Signing day Winners and Losers: The SEC keeps rolling, and it wasn’t just Ole Miss

Dr. Saturday

Ole Miss isn't a national, or even regional, power in college football.

The Rebels have been to just three bowls since 2003, and didn't go to one in 2010 or 2011. They haven't won a SEC championship since 1963.

[Pat Forde: Vanderbilt stages a Signing Day worth celebrating]

And this program was the biggest story on national signing day. Ole Miss cleaned up, getting the top player in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, top receiver Laquon Treadwell, top offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and another top-100 recruit in safety Antonio Conner. Even LeBron James was impressed.

And with all that attention and all those potential stars, the attention of King James and everyone else, Ole Miss' recruiting class ranked just fourth ... in the SEC.

If you want to know why the SEC wins the final college football game of the season every year, it's because the conference wins signing day every year too. All you have to do is check out's rankings. Six of the top 10 classes were from the SEC.

Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel did a thorough job breaking down the SEC's dominance on signing day, pointing out that even Kentucky, a pretty bad SEC program with a new coaching staff, ranked 13th among recruiting classes but 28th nationally. Dominance might not even be a strong enough word to describe what the SEC did on signing day.

"I've never seen anything like it," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops told Wetzel.

[Related: Notre Dame's Signing Day to remember]

It's a tough cycle to break. The SEC gets the reputation for playing the best football, then the best players want to go play there, and the league gets even stronger. There's no end to it in sight either (for the record Alabama, Florida and LSU had the first, third and fifth best classes in the nation, edging out Ole Miss at No. 7).

So we know who the winners were, but there were other winners of signing day, and some losers too:


Vanderbilt: Though we've said plenty about the SEC, one school deserved a separate mention. The Commodores had the 19th-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals, most notably two spots ahead of Oregon at No. 21.

Vanderbilt isn't the kind of school that lands classes like that, but James Franklin is doing a great job. Getting receiver Jordan Cunningham, who came to Vanderbilt because of the academics, when Cunningham would have been happily welcomed at almost any school in FBS, was the biggest win for the Commodores.

[Related: Signing of No. 1 prospect makes Ole Miss relevant again ]

Michigan and Ohio State: If signing day victories translate to the fall, the years of Michigan and Ohio State watching other Big Ten schools go to the Rose Bowl might be ending soon (and Ohio State was already on that path after going undefeated in Urban Meyer's first year). The Buckeyes finished with the second-ranked recruiting class by Rivals, and Michigan was sixth. Ohio State in particular seems like the one non-SEC school that is positioning itself to legitimately compete for a BCS title, with Meyer bringing in elite talent like he did at Florida.

Reuben Foster: Because, one more time, the five-star linebacker's Nick Saban getup won signing day ...

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish landed the fourth-ranked class, and coach Brian Kelly said the Irish's BCS Championship Game appearance didn't have much to do with it. Appearing on ESPNU, Kelly said most of the class was put together before Notre Dame ascended to No. 1, although the title game appearance may have helped keep the class together. What that means is Notre Dame's recruiting should get even better.

"You keep moving the bar higher and higher and higher when you recruit these kind of young men in this class, and we think we've got that, where we'll have an influx of players that will continue to push the entire program, and that's why we're excited about these kids," Kelly said during his press conference at Notre Dame.

Gus Malzahn: No new coach had a better day. Auburn's class ranked 10th, and what's most notable is the defensive line. The new linemen include Carl Lawson (No. 1 DE), Montravius Adams (No. 3 DT) and Elijah Daniel (No. 8 DE). If those three pan out, the Tigers' defensive front will be a force. Overall, it was a great start for Malzahn and his staff at Auburn.


USC: The day wasn't too bad for USC. The Trojans got five five-star recruits, more than any other school. So there is reason to be excited. But some USC fans are up in arms. There wasn't the typical depth to the class as of Wednesday evening, because of some high-profile players de-committing before signing day. What might be troubling for USC is that UCLA passed it this year. The Bruins' class ranked 10th. USC was 13th. That's not a great sign, especially after the Bruins pasted the Trojans on the field last season.

Georgia: USC wasn't the only school that wondered what might have been. The Bulldogs missed out at the last minute on five-star players Tunsil and Adams, along with high four-star running back Alvin Kamara. The Bulldogs didn't have a terrible day, but it could have been much better.

Missouri: Remember how we mentioned that Kentucky's class ranked 13th in the SEC? Well, that means someone had to be 14th, and that someone was Missouri.

The Tigers landed no five-star players and just one four-star player. The class ranked 48th overall in Rivals' rankings, which in a vacuum isn't the end of the world. But when the other 13 teams in the conference are all more than 20 spots higher in the rankings, it's a terrible sign for a team that didn't adjust too well to its first season in the SEC last year.

[Also: National Signing Day: Conference breakdown]

Alex Collins: Unfortunately for Collins, a four-star recruit at running back who had previously committed to Miami, he became the biggest off-beat story of signing day when his mother, identified by the Miami Herald as Andrea McDonald, reportedly took his letter of intent papers and went into hiding. Collins couldn't fax his letter of intent to Arkansas, his college choice, and remains in limbo as of Wednesday night.

That's unfortunate, because every recruit deserves to have a memorable signing day, whether it's with a fancy hat ceremony or just faxing in the letter to the school of his choosing. The entire ordeal with Collins has instead turned signing day into a sideshow for the young man from Plantation, Fla., with his mother apparently not wanting him to leave to go to college far from home.

“She’s having anxiety,” Collins' older brother Johnny told the Miami Herald. “I know she preferred him to go to UM. Alex had said he was going to the U, and then all of a sudden he changes his mind. We found out he was going to Arkansas on TV.

“They still needed her signature. You can’t sign yourself over. It’s in black and white. But I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I’m as confused as everyone else.”

So all we really know is the papers haven't been sent, along with this message from Collins' Twitter account.

Texas: Want an odd quote to sum up the Longhorns' signing day? Here it is from Mack Brown, regarding quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who enrolled in January and said "battled through some injuries during his senior year and didn't turn in the type of season he was hoping for as his team struggled."

Harsin left Texas to take the Arkansas State head coaching job after the season. Make of Brown's quote what you wish.

The concern for Texas has to be that Texas A&M, which can sell a hot program in the nation's best conference with a fun offensive system and dynamic coach, will significantly cut into the Longhorns' recruiting. Texas A&M was eighth in Rivals' rankings. Texas was 23rd.

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