The early signing period for recruits began with a flurry of signings on Wednesday, but there were still plenty of players on the table who were waiting to make their college choice that will have a profound impact on the 2020 class rankings.
It should come as no surprise that programs like Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and LSU are winning the recruiting wars. There are some surprises in 247Sports' composite team rankings once you get past the top 10, potentially setting up schools for big things in the future.
2020 Recruiting Rankings (per 247Sports)
1. Clemson Tigers
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
4. Georgia Bulldogs
5. LSU Tigers
6. Texas A&M Aggies
7. Auburn Tigers
8. Florida Gators
9. Texas Longhorns
10. Oklahoma Sooners
11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
12. Michigan Wolverines
13. Penn State Nittany Lions
14. Washington Huskies
15. Tennessee Volunteers
16. Oregon Ducks
17. South Carolina Gamecocks
18. Miami Hurricanes
19. North Carolina Tar Heels
20. Nebraska Cornhuskers
21. Florida State Seminoles
22. Stanford Cardinal
23. Kentucky Wildcats
24. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
25. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Notable Thursday Commitments
Jaylan Ford Spurns Utah, Signs with Texas
Texas head coach Tom Herman scored a win on Thursday with the addition of linebacker Jaylan Ford to his 2020 class.
A native of Frisco, Texas, Ford originally announced in October he was going to attend Utah. The 18-year-old pulled off a surprise move on Thursday when he posted on Twitter he signed a letter of intent with the Longhorns:
Coming off a strong start on Wednesday, Herman told reporters he was optimistic about the team's chances of adding more talent and singled out linebacker as a position of need.
"There is enough talent out there that will not have signed today that I think we’ll find one, if not two, that we think can be developed into a championship linebacker," he said.
Ford's decision to flip his commitment comes on the heels of Texas hiring former Rutgers head coach Chris Ash as defensive coordinator.
Per Mike Craven of HookEm.com, Ford fits the "traditional linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed" that Texas lacked in 2019. His ability at the second level will fit the desire of Ash and Herman to have a traditional four-man front that can attack the opposing quarterback without having to send extra pass-rushers.
Texas' defense allowed 28.9 points per game this season, which includes giving up 48 points to a Kansas team that ranked 102nd in the nation in scoring offense.
Ford alone isn't going to make the Longhorns an elite defense, but his addition at a position where the team lacked an impact player go a long way toward helping them contend for a Big 12 title in 2020.
Utah Boosts Defense with Xavier Carlton, Clark Phillips III
Don't feel sorry for Utah missing out on Ford because head coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff landed two prime defensive players on Thursday.
The first one to sign with the Utes was defensive end Xavier Carlton.
Carlton is a major addition for the Utes, who haven't exploded in recruiting this year despite winning 11 games and appearing in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Utah native is a 4-star prospect and the No. 13 strong-side defensive end, per 247Sports' composite rankings.
He already possesses the frame of a college athlete with the upside to become a superstar by the time he graduates from Utah:
Next Up Utes @NextUtes
NEXT UP! 6’7” 265 lb ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ DE Xavier Carlton is a Ute. Carlton is one of the most sought after prospects in the state. Blessed with elite size and athleticism, X is a rare prospect that can compete at a high level on the interior line as well as on the edge. Welcome, Xavier!
Not long after Carlton made his decision, Utah landed the highest-ranked recruit in program history by taking cornerback Clark Phillips III away from Ohio State.
247Sports' composite rankings lists Phillips as a 4-star prospect, No. 4 cornerback and No. 47 overall player in the 2020 class.
Each of Utah's top three commits for 2020 play on the defensive side of the ball, including Carlton, Phillips and defensive end Van Fillinger.
Defense has been the hallmark for Utah under Whittingham. That unit ranks sixth in the nation with 13.2 points allowed per game this season heading into the Alamo Bowl against Texas.
Joel Williams Shuns 'Bama for Kentucky
It's rare that Kentucky can claim victory over Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and Florida in football, but the Wildcats did just that on Thursday with the addition of cornerback Joel Williams.
After narrowing his list of finalists to those six programs last month, Williams picked the Wildcats over the rest of the group:
Chris Hummer of 247Sports noted that Alabama was recently considered the favorite for Williams.
Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Williams is a 4-star cornerback who is the No. 13 athlete and No. 304 overall player in this class.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has done a great job of trending upward in recruiting. The program has gone from having the 37th-best class in 2018 to 34th-best last year to currently having the 23rd-best this year following Williams' announcement.
That has led to better results on the field for the Wildcats. They are preparing to play in their fourth straight bowl game, the second-longest streak in program history (five straight from 2006-10).
Stoops and his staff still have work to do if they want to compete with those top-tier SEC programs on the field. Taking prospects like Williams away from them is a strong way to close that talent gap.