taggart. Both coaches inherited classes with very few commits and have wasted little time in making waves.
Texas head coach Tom Herman has also added multiple targets, but it's been a struggle for him and his staff to gain traction with some of the state's elite targets such as Marvin Wilson.
Technically, Ed Orgeron is LSU's new head coach. But given he's been at the school as an assistant since 2015 and took over as the interim head coach last fall when Les Miles was fired, he has the advantage of familiarity with the Tigers' 2017 class.
Orgeron's Tigers sit comfortably in the Top 10 of the Scout.com team rankings with a shot at getting inside the Top Five if they hit on their top remaining targets. That all but guarantees Orgeron will have the best finish among new head coaches.
Which School Is Most in Need of a Big Finish?
The fact that SEC powers such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Tennessee have classes ranked in the Top 15 is not a surprise.
However, to find the Florida Gators barely inside the Top 20 of the rankings is odd, to say the least.
While the Gators have only 17 commitments, the fact they have yet to land a single player ranked among the Top 100 overall players in the 2017 cycle is alarming.
Moving forward, Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his staff have to find and land the type of difference-makers the program is accustomed to signing on an annual basis.
Who Lands 5-Star DT Marvin Wilson?
Entering signing day, the highest-ranked player yet to make a commitment is 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.
The 6'4", 329-pounder, the nation's top defensive tackle prospect and the No. 10 player overall in the 2017 class, is down to a final five that includes Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and South Florida.
Of that group, LSU appears to be the favorite, and Florida State represents the main competition, according to Wilson's 247Sports crystal ball page.
Whichever school lands him will get a potential instant-impact player who can solidify the interior of the defensive line for the next three or four years.
Which uncommitted players should fans around the nation pay close attention to?
Entering the day, eight 5-star prospects remain on the board. Let's break down their recruitments.
5-Star DT Marvin Wilson (No. 1 DT, No. 10 overall): See burning questions above.
5-Star DT Aubrey Solomon (No. 2 DT, No. 11 overall): Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan and USC are in the running for Solomon. As Scout.com reported, Alabama, Georgia and Michigan have traded turns at the forefront of his recruitment. The Wolverines have been surging this month, but Alabama and Georgia are working hard to overtake them.
5-Star WR Joseph Lewis (No. 2 receiver, No. 24 overall): Lewis has Arizona State, Nebraska, Oregon and USC among his group of finalists. The Trojans, who got his final official visits, are the heavy favorites, per 247Sports' crystal ball. Of his other suitors, Nebraska poses the biggest threat to upstage the hometown Trojans.
5-Star WR Devonta Smith (No. 3 receiver, No. 26 overall): Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Miami all hosted Smith on official visits. Of that group, SEC West rivals Alabama and LSU are considered the main players for Smith—with the Tide installed as the heavy favorites to land him, per his 247Sports crystal ball page.
5-Star OL Austin Jackson (No. 5 offensive tackle, No. 30 overall): We know Jackson will end up in the Pac-12. The question is: Which school wins out? He took official visits to Arizona State, Oregon, USC and Washington. The Trojans are trending with him, per Scout.
5-Star OL Tedarrell Slaton (No. 2 offensive guard, No. 32 overall): Florida, Georgia and Michigan are among the programs that are hoping to hear good news from Slaton on signing day. He visited Florida officially on Jan. 20, and the Gators are the heavy favorites, according to his 247Sports crystal ball page.
5-Star DE K'Lavon Chaisson (No. 5 defensive end, No. 33 overall): Colorado, LSU, Texas and Florida all received official visits from Chaisson in January. However, this recruitment may come down to the Tigers and Longhorns. The Tigers have the most recent momentum, per Scout.
5-Star DT Jay Tufele (No. 3 defensive tackle, No. 36 overall): BYU, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and Utah are the finalists for Tufele. His recruitment has seen shifts at times with the in-state Utah schools trending and then teams such as Ohio State gaining momentum. However, the Utes appear to be the best bet to land him, according to his 247Sports crystal ball page.
Teams to Watch on NSD
The defending national champs are perhaps unlucky that they have a small class this cycle.
Better yet, with the biggest spotlight ever on their program, head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff are likely to pull in a few more studs capable of helping the Tigers repeat as national champs.
Speaking of clubs entering the final stretch of recruiting with momentum, the USC Trojans are on fire after finishing the season with a nine-game winning streak punctuated with a thrilling Rose Bowl win over Penn State.
Similar to the way his team shot up the polls to close the season, head coach Clay Helton and his staff are primed to make a run in the recruiting rankings.
Assuming the Trojans win their share of battles down the stretch, they may once again end up with the top class in the Pac-12 and one of the better groups nationally.
While we've singled out the Gators as a team that needs a big closing stretch, they could get good news from top targets on signing day.
If the Gators win a majority of these battles, they could form a nice springboard into the 2018 cycle for head coach Jim McElwain and his staff.
Best Names in 2017 Class
Recruits are lauded for a number of reasons, ranging from athleticism to personality and 100 traits in between.
However, a handful of talents will catch eyes and ears for the uniqueness of their names.
The 2017 class is no different.
Let's highlight a few that broadcasters and fans around the college football world will come to love or butcher in the next few years:
Should I Tweet at Recruits?
For those of you who prefer multiple choice, please consider the following responses to the above headline:
- A. No
- B. Hell no
- C. Both A and B
For those of you who are still on the fence, let your mind shift into an alternate universe for a second.
In that universe, imagine complete strangers giving you advice
shoving their opinions down your throat on topics such as who you should marry, which job you should take or which city you should live in.
There are 100 adjectives you can use to describe that logic. Asinine and ludicrous come to mind.
Yet that scenario plays out every day in the world of college football recruiting on message boards and social media.
Grown adults shower praise on teenagers, hoping to sway them to attend their favorite school. The minute said recruit chooses another program, they hurl insults and disdain in his direction.
I suggest an alternate method for rabid recruiting fans.
Instead of banging your head against the wall because a 5-star prospect didn't choose your school, celebrate the 20 or so new members who have pledged to give everything they have to helping your favorite team find success.
It's less stressful. But most importantly, it's less creepy.
Ranking the Power 5 Conferences
The results on signing day will impact the final rankings. But with a majority of the work already done, the process of making a determination on how each Power Five conference fared can begin.
With 58 of Scout.com's Top 100 recruits, the SEC leads the way. But how have the rest of the leagues fared? And which teams have the top three classes in each league?
Top 3 Classes: Alabama, Georgia and LSU
2. Big Ten
Top 3 Classes: Michigan, Ohio State and Maryland
Top 3 Classes: USC, Stanford, Oregon
Top 3 Classes: Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami
5. Big 12
Top 3 Classes: Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State
Where to Follow?
The Best of the Best Commit Videos
It's been a memorable cycle in terms of announcements, and Bleacher Report has a few more surprises in store for national signing day.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best commitment videos done thus far from the 2017 class.
Defensive tackle Martin Andrus and linebacker Rahyme Johnson, a pair of 4-star recruits, committed to UCLA in an Old School-themed announcement. Jaelan Phillips, a 5-star defensive end and fellow Bruins pledge, assisted them.
So who is next, and how will they commit?
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for more videos throughout national signing day.
Predicting the Final Top 10
How will the inevitable movement in the final hours of the 2017 cycle affect the rankings?
Let's take a crack at naming the final top 10 by using Scout's criteria for the current rankings.
Predicted Top 10
- 10. Auburn
- 9. Texas A&M
- 8. Oklahoma
- 7. USC
- 6. Michigan
- 5. Florida State
- 4. Ohio State
- 3. LSU
- 2. Georgia
- 1. Alabama
Will Anyone Flip?
Signing-day flips have become more common in recent years, and it's possible it could happen in the final moments Wednesday.
Here are a few possibilities.
4-Star ATH Jamyest Williams (from South Carolina to Georgia)
Williams took official visits to both Georgia and South Carolina in January. He will make a final decision on signing day.
4-Star DT Neil Farrell (from LSU to Florida State)
Farrell has been committed to LSU since July. However, he took January officials to see the Tigers as well as Florida State and USC. The Seminoles got his last visit. He will also announce a final decision on signing day.
4-Star WR D.D. Bowie (from Ole Miss to Mississippi State)
As Barton Simmons of 247Sports detailed, Bowie admitted having second thoughts about the pledge he made to Ole Miss back in 2015. Mississippi State, which hosted him on an official visit on the weekend of Jan. 20, is the primary threat to steal him away from the Rebels.
4-Star LB Devodrick Johnson (from Texas A&M to Baylor)
Johnson took a late visit to Baylor and now will decide between the two in-state programs on signing day. As Brian Perroni of 247Sports noted, both schools feel positive about their chances to land him.
4-Star ATH Russ Yeast (from Louisville to Notre Dame)
Yeast took another late visit to Notre Dame in January, and as Tom Loy of 247Sports notes, there is a chance he could join the Irish's class on signing day.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com.