2015 National Signing Day notebook
Before we take a breather and get ready for spring football, let's take a look back at the best of National Signing Day.
The drama from Cowart: Fax machines take centerstage once per year in the college football world, and it's always on the first Wednesday of February when high school seniors send in their Letters of Intent. The nation's top-ranked player, Byron Cowart, announced early Wednesday that he intended to head to Auburn. It started what turned out to be a big day for the Tigers, as defensive back Carlton Davis (a recent Ohio State decommit), wide receiver Ryan Davis and linebacker Jeffery Holland all decided to head to The Plains. However, Cowart's Letter of Intent never made it to Auburn. We always knew that Cowart had Florida as one of his finalists, and it's likely he would have chosen UF had Will Muschamp still been head coach. Instead, Muschamp is now the Tigers' defensive coordinator, and that previous relationship was the likely tipping point. But UF was close. So close, in fact, that there was a delay in Cowart's letter getting to The Plains. Did it have something to do with Cowart's high school coach, Sean Callahan, having a son who is the defensive backs coach at Florida? No matter the reason, Cowart's letter eventually arrived on The Plains, and Auburn was able to officially land the nation's best player. Well worth the drama, right?
Did USC put together a stronger class than Alabama?: This is the Trojans’ first full recruiting class in four years, and they took full advantage of the opportunity. Steve Sarkisian and his staff were able to land three five-star commitments on National Signing Day: cornerback Iman Marshall, linebacker John Houston, Jr. and defensive lineman Rasheem Green. These three join linebacker Porter Gustin, defensive tackle Noah Jefferson and a plethora of other top players in the 2015 class. This was a great year for California talent (perhaps better than the usual crop), and 'SC made its mark now that the NCAA sanctions are no longer. I still give a slight edge to Alabama in terms of overall class, but there's no doubt that 'SC is a clear-cut No. 2. And some recruiting analysts believe it is worthy of being in the top spot, which the Trojans last had in 2010.
Those Bruins though: UCLA had a solid class heading into Signing Day. It's just that the haul was comprised of a lot of players in the trenches, so Jim L. Mora and his staff were going a bit under the radar. Still, there was room to make a splash. And splash the Bruins did, as they landed former Michigan four-star tight end commit Chris Clark to give highly rated quarterback Josh Rosen a nice safety net. Five-star athlete Soso Jamabo came next, as he decided to head to Westwood and not Austin. Jamabo can play a little running back and receiver, and he can step in and be an offensive threat immediately. Things kept on clicking for the Bruins, as huge offensive lineman Josh Wariboko spurned Oklahoma for the West Coast school. The son of Snoop Dogg, Cordell Broadus, decided to forge his own path and choose the Bruins over USC, and he could give UCLA a nice red-zone option and a nice weapon against press coverage. But perhaps the biggest shocker of them all was the commitment of Georgia four-star linebacker Roquan Smith, although the program still needs to get Smith to sign his Letter of Intent. Even if the Bruins lose Smith, though, they had a fantastic signing day.
As expected, Auburn finished strong: The Tigers actually started their soar up the recruiting rankings on Tuesday when they received a commitment from defensive end Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. and flipped wide receiver Darius Slayton from Georgia. Gus Malzahn and Co. received another flip early Wednesday when offensive lineman Michael Horton decided not to go to Florida. Then, of course, the Tigers landed the biggest fish of the day with the addition of the nation's top-ranked player, Byron Cowart, as well as the other players mentioned above in the first item, including Carlton Davis, Ryan Davis and Jeffery Holland. The Tigers have a star-studded staff of recruiters, so the future is bright for the SEC West program.
The champs are here: Ohio State came into signing day with a nice class already, but Urban Meyer and his staff closed strong. The Buckeyes were able to get defensive back Damon Arnette to flip from South Carolina after the decommitment of Carlton Davis, and more future firepower was added to the offense in the form of wide receiver K.J. Hill, who was considering Arkansas and Alabama. The Buckeyes retained quarterback Torrance Gibson and running back Mike Weber, with Gibson thought to be leaning toward heading to Auburn instead. And Meyer plucked offensive tackle Isaiah Prince when many thought he would be heading to Maryland after it looked like Alabama would get him. The national champions were young and talented at most every position during their title run in 2014, so the future looks even brighter now.
Florida stopped the bleeding: Assuming defensive end CeCe Jefferson makes good on his announcement and sends in his signed Letter of Intent, the Gators were able to pull in him and fellow five-star Martez Ivey, an athletic offensive tackle. That is a really good start to the Jim McElwain regime, because the Gators are going to be able to bring in a stronger class next year when the new staff has a full cycle and after McElwain shows that he can put together a competent and productive offense. UF's class was a disaster when McElwain arrived, as it was ranked behind UCF and USF. But with the two five-stars in the end as well as the additions of four-star running backs Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite, four-star wide receiver Antonio Callaway, four-star athlete D'Anfernee McGriff and four-star cornerback Chris Williamson, the Gators salvaged this class despite not being able to land quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (Louisville) or Deondre Francois (Florida State).
My final Top 10 recruiting classes: Alabama, USC, Florida State, Tennessee, Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, UCLA, Auburn and Georgia. I have Texas and Notre Dame just on the outside looking in.
— Ole Miss fans certainly had to be disappointed that in-state linebacker Leo Lewis went to Mississippi State and offensive lineman Drew Richmond flipped to Tennessee, but the Rebels were able to land four-star wide receivers DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson. It's a good class, but not what Rebel fans had in mind.
— Assuming there are no staff defections in the next year, keep an eye on LSU. The trio of Frank Wilson, Ed Orgeron and Kevin Steele as strong recruiters will collectively help the Tigers reel in a strong 2016 class with a full cycle of work.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.