Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2021 CFB Late Signing Window
Beloved for chaos and excitement, Wednesday's national signing day provided a rarity: It basically went as expected.
Other than 5-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and 4-star receiver Brian Thomas Jr., nine blue-chip talents announced where they'll play college football. Among that group, most of them had a clear favorite and chose that program.
Terrion Arnold, the highest-rated prospect who revealed his choice on signing day, doubled as the most interesting decision. And the 4-star safety picked the reigning champions.
The winners and losers of signing day are focused on what happened Wednesday alone, not the entire 2021 cycle.
Winner: Michigan Wolverines
Michigan is still falling behind Ohio State from an overall talent perspective. On Wednesday, though, the Wolverines earned a positive review.
Jim Harbaugh's staff flipped a pair of defensive tackles who had previously announced a verbal pledge elsewhere. Michigan pulled in-state 4-star Rayshaun Benny from rival Michigan State and 3-star Ikechukwu Iwunnah from Colorado.
Throw in a pre-NSD commitment from 4-star defensive tackle George Rooks, and the Maize and Blue stocked up on interior talent late in the 2021 cycle.
Benny and Iwunnah nudged Michigan past Oklahoma in the team rankings, giving the Wolverines a top-10 class.
Loser: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska headed into signing day as a finalist for both 4-star cornerback Avante Dickerson and 4-star defensive tackle Davon Townley, but neither one picked the Cornhuskers. They instead went to Oregon and Penn State, respectively.
Dickerson is a major loss because he's a rare blue-chip prospect from the state. Nebraska landed the one 4-star talent from the state in 2018, 2019 and 2020, but it finished 1-of-3 in 2021. Offensive tackle Teddy Prochazka signed, but athlete Keagon Johnson chose Iowa.
Within an hour of Dickerson's decision, Townley announced his Penn State commitment over Nebraska and Washington.
Nebraska will still finish with a top-25 class, but missing on Dickerson and Townley is disappointing way to end the recruiting cycle.
Winner: The Blue-Chip Favorites
Surprise announcements fuel the excitement of signing day, but Wednesday didn't have many of those stunners.
And five programs are perfectly OK with that.
Florida State picked up 4-star wideout Destyn Hill, and Kentucky landed 4-star linebacker Trevin Wallace over Auburn and Ole Miss. USC beat out Ohio State for 4-star linebacker Raesjon Davis. LJ Johnson, a 4-star running back, chose Texas A&M, and 4-defensive tackle Tywone Malone heads to Ole Miss.
For all five prospects, every forecast on their 247Sports Crystal Ball predicted that outcome. While it's less entertaining for a neutral party, the absence of drama can be a relief for fans, too.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
While Terrion Arnold is No. 50 overall on the 247Sports composite rankings, the website considers him a 5-star recruit. He was a high-priority target who garnered 47 scholarship offers throughout his recruitment.
Arnold put three SEC helmets on the table—Alabama, Florida and Georgia—and it was unclear which one he'd choose.
The verdict: Alabama.
Arnold rounds out an incredible class for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, who landed seven 5-stars, 16 4-stars and are still chasing Tuimoloau. In other words, the highest-rated haul in college football history has a chance to get even better.
Loser: February's Signing Day
Whether prospects need to continue deliberating, patiently wait for a late offer or something else, national signing day is an incredible, dream-fulfilling moment.
But December's early signing period has sapped the drama from it.
That window is both good and necessary. Prospects who are tired of the recruiting process can eliminate nonstop calls and messages. Teams can shift their resources from rock-solid commits to undecided targets—including those in the next recruiting cycle.
That means the nonstop action, theatrics and controversies are mostly absent on national signing day.
We still love it and follow closely, but more than 95 percent of blue-chip prospects (4- or 5-stars) in 2021 had already signed. The old signing day is long gone.
February has instead become a nice moment for prospects who have yet to make their decision. But if a few dozen top prospects make it past December's signing period and don't reveal their commitments at January's All-American games, we wouldn't be upset.