College Football Teams Most in Need of a Big Early Signing Period

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2021

College Football Teams Most in Need of a Big Early Signing Period

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The early signing period is typically a time for unbridled optimism. No matter how poorly a team performed, the incoming recruiting class might just turn around the program.

    But that feeling, though very prevalent, doesn't apply to all 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

    Heading into December 2021's early signing period, several have a lackluster recruiting class or are simply trying to hang on. Four of the teams highlighted have a new head coach, and another program is dealing with major turnover on the staff. The final two schools are trying to avoid sweeping changes.

    While the list is subjective, the choices were largely informed by current team rankings, recent trendsspecifically, coaching changes and decommitmentsand key targets remaining.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Arizona State needs a big day. Good luck making it happen, though.

    Shortly before the 2021 season kicked off, the NCAA began investigating the program for recruiting violations. That cloud has hovered over the Sun Devilswho finished 8-4 this yearand greatly hindered their efforts on the trail.

    Last cycle, ASU signed four 4-star prospects. Right now, on the other hand, the Sun Devils have six total commitments.

    Heading into the signing period, the highest-ranked remaining target is 4-star edge-rusher Cyrus Moss. He's considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the class. Others to know include 3-star quarterback Bennett Meredith and 3-star wideout Sam Mason.

    In all likelihood, the transfer portal will be a focal point this offseason. But the Sun Devils desperately need a salvageable class of high schoolers, because it might only get tougher to recruit from here.

Clemson Tigers

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    This is a time of unpreceded change for Clemson.

    Defensive coordinator Brent Venables headed to Oklahoma, and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott crossed ACC lines to Virginia. For good measure, athletic director Dan Radakovich bolted for Miami. Dabo Swinney, meanwhile, has to keep the 2022 class intact.

    As expected, that plan has hit a snag. Clemson has already lost verbal pledges from 5-star cornerback Daylen Everette, 4-star edge-rusher Jihaad Campbell and 4-star safety Keon Sabb, each of whom Venables recruited from IMG Academy in Florida.

    Now, the sky isn't falling. Five-star quarterback Cade Klubnik headlines a 12-player class that remains 14th nationally and still includes seven top-200 prospects.

    But in this time of transition, Dabo and Clemson need to protect it.

Florida Gators

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Clemson's trio of decommitments is problematic, though not crushing. Florida, meanwhile, needed to stop an avalanche with a shovel.

    In early October, the Gators held a top-15 class ranking. But then, top-100 talents Shemar James and Julian Humphrey both exited the class. The program fired Dan Mullen in late November and has since lost pledges from 4-stars in athlete Isaiah Bond, wideout Jayden Gibson, quarterback Nick Evers, receiver Chandler Smith and running back Terrance Gibbs, along with three 3-stars.

    Long story short: The shovel was not miraculous. Florida's class has tumbled all the way to No. 78 nationally.

    Nevertheless, new coach Billy Napier has plenty of top prospects to chase. The list includes 5-star safety Kamari Wilson and a host of 4-stars with safety Jacoby Mathews, defensive lineman Quency Wiggins, athlete Azareyeh Thomas, safety Devin Moore, offensive tackle Julian Armella, corner Austin Ausberry, running back Trevor Etienne and more.

    Although the 2022 class cannot be completely rebuilt, Florida has a good opportunity to finish on an encouraging note.

Miami Hurricanes

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    How much magic can Mario Cristobal work immediately?

    Billy Napier, for example, inherited a decent situation on the recruiting trail. Miami's options seemed to be shrinking fast, but Cristobal's arrival has sparked a renewed wave of interest in the Hurricanes.

    For his first weekend in Coral Gables, the Miami alum assembled a group of visitors with 4-star receiver Kevin Coleman, 4-star edge-rusher Cyrus Moss, 4-star defensive lineman Nyjalik Kelly and 4-star tight end and Alabama commit Jaleel Skinner.

    Cristobal also brought the 'Canes back into the picture for 4-star corner Earl Little Jr., a Miami legacy. Five-star defensive lineman Shemar Stewart is soundly on the radar, too.

    Cristobal's well-earned reputation as a tireless recruiter could pay dividends for a class that is ranked just 58th right now.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press

    Since former UCF coach and Nebraska alum Scott Frost arrived in 2017, the Cornhuskers have signed a top-25 haul in each cycle. That streak is in extreme jeopardy with the 2022 class at No. 61.

    Given that Nebraska is 15-29 during his four-year tenure, that's not surprising. And even though the Huskers put together a very competitive season and never dropped a game by 10-plus points, they still, you know, lost nine games.

    Frost and Co. will be hoping recruits see that on-field improvement rather than the lack of progress in the win column.

    Among others, they're pitching 4-star corner Jaeden Gould, 3-star defensive linemen Ben Roberts, 3-star offensive lineman Justin Evans-Jenkins and 3-star running back Emmett Johnson.

    The wild-card storyline to know is whether new receivers coach Mickey Joseph, who recently joined from LSU, can leverage his existing relationships. In the last week, Nebraska offered 4-star LSU commit Omarion Miller and 3-star Miami commit Landon Ibieta.

    Nebraska currently has zero 4-stars in the class.

USC Trojans

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    As of Sunday evening, USC held four commitments for the 2022 cycle.


    Clay Helton's dismissal understandably tore apart the once-promising class. During the last few months, USC lost 5-stars Domani Jackson and Mykel Williams, 4-stars Devin Brown, Jaeden Gould and Ephesians Prysock, and a handful of 3-stars, too.

    On the bright side, 5-star running back Raleek Brown is the headliner of what remains. And the Trojans should not be panicking, thanks to Lincoln Riley being Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach has strong pull around the nation.

    Riley and USC are chasing Jackson, Williams, 5-star offensive tackle Devon Campbell, 4-star wideout Kevin Coleman, 4-star safety Zion Branch, 4-star edge-rusher Cyrus Moss, 4-star running back Jovantae Barnes and 4-star edge-rusher DJ Wesolak, to name a few.

    Expect the nation's No. 100 class to rise considerably while USC heavily utilizes the transfer portal this offseason.

Washington Huskies

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Even in a best-case scenario, Washington will not have a high-ranking class in 2022. Part of that can be attributed to a coaching change, but the Huskies only had a handful of spots available anyway.

    And similar to Clemson, the priority right now is retention.

    Washington fired Jimmy Lake in November, leading to 3-star decommits from tight end Chance Bogan, athlete TJ Hall and quarterback Jackson Stratton. Still, Kalen DeBoer has so far managed to keep UW's six top-ranked pledges, which includes three 4-stars.

    Protecting the class in Decemberbefore continuing to pursue key prospects such as 5-star offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr. for February's signing daywould be a victory for DeBoer and his staff.


    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from, or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.