Why 2021 College Football National Signing Day Will Still Have Big Impact

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2021

Why 2021 College Football National Signing Day Will Still Have Big Impact

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    LJ Johnson
    LJ JohnsonBrian Perroni/247Sports

    The college football recruiting landscape changed dramatically when the early December signing period was implemented following the 2017 season.

    Among other things, it has stolen the thunder of national signing day.

    Once one of the busiest days of the college football season, filled with high-profile commitments and dramatically shifting recruiting rankings, national signing day is now largely devoid of any significant drama or excitement.

    However, there are still a handful of intriguing storylines to follow.

    Ahead we've highlighted five reasons this year's national signing day will still have a significant impact on the college football world.

An Unfinished Recruiting Class at Auburn

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    Bryan Harsin
    Bryan HarsinJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Auburn fired head coach Gus Malzahn on Dec. 13 after a disappointing 2020 season that saw the Tigers start the year at No. 11 in the AP poll and finish unranked with a 6-5 record following a 35-19 loss to Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl.

    The Tigers' 2021 recruiting class currently ranks 11th in the SEC and 38th in the nation. And with just 14 commitments, there's still work to be done.

    Linebacker Trevin Wallace (4-star, No. 205 recruit), cornerback Dontae Balfour (3-star, No. 446 recruit), safety Juwan Gaston (3-star, No. 622 recruit) and running back Jarquez Hunter (3-star, No. 745 recruit) are among the notable players who could be reeled in Wednesday.

    This will be a big first test for new head coach Bryan Harsin as he looks to do some damage control on a disappointing recruiting cycle.

There's Always the Potential for Commitment FlIps

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    Camar Wheaton
    Camar WheatonCollin Kennedy/247Sports

    Until players officially turn in their national letters of intent, anything can happen.

    Here's a quick rundown of some of the committed players who have not yet signed on the dotted line:

    • RB Camar Wheaton (5-star, No. 33 recruit, Alabama commit)
    • CB Ceyair Wright (4-star, No. 78 recruit, USC commit)
    • WR Quaydarius Davis (4-star, No. 113 recruit, Kansas commit)
    • CB Isaiah Johnson (4-star, No. 139 recruit, Arizona State commit)
    • ILB Wynden Ho'ohuli (4-star, No. 150 recruit, Nebraska commit)
    • WDE Saivion Jones (4-star, No. 161 recruit, LSU commit)
    • RB Byron Cardwell (4-star, No. 185 recruit, Oregon commit)
    • DT Rayshaun Benny (4-star, No. 192 recruit, Michigan State commit)
    • CB Ishmael Ibraheem (4-star, No. 195 recruit, Texas commit)
    • WR Trevonte Rucker (4-star, No. 246 recruit, Jackson State commit)

    If you're hoping to see a high-profile commitment flip Wednesday, keeping an eye on these players might be a good place to start.

    Their potential future coaches will no doubt be watching the old fax machines extra close.

Where Will 4-Star DT and Two-Sport Standout Tywone Malone Land?

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    Tywone Malone
    Tywone MaloneBrian Dohn/247Sports

    Tywone Malone is one of the more non-traditional two-sport stars to come along in years.

    The 6'3½", 300-pound lineman certainly looks the part of a defensive tackle, and he should be able to make an early impact on the football field even though he needs to add more upper body strength to his big frame.

    However, he's also a high-level baseball prospect who intends to play both sports in college.

    Ole Miss is the favorite to land him, and the Rebels have taken all six crystal ball predictions so far at 247Sports. But he's by no means locked up.

    Texas A&M and Florida State are his other primary suitors, and both schools have some recent history with recruiting two-sport stars, most notably quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Jameis Winston who both saw time on the baseball diamond in college.

Can USC Keep Another Top-Tier Recruit In-State?

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    Raesjon Davis
    Raesjon DavisAndrew Ivins/247Sports

    USC is having a terrific recruiting cycle with a class that currently ranks eighth nationally and features one 5-star and 13 4-star recruits.

    Among those 14 elite-level talents are nine players from the state of California, including 5-star defensive end Korey Foreman and 4-star quarterback Miller Moss.

    The Trojans will be looking to add a 10th in-state standout to that list Wednesday in linebacker Raesjon Davis, who starred for powerhouse Mater Dei High School.

    Originally committed to LSU last year, he reopened his recruitment in December, and the Trojans are now viewed as the heavy favorites to add him to an already stacked incoming class.

    His combination of coverage skills and pass-rushing ability makes him one of the most well-rounded linebackers in the class.

    He will be announcing his decision on the 247Sports National Signing Day Show at 11:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, with Oregon and Ohio State the other teams included in his final three.

Will 5-Star RB LJ Johnson Pick Texas or Texas A&M?

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    LJ Johnson
    LJ JohnsonBrian Perroni/247Sports

    With 5-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau expected to wait until April at the earliest to make his college choice, the biggest domino to fall Wednesday will likely be 4-star running back LJ Johnson.

    The No. 4 running back in the 2021 class and the No. 44 recruit overall, Johnson has long been viewed as a lock to commit to Texas A&M, and he may still wind up in College Station when all is said and done.

    However, the Texas Longhorns have emerged as legitimate suitors to steal him away.

    Since he was hired at the beginning of January, new head coach Steve Sarkisian has made Johnson a priority as he looks to put the finishing touches on a recruiting class started by Tom Herman.

    With 4.42 40-yard speed and a strong 5'10", 204-pound frame, he should be able to contribute as a true freshman, and he has the potential to develop into one of the nation's best running backs during his time on campus.

    He'll be a game-changing recruit for one of those teams.


    All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.