NCAA Football

National Signing Day: Biggest Surprises on Wednesday

The alluring mixture of surprise commitments, players flipping schools and teams cementing their recruiting classes combine to make national signing day a popular event for college football fans. This year was no exception.

Wednesday brought about a handful of obvious commitments. As expected, No. 1 overall player Rashan Garycommitted to Michigan, while 5-star cornerback Kristian Fultoncommitted to home-state LSU.

But, as usual, there were several surprises that made national signing day notable. Here are the four biggest surprises.


4. Brown, Price spurn Georgia

All things considered, this has been a good recruiting class for the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia currently has the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports, and its three 5-star commits are tied with Alabama and Ole Miss for most in the nation. In addition, 5-star wide receiver Demetris Robertson has yet to pick his school, although his open desire to play in Athens has led many people to believe that his commitment to Georgia is imminent. 

But Bulldogs fans were nonetheless disappointed when in-state talents Derrick Brown and E.J. Price each committed elsewhere, despite new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart fervently recruiting them.

Brown, a 5-star defensive tackle from Buford, committed to Auburn after the Tigers ramped up their recruiting efforts down the stretch.

Price, a 4-star offensive tackle from Lawrenceville, committed to USC over Georgia in a heated recruiting chase that also included Auburn.

Georgia still has several defensive linemen in their 2016 class, including 4-star prospects Julian Rochester and Michail Carter. On the offensive line, they have added a trio of 4-star tackles: Ben Cleveland, Chris Barnes and Solomon Kindley.

Even so, Georgia surprisingly missed out on the chance to add two more in-state recruits to its stellar recruiting class.


3. Vols land coveted 5-star JUCO target Kongbo, among other big signings

With a total of 21 commitments in hand, Tennessee's 2016 recruiting class looks to be one of its best in recent years.

The most surprising commitment of the day came when 4-star cornerback Tyler Bird flipped to the Vols from Miami, whose fans weren't too happy about the decision. In response, Bird pledged that he would use the insults as motivation:

The cream of the crop for Tennessee's class came in the form of 5-star JUCO defensive end Jonathan Kongbo, who was strongly considering Ole Miss as well.

The Volunteers also received a commitment from 4-star safety and legacy target Nigel Warrior, becoming the No. 14 overall recruiting class in the process.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones had a recruiting challenge in mind, which he believes the Vols successfully completed with the additions of Bird, Kongbo and Warrior.

"Our challenge was to finish strong," Jones said, via Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel. "We thought we had a great nucleus in this recruiting class already in tact. If we could add to that, we wanted to do that. ... Those individuals to us are difference-makers."


2. 5-star Simmons chooses Mississippi State over favored Ole Miss 

After his final official visit to Oxford back on Jan. 29, the Rebels were considered a strong favorite to land 5-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons, the No. 19 overall player in the country.

Apparently, Simmons felt otherwise.

The top recruit in the state of Mississippi, Simmons gave a much-needed boost to Mississippi State's dismal recruiting class. Landing the Macon native was also a nice consolation prize for the Bulldogs after losing 4-star wide receiver A.J. Brown—a Starkville resident—to the Rebels, especially after Brown took a few jabs at his hometown university afterward, according to the Clarion-Ledger's Michael Bonner (h/t SB Nation's Alex Kirshner).  

According to's Chris Low, the Rebels' coaching staff was simply "stunned" at Simmons' decision:

Much like Georgia's class without Brown and Price, Ole Miss still has an elite recruiting classNo. 6 in the nation—without Simmons and Kongbo. Still, you can bet the Rebels won't be too friendly toward Simmons during next year's Egg Bowl. 


1. Longhorns land several key targets, become top-10 recruiting class

Coming off a dismal 5-7 season, Texas head coach Charlie Strong desperately needed a strong recruiting class to revive the ailing Longhorns football program.

After Wednesday's successful recruiting venture, he's one step closer to achieving that ultimate goal.

The Longhorns now have 24 recruits for their 2016 class, including commitments on national signing day from 4-star prospects Jordan Elliott, Erick Fowler and Chris Daniels

As a result, Texas is now the No. 11 overall class, the highest ranking among Big 12 schools. Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman noted how big an achievement this is, given the grim state of Texas' recruiting in previous weeks:

The transition from a losing season to becoming a national championship contender again is neither quick nor easy. But having shocked the college football world with a stellar 2016 recruiting class, the Longhorns are certainly on the right path.


All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Another Strong Signing Day Proof Recruiting Is Never the Issue at USC, UCLA

LOS ANGELES — You would be hard pressed to tell Wednesday from any other day in Southern California, aside from the fact that it was slightly chillier than normal across the region.

The beaches were still lovely, the traffic was still intense and life continued on for most Angelinos as it was despite the madness of national signing day going on around the country.

Things were not quite so normal on the campuses of USC and UCLA however. There the coaches celebrated with each fax or official email containing a recruit’s letter of intent as if it were a game-winning touchdown. In some respects, they had every reason to given that the signatures each school was collecting would play such a big part in wins and losses going forward.

But as soon as the Bruins and Trojans finished celebrating yet another top-20 recruiting class, the reality of the situation should have set in for everybody in the Southland. Recruiting is never (ever, it seems) the issue for either USC or UCLA.

It hasn’t been in the past, and it likely will never be in the future. Sun, surf and world-class educations tend to sell themselves even before you get into playing for an upper-echelon Pac-12 football program.

Both programs have finished in the top 20 of the 247Sports composite rankings each of the past five seasons. Only twice in the past decade, as a matter of fact, has either program found themselves outside that top-20 mark in the team rankings—and the only reason for that was likely due to such small numbers of signees on behalf of Bruins’ classes in 2011 and 2007.

This year, USC checked in at No. 8 in the rankings thanks to a strong push on signing day. UCLA similarly closed well to vault up to 12th and just a hair behind their crosstown rivals when you look closely at the point totals.

In short, recruiting has never been an issue at either school, and such a trend continued yet again this year.

Clay Helton’s first recruiting class in charge of Troy was particularly impressive and a perfect test case that no matter who is in charge—or how much drama there is—at USC, recruits will still flock to campus.

Despite a thud of an ending to a tumultuous season and a coaching staff that was not complete until the closing stretches of January, the Trojans still managed to snag commitments two 5-stars and 12 4-stars in a small class of just 20. According to, they even signed more 5-stars than any other school.

USC grabbed two players out of Miami, Florida, including one committed to Florida State for a while in Jamel Cook. They plucked an offensive lineman from the heart of SEC territory in Georgia tackle E.J. Price. They also swooped in and grabbed Army All-American running back Vavae Malepeai away from Oregon. Big 4-star defensive end Connor Murphy from Arizona also came on board.

Local star Jack Jones even continued the pipeline going from famed Long Beach Poly High by announcing his commitment on Wednesday with the help of rapper Snoop Dogg.

Whether looking far from home or right in its backyard, it was all nothing new for USC in 2016 of course. Recruiting has never been a problem there dating back well before the days of Pete Carroll.

The issue, as Helton can attest up close to, is coaching and getting on-field results. Despite all those highly ranked recruiting classes (almost always tops in the conference) the past decade, the Trojans' last league title came in 2008, and they have seen North Division rivals Oregon and Stanford dominate the conference hardware since it expanded to 12 members.

Can this February’s group change all that? It remains to be seen, especially when factoring in an already strong roster returning to downtown Los Angeles that has to face one of the most difficult schedules in the nation this upcoming season. Either way, it’s probably best not to get too excited over the number of stars signed to the Cardinal and Gold yet again.

The same is true across town in Westwood, where Jim Mora shook off yet more staff defections to re-stock the Bruins roster.

Stud linebacker Mique Juarez might be one of the best players in the country as a true freshman this year and will surely factor into UCLA’s defensive plans quite a bit. Defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa not only brings a great name to the Powder Blues but the resume of one of the top interior linemen in the state of California. Receivers Darian Owens, Dymond Lee, Audie Omotosho and tailback Demetric Felton are all skill-position talent who should help out budding star quarterback Josh Rosen.

Heck, even Canadian kicker J.J. Molson was a quality signing.

Will all that be enough to move UCLA past Stanford? History says probably not based on how the Cardinal have had the Bruins’ number the past few years. And it’s not like UCLA put a ton of separation between them and their Pac-12 rivals on signing day either, not with Stanford ranked 16th in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Fans of both schools can soak it all in on signing day, and coaches can raise their glasses to a job well done. Yet again, USC and UCLA brought in quality recruiting classes and a likely batch of new talent players who will eventually make their way to the NFL.

Maybe one day it will all translate into much-needed conference titles and the ability to finally meet expectations.

But as with most things around Los Angeles, life goes on much the way it did before, no matter how much excitement was being drummed up on campus.

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Another Strong Signing Day Proof Recruiting Is Never the Issue at USC, UCLA

LOS ANGELES — You would be hard pressed to tell Wednesday from any other day in Southern California, aside from the fact that it was slightly chillier than normal across the region...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Power Ranking Every Big Ten Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

National signing day 2016 has all but wrapped up, with the Big Ten dominating the headlines of the unofficial start to the new college football year.

From Michigan's "Signing Day with the Stars" to Ohio State's pursuit of another top class and Michigan State's and Penn State's attempts to finish a once promising recruiting cycle strong, there was no shortage of storylines to follow when it came to the Big Ten's presence on national signing day. Add in new coaching staffs at Maryland and Rutgers and newfound success at Iowa and Northwestern and this national signing day could prove to be a pivotal day when it comes to the direction of the Big Ten.

And while there are plenty of class rankings to be found from different scouting services, so many of those are based purely on class size and star averages. Very rarely—if ever—do they take into account a program's particular needs and the circumstances surrounding each school come signing day.

There's no scientific way to measure the impact a class will ultimately have on its program, but that won't stop us from trying. With that in mind, let's power rank the Big Ten's classes for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

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Auburn National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Tigers' Class

Another signing day is officially in the books for Auburn, and the Tigers find themselves in a familiar spot as the 2016 cycle comes to a close—the top 10.

Auburn's 2016 signing class of 21 players is currently ranked ninth in the country, according to the 247Sports composite team rankings, which compile the prospect ratings from all of the industry's major services. 

This will be Auburn's fourth straight top-10 class, which is an excellent sign for a program that is desperate to get back into championship contention after back-to-back seasons in which it failed to live up to expectations.

As Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval showed earlier this week, recruiting at a top-10 level is paramount to competing for a national title—something the Tigers have done twice in the last six seasons. Even with the dip in form in 2014 and 2015, Auburn continues to get title-level talent on campus under Gus Malzahn.

Here are five major takeaways from Auburn's latest successful signing class, which included the No. 1 player in the rival state of Georgia and several offensive stars from the always talented state of Florida.

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Alabama Finishes with No. 1 Recruiting Class in Nation: Latest Details, Reaction

The Alabama Crimson Tide are the reigning college football national champions, and they are arguably this year's winners on the recruiting trail as well after collecting the best class in the country Wednesday.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Alabama's 2016 haul finished in first place on national signing day, edging out the Florida State Seminoles and the LSU Tigers. The Tide added three 5-star recruits and 14 4-star recruits.  

SB Nation's Rodger Sherman made light of how each Alabama loss is seemingly met with eulogies about the program's demise:

Inside linebacker Ben Davis, outside linebacker Lyndell Wilson and offensive tackle Jonah Williams are among the headliners for Alabama. All three are ranked in the top 20 nationally in 247 Sports' composite rankings. Running back B.J. Emmons, ranked second at his position, also continues the assembly line of talented runners heading to Tuscaloosa.

Here's a look Alabama's full 2016 class:

No coach can continually recruit as well as Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. Alabama has boasted a top-three class for what is now nine straight years, per the SEC Network:

Don't expect Saban to throw himself a party for a job well done, though, per Alex Scarborough of

Saban is unquestionably one of the greatest coaches of his generation, but he's obviously helped by continually being able to rely on such talented players. Ensuring the Crimson Tide dominate in recruiting is becoming even more important with the way the SEC schools are stockpiling blue-chip recruits, per the SEC Network:

It's a safe bet one or more recruits from this year's class will feature heavily in the team in 2016. Wideout Calvin Ridley led the Crimson Tide in receiving as a true freshman, and cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick appeared in 14 games and intercepted two passes.

With Reggie Ragland graduating, Davis might be asked to take a somewhat large role—at least for a true freshman on a national title contender. He'll be able to fulfill a number of duties, be it defending the run, dropping back in coverage or rushing the passer. Davis' versatility is one of his strongest assets.

Saban has Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough waiting in the wings at running back to replace Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, but that might not prevent Emmons from getting some carries out of the backfield. His strength and patient running style are perfect fits for Alabama's offense.

The beauty of consistently collecting strong recruiting classes is that Saban can let a number of talented players from his 2016 haul sit back, learn and develop in practice before he inserts them into the starting lineup.

Alabama may suffer a setback or two once in a while and miss out on a national championship. However, the Crimson Tide dynasty won't be ending anytime soon given how well Alabama reloads each year.

Saban still sets the bar not only on the field, but also on the recruiting trail.


Recruit star ratings and player rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia's Kirby Smart Closes Strong on 2016 National Signing Day

The hiring of head coach Kirby Smart brought a renewed sense of hope to the Georgia football program, and 2016 national signing day did nothing to suggest otherwise.

Smart and the Bulldogs coaching staff pieced together the nation's No. 7 haul, per the 247Sports composite rankings. Most impressively and importantly, Georgia used a strong finish to secure its place among the top classes.

Wednesday started with a brief moment of concern—or perhaps skepticism—but 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. pulled the ultimate troll job of the day.

Jeff Sentell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a video showing six individual cakes with Tennessee, Michigan, Florida, Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama pennants.

Instead of spurning Georgia, though, Hardman declared his commitment to Smart and the Bulldogs in dramatic fashion, as captured by Logan Booker of

But the Bulldogs weren't finished. Far from it, actually.

Four-star defensive tackle Michail Carter sent in his paperwork, choosing Georgia over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and other elite programs.

Tyler Simmons then flipped from Alabama, where the 3-star wideout had committed in early January and recently visited. However, Kipp Adams of 247Sports notes a late trip from the entire coaching staff helped Georgia gain momentum.

Per Jay Clemons of SEC Country, Simmons said "my heart was always telling me 'Georgia.' Something in the back of my mind kept saying 'Georgia'—so that's why I went with it."

Not long after, the Bulldogs swiped 3-star defensive end David Marshall from Auburn. He spent the weekend of Jan. 22 on an official visit to Athens, then returned the following week for an unofficial trip, cancelling a chance to take in Ole Miss.

To cap the encouraging day, 4-star linebacker Jaleel Laguins reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia, per Trent Smallwood of Rivals.

Yes, the Bulldogs couldn't reel in Lyndell "Mack" WilsonE.J. Price and Derrick Brown, the latter of which certainly stings. There's no doubt about that.

Missing out on a 5-star like Brown is disappointing enough, but losing the No. 1 prospect in the state—while understandable this cycle—cannot happen regularly. Former head coach Mark Richt only missed on Georgia's top player twice during the last seven years.

Considering the number of targets who announced on signing day, though, Smart and Co. couldn't realistically be expected to snag each prospect.

Additionally, the Bulldogs had little reason to distribute "Plan B" offers simply to fill the 25-scholarship maximum. Per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Smart said he's comfortable with a smaller class.

Georgia can use those vacancies next season and count early enrollees toward the 2017 cycle. If the empty spaces go to early-enrolling talents like the 2016 class brought in 5-stars Jacob Eason and Isaac Nauta or 4-stars Julian Rochester, Ben Cleveland or Riley Ridley, Bulldogs fans won't complain.

And they'll celebrate if the last remaining target goes in Georgia's favor, too.

Demetris Robertson, the country's No. 1 receiver and highest-rated uncommitted prospect, is taking his time before signing. According to Adams, Robertson plans to visit Athens before making a decision, perhaps on Feb. 10.

Smart's strong finish might get even better. The hope for Bulldogs faithful is the team's on-field performance will follow suit.

All recruiting information via 247SportsFollow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Jimbo Fisher, FSU Make Statement with Impressive 2016 National Signing Day

With a flurry that saw six of the nation’s Top 200 prospects select Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles were among the biggest winners on national signing day.

The flock of top prospects to Tallahassee helped the ‘Noles land the nation’s No. 2 class in the 2016 cycle—second only to defending national champion Alabama.

On a day when fans across the nation are dialed in to see where the future stars of college football will land, Fisher and the Seminoles made a statement to the strength of their program. 

With the arrival of a 25-man class comes a message: Florida State is ready for another national title run. 

Among the high-profile wins on national signing day for FSU were 4-star offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and Jauan Williams, 4-star defensive end Brian Burns, 4-star linebacker Dontavious Jackson and 4-star corner Carlos Becker.

As an added bonus, the ‘Noles were able to flip 4-star defensive tackle Shavar Manuel—who was previously committed to in-state rival Florida.

The 6’4”, 290-pounder visited FSU’s campus last weekend, and the trip went a long way toward helping him arrive at a final conclusion.

“It’s just the best decision for me. I just feel more comfortable in knowing that Tallahassee is where I want to be at,” Manuel told Bleacher Report. “So that’s kind of how I knew it was the place for me. Besides the other schools I was [considering], I’ve been visiting Tallahassee since the end of my sophomore year. It feels like another home for me and I’m just very comfortable up there.”

What makes this class special for Fisher is that there are potential difference-makers at every position on offense and defense. Plus, the ‘Noles added punter Logan Tyler and kicker Ricky Aguayo—both of whom were recognized as Under Armour All-Americans.

Included in the class are seven players—four on offense and three on defense—who are rated among the nation’s five best players at their respective positions.

Additionally, needs along the offensive and defensive lines, linebacker and corner were met with quality and quantity.

This stellar group was brought in on the heels of a 10-3 season—which is well below the program’s standards under Fisher.

However, any lingering disappointments from the 2015 season are likely to give way to the optimism that 2016 could see the ‘Noles return to competing for championships.

FSU’s 2016 class is an example of the standard expected in Tallahassee for years to come. 

“They already have a head-hunting defense. I’m just ready to add to what they have up there,” Manuel said. “I feel good about the group up there and I believe we will win big up there.”


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Bulldogs' Class

The Georgia Bulldogs football program is in a transition period, and its 2016 recruiting class will play an important role in establishing a strong foundation moving forward. 

Georgia never finished with a class ranked lower than 12th since 2005, which led to sustained success under former head coach Mark Richt. With Kirby Smart now at the helm, the Bulldogs are still looking looking strong on the recruiting trail. 

With 2016 national signing day in the books, take a look at five thoughts on Smart’s first incoming class as a collegiate head coach.

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Texas' Monster National Signing Day Exactly What Charlie Strong Needed

It wasn't long ago—roughly two weeks, in fact—when the Texas Longhorns were struggling to crack the Top 40 in 247Sports' national team recruiting rankings. Fans were getting restless, and some were questioning head coach Charlie Strong's motives.

By Wednesday afternoon, there was minimal negativity surrounding the Longhorns' recruiting. Texas had seven of the 24 members of its 2016 class commit on national signing day and sign shortly afterward.

The moans and groans diminished with the news of each ensuing commitment.

Once a Top 40 team, the Longhorns completely turned things around in the class rankings and finished No. 1 among Big 12 teams and No. 11 nationally. How? It started Wednesday morning with a pledge from 3-star defensive tackle Marcel Southall. That was followed by a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Chris Daniels.

From there, Texas scored arguably its biggest gem of the class in 4-star Brandon Jones, the top-ranked safety in the 2016 class. From there, the Longhorns got a commitment from 4-star linebacker Erick Fowler, who flipped from LSU. The signing of the Houston trio of 3-star safety Chris Brown, 4-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch and 4-star defensive tackle Jordan Elliott concluded a stellar Wednesday.

And let's not forget the four recent Texas pledges that came prior to signing day. Texas landed a commitment last Thursday from 4-star cornerback Eric Cuffee, a Saturday pledge from 3-star athlete Lil'Jordan Humphrey and two Tuesday commitments from the 4-star duo of running back Kyle Porter and defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles.

In case you're not counting, that's 11 commitments—all of whom signed Wednesday—in a six-day span. For those not paying attention, Texas only had 13 commits prior to last Thursday.

And just like that, the heat is off Strong. For now, anyway. It'll be a different story come September when year three of the Strong era kicks off. He's winning recruiting, now Strong must win on the field. 

Regardless, don't expect Strong to feel any pressure now or down the road.

"I don't panic," Strong said at his signing-day presser, which the University of Texas live-streamed.

Now Strong has to take all of that new talent, mold it with the existing talent and create a product that not only the Texas fanbase will appreciate but also the university officials will approve of. The last two years haven't been memorable for the Longhorns, as Strong has led the team to a combined 11-14 record. That includes only one bowl appearance—which the Longhorns lost during the 2014 season to Arkansas.

The good news is that the recruits in this signing class like each other. And they respect the class before them. Camaraderie shouldn't be a problem as the Longhorns now get ready for the 2016 season.

"We had a Texas group message with everyone coming," Elliott told's EJ Holland. "We had a great class [Wednesday]. We had some surprises, and I think we're going to have a really productive season next year."

McCulloch, a fan of Texas since he was younger, has built a relationship with Strong since the start of his recruiting process. He called Strong "one of the best men you will ever meet."

"In my 18 years on this earth," McCulloch told Holland, "he is one of the best people I've ever met. I can't wait to play for him."

If history repeats itself, Texas could be in for an outstanding third season under Strong. When Strong was at Louisville, he was 14-12 in his first two seasons (2010 and 2011) and then broke out with an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory during the 2012 season.

Strong will have the class to help turn things around. This class ranked higher than in-state conference foes Baylor (No. 17 overall) and TCU (No. 22). It also ranked higher than rivals Texas A&M (No. 18) and Oklahoma (No. 23).

In short, it was a good day for Strong, his coaching staff and the rest of Longhorns nation.

"We needed something positive," Strong said during the press conference. "Now we've got to continue to build on it."


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of's composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Alex Perry Decommits from ASU: Latest Details and Reaction

Alex Perry surprisingly decommitted from Arizona State on national signing day and reopened his recruiting.

The 4-star cornerback made the announcement Wednesday via Twitter and indicated the Sun Devils are still his top choice but that he’d like to ensure he’s making the right decision by taking a further look at other schools:


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless noted otherwise.    

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Ole Miss' Remarkable 2016 National Signing Day Deserves More Respect

When Ole Miss landed a Top 10 recruiting class three years ago, it had the feeling of a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It turns out it was a twice-in-four-years event.

Despite matching Alabama and Georgia with three 5-star signees, the most of any school in the country, the Rebels' 2016 class has managed to go under the radar. They finished sixth in 247Sports' composite rankings, one spot better than the epic 2013 class which featured Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil.

"I do think it's our most complete class," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told (h/t USA Today).

And that class comes at just the right time, since the aforementioned stars all turned pro after helping the Rebels to a 10-win season, their first since 2003. Ole Miss associate athletics director for media and public relations Kyle Campbell made note of the university's recent success landing highly touted prospects: 

Ole Miss landed the nation's top offensive tackle (Greg Little), the top pro-style quarterback (Shea Patterson) and six other high school players who were among the top six at their respective position. That included a pair of recruits who picked the Rebels on Wednesday in memorable fashion.

Deontay Anderson, a 4-star safety from Manvel, Texas, teamed up with Bleacher Report to announce his commitment while skydiving. The stunt surprised Freeze, according to the Associated Press' David Brandt:

Then 4-star receiver A.J. Brown opted for the Rebels over his hometown Mississippi State, giving them four of the state's top seven prospects.

They missed on 5-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons, losing him to Mississippi State, but otherwise signing day proved to be a rousing success—just not one that drew much attention outside of Oxford.

"It will be viewed as the best class in the country three or four years from now," Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee said. “It's simply an amazing class top-to-bottom in terms of short-term fixes and long-term need.”

The strong haul also comes in the wake of reports that Ole Miss has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA "alleging roughly 30 violations in football, women’s basketball and track and field," according to Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde. SB Nation reported that no more than five of the allegations are related to football, and many are more than two years old, but Freeze said that didn't stop other schools from trying to use that news against Ole Miss.

"The storms came and they came in a variety of ways from the different coaching staffs to media to social media," Freeze said, per Christopher Smith of Saturday Down South. "Our relationships won out in the end, which makes me even more grateful to those families who chose to stay with us."

Little committed in December, while Patterson and 5-star defensive tackle Benito Jones were among eight early enrollees, so most of Ole Miss' work was done before Wednesday. The key additions it made added to an already strong class, but not to the point where it stood out from the pack.

This gave the impression the program hadn't done much this recruiting cycle, when in actuality the Rebels did arguably more than ever before.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Ohio State National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Buckeyes' Class

For the fifth time in as many years, Urban Meyer and Ohio State have signed a top-10 class that's filled with superstar potential and a number of players who can make an impact in their first year.

The Buckeyes did most of their work before national signing day, but they still made a splash by picking up commitments from 4-star JUCO offensive tackle Malcolm Pridgeon and 3-star athlete Malik Harrison on Wednesday. That dynamic pair vaulted the Buckeyes up the rankings, where they finished with the No. 4 overall class.

From Ohio State's next great quarterback to a superstar defensive end in the mold of Joey Bosa, Ohio State's 2016 class is absolutely loaded with potential. And with the Buckeyes looking for 16 new starters for their '16 campaign, a number of first-year players will have an opportunity to make an impact right out of the gate.

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Craziest Moments of National Signing Day 2016

College football recruiting is unlike anything else in the sports world, and national signing day is the one Wednesday each year when all of the sport's insanity comes to a head.

This year didn't have the fax machine drama and second-thoughts swerves like last year, but it still had its fair share of attention-grabbing moments.

One recruit used desserts and giant decorations to throw off an entire gymnasium of fans. Another one announced his future school like a daredevil.

Then there were the odd sights coming out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In case you missed some of the craziest and downright weirdest moments from 2016 national signing day, here's a recap of all the eye-opening action.



Deontay Anderson jumped out of a plane

Using props and other creative methods to announce a recruit's commitment is nothing new. Prospects in recent seasons have used live animals, babies and crazy outfits to reveal their decisions.

Deontay Anderson, the nation's No. 2-ranked safety, decided to take the creativity level to new heights—literally.

In a video produced here at Bleacher Report, the Texas native announced he was headed to Ole Miss while skydiving:

That's right. A blue-chip recruit announced where he would play college football in a video in which he jumped out of an airplane.

Anderson's daredevil decision was a hot topic on social media during the early portion of signing day:

With personal commitment videos becoming the norm in recruiting, there's no telling what we'll see in the 2017 cycle and beyond.


Jim Leyland and Lou Holtz dabbed at Michigan

National signing day was already expected to be a wild one for Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Wolverines were still after No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary, who committed in the afternoon. Ric Flair, among other celebrities, was scheduled to be in Ann Arbor.

But things got weird quickly for Michigan at its Wednesday "Signing of the Stars" event.

Former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland took the podium alongside rap group Migos, which helped make the dab a worldwide craze. So, naturally, Leyland hit the dab with them:

Later, shortly after Gary announced he would become a Wolverine, former college football coach and ESPN analyst Lou Holtz hit the dab with Harbaugh:

The combined age of Leyland and Holtz is a young 150 years, which probably makes them the oldest pairing of people to ever dab.

There were plenty of other highlights from Wednesday's event in Ann Arbor, but two elderly sports icons dabbing on stage—in the name of Michigan football recruiting—had to take the cake.

And speaking of cake...


Mecole Hardman faked out everyone with several cakes

5-star Mecole Hardman Jr. was one of the most coveted prospects in the country this season and was the first big name to make a splash with his signing-day commitment Wednesday.

The nation's No. 1 athlete had 32 scholarship offers and was down to Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee.

The Elberton, Georgia, native had six large cakes on the table where he was set to announce his college decision, and the in-state Bulldogs were surprisingly not represented, per's Jeff Sentell:

A large paper banner also covered the entrance to his high school gym. The logos of his finalists were all represented—except, again, for Georgia.

But when the confusion surrounding Hardman's signing-day saga reached its peak, he burst through the banner with a Georgia hat on his head:

New Georgia coach Kirby Smart can only hope one of his biggest 2016 signings is able to keep opposing teams as off balance as those who stared at the cakes and the banner were early Wednesday morning.

Hardman never touched the cakes, but according to Fletcher Page of, at least one person went home with a treat:


Brandon Jones served up a Hollywood plot twist

Popular Texas A&M website TexAgs decided to go in depth on the recruitment of one of the state's biggest prospects—Brandon Jones, the nation's No. 1-ranked safety. 

TexAgs made a documentary titled On An Island: Being Brandon Jones detailing the journey of the safety, who entered signing day with a final three of Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M.

According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, the Aggies were favorites to land Jones, which would have made for a dream ending for the TexAgs documentary.

But Jones threw in a swerve in the final scene that would've made M. Night Shyamalan proud by signing with Texas instead of Texas A&M, per FootballScoop's Zach Barnett and Good Bull Hunting:

"While the folks at TexAgs know as well as anyone that no recruit is a lock until the [letter of intent] is faxed in, this inspiring drama of hope and redemption will unfortunately be billed as a tragedy when it hits Netflix," SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting posted Wednesday. "Except in Austin, where it is probably a comedy."

Jones' decision should make the war of words between Longhorns and Aggies even more heated for the next few months—as if that fire needed any more fuel.


Jack Jones signed with a little help from Snoop Dogg

5-star cornerback Jack Jones decided he was going to stay in California on Wednesday by signing with USC. But he didn't have a run-of-the-mill reveal.

No, Jones announced his Hollywood intentions to become a USC Trojan by joining up with one of the program's most famous fans—rapper Snoop Dogg (per Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times):

This time last year, Snoop Dogg seemed to have dropped USC for UCLA when his son, Cordell Broadus, committed to the rival Bruins.

"I'm throwing all my USC drawers away," Snoop said last year, per Kevin Trahan of SB Nation. "I'm going UCLA 100,000 percent."

However, Broadus quit UCLA football before the start of the season, and it appears Snoop has switched back to the Trojans.

Let's see if Snoop can make it three straight signing-day decisions next February. He's starting to become a recruiting tradition.


Duke got things done quickly

National signing day is a marathon for most Power Five programs. Plenty of recruits like to wait until the special day to announce their commitments, and the ceremonies are usually staggered across a huge window of time.

But Duke woke up early and was done before most of the country finished breakfast.

According to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer, Duke had all 21 of its letters of intent in its possession by 8:27 a.m. ET:

Of course, the college football corner of Twitter was on standby with plenty of one-liners about Duke's quick work:

While Duke isn't at the level of the recruiting powerhouses that dominate the signing-day news cycle, it's still impressive that the Blue Devils were able to up their highest-rated class in school history in record time.

Duke's 2016 class is currently No. 33 nationally, which is good enough for fifth in the ACC.

David Cutcliffe and his staff put in plenty of work during the 2016 recruiting cycle and were rewarded with a short day of waiting around by the fax machine.

While they were relaxing, the rest of the college football world was just starting to sweat.


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Tennessee National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Vols' Class

Two lockdown defensive backs locked up another strong finish for Tennessee's football recruiting efforts, and by the time the nation's top-ranked JUCO player pledged to the Volunteers on Wednesday afternoon, a class that plodded along at times was roaring to the finish line.

Toss in the flip of speedy 3-star receiver Latrell Williams, and the Vols have to be thrilled with how national signing day shook out, even if they didn't wind up getting every one of their top targets.

"It's a great illustration of where our football program is," UT coach Butch Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan. "We say it: We're building the best football program in all of college football, both on the field and off the field. And to be able to finish like we did today, it's very, very gratifying."

Jones' class of 21 signees gives UT a ranking that currently sits at 14th nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

That's not as strong as the back-to-back top-10 classes Jones signed in the past two years. But given the circumstances, it's a haul that looks almost as strong on a player-by-player basis.

Working against the Vols this year was having to sign a lower number of prospects after luring two huge classes in 2015 and '14. Also, there weren't as many in-state stars or legacies to hang their big, orange hats on this year, either.

Nobody in orange is dwelling on the negatives after Wednesday. The Vols celebrated the culmination of the 2016 recruiting cycle beginning on Tuesday night, when 4-star defensive back Tyler Byrd flipped from Miami.

Those good vibes continued Wednesday morning early when Nigel Warrior decided to follow in father Dale Carter's footsteps and sign with UT over Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. 

Williams followed suit with Byrd, flipping from the Hurricanes shortly after Warrior's announcement, and Jones one-upped Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze for the second straight year on NSD, winning the Jonathan Kongbo sweepstakes. 

The top-ranked junior college prospect signed with the Vols over a late surge by the Rebels a year after Jones got offensive tackle Drew Richmond to flip from Ole Miss on the final day of the '15 cycle.

Four major recruiting victories offset the battles UT didn't win, and the Vols wound up with yet another stellar class. Let's draw some conclusions from this year's group of new Tennessee players.

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Texas National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Longhorns' Class

Thanks to an unbelievable finish, Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns have recruited another top-10 class to Austin.

Strong's 10 commits over the final 24 hours of the 2016 recruiting cycle have become the talk of the nation. Of those commits, six are ranked among the top 300 players in the country, including No. 1 safety Brandon Jones.

The amazing close to the 24-man class has vaulted the Horns to No. 11 in the 247Sports composite rankings, good for the best in the state and tops in the Big 12. With this group, Strong has addressed key needs and proven once again that he can close a recruiting class as well as anyone in the country.

Most of all, he got himself a quarterback who will fit his offensive system.

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Power Ranking Every ACC Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

Over the last three years, the ACC has proved that it belongs in college football’s upper echelon. In 2013, Jameis Winston led Florida State to the final BCS National Championship, and the Seminoles qualified for the first College Football Playoff before falling to Oregon.

Last fall, Clemson was the nation’s No. 1 team from the first College Football Playoff Top 25 ranking into the national title game, where it lost a hard-fought 45-40 decision to Nick Saban and Alabama. The Tigers could well be the preseason No. 1 again in August, and the Seminoles will be improved, too.

And don’t forget about an 11-win North Carolina team or a Virginia Tech program that should be rejuvenated following Justin Fuente’s hiring. The ACC commands respect, but it needs talent to keep pace with the likes of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. That’s why national signing day is so important: Recruits sign national letters of intent and officially begin plotting their paths with their college of choice.

The ACC had a solid signing day, especially at the top of the league. The bottom of the league featured programs building and finding their way following recent coaching changes. How did it all shake out? Here’s a look at the league’s class of 2016 power rankings.

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Auburn Steals Another Impact Recruit from UGA Territory in 5-Star Derrick Brown

Auburn saved the best for last on national signing day by going back to a tried-and-true method—snagging a 5-star player out of the state of Georgia.

Plenty of great Auburn players, past and present, hail from the Peach State. But the commitment of 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown, the No. 9-ranked overall player in the country, on Wednesday afternoon was a little different in a great way for the Tigers.

As Tony Barnhart said on ESPN2's national signing day broadcast moments before Brown pulled out an Auburn cap at Lanier High School in Buford, the Tigers hadn't signed the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia in the past decade.

Until Wednesday, that is, when Brown announced that he would join an Auburn defensive line that should be a strength in 2016.

"My relationship that I built with the coaching staff down there is excellent," Brown said on the ESPN2 telecast of his announcement. "I felt like last night, just sitting around talking to my parents, that that was the place for me."

Auburn's outlook after a disappointing 7-6 season became brighter last month when both defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Montravius Adams announced that they would return to school instead of going pro early.

Both Lawson and Adams were Georgia-born 5-stars from Auburn's loaded 2013 recruiting class, which was Gus Malzahn's first as Auburn head coach.

The duo would later break into a veteran defensive line rotation as true freshmen, helping the Tigers make a surprising run all the way to the BCS National Championship Game.

Since then, the pass-rushing Lawson has developed into the biggest game-changer on the Auburn defense, even though he's only played in seven contests. Adams is now one of the most consistent playmakers on a defense that has seen a lot of change in the last two seasons.

Those two will spearhead a defensive line that returns plenty of players from 2015, most notably defensive end Byron Cowart. The Florida native was also a 5-star out of high school, and the pressure will be on him to live up to the hype after a slow start in his freshman season.

Auburn could start nothing but former consensus 5-stars along the defensive line in 2016, as Brown has the talent to take that role from the first game of his true freshman season.

"He can certainly help [Auburn] immediately," Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said. "He does not look like a guy that weighs almost 320 pounds ... he moves so exceptionally well, and he's got the ability to make himself a little bit skinny, get through the hole."

That ability to get through the offensive line and make plays in the backfield time and time again—he had an unreal 42 tackles for loss as a senior—is what will make Brown such an instant-impact player on Auburn's defensive line.

"[These] are the same expectations that I have for myself ... to go in and make an immediate impact and work hard and just play in the fall," Brown said.

According to Brandon Marcello of, Auburn ranked second-last in the FBS in stopping opposing rushers behind the line of scrimmage. The Tigers must get tougher against the run, especially considering the number of talented run-first offenses in the SEC.

"He's a humongous piece to a puzzle that they're still trying to figure out," Felder said. "I really think Derrick Brown becomes a key piece to them getting back on track on the defensive side of the ball."

The 2016 defensive line class at Auburn has the potential to be looked upon in the same regard as the 2013 class that netted Lawson, Adams and Elijah Daniel, who had solid production before his dismissal last spring.

In addition to Brown, Auburn has fellow Top 50 signees Marlon Davidson and Antwuan Jackson—both of whom are already on the Plains as early enrollees. Paul James was one of the top defensive line prospects out of the JUCO ranks, and 4-star Nick Coe will bring tremendous size (6'5 ½", 269 lbs) to the line as well.

But Brown is the crown jewel of that defensive line haul and the entire 2016 recruiting class for Auburn, another one that looks set to finish in the Top 10 nationally.

While the Tigers have gone backwards since their magical 2013 season, being able to go into Georgia and keep the state's No. 1 recruit out of the hands of the rival Bulldogs—and the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa—bodes well for the program's future.

Brown is one of six Georgia recruits who signed with Auburn in this cycle, joining Jackson, 4-star wide receiver Kyle Davis, 4-star tight end Landon Rice, 3-star offensive tackle Brodarious Hamm and 3-star safety Marlon Character.

Auburn's close proximity and recent success in the Peach State will mean more natives such as Brown and Davis will continue to suit up for the Tigers.

"Georgia is important for our success," Malzahn said Wednesday in a press conference. "Around half our players come from there, and we think [signing Brown] is going to give us great momentum."

The potential is there for a return to championship-quality football in the next couple of seasons, and that's what made an instant-impact player such as Brown choose the Tigers.

"I think that for the next three to four years, it's going to be great to watch Auburn football," Brown said. "That's why I made this decision."


All quotes from ESPN2 telecast unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Power Ranking Every SEC Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

The faxes have been sent, pen has met paper and the class of 2016 has signed on the dotted line,

National signing day is in the books, and it was a banner year in the SEC. Five programs finished in the final 247Sports top 10, with Alabama making a late charge to finish with the best class in the country for the sixth straight season. 

Rankings, however, don't always reflect need.

Our ranking of the top classes in the SEC based on talent acquired, team need and biggest upside are in this slideshow.

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LSU National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Tigers' Class

Remember back in November when rumors were rampant that the LSU Tigers wanted to fire head coach Les Miles? Well, that feels like a distant memory now that LSU has signed the nation's No. 3-ranked recruiting class in 2016.

The Tigers loaded up, signing six of the country's top 100 players, including defensive tackle Rashad Lawrence of Monroe, Louisiana, and cornerback Kristian Fulton of Metairie, Louisiana—both 5-star prospects.

LSU addressed multiple needs in this balanced class, specifically along the defensive line.

Overall, national signing day was great for the Tigers, but there were a couple of disappointments.

Linebacker Erick Fowler, a 4-star verbal commitment from Manor, Texas, backed out of his pledge to the Tigers and signed with Texas. Also, cornerback Trayvon Mullen picked Clemson over LSU in a bit of a surprise.

So, who is LSU's next breakout star?

Here are five takeaways from LSU's 2016 recruiting class.

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