Want to win the national championship? Scratch that: Want to compete for the national championship? Then you’d better win on national signing day.
Decades of data and feedback — the wall-to-wall, yearlong coverage of recruiting began in earnest in the early 2000s — has established the obvious connection between recruiting success and on-field success. Those who win on the two signing days in December and February also win big in January.
And those who win big in the postseason then continue to own the recruiting trail, creating an almost unbreakable cycle of dominance.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, the nation’s best signing class belonged to defending national champion Alabama, according to the team rankings compiled by 247Sports.com. Following was Ohio State, which lost to the Crimson Tide last month in Miami. Georgia, LSU and Clemson rounded out the top five.
Combined, these national powers have gone 171-24 across the past three years, with five of those losses coming from LSU during an abbreviated and rocky 2020 season.
Want to break into this elite group? Then start cranking out top-ranked recruiting classes on an annual basis.
After the end of another recruiting cycle, here are five programs worth highlighting on the second national signing day.
With seven five-star recruits among 25 signed prospects, Alabama’s 2021 class leads the nation by a substantial margin. The group will almost inevitably be compared to the 2017 class, which included Tua Tagovailoa, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and Jerry Jeudy. Heavy on wide receivers as Nick Saban and Alabama look to rebuild that position group, this year’s class also leans toward both lines; the Crimson Tide signed a pair of five-star offensive tackles and two defensive linemen ranked in the top 100 nationally, per 247Sports.
One interesting note about the group: Alabama signed seven players from Texas, the most of any state. Before 2021, the most players the Tide had signed from Texas during the Saban era was four in 2016.
After whiffing on almost every top in-state talent in the 2020 cycle, Clay Helton and USC rebounded to sign 10 of top 26 prospects in California, according to 247Sports. Owning the fertile local recruiting ground sent the Trojans’ class to No. 8 nationally and provides a huge infusion of talent on defense — led by the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in defensive end Korey Foreman, an immediate-impact addition. USC’s haul on the second signing day included another two top-100 defenders in cornerback Ceyair Wright and linebacker Raesjon Davis.
Oregon joined USC in giving the Pac-12 a pair of teams ranked in the top 10 of 247Sports’ team rankings, suggesting the conference might have enough juice to have at least one team factor into the College Football Playoff chase in the next two or three seasons. For the Ducks, this is another strong class added to the foundation set by coach Mario Cristobal and his staff, who have expanded the program’s reach from its West Coast recruiting base into far-flung states such as Maryland, New York and Nebraska. The talent is there for the Ducks to make a run at the national title.
Michigan State and coach Mel Tucker had one of the toughest losses of the second signing day after four-star defensive lineman Rayshaun Benny flipped to rival Michigan; the flip vaulted the Wolverines’ group into the top 10 nationally and left the Spartans with just one player ranked in 247Sports’ top 175 recruits. It’s not all bad news: MSU signed a fast-rising prospect in Opelousas, Louisiana, three-star wide receiver Keon Coleman over offers from USC, Georgia, Texas and others. Coleman plans to also play basketball for Tom Izzo and the Spartans.
And while not included among the signing day additions, MSU has also brought in five Bowl Subdivision transfers, three from fellow Power Five programs. One Group of Five transfer, former Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, will have every chance to claim the starting job.
OU provides the best example of the early signing period’s impact on how programs approach recruiting and roster management. OU’s top-heavy class counts one five star, top-ranked quarterback Caleb Williams, and 12 four stars among its 16 recruits, with all 16 signing in December. Since the season ended, the Sooners have also signed five Power Five transfers, three from the cratered mess that is Tennessee: running back Eric Gray, offensive tackle Wanya Morris and safety Key Lawrence. Rather than devote scholarships to high school prospects, Lincoln Riley and OU have gone with the sort of experienced additions who can spark the Sooners’ push for the 2021 national championship.