NCAA Football

Michigan Football Recruiting: Meet the Wolverines' 2016 Class

The Michigan Wolverines football program entered national signing day 2016 with a highly rated class, and a few more pledges finalized the team's No. 5 haul.

Rashan Gary—the nation's top-rated prospect—4-star cornerback Lavert Hill and 4-star tight end Devin Asiasi headlined the Wednesday additions to the Wolverines' well-rounded group.

Michigan also avoided any surprise decommitments. Though Dytarious Johnson was not officially announced as a signee, Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser reported the coaching staff is "sticking with" the 3-star linebacker.

All told, the Wolverines addressed their glaring immediate need, picked up some immediate-impact players and gathered a collection of talents who should contribute within a couple of years.

 

Early Enrollees

Two of Michigan's top offensive additions are considered the future at their position, and they both arrived on campus for the spring semester.

Quarterback Brandon Peters and running back Kareem Walker, a couple of 4-star talents, will participate in spring practice—as well as Ahmir Mitchell, Carlo Kemp, Devin Bush Jr., Kingston Davis and Sean McKeon.

Peters will compete with Wilton Speight, John O'Korn and others for the starting job, while De'Veon Smith and Drake Johnson must attempt to hold off Walker. At worst, Bush will provide depth at a position that dearly needs it, but the 4-star linebacker will probably occupy a significant role.

According to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, head coach Jim Harbaugh said all seven players will count toward the 2015 class.

 

Top Offensive Playmaker

The easy choice for this spot is Walker, especially because he's the most likely freshman to contribute next season. However, Michigan saw the importance of an offensive game-breaker last year in Jehu Chesson.

Dylan Crawford is that type of player.

A 6'1", 186-pound wideout, he's a long-strider with respectable speed and above-average route running. Crawford doesn't rely on his body to rein in passes, meaning the nation's No. 19 receiver won't unnecessarily sacrifice his body on a ball above his head.

What dazzles on tape, however, is how Crawford shakes defenders after the catch. While running back-like vision contributes to that prowess, he's also surprisingly tough to bring down considering his stature.

Crawford has enough straight-line speed to make opponents pay, but missing a tackle often leads to a larger problem for defenses.

Amara Darboh and Chesson will lead the Wolverines receiving corps in 2016, which will allow Crawford to add weight and prepare for the increased physicality of the college game. When the seniors head to the NFL, don't be surprised if Crawford steps in right away.

Keep an eye on: Walker, RB; Mitchell, WR; Chris Evans, All-Purpose Back

 

Top Defensive Playmaker

There's a reason Gary was the country's unanimous No. 1 overall recruit: He does everything well.

Gary has a remarkably explosive first step and shows an impressive balance of speed and power. Perhaps his best attribute is the combination of active and strong hands, something that keeps offensive linemen from getting a solid punch on Gary.

An impressive performance at the Under Armour All-America Game backed up the hype. Gary was a constant disruptive force and racked up a team-leading six tackles—including three sacks—per BlogAndTackle.net.

Michigan can use him as a 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle. That versatility will be useful immediately, though we'll discuss that later on.

Gary is initially an ideal complement to the Wolverines' established pieces and can develop into the undisputed star of the defensive line—and potentially the Big Ten.

Keep an eye on: David Long, CB; Hill, CB; Ron Johnson, DE

 

Immediate-Impact Players, Contributors, Redshirt Candidates

Every recruiting class brings the hope of a brighter future, but not every freshman is ready to play. It takes a special talent to earn snaps, let alone start, immediately.

Gary is an obvious choice and will likely contribute as a defensive end because Michigan returns Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley. Taco Charlton is a leading candidate to be the "Buck" linebacker, but the other D-end role—where Ron Johnson has the potential to claim a few snaps—is wide open for Gary.

Three-star inside linebacker Elysee Mbem-Bosse could be thrust into the rotation purely out of necessity. The Wolverines must replace their top three tacklers at the position.

Long, Hill and Khaleke Hudson are prime candidates to contribute on special teams and a handful of defensive snaps to be ready for 2017, when Michigan loses most—if not all—of its starters in the secondary.

Ben Bredeson should challenge for snaps, though the 4-star offensive tackle will battle four returning starters for that chance. Asiasi might break into the rotation if he establishes himself as a blocker Harbaugh can trust.

Should that happen, Asiasi may be sealing the edge for Walker, who doesn't expect to sit around and watch in 2016. Per MLive's Nick Baumgardner, Walker said:

Peters is already on campus, so he's not exactly a long shot to succeed Jake Rudock. However, the nation's No. 6 quarterback will probably observe from the sideline as a true freshman. If Peters doesn't fill the vacancy, he might even join fellow 2016 signees and take a redshirt.

Evans, Davis, Brad Hawkins, Eddie McDoomNate Johnson, Nick EubanksStephen Spanellis, Michael DwumfourJosh Metellus, Devin Gil and Nordin are each entering depth-filled positions, so Michigan need not rush them into the lineup.

If Dytarious Johnson qualifies academically, the 6'1", 205-pounder still could use a year to develop physically. The same applies to McDoom, McKeon, Joshua Uche, Metellus and Gil, who will benefit from a year in the weight room.

Overall, the Wolverines signed a terrific mix of immediate-impact talent as well as role-playing and developmental prospects.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Biggest Surprises of College Football National Signing Day 2016

With national signing day 2016 officially ending, it's time to take a look at its biggest surprises.

Which schools had the most shocking commitments?

Watch in the video above as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the biggest surprises of national signing day 2016. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking Every Pac-12 Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

On one day each year when the calendar rings up as national signing day, the fax machine becomes the center of the universe for college football fans, players, staff members, coaches and even media members.

Such was the case once again Wednesday as national letters of intent crisscrossed the country and players from the class of 2016 officially signed on the dotted line with their future schools of choice.

While headlines were made around the country and the SEC once again dominated the national conversation, it was in many respects a banner year out west in the Pac-12. Between USC and UCLA’s late surges into the top 15 of the 247Sports’ team rankings and Stanford’s impressive coast-to-coast collection of talent, it was yet another day filled with talented players finding homes in the conference of champions.

That being said, there appeared to be a clear pecking order in the Pac-12 when it came to how each school’s recruiting class shook out. We won’t know for several years how each will truly contribute on a whole, but nevertheless we can still look at the big picture and see how each class stacks up.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the classes in the Pac-12 based on overall talent level, team needs and even upside down the road. 

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Power Ranking Every Pac-12 Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

On one day each year when the calendar rings up as national signing day, the fax machine becomes the center of the universe for college football fans, players, staff members, coaches and even media members...

Begin Slideshow

National Signing Day 2016: Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes

The fax machine: a slightly outdated media device until right around this time of year. But ask any college football coach, and when national signing day rolls around, it's one of the most important pieces of technology on an entire campus.

Fax machines nationwide received overtime work Wednesday, as college commits, as well as uncommitted targets, became college signees with the help of an official signature on a national letter of intent. And while some athletes sent over national letters of intent digitally through PDFs and tablets, many used the old reliable approach of the fax machine to make their college futures official.

Wednesday provided the anticipated fireworks of a typical national signing day, with some athletes making last-minute verbal commitments that had their new coaches jumping for joy—and others feeling the agony of defeat.

The 2016 recruiting cycle has come to a conclusion, and it is now time to evaluate the best of the best. Here are the nation's top 25 classes, according to Bleacher Report. Rankings are based on the player ratings, which stems from 247Sports.com's composite ratings.

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Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Meet the Aggies' 2016 Class

The Texas A&M Aggies wrapped up the 2016 recruiting cycle with the nation's No. 18 class. While the Aggies didn't sign one 5-star recruit, it could end up being Kevin Sumlin's best recruiting class since becoming Texas A&M's head coach back in 2012.

The reason for that is depth and versatility. 

Sumlin's previous classes had star power. Whether it was Kyle Allen, Myles Garrett or Kyler Murray, the Aggies featured a big-time headliner. 

Not this group. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Aggies signed 21 players, including five offensive linemen, three wide receivers, three defensive backs, two running backs, two linebackers, two defensive ends, two athletes, one quarterback and a kicker. 

A&M failed to sign a defensive tackle or tight end for the class of 2016. Fortunately for the Aggies, they have youth and depth at both positions. 

Now, let's take a look at Texas A&M's 2016 recruiting class.

 

Aggies Loaded Up on the Offensive Line

The Aggies have become something of an offensive tackle factory in recent seasons. Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi were all first-round picks in the NFL draft in each of the last three seasons, respectively. Germain Ifedi hopes to make it four in a row this April.

That meant it was time to restock this position in the class of 2016.

Texas A&M received signatures from four offensive tackles, including 4-star Kellen Diesch. At 6'7", 270 pounds, Diesch has the type of build that could add 30 pounds of muscle with ease and not sacrifice any athleticism. While he isn't as athletic as some of the previous A&M offensive tackles, Diesch has outstanding length. He will need work on keeping his pad level down at the next level.

The Anderson brothers—Austin and Riley—both have good size and the necessary strength to come in and push for playing time as early as 2016. Both are rugged blockers who play with the necessary mean streak and finish their blocks. They could project as guards in the future.

 

Top Offensive Newcomer

For the first time in three years, Sumlin didn't sign an elite quarterback prospect. The past two years saw the additions of Allen and Murray. However, both players decided to transfer within a week from one another back in December.

That left the quarterback position in a perilous position. 

Fortunately for the Aggies, former Oklahoma starter Trevor Knight transferred to Texas A&M and enrolled last month. He could be the team's starting quarterback this season.

Sumlin considers Knight a part of this class and is pleased with his addition, per Suzanne Halliburton of the Statesman.

“He’s a guy as as far as college football goes, he’s a grown man,” Sumlin said. “He’s very, very strong in his faith. You see how certain guys ooze leadership. He’s all about that. He’s filling a void in leadership that we need." 

While the Aggies did sign a quarterback for this class, 3-star Nick Starkel, he could use a year on the sidelines while Knight and the only experienced quarterback left from last year's team, Jake Hubenak, battle it out for the starting job this spring. 

Sumlin likes Starkel, but believes he could use some developmental time, according to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle:

The Aggies signed a few offensive players who could possibly help them this fall, including wide receiver Quartney Davis and running back Trayveon Williams, but the addition of Knight makes him A&M's top offensive newcomer for 2016. 

 

Top Defensive Newcomer

Defensive end Justin Madubuike, a 6'2 ½", 250-pound defensive end from McKinney, Texas, could make an immediate impact for the Aggies in 2016.

Madubuike is thickly built and possesses a high motor and an explosive first step. While he isn't as gifted as Myles Garrett, Madubuike brings a relentlessness to the position that makes him a handful to block. 

While the Aggies return all of their two-deep at defensive end, Madubuike could help in a specialized pass-rushing role. 

He will need to develop more moves to his repertoire. It will be tougher to beat SEC offensive tackles with just speed and athleticism. With so many upperclassmen in front of him, Madubuike won't need to play every down. He doesn't struggle versus the run, but it will obviously be a bigger challenge at the next level. Fortunately, that won't be an issue in 2016. 

 

Sleeper of the Class

Cornerback Charles Oliver is a bit of an unknown on the national level. The 6'2 ½", 184-pounder from Fairfield, Texas, could be a big-time addition for the Aggies.

Oliver possesses outstanding length. His long arms allow him to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. In addition to his length, Oliver is fluid in his movements and can flip his hips and run with the receivers. 

Oliver will need to add some strength at the next level, and that shouldn't be a problem. He has a high football IQ and plays with confidence, making him a favorite of defensive coordinator John Chavis. 

With good coaching in college, Oliver will learn to get his pad level lower to take on ball-carriers. He's a willing tackler, but that sometimes gets in him trouble. 

The Aggies graduated two of their top cornerbacks from last season. There's a chance for Oliver to make an immediate impact. Don't be surprised if he seizes that opportunity. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Bryan Manning covers college football for the Bleacher Report and you can follow him on Twitter @bdmanning4 

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USC National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Trojans' Class

Talk about a surprise showing from a football program many thought had fallen significantly behind its inter-city rival. On a day where only the unbelievable can happen, new head coach Clay Helton and USC proved beginner's luck may, in fact, be a thing. 

The Trojans secured a plethora of signees, many of them surprises, as a formerly mediocre class blossomed into a nationally renowned powerhouse. The once downed program, anchored by poor coaching hires and some off-the-field issues with former players, seems to have finally cut ties and pulled away. 

With the unofficial holiday all but over, we examine a few takeaways from USC's incredible finish to the 2015-16 recruiting cycle and try to put it in perspective for the program's future success. 

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USC National Signing Day 2016: 5 Takeaways from Trojans' Class

Talk about a surprise showing from a football program many thought had fallen significantly behind its inter-city rival. On a day where only the unbelievable can happen, new head coach Clay Helton and USC proved beginner's luck may, in fact, be a thing..

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Karamo Dioubate to Temple: Owls Land 4-Star DT Prospect

After a lengthy recruiting process, defensive tackle Karamo Dioubate made his collegiate decision on Wednesday by committing to Temple. Rick O'Brien of the Philadelphia Inquirer provided a picture of Dioubate's announcement: 

According to 247Sports, the Philadelphia native is a 4-star prospect and the No. 18 defensive tackle in the 2016 class, and he had no shortage of options when it came to choosing his landing spot.

Although he initially committed to the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Preparatory Charter School standout reopened his recruitment in early January, per Ryan Snyder of Rivals.com.

While the Nittany Lions remained in the mix, O'Brien reported that three strong candidates had emerged:

The top-flight talent decided to go outside the box, however, in favor of staying close to home.

Dioubate is a rare athlete at 6'3" and 279 pounds, which is why it came as no surprise when several high-profile schools attempted to pounce on the opportunity that his decommitment presented.

Prep Charter head coach David Hand explained the interest by pointing toward Dioubate's greatest strength, per O'Brien. "No one has a first step like him," Hand said. "He really explodes off the ball. It's freakish for a guy his size to have that speed."

Dioubate's skill set is special, which is why he figures to have a chance to earn significant playing time as a freshman.

There is no question the talented lineman has the size to go up against older players, and his quickness promises to be a great equalizer when he matches up against bigger guards.

Even if Temple decides to deploy him sparingly or redshirt him in his debut season, Dioubate will likely be a difference-making player in the near future.

He has proved to be capable of rushing the passer and stuffing the run, and if he can bring that do-everything attitude to the collegiate ranks, he'll be a star in short order.

Temple won 10 games in 2015 and ranked 18th in the nation in points allowed, which is a standing that could improve even more with Dioubate in the fold.

The Owls scored a major victory by stealing Dioubate away from several major programs, and doing so could be the first step toward proving that they can truly compete with the big boys in college football.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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2016 NSD the Biggest Sign Yet That Jim Harbaugh's New-Look Michigan Is a Force

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Twenty minutes before "Signing of the Stars" was set to begin, the chatter among those in Michigan's Hill Auditorium ceased as the nearly 3,000 in attendance rose to their feet to catch their first glimpse of a celebrity.

And as professional wrestling legend Ric Flair emerged from behind the stage to sneak a peak at the event's set up, only one sound could be heard across the auditorium.

"Woooooooo!"

It wouldn't be the last time the 16-time world heavyweight champion's catchphrase would be heard on the day.

From Flair to Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and rap duo Migos, there was no shortage of star power to be found in Ann Arbor on this national signing day. The star-studded cast of celebrities, which also included Gossip Girl's Jessica Szohr, former Wolverines linebacker Jake Ryan, NASCAR star Brad Keselowski and professional poker player Phil Hellmuth helped introduce prospects, while ESPN's Todd McShay, Lou Holtz and Mike Shanahan helped break down game film in a live-streaming event presented by the Players' Tribune.

At one point Brady and Jeter—two of the best ever in their respective sports—sat on stage together side by side, professing their love for Ann Arbor, providing quite the recruiting pitch for the Michigan program in the process.

But even with all of the celebrities who found themselves passing through on Wednesday, the biggest star of the day was the man who found himself the most at home in Wednesday's spotlight. That would be Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose monumental day was the cause for the Wolverines' unprecedented signing day celebration.

"That was the main objective—to have fun, to celebrate," Harbaugh said following the two-hour show's conclusion. "We'll go back to work at 2:30, but it's good to have some fun."

Make no mistake about it, this was more work than play for Harbaugh, whose first full recruiting cycle at his alma mater ultimately resulted in the nation's fifth-ranked class following the afternoon commitment of 4-star Concord, California, tight end Devin Asiasi. Perhaps the most telling cheer of the day came not from the arrival of Brady or Flair's jabs at rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, but rather the revelation that the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, had committed to the Wolverines.

The importance of adding the nation's top-ranked prospect to what was already a star-studded class can't be overstated. The 6'5", 293-pounder could conceivably be considered a starter from the moment he steps on campus and is the kind of prospect that changes both the way a program and coach are viewed on the recruiting trail.

As news of Gary's decision trickled across the room via word of mouth, fans took it upon themselves to voice their approval. One grown man wearing a No. 16 Michigan jersey and hat seated in the mezzanine level simply stood up with both arms raised and shouted, "Gary!" as loud as he could.

"Backstage they told me we got some very good news," Harbaugh told the crowd, unable to officially comment on Gary without his letter of intent faxed in at the time.

But even had Gary—who now serves as Harbaugh's signature prospect and first 5-star commit since arriving in Ann Arbor—not committed to the Wolverines, this would have been a class worth the pomp and circumstance that Wednesday brought.

After having spent nearly all of the past year front and center in the college football world, this was the culmination of a 13-month long publicity tour for Harbaugh, which was clearly aimed at generating the type of buzz that would lead to such a class. With 29 players, including one 5-star, 14 4-star and 14 3-star prospects, Michigan's 2016 class is its first top-five haul since 2013, when former head coach Brady Hoke signed the nation's No. 4 class.

There were satellite camp tours and sub-tweets, birthday cakes and sleepovers. And when all was said and done, Harbaugh signed the type of class Michigan needed to in order to prove that it belonged back with the big boys of the recruiting world.

"He's not afraid to show his true personality," said prized quarterback and early-enrollee Brandon Peters, who took part in Wednesday's celebration. "He's just showing his love for the game and love for what he's doing. I think that's a great trait to have."

It was that personality that also helped flip running back Kareem Walker from Ohio State, take Florida State legacy and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. out of Seminoles country and convince offensive tackle Ben Bredeson not to stay home in Wisconsin and become the Badgers' next great offensive lineman.

Barring any unforeseen late additions, the Wolverines class will finish right behind the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, but it'd be tough to argue Harbaugh didn't get exactly what he needed out of his 2016 haul.

Michigan loaded up at spots in need of depth including wide receiver (six signees), defensive back (five) and defensive line (five). Most importantly, with 29 players, the Wolverines' 2016 class will play a large part in the team's personnel now matching its pro-style scheme, specifically with the addition of big running backs like Walker and Kingston Davis (6'1", 225), as well as tight ends Asiasi, Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks.

"They want to be what Coach Harbaugh’s always been about: a physical football team," said McShay, one of ESPN's top college football analysts. "This is the first major step towards putting the right players with this system."

Or as Harbaugh put it, playing off his own signature catchphrase: "Who could possibly have it better than us?"

The road to signing day wasn't always easy, with criticism stemming from former commits claiming to have been told there was no longer room for them in the Wolverines' class late in the recruiting process. On Wednesday, Harbaugh responded to those accusations, admitting, "There were mistakes made and I take full accountability for them. But I don't apologize."

Wednesday, however, wasn't about criticism, but rather a celebration of a class that signifies college football's all-time winningest program's return to the elite of the recruiting world. There's still work to be done—although Harbaugh's 10-3 debut campaign in Ann Arbor provided a solid start—but Michigan's 2016 class is the type that could one day be viewed as the foundation of a championship team.

Like Flair said in his speech, which quickly launched into a WWE-style promo, "To be the man, you have to beat the man."

But the Nature Boy then added: "And right now, University of Michigan, you are the man."

Watching Wednesday unfold and realizing this was surely just the beginning of Harbaugh's recruiting reign, it was tough to disagree.

From the highlight package voiced by James Earl Jones to start the show to Migos dabbing with former baseball manager Jim Leyland, Harbaugh's first real signing day celebration was truly surreal. And it likely won't be the last of its kind either, whether it be in Ann Arbor or at one of the many schools now trying to keep pace with the Wolverines on the recruiting trail.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Power Ranking Every Big 12 Team's 2016 Recruiting Class

A few old powerhouses reclaimed their lost spots atop a conference, a few upstarts fell a few rungs in the rankings, and the never-ending drama of the Big 12 unfolded. Look no further than this list to discover just how much one day—national signing day, that is—can turn this ultra-competitive conference upside down. 

The football continues to be elite, and the recruiting is even better. Take a look down the list to see who rose and who fell as signing day closes out and the Big 12 rearms itself for another brilliant fall extravaganza. 

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Top Uncommitted 2016 Recruits Who Didn't Sign on National Signing Day

For thousands of high school football players, Wednesday was a day to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. The national letter of intent has been signed and faxed over (or digitally transmitted) to their school, putting a bow on what could have been years of time spent weighing their future.

The journey isn't over for a handful of the country's top 2016 prospects, who for varying reasons did not participate in national signing day and thus remain uncertain about what lies ahead.

Of the top 500 players listed in 247Sports' database, 18 have yet to sign. Here's a look at some of the more notable prospects who aren't locked in to a school for 2016.

 

WR Demetris Robertson

The top-rated wide receiver in the 2016 class wasn't ready to make his decision Wednesday, leaving a 5-star prospect and one of the most coveted skill-position players in the country on the free-agent market.

"It will probably be another week or so," Robertson's brother and legal guardian, Carlos Robertson, told Andrew Ivins of Blue & Gold Illustrated. "He wants to take more time."

The 5'11¾", 175-pound prospect from Savannah, Georgia, is ranked No. 14 overall. He's visited California, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame and may make more visits, including to previous top choice Stanford. According to Ivins, Robertson has yet to gain admission to Stanford but is hoping a recently taken SAT exam will give him the score to get in.

Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com tweeted that Robertson also plans to visit Georgia, and a decision could come soon after that.

 

DE Auston Robertson

Legal troubles may have impacted the 4-star prospect's decision to reopen his recruitment, as he backed out on a commitment to Michigan State that had been in place since June.

According to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press, Robertson is facing a misdemeanor battery charge after being arrested Jan. 13 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The 6'5", 260-pound Robertson is set to have a status hearing on Feb. 11.

Ranked No. 101 overall in 2016 and No. 9 at his position, Robertson is the third-highest-ranked player from Indiana.

 

DE Maxs Tupai

The 4-star Utah native did not sign Wednesday because he's not done visiting schools, with Ryan McDonald of Deseret Newsreporting Tupai has a planned trip to UCLA set for this weekend.

Salt Lake Murray High School coach Mike Richmond told McDonald "several schools have indicated they are willing to hold a spot for Tupai." He has already visited Oklahoma and USC, while Utah has also been considered a finalist for his services.

The 6'2", 255-pound Tupai is considered the second-best player in Utah, the No. 22 weak-side defensive end and No. 295 overall player in 2016.

 

WR Grant Holloway

A 3-star Virginia prospect who held 17 football scholarship offers, according to 247Sports, Holloway has opted to focus on track for his college career. He'll run for Florida, per Jon Acree of Gridiron Now, with the possibility of playing football for the Gators in the future.

"The track program is the ultimate reason I chose Florida," said the 6'2", 190-pound Holloway. "They are one of the dominant schools in the sport. And they are giving me a chance to play football."

Luke Stampini of 247Sports wrote that Holloway chose Florida over Georgia, which did not offer him a football scholarship.

 

WR Steffon McKnight

The 3-star San Diego standout told 247Sports' Lars Hanson he wasn't going to sign on Wednesday as he works to clear up some academic issues. Once that happens, he's set to choose between Boise State and Utah.

"McKnight is not pinpointing a certain date or week as to when he will be able to make his decision," Hanson wrote.

The 6'1", 160-pound McKnight could also end up at a junior college. He's rated as the No. 357 overall prospect, the 59th-best wide receiver and the 46th-best player from California.

 

RB Kentrail Moran

According to Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com, the 3-star prospect from Illinois is still interested in visiting other schools and thus didn't sign on Wednesday.

The 5'10", 192-pound rusher was committed to Illinois but backed out of that pledge in January. He's visited the Fighting Illini and Eastern Michigan, two of the eight schools he has offers from.

Moran is rated No. 371 overall in the 2016 class and is considered the 17th-best running back and No. 12 prospect from Illinois.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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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 ESPN.com'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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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 Scout.com, 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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 ESPN.com:

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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 ClassicCityToday.com:

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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