The Biggest Takeaways from College Football's Early Signing Period

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2017

The Biggest Takeaways from College Football's Early Signing Period

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    In a truly new event for the sport, college football experienced the first day of the early signing period.

    Although it wasn't the wall-to-wall, drama-filled marathon we've come to know on the first Wednesday in February, the third Wednesday of December still generated plenty of excitement.

    Top prospects committed, some others changed their pledge, and programs saw months of recruiting work result in signatures from key pledges. And the fax machine? It remained the star of the day.

    But not everything about the early signing period's debut was positive. We'll touch on a major issue, too.

         

    Note: The early signing period lasts until Friday, Dec. 22, at midnight. This piece may be updated.

Micah Parsons Returns to Penn State

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    Micah Parsons, a 5-star defensive end from Pennsylvania, pledged to the Nittany Lions in February 2016 but removed himself from the commit list in April 2017.

    He's baaaaack. And for good this time. 

    In a video posted on PennLive, Parsons revealed he would join Penn State. He has officially signed with the program.

    According to head coach James Franklin, per Land of 10's Tyler Donohue, Parsons will begin his college career as a middle linebacker. While unexpected, he did play some linebacker in high school.

    Snagging Parsons is a huge recruiting win for Penn State, considering both his status and location. Throw in a commitment from 4-star wideout Jahan Dotson, who was a UCLA pledge prior to Wednesday, and the Nittany Lions had a successful day on the trail.

Georgia Will Take That 5-Star, Thank You

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    Georgia entered signing day with commitments from three 5-star players: quarterback Justin Fields, running back Zamir White and outside linebacker Adam Anderson. Any team would be thrilled with that trio.

    But the Bulldogs weren't finished.

    Jamaree Salyer gave his pledge to the program, and former Tennessee commit Cade Mays announced for UGA, too. Salyer is an offensive guard, and Mays is a tackle. If the future follows an ideal path, they'll be blocking for Fields and White in a couple years.

    Rounding out the 5-star crop is defensive end Brenton Cox, whose commitment gave Kirby Smart four of the state's five 5-stars along with Fields, Salyer and Anderson.

    Georgia also lost 4-star receiver Elijah Moore to Ole Miss but added 4-star cornerback Divaad Wilson on an eventful Wednesday.

    Regardless of whether it ends up being the No. 1 group in February, this recruiting class is an undeniable success.

Dan Mullen Wins Round 1 vs. Willie Taggart

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    Florida State collapsed after Deondre Francois' season-ending injury because of its inexperienced depth at quarterback. Florida hasn't settled the position since Tim Tebow departed.

    It's safe to say landing the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback was a priority for a pair of first-year coaches. Florida's Dan Mullen emerged victorious in the recruiting fight for 4-star quarterback Emory Jones, handing Willie Taggart a tough defeat.

    Although Jones entered the day pledged to Ohio State, he was expected to flip elsewhere. And his commitment set off a celebration in the Florida coaching room.

    Conversely, the 'Noles will have to scramble for a quarterback in this class after missing out on in-state 4-star Mike Penix, who chose Indiana because the Big Ten school could offer a chance to enroll early, per Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star.

    Taggart and FSU could still pull a quality player like 4-star dual-threat quarterback James Foster, but this isn't how the Seminoles wanted signing day to go. Yet it's exactly what Mullen envisioned.

Clemson Loading Up on 5-Stars

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    "I love it," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of the early signing period, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today. "You can put me on record with that."

    The reigning national champions inked two longtime 5-star commits, quarterback Trevor Lawrence and defensive end Xavier Thomas. But that was simply the start of a great day.

    Clemson stole 5-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman from Ohio State country and nabbed defensive end KJ Henry, a 5-star from North Carolina. Their pledges gave the Tigers four of the nation's 10 highest-rated prospects, and 4-star back Lyn-J Dixon also signed.

    No wonder Swinney loved Wednesday.

Ohio State Locked in Most of the 2018 Class

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    According to Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he was "dead-set" against the early signing period.

    That feeling changed Wednesday.

    "I'm looking at this right here, dead-set against what?" Meyer remarked, having already received 20 national letters of intent at the time of his press conference. "That's unbelievable."

    Defensive tackle Taron Vincent and running back Jaelen Gill, both 5-star recruits, highlighted the class, which also packed 16 4-stars and three 3-stars into the group that signed. Cameron Brown, a receiver and one of the 4-stars, flipped from Nebraska and picked the Buckeyes.

    Meyer acknowledged the downside of a December signing day, per Hope, saying he feels bad forour phrase, not hisPlan B prospects. Those are the players who could be late additions should Ohio State have early NFL entries that free up a scholarship.

    Although it wasn't a perfect day for the BuckeyesCarman bolted the state for Clemson and 5-star safety Jaiden Woodbey flipped to Florida Stateit was far more productive than Meyer apparently thought it could be.

Miami Crushed It, Too

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    While several programs are headed for an exhausting recruiting stretch after the dead period, Mark Richt and his coaching staff did a sensational job securing signatures from the 2018 haul.

    Of the team's 20 commitments, 18 gave Miami their signature. One more, Cleveland Reed, said he'll sign Thursday.

    The overall haul includes 5-star Lorenzo Lingard and three other top-100 prospects, including Miami legacy Al Blades Jr., star wideout Mark Pope and tight end Brevin Jordan. The 'Canes also added Jarren Williams, the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the class.

    Richt and Co. are still pursuing top prospects, including a trio of teammates at nearby American Heritage in 5-star cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell, plus 4-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield.

    But the 'Canes would be focusing on those talents anyway. They don't have to worry about Lingard-, Blades- or Pope-caliber players looking elsewhere at the same time, and that's a huge luxury.

Texas Wants All the Defensive Backs

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    Texas is ranked 108th nationally in passing yards allowed per game. The defense has grabbed 15 interceptions entering bowl season, but the Longhorns need reinforcements on the back end.

    And boy, did they ever get some.

    At safety, Texas signed the top-rated player in BJ Foster, plus the Nos. 3 and 6 prospects in Caden Sterns and DeMarvion Overshown.

    Cornerback Anthony Cook joined fellow 4-stars Jalen Green and D'shawn Jamison, providing Tom Herman and the rebuilding Longhorns with three of the position's top 14 talents.

    The current Big 12 is known for its uptempo offenses and productive passing games. With this haul, Texas has the potential to become the most feared secondary.

    No fairy dust needed.

USC Receives a Late Boost

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    In July, 5-star quarterback JT Daniels committed to USC. While that was terrific, he was a member of the 2019 class, so the program would have to wait another year for him.

    Not anymore.

    Daniels announced Dec. 22 that he is reclassifying and will sign in the 2018 cycle. Not only is the Mater Dei product an excellent addition given the possibility Sam Darnold will turn pro, but this could help the Trojans secure a key remaining target.

    Amon-Ra St. Brown, a 5-star wideout and teammate of the quarterback, is already heavily linked to USC. According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, Daniels and St. Brown are close friends. That connection doesn't guarantee a commitment, but it sure doesn't hurt.

    Bringing in both Mater Dei players would give the Trojans by far the highest-rated QB-WR pairing in the 2018 class.

Beware the Coaching Carousel

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    Coaches worked tirelessly to secure as many signatures as possible during the early signing period. That's not because a particular staff wants to announce a great class quickly; no, the letters of intent officially bind prospects to the school.

    "And if you don't sign now, you're not really committed." And there goes the scholarship offer.

    Some of these same coaches, however, will no longer be around in a month or two. They'll pursue what could be a well-deserved opportunity that comes after bowl season, but it may sting the kids they convinced to sign at the current spot.

    Those decisions have a small impact on coaches, but the kidsbarring a release from their signed letter of intentare stuck.

    It's foolish to think the majority of athletes are committing solely to a school, not a coach or team staff. If they actually did that despite a poor football fit, plenty of fans and analysts would wonder who gave the teenagers bad advice.

    For players headed to programs that will largely remain intact, outstanding. But it's certain there are prospects who considered not signing, did anyway and are about to be burned.

    And that just stinks.

              

    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.