Early National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2019

Early National Signing Day 2019: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

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    The early signing period has taken a little of the luster off February's traditional day for prospects to sign national letters of intent to play college football. But it certainly gives us a ton of pre-holiday fun.

    This year's December signing period was not without its fair share of drama. LSU's loaded class took several big-time decommitment hits, highlighted by 5-star receiver Rakim Jarrett tossing out the biggest shocker with a flip to Maryland.

    Other major flips—like Jase McClellan going from Oklahoma to Alabama and Johnny Wilson heading to Arizona State from Oregon—made headlines.

    The decisions of 5-star Jordan Burch staying home to play for Will Muschamp at South Carolina and Justin Flowe spurning USC and Clemson to go to Oregon were notable too.

    CJ Stroud came off the board to Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes the top remaining signal-caller.

    It was an early signing period that saw Clemson sign a jaw-dropping six 5-star prospects, Ohio State flex its muscle in Ryan Day's first full class and the SEC dominate the top 10 rankings.

    Using the 247Sports composite rankings, teams meeting their needs and a roster assessment, let's rank the nation's top 25 classes with the stretch run still ahead.

25-21: Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Stanford, Florida State

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    25. Mississippi State Bulldogs

    Class Size: 21 (five 4-stars, 16 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Signing JUCO running back Decamerion Richardson has to be the highlight of the early period for Joe Moorhead, who was able to grab a runner who had a host of SEC options. He will compete right away for carries.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The biggest strength for the Bulldogs was keeping a lot of players home in an SEC battleground state in a year when Ole Miss made a coaching change. The Bulldogs secured eight of the top 20 players in the Magnolia State.

    Moorhead didn't get enough production out of his quarterbacks in 2019, and the Bulldogs didn't get an immediate-impact difference-maker with 3-star Will Rogers. Washington State was really his only other major offer.

        

    24. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

    Class Size: 24 (six 4-stars, 18 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: The biggest surprise class of the 2020 cycle grabbed its centerpiece in 4-star former Florida State quarterback commitment Jeff Sims, who chose the Yellow Jackets over Maryland. He's going to compete to start right away.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: This is a class that is heavy on offensive playmakers and some quality offensive linemen as coach Geoff Collins tries to rebuild a team that was a triple-option attack a year ago. This is a big transition class that will meet a lot of needs.

    The offensive weapons came at the expense of defensive spots, and there aren't enough immediate-impact defensive backs in this class. Still, the Yellow Jackets improved in that area and should take a step forward next year.

         

    23. Kentucky Wildcats

    Class Size: 20 (five 4-stars, 15 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: The Wildcats pulled off a colossal flip Wednesday when Ole Miss commit Josaih Hayes decided to play his football at Lexington. The Cats also won a major SEC battle against rival Tennessee to pull in Octavious Oxendine.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: This is an elite defensive line class, as Hayes and Oxendine join 4-star Justin Rogers (the bell cow of the class), Samuel Anaele and Tre'vonn Rybka for the best D-lineman class in school history.

    The Wildcats are relatively young at linebacker, but they largely missed at the position in this early period, signing just one 'backer who is a low-rated prospect. Look for them to add one or two before February.

          

    22. Stanford Cardinal

    Class Size: 20 (seven 4-stars, 12 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: It's so hard to go into Texas and pull a kid everybody in the SEC and Big 12 wanted, but that's what the Cardinal did with the commitment of EJ Smith. Factor in that he's Emmitt Smith's son, a Florida legacy the Gators really wanted, and it's even more of a "wow" pickup for David Shaw.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: This class is full of offensive weapons and a strong class in the offensive trenches as well, as Shaw is obviously looking to bulk up that side of the ball that failed the team with explosive players since the Bryce Love days. Stanford has one of the league's top classes this year.

    Much like Kentucky, the Cardinal needed a few more linebackers. They didn't sign any true players at the position, though a couple of prospects may project there. 

        

    21. Florida State Seminoles

    Class Size: 18 (nine 4-stars, eight 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Losing Sims to Georgia Tech was major, and the Seminoles couldn't beat out Tennessee for Jimmy Holiday, but they flipped a quarterback of their own in 4-star former Louisville pledge Chubba Purdy, which was a major win.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: With Mike Norvell at the helm, the 'Noles are going to want to play offense, so the Purdy win was pretty nice. Getting him a legit weapon at receiver in Bryan Robinson, who signed Wednesday, was also a major win.

    FSU was 10th in the ACC in sacks this year and needed to address the situation in recruiting, but the 'Noles fell short. Long-time commit Morven Joseph flirted with coming back but ultimately chose Tennessee. Though Stephen Dix Jr. could help, Norvell needs more players who can get after the passer.

20-16: Nebraska, North Carolina, Miami, South Carolina, Oregon

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    20. Nebraska Cornhuskers

    Class Size: 25 (10 4-stars, 15 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Despite a poor year on the field, Scott Frost was one of the biggest storylines of the early period, signing a strong class that has a big Florida presence. Flipping two-time Miami commit Jaiden Francois and former Florida State prospect Keyshawn Greene were big wins.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The biggest strength in this class is without question an upgrade in athleticism. The Cornhuskers were still a bit clunky last year, and they need more playmakers to surround Adrian Martinez with, like Wandale Robinson. Francois, Greene and JUCO receiver Omar Manning fit that need.

    Though the Huskers brought in five linebackers, there are a few projects, and getting Kaden Johnson (who ultimately committed to Wisconsin) would have been big. But that's the one who got away.

            

    19. North Carolina Tar Heels

    Class Size: 26 (seven 4-stars, 19 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: With most of the recruits in the bag and little drama, it was a major win for the Heels to keep defensive tackle Clyde Pinder in the fold after his long-time flirtation with Florida. He will fit in nicely with the best defensive class North Carolina has signed in a decade or more.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: This class is defense-heavy, and the best news for coach Mack Brown is he maintained an excitement around the program that reverberated across the Tar Heel State. Locking down instate stars like defensive linemen Desmond Evans, Myles Murphy, Kedrick Bingley-Jones and defensive backs Ja'Qurious Conley and Cameron Roseman-Sinclair was massive.

    Though it's not necessarily a weakness, losing long-time lean Trenton Simpson to Clemson hurt. He was a plug-and-play defender for the Heels. They also need some projects to work out along the offensive front, but that's a position where you trust your evaluations more than star rankings.

            

    18. Miami Hurricanes

    Class Size: 19 (11 4-stars, eight 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Coach Manny Diaz signed an exciting class with playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the news of the early signing period wasn't good for the 'Canes. Romello Height flipped his pledge to Auburn, taking away a potential immediate-impact player for Miami.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Hurricanes have to be excited about several players on their list, but top-40 player/running back Don Chaney Jr. is a game-changer. He has the potential to be one of the best runners in the class and gives them a centerpiece for the offense right away.

    The weakness is the lack of offensive line talent brought in. Any time you bring in just two players at a position as important as the trenches, it's a red flag. Jalen Rivers is a big-time player, but Chris Washington is a project, and that's all Miami signed. That's a puzzling approach to the class.

          

    17. South Carolina Gamecocks 

    Class Size: 21 (one 5-star, seven 4-stars, 13 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: It may be the news of the entire cycle. Wednesday, the Gamecocks kept hometown 5-star Jordan Burch instead of watching him go to Clemson, Georgia or LSU. With Will Muschamp needing some positive things to happen, this is a good start, but Burch didn't sign, so the door for others isn't completely closed.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Prospects didn't seem to mind Muschamp's tenuous spot with the Gamecocks. The coach did a great job securing a strong class, and while Burch should slide in Javon Kinlaw's vacated spot, MarShawn Lloyd is an elite running back who will be a star.

    This is a class that did a good job of meeting needs everywhere, but the Gamecocks would have loved an explosive receiver in the group. Also, Carolina got one strong linebacker commit in Mohamed Kaba, but that's the only player the Gamecocks signed at his position.

           

    16. Oregon Ducks

    Class Size: 22 (two 5-stars, six 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: The top-ranked uncommitted player to come off the board Wednesday was Justin Flowe, who stayed on the West Coast but decided to head north to Oregon rather than go to USC. He is an instant-impact star defender.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Ducks have the best tandem of linebacker pledges in the nation with Flowe now teaming with Noah Sewell, who joined his brother Penei in Eugene. The duo of 5-star second-level defenders will team with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mase Funa for a front seven that's going to be a terror in the Pac-12.

    Kris Hutson is a nice pickup for Oregon, but the Ducks lost a potential star pass-catcher in 6'6" target Johnny Wilson, who was going to fill a void left behind by Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson. That's a major loss. Getting former Ole Miss QB commit Robby Ashford adds quality depth.

15-11: Washington, Texas, Penn State, Tennessee, Oklahoma

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    15. Washington Huskies

    Class Size: 22 (one 5-star, nine 4-stars, 11 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: There was no news, and that was great news for the Pac-12's top class. Jacobe Covington recommitted to the Huskies after originally looking around, but for a program to lose a great coach like Chris Petersen and not see a pledge look elsewhere is remarkable and a testament to promoted head coach Jimmy Lake.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: A year after the Huskies loaded up on the defensive side of the ball, they grabbed several excellent offensive prospects this year, bolstered by a stellar offensive line class led by Myles Murao and Roger Rosengarten. Geirean Hatchett is a 4-star guard with a bright future too. Defensively, 5-star Sav'ell Smalls has immediate starter potential.

    Last year, Washington loaded up on the defensive line, but there's not a true defensive lineman other than Jordan Lolohea, who is wrapping up a two-year mission. That's a little light at a vital area.

          

    14. Texas Longhorns

    Class Size: 16 (one 5-star, 12 4-stars, three 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Despite seven decommitments amid a coaching overhaul, Texas enjoyed quality without the quantity. Nothing happened Wednesday, but three late decommits—WR Quentin Johnston (TCU) RB Ty Jordan (Utah) and DE Van Fillinger (Utah)—stung.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Longhorns have four offensive linemen in the top 300 prospects nationally and signed a duo of top-100 quarterbacks in Hudson Card and Ja'Quinden Jackson to go along with some impressive skill-position players.

    The back end of the defense is lacking at linebacker and cornerback. With the uncertainty at defensive coordinator for a while, that had to hurt. The Longhorns have young talent, but they must fix things quickly.

         

    13. Penn State Nittany Lions

    Class Size: 27 (11 4-stars, 16 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: All was quiet in Happy Valley for a stress-free signing day, where coach James Franklin secured a huge class that may already be complete. This is a star-studded group that is deep and talented, led by elite outside linebacker Curtis Jacobs.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The offensive skill-position talent Franklin brought in is stout, highlighted by tight end Theo Johnson, receiver KeAndre Lambert and Florida speedy running back Caziah Holmes. There are some quality playmakers in this class.

    PSU probably would have loved a couple more impact defensive backs. Enzo Jennings is a big-time safety prospect, but the Nittany Lions paired him with a couple of 3-star cornerbacks who are far from can't-misses, and that's it. Still, this class met the majority of its needs.

          

    12. Tennessee Volunteers 

    Class Size: 23 (12 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Wednesday was a huge one for the Vols, who went 5-of-6 in targets, signing 4-star pass-rusher Morven Joseph, 4-star outside linebacker Tyler Baron, 4-star athlete Len'Neth Whitehead, 3-star athlete Jimmy Holiday (who flipped from TCU) and 3-star lineman Reginald Perry. Only DL Octavious Oxendine chose Kentucky over the Vols.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The biggest strength in Tennessee's class is an upgrade in team speed, bringing in Holiday, Jimmy Calloway, Jalin Hyatt, Tamarion McDonald and Keshawn Lawrence. But it's been years since Tennessee brought in a potential game-changer at quarterback, and Harrison Bailey could be that guy.

    The Vols would love to add one more pass-rusher in this class, but the biggest miss here is another cornerback. Tennessee needs to add depth at the position and should look for one before February.

           

    11. Oklahoma Sooners

    Class Size: 22 (15 4-stars, seven 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Unfortunately for the Sooners, a relatively quiet early signing period crashed with Jase McClellan's flip to Alabama. That took away Lincoln Riley's biggest playmaker on offense. He's an irreplaceable prospect.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: With tons of skill-position players already in place in Norman, Riley outfitted the offensive line with some exceptional players in this cycle, grabbing four 4-stars. Nate Anderson, Andrew Raym, Aaryn Parks, Anton Harrison and Noah Nelson form a strong group.

    With McClellan leaving, there just aren't that many "wow" athletes on the offensive side of the ball, and the Sooners probably could have done a better job recruiting linebackers too. Still, that's nitpicking a great class.

10. Michigan Wolverines

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    Class Size: 26 (13 4-stars, 13 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: There wasn't a whole lot of hand-wringing in Ann Arbor leading up to the early signing period, as the Wolverines had the majority of their class in the bag thanks to yeoman's work by Jim Harbaugh and crew.

    With the deflating news of J.D. Johnson having to retire after doctors discovered a heart issue, the Wolverines wanted to find a quarterback and ultimately did in 3-star pro-style signal-caller Dan Villari. He's a bit of a reach, but at 6'4", 215 pounds, he has great size and will be another moldable quarterback.

    Defensive end Jaylen Harrell was another late coup for a class of 26. And there were no negative surprises, so that's good.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The best thing about this class is the speed and athleticism throughout. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis quietly brought in a strong receiver class with A.J. Henning, Roman Wilson and Eamonn Dennis.

    Defensively, there are playmakers too, like Makari Paige, Jordan Morant and William Mohan. There is a lot of quality depth in this group with 13 4-star players.

    The weakness, obviously, is the dice-roll at quarterback in Villari, who had offers from the likes of UMass, Buffalo and Fordham. Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton are strong options to replace Shea Patterson next year, and Cade McNamara has ability too, but the Wolverines needed a signal-caller in this class.

    Missing on CJ Stroud, who went to Ohio State, was tough. Don't be surprised if they go after a quarterback in the late period.

    Instant-Impact Potential: In this case, the obvious pick is also the correct one. Wide receiver A.J. Henning is the highest-rated recruit in the class, and he dominated during his senior year of high school in Illinois, leading his team to a state title.

    He has dynamic ability with the ball in his hands and is the kind of player who can impact the game in a lot of ways. The Wolverines could possibly lose Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones to the NFL draft early, and Tarik Black is transferring. 

    Teaming him with Giles Jackson could be an electrifying duo.

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Class Size: 18 (two 5-stars, seven 4-stars, nine 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period news: Much like in Ann Arbor, there was not a lot of drama for coach Brian Kelly and the Irish in the early signing period, but they were able to land a quality player in athlete Ramon Henderson from Bakersfield, California.

    Henderson will probably play defensive back for the Irish, and he was a good pickup late in the game to outfit a class that isn't one of the bigger groups in the nation but has plenty of firepower.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: Though Jordan Botelho has a lot of potential and is expected to be used as a pass-rusher for the Irish, the biggest team strength in this class has to be all the offensive firepower.

    Chris Tyree is an electric playmaker who has as much ability as any offensive player in the class, and he will need the ball in his hands. Receiver Jordan Johnson could see time right away, and Michael Mayer is one of the best tight ends to come out of high school in the past few cycles. 

    Arizona offensive lineman Tosh Baker has NFL offensive tackle ability too.

    Though it's nitpicking, Notre Dame probably should have signed another interior defensive lineman to go along with Aidan Keanaaina. Rylie Mills is 6'5", 275 pounds and could probably slide inside too.

    Instant-Impact Potential: Mayer and Botelho would be strong options here, but the honor has to go to Tyree. He has to get the ball in a variety of ways next year, because Notre Dame doesn't have anybody like him.

    With Tony Jones Jr. exhausting his eligibility, there will be touches galore, and Tyree can impact the game running the ball, in the slot and on special teams. He's a bit undersized, but they'll get him ready to go, and he'll be a weapon for Kelly's new offensive coordinator.

8. Florida Gators

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    Class Size: 24 (16 4-stars, seven 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Coach Dan Mullen can put to rest any of the talk of him being a so-so recruiter with a top-10 class, but it did not end the way the Gators hoped.

    Florida finished with a thud, hoping for a top-five class that instead fell when Emmitt Smith's son, E.J., chose Stanford over his dad's team. The Gators also failed to flip Texas A&M defensive end Donell Harris after he flirted with Mullen's team late. Timothy Smith stuck with Alabama too.

    Finally, Morven Joseph chose Tennessee over the Gators and Florida State, and UF rarely miss prospects they want in Lakeland like him. Clyde Pinder Jr. (North Carolina) and Sam Brown (West Virginia) were misses as well.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The defensive line haul is imposing for Florida, and this is the kind of class at the position those old, dominant Steve Spurrier teams had.

    Defensive tackles Gervon Dexter, Johnnie Brown, Jalen Lee and Lamar Goods, along with defensive end Antwaun Powell, makes for a strong group. The eight defensive backs, capped by flipping hard-hitting safety Mordecai McDaniel from Tennessee, are elite too.

    The skill-position playmakers are almost nonexistent in this class. Receiver Jaquavion Fraziars was a nice pickup, but he's the only receiver in the haul, and the Gators also failed to sign a running back.

    Instant-Impact Potential: Dexter is 6'6", 286 pounds, and with his long arms, edge speed and size, he's almost a guaranteed day one contributor for the Gators, if not a starter as a true freshman.

    Outside linebacker Derek Wingo has the sideline-to-sideline speed necessary to play his position in the SEC and has a pretty clear path to the field as well.

7. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Class Size: 22 (one 5-star, 12 4-stars, nine 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Wednesday's start of the early signing period was about maintenance for coach Jimbo Fisher, as he was able to stave off some late suitors for some of his players.

    The Florida Gators came after defensive end Donell Harris, but the Aggies were able to hang on to him, swooping into Miami and taking a player from the Big Three and getting him to College Station. Also, after Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin made a late run at offensive tackle Chris Morris, he stuck with A&M too.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: There are so many strengths in this group, with a nice blend of 11 out-of-state prospects. All in all, though, the biggest strength is that 13 of these signees are early enrollees. That's huge for A&M after a disappointing season.

    "Football's such a hard sport on these freshmen because they get here, their sport's live while they're trying to figure out this campus," Fisher told the Dallas Morning NewsAlex Miller. "They're here in the summer a little bit, but with a full campus, that's hard. …"

    It's possible Morris could play offensive tackle, but he's more of a guard prospect, as are all of the linemen Fisher signed. The Aggies' maligned offensive line needs difference-makers at tackle, and there aren't any definitive day one contributors in that group.

    Instant-Impact Potential: Demond Demas is a 6'3", 5-star receiver who has the potential to be one of the biggest instant-impact playmaking pass-catchers in the class. 

    With Kellen Bond entering his final season in College Station, Demas could put up big numbers right away, especially with his deep-threat potential, size and leaping ability. He could be the Aggies' best receiver since Christian Kirk.

6. Auburn Tigers

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    Class Size: 24 (one 5-star, 13 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: It was mostly extremely good news for the Auburn Tigers in the early signing period, as they came through with a big signing-day flip of Romello Height from Miami and beat out rival Georgia for 4-star cornerback Eric Reed.

    The only disappointing news was commitment Jay Hardy of Chattanooga, Tennessee, did not sign with the Tigers, and he will be heavily recruited by other programs between now and February.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: There is a lot to like about the deep, talented group of players coach Gus Malzahn brought in, and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is going to be happy with the new weapons on his side of the ball.

    But the best group of playmakers are the pass-catchers. Tight end/H-back Jeremiah Pegues is going to be a versatile guy who will be a handful for defenses. When you throw in big, physical Ze'Vian Capers and elite athlete Kobe Hudson at receiver, this could be a special group.

    With quarterback Bo Nix just entering his sophomore year, this Tigers offense is about to be fun to watch.

    After Joey Gatewood transferred to Kentucky, AU needs another signal-caller behind Nix to go along with 3-star commit Chayil Garnett. They'll look for one in the late period with new offensive coordinator Chad Morris leading the charge.

    Instant-Impact potential: With Carnell Williams coaching the position, Auburn enjoyed a breakout rebound season running the football. And the Tigers followed that up with grabbing perhaps the nation's most complete running back in Tank Bigsby.

    He has the perfect skill set for an every-down back in the SEC, and he was coveted by many of the top programs around the Southeast. Bigsby is too good to keep off the field.

5. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Class Size: 19 (two 5-stars, 14 4-stars, three 3-stars) 

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Most of the news was very good for Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who continued to prove he's one of the best recruiters in college football with a big final few days leading up to and during the early signing period.

    The Bulldogs got a commitment from Austin Blaske, who opened his recruitment the day before the early signing period began, decommitting from North Carolina State. Earlier in the week, UGA secured a pledge from former LSU safety commit Major Burns.

    On signing day, the good news kept coming when they flipped receiver Jermaine Burton from LSU and grabbed a huge commitment when speedster Arian Smith chose the Bulldogs over Alabama. Eric Reed picked Auburn over UGA, but it was still a big day.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The Bulldogs really like Carson Beck, though he doesn't scream difference-maker. Perhaps that's why they wanted CJ Stroud so much, but they had to watch him become a Buckeye.

    One thing is certain: Beck is going to be surrounded by a ton of talent. The Bulldogs struggled mightily at receiver, but they did have some young weapons in George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock. Smart added to that in this cycle.

    Justin Robinson and Marcus Rosemy were strong receivers heading into signing day, but flipping Burton and adding Smith was massive. If UGA winds up winning the signature of 5-star tight end Darnell Washington in February, this will be the best receiving group in the nation.

    It's not a big weakness, per se, but Georgia needs to add at least one interior linebacker after striking out on some of its top targets. Look for the Bulldogs to try to grab at least one in the late period. That's really all they need in this class.

    Instant-Impact Potential: Without a doubt, this honor has to go to 4-star offensive tackle Tate Ratledge, who considered exploring his options after Sam Pittman left to become Arkansas' head coach but ultimately stuck with Georgia after a visit from new O-line coach Matt Luke.

    Ratledge is a big, mean athlete from Rome, Georgia, who should step right in and compete for a starting job right away. He's as polished as any offensive line prospect in the country and is underrated.

4. LSU Tigers

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    Class Size: 21 (two 5-stars, 13 4-stars, six 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: There was a bit of confusion with the way LSU's early recruiting cycle ended.

    Leading up to the early signing period, it appeared LSU was positioning itself for guys such as Major Burns and Demon Clowney. You'd think the Bayou Bengals were setting up for an epic finish, but it didn't happen.

    When the day finally arrived, 5-star receiver Rakim Jarrett flipped to Maryland, 4-star receiver Jermaine Burton left LSU for Georgia and 4-star defensive back Malcolm Greene flipped to Clemson.

    The Tigers did get a pledge from outside linebacker Phillip Webb over Alabama and offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil, but the losses outweighed the wins in what could have been a class that competed for No. 1.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: It will get overlooked because there was not nearly as much drama at this position in LSU's anxiety-filled finish, but the best position group Ed Orgeron signed was arguably inside linebacker.

    The Tigers went after 4-star Josh White of Texas and 4-star Antoine Sampah of Virginia, and both stayed firm to their commitment throughout the process. They should team with incumbent Jacob Phillips to give the Bayou Bengals a formidable force in the middle of the defense moving forward.

    The pass-rush duo of Webb and BJ Ojulari is strong too.

    It's hard to believe the Tigers didn't pick up a running back commit, and they'll definitely be looking for one before February. The focus primarily is on 5-star Zachary Evans, who may be a Texas A&M lean. Georgia Tech commit Jahmyr Gibbs and Ashaad Clayton are a couple of runners they could look at too.

    Instant-Impact Potential: There are a number of stars in this class, but the two who stick out the most are Arik Gilbert on offense and Elias Ricks on defense.

    Gilbert arguably is the best offensive player in the class, a super-athletic tight end who can be used as a receiver and can do a ton of things with the ball in his hands. He's special. 

    Then there's Ricks, the nation's No. 2 cornerback. He picked LSU early and stuck with his decision, and he'll team with Derek Stingley Jr. to form a potentially phenomenal duo.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Class Size: 25 (two 5-stars, 14 4-stars, nine 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Everything was roses for the scarlet and gray on the first day of the early signing period when coach Ryan Day grabbed another class centerpiece after 4-star quarterback CJ Stroud committed to join long-time signal-caller pledge Jack Miller.

    The news worsened a bit Thursday when defensive back Clark Phillips flipped and signed with Utah, but it's still an extremely strong class.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The only receiving class that can compete with Ohio State's right now is Georgia's, and the two powerhouses are neck-and-neck.

    Still, the Buckeyes shouldn't want to trade their group with anybody. Julian Fleming is elite and one of the biggest wins of the cycle, worthy of his 5-star ranking and one of the two best pure pass-catchers in the class along with LSU's Arik Gilbert.

    Toss in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Mookie Cooper, and you've got a group that's the envy of the nation.

    It's being nit-picky, but 3-star Miyan Williams wasn't the top running back prospect you're used to seeing in Columbus. The Buckeyes may look to add another weapon at that position before February, and they'll have plenty of top options remaining on the board.

    Instant-Impact Potential: While Fleming is one of the nation's best players, he enters a loaded wide receiving corps, and he'll have to carve a niche early.

    The best bet for an instant impact is Paris Johnson Jr., a huge, talented offensive tackle who stands 6'7", 290 pounds and is strong and agile for his size. He has all the tools to be a future high-round draft pick, and he has a clear path to a starting job in 2020. Johnson is going to be special.

    He's the best offensive lineman in this recruiting class.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Class Size: 26 (three 5-stars, 19 4-stars, four 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: What Nick Saban is able to do with staff changes year in and year out in recruiting is remarkable. He continues to sign top-two classes every year, and this year's class is terrific too.

    The Tide lost out on Phillip Webb, but they kept Timothy Smith in the fold. They also pulled one of the biggest late-day surprises when they flipped playmaker Jase McClellan from Oklahoma to give them another offensive centerpiece.

    Arian Smith chose Georgia, and a few others didn't pick the Tide, either. But it was still a strong day and a strong class.

    Strengths/Weaknesses: It's easy to love what Alabama did at every position, but the linebacking corps has strong reinforcements on the way. Edge-rushers Chris Braswell and Will Anderson have the ability to be instant-impact players, and Drew Sanders is a hard-hitting weapon who is going to be fun to watch.

    Quandarrius Robinson is a nice pickup at linebacker too.

    It's hard to fault anything about this class, but Saban signed just one 4-star lineman in Javion Cohen. The Tide may go after another lineman in the late period, but there were needs met elsewhere.

    Instant-Impact Potential: This may be a bit of a controversial pick, but assuming Tua Tagovailoa goes pro, Bryce Young is going to make an immediate impact at quarterback.

    Yes, he's that good to come in as a true freshman, beat out Mac Jones, Taulia Tagovailoa and anybody else.

    Young has the type of playmaking ability former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray possessed, and he can transform Alabama's offense yet again. This is going to be an exciting development to watch if Tua leaves.

1. Clemson Tigers

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Class Size: 23 (six 5-stars, 11 4-stars, six 3-stars)

    Biggest Early Signing Period News: Flipping Malcolm Greene from LSU was a big early signing period coup, and getting Trenton Simpson the weekend before the early period started was another major victory.

    The Simpson pickup proved even bigger after Justin Flowe elected to stay out West and sign with Oregon. The Tigers also missed out on 5-star instate defensive end Jordan Burch, who decided to commit to rival South Carolina (though he's yet to sign scholarship papers).

    Strengths/Weaknesses: The biggest strength for coach Dabo Swinney is the top-heavy elite players they pulled in. The Tigers signed a whopping six 5-star players, highlighted by the nation's top-ranked player in defensive tackle Bryan Bresee. 

    The nation's top-ranked strong-side defensive end, Myles Murphy, signed, as did the top-ranked quarterback in California signal-caller DJ Uiagalelei, the No. 3 running back in Demarkcus Bowman, the second-ranked defensive tackle in Demonte Capehart and No. 3 cornerback in Fred Davis II.

    That is a group of standouts who may highlight the best top-six ever in a single recruiting class.

    There are no weaknesses in this deep, talented class. Swinney signed players at every position, got quality guys and was meticulous about what he wanted to do.

    "We met all of our critical needs, and that's kind of how we go about recruiting. We're very specific," Swinney told The State's Matt Connolly

    Instant-Impact Potential: Swinney said Bresee was "Christian Wilkins," according to The State's Alex Andrejev, but the nation's top-ranked player will have to carve out a role in a crowded D-line. 

    The safer bet for immediate playing time is elite runner Bowman, who should be able to step in and fill some of the touches that will be vacated if Travis Etienne does the expected and foregoes his senior season for the NFL. The Tigers have several capable runners, such as Lyn-J Dixon, but Bowman could slide into that No. 2 spot.

    He and Dixon would be a powerful one-two punch.

          

    Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.