Alabama’s run at the top of Rivals’ team recruiting rankings is over.
While Georgia may have ultimately come up short in the National Championship Game against the Crimson Tide in January, the Bulldogs toppled Alabama on Wednesday. UGA secured the No. 1 class in the country thanks to some impressive flips by recruits throughout the day and put a halt to the recent recruiting dominance of Alabama, which finished with the No. 1 class in six of the last seven years.
Georgia’s class is, quite frankly, absurd. Eight of the Bulldogs’ 26 recruits are five-star prospects and 15 are four-star recruits. Yes, three-star recruits make up just three spots in the class.
Five-star players like Brenton Cox and Cade Mays committed in December during the early signing period. But the Bulldogs got a commitment from five-star defensive back Tyson Campbell early on Wednesday and then secured a flurry of signatures from four-star players as the day went on.
Wide receiver Tommy Bush used his niece to announce his commitment to the Bulldogs. Linebacker Quay Walker tossed aside a Tennessee hat as he announced his commitment to Kirby Smart’s team. And the team got linebacker Otis Reese, long thought to be heading to Michigan, to come south and join the SEC.
Georgia’s performance on the field throughout the 2017 season and through the 2018 recruiting cycle is perhaps the clearest sign there is now a legitimate threat to Alabama’s dominance of the SEC. While recruiting rankings aren’t everything, they sure are something. Alabama isn’t omnipresent at the top of college football for the past eight seasons without the top recruiting classes it reeled in. There’s a significant correlation between winning games — especially over multiple years — and recruiting classes.
Alabama’s still the gold standard (even if they’ll appear a little lower in this column) and deservedly so. But Smart, a protege of Nick Saban’s, is doing his best to one-up his former boss. And so far so good.
Here are the rest of our winners and losers from the 2018 recruiting cycle
USC: While Georgia’s signing day was pretty damn good, it was also evident the Trojans had a shot at No. 1 from the team’s early-signing period performance. Some of the most die-hard USC supporters probably didn’t foresee the recruiting excellence the Trojans had on Wednesday.
USC got signatures from five-star CB Olaijah Griffin, five-star CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart, four-star ATH Devon Williams and four-star LB Solomon Tuliaupupu on Wednesday. The four prospects, all California natives, entered the day undecided about their college choices.
The Trojans’ class is relatively small with just 17 signees. But what it lacks in quantity it makes up in quality; USC’s class has the highest average rating of anyone at 4.24. For comparison’s sake, Georgia comes in second at 4.19.
Texas: The Longhorns are back near the top of the recruiting rankings. Tom Herman’s team finished No. 4 in Rivals’ team rankings, behind only Georgia and Ohio State.
Texas secured that ranking by locking down the state. Herman’s staff secured signatures from four of the state’s top five players and seven of the top 10 players in the state. The only top-five prospect Texas missed out on was wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who committed to Alabama.
Seventeen of Texas’ 27 signees are four-star prospects and 19 of those 27 are from the Lone Star State.
Florida State: We noted in December that Florida State had some work to do under new coach Willie Taggart. And damn, they got that work done.
FSU was at No. 70 after the first day of the early-signing period. Now the Seminoles end National Signing Day in the top 10. FSU secured commitments from three four-star prospects on Wednesday including Georgia athlete Anthony Grant.
The Seminoles lost a lot to the NFL, but reloading shouldn’t be that difficult. There’s still a gap between Clemson and FSU, but it’s a lot smaller than it could have been.
This is really cool from Kansas. The team signed Tayber Witt in conjuction with Team Impact, which helps kids with serious illnesses.
We are truly blessed that through our partnership with @goteamimpact we were able to sign this STUD today!!
— David Beaty (@beaty_david) February 7, 2018
Alabama: As we said earlier, Alabama is still the gold standard. And when you reel in a top-15 recruiting class and you’re a loser, you’re doing things right. Still, it’s noteworthy that Alabama’s class isn’t what previous classes have been in Rivals’ rankings.
Take a moment and pour one out for Alabama. The Tide fell all the way to No. 7.
To prove how bad of a day it was for the Tide, Alabama got a commitment from five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain (yes, the son of the NFL player of the same name) and five-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.
Michigan: There were no large-scale theatrics this signing day for Michigan. Perhaps because Michigan didn’t sign any five-star recruits.
Why did #Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh have Signing Day news conference in his usual spot at Schembechler Hall after Signing with Stars show downtown and big production at Crisler? @AP_Top25 pic.twitter.com/9OtZaivsgT
— Larry Lage (@LarryLage) February 7, 2018
The Wolverines’ class comes in at No. 25 on Rivals’ rankings and lacks a single Rivals 100 recruit after linebacker Otis Reese flipped to Georgia. UM signed seven four-star recruits, including defensive back Myles Sims and defensive end Aiden Hutchinson.
A year ago, Michigan had three five-star recruits in the class. Two years ago, Jim Harbaugh secured the signature of Rashan Gary, the top player in the class of 2016.
There’s some pressure on Harbaugh in 2018 and a class that doesn’t live up to the standards set by his previous two isn’t doing anything to lessen it. But remember — Michigan can get a huge boost for 2018 if the NCAA rules Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson is eligible to play immediately. Though if he does, that pressure on Harbaugh may only increase.
The Pac-12 outside USC: While the Trojans did well, the rest of the conference did not. No other team in the Pac-12 got a five-star recruit in the 2018 class.
The conference’s next-highest ranked team in Rivals’ rankings is Washington, which comes in at No. 14. The Huskies are closely followed by Oregon and UCLA, and then there’s a drop to Arizona State at No. 36. That’s not good compared to other Power Five conferences.
The Pac-12’s four teams in the top 35 are the fewest of any Power Five conference. The SEC leads the way with 11 teams in the top 35 (only Missouri, Vanderbilt and Arkansas are outside) and the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 have six teams each in the top 35.
BYU: Here’s a list of teams who had better recruiting classes than BYU in 2018
• Florida International
• Louisiana Tech
• North Texas
Not a pretty list for a team that wants to be considered on the same level as an independent as Notre Dame.
The Cougars weren’t routinely in the top 40 under former coach Bronco Mendenhall, but Mendenhall had nine top-70 recruiting classes in his time with the team. And the 2016 class, largely recruited by Mendenhall’s staff before he went to Virginia, came in at No. 48.
Contrast that with this year’s class at No. 92 in Rivals’ team rankings; a 28-spot drop from 2017. Cougar fans better hope that 2017’s on-field performance and 2018’s recruiting are a blip rather than the sign of a trend.
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