Amid chaos of national signing day, SEC powers grab top recruits

Through all the changes in the varsity sport landscape with money making opportunities for athletes and open transfers, one thing remains the same.

A bunch of Southeastern Conference schools as well as venerable programs like Ohio State and Texas are at or near the top of national recruiting rankings.

The three-day signing period in December opened on Wednesday, with Texas A&M finishing the day at the top of the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher was his fourth consecutive top 10. Alabama, who won nine of 11 previous recruiting titles, was No.2. Georgia was No.3, marking the fifth consecutive year the Bulldogs have been in the top five.

Team rankings may change with the next Letter of Intent period starting February 2.

The coaches said the recruiting process now takes players into consideration with regard to where they could make the most money through approval work. The NCAA began in July allowing athletes to monetize the use of their name, image and likeness. Some schools are better positioned than others in this new frontier, and millions of dollars are swirling around the larger programs.

“The NIL has been going on for a long time. It just wasn’t over the board, ”Fisher said.

The rapid increase in the number of players entering the transfer portal and moving to another school with immediate eligibility has also changed the way coaches build their recruiting classes.

Instead of trying to recruit and develop a high school player, a coach could instead search for experienced players on the portal. And players interested in the transfer might also consider a potential NIL.

All things considered, signing day isn’t what it used to be, Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin said.

“It’s basically your draft class,” he said, “but then you’re going to have your free agent class. I don’t think people really put it that way, but let’s not be wrong. “I mean we have free will in college football. Kids often go where they get paid the most.”

“Maybe nobody else says it, but the kid says, ‘This is what I get here for NIL.’ That’s what it is, ”Kiffin added. “Free agency was created in college football, except you can’t lock people into a contract. They can leave at any time. It’s a new world we’re in.

Top of the stack

Texas A&M has signed 12 nationally ranked Top 100 players. Two of his three five-star prospects are defensive linemen: Walter Nolen of Powell, Tennessee, and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy of Lakeland. The other is quarterback Conner Weigman of Cypress, TX. The Aggies have four stars.

Alabama have brought in three five-star and 16 four-star players, with rider Jeremiah Alexander from Alabaster, Ala. The highest-rated of the 21 signed by coach Nick Saban. Five-star Ty Simpson from Martin, Tennessee, joins a deep quarterback room led by Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

Georgia have signed 21 players, including four five stars and 12 four stars. Coach Kirby Smart downplayed the importance of these rankings.

“I care a lot more about the way they play,” he said. “We’ve seen some evidence of the guys who’ve been a big part of our team, some of those guys weren’t the guys we talked about that day in their careers.”

Ohio State, Texas, Penn State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Michigan and Oklahoma completed the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Going crazy

Amid all the pullouts that followed the coaching changes this fall, the most surprising came on Wednesday when cornerback Travis Hunter of Suwanee, Ga., Ranked the No. 1 national rookie overall, pushed back the Florida State to sign with Deion Sanders and Jackson State from the lower level Subdivision of the football championship.

There have been a few notable turnarounds among the four-star rookies:

DB Terrance Brooks (Little Elm, TX) signed with Texas after enlisting with the State of Ohio; CB Robert Woodyard (Mobile, Alabama) became Auburn‘s best-in-class player after pulling out of Alabama; DL Tire West (Tifton, GA) moved from Georgia to Tennessee; and LB Jaishawn Barham (Baltimore) became Maryland’s top ranked player when he left South Carolina.

The Bounty of the Bearcats

Cincinnati’s run to the college football playoffs isn’t all that helped Luke Fickell sign what is shaping up to be the Bearcats’ top-ranked class at No.38. Other factors, he said. stated, are the coming stint in the Big 12 and the development of QB Desmond Ridder and CB Ahmad Gardner in the NFL draft prospects.

Two four stars, DE Mario Eugenio (Gaither) and DB Jonquis “JQ” Hardaway (Phenix City, Alabama), lead a class of 20.

“Were there doors that could be opened and obstacles lifted?” Without a doubt, “Fickell said of the American Athletic Conference’s upcoming move to the Big 12.” The most important thing that was a focal point and a sticking point with a lot of rookies was the league and that P5 connotation… And winning supports a lot in many ways. “

Kelly keeps a five-star QB

Five-star quarterback Walker Howard (Lafayette, Louisiana) kept his promise and signed with LSU and new coach Brian Kelly.

Howard was due to follow through on his verbal engagement after appearing in a promotional video with Kelly on social media, which caused some to poke fun at the coach’s dance.

Kelly also beat Alabama and Florida for four-star defensive lineman Quency Wiggins (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), but he lost four-star wide receiver Shazz Preston (Saint James, Louisiana) to ‘Bama.

By ERIC OLSON AP College Football Writer

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