Wednesday (Dec. 20) marked the first-ever Early Signing Period in college football, and it made a huge impact on the recruiting cycle as 2018 National Signing Day was — in large part — moved up six weeks with a ton of prospects across the country signing National Letters of Intent with their respective programs.
Based on what we saw go down Wednesday alone, here are our early winners and losers.
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1. Georgia: Kirby Smart entered the day with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country. He’s going to finish the day with the No. 2 class in the country, but now he’s less than two points away from the top spot, which means the Bulldogs are now formally in contention to land the No. 1 class by February. The day featured the commitments of the No. 1 offensive guard in Jamaree Salyer, the No. 2 offensive tackle in Cade Mays, the No. 2 strongside defensive end in Brenton Cox and four-star cornerback Divaad Wilson, a former Florida pledge.
2. Florida: Speaking of the Gators, Dan Mullen landed his quarterback by flipping Emory Jones from Ohio State. Perhaps more important, he was able to beat out new in-state rival Willie Taggart of Florida State in doing so. Florida also landed former four-star Tennessee defensive back commit Trey Dean.
3. Clemson: The Tigers had the most upside of anyone in the country heading into Wednesday, and even after missing on five-stars Mays and Salyer, they still managed to rise up from No. 16 before the day to No. 7 by landing five-star defensive end KJ Henry and the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle, Jackson Carman. The Carman win in particular was notable because it was an Ohio kid in Ohio State’s backyard that also resisted a strong push by USC.
4. Penn State: We expected Penn State to land Micah Parsons, the No. 4 player in the country, and it did. Expected or not, it’s still a huge commitment to haul in a guy that is as talented as anyone in this class and looks like an instant contributor. The Nittany Lions also flipped wide receiver Jahan Dotson, another Pennsylvania native, from UCLA to stay in the top five nationally.
5. Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt didn’t need to go dominate the day in his first effort at Tennessee, but he had to be productive — and he was just that. He landed two highly-recruited prospects out of his home-state, beating Nebraska and UCLA for a big back to help him move towards a power run game in Jeremy Banks. He landed his teammate Jerome Carvin by beating Mississippi State late in the game. He landed a quarterback in former Cal commit JT Shrout. And the gem of the class was beating Alabama on four-star JUCO tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.
1. Florida State: Taggart inherited a tough situation at FSU, and it’s showing. He lost a critical battle against in-state rival Florida when he missed on Jones. He also saw linebacker Rosendo Louis flip to South Carolina after an official visit to Columbia. The Seminoles are expected to flip Ohio State commit Jaiden Woodbey to salvage the day, but they would still be looking at a nine-man class sitting outside the top 40 at day’s end.
2. UCLA: Chip Kelly’s first signing day was characterized by two big decommits. The first was excusable when Pennsylvania native Jahan Dotson was called home to Penn State. The second stung more when four-star defender Abdul-Malik McClain flipped to local rival USC. UCLA also did not get signatures out of standout quarterback commit Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Olaijah Griffin, Bryan Addison or Stephan Blaylock, all important four-star pieces of this class that Kelly will have to sweat out through January.
3. Ohio State: Urban Meyer’s team is still No. 1 in the recruiting rankings, so don’t cry too much for the Buckeyes, but the day did have its disappointments. Jones flipped to Florida as expected. Woodbey flipped to Florida State as expected. And that No. 1 offensive tackle and in-state target in Carman shunned the Buckeyes for Clemson. Had Carman picked Ohio State, that might have made the Buckeyes unbeatable for the No. 1 class. Fortunately, Ohio State did flip Nebraska commit Cameron Brown to generate some good news.
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