The T’s are crossed, the I’s are dotted and the Class of 2017 is in the books for college football programs across the country. What did we learn as National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday? Here are seven takeaways from the day that was as the calendar can officially flip forward and take us full steam into the upcoming season.
1. Illinois State won National Signing Day
Yes, tiny FCS program Illinois State was the biggest winner of National Signing Day bar none. Why? Simple, the Redbirds announced they had signed superstar All-Name first-teamer Kobe Buffalomeat. Yes, you read that right, his name is Kobe Buffalomeat. Soak up all that attention and more kid, you’ve earned it.
2. Alabama dominates once again
Ho-hum, Alabama rolled to their seventh straight recruiting national championship. At this point, Nick Saban isn’t even reloading even more in Tuscaloosa — he’s refilling, refreshing and restocking the Crimson Tide shelves twice over. When you don’t even have enough room for a bleeping top 100 recruit who committed in a video from France, you know things are at just a different level than everybody else.
3. Meyer, Harbaugh are waging Ten Year War on the recruiting trail too
As good as Alabama was in putting together their class, the Big Ten was no pushover thanks to the league’s two powerhouses and their two big name head coaches at Ohio State and Michigan. Urban Meyer assembled a class that was right there with any in the SEC and actually out-paced the Tide when it came to average star rating, finishing just a tick behind Saban and company thanks to a smaller number of scholarships. The Buckeyes wound up with five five-stars in all and the top rated player at three different position and the No. 2 player at six others. The OSU head coach was basically searching for flaws and having a hard time coming up with negatives. His opposite number up North was no slouch either, as Jim Harbaugh dipped into the heart of the SEC to grab a top defensive tackle and fanned out across the country to pull talent to Ann Arbor. There’s been a lot of talk of a new Ten Year War between the two rivals given their head coaches and we certainly are in for one given the way they recruit.
4. USC continues to recruit itself
We’re to the point where it’s safe to say that no matter what, USC is going to land a top five recruiting class on Signing Day. At least it seems that way after the Trojans once again closed in impressive fashion to dominate the headlines out west and even draw a few eyebrow raises from the southeast. Whether it was locally in Southern California or across the country in places like Utah, Arizona or Florida, the cardinal and gold was typically on the head of many top recruits during announcements. In a way, the strong push across the line with the Class of 2017 was fitting given the job Clay Helton did this past season. Those calls for a new coaching staff in Los Angeles seem so, well, five months ago.
5. Programs deal with scandals in different ways
Every college football team goes through ups and downs but dealing with off the field scandals can sometimes affect programs in unexpected ways. We saw that play out a little bit for a few folks on National Signing Day. One the positive side, Matt Rhule and the new staff at Baylor did a mighty fine job shrugging off all the negative publicity from the sexual assault scandal (and seemingly daily headlines) to land a top 40 class. That’s far better than most predicted just a few weeks ago and was one spot behind Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, which nearly won the league title. The flip side was Ole Miss, a mainstay in the top 10 the past few years that had suddenly found itself at No. 30 overall — one spot behind Kentucky (and yes, it’s football we’re talking about). Head coach Hugh Freeze seemed fairly grumpy about NCAA sanctions hanging over the Rebels and that was clearly reflected with the less than stellar group he signed.
6. Awful season? Wouldn’t know it at some programs
All good things must come to an end and there were a number of teams that took a drastic step back in 2016. Among those that would rather forget last season were Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon, Mississippi State and Michigan State. Nobody from that group ended up making a bowl game, the Ducks ended up hiring a new head coach while the others all made significant staff changes. Despite all that, the Irish landed a top 12 class on Wednesday, the Bruins secured the No. 1 overall recruit, Oregon and MSU found themselves in the top 25 of the team rankings while the Spartans managed a pretty solid haul.
7. It was a relatively drama-free day but there were still some surprises
Despite there being more attention than ever on recruiting, this seemed like one of the most drama-free Signing Days in a long, long time. Part of that had to do with so few uncommitted players heading into the week — and only one major decision really going against conventional wisdom when top-rated DT Marvin Wilson committed to Florida State. Despite the lack of drama, there were still a few surprises like Maryland finishing with a top 20 class that was eight spots better than Texas, Clemson not ranking as high as you would expect because of their super small class, Florida’s late surge toward a respectable top 10 group, Lane Kiffin stealing a commit and the Big 12 looking very lackluster outside of Oklahoma.