CFB Early Signing Period: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Recruiting Class on Day 1

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2019

CFB Early Signing Period: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Recruiting Class on Day 1

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Whether you want to admit it, recruiting rankings more often than not have a huge impact on the top programs in the nation.

    Take, for instance, the four teams in this year's College Football Playoff rankings. All those teams—LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma—have enjoyed immense recent recruiting success.

    While three of those teams outfitted their rosters with elite transfer quarterbacks, the backbone of the championship teams were built through recruiting high schools.

    Clemson won a national title last year thanks to Dabo Swinney's ability to convince difference-makers to join him in South Carolina, and this year's class may be one of the best ever, too. 

    Ed Orgeron, Lincoln Riley and Ryan Day know that, and their 2020 recruiting classes in the early signing period show their programs likely aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Alabama's Nick Saban, Georgia's Kirby Smart, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Florida's Dan Mullen landed great classes, too.

    Recruiting matters, and while there are some outliers, a safe bet is a look at the recruiting rankings could give us a taste of what's in store for the future.

    Let's take a look at the Top 25 CFP teams and how their recruiting classes grade out so far after the first day of the early signing period. 

Nos. 25-21

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    No. 25 Oklahoma State Cowboys

    Key signees: QB Shane Illingworth, OGs Trent Pullen and Eli Russ, CB Korie Black

    Analysis: Mike Gundy isn't known for bringing in top-level recruiting classes, and it's more about system fits than anything, which makes going to California and grabbing 4-star quarterback Illingworth a big deal. This class is heavy on offensive linemen and defensive backs, which doesn't necessarily make it a sexy group.

    Despite the lack of headliner talent, this is a need-meeting group that will fall in line with what the Cowboys did a season ago, which is hover near the nation's top 40 and around the middle of the Big 12. It's OK, but it's nothing that will grab your attention.

    Grade: C+

       

    No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers

    Key signees: OT Andrew Gentry, OLB Brandon Williams, S Elijah Gaines

    Analysis: It's not easy recruiting to Charlottesville because of the lofty academic standards, and coach Bronco Mendenhall has to rely on getting the right players in and developing them, much the way he did with this year's ACC runners-up.

    The Hoos enjoyed a few wins across the country in getting Colorado lineman Gentry as well as a huge 4-star pickup in Louisiana with Williams. But 4-star defensive back Bud Clark flipped to TCU on Wednesday, dealing Mendenhall a big blow, and this class is sputtering with 12 commits.

    There don't seem to be enough difference-makers in the early haul to keep UVA near the top of the league.

    Grade: D

       

    No. 23 Navy Midshipmen

    Key signees: DT Pryson Greer, APB Anton Hall, QB Aaron Swafford

    Analysis: If you want a difficult task, try analyzing a recruiting class from one of the service academies. They're never going to be ranked that high on paper, but coach Ken Niumatalolo always has the right kind of players to run his quirky system.

    Yes, this class is near the bottom of the AAC rankings, but the group is much higher-ranked than last year's, and so it's about getting who the Midshipmen want, right? They've gone back to Tennessee for another quarterback prospect in Swafford, and it worked well the last time with Malcolm Perry.

    Hall is a difference-maker at running back, and Greer may be the best player in Niumatalolo's class.

    Grade: D

       

    No. 22 USC Trojans

    Key signees: OG Jonah Monheim, WR Josh Jackson, DT Jamar Sekona

    Analysis: Unless something drastic happens, this has the potential to be the biggest disappointment in the entire 2020 recruiting cycle and a class that could set the Trojans back even longer in their rebuild.

    Last year's group wound up strong, and there will be a few delayed contributors who didn't get on the field due to injuries or transfers, and that's needed after this sparse class. This year's group is heavy along the lines of scrimmage, which means Clay Helton met some needs. But are they impact players?

    For USC to be at the bottom of the Pac-12 is unacceptable, and not getting Justin Flowe and others Wednesday didn't help matters. This is another check mark against Helton's tenure.

    Grade: F

       

    No. 21 Cincinnati Bearcats

    Key signees: QB Evan Prater, OLB Jaheim Thomas, CB Sammy Anderson

    Analysis: Though Oklahoma State's class is ranked higher, the Bearcats get the better letter grade because coach Luke Fickell's group stands out among Group of Five competition. It is the class of the AAC, and plenty of players can help right away.

    Keeping Prater at home was huge, and the 6'5" signal-caller should fill in for Desmond Ridder nicely. Thomas and Anderson are big-time playmakers on defense, and there is some versatility with guys like Ethan Wright and Tyler Scott that makes this a deep, talented class.

    There are plenty spots available, too.

    Grade: B

Nos. 20-16

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    No. 20 Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Key signees: S Tommy Wright, WR Stan Ellis, OLB Je'Mari Littlejohn

    Analysis: As Shawn Clark tries to rally Eli Drinkwitz's class following the coach leaving Appalachian State after one year for Missouri, it's vital he keeps most of the guys in the fold. D.J. Smith, Charlie Harbison and Erik Link leaving to join Drinkwitz won't help, either.

    This class is heavy on defensive backs, which can help Clark continue the rich history of Mountaineers units on that side of the ball. With athlete Wright projecting to that position, along with several other intriguing DBs, that can be a stout group. Marqui Lowery Jr. flipping to Louisville was a big blow, though.

    But even with Lowery's decommitment, the Mountaineers jumped to first in the Sun Belt with all the coaching changes and need to maintain that recruiting edge to keep their grasp on the top. Getting Jamar Rucks and Damion Daley late was big.

    Grade: C+

       

    No. 19 Boise State Broncos

    Key signees: WR LaTrell Caples, DT Herbert Gums, OT Brandon Hernandez

    Analysis: The top class in the Mountain West Conference should keep Bryan Harsin's group chugging along toward conference dominance yet again, especially with Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford retiring. The Broncos look to have a lock on the league for the foreseeable future.

    This class is largely about finding capable targets for Hank Bachmeier, and Harsin did that with speedy Caples and Chance Luper. The Broncos also met needs along the lines of scrimmage in a quality class from top to bottom that features plenty of mid-tier 3-stars. JUCO defensive end Shane Irwin was a big pickup, too.

    Grade: C+

       

    No. 18 Minnesota Golden Gophers

    Key signees: OLB Itayvion Brown, WR Daniel Jackson, OLB Jaqwondis Burns

    Analysis: There are several recruiting classes better than P.J. Fleck's in the rugged Big Ten, but this is a solid top-35 class that lets the nation know the Golden Gophers' resurgent 2019 season wasn't lost on recruits.

    This is a fantastic class in front-seven talent and also in the wide receiving corps as Fleck looks at life beyond Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. Jackson, Jonathan Mann and Douglas Emilien are potential strong options to replace them down the road. 

    Brown and Burns to go along with a healthy defensive end haul give Fleck sideline-to-sideline defenders.

    Grade: B-

       

    No. 17 Memphis Tigers

    Key signees: WR Kundarrius Taylor, QB Keilon Brown, RB Kalyn Grandberry

    Analysis: Keeping Ryan Silverfield, who was the running game coordinator, and elevating him to head coach to replace Mike Norvell likely helped save a pretty solid class for the Tigers that is heavy on offensive skill-position players.

    That's Memphis' M.O., right? Taylor is a former Oklahoma signee who could be a playmaker right away out of JUCO, and Grandberry is a legit runner who can help take some of the pressure off Kenneth Gainwell. Brown looks like a potential successor to Brady White behind center.

    The Tigers need to find some difference-makers on defense, but this is a good offensive group, and they held most of it together despite Norvell's departure.

    Grade: C-

       

    No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes

    Key signees: SDE Logan Jones, WDE Deontae Craig, TE Luke Lachey

    Analysis: Kirk Ferentz used to be known as one of the nation's top recruiters, but the Hawkeyes have been up-and-down in recent years. This is one of the better classes he's signed in a long time, though, and the group sits in the upper half of the Big Ten.

    Quarterback Deuce Hogan slipped in the rankings in his senior year, but he still has the ability to be a legit signal-caller. Lachey is the kind of player who can extend Iowa's long history producing NFL tight ends, and the two best players in the class easily are Jones and Craig, who will step into A.J. Epenesa's shoes.

    This is a great class for Ferentz.

    Grade: B-

Nos. 15-11

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    Key signees: RB Chris Tyree, WR Jordan Johnson, TE Michael Mayer

    Analysis: Notre Dame's class is exceptional, highlighted by three future definitive offensive playmakers right at the top. Tyree is the kind of difference-maker who will be able to impact the game in a lot of ways, and Johnson has elite potential. Mayer rounds out that bunch and should be the next great Irish tight end.

    Throw in some rugged 4-star offensive linemen and a high-upside signal-caller in Drew Pyne, and coach Brian Kelly has restocked the pantry in South Bend with the next generation of talent. Last year's class was defender-heavy and strong, and this year fits the bill on the other side of the ball.

    The Irish didn't have a lot of noise on Wednesday, but this is still a legit class.

    Grade: A

       

    No. 14 Michigan Wolverines

    Key signees: WR A.J. Henning, SDE Braiden McGregor, OLB Kalel Mullings

    Analysis: This year's class isn't as top-heavy as some in Jim Harbaugh's tenure, but it is loaded with potentially dynamic defenders for coordinator Don Brown. This is one of the best defensive classes in the nation.

    McGregor and Mullings would sit at the top of most teams' classes, but Jordan Morant, RJ Moten, Andre Seldon and Makari Paige are all 4-star defensive backs who could team with rising sophomore Daxton Hill to form a secondary that can hang with Ohio State's in the future. 

    Running back Blake Corum will slot into a crowded backfield, and though the Wolverines didn't hit on an elite quarterback, they got a strong developmental player at a position where they're already healthy depth-wise. This is a terrific class, top to bottom.

    Grade: A

        

    No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide

    Key signees: QB Bryce Young, WDE Chris Braswell, ATH Drew Sanders

    Analysis: For those who think the dynasty may be dying, come on. You know that's not going to happen as long as Nick Saban is in the saddle in Tuscaloosa, right?

    All Alabama does is sign top classes, and though Clemson and LSU may finish higher this year, the Tide are loaded once again, led by Young, a dual-threat signal-caller who is a Kyler Murray clone and could be the next marquee freshman in college football. Braswell and Sanders are potential budding star defenders, too.

    Alabama needs a lot of help on defense, and Demouy Kennedy, Quandarrius Robinson, Brian Branch, Will Anderson and others give the Tide quality players throughout every level. Running back Roydell Williams should team with Trey Sanders for a future formidable duo, too.

    Flipping Jase McClellan from Oklahoma late Wednesday was a major coup and gives Alabama another stud playmaker.

    Grade: A+

         

    No. 12 Auburn Tigers

    Key signees: RB Tank Bigsby, WR Kobe Hudson, LB Wesley Steiner

    Analysis: This strong slide of recruiting classes continues with the Tigers, who have given defensive coordinator Kevin Steele an exciting group of players to continue that tradition on the Plains. Wesley Steiner is a stud, and though defensive tackle Jay Hardy didn't sign, if they can hang onto him, he's a plug-and-play guy.

    Even with the defenders, the two best players in the class are on the offensive side. Bigsby may be the best running back in the entire class, and Hudson is an explosive playmaker. Both will give Bo Nix weapons surrounding him, and Ze'Vian Capers and J.J. Evans have big-play ability, too.

    There are top-200 players up and down this pledge list, and the commitment of 4-star cornerback Eric Reed over Georgia on Wednesday moved this from an A class to an A+ haul. Watch Hardy's pledge into the late period, though, as he did not sign and others are pursuing.

    Grade: A+

        

    No. 11 Utah Utes

    Key signees: RB Ty Jordan, DE Van Fillinger, S Nate Ritchie

    Analysis: After all those elite classes on this slide, we get to the Utah Utes, which have a puzzlingly awful class from top to bottom. This is a team that has a great coach and developer of talent in Kyle Whittingham and just finished runner-up in the Pac-12. Yet, the Utes have just two commits in the nation's top 500 players.

    Three of the best players in the group hail from Texas, and Jordan has the potential to be a game-breaker. John Gentry has more of a big-back build and could replace Zack Moss, but he needs a year in the weight room.

    Utah moved from being ranked in the 80s to the 50s on Wednesday as 4-star defensive end Fillinger and Ritchie came on board, but there's more work to do. At least South Carolina quarterback transfer Jake Bentley is a good get, and Clark Phillips III's decision not to sign with Ohio State yet is a glimmer of hope for the Utes.

    Still, this class is lacking.

    Grade: D

Nos. 10-6

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    No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions

    Key signees: OLB Curtis Jacobs, TE Theo Johnson, WR KeAndre Lambert

    Analysis: This is a big, deep class for coach James Franklin, and though it doesn't have a plethora of star power, it's a group that has double-digit 4-star prospects including Jacobs, a defender who will fit nicely in the long line of Nittany Lions All-American 'backers.

    Johnson and Lambert could be big-time Big Ten all-conference type players, and Caziah Holmes is an explosive back who may be one of the most underrated playmakers in the class.

    Yes, the Nittany Lions have more 3-star players than normal, but a look at the class shows they're along the lines of scrimmage. That's where coaches have to trust their scouting and development. PSU's class is still the kind that can keep it competing in the rugged league.

    Grade: A

       

    No. 9 Florida Gators

    Key signees: DT Gervon Dexter, OLB Derek Wingo, CB Ethan Pouncey

    Analysis: The knock on Dan Mullen is that he's a great coach who can't recruit at a high level. Well, this year's class should put that myth to rest. He and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham lined up an explosive group of defenders, highlighted by eight defensive backs.

    Pouncey has the ability to be the next great UF defensive back, and Jahari Rogers is a big playmaker, too. The best player in the Gators class is Dexter, who brings back memories of the halcyon days of NFL linemen, and Wingo is a sideline-to-sideline star, too. 

    Florida missed on receiver EJ Smith (Emmitt's son), who chose Stanford over the Gators on Wednesday, along with missing on several other possibilities too—to end the period with a thud—but it's still a good class.

    Dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson looks like the perfect toy for Mullen to mold into a dual-threat force in the future, and there are strong players on both sides of the ball. This class should move the Gators closer to Georgia. 

    Grade: A

        

    No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers

    Key signees: OT Trey Wedig, OT Jack Nelson, OLB Kaden Johnson

    Analysis: This is your typical Wisconsin class, and by now everybody should be used to it. The group isn't going to look spectacular on paper, but coach Paul Chryst will use his redshirt program, and the Badgers will be competing for Big Ten titles at least every other year. Rinse, repeat.

    Just like a lot of seasons, the Badgers are building this group from the front with two brawny offensive tackles in Wedig and Nelson, who look like they can be cornerstones. Then there are a couple of outside linebackers in Nick Herbig and Cole Dakovich to go along with stud Johnson, who signed on Wednesday.

    Since they're losing some quality players along the offensive front and in the second level of the defense, this class is lineman- and linebacker-heavy, and that's OK. It definitely meets needs for Chryst.

    Grade: B

        

    No. 7 Baylor Bears

    Key signees: WDE James Sylvester, OLB Jahdae Barron, RB Taye McWilliams 

    Analysis: For a team that captured the attention of the nation going undefeated deep into the season before only losing (twice) in close games to Oklahoma, this hasn't been the greatest recruiting cycle for coach Matt Rhule.

    The coach is one of college football's best and will develop whoever he gets, but the Bears have just two 4-star players in this class in Sylvester and Barron, and that has to get better to continue to compete at a high level in the Big 12. 

    This is a strong defensive back class led by Chateau Reed, AJ McCarty and Devin Neal, but this doesn't look like a group with a lot of instant-impact players.

    Grade: C-

       

    No. 6 Oregon Ducks

    Key signees: LB Justin Flowe, LB Noah Sewell, QB Jay Butterfield

    Analysis: This year's class doesn't have quite the pizzazz as last year's burst-onto-the-scene haul for Mario Cristobal, but it's still a really good class full of strong players. The class found its centerpiece Wednesday when top-10 prospect Flowe joined elite 'backer Noah Sewell to give Mario Cristobal a formidable duo.

    Butterfield is a big, strong-armed quarterback who could fit into Justin Herbert's shoes after he leaves, though there's competition at the position.

    Though Sewell had a nationwide battle for his services, he joined his Outland Trophy-winning older brother, offensive lineman Penei Sewell, in Eugene. He and Flowe could start right away. The Ducks did get some bad news when elite receiver Johnny Wilson flipped to Arizona State, per OregonLive's Andrew Nemec.

    A look up and down the class shows lots of good players in the offensive and defensive perimeters, and there are solid trench players, too. This group won't get the headlines as last year's, but it's a terrific complementary class for a team that should compete for the Pac-12 for the foreseeable future.

    Grade: A-

No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs

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    For the second consecutive year after falling just short of the national championship in an overtime loss to Alabama in 2018, the Georgia Bulldogs had to settle for a disappointing finish in the SEC Championship Game.

    Even though the Bulldogs are still having trouble winning the big one, it seems the floor under coach Kirby Smart is plateauing at two or three losses a season. That's a position the vast majority of teams across the nation would gladly take.

    The reason Smart is having so much success is he keeps stockpiling loaded classes, and this year's is no different. Georgia is firmly in the top 10 this year with a chance to close in February with 5-star tight end Darnell Washington. Right now, the Bulldogs are widely viewed as the favorite to land him.

    Georgia loaded up again during the early signing period by landing 5-star outside linebacker Mekhail Sherman and offensive tackle Broderick Jones. Tate Ratledge is a potential star offensive lineman too, and he can play either tackle or guard.

    Running back Kendall Milton, wide receiver Marcus Rosemy and defensive lineman Jalen Carter are all top-100 players on 247Sports, too. 

    Early signing day was also extremely kind to Smart, who closed strong by flipping receiver Jermaine Burton (per 247Sports' Kipp Adams) from LSU late in the day and getting a commitment from Arian Smith, who chose UGA over Alabama. This duo gives the Bulldogs an elite receiver group.

    The Bulldogs also landed a late commitment from former LSU pledge Major Burns, who will help flesh out an already strong secondary. Jalen Kimber is another instant-impact cornerback, too.

    A quality player few are talking about in this class is 4-star quarterback Carson Beck, who UGA beat Alabama, Florida and others to get his signature. This is yet another really good class for Smart, and though it doesn't compare to the past two years, it's still an A+ haul.

    This class and Florida's are going to be fun to watch battle the next few years.

        

    Grade: A+

No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners

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    Alabama was a major thorn in head coach Lincoln Riley's side during the recruiting cycle, flipping star athlete Drew Sanders way back in April and then ending the opening day of the early signing period by taking the Sooners' top playmaker in running back Jase McClellan.

    Those were crippling blows to a stellar class that falls just shy of a bounty of stars, as usual. But Riley wound up just fine anyway, despite the ones who got away.

    The cream of the Big 12 crop is going to be just that on the recruiting trail again, and there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this group, even if it doesn't have a trio of 5-star players like it did in 2019.

    Last year, Oklahoma's class was full of offensive players to outfit the passing game, including 5-star quarterback Spencer Rattler. This year, it's offensive players to flesh out the running game. Running back Seth McGowan has big-play ability and will fill in nicely, despite the loss of McClellan. 

    The Sooners have a large group of quality offensive linemen in this year's class, too, including Nate Anderson, Andrew Raym, Aaryn Parks and Anton Harrison.

    But what about the defense?

    The Sooners are hoping hard commit (and Alabama legacy) Reggie Grimes will choose to sign and can live up to his elite pass-rushing potential despite a handful of SEC teams passing on his services. He has the ability to get after quarterbacks, and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch can turn him into a player.

    Perrion Winfrey and Josh Ellison could be key cogs in the center of the defensive line to keep OU from getting gashed, though there don't appear to be enough pass-rushers and speedy linebackers in this class.

    Still, top to bottom, this is easily the best class in the Big 12, featuring a group of players who can help keep the Sooners there.

        

    Grade: A-

No. 3 Clemson Tigers

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    As great as Dabo Swinney has been at recruiting to build Clemson into the perennial powerhouse it is, this may be his best class yet.

    Yes, it's that good.

    Though Clemson just missed out on some high-profile targets, including 5-star linebacker Justin Flowe (Oregon) and 5-star defensive lineman Jordan Burch (South Carolina) on Wednesday, this was still a banner group. Signing the top class despite those misses show how strong this group is.

    Swinney flipped 4-star defensive back Malcolm Greene from LSU on Wednesday, so that was some solace.

    The Tigers' class is bolstered by six 5-star prospects, including the nation's top player in defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, who came from Big Ten country and chose the Tigers over Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, Georgia and others.

    Defensive end Myles Murphy is the nation's third-ranked player, and he is the kind of instant-impact playmaker who can learn behind Xavier Thomas and be a rotational guy, if not a starter, under Brent Venables next year.

    Though it wasn't the best year for signal-callers, the closest thing to a can't-miss quarterback is 5-star prospect D.J. Uiagalelei. Swinney went across the country and convinced the California playmaker to fill Trevor Lawrence's cleats once he leaves.

    Running back Demarkcus Bowman, defensive tackle Demonte Capehart and cornerback Fred Davis II round out Swinney's 5-stars. The Tigers also swooped in and stole linebacker Trenton Simpson from North Carolina last weekend to get another top-30 player.

    Walker Parks is a terrific-looking offensive tackle prospect, and there are players along both fronts to go along with the kind of perimeter players we're used to seeing the Tigers have on the outside. This is a dynamic class that is top-heavy but rich with playmakers.

    The Tigers boast the nation's top-ranked class. A guy like wide receiver E.J. Williams (from fellow Clemson receiver Justyn Ross' hometown of Phenix City, Alabama) would be a showcase player in most classes, but he's the 10th-best in this haul. This class could be historically great. 

          

    Grade: A+

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Ohio State's recruiting class isn't going to get the same amount of hype as Clemson, LSU or Alabama's, but it's still an incredibly strong group.

    Most importantly, it shows that, on the heels of the Buckeyes' undefeated romp through the Big Ten, the program is in exceptionally good hands with Ryan Day. The former OSU assistant proved he can coach this season, taking his quarterback, Justin Fields, and meshing him with a lot of Urban Meyer-recruited players.

    Now, Day is proving he can recruit like Meyer, too.

    The class centerpieces are without question wide receiver Julian Fleming and offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who are among the nation's top 10 players. Both of those guys are elite athletes who should have futures at the next level, and both are as close to polished prospects as you can get.

    But the great players don't stop there. Four-star receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Gee Scott Jr. team with Fleming to give the Buckeyes the best trio of pass-catchers in the country in this year's recruiting cycle.

    Day also brought Arizona-based quarterback Jack Miller into the fold while pulling off a signing day coup with 4-star signal-caller C.J. Stroud, per 247Sports' Blair Angulo. Stroud had been the top remaining uncommitted player at his position.

    Between Miller and Stroud, Ohio State should fatten up a very thin quarterback room behind Fields and have a healthy competition to be the future face of the program.

    This class is also rich with defensive backs, linebackers and offensive linemen; Day has pieced together a terrific group that will be the envy of teams across the nation. 

    The Buckeyes still have some spots for the late period. California defensive back Clark Phillips III and Michigan athlete Cameron Martinez, both of whom are hard commits, elected not to sign Wednesday, but there's still plenty of reason for excitement.

         

    Grade: A+

No. 1 LSU Tigers

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    One of the best recruiting tools of the postseason so far has been Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow's heartfelt message to LSU coach Ed Orgeron while accepting his award. But Coach O was already loading up on blue-chip prospects before that.

    In his third stint as a head coach, Orgeron is back at home on the bayou and has all the resources he needs to build a powerhouse. He's sitting on a gold mine of talent in Louisiana and is now winning battles for elite players in recruiting hotbeds across the nation.

    This could be the program that topples Alabama every year, just like it did in 2019.

    The Tigers' 2020 class is rivaled only by a handful of teams, including the Crimson Tide. LSU has arguably the nation's top offensive player in electric tight end Arik Gilbert, who chose the Bayou Bengals over Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and others.

    Early signing day was a mixed bag for Orgeron, though, as 5-star receiver Rakim Jarrett flipped his commitment and signed with Maryland, according to 247Sports' Billy Embody. Safety Malcolm Greene flipped to Clemson, per 247Sports' Anna Hickey, and 247Sports' Kipp Adams reported wide receiver Jermaine Burton flipped to the Bulldogs.

    These were big blows to a strong class, which soured the end of a great haul for the Tigers. But they did add linebacker Phillip Webb, who chose LSU over Alabama, and 4-star offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil committed on Wednesday to round out a stellar early signing period.

    LSU's class got off to a huge start when 5-star cornerback Elias Ricks chose the Tigers early in the process, and the momentum has continued. 

    The 4-star players are deep and loaded for Orgeron, with receivers Kayshon Boutte and Koy Moore joining Jarrett. That has to be exciting for 4-star quarterback commit Max Johnson, the son of longtime NFL quarterback Brad Johnson and nephew of former UGA and Miami coach Mark Richt.

    LSU nabbed several pass-rushers and defensive linemen, and the group at large features eight of the top 100 prospects in the country. Now that Burrow has shown the Tigers can have a passing attack, there's a lot of excitement for the future on both sides of the ball.

    Orgeron is kicking butt in the Boot in this year's cycle.

        

    Grade: A+