National Signing Day 2019: Top Early Storylines to Follow

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2019

National Signing Day 2019: Top Early Storylines to Follow

0 of 7

    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    When the national championship ends, the college football season only begins. Recruiting is about to become a frenzy.

    Since a majority of prospects signed during the early period, most programs are scavenging the country for hidden gems. But there are still a decent number of highly rated targets yet to sign.

    The burning question, of course, is which program will present the best argument? When someone has Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and others making a charge, that decision won't be easy.

    Fortunately for the players, their choice won't be final until Feb. 6. In the meantime, rumors and reports will be flying. We've cut through the chatter for seven of the biggest storylines as NSD nears.

Oregon Wrapping Up Historic Class

1 of 7

    Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press

    Since the 2010 recruiting cycle, Oregon hasn't ranked outside of the top 30 in the final class rankings.

    But the Ducks haven't been inside the top 10, either. That might be about to change, depending on how well the coaching staff closes.

    Oregon's prized signee is Kayvon Thibodeaux, a defensive end and the No. 2 overall prospect in the country. The program known for high-powered offense has four other 4-star defenders, too. That type of incoming talent suggests a contender on the rise.

    With or without a top-10 finish, Mario Cristobal and his staff have done a tremendous job in its first full recruiting cycle.

Alabama Looking to Reclaim No. 1 Class

2 of 7

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    In the aftermath of Alabama's blowout loss to Clemson in the national championship, some began wondering whether this signaled the end of the Crimson Tide's dynasty.

    Recruiting says no.

    Nick Saban is looking to secure the nation's top class for the eighth time in nine cycles. Georgia and former Saban assistant Kirby Smart attracted the No. 1 haul last year, but Bama is ready to reclaim it.

    The Tide's top remaining targets are 5-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher and highly ranked 4-star linebacker Henry To'oto'o.

5-Stars Set to Decide

3 of 7

    Since the early signing period has become the new normal, it's fair to expect only a handful of 5-star announcements each February moving forward. This year, only two prospects with the highest billing will enter that date uncommitted.

    Ishmael Sopsher hails from Amite, Louisiana, making him an obvious candidate to choose LSU. The in-state school's nemesis Alabama, however, is making a charge for the nation's No. 9 player.

    The other 5-star is Darnell Wright, an offensive tackle who is scheduled to visit Tennessee on the final weekend before NSD. West Virginia and North Carolina are at the forefront of his recruitment, too. Wright is ranked No. 10 overall.

    Their announcements will be the most highly anticipated parts of NSD.

Ohio State Transitioning to Ryan Day

4 of 7

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Although the Urban Meyer era is over, Ohio State's high expectations aren't going anywhere as Ryan Day assumes control.

    That transition put the Buckeyes in a tenuous spot leading into the early signing period. They snagged prized 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison but were relatively quiet otherwise.

    Day's first major task is sealing a top-15 class.

    Four-star offensive guard Doug Nester is committed yet unsigned, while OSU is also eyeing offensive tackle Dawand Jones, among others. The Buckeyes might stay under the radar, but a surprise commit would signal Day's emergence on the recruiting scene.

USC Hoping for Another Late Charge

5 of 7

    Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press

    USC has already started creeping up the rankings, but Clay Helton and his staff surely hope that's only the beginning.

    The Trojans landed commitments from 5-stars in athlete Bru McCoy and wide receiver Kyle Ford at the All-American Bowl. That duo propelled USC to the No. 13 class in 2019.

    Looking ahead, 4-stars in offensive guard Enokk Vimahi and cornerback Noa Pola-Gates are USC's top-rated targets. Another 4-star in defensive tackle Matthew Pola-Mao isn't far behind.

    While coaching and improved player development remain a more pressing issue for the Trojans, the talent is there for a surge.

Oklahoma Thriving Entering NSD

6 of 7

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Four straight Big 12 titles. Three berths to the College Football Playoff over the last four seasons. Another excellent recruiting cycle.

    Oklahoma is living a charmed life in 2019.

    After a tremendous finish to the early signing period, the Sooners officially revealed their third 5-star signee in wide receiver Jadon Haselwood. He submitted paperwork in December and publicly announced the choice at the All-American Bowl in January.

    The Sooners own the No. 4 haul to date, and that would be the program's highest finish since 2005. Texas is trying to end Oklahoma's reign in the Big 12, but this class won't make it any easier.

Manny Diaz, Miami Scrambling to the Finish

7 of 7

    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Mark Richt's retirement will likely be beneficial to a Miami program in desperate need of improvement on offense. That doesn't mean February will be kind to new head coach Manny Diaz.

    The 'Canes currently sit No. 33 in the class rankings, trailing recruiting powers such as Michigan State, Wisconsin and Kentucky. (Yikes.)

    Miami has a couple of uncommitted 4-star targets in receiver George Pickens and athlete Mark-Antony Richards, and Diaz will probably keep pushing for 4-star defensive end Khris Bogle.

    But for "The U" to climb the rankings, it'll take some unexpected flips or surprise commits. Filling the class for the sake of filling the class can harm the roster in the future; will Diaz avoid it?