The first Wednesday in February was once a recruiting madhouse. Those days are over. The early signing date in December has dramatically altered the recruiting landscape to where the wide majority of Bowl Subdivision programs add just a handful of prospects, if any, during the traditional signing period.
“The second recruiting cycle, there’s not much going on, typically,” said SMU coach Sonny Dykes.
We should change the nomenclature. The early signing day should be known as signing day, period. The February date should be called the “late signing day,” both as a result of the small number of uncommitted prospects and how coaches increasingly use the evaluation period in January to identify underclassmen recruits to get ahead on future signing classes.
Still, several programs made the most of Wednesday to put the finishing touches on the 2020 recruiting cycle with some talented prospects that could have an impact as soon as this fall. Here’s a roundup from the second signing day:
The best get better
The nation’s top classes, according to 247Sports.com, belonged to Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State. The group combined to pull in 19 of the cycle’s 30 five-star recruits, including nine of the top 11 recruits regardless of position. As next-tier teams angle for a path into the College Football Playoff, these five programs took another step toward securing their place at the front of the line. In recruiting, the top crust of the FBS continues to separate from the pack.
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While Clemson seemed to have a strong hold on the nation’s top-ranked class coming out of December, Georgia’s strong close pushed the Bulldogs to the top of the list. (The Tigers still signed the nation’s top recruit, defensive lineman Bryce Breese, and five-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.) One of the Bulldogs’ longtime verbal commitment, five-star offensive tackle Broderick Jones, signed after taking official visits to Arkansas, Auburn and Illinois. Georgia added cornerback Daran Branch, offensive lineman Cameron Kinnie and running back Daijun Edwards after December’s signing period.
The Trojans made only slight gains after Clay Helton’s unsettled job status — resolved for now, and to surely be revisited at a later date — led to a paltry haul of signings in December. One nice addition was tight end Jack Yary, who circled back on an earlier verbal commitment to pick the Trojans over Washington. And that USC didn’t sign a quarterback isn’t a huge deal, given the team’s young options under center. Still, this was a disconcerting sight for anyone familiar with the program’s recruiting pedigree and local talent: USC’s class was outside the top 50 nationally on Wednesday afternoon.
New coach Eli Drinkwitz made the most of the second signing day and picked up ground on Missouri’s rivals in the SEC East. Wide receiver Kris Abrams-Draine bolsters a position group in need of an overhaul. Lexington, Missouri, defensive tackle Montra Edwards could contribute earlier along the interior, though freshmen rarely make waves on the defensive front as freshman. And the coup was cornerback Ennis Rakestraw, who chose Missouri over fellow finalists Texas and Alabama.
The Broncos brought in five new additions to secure the best class in the Mountain West. Two recruits held offers from USC: quarterback Cade Fennegan, who received a late scholarship from the Trojans, and offensive lineman Kyle Juergens, who was a verbal commitment to USC as a defensive lineman but will join an offensive front set for an offseason rebuild. The Broncos also added a solid graduate transfer from North Carolina State in linebacker Brock Miller.
New coach Mike Leach’s transition class added a few traditional commitments on signing day, including a three-star linebacker in Jamari Stewart who held offers from several teams in the SEC. The biggest addition came via the transfer portal: Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello gives Leach a high-level prospect who stands as a far better fit for Leach’s offensive scheme than the Bulldogs’ returning options.
It wasn’t a perfect day for the Longhorns: Rakestraw chose Missouri and defensive end Princely Umanmielen went with Florida. Yesterday, however, Texas reeled in four-star athlete Kelvontay Dixon, who seems set to at least begin his career at wide receiver. And in major win against rival Oklahoma, the Longhorns were able to nab four-star defensive end Alfred Collins, a local talent and top-100 prospect who becomes one of the highest-rated recruits in their class.
Tennessee pulled off one of the day’s biggest flips in drawing four-star wide receiver Malachi Wideman away from Florida State. Adding Wideman and three-star athlete Damarcus Beckwith moved the Volunteers firmly into the crowded group of SEC teams hovering just behind the established top five, alongside or just a hair behind Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn.
The Ducks were already locked into the best class in the Pac-12 after a fruitful December, which included three five-star prospects and adds more immediate-impact talent to a program poised to take another step forward after a recent Rose Bowl win. Wednesday brought another weapon in four-star defensive tackle Jayson Jones, a former Alabama verbal commitment with ample ability to produce as a freshman.
Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks flipped defensive end Gilber Edmond away from South Florida and pulled in-state wide receiver Ger-Cari Caldwell away from Tennessee. South Carolina also officially added a pair of graduate transfers from Colorado State in quarterback Collin Hill and fullback Adam Prentice; both played for former Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator. The biggest addition came in the early afternoon: five-star defensive end Jordan Burch confirmed his verbal commitment in December and taking a visit to LSU earlier this month
SMU came into signing day with three open spots and filled two, adding junior college defensive lineman Junior Aho and in-state cornerback Brian Massey. Aho, who is originally from France, pencils into an immediate role along the Mustangs’ front. Massey flew under the radar but has top-level speed — he’s a contender for the state title in the 200 meters. SMU coaches are comfortable leaving scholarships open for transfers, with the expectation to add another five or more bodies to the roster before fall camp.
Luke Fickell and Cincinnati sealed the top recruiting class among the Group of Five — good for the top 45 nationally, per 247Sports, and ahead of dozens of Power Five programs — by adding another six recruits, three at wide receiver. One, four-star Jadon Thompson, was verbally committed to Illinois but didn’t sign in December, opening a door for the Bearcats to ink its third four-star prospect. According to 247Sports’ rankings, Cincinnati was the only Group of Five team to sign one four-star recruit, let alone three.