Early National Signing Day 2019: Winners and Losers for Every Power Conference

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2019

Early National Signing Day 2019: Winners and Losers for Every Power Conference

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    Although the 2019 early signing period didn't feature a whole lot of drama, that probably came as a relief to college football coaches around the country.

    As always, a couple of prized prospects revealed their choices and a few coveted players flipped their commitments. For most programs with top-ranked classes, their work over the last 16 months provided a relatively excitement-free week.

    But that also allowed a few schools fighting to rejoin the Top 25 a moment in the recruiting spotlight. Florida State, Nebraska and TCU were among the winners of the early period.

    In fairness, it's not often a true "loser" emerges during the three-day stretch. Since just about every program will officially sign a majority of its class, the results are mostly promising.

    While the list is subjective, the choices are based exclusively on news that happened during the early signing period.

ACC Winner: Florida State Seminoles

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    After his hiring was officially announced, new head coach Mike Norvell only had 10 days before the early signing period arrived. All things considered, he did a respectable job.

    Most importantly, Florida State signed a quarterback for the first time since 2017. Norvell and Co. flipped 4-star Chubba Purdy from Louisville and added 3-star Tate Rodemaker. Replenishing depth at the most important position was absolutely critical.

    The 'Noles also added 4-star receiver Bryan Robinson, 3-star defensive end Josh Griffis and 3-star wideout Kentron Poitier.

    Expecting any massive coup would've been foolish, but Norvell quickly moved the program in the right direction.

ACC Loser: Miami Hurricanes

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    Late in the season, Miami found itself on a brilliant run. Head coach Manny Diaz swiped 4-star recruits Jaylan Knighton and Jalen Harrell from rival Florida State and beat out Alabama for 4-star receiver Dazalin Worsham. The 'Canes also managed to get 5-star linebacker Justin Flowe on an official visit.

    Consecutive losses to Florida International and Duke ruined the pitch, however, and Miami limped to the finish.

    The Hurricanes saw 4-star safety Jaiden Francois pick Nebraska and Flowe choose Oregon. Additionally, 3-star edge-rusher Romello Heightwho'd announced he was "1000 percent" committed to Miami one week beforeflipped to Auburn. Backup plans Kobe Baynes and Davonte Brown went to Louisville and UCF, respectively.

    Overall, signing the nation's No. 17 class after a 6-6 season is decent. The last-month decline, both on the field and the recruiting trail, is once again the problem in Coral Gables.

Big Ten Winner: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Scott Frost enjoyed quite the run on Florida prospects this year, securing commitments from 4-stars Keyshawn Greene and Henry Gray before the early signing period.

    And on Wednesday, the Huskers picked up two more.

    Four-star receiver Marcus Fleming and safety Jaiden Francois joined the class, which jumped into the top 20 nationally. Nebraska also secured the signatures of 4-star wideout Alante Brown and 3-star defensive end Pheldarius Payne.

    Without question, Frost and Co. need to start winning on the fieldnot just the recruiting trail. Still, Nebraska should be content with the latter right now.

Big Ten Loser: Those Waiting on a Big Ten Loser

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    Honesty is the best policy, right?

    Ohio State lost 4-star cornerback Clark Phillips III to Utah but added 4-star CJ Stroud, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the class. Michigan and Penn State avoided any surprises, while Nebraska and Maryland stood out in a good way. Purdue has another top-30 class.

    Additionally, each of Wisconsin (26), Minnesota (33) and Northwestern (35) have their best recruiting ranking of the decade.

    Perhaps the "loser" is Michigan State, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten and 42nd nationally. It's the lowest-rated class since 2008, which was Mark Dantonio's first full recruiting cycle. Still, the Spartans had no surprises in the early signing period.

Big 12 Winner: TCU Horned Frogs

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    In a relatively quiet stretch for the Big 12, TCU stood out just enough to represent the conference.

    The Horned Frogs lost 3-star receiver Danny Gray and 3-star dual-threat quarterback Jimmy Holiday, but their departures were expected. Plus, the additions eclipsed the impact of the losses in this particular case.

    TCU pulled 4-star safety Bud Clark and 3-star defensive end Khari Coleman from Louisiana and later signed 3-star linebacker Jamoi Hodge while locking down 4-star receiver Quentin Johnson, a top-100 prospect who recently decommitted from Texas.

    Despite missing bowl eligibility for the third time in the last 22 seasons, December still ended up being kind to TCU.

Big 12 Loser: Oklahoma Sooners

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    The big picture is fine. Oklahoma, who has won the Big 12 five years running, signed the No. 10 class in the nation. Nobody should be panicked about the Sooners in the "loser" category.

    However, it's rarely a good thing when a top-50 prospect backs out of a pledge.

    Ranked No. 43 nationally, running back Jase McClellan had been committed to OU since July 2017 but ultimately decided to sign with Alabama.

    Yes, having a 4-star running back in Seth McGowan offsets some of the disappointment. Plenty of fans surely have rationalized the loss by saying they preferred McGowan anyway. What's better, though: adding McClellan and McGowan, or just one?

Pac-12 Winner: Utah Utes

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    Oregon landed 5-star linebacker Justin Flowe, but a couple of decommitments prevented the Ducks from holding this spot. Utah and head coach Kyle Whittingham, meanwhile, closed the early period on a tear.

    The Utes kicked off Wednesday with a pledge from 3-star linebacker Sione Fotu, then added 3-star safety Nate Ritchie and 4-star defensive end Van Fillinger. Three-star tight end Connor O'Toole rounded out a busy day, but Utah wasn't finished.

    On Thursday, 4-star defensive end Xavier Carlton and top-50 corner Clark Phillips III joined the fold. Their signatures boosted the class to No. 32 nationally, which would be Utah's best ranking ever.

    Utah is only strengthening its status as a perennial Pac-12 contender.

Pac-12 Loser: USC Trojans

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    Turns out when a coach's job security is a constant source of debate for 12 months, it's kinda hard to recruit.

    USC headed into the early signing period with its ranking hovering in the 80s. Optimism had started to bud around the program, but the excitement turned out to be little more than false hope.

    Flowe chose Oregon. Five-star quarterback and former commit Bryce Young ended all lingering speculation and gave his signature to Alabama. Four-star cornerback Darion Green-Warren won't announce until the All-American Bowl but is expected to sign during the early period, and Mike Schaefer of 247Sports noted Michigan is the team to beat. Three-star linebacker Muelu Iosefa headed to Cal.

    Three-star defensive tackle Tuli Tuipulotu committed, and that's it.

    USC desperately needs to set itself up for a productive February with the remaining recruits it has targeted, which includes 4-star wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr., 4-star running back Michael Drennen II and 3-star tight end Jack Yary. This cycle wasn't kind to the Trojans.

SEC Winner: Georgia Bulldogs

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    Georgia already had two 4-star wideouts in the 2020 class, but you can never have enough of those, right?

    Jermaine Burton flipped from LSU to the Dawgs, who earned the signature of Arian Smith too. Both players are top-75 prospects, and they joined fellow 4-stars Marcus Rosemy and Justin Robinson.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was 4-star defensive tackle Nazir Stackhouse sending in his letter of intent. He'd previously said he planned to sign in February, per Ryan Callahan of 247Sports, but Stackhouse made it official Wednesday.

    Georgia also signed 3-star offensive tackle Austin Blaske, edging the class up to No. 4 nationally. And with 5-star targets Kelee Ringo, Darnell Washington and Zachary Evans still on the board, this class might get even better in February.

SEC Loser: LSU Tigers

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    Despite a couple of major losses, LSU still has the nation's No. 5 class, so let's avoid getting carried away here.

    Still, the Tigers lost 5-star receiver Rakim Jarrett, 4-star wideout Jermaine Burton, 4-star safety Malcolm Greene and 4-star defensive end Demon Clowney. Jarrett chose nearby Maryland, Burton flipped to Georgia, Greene signed with Clemson, and Clowney decided to open his recruitment to sign in February.

    To round out the disappointing day, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch picked South Carolina.

    That's a whole lot of negative activity.

    LSU reeled in top-50 linebacker Phillip Webb and top-100 offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil, so it wasn't all bad. But what could've been an absolutely stacked class is now merely a great one.