If grading the NFL Draft the day after it ends is a futile exercise, grading Signing Day before the players hit campus is practically impossible. Of course, that won't prevent us from trying. Based on 247Sports' composite ratings:
The rich get richer. Nick Saban, winner of three of the last four national championships, brought in 26 new recruits, including 6 of the 33 prospects given five stars. The Crimson Tide added the nation's top inside linebacker recruit, Reuben Foster, despite the fact that he has an Auburn tattoo. They also received letters of intent from arguably the nation's best wide receiver (Robert Foster), the nation's best tight end (O.J. Howard), one of the country's best outside linebackers (Jonathan Allen), and arguably the best offensive tackle (A'Shawn Robinson). When Alabama went slumming for four-star recruits, they landed quarterback Cooper Bateman, tackle Leon Brown, and running back Altee Tenpenny, who was widely considered the best prospect in Arkansas. At this point, Alabama doesn't even reload. It simply maintains.
The Buckeyes didn't match Alabama for five-star quality, but nearly made up for it in four-star quantity. Urban Meyer's first full class as coach in Columbus features 25 players, including 19 four-star recruits. The crown jewel, safety Vonn Bell, appeared set for Tennessee until a Signing Day switch-up put him in scarlet and gray. The Buckeyes also signed the top recruit in Missouri (running back Ezekiel Elliott), the top recruit in Ohio (wide receiver Jalin Marshall), and the top recruit in New Jersey (cornerback Eli Apple). Outside linebacker Mike Mitchell is considered by some the best linebacker recruit in the country. And in dual threat quarterback J.T. Barrett, Meyer has an ideal trigger man for his run-heavy offensive attack.
Brian Kelly saw what elite talent can do in the BCS National Championship Game. Wednesday, he went about evening the playing field. The Irish landed the nation's top outside linebacker (Jaylon Smith) out of their backyard and the nation's top defensive tackle (Eddie Vanderdoes) from much further away. Notre Dame will always recruit nationally, but Kelly cast the net especially wide in 2013: the Fighting Irish's 23 commitments come from 15 different states and the District of Columbia. Four-star offensive tackles Steven Elmer and Hunter Bivin could bookend the Irish offensive line for years.
The Gators had two of their three stars on campus long before Signing Day, as five-star outside linebacker Alex Anzalone and running back Kelvin Taylor enrolled a month ago. All that was left for Will Muschamp was to sign the nation's best defensive back, the Tampa-based Vernon Hargreaves III, and a boatload of four-star talent across the board. Florida got three of the nation's best defensive tackles (freshman Caleb Brantley and JUCO teammates Darious Cummings and Jarran Reed) and one of the best offensive tackle prospects (Trenton Brown). Aside from taking a project at quarterback (three-star prospect Max Staver), the Gators largely filled depth concerns across the roster.
It was an uneventful Signing Day in Ann Arbor, where head coach Brady Hoke had locked up 17 four-star commitments long before formal signatures were available. Hoke clearly addressed his desire to return Michigan to its pro-style past. Running back Derrick Green, widely considered one of the best running backs in the nation, should step in immediately to contribute in the Wolverines' revamped backfield. Four-star quarterback Shane Morris will have to dethrone Devin Gardner, but should join Green by 2014. Cornerstone tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman is one of six offensive linemen in the class, four of which earned four-star grades. On the defensive side, Michigan stocked up inside with defensive tackles Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst Jr., defensive end Taco Charlton, and inside linebacker Ben Gideon.
Anyone who disputes that a program can create momentum in recruiting and capitalize on Signing Day need only look to Oxford, where Ole Miss went from the middle of the SEC pack to the top six in one morning. The Rebels got the nation's top recruit (defensive end Robert Nkemdiche), top offensive lineman (tackle Leremy Tunsil), and second-best safety (Tony Conner) to add to the country's best receiver (Laquon Treadwell) and best JUCO recruit (defensive tackle Lavon Hooks). Hugh Freeze's class is slightly top-heavy -- 16 of Ole Miss' 27 recruits have three-star ratings -- but that top tier rivals Alabama for the nation's best.
For the second consecutive year, LSU failed to land a five-star commit. However, the Bayou Bengals' four-star-heavy haul of 28 commitments was enough to get them into the top 10. Cornerback Tre'Davious White is considered one of the nation's best. He will be joined in the Tigers' defensive backfield by four-star cornerbacks Jeryl Brazil and Rashard Robinson. LSU also stocked up in the trenches with defensive tackles Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain, defensive ends Frank Herron, Tashawn Bower, Michael Patterson, and Christian LaCouture, and offensive linemen Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, Andy Dodd, and Fehoko Fanakia. A pair of quarterbacks, Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings, round out a class light on skill position talent.
The Seminoles battled coaching changes throughout the 2013 recruiting season, but managed to get letters of intent from 22 players, including five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas and eight four-star recruits. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is ranked as the top recruit in Tennessee, halfback Ryan Green may be the nation's best running back, and DeMarcus Walker is one of the country's five best defensive ends. Four-star wide receivers Levonte Whitfield and Isaiah Jones each received four stars, and wideout Jesus Wilson and tight end Jeremy Kerr also signed on with the Seminoles.
Any concerns that new coach Jim Mora Jr. wasn't equipped for the college game were muted by his first full class. The Bruins, helped somewhat by scholarship reductions at Southern Cal, landed 18 four-star recruits in a class of 26 players. Safety Tahaan Goodman, inside linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea, and defensive end Kylie Fitts highlight the class, but U.S. Army All-American quarterback Asiantii Woulard was UCLA's biggest prize on Signing Day. Woulard, who is a Florida native and was committed to South Florida until early January, announced his intent to play for the Bruins Wednesday. He joins a class heavy on interior linemen and defensive players.
The Aggies were the recipients of one of Signing Day's biggest surprises, when four-star defensive end Daeshon Hall decommitted from Washington and signed a letter of intent with Texas A&M. Hall joins a class with a staggering 32 commitments, including five-star wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, four-star defensive tackles Justin Manning and Isaiah Golden, and quarterbacks Kohl Stewart and Kenny Hill. The Aggies went heavy in the passing game on both sides of the ball, signing seven wide receivers and five defensive backs.
Gus Malzahn may be an offensive coach, but Auburn focused on the defensive side of the ball Wednesday. The Tigers added two five-star prospects on the defensive front (defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Montravious Adams) and stole borderline five-star defensive end Elijah Daniel from Ole Miss. While the quality was on the defensive line, the quantity came on offense, where Malzahn signed a handful of receivers, a trio of halfbacks, and four-star quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
Mark Richt signed 32 recruits, including 18 four-star prospects, but the story might be the players Georgia wasn't able to keep in the state. Just two of the state's top 15 players -- quarterback Brice Ramsey and safety Tray Matthews -- signed with the Bulldogs. Alabama, Auburn, and Ohio State were as successful among Georgia's home talent. The Bulldogs were able to land South Carolina's best player (wide receiver Tramel Terry) and one of Virginia's best prospects (defensive tackle John Atkins). A solid class that could have been much, much more if their in-state talent stayed home.
Even though the Tigers lost Robert Nkemdiche's verbal commitment, head coach Dabo Swinney was able to land a five-star cornerback (Mackensie Alexander), a top defensive end (Shaq Lawson), and two top outside linebackers (Wayne Gallman and Dorian O'Daniel). Halfback Tyshon Dye is also among the nation's best. Of Clemson's 23 commitments, 11 are rated four-star or better.
The Trojans only signed 12 players due to scholarship restrictions and decommits, but managed to add four five-star commitments in pro-style quarterback Max Browne, defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow, and safeties Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III. Halfbacks Ty Isaac and Justin Davis could contribute quickly for Lane Kiffin.
Halfback Keith Ford, one of the best prospects in Texas, highlights the Sooners' 2013 class. Bob Stoops left the Big 12 footprint in search for defensive backs, and came back with four-star safeties Ahmed Thomas and Hatrari Byrd and cornerback L.J. Moore. The Sooners also landed another pro-style quarterback out of Texas in Cody Thomas. The Sooners also got some help on the defensive line, with four-star defensive end D.J. Ward and tackles Quincy Russell and Kerrick Huggins.
The Longhorns took a demerit for signing a remarkably small class -- just 15 players -- and failing to match their usual in-state dominance. Texas got just one five-star commitment (offensive guard Darius James) and a boatload of additional help on the offensive line, with four additional linemen rated with four stars: Tackles Desmond Harrison and Kent Perkins, guard Rami Hammad, and center Jake Raulerson. There are strikingly few skill players in the class: No running backs, no quarterbacks, two wide receivers.
You have to hand it to Al Golden. Facing the possibility of sanctions for the last two seasons, Golden and his staff keep reeling in some of the ACC's top talent. The Hurricanes signed 17 recruits Wednesday, including eight four-star prospects. Golden went to his old stomping grounds in the Northeast to get defensive end Alquadin Muhammad and quarterback Kevin Olsen. He farmed his home territory for much of the rest, signing four players with four-star ratings out of Florida.
The Huskies loaded up on skill position talent and defensive linemen. On offense, Washington added four-star wide receivers Darrell Daniels and Demorea Stringfellow, four-star quarterback Troy Williams, and three-star receiver John Ross and running back Lavon Coleman. Defensively, defensive tackle Elijah Qualls is the center of a cluster of three four-star defensive linemen. Steve Sarkisian also landed a pair of cornerbacks, Kevin King and Jermaine Kelly.
The Ducks were largely able to hold their class together despite Chip Kelly's departure for the NFL. Five-star running back Thomas Tyner is the centerpiece, while wide receivers Darren Carrington and Tyree Robinson join the vaunted Oregon receiver corps. On the defensive side, four-star outside linebackers Tyrell Robinson and Danny Mattingly and defensive end Torrodney Prevot give the Ducks depth and pass rushing ability.
The Hokies did what the Hokies usually do: A handful of top talent, like five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller, four-star safety Holland Fisher, running back Drew Harris, and dual-threat quarterback Bucky Hodges, with 15 three-star projects, nearly all recruited from the mid-Atlantic. Tech also added depth on the offensive line, with three recruits signed.
South Carolina has officially returned from the stratosphere of 2010 and 2011, with a solid if unspectacular class. Outside linebacker Larenz Bryant, arguably the top player in North Carolina, joins linebacker Skai Moore and defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin at the core of the class. On the offensive side, quarterback Connor Mitch and running back David Williams should be the future Gamecock backfield.
Welcome to the SEC, Bret Bielema. Arkansas' class of 23 commitments, including five-star running back Alex Collins, four-star quarterbacks Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell, tight end Hunter Henry, and interior linemen Denver Kirkland and Reeve Kohler, would put Bielema's former team in the top of the Big Ten's second tier. Instead, he's in the SEC's bottom half.
Bo Pelini addressed areas of need, landing two four-star linebackers (Marcus Newby and Josh Banderas), two four-star running backs (Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor), a pass rushing defensive end (Randy Gregory), and a quarterback for the inevitable graduation of Taylor Martinez (Johnny Stanton). It is not good enough to compete with the conference's top two, but it's precisely the class Nebraska needed.
The Bulldogs got the nation's second-best defensive end, five-star-rated Chris Jones. They got two top safeties in Justin Cox and Ashton Shumpert. They got four-star wide receiver Fred Ross, four-star tackle Jake Thomas, and a dual-threat quarterback perfect for their system in Cord Sandberg. Yet, they look to be miles behind their in-state rival. A good class for a program on the rise, but not enough to keep up with the conference.
The Vols signed 21 commitments, including five players with four-star ratings. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs should find a home in new coach Butch Jones' system, and receivers MarQuez North and Ryan Jenkins give him some targets. Tennessee was hurt when five-star safety Vonn Bell, long thought to be a probable Volunteer commit, went with Ohio State.
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