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Welcome to the three days of the year where both bowl season and signing season are in full swing.
Wednesday kicked off the three-day early signing period for high school football players. This marks the second year where high school players have the opportunity to sign with their teams of choice ahead of the traditional February signing day.
In 2017, the first year of the early signing period, a significant majority of recruits made their college choices official in the initial period. The first day of the early signing period in 2018 wasn’t as hectic, but it still gave us an opportunity to see who did well and who didn’t do so well.
Alabama: Have no fear, Alabama fans, the Tide isn’t taking a recruiting loss this year. Georgia topped the 2018 Rivals rankings but Alabama is in the lead after the first early signing period day. Nineteen of its 26 commitments signed on Wednesday, including five-star defensive tackle Antonio Alfano, five-star offensive tackle Evan Neal and five-star running back Trey Sanders, who picked Alabama over Georgia. College football fans will notice that offensive line, defensive line and running back have been constant positions of strength for the Tide under coach Nick Saban.
Georgia: While Alabama is at No. 1 overall, the Tide is there because of its 26-man recruiting class. Georgia has 20 commits (16 signed) and actually ranks better on a per-player average than Alabama’s does. Georgia also signed three five-star prospects including linebacker Nakobe Dean. The Bulldogs also got four-star QB Dwan Mathis — a late Ohio State flip — and signed three-star QB John Plumlee. QB depth is imperative if Justin Fields, the No. 2 QB in the class of 2018, transfers away as is expected.
Mack Brown and Herm Edwards: Both former coaches were laughed at when they were hired by their respective programs.
Edwards followed up a 7-6 season and a bowl appearance at Arizona State with a class that currently ranks in the top 40 in the recruiting rankings. Finding a quarterback to replace the departing Manny Wilkins is imperative for the Sun Devils and Edwards signed three, including four-star QB Jayden Daniels. The top-40 ranking is even more impressive when you consider that Arizona State has just 19 commits.
Brown was hired to replace Larry Fedora at North Carolina after Fedora was fired the day after the 2018 season. He got a big flip on Wednesday from in-state QB Sam Howell, a four-star prospect. Quarterback play has been disastrous for UNC ever since Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL. If Brown can get that position stabilized quickly, things will start to improve in Chapel Hill.
Minnesota: Are things trending up for P.J. Fleck’s program? The Gophers beat Wisconsin in the final weekend of the regular season to get to 6-6 and a berth in the Quick Lane Bowl. Now a day into the early signing period, Minnesota is at No. 33 in Rivals’ rankings.
That No. 33 spot is the highest Minnesota has been in Rivals’ rankings since 2008, when its class was ranked No. 17. The 2019 class includes two four-star recruits and both are from out of state. Defensive back Tyler Nubin is a native of South Elgin, Illinois, and quarterback Jacob Clark, the No. 13 pro-style QB, is from Rockwall, Texas.
Oregon: The Ducks are No. 6 in Rivals’ rankings, nine spots ahead of the next-best Pac-12 team. Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel wrote about the Pac-12’s recruiting struggles on Tuesday and the conference has just four programs in the top 30 a day later.
In addition to the commitment of five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon has commits from 13 four-star prospects. That’s six more than the most famous Pac-12 program in the country. We’ll get to them in a minute.
Florida State: As mentioned above, the Seminoles lost out to North Carolina on a highly touted quarterback. FSU’s current class rank of No. 12 would be exceptional for many Power Five programs but it’s a letdown for the Seminoles. Florida State hasn’t been outside the top 10 in the Rivals team rankings since the class of 2007, when it had the No. 21 class in the country.
FSU was top 10 in Willie Taggart’s first recruiting efforts with the school a year ago thanks to some late flips in his favor. While DL Malcolm Ray picked FSU over Miami, the Seminoles lost out on a number of players, including another quarterback.
Ohio State: To be clear, this is not an indictment of Ryan Day and the Ohio State staff’s recruiting efforts. It was expected that Ohio State’s class wouldn’t be top five as the program transitions from Urban Meyer to Day. Few people in college football have ever been better recruiters than Meyer.
Still, it’s kind of jarring to see Ohio State at No. 20 in Rivals’ rankings. The Buckeyes did get a big commitment from five-star defensive end Zach Harrison on Wednesday and will be in very good shape offensively in 2019 if Dwayne Haskins chooses to come back to school. So don’t go hitting the panic button just yet, Buckeye fans. Ohio State should be back in the top 10 in the rankings soon enough.
[National Signing Day: Sign up for Rivals, get free team gear]
Miami: The Hurricanes are sandwiched between Duke and Vanderbilt in Rivals’ rankings at No. 43. Yikes. Though to be fair, Miami’s 7-5 record was the same as Duke’s and was one game better than Vanderbilt’s in 2018.
Mark Richt’s team is so low because the 2019 class has just 14 commits and half of them are four-star prospects. So this is a ranking that doesn’t look nearly as bad when you start to go below the surface. But the surface isn’t too great, especially after a disappointing 2018 season.
USC: The Trojans are missing a bowl game for the first time in over 15 years and have a class ranked outside the top 20 following five-straight seasons of top-10 recruiting classes.
USC did get commitments from four-star defensive players Drake Jackson and Ralen Goforth but lost out on four-star recruits to Arizona State and Oregon and four-star defensive tackle Siaki Ika signed with LSU.
Clay Helton and Kliff Kingsbury have a ton of offensive talent to work with in 2019 and if USC bounces back in a big way, the No. 24-ranked class of 2019 could end up being an aberration.
The state of Kansas: Chris Klieman and Les Miles took their jobs at Kansas State and Kansas, respectively, knowing they needed to make some recruiting improvements. Those improvements are going to take some time.
Kansas State’s class is ranked at No. 80 with no four-star recruits. But Klieman scored an impact transfer with the addition of running back James Gilbert on a grad transfer from Ball State. Gilbert has rushed for over 2,800 yards in his career and should slot in as the replacement for Alex Barnes, who is heading to the NFL.
Miles’ first class at Kansas is ranked lower than Klieman’s at No. 94. At least at the moment. Kansas hit the junior college market hard on Wednesday and signed a number of juco transfers. That’s probably a sound strategy for the short-term as Miles and his staff work to bring Kansas out of the depths of the Big 12. Look for both programs to keep looking for players to sign in February.
Other National Signing Day content from Yahoo Sports:
• Ireland, King, Swayze, and Syncere: our Class of 2019 All-Name Team
• The inside story of Arkansas’ historic recruiting class
• Recruit whose dad wore full Florida uniform on visit commits with Chucky doll
• Stanford signee plays with jazz band before signing ceremony
• Taulia Tagovailoa, also a QB, commits to Alabama
• 4-star DB commits to Oklahoma, does Horns Down
• Syracuse signee Cooper Dawson has one of best ceremonies you’ll ever see
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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