National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes After NSD

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 7, 2019

National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes After NSD

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    The opening of the regular National Signing Day period brought a flurry of impact signings and commitment flips. Some were expected, like 5-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright choosing Tennessee. But others were surprising, like 4-star offensive guard Doug Nester flipping from Ohio State to Virginia Tech.

    All but two of 247Sports' Top 150 have now submitted their signed letter of intent to play football at their chosen schools. With most of the top-end talent pledged, it's time to rank the 25 teams with the best recruiting classes.

    Some will inevitably outperform these rankings, and others will disappoint over the next few years. But using a blend of 247Sports' composite rankings, current and future roster assessments and our own evaluations of these prospects, we've come up with the projected top classes.

    Let's dive in.

25-21: Virginia Tech, Stanford, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Mississippi State

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    25. Virginia Tech

    Class size: 23 (seven 4-stars, 16 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Flipping 4-star guard Doug Nester from Ohio State was a huge get for Justin Fuente's program. The Hokies desperately needed offensive talent. They also signed 3-star quarterback Knox Kadum, who led Rome (GA) High School to back-to-back state championships in 2016 and 2017.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Hokies helped overhaul their offense with four guards, three pass-catchers, and several athletes who could stay on that side of the ball. Their weakness is the lack of higher-end prospects. Missing out on elite in-state talent isn't a class-breaker, but it hurts.

             

    24. Stanford

    Class size: 23 (eight 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Stanford was done early, making it a quiet National Signing Day. Keeping 4-star receiver Elijah Higgins away from competitors was a huge win as the Cardinal rebuild their playmaking corps.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Their three top recruits are offensive players with great size and athleticism, meaning the Cardinal properly increased their explosiveness with this class. Expect Higgins, running back Austin Jones, and center Branson Bragg to become key contributors sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Stanford had to settle for lower-graded talent to round out the class, dragging down its cumulative prospect ranking.

               

    23. Wisconsin

    Class size: 19 (one 5-star, two 4-stars, 16 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: It was a quiet day for Wisconsin, which is actually good because of how talented its class already was. Four-star quarterback Graham Mertz could change the way the program is looked upon if he proves worthy of the ranking and hype in the future.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Five-star offensive tackle Logan Brown and 4-star tackle Joe Tippmann appear to be the future of the program along the line. Unfortunately, the Badgers weren't able to add more speed to their receiver and running back groups to improve their big-play potential.

               

    22. Arkansas

    Class size: 25 (11 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Arkansas head coach Chad Morris had an incredible class considering the Razorbacks won just two games last year. The team signed the most 4-star recruits in its history and acquired former SMU quarterback Ben Hicks, whom Morris has now successfully landed twice after recruiting him to the Mustangs in 2015.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The sheer talent the Razorbacks added is huge for the program. They should see a lot of snaps from this freshman group as Morris rebuilds the roster. Unfortunately, Wednesday didn't go entirely as planned, as they lost out on two flips. Cornerback Adonis Otey committed to USC, and linebacker Lakia Henry ultimately decided on Ole Miss.

              

    21. Mississippi State

    Class size: 21 (one 5-star, five 4-stars, 15 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Losing out on both 4-star defensive end Charles Moore and 3-star receiver TJ Jones after recruiting both players held this class back from rising up the SEC ranks.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Bulldogs restocked with a few elite prospects, including 5-star tackle Charles Cross and 4-star quarterback Garrett Shrader. Individually, it's impressive how big the average Bulldogs recruit is for their position as well. Even 3-star tackle Nick Pendley and safety Javeious Purvis measured at 6'5", 290 pounds and 6'2", 195 pounds, respectively. The negative is that their average rating is low for the SEC, finishing 11th in the conference, per 247Sports.

20-16: Ole Miss, USC, Florida State, South Carolina, Washington

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    20. Ole Miss

    Class size: 31 (one 5-star, seven 4-stars, 23 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Landing 5-star Jerrion Ealy despite his decommitment was huge. He'll prove to be NFL-quality if he sticks with football over baseball. The Rebels also nabbed 4-star linebacker Lakia Henry and 4-star receiver Jonathan Mingo in tight races.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Head coach Matt Luke took full advantage of the Rebels' ability to reach 85 scholarship players again. It's a huge class with significant talent added. The lone complaint is they didn't lock down the state as well as they could have.

         

    19. USC

    Class size: 26 (eight 4-stars, 18 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Four-star receiver Puka Nacua decided to push his signing off until later, which doesn't bode well. It was the first time this century the Trojans failed to sign a 5-star, premier prospect.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The size of the class will help rebuild the loss of depth over the years. Adding eight defensive backs was huge. Unfortunately, very few of their signings appear to have star potential, which could leave head coach Clay Helton as a dead man walking in 2019.

         

    18. Florida State

    Class size: 22 (10 4-stars, 12 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: The quarterback position remains a complete mystery after Deondre Francois' dismissal and the fact that James Blackman is in the transfer portal, per Noles247's Brendan Sonnone. Their issues were compounded when they missed on 4-star quarterback Lance LeGendre to Maryland.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Willie Taggart was able to bolster the offensive line and defense with significant talent. However, the lingering questions at quarterback will steal all attention away from a quality depth-building class. The Seminoles desperately need to fortify the quarterback position.

         

    17. South Carolina

    Class size: 24 (one 5-star, six 4-stars, 17 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: The Gamecocks added an astounding amount of defensive line talent, including 5-star Zacch Pickens, 4-star tackle Jaquaze Sorrells and 4-star end Joseph Anderson. Stealing Sorrells away from Alabama and Penn State was a tremendous accomplishment.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Will Muschamp added a fantastic class of prospects. Four-star quarterback Ryan Hilinski gives great hope that the Gamecocks will finally develop a complementary offense to their loaded defense. The only complaint about their haul is the lack of a star receiver to build their passing game around.

         

    16. Washington

    Class size: 22 (14 4-stars, eight 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Four-star safety Asa Turner signed his letter of intent despite heavy interest from Notre Dame. Turner is an impressive 6'3", 195-pounder who can compete for snaps early in his career.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Huskies did as well as possible to inject significant talent into both trenches, which will help this program reload once again. Unfortunately, Chris Petersen was able to sign only two offensive playmakers, which was a question mark heading into this recruiting season for them.

15-11: Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Penn State

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    15. Notre Dame

    Class size: 22 (16 4-stars, six 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Notre Dame was able to snatch 4-star defensive end Isaiah Foskey away from Washington, Michigan and Ohio State, all of whom had offered Foskey. He's an explosive pass-rusher who can impact this defense in coming years.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: With just one player added Wednesday, the class is well-rounded both in terms of quality and addressing positional needs. The Fighting Irish's lone weakness is the failure to address the lack of offensive speed, which has been a major issue in big games over recent years.

         

    14. Clemson

    Class size: 29 (one 5-star, 12 4-stars, 15 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Clemson appeared to be the best situation for 5-star Jerrion Ealy, but he recommitted to Ole Miss instead of assuming the back-of-the-future role with the Tigers.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Reloading at cornerback and linebacker was crucial for the Tigers roster. The class depth is helpful for the defending champions, but the total number of 3-star prospects is shocking considering the program's status. It's hard to expect significant contributions right away from most of this group.

         

    13. Florida

    Class size: 25 (17 4-stars, eight 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Florida continued to add 4-stars on Wednesday, totaling four on the afternoon. Two commits signed their letters of intent, while defensive end Khris Bogle and Kaii Elam were new signees. Bogle was a Miami lean.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The offensive line and secondary each received huge face-lifts, as Dan Mullen prioritized length for both areas. It was a deep class that will help right away. Unfortunately, the Gators were left out of the 5-star frenzy that the rest of the SEC enjoyed, leaving them short in comparison.

         

    12. Auburn

    Class size: 21 (two 5-stars, 12 4-stars, seven 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Losing 5-star receiver George Pickens wasn't shocking, but it's devastating that the local product bolted for an out-of-state rival in Georgia.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The upside is 5-stars Owen Pappoe and Bo Nix headline a strong overall class. Auburn did well to get players physically ready to compete early in their careers. Gus Malzahn added three guards, but two were only 3-stars, and zero tackles overall. The trench depth is a concern.

         

    11. Penn State

    Class size: 23 (one 5-star, 17 4-stars, five 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Most of Penn State's class was set already, but 3-star receiver TJ Jones was a pleasant surprise. He'll be a key depth piece for an offense that's replacing a ton of production from 2018.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Head coach James Franklin has established himself as a formidable recruiter, beating conference rivals for linebacker Brandon Smith, guard Caedan Wallace and defensive end Adisa Isaac at premier positions of need. With scholarships remaining, the Nittany Lions could've used more offensive tackle help.

10. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Class size: 17 (three 5-stars, nine 4-stars, five 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Losing 4-star guard Doug Nester was tough, but the Buckeyes quickly recovered by nabbing Enokk Vimahi from Hawaii. Vimahi isn't nearly as ready to help, though, weighing only 263 pounds compared to Nester's 305.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Buckeyes rank third in 247Sports' average prospect score thanks to uber-prospect Zach Harrison and other 5-star signings Garrett Wilson and Harry Miller. They adopted a quality-over-quantity approach because of the lack of departures, so their smaller class hurts their ranking.

    Instant-impact potential: Harrison will have a huge opportunity with Nick Bosa and Dre'Mont Jones entering the NFL. Cade Stover, a 4-star linebacker, will also have the chance to earn snaps, given the Buckeyes' struggles at the position over the last two years. 

9. Oregon Ducks

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    Class size: 26 (1 5-star, 11 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Wednesday's biggest news for the Ducks was the signing of 3-star defensive tackle Kristian Williams, which completed a fantastic recruiting haul headlined by considerable star power.  

    Strengths/Weaknesses: No. 2 overall prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux was a massive signing for head coach Mario Cristobal. Their defense received an injection of talent on each level with Thibodeaux, linebacker Mase Funa and cornerback Mykael Wright. Oregon lost No. 1 JUCO cornerback Elijah Blades to Texas A&M, which was a blow to its young secondary.

    Instant-impact potential: Besides Thibodeaux, the nation's top-rated JUCO offensive lineman, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, can immediately push for playing time despite an experienced depth chart. Aumavae-Laulu will benefit from Cristobal's reputation as a premier offensive line coach.

8. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Class size: 23 (two 5-stars, 11 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Head coach Jeremy Pruitt sealed deals with 5-star tackle Darnell Wright and 4-star linebacker Henry To'oto'o, completing a massive haul for the program.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: It was important that the Volunteers added defensive line depth because their starting group is graduating. Savion Williams, JUCO transfer Darel Middleton and Elijah Simmons headline a strong cast. The Vols did mostly everything needed to improve the team, though the lack of a high-end quarterback recruit may stand out in coming years if Jarrett Guarantano either bolts early for the NFL or stagnates in development.

    Instant-impact potential: Four-star safety Jaylen McCollough has competition to beat out, but he looks perfect for a third-safety role on passing downs. The 6'0", 194-pounder is a good athlete in space and projects as a plus run defender. He'll earn significant playing time if he can win against slot receivers consistently.

7. Michigan Wolverines

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Class size: 26 (two 5-stars, 14 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Michigan re-flipped 5-star safety Daxton Hill on the early National Signing Day in a massive get. Four-star safety Quinten Johnson rounded out the class on Wednesday.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The offensive line received a needed makeover with multiple 4-star tackles and guards, and running back Zach Charbonnet looks like a future star. Head coach Jim Harbaugh's squad gets dinged for losing 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison to Ohio State and the transfer of defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon to Tennessee.

    Instant-impact potential: Charbonnet is the most obvious answer after the dismissal of running back Chris Evans for unknown reasons. The 4-star back is rocked up at 6'2" and 215 pounds and should be able to step in and handle the starting gig despite being a freshman. Expect Harbaugh to get the most out of the power runner.

6. LSU Tigers

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    Class size: 25 (three 5-stars, 11 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: LSU may have lost massive nose tackle Ishmael Sopsher to Alabama, but it recovered with edge-rusher Desmond Little. The Tigers would rather have Sopsher because of his rare and immense traits, but rounding out this class was important.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Tigers will continue to have a pipeline of talent at both cornerback and running back after the commitments of corner Derek Stingley and tailback John Emery Jr. The class was impressive, but there isn't a quarterback who can help the team get over the hump in the SEC.

    Instant-impact potential: Emery will have the assistance of both guard additions, Kardell Thomas and Anthony Bradford. It'd be surprising if Emery doesn't become a starter quickly, while the guards will be immediate depth, if not starters by the midway point of the season.

5. Texas A&M

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Class size: 27 (two 5-stars, 14 4-stars, 11 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Texas A&M rounded out its class with 3-star prospects Ainias Smith and Christopher Russell. Both figure to provide depth at the tail-end of a school-best recruiting haul.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Aggies owned Texas, as their top nine prospects each came from within The Lone Star State. They largely benefited from flips but lost local product Jeffrey Carter to Alabama in the early National Signing Day period.

    Instant-impact potential: Four-star cornerbacks Elijah Blades and Erick Young both have pathways to playing time as freshmen thanks to the graduation of two seniors in the Aggies secondary, Donovan Wilson and Deshawn Capers-Smith.

4. Texas Longhorns

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Class size: 24 (two 5-stars, 15 4-stars, seven 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Texas finally earned the signature of longtime pledge and 4-star tackle Javonne Shepherd, despite Texas A&M trying to steal him away.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Tom Herman now has a lot of offensive talent to develop and maximize. Five-star receivers Bru McCoy and Jordan Whittington are only the tip of the iceberg. Four-star receivers Jake Smith and Marcus Washington both have playmaker potential too. The lone gripe to be found is that there wasn't a standout interior defender found, as just one 3-star tackle signed.

    Instant-impact potential: Four-star linebacker De'Gabriel Floyd has the ability to step onto campus and fight for a starting job. The run-thumper has great downhill speed and natural finishing ability. The Longhorns are young at linebacker, giving opportunity to Floyd to beat out the competition.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Matthew Putney/Associated Press

    Class size: 24 (three 5-stars, 13 4-stars, eight 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Oklahoma added a key defender on Wednesday when 4-star weakside end David Ugwoegbu signed from Seven Lakes High School in Katy, Texas.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Oklahoma reloaded its offensive talent with highly ranked receivers and tight end Austin Stogner, but seven 4-star defenders signing separates the Sooners from their peers. They only signed 3-star Derek Green at defensive tackle, though, meaning it'll be a thin position in 2019.

    Instant-impact potential: EJ Ndoma-Ogar, a 4-star offensive guard, could take over for one of the two departing Sooners guards, Ben Powers and Dru Samia. Defensive ends Joseph Wete, Marcus Stripling, Marcus Hicks and now Ugwoegbu will battle for rotational snaps in 2019 as well.

2. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Class size: 24 (five 5-stars, 15 4-stars, four 3-stars)

    Biggest NSD News: Georgia leads the country with five 5-star prospects. They are part of an incredible class headlined by No. 1 overall recruit Nolan Smith and No. 19 Nakobe Dean.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: This class has terrific star power, and the Bulldogs boast one of the country's deepest, most explosive rosters. Their lone knock is that they couldn't gain more depth than Alabama. It's razor-thin, but the Tide had eight more 4-stars and three fewer 3-stars in their class.

    Instant-impact potential: Georgia lost junior wide receiver Riley Ridley to the NFL, while wideouts Terry Godwin and Jayson Stanley will graduate. Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens, respective 4- and 5-star receivers, could earn snaps alongside sophomore Jeremiah Holloman.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Joe Skipper/Associated Press

    Class size: 27 (three 5-stars, 23 4-stars, one 3-star)

    Biggest NSD News: Alabama was able to get nose tackle Ishmael Sopsher away from his nearby LSU Tigers. This was quite literally a huge get, as Sopsher is 334 pounds and projects as a great block-eater. Losing Henry To'oto'o to Tennessee stung because the team could've used another long-term option at linebacker.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The sheer depth of the Tide's class is unbelievable, and they reclaimed the top spot in recruiting rankings. All but one signee carries at least a 4-star rating, and the lone 3-star is kicker Will Reichard. Losing Daxton Hill to Michigan and To'oto'o to Tennessee are the only disappointments.

    Instant-impact potential: Alabama again lost a handful of underclassmen to the NFL, so there's some room for defensive linemen Antonio Alfano, Justin Eboigbe and DJ Dale to see the field early on. The team's depth makes it difficult for young players to see meaningful snaps, though.

           

    Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.