Signing Day Fallout

Eric Froton
·10 min read

There was a flurry of late commitments from the February 3 National Signing Day, so I chose a few of the biggest impact signings to highlight, along with the current shape of each team’s overall recruiting haul.

LJ Johnson - RB - Texas A&M

The Cypress, TX product is rated as the second best running back in the country by Rivals and fourth best RB by 247Sports from the 2021 class. Heading into signing day Johnson had whittled his list down to a pair of in-state powerhouses in Texas and Texas A&M. Despite a spirited effort from new Longhorns HC Steve Sarkisian and his staff, Aggies HC Jimbo Fisher and RB Coach Tommie Robinson spearheaded a successful charge at the high four-star ball carrier.

Johnson (5’10/204) burst on the recruiting scene in 2018 when he rushed 206 times for 1951 yards and 37 rushing touchdowns en route to being named second-team all-state, which is no small feat in the lone star state. When asked about the reason why he chose A&M over Texas, Johnson said “It was the system. What Jimbo’s done over the past three years, what his offense and running back have done, the progression they’ve made and where they are heading into the future. I felt it was a great fit.”

The number 45 overall recruit cited A&M’s signing of four-star 2021 offensive line prospects Bryce Foster, Marcus Burris and Reuben Fatheree as being a big influence on his decision, as well as noting that he liked the downhill, one-cut system that HC Fisher runs. One look at Johnson’s game film and you can plainly see that the talented tailback’s vision, strength, low center of gravity and acceleration should help him assimilate to the collegiate game quickly. He has a verified 4.42 40-yard dash on record from The Opening Regional back in 2019 where he also posted a 34-inch vertical, as a sophomore.

This class represents another rock solid recruiting effort from the Aggies who have strong-armed the once impenetrable Longhorns as the premier statewide recruiting force in the fertile football hotbed of Texas. Rivals rates their haul as the fourth best in the country while 247Sports is slightly more bearish, ascribing A&M the seventh highest overall class and fourth in the almighty SEC. Their average recruit rating even ticked up from 0.9111 last year to .9212 this year, as the Aggies continue their upward ascension in the SEC West. Texas A&M is likely the division’s best hope to dethrone Alabama, and their 2021 recruiting haul is another sizable step in that direction.

Rayshaun Benny - DT - Michigan

Benny (6’5/275) had committed to cross-state rival Michigan State back in November after being pursued by notable institutions such as USC, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Georgia, Auburn, Miami and Texas A&M. However when forced to put pen-to-paper, the Oak Par, Michigan native flipped his commitment over to the maize and blue. The flip hurts Michigan State as much as it helps Michigan, as the Spartans signed only one four-star recruit this cycle according to 247Sports, whereas the Wolverines boast the 10th rated class in the country by reeling in 12 four-star recruits and one five-star. Overall MSU’s 2021 class ranks 10th in the Big Ten and 43rd nationally with 18 three-star pickups. The once respected Spartans even got out-recruited by Rutgers this cycle, as the Scarlet Knights’ class ranks 41st nationally.

A two-way player who also received interest as an OL, Benny plays through the whistle every down and has a penchant for driving his opponents into the ground. A fluid athlete who possesses impressive quickness and agility for his size, the in-state product could stand to put on a little more size to help him gain leverage in the trenches. He projects as a three-technique in a 4-3 or a defensive end in a 3-4 set and is rated as the 19th best DT prospect in the country.

His commitment, along with the signing of fellow four-star DL George Rooks, were imperative for a Michigan defense that needed an talent influx on the defensive line. Both could challenge for playing time relatively soon. Michigan is still recruiting at an elite level despite their disappointing 2020 showing.

Destyn Hill - WR - Florida State

FSU entered the day with the 30th ranked recruiting class in the nation according to 247Sports. The late signing of highly sought after four-star wideout Hill (6’0/200), who was also offered by blue blood programs like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and LSU, bumped the Noles class up to 22nd in the country and fourth in the ACC.

The 113th overall ranked recruit Hill joins IMG Academy wide receiver Malik McClain (42nd ranked WR/270th overall) and Kansas transfer Andrew Parchment, who caught 65 passes for 831 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. The infusion of receiving talent is pivotal for an offense that loses surefire NFL draft choice Tamorrion Terry and brought in UCF redshirt senior QB Mackenzie Milton to boost a listless passing attack that averaged just 196 passing yards per game and 6.1 yards per attempt.

When asked about his incoming wide receiver signees, HC Norvell said “To add Hill coupled with Malik McClain and Josh Burrell that are already here on campus right now, that is a great trio of young freshman receivers that I think have an unbelievable ceiling for what they can accomplish.”

One of the youngest teams in FBS last year, FSU chose to import eight transfers in order to acquire players that are ready to contribute immediately as HC Norvell cannot afford another woeful 2-6 season if he wants to keep his job. In addition to Parchment and Milton hey brought in former four-star Auburn RB D.J. Williams, Georgia four-star DE Jermaine Johnson and a pair of South Carolina transfers in Jammie Robinson and Keir Thomas who fled SoCar in the wake of former HC Will Muschamp’s ouster. All told, the Seminoles brought in eight transfers in addition to their 17 freshman signees as HC Norvell remolds the program to fit his system.

Raesjon Davis - LB - USC

Last year USC got slaughtered on the recruiting trail, allowing Oregon and others to strongarm their way into the fertile recruiting ground of California and snipe several high-profile SoCal recruits away from the Trojans. Their inability to lock down recruits from their backyard caused HC Clay Helton and company to crater all the way down to 64th in the 247Sports composite rankings last season and lit a fire under the program to shore up their recruiting deficiencies.

In response, the Trojans hired Oregon cornerbacks coach and ace recruiter Donte Williams to serve in the same capacity. Williams was a lead recruiter for Oregon when they posted the country’s ninth best class in 2020. The impact of HC Helton’s renewed focus on bolstering their recruiting on this year’s class has been profound, as USC leaped from the 64th rated class in 2020 all the way to eighth this year, just two spots behind the Pac-12 leading Ducks who pulled in the sixth best class in the country according to 247Sports.

The late signing of OLB Davis was a huge win for the men of Troy, as DC Todd Orlando and aforementioned CB coach Donte Williams teamed up to reel in the Mater Dei product who ranks as the second highest rated recruit of their 2021 class and the 48th overall prospect in the nation. Davis (6’1/215) is a versatile playmaker who has the speed and coverage chops of a safety, with the physicality of a sure-tackling linebacker.

Though he is a little light for a prototypical pass rusher, the Santa Ana, CA native was still able to bull-rush much heavier tackles at the high school level and has room on his frame to bulk up. When paired with the number one overall recruit in the nation, defensive end Korey Foreman, and eighth ranked OLB Julien Simon, you can envision an absolutely dominant pass rush emerging for the Trojans in short order. Give credit where credit is due, USC deserves recognition for turning around their recruiting apparatus in just one cycle.

Terrion Arnold - S - Alabama

The Alabama Recruiting Dynasty is truly a sight to behold as the Emperor Palpatine of CFB, HC Nick Saban, had already secured the highest rated recruiting class in 247Sports history entering the day so long as RB1 Camar Wheaton signed, which he did. So when versatile five-star safety Terrion Arnold (6’0/180) announced his commitment to the Crimson Tide, it was just another case of the filthy rich getting even richer.

The Crimson Tide’s 2021 haul surpassed both the iconic 2010 Florida class and Bama’s own 2017 class that included Tua, Jeudy, Ruggs, Devonta Smith, Najee Harris, etc. to be anointed the highest rated recruiting class of the modern recruiting era. Looking over the impressive list of signees, it’s clear that Saban was laser focused on replacing offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood, as well as the previously mentioned WR Smith and RB Harris combo.

Five-star bookend tackles JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer are ready to challenge for playing time right out of the gate, while four-star guards Terrence Ferguson and Jaden Roberts, along with four-star center James Brockermeyer (Tommy’s twin) look to bolster the interior line depth. On the receiving front, they landed five-star wideout Jacorey Brooks (6’3/185) along with high four-star prospects Agiye Hall (6’3/190) and slot receiver JoJo Earle (5’9/170). All three are considered top-10 wide receiver prospects according to 247Sports and will have the ability to contribute in short order alongside John Metchie in a wide open wide receiver group with starting spots up for grabs.

The Crimson Tide signed a pair of top-20 RBs last season in Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams and feels comfortable with their development, so heading into January the team had not signed a single tailback. That all changed when uncommitted five-star RB Camar Wheaton (5’11/190) chose Bama over perceived favorite Oklahoma. For his part, Wheaton is ranked as the second best running back in the country and 33rd overall recruit from the 2021 prep class according to 247Sports.

On the defensive side, Saban managed to secure commitments from multiple five-star signees, including eighth overall recruit and top rated DE Dallas Turner, 23rd overall prospect DT Damon Payne and coveted IMG Academy CB Ga’Quincy McKinstry who is considered the top corner in the 2021 cycle. The bottom line is Alabama has emphatically reclaimed the number one spot in the recruiting rankings after losing out to Georgia last season. The Crimson Tide have laid the foundation for another dominant three-to-four year run.

247Sports Composite Ranks of the Top 25 2021 Recruiting Classes

1 - Alabama

2 - Ohio State

3 - Georgia

4 - LSU

5 - Clemson

6 - Oregon

7 - Texas A&M

8 - USC

9 - Notre Dame

10 - Michigan

11 - Oklahoma

12 - Miami

12 - Florida

14 - North Carolina

15 - Wisconsin

16 - Tennessee

17 - Texas

18 - Ole Miss

19 - Maryland

20 - Nebraska

21 - Penn State

22 - Florida State

23 - Iowa

24 - Arkansas

25 - Mississippi State