Early National Signing Day 2021: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Class on Day 1

Morgan MoriartyFeatured Columnist IDecember 16, 2021

Early National Signing Day 2021: Grading Every Top 25 Team's Class on Day 1

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    Although most FBS teams in college football are preparing for bowl games, there's another very important date on the CFB calendar—the early signing period. On Wednesday, high school football prospects started signing their letters of intent to their prospective schools. 

    It's as important a time as ever for college football coaches and their staff. Recruiting is what you build your program around, and it's an essential part of winning championships. 

    How did the teams ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 do on day one of early signing day? Let's grade them to find out. 

    We'll grade these classes by a few different factors—number of 4- and 5-star signees, overall ranking of the class itself and landing big transfers. 


    Author's note: 247Sports rankings mentioned throughout are based on the 247Sports composite rankings. Rankings may have slightly changed since publishing.  

Nos. 25-21

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    No. 25 Texas A&M

    Key signees: 5-star DL Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy, 5-star QB Conner Weigman and 4-star S Bryce Anderson
    Analysis: If there's one thing we know about Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher, it's that he can recruit. 

    While most of the prospects that signed with TAMU on Wednesday were expected, he did gain a big-time commitment from 4-star tight end Jake Johnson, who is the No. 1 overall tight end prospect in the 2022 class. Johnson is the younger brother of former LSU QB Max Johnson, who entered the transfer portal earlier this month. Fisher could end up landing both Johnsons. 

    Fisher also got a signature on Wednesday afternoon from the No. 1 recruit from the state of Arizona in DL Anthony Lucas. The Aggies also signed 4-star OL Kam Dewberry, the No. 3-ranked IOL prospect in the class.

    TAMU's day was so good, the Aggies surpassed Alabama in the rankings for the No. 1 class in the nation. 

    Grade: A+   


    No. 24 San Diego State 

    Key signees: 3-star WR Jacoby Kelly, 3-star OT Laakea Kapoi and 3-star DL Ryan Henderson

    Analysis: San Diego State had a successful 2021 regular season, finishing 11-2 and making it to the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Although the Aztecs lost to Utah State 46-13, the future is bright. 

    SDSU isn't exactly known as a recruiting powerhouse, so head coach Brady Hoke getting signatures from several high-quality 3-stars is a solid recruiting class for the Aztecs. 

    Grade: B  


    No. 23 Louisiana 

    Key Signees: 3-star LB Kailep Edwards

    Analysis: Louisiana is in the midst of a coaching change, as longtime head coach Billy Napier is now at Florida. So it's not too surprising that ULL's 2022 class had just one signee on Wednesday in 3-star LB Kailep Edwards, who is the 32nd-ranked prospect out of Louisiana. 

    If new Louisiana head coach Michael Desormeaux can maintain some of the other 3-star recruits committed to Louisiana, like CB Lorenzell Dubose or QB Zeon Chriss, the 2022 class will be in good shape. 

    Grade: B


    No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats

    Key signees: 4-star DE Tyreese Fearbry, 4-star LB Keaten Wade and 4-star DL Deone Walker

    Analysis: This has a chance to be one of Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops' best recruiting classes yet. Although the Wildcats historically rank between 20 and 25 nationally, UK's 2022 class currently sits at 12th in the country, per 247Sports.

    A big part of Stoops' success is recruiting prospects outside of the bluegrass state and South in general. His highest-ranked recruit, DE Tyreese Fearbry, is the No. 5 prospect out of Pennsylvania, so getting him to go away from Big Ten country is a huge get. Four-star DL Deone Walker is also the No. 5-ranked prospect out of the state of Michigan. 

    Stoops also landed a pair of key transfers in this class. Former Auburn DL Tashawn Manning will be able to suit up for the Wildcats immediately, as will Virginia Tech receiver transfer Tayvion Robinson. 

    Grade: A+ 


    No. 21 Arkansas Razorbacks

    Key signees: 4-star WR Isaiah Sategna, 4-star OT Andrew Chamblee and 4-star OT E'Marion Harris 

    Analysis: Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman was hired after the 2019 season, and his 2022 class looks like his best one yet. It ranks 19th nationally, and ninth inside the SEC. 

    Pittman's big-name 4-star verbal commitments in Sategna, Chamblee and Harris ended up signing on Wednesday. The Razorbacks also signed receiver target Samuel Mbake, who is the No. 44 prospect out of the state of Georgia. Arkansas added big-time transfers in former LSU DE Landon Jackson and Oklahoma receiver Jadon Haselwood.

    Grade: A

Nos. 20-16

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    20. Houston Cougars 

    Key Signees: 4-star WR Matthew Golden, 4-star OL Demetrius Hunter and 3-star CB Moses Alexander

    Analysis: Houston's 2022 recruiting class includes just two four-star recruits, and it's ranked No. 53 overall by 247Sports. 

    Although Houston landed a big-time JUCO transfer in Moses Alexander, the Cougars have just two blue-chip recruits in their current 2022 class. It's a far cry from the likes of former Houston head coach Tom Herman's historic 2016 recruiting class, which ranked 36th nationally. 

    With Houston moving to the Big 12 as early as next season, Dana Holgorsen will have to do a lot better on the recruiting trail. If Houston were in the Big 12 this season, Houston's 2022 class would be behind Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas.  

    Grade: D


    No. 19. Clemson Tigers

    Key Signees: 5-star QB Cade Klubnik, 4-star CB Jeadyn Lukus and 4-star CB Toriano Pride

    Analysis: Clemson's 2021 season marks the first time since 2014 that the Tigers aren't playing in the College Football Playoff. Pair that with Dabo Swinney losing two of his top longtime assistants in defensive coordinator Brent Venables to Oklahoma and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott to Virginia, it's no surprise Clemson's recruiting class has suffered. In the wake of those departures, Clemson lost 5-star recruit CB Daylen Everette to Georgia and 4-star safety Keon Sabb to Michigan. 4-star Edge Jihaad Campbell decommitted and switched to Alabama, as well. 

    The Tigers' 2022 class checks in 16th nationally and is second in the ACC behind UNC. This year's class marks the first time since 2017 that Clemson's class has ranked outside of the top-10 nationally.  

    A down year for the Tigers, paired with his top assistants leaving, makes where Clemson's class ended up not too surprising, but it certainly doesn't change that this is a disappointing class for Swinney. 

    Grade: C-


    No. 18. NC State Wolfpack

    Key signees: 4-star RB Michael Allen, 4-star LB Torren Wright and 3-star DL Brandon Cleveland

    Analysis: Dave Doeren's 2022 recruiting class is obviously lacking blue-chip recruits, featuring just two 4-star recruits in the class. It's also ranked ninth overall in the ACC and 51st nationally—drastically lower than NC State's 35th ranked class a year ago. The Wolfpack didn't add any transfers to their class this year, either. 

    Earlier on Wednesday, the Wolfpack did get a signed NLI from three-star OL Jacarrius Peak, the No. 29 ranked OL prospect from the 2022 class. In fact, Peak is the third-highest ranked player in his position from Doeren's 2022 class, behind Allen (26th) and QB MJ Morris (25th). 

    Grade: C 


    No. 17. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

    Key signees: 4-star WR Wesley Grimes, 3-star DL Eli Hall, 3-star RB Demond Claiborne

    Analysis: Wake Forest's 2021 season marks the first double-digit win season since 2006. Wake's 2022 recruiting class is ranked 66th nationally and 12th in the ACC, which isn't much of an improvement from its 66th-ranked class and 14th-ranked ACC class a year ago. 

    Wake didn't land any transfers during this recruiting cycle either.

    Just one 4-star prospect in the 2022 class after a historic season for the Demon Deacons, including an ACC Championship game for the first time since 2006, might slow down Wake's momentum moving forward.

    Grade: C-


    No. 16 Oklahoma Sooners

    Key signees: 4-star RB Gavin Sawchuk, 4-star LB Kobie McKinzie and 4-star WR Jayden Gibson

    Analysis: When a team goes through a coaching change like Oklahoma has, a down recruiting class is expected. But even though the Sooners have seen three 5-star recruits decommit, Venables will most likely still end up with a top-10 class. 

    The biggest addition to Venables' 2022 class was his ability to flip 4-star QB Nick Evers from Florida on Dec 13. For the new head coach, being able to hang on to 12 4-stars in this class and get a top-10 class when you were hired on Dec. 5 is a great start. 

    The loss of all of the 5-star commits still stings, however.

    Grade: B-

Nos. 15-11

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    Chase Stevens/Associated Press

    15. Iowa Hawkeyes

    Key signees: 4-star S Xavier Nwankpa, 4-star S Aaron Graves and 3-star QB Carson May

    Analysis: Iowa's 2022 class ranks close to Kirk Ferentz's 2021 one, which was 24th nationally, his best since 2005. It has just two blue-chip recruits but still ranks a respectable 25th overall.

    Four-star safety Xavier Nwankpa is Iowa's No. 1 overall recruit from the state and the No. 5 safety prospect in the 2022 class. 

    Grade: B


    14. Oregon Ducks

    Key signees: 4-star LB Devon Jackson, 4-star CB Jalil Tucker and 3-star LB Harrison Taggart 

    Oregon's first day of early signing day was pretty uneventful, as most of the Ducks' big-name verbal commits are holding off on signing. That includes 4-star WR Tetairoa McMillan, who is the No. 5 wideout in the class.

    That's not too surprising, given that Oregon named former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as its new head coach last week. 

    Still, Oregon managed to sign 4-star LB Devon Jackson as well as 3-star ATH Anthony Jones

    Grade: Incomplete, for now


    No. 13 BYU Cougars

    Key signees: 4-star WR Cody Hagen, 4-star DL Aisea Moa and 3-star WR Dominique McKenzie

    BYU managed to sign its two blue-chip recruits on Wednesday, in 4-star WR Cody Hagen and 4-star DL Aisea Moa. Hagen is the No. 4-ranked prospect in the state of Utah, whereas Moa is No. 5 in the state. 

    The Cougars' 2022 class ranks 55th nationally, which is a big jump from BYU's 71st-ranked class a year ago. As BYU head coach Kalani Sitake recently signed a contract extension through 2027, being the No. 2-ranked recruiting class among Independent schools (behind Notre Dame) isn't a bad place to be. 

    BYU also landed OT transfer prospect Kingsley Suamataia from Oregon.

    Grade: A


    12. Pittsburgh Panthers

    Key signees: 4-star OL Ryan Baer, 3-star DL Jimmy Scott and 3-star RB Jordaan Bailey

    Analysis: The Panthers had an incredibly successful regular season in 2021, winning the ACC championship and finishing 11-2. The season marks the first with double-digit wins for the Panthers since 2009. 

    But their 2022 class doesn't quite match the season they had. Featuring just one blue-chip prospect in OL Ryan Baer, the class ranks 11th in the ACC and 64th nationally. That's a stark contrast to the historic class Pat Narduzzi had a year ago, which ranked 29th nationally and fifth in the ACC. 

    The class also lacks a QB, which the Panthers will eventually need thanks to the departure of Kenny Pickett and senior QB Nick Patti. Narduzzi was able to land former four-star OL prospect Ryan Jacoby, who transferred to Pitt from Ohio State.  

    Grade: D


    11. Utah Utes

    Key signees: 4-star LB Lander Barton, 4-star QB Nate Johnson and 3-star LB Kaeo Akana

    Analysis: Utah had an incredibly successful season in 2021, winning the Pac-12 championship while drubbing Oregon twice in the same season. Kyle Whittingham's 2022 class ranks fourth in the conference, behind Stanford, Oregon and Arizona. It also checks in at 36th nationally, three spots lower than it finished in 2021. 

    Although this class has just a pair of blue-chip recruits, Whittingham was able to get some late flips to his class. On Wednesday, 3-star DE Chase Kennedy out of Dallas signed with Utah, and Akana flipped from Boise State to Utah. 

    Grade: B-

No. 10 Michigan State

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Key signees: 4-star DL Alex VanSumeren, 4-star QB Katin Houser and 4-star WR Antonio Gates Jr. 

    Analysis: Mel Tucker's 2022 recruiting class is his best one yet since he arrived at East Lansing before the 2020 season. The class ranks 21th nationally and fifth inside the Big Ten. The biggest names include 4-star DL Alex VanSumeren, Michigan's No. 3 ranked prospect, as well as 4-star QB Katin Houser, 2022's No. 13 ranked QB. On Wednesday, the son of former Pro-Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, Antonio Gates Jr., announced he was signing with Michigan State. The No. 9 ranked prospect out of Michigan held offers from Penn State, Cincinnati, Arkansas and various other Power Five schools.  

    Tucker also landed former Florida Gators pass-rusher and former 4-star DE Khris Bogle.

    But the best part about Michigan State's 2022 class? The addition of honorary member Tate Myre, a class of 2023 prospect that was one of the four victims of the Oxford High School shooting, which recently shook the Michigan community. For this alone, this class gets an A+. 

    Grade: A+

9. Oklahoma State

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Key signees: 4-star WR Talyn Shettron, 4-star RB CJ Brown and 4-star OT Tyrone Webber

    Analysis: Oklahoma State's College Football Playoff hopes ended with a devastating goal-line stop on what would have been a game-winning touchdown drive. But OK-State's future is still bright, thanks to its 2022 recruiting class. 

    Mike Gundy's class currently ranks 25th nationally, up five spots from where it was last year. It's also third in the Big 12. The biggest names in the class include 4-star WR Talyn Shettron, the state of Oklahoma's No. 2 overall prospect. Shettron was expected to be an Oklahoma lean, too. OT Tyrone Webber is the No. 2 ranked tackle for 2022, and linebacker Xavier Benson is the No. 3 prospect of the state of Texas. 

    Grade: A

8. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Key signees: 4-star DL Zxavian Harris, 4-star S Taylor Groves and 4-star CB Nick Cull

    Analysis: Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels are coming off a historic 10-win season with a chance to make it 11 if they beat Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Unfortunately, Ole Miss' current 2022 class lacks a bit of this momentum as Kiffin heads into Year Three in Oxford. 

    Ole Miss' No. 24 national class ranking is lower than the 17th-ranked class the Rebels hauled in a year ago. It's also 12th in the SEC, six spots lower than its 2021 class. The Rebels also had seven 4-stars in last year's class compared to the three blue-chips it has for 2022. 

    On Wednesday, Kiffin was able to flip 3-star Falentha Carswell—whose nickname is literally "Flip"—after previously committing to Miami.

    Ole Miss also lost offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who has since joined Brent Venables' staff at Oklahoma. Perhaps Kiffin can land some big names in the transfer portal, but this isn't the best class for the Rebels so far. 

    Grade: C

7. Baylor Bears

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    Tim Heitman/Associated Press

    Key Signees: 4-star DE Kaian Roberts-Day, 3-star OL George Maile and 3-star TE Kelsey Johnson

    Analysis: Although Baylor head coach Dave Aranda had quite the successful Year 2, his recruiting class in 2022 doesn't have the same level of excitement. The Bears' 2022 class ranks seventh in the Big 12, three spots lower than Aranda's 2021 class was. This class is ranked a couple spots higher nationally than 2021's class was, however. 

    The Bears also have just one blue-chip recruit in 4-star DE Kaian Roberts-Day. Aranda having to recruit against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and OK-State makes Baylor a unique recruiting situation for Aranda. Not to mention the Bears won just two games in his first season in 2020.

    Baylor's 2022 class certainly isn't quite where Aranda wants it just yet, but his 2023 class is currently ranked 19th nationally and fourth in the Big 12. 

    Grade: C

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Key signees: 5-star LB C.J. Hicks, 5-star S Sonny Styles and 4-star QB Devin Brown

    Analysis: Ohio State's 2022 class is currently first in the Big Ten so far and fourth overall nationally. The biggest names in this class are 5-star linebacker C.J. Hicks and 5-star safety Sonny Styles, the latter of whom committed to the Buckeyes on Nov. 13. 

    OSU also has a big-time quarterback commit in 4-star Devin Brown, who is ranked as the No. 6 overall signal-caller. He is the No. 1 prospect out of the state of Utah.

    The Buckeyes' 2022 class has 14 total 4-star prospects as well. 

    This class is slightly lower than OSU's No. 2 class from last year, but there isn't much not to like about this group.

    Grade: A 

No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Key signees: 5-star LB Jaylen Sneed, 4-star LB Joshua Burnham and  4-star WR Tobias Merriweather

    Analysis: Notre Dame's No. 7-ranked recruiting class is likely benefiting from the school replacing longtime head coach Brian Kelly with defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. 

    The Irish's 2022 class is ranked two spots higher nationally than their No. 9 class from last year. Although they lost three blue-chip recruits in the wake of Kelly's departure from South Bend, finishing with a top-10 class while going through a coaching transition is impressive nevertheless.

    Freeman added 4-star OT Billy Schrauth out of Wisconsin since Kelly's departure became official.


No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Jeff Dean/Associated Press

    Key signees: 4-star Edge Mario Eugenio, 4-star CB JQ Hardaway and 3-star DL Derrick Shepard

    Analysis: After making history as the first Group of Five team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, it's only fitting that Cincinnati is making history on the recruiting trail as well.

    Cincy's 2022 class, which includes two 4-star prospects, is ranked 38th nationally. If the class stays where it is, it'll be the Bearcats' highest-ranked class in the 247Sports era, according to Justin Williams of The Athletic.

    The biggest get in the class is 4-star DE Mario Eugenio, who is the No. 31-ranked prospect out of Florida.

    This class is unsurprisingly atop the AAC in the rankings as well. 

    Grade: A

No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Key signees: 5-star ATH Malaki Starks, 5-star CB Jaheim Singletary and 5-star DL Mykel Williams

    Analysis: Georgia may be coming off of a tough loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, but head coach Kirby Smart continues to light it up on the recruiting trail.

    Not only did the Dawgs sign Starks, Singletary and Williams, but they also inked fellow 5-star cornerback Daylen Everette. Georgia also signed another 12 4-star recruits.

    Georgia's class finished third behind Alabama and Texas A&M by the end of the day Wednesday. That's up one spot from last year's class, which finished No. 4 overall.

    One of the biggest gets for Georgia came later in the day, as 5-star DE Marvin Jones Jr., the No. 2-ranked edge-rusher in the class, announced his verbal commitment.

    We'll see if Smart can flip any other big names before early signing day is over. 


No. 2 Michigan Wolverines

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    Key signees: 4-star DL Derrick Moore, 4-star S Keon Sabb and 4-star WR Tyler Morris

    Analysis: After guiding Michigan to the College Football Playoff for the first time, head coach Jim Harbaugh also put in work on the recruiting trail. The Wolverines' class ranks third in the Big Ten, but it checks in at ninth nationally. 

    Harbaugh had a few surprise gets on the first day of the early signing eriod. Michigan successfully flipped 3-star ATH Amorion Walker from Notre Dame and picked up 4-star S Keon Sabb out of IMG Academy. 

    Michigan's No. 9 class is four spots higher than its 13th-ranked class from last year.


No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Key signees: 5-star Edge Jeremiah Alexander, 5-star QB Ty Simpson and 5-star RB Emmanuel Henderson

    Analysis: Alabama isn't slowing down anytime soon. The Crimson Tide's current 2022 class includes three 5-star recruits and 19 4-stars, the most of any school in the 247Sports rankings. 

    Aside from the previous 5-star commits that turned to signees Wednesday, Bama landed a few huge additions to its 2022 class. 

    The Tide signed 4-star WR Shazz Preston, who is the No. 3 receiver prospect in the 2022 class. Bama also inked 4-star CB Earl Little Jr., the 12th-ranked prospect at his position and the son of eight-year NFL veteran Earl Little Sr. 

    The Tide successfully flipped 4-star DE Jihaad Campbell from Clemson, too. Campbell, out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is the No. 9 ranked edge-rusher in the 2022 class.

    The Tide also landed a big in-state target in 4-star DL Khurtiss Perry, who is the No. 4 overall prospect in Alabama.

    Grade: A