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Top Dawgs: Georgia takes recruiting crown in 2018 and other takeaways from National Signing Day

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National Signing Day — Part II — is pretty much in the books, wrapping up another wild day in college football as we find out where the game’s next stars will be playing at. While the Class of 2018 was the first with an early signing period, there was still plenty of action on the traditional first Wednesday in February date and scores of coaches across the country will be able to claim their teams got much better with the next wave of recruits on board.

Sorting through all the announcements and tallying up the multitude of recruiting numbers, here are a few takeaways from National Signing Day:

1. Top Dawgs

Kirby Smart finished second last season but was second to none when it came to recruiting this cycle.

Georgia finished with the consensus top-ranked recruiting class in 2018 and pretty much picked up where they left off in the early signing period. The Bulldogs landed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, flipped both Otis Reese (previously committed to Michigan) and Quay Walker (Alabama), plus went into Texas to grab a pledge from lengthy wideout Tommy Bush. And that was just on Wednesday morning. All told the team is bringing in a CFB-high seven (yeah, seven) five-star recruits in this cycle and 15 others who are ranked as four-stars. Whether it’s by sheer volume or by average star rating, this is one of the best recruiting classes any program has put together and a pretty incredible feather in Smart’s hat. While the good news in February probably won’t take all the sting out of what happened in Atlanta last month, it sure does help to smooth the pain a little and keep the Bulldogs in the running for SEC titles and playoff appearances for years to come.

2. Alabama double-take 

One of the most bizarre sights when the dust settled on signing day was the placement of Alabama at No. 7 in the 247Sports‘ team rankings. That puts an end to one of the more remarkable streaks in college football as the Crimson Tide had hauled in the top-ranked class every year since 2011 and finished outside the top three for the first time since Nick Saban’s initial class in Tuscaloosa. No one will be crying for the national champions however, especially not with three true freshman keying that comeback against Georgia in the title game. Alabama still landed top cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., who could start right away with the team given what the depth chart looks like going into the season. Still, it was strange to see the program that had been a recruiting juggernaut lose battles to Georgia, Ohio State, ClemsonStanford and USC. Saban made several staff changes this offseason that were no doubt aimed at getting better on the recruiting trail so this dip is probably temporary but it was nevertheless strange to see the Tide not crushing everybody like they normally do on and off the field.

3. USC’s big day

Death, taxes, and USC rolling up commitments on National Signing Day. The Trojans once again had a frenzy of top-ranked players don the cardinal and gold on Wednesday, including the majority of the big hitters in their backyard. Everybody already knew five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels had reclassified from 2019 to 2018 to bolster the class but the team also added four-star teammate Solomon Tuliaupupu, landed the services of five-star corner Olaijah Griffin then secured another top player in four-star corner Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Just as important, they leapfrogged Pac-12 rivals Washington, Oregon and UCLA. While the fan base may not have been thrilled at Clay Helton receiving a new contract yesterday, the results on Signing Day may have them reconsidering.

4. Dabo does it again

The biggest commitment Dabo Swinney and Clemson received came last month when three potential first round picks along the defensive line announced they would return to school for another season. Add that group to yet another top 10 class and the Tigers look like they’ll remain in the nation’s elite for years to come. Two of the top three recruits in the country are already on campus and Clemson signed the top-ranked player from a whopping six states, including plucking five-star wideout Justyn Ross out of Alabama and away from the Crimson Tide. Only Georgia signed more five-stars and you’d be hard pressed to find many teams with a better average than this group.

5. Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart close strong

The biggest mover from the first signing period to today appears to be Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. After getting behind the eight-ball with his hire coming a little late in the cycle, the Aggies went on a roll to close strong with the class of 2018. They landed Louisiana TE Glenn Beal over Tennessee and others, plucked Jeremiah Martin out of California, got four-star QB James Foster and flipped DL Bobby Brown from Alabama among other moves. It will still take time for the new regime in College Station to establish ties in the state of Texas but as far as first recruiting classes go, it was a heck of a first effort from Fisher and company.

As for the guy who took his old job at Florida State, Willie Taggart delivered one of the other big surprises in the team rankings as the Seminoles moved from the 30’s in the team rankings into the top 12. They won the battle for Jamarcus Chatman over in-state rival Miami and also secured the signature of four-star defensive end Malcolm Lamar among other moves but were very active in locking up another talented class despite not having much time to work with. Perhaps just as importantly, it looks like FSU is already rolling with the class of 2019 and will be a force to be reckoned with all those quality recruiters on staff.

6. Texas returns to the top

Up the road in Austin, second-year coach Tom Herman appears to have the Longhorns back among the elite recruiters in college football this year after trending downward the past few years. UT finished with a consensus top three class and landed some impact players in the secondary with a pair of five-star safeties. Even more notable is how the program cleaned up in-state, landing 11 of the top 15 players in Texas.

7. Michigan’s disappointing effort

In a way, the Wolverines’ recruiting mirrored their most recent season and finished on a down note. Jim Harbaugh does have a pretty good roster coming back to Ann Arbor for 2018 but it was a bit of a head turner to see the team ranked No. 21st in the 247Sports’ team rankings after so much talk about the program the past few years. They finished well behind division rivals Ohio State and Penn State in the rankings and failed to land a top 100 prospect. To add insult to injury, they lost five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere to the Buckeyes and saw their highest rated commit flip to Georgia. Not exactly attacking recruiting with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

8. New coaches, new rankings

Here’s how new head coaches in the Power Five finished in the 247Sports’ team rankings:

Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin: 58th overall, 11th in the Pac-12

Arizona State’s Herm Edwards: 36th overall, 5th in the Pac-12

Arkansas’ Chad Morris: 54th overall, 14th in the SEC

Florida’s Dan Mullen: 14th overall, fourth in the SEC

Florida State’s Willie Taggart: 11th overall, third in the ACC

Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead: 27th overall, ninth in the SEC

Nebraska’s Scott Frost: 22rd overall, fourth in the Big Ten

Oregon’s Mario Cristobal: 16th overall third in the Pac-12

Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith: 69th overall, 12th in the Pac-12

Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt: 20th overall, eighth in the SEC

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher: 17th overall, sixth in the SEC

UCLA’s Chip Kelly: 18th overall, fourth in the Pac-12

9. Turning our attention to 2019

This was the first class that could sign early in December so from players to coaches to parents, the altered recruiting cycle was an adjustment period for just about everybody. While the vast majority of players decided to put pen to paper in the first period, there was still plenty of drama left for recruiting junkies to get excited about in January and February despite worries there would not be. It’s still too early to pull out some big takeaways from how everything is going to play out long-term given all of the unique factors involved in the Class of 2018, but it’s possible we’ll see some tweaks in strategy from programs large and small going forward. One thing is for certain, teams are not wasting any time getting started with the Class of 2019 and the team that sits atop the 247Sports’ rankings this year is the same one that is in pole position next year as Georgia already has seven commitments — all four-stars or better. As we know though, it’s a long road between now and then.

10. Still plenty of NSD strangeness

Despite the early signing period taking some of the buzz out of the air in February, there was still plenty of the regular strange moments we’ve come to expect from National Signing Day. Twitter accounts getting suspended, moms walking off the stageSnoop Dogg and more.

Ahh, ‘crootin.

Nation’s top-rated unsigned QB to play for Stanford… eventually

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It will take a bit for Stanford to realize the benefits of it, but the Cardinal landed a fairly significant Herbie Hancock Wednesday morning.

Entering National Signing Day, Tanner McKee was the highest-rated unsigned recruit at the quarterback position.  The California high schooler was rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 46 prospect overall.

While Alabama, BYU, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington were viewed as potential landing spots, Stanford was viewed as the overwhelming favorite to land the signal-caller.  In the end, McKee did the expected and projected, confirming that he will, eventually, head down to The Farm.

As has previously been reported, McKee will serve a two-year LDS mission before enrolling in college.  That means he won’t be available to the Cardinal until the 2020 season — provided he doesn’t change his mind in the interim and moves on to another program, of course.

Alabama’s streak of No. 1 ranked recruiting classes very much in jeopardy

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Even with Nick Saban involved, all good things must come to an end.

Beginning with the 2011 cycle, Alabama has pulled in the top-ranked recruiting class according to 247Sports.com’s composite team rankings each and every one of those years. With National Signing Day, Part 2, on tap Wednesday, that streak of seven straight recruiting crowns is very likely coming to an end.

Entering today, ‘Bama sits at sixth nationally (275.92 points) in the team rankings, behind the likes of No. 1 Ohio State (311.6), No. 2 Georgia (309.23), No. 3 Texas (298.17), No. 4 Penn State (280.44) and No. 5 Miami (279.13). Rivals.com has them at ninth, while ESPN.com places them in the No. 4 hole.

The last time the Crimson Tide didn’t finish with the top-ranked class, they were fourth in 2010; the worst finish under Saban came in his first year in Tuscaloosa (2007, No. 12). UA also pulled in the No. 3 classes in 2008 and 2009.

All is not lost for Saban & Company in 2018, though. Maybe — especially if more four-stars decommit like one did overnight.

After the first-ever early signing period this past December, four five-star prospects remain unsigned. Three of those four — cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. (No. 6 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board) and Tyson Campbell (No. 12) as well as offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (No. 7) — have Alabama as finalists. According to most recruitniks, however, Surtain and Campbell landing anywhere other than LSU and Georgia, respectively, would be more than a mild upset.

The top unsigned quarterback in this class, Corona Calif., high schooler Tanner McKee (No. 46), also has Alabama in his group of five finalists, which also includes Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington. The Cardinal is viewed as the front-runner for a player who whichever team he signs with will have to wait on as McKee will serve a two-year LDS mission before enrolling in college.

A trio of four-star wide receivers, Jaylen Waddle (No. 39, No. 5 receiver) Justyn Ross (No. 45, No. 7) and Jacob Copeland (No. 69, No. 12), are also possibilities for the Tide, as is four-star defensive lineman Malik Langham (No. 315, No. 14 strongside defensive end).

All told, there are 29 four-star recruits who remain unsigned, so the team recruiting rankings outside of Alabama will certainly change throughout the course of the day. One thing, though, is a near-certainty — Alabama’s reign as the Kings of Crootin’ will surely (for now) to come to an end.

Guess they’ll just have to take solace in getting sized for yet another national championship ring. Poor fellers.

Washington announces addition of Georgia transfer Jacob Eason

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Chris Petersen and Washington recruited Jacob Eason the first time around, back when he was a 5-star quarterback out of Lake Stevens, Wash., north of Seattle. Eason stuck with his Georgia commitment, even through the Bulldogs’ change from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart. But the end result further proves the maxim, “If you love something, let it go, and if it comes back it’s meant to be.” Or something like that.

A knee injury in the season-opener of the 2017 season turned Eason into Georgia’s Wally Pipp and Jake Fromm into a red-and-black Lou Gehrig. Fromm took the job and never gave it back, even when Eason returned from injury. Which led to Eason announcing he would transfer last month, and now, on the eve of Signing Day 2.0, Washington has announced its biggest addition of the 2018 class.

Eason confirmed the transfer himself with a tweet of his own.

In addition to being his home, Washington is also the perfect situation for Eason. Jake Browning returns for his senior season in 2018, Eason’s mandated year-in-residence, and would allow him to slide into the starting role in 2019 as a redshirt junior.

Eason won the starting job in his first fall on campus as a true freshman in 2016, hitting 204-of-370 throws (55.1 percent) for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He appeared in only five games in 2017 and threw just seven passes.

Eason will have to compete for the 2019 job with Jacob Sirmon (son of Cal head coach Peter Sirmon) and Colson Yankoff, true freshmen who are already on Washington’s campus.

J.K. Dobbins races past Bryce Love as Bovada’s updated Heisman favorite

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Remember yesterday when we shared the initial 2018 Heisman Trophy odds from Bovada? Well, scrap that already because the people have come in with enough bets to warrant some quick changes to the Heisman odds. Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins soared up four spots to climb into the top spot on Bovada’s board after just 24 hours.

Dobbins was initially given 12/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, and the bettors went scrambling for those odds. Bovada’s updated odds see Dobbins as the way-too-early favorite with 6/1 odds. Tied for the best odds with Dobbins is another Big Ten running back, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Taylor didn’t move up quite as dramatically to 6/1 after having 8/1 odds a day ago. The short-lived preseason favorite from Bovada and 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Stanford running back Bryce Love, has slipped into third on the board with 7/1 odds. Alabama’s national championship hero, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, tied Love with 7/1 odds.

Some other notable dramatic changes include the addition of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock (25/1). Lock, the SEC’s top passer returning in 2018, was initially left completely off the board. He is the only newcomer to the updated odds from Bovada at this moment. The most notable drop in the odds was from Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who fell from 55/1 odds to 66/1. Most other drops were just by a few spots, including Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate falling from 9/1 to 14/1, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier falling from 12/1 to 16/1 and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley dropping from 18/1 to 20/1.

Here are the updated Heisman odds as relayed by Bovada:

J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 6/1
Jonathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 6/1
Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 7/1
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 7/1
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 12/1
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 14/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 16/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 16/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 18/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 18/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 20/1
Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 25/1
Rodney Anderson (RB Oklahoma) 25/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 25/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 25/1
Drew Lock (QB Missouri) 25/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 25/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 35/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 35/1
D'Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 35/1
Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 35/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 45/1
Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 66/1
Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 75/1