The Biggest Takeaways from College Football's Early Signing Period

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2018

The Biggest Takeaways from College Football's Early Signing Period

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The final letters of intent are rolling through fax machines after the bulk of college football's early signing period ended in a flurry of signatures Wednesday.

    In addition to committed players making their pledge official, several top-tier prospects announced their college choice. There weren't many nationally covered flips, but one 5-star ensured a Big Ten program wouldn't strike out on its key targets.

    As always, if your favorite team has a bad recruiting ranking: Don't worry, stars don't define a player!

    Seriously, though, it's important to remember that recruiting performance is the best indicator of national championships. February's signing period will still feature excellent talent, but the foundation of a class happened in this December stretch.

Nothing New for National Powers

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Alabama's seven-year streak of holding the No. 1 class ended during the 2018 recruiting cycle. Kirby Smart, a former Nick Saban assistant, helped Georgia supplant the Crimson Tide.

    The surge was short-lived, however; Alabama has returned to the top.

    Georgia plummeted to...oh, not far. The Dawgs finished the early period at No. 2. The battle for No. 1 will likely be a yearly tradition as long as Saban and Smart are aroundand Clemson won't be far behind. Dabo Swinney landed the No. 7 class.

    Hope you're not tired of seeing Alabama, Clemson and Georgia in the national championship discussion, because they shouldn't be leaving that picture anytime soon.

Lincoln Riley Is a Magician

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    Yes, Oklahoma is a supremely attractive destination. The Sooners have won four straight Big 12 titles and are preparing for the College Football Playoff for the third time in four seasons.

    They don't yet have a permanent defensive coordinator, but it didn't matter.

    Jeremiah Criddell, a 4-star safety, chose OU in the morning, and 4-star defensive end Marcus Stripling followed suit in the afternoon. The program added five other 4-star defenders and flipped 3-star athlete Ty DeArman from his pledge to Arizona State.

    Lincoln Riley has an NFL-caliber brain, and he might be headed there eventually. For now, thoughand there's no indication "now" is ending anytime soonhe's becoming one of the nation's top recruiters.

Jimbo Fisher Brings in Huge Class at Texas A&M

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    By no means did Jimbo Fisher leave Florida State with a perfect roster, but recruiting was not his problem. It's always been a strength.

    There's no question he's brought that excellence to Texas A&M, which currently ranks No. 3 in the nation. The 23-player group of signees includes 5-star offensive tackle Kenyon Green and 5-star defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal, as well as 10 4-stars.

    "We had a tremendous year—and so did everybody else in this league," Fisher said, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. "Now it gets down to player development, and everything else that goes on."

    That's where Fisher's biggest challenge resides. But it sure is better to have the talent readily available than be searching for it.

Oregon Wins Big in the Pac-12

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    Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press

    By mid-October, the Pac-12 was basically out of the College Football Playoff discussion. Washington State sort of hung around, but anyone who thinks a 12-1 WSU team would've jumped Oklahoma or even Georgia in the final CFP rankings is kidding themselves.

    The down year carried into recruiting, but Oregon was an exception. Mario Cristobal and Co. brought in the nation's No. 6 class, ranking nine spots higher than the next Pac-12 team (Washington, 15th).

    Kayvon Thibodeaux, a 5-star defensive end, is the unquestioned highlight of the 22-member haul. However, the Ducks signed 11 4-stars and three of California's top-10 high school prospectssomething that has never happened in the 247Sports era.

    "It's something that we want to and need to get used to," Cristobal said of the touted class, per James Crepea of The Oregonian.

    And if it does, Oregon will return to "contender" status very soon.

Michigan Split Its Top Priorities

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Last year, Michigan finished with the No. 22 class. While an excellent position for the majority of the college football world, it was nowhere near high enough for comfort in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines failed to bring in a single top-100 prospect.

    Jim Harbaugh and his staff put together a much better cycle heading into the early signing period, but a surprise bolstered the haul.

    Daxton Hill, a 5-star safety, rejoined the UM class merely 11 days after decommitting for Alabama. While missing on 5-star defensive end Zach Harrisonparticularly to rival Ohio Stateabsolutely stung, signing Hill made it palatable.

    Michigan still has plenty to prove on the field, but this infusion of talent is critical to Harbaugh's pursuit of an elusive Big Ten crown.

Florida State and Miami Have Issues...

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    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    On Wednesday, Florida State lost 4-star quarterback Sam Howell to North Carolina and 4-star defensive end Derick Hunter to Fisher and Texas A&M. Then, 5-star corner Akeem Dent and four 4-star prospects elected not to sign a letter of intent.

    Yes, it's entirely possible Dent and the others sign anyway, but just about anything can happen in this next six weeks. FSU coaches surely would prefer to have those players secured.

    Two things are true: It was a disappointing day in Tallahassee. It was also significantly better than the one in Coral Gables.

    Miami added two transfers but basically struck out otherwise. Four key targets and three recent visitors all chose a different school, and 5-star receiver Jadon Haselwood is now trending significantly toward Oklahoma. Miami's biggest win was flipping Adam ElGammal, an unranked 3-star offensive tackle.

    Willie Taggart and Mark Richt have plenty to prove in February before diving into a critical 2020 recruiting cycle.

...but Florida Is Feeling Confident

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Three of Florida's highest-rated commits landed at Florida in a matter of minutes. The 4-stars from Lakeland High Schooltight end Keon Zipperer, offensive guard Deyavie Hammond and defensive end Lloyd Summeralleach chose the Gators in a televised commitment.

    Beyond furthering a pipeline at the school, the announcements were especially important because the Gators beat out either or both Florida State and Miami for the in-state talents.

    That followed a December in which UF flipped 4-star offensive tackle Michael Tarquin and 3-star guard Kingsley Eguakun from Miami.

    Mullen's first full recruiting cycle is currently 17th, which is not championship-level good. Defensive tackle and cornerback remain key priorities for the February signing period.

    Still, after taking several head-to-head battles with FSU and Miami, the Gators certainly aren't feeling too bad right now.


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