One Nightmare Scenario for Every 2019 Top-10 CFB Recruiting Class
Clemson has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation once again, but how much sleep do you suppose head coach Dabo Swinney is losing over the possibility of yet another class thin on offensive linemen?
Before you start with the "Well, actually" retorts, we are well aware that every college football coach's recruiting nightmare is a sudden flurry of decommitments, which would completely undo the foundation they have worked so hard to put together.
But there's no point in reiterating that point for each of these teams. Rather, we're only interested in suggesting realistic nightmare scenarios—only one of which involves a current commit potentially flipping.
For many of these teams, the nightmare is a possible positional dilemma. The powerhouse that is Clemson could fall to pieces if it continues to whiff on offensive linemen. Oklahoma and Texas A&M both need to beef up their secondaries. And Notre Dame is targeting so many wide receivers that it would be downright embarrassing to miss on all of them.
But for others, the nightmare would be failing to live up to usual expectations, in spite of already sitting pretty in the top 10.
The following 2019 rankings are based on recruiting team rankings on 247Sports and are current through the morning of June 24. These rankings do not reflect any changes to the 247 list since that date.
10. Miami Hurricanes
Nightmare Scenario: Finish behind Florida and/or Florida State
There's no time like the present for Miami to cement itself as the preferred destination for Florida-bound talent.
After putting together the best recruiting class in the entire nation in 2008, the Hurricanes ranked behind both Florida and Florida State in each year from 2009 through 2017. Given that information, it's little wonder that Miami had 13 straight seasons with fewer than 10 wins while Florida and Florida State combined for three national championships.
But between last year's 10-0 start with help from the "turnover chain" and the change in coaching staffs for both the Gators and the Seminoles, Miami finally jumped back in front of its in-state rivals. The 'Canes finished No. 8 in the 2018 rankings while FSU and UF came in 11th and 14th, respectively—in large part because Mark Richt was able to convince 5-star RB Lorenzo Lingard to suit up for him instead of Florida State.
Now the Hurricanes need to prove this was not a one-year fluke, and beating the Gators and Seminoles in head-to-head battles for local talent is the best way to do that. Signing 5-star running back Trey Sanders or high 4-star offensive lineman Evan Neal would be a huge step in that direction. But if Willie Taggart and Dan Mullen swoop in, steal those guys and finish ahead of Miami, it would be a nightmare for The U.
9. Florida State Seminoles
Nightmare Scenario: Recruiting slide continues under Willie Taggart
With Jimbo Fisher running the show, Florida State had a top-eight recruiting class in seven of the first eight years of the 2010s, including five times finishing in the top four. Aside from Nick Saban and Alabama, there was not a more consistent force on the recruiting trail.
But with Fisher leaving for Texas A&M and Willie Taggart coaching at his third school in two years, the Seminoles had a slight dip to No. 11 this past year. It was the first time since 2007 that they failed to sign a single 5-star recruit. And we're not talking bottom-of-the-barrel 5-star recruits, either. This is a program accustomed to bringing in at least one of the top 10 players in the country on an annual basis.
Thus far, things are looking up in 2019. The 'Noles already have one 5-star commitment (cornerback Akeem Dent) and they have a top-10 class in spite of just 12 commitments thus far. With plenty of room for more signings, their class score should improve considerably.
However, Florida State is not close to being the favorite to sign the 5-star recruits it is targeting, which would make it difficult to lock in a top-10 class and nearly impossible to climb back into the top five. If the 'Noles do finish outside the top 10 for a second straight year, the decrease in talent may start manifesting on the field.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
Nightmare Scenario: 5-star wide receiver decommits
Georgia made it to the 2018 national championship game before putting together the best 2018 recruiting class in the country, featuring seven 5-star guys and a total of 12 top-90 recruits. Kirby Smart could whiff on virtually every other recruit he's targeting, and it still wouldn't be a nightmare for the Bulldogs.
Losing a commitment from a 5-star, in-state wide receiver would be another story, though.
For starters, Jadon Haselwood and Dominick Blaylock have been committed to Georgia since March 2017 and July 2017, respectively. Smart has been counting on them as part of the 2019 roster since before the 2017 season even began. Losing either one at this point would be a major gut punch.
Moreover, none of the aforementioned top-100 recruits in the 2018 class were wide receivers. The Dawgs did sign 4-star receivers Kearis Jackson and Tommy Bush, but they don't have the same instant playmaker potential that Haselwood and Blaylock possess. And Georgia is going to need a new special receiving option in 2019 after Terry Godwin graduates.
Of the two, Haselwood is the one Georgia needs to worry more about potentially losing. The nation's No. 1 wide receiver has made several visits to Auburn in recent months and has quite a few friends who have committed to the Tigers, per SEC Country's Benjamin Wolk.
7. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Nightmare Scenario: Lacking in linebackers
Mississippi State is loading up on 4-star defensive ends. To that end, the Bulldogs already have commitments from Nathan Pickering, Charles Moore, De'Monte Russell and Ani Izuchukwu. They are also one of the favorites to land local talent Byron Young. It's not a group that is going to rival the defensive line that Clemson will have on the field this season, but it should be the team's strongest unit in 2021 and 2022.
But what of the linebacker situation?
Mississippi State failed to sign a linebacker ranked in the overall top 1,000 in the 2018 recruiting cycle, and it has yet to sign a single linebacker for 2019.
If the Bulldogs are able to sign 5-star linebacker Nakobe Dean from nearby Horn Lake, Mississippi, it would be a massive win for first-year head coach Joe Moorhead. If the pursuit of Dean doesn't pan out, the Bulldogs are also targeting 4-star linebackers Mohamoud Diabate and Derick Hall.
But considering how many other SEC schools are in the mix, Mississippi State is anything other than a lock to sign any of the three, let alone all three. If it does result in three whiffs, perhaps converting an incoming lineman or two to linebacker is the backup plan.
6. LSU Tigers
Nightmare Scenario: Ishmael Sopsher gets away
LSU did not have a top-10 class when we did our dream recruiting scenarios one week ago, but Ed Orgeron and his staff have been reeling in players left and right lately. A total of five recruits committed to LSU between June 20-24, the most noteworthy of which (by far) was 5-star cornerback Derek Stingley.
Stingley is one of three 5-star recruits from the state of Louisiana. One of the other ones—offensive guard Kardell Thomas—committed to LSU 23 months ago and hasn't (yet) wavered on that decision. But the best of the bunch—defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher—is still undecided.
Rated as the No. 3 recruit in the entire country, Sopsher is being courted by just about everyone. He has received offers from Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Michigan, Auburn, Georgia, Oklahoma and at least a dozen other schools.
If Sopsher goes anywhere other than LSU, it would be a bit of an embarrassment for the Tigers. They have signed the No. 1 recruit from Louisiana in each of the last six years, as well as six out of eight 5-star recruits during that same time.
Making matters even direr, it's a positional need for LSU. The Tigers have a dozen top-600 commitments, but none of them are defensive linemen. And if they miss out on Sopsher, there isn't even another 4-star defensive lineman from Louisiana.
5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Nightmare Scenario: Whiffing on wide receivers
Brian Kelly is winning the 2019 battle in the recruiting trenches. Of the 10 4-star players who have committed to Notre Dame, seven are either offensive linemen or defensive linemen, including each of the five highest-rated players in its class.
Will the Fighting Irish get any wide receivers, though?
Thus far, they haven't signed any. But it's not for lack of trying. Per 247Sports, Notre Dame has eight wide receivers among its top 17 uncommitted targets.
One would think wide receivers wouldn't be such a focal point after Kelly signed three 4-star receivers—Kevin Austin, Lawrence Keys III and Micah Jones—in the 2018 class, but perhaps last year's underwhelming passing game has created a "better safe than sorry" approach to the position. Regardless, Notre Dame wants receivers, and it would be a big disappointment if none sign.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Nightmare Scenario: Failure to improve the secondary
Baker Mayfield may be gone, but Oklahoma's passing game isn't going anywhere. The Sooners will have Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown putting up big stats this coming season, and they already have reinforcements on the way in 2019. Their five top-150 commitments in next year's class are three wide receivers, a quarterback and a tight end.
Will they have the necessary pieces to slow down opposing quarterbacks, though?
Oklahoma did sign an excellent defensive back in 2018 in the form of Brendan Radley-Hiles, but he was the only top-450 recruit added to this secondary. And thus far in the 2019 class, the Sooners have a commitment from low 4-star safety Jamal Morris...and that's it.
Lincoln Riley is targeting a ton of defensive backs, though, the most important of which is 5-star safety Daxton Hill from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Inking that local talent could be everything for the Oklahoma defense—while also establishing Riley as a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail.
The Sooners also have their sights set on a bunch of 4-star defensive backs, most notably Jeffery Carter, Max Williams, Isaiah Rutherford and Trikweze Bridges. However, they aren't considered the favorite to sign any of those guys, so it might be Hill or bust. And bust could be a major problem in a conference that is always abundant in aerial attacks.
3. Clemson Tigers
Nightmare Scenario: Unable to add offensive linemen
Clemson has been a recruiting wrecking ball at a lot of positions in recent years. By consistently landing good quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, defensive linemen and the occasional quality cornerback, the Tigers have turned into an annual threat to win the national championship.
However, signing offensive linemen has been a challenge over the past few years, and it could become a crippling weakness if they don't turn things around in this recruiting cycle. After all, what good is an elite QB like Trevor Lawrence if you have no one blocking for him?
In 2017, the three offensive linemen that Clemson signed ranked 240th (Matt Bockhorst), 362nd (Blake Vinson) and 510th (Noah DeHond) overall in the 247Sports composite rankings. In 2018, the Tigers did get one exceptional 5-star offensive tackle in Jackson Carman, but the only other lineman they signed was 820th overall recruit Jordan McFadden. And thus far in 2019, they have signed one 3-star guard (Hunter Rayburn), and that's it.
Now compare that to Alabama, which already has 2019 commitments from a pair of offensive tackles who rank in the top 50 overall—this after signing five 4-star and one 5-star offensive linemen in 2017 and 2018 combined. That's how you maintain a dynasty.
Clemson is pursuing 5-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs, but its odds of signing one of the top players from Michigan would figure to be slim. The Tigers also have eyes on top-150 guys William Putnam, Keiondre Jones and Trevor Keegan. If none of those four sign with the Purple and Orange, it could spell trouble.
2. Texas A&M Aggies
Nightmare Scenario: Another year devoid of cornerbacks
Two years ago, the best cornerback Texas A&M signed was Devin Morris, rated 495th overall and 49th among CBs.
Last year, the Aggies got a few good safeties and athletes, but they failed to sign a single player listed as a cornerback.
And thus far in 2019, it's more of the same.
Jimbo Fisher does have commitments from two of the top eight safeties in this year's class, including 5-star Brian Williams. With so many safeties between the 2018 and 2019 classes, perhaps a few of them will switch positions and become cornerbacks and all will be well. But he is also pursuing two of the top available corners in this class: Jeffery Carter and Erick Young.
Where Carter will land is anybody's guess, but the 247Sports crystal ball predictions give the Aggies a 94 percent chance of signing Young—which will only make the pill that much harder to swallow if he opts to go elsewhere.
The other nightmare scenario would be if the Aggies blow this hot start and somehow manage to drop outside the top 10, since one of the big reasons they made the move from Kevin Sumlin to Fisher was to improve their lot on the recruiting trail.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Nightmare Scenario: No more 5-star commitments
Alabama started slow in last year's recruiting cycle. The Crimson Tide ended up finishing comfortably among the top 10 classes, but when we were doing these dream and nightmare scenarios last June, they were nowhere to be found because Nick Saban had only signed three recruits.
This time around, though, Alabama is already running away with the No. 1 spot with one 5-star and 14 4-star commitments. As of June 24, no other team in the country has signed more than 10 combined 4-star and 5-star recruits.
But if the Crimson Tide do not sign at least one more 5-star recruit, it would be the first time since 2007 that they failed to get multiple 5-star studs.
To put it lightly, Saban and Co. are working diligently to avoid that outcome.
Of the 15 remaining uncommitted 5-star recruits, 247Sports has 10 listed as either a top target or high choice for Alabama and has each of those 10 players listed as "warm" on the Crimson Tide. As far as the crystal ball predictions are concerned, though, only Clay Webb—a center from Oxford, Alabama—is more than 50 percent likely to choose Alabama.
After only signing two 5-star players this past year, finishing with just one in this cycle would signal the beginning of the end of this college football dynasty.
Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.