Post-Super Bowl week is often considered the worst week of the calendar year. Many have even lobbied to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday in order to cope with the end of football season. But instead, most Americans will begrudgingly clock into work and slowly partake in the longest hibernation known to man: the off-season. It’s a dark and lonely time for many that can only be fixed by more football (American football that is, get that store-brand Canadian bulls**t off of my televison).
Amidst this period of national grief, we do have a few small bright spots ahead. The NFL Draft is coming in April, and the Combine shortly before that. But these events effectively feel like a lifetime away.
So in order to break up the long and painful wait, I am here to inform you that THIS WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH, is National Signing Day. This is traditionally the day that the top high school football recruits from across the nation pick the institution they wish to take their talents to the following season. They sign their National Letters of Intent, and are often involved in some sort of press conference at their high school to make their announcement. It’s usually a day filled with drama and excitement for many college football fans. One of the more memorable National Signing Days included Terrelle Pryor, in 2008, informing the nation that he needed more time to decide which school he would be attending.
Pryor would eventually announce, while millions of Americans were tuned in, that he was going to sign to play at Ohio State about a month later.
However, this year’s National Signing Day, the level of excitement will be much, MUCH lower than in previous years. This is due to the integration of the Early Signing Period (ESP), an earlier time window in December during which recruits can sign with their school (this year’s ESP was from December 19th until December 21st). This new signing window was created so that coaches are more motivated to complete their recruiting classes sooner and with less uncertainty. It also offers recruits the opportunity to enroll in school early so that they already have an academic semester under their belt once the upcoming football season begins.
After this past ESP, only 46 out of the top 250 recruits (according to the 247 Sports Composite rankings) remained either unsigned or uncommitted. This means that most programs have their recruiting classes pretty much set heading into National Signing Day on Wednesday. In other words, there will be less drama on this year’s NSD than any other year before.
Regardless, National Signing Day and everything leading up to it usually does a pretty good job showing which programs are trending up, trending down, or cementing themselves among the elite. So, without further ado, here is your 2019 Unofficial (and condensed) National Signing Day Guide:
Best Recruiting Classes Heading into National Signing Day
Here are the current 2019 recruiting class rankings, according to 247 Sports. I’ve also included the number of commitments each team currently has, and each class’s average player rating (out of 100).
- Alabama – 28 Commits – 94.31
- Georgia – 23 Commits – 93.25
- Texas – 24 Commits – 91.84
- Texas A&M – 25 Commits – 91.14
- Oklahoma – 24 Commits – 91.20
- LSU – 22 Commits – 90.97
- Michigan – 27 Commits – 90.63
- Oregon – 25 Commits – 90.67
- Clemson – 28 Commits – 90.16
- Penn State – 21 Commits – 91.51
Others worth mentioning, since we’re a Pittsburgh-based site:
- 49. West Virginia – 17 Commits – 86.02
- 51. Pittsburgh – 20 Commits – 84.93
A few notes on these rankings: first, teams with new head coaches are often ranked lower than expected since many players commit to a school to be with a certain head coach. This might explain why both Ohio State (#13) and WVU (#49) are ranked so low at the moment. Second, Alabama reclaimed the throne as the best recruiters in the nation after Georgia stole that title last year. As expected, Bama’s reign of terror on college football doesn’t look like it will end any time soon. Third, Texas currently has the third best class in the nation after also coming in at #3 in 2018. This is a massive improvement from 2017, when they came in at #25. Is Texas back? They might be, but we’ll still have to wait and see.
Best Recruits That Have Already Signed
According to the 247 Sports Composite Player Rankings, the best high school football player in the country is Nolan Smith out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Smith has already signed his NLI to play at Georgia. As you can see from his highlight tape, this kid is an absolute monster at defensive end:
Looking down the list, the next player that jumps out to me is running back Trey Sanders, who is also out of IMG Academy. This stud signed to play with the Crimson Tide, and his highlights show why:
Sanders also made headlines when he predicted that he would be invited to the Heisman ceremony in New York after just his freshman year.
Bold strategy, Cotton.
The last player I want to bring up is Bru McCoy, the 5-star wide receiver out of Santa Ana, CA. McCoy made headlines a few weeks ago by flipping from USC to Texas, reportedly because Kliff Kingsbury decided to leave USC for the NFL. This man was an absolute animal on both sides of the ball in high school:
Best Recruits That Haven’t Signed Yet
Darnell Wright is probably the only player that the nation is eagerly waiting on to make a decision on Wednesday. The Huntington, WV product is predicted to sign with Tennessee, although Alabama is also expected to have a shot. This 6’6″ 320-lb offensive tackle is a God damn force on the O-line, and is currently listed as the tenth best player in the country:
Running back Jerrion Ealy, out of Flowood, MS, is another recruit yet to sign his NLI. Ealy is listed as the 29th best recruit in the country, and the third best running back in his class. He is expected to sign with Clemson, but Mississippi State and Ole Miss are both also hoping to land this in-state prospect. It should be interesting to see what decision he makes on Wednesday:
Individual Player Rankings and Grades Are Often Wrong
On an individual basis, it’s quite common that players are incorrectly graded or ranked coming out of high school.
Exhibit A: 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Yup, that’s right. The #2 pick in the 2018 draft was only ranked as the 291st best player nationally in 2015, according to ESPN. He would later go on to produce absolutely silly highlights like these for three years at Penn State:
Exhibit B: Heisman winner and #1 Overall Pick in 2018 NFL Draft
Three stars? Come on guys, this is a bad look.
Exhibit C: One of the most terrifying humans to ever play defensive end
J.J. GOD DAMN WATT DIDN’T EVEN GET HIS OWN RECRUIT PROFILE PICTURE. The disrespect was real. Glad I wasn’t the one who graded him as a 2-star…
Bottom line: no matter how much exposure some of these high school recruits are getting, recruiting rankings and grades don’t always translate to success on the field at the next level. The only real takeaway from Wednesday’s National Signing Day activities is what each program’s general future is looking like. It can show that programs like Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Texas are making great strides in returning to glory, even if it doesn’t come right away. It can also show that programs like Florida State are slowly falling into irrelevance. Finally, it can show the nation that programs like Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma are constantly shoveling in enough raw talent to stay at the top of the mountain.
Remember Terrelle Pryor’s commitment circus that I brought up before? Well despite all of the media attention he got for committing to the Buckeyes, this is the only moment from his time in Columbus that actually sticks out to me. Happy Signing Day, Terrelle!