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It may technically be the offseason for college football, but the ripple effects of this week’s National Signing Day and the 2022 recruiting class will be felt for years to come. It doesn’t take a long walk down the recruiting history road to realize that, when it comes to winning, there might not be anything more important than talent acquisition.
Without getting too nerdy (even if it did include some nerdy calculations), average recruiting rank alone accounts for nearly half of all variance in win totals for Power Five conference football teams. And if we look back at the top 20 recruiting classes in 247SportsComposite history, all but one (2010 Texas, because who else) made it to at least one New Year’s Six Bowl game within the next four years. Twelve (12) of those top 20 classes made it to the National Championship game. Nine (9) won at least one National Championship.
But which schools brought in the most talent? What players should you, the fan, be most excited about? And which teams are set up to best succeed in the near future? Let’s dive in.
Top Recruits Officially Inked on National Signing Day
|Player||Position||Star Rating||Positional Ranking||Overall Ranking||School|
|Shemar Stewart||DL||5||3||10||Texas A&M|
|Jacoby Mathews||S||5||2||38||Texas A&M|
|Trevonte Citizen||RB||4||9||107||Miami (FL)|
Thanks to the establishment of the Early Signing Period, the traditional National Signing Day has lost a bit of it’s luster. But there were still at least 11 notable top 300 overall recruits who built some buzz.
The biggest fish was perhaps linebacker Harold Perkins. Perkins was committed to the absurdly stacked Texas A&M class for quite some time. Some thought he would still end up there, making the best recruiting class ever even better. Instead, he chose to go dancing with Brian Kelly. Perkins is a ready-made linebacker with incredible 4.49-speed and versatility. He’s a huge get for LSU.
Shemar Stewart and Jacoby Mathews were the official cherries on top of the Aggies’ perfect near 30-layer recruiting cake. Stewart is an absolute force off the edge with a rare size and speed combo that should allow him to play anywhere he wants on the defensive line besides nose tackle. Stewart will be an All-SEC defender in his first year. Mathews is a safety with range in deep coverage who can also sneak into the backfield with ease.
Both Trevonte’ Citizen and Jordan James made headlines at running back, switching from LSU and Georgia, respectively. Citizen joins a deep Miami backfield, but should be the best talent almost immediately. James may have found his way into a Year One role with the Oregon Ducks given their recent backfield departures (CJ Verdell and Travis Dye).
Devon Campbell added even more depth to what was already the best offensive line class in the country for Texas, which they sorely needed.
All the other trench players on the list above should compete for starting roles in Year One as well. All are big time class changers. Especially Deshawn Woods at Wyoming, given the fact they never get four star talents.
Class Rankings by Power Five Conference + Top 14 Independent & Group of Five Teams
|SEC||Big Ten||Big 12||ACC||PAC 12||Indy/G5|
|Texas A&M (1)||Ohio State (4)||Texas (5)||North Carolina (10)||Stanford (17)||Notre Dame (7)|
|Alabama (2)||Penn State (6)||Oklahoma (8)||Clemson (11)||Arizona (24)||Cincinnati (42)|
|Georgia (3)||Michigan (9)||Oklahoma State (29)||Miami (15)||Oregon (25)||Houston (49)|
|LSU (12)||Indiana (21)||West Virginia (35)||Florida State (20)||Utah (38)||UCF (52)|
|Kentucky (13)||Michigan State (22)||Baylor (36)||Virginia Tech (34)||Colorado (46)||BYU (56)|
|Missouri (14)||Iowa (30)||Iowa State (39)||Boston College (40)||Oregon State (55)||Marshall (58)|
|Tennessee (16)||Maryland (31)||Texas Tech (43)||Duke (51)||UCLA (57)||Boise State (60)|
|Auburn (18)||Rutgers (33)||TCU (47)||Georgia Tech (53)||California (59)||Memphis (62)|
|Florida (19)||Purdue (37)||Kansas State (61)||Louisville (54)||Washington State (64)||Arkansas State (67)|
|Ole Miss (23)||Nebraska (41)||Kansas (119)||NC State (63)||USC (65)||San Diego State (68)|
|South Carolina (26)||Wisconsin (44)||Virginia (66)||Washington (93)||UTSA (69)|
|Mississippi State (27)||Illinois (45)||Syracuse (70)||Arizona State (105)||Tulane (72)|
|Arkansas (28)||Minnesota (48)||Pittsburgh (71)||Coastal Carolina (73)|
|Vanderbilt (32)||Northwestern (50)||Wake Forest (75)||Fresno State (74)|
All 14 SEC teams finished inside the top 32 overall recruiting classes this year. That’s just silly stacked. But which teams did enough to compete for a National Title soon? The answer should surprise no one.
Texas A&M, Alabama, and Georgia. All three schools have put together classes inside the all-time Top 12 according to the 247SportsComposite metrics. But all three have been stacking classes for a few years now. In fact, they are the top three recruiting schools in the nation over the last four years. All of them have brought in at least 12 five star recruits and 56 or more four stars in the last four years. And that’s not even getting into the solid transfers they’ve added.
The key to Alabama’s success is likely their receiver room. When Jameson Williams and John Metchie went down this season, it was a problem. Jacorey Brooks (2021 five star) stepped up late, but all the other receiver spots should be up for grabs between Jermaine Burton, the Georgia transfer, and seven other top 100 receivers the Tide has brought in over just the last two years.
Georgia will need to replace most of their legendary defense this season. Watch for Jalen Carter to anchor their trenches attack and some early contributions from Jalon Walker (four star freshman LB) and Malaki Starks (five star safety).
Texas A&M just really needs to fix their quarterback situation. They brought in five star Conner Weigman and Max Johnson from LSU via the transfer portal to compete with Haynes King. If one of those three pan out, the Aggies could push for their first playoff berth soon.
The Big Ten finally has three top ten classes again, but will that be enough for any of them to compete outside the conference?
Ohio State has brought in the third most five star recruits in the nation over the past four seasons with 15. That’s in addition to 53 four star studs. They also brought in some much-needed linebacker talent this cycle with five star C.J. Hicks and top tier four star Gabe Powers. Both could see early work immediately this fall. The Buckeyes also added some key secondary help in the form of Sonny Styles, a five star safety. He could see early big nickel work right away too.
Penn State and Michigan both brought in fabulous classes as well. The Nittany Lions are trying to get there with Drew Allar (perhaps the QB1 this year), Nicholas Singleton (the consensus RB1 in the class), and Kaden Saunders (a speedy Jahan Dotson replacement). It just might take a year or two. Michigan recruited well at every position of need except for one of the most important: edge rusher. They’re losing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo to the NFL, so getting some critical sacks from younger players will be huge. Their interior defensive line should be stacked, but Derrick Moore (top 50 recruit this cycle) and Mason Graham (top 300 IDL) will likely see some significant 2022 snaps. That may mean a slight step down for Michigan’s defense in the short term, but they could be right back in the mix in 2023.
Despite the valiant efforts of Oklahoma State and Baylor in 2021, Texas and Oklahoma are still the only two teams really bringing in the right talent to compete on the national stage. The Cowboys lost several keys pieces. Baylor overachieved from an analytical standpoint. They’ll both need to completely change how they recruit to take that final step across the College Football Playoff threshold.
Texas already had the best true freshman receiver in the nation last year (Xavier Worthy), the best QB recruit since Trevor Lawrence (Quinn Ewers), and the best running back in the nation (Bijan Robinson). Now, they’ve added three top 100 offensive line and completely revamped their secondary with just one class. If Texas ever gets back, it’s going to be within the next two seasons.
Oklahoma just lost their star quarterback, former starting quarterback, WR2, WR3, their best tight end, and above all else their head coach in Lincoln Riley. They have a lot to replace if they want to get back to the Sooners of just a year or two ago. And while they didn’t bring in any five stars this cycle, they did add nine top 200 players and ten more transfers. Nick Evers is likely the future at QB, but veteran transfer QB Dillon Gabriel should get the nod to help bridge the gap in 2022.
Clemson is failing miserably and willingly in the transfer portal (for no good reason at all), but their recruiting is still among the best. Cade Klubnik could push D.J. Uiagalelei for the starting quarterback job by week one. Jeadyn Lukus replaces much needed cornerbacks recently lost to the NFL. And they brought in at least one receiver in Antonio Williams who can actually create some separation for himself. Their defense will still be elite. If they get even average offensive production, they’ll be back to the playoff soon.
North Carolina is the only other ACC school that is at least trying to look the part of national contender with their recruiting. They have now brought in 36 total four and five star players in the last four seasons. The Tar Heels landed two five star trench monsters this cycle in Zach Rice (OT) and Travis Shaw (DL). They also brought in four top 200 running backs and wide receivers in hopes of replicating their stellar 2021 NFL Draft class. If Drake Maye can be even 80% of what Sam Howell brought to the table, UNC could in the playoff hunt by 2023 given the talent they’re amassing.
Florida State and Miami are still a step off the pace, but could get there given their coaches (especially Cristobal in Miami). Florida State could start by not losing recruiting battles to FCS schools. Miami will need more than 14 total recruits in a class.
The sad, but undeniable truth: As currently constructed, the Pac-12 has absolutely no one who can compete nationally.
USC is closer than anyone, primarily thanks to their transfer portal work, but the high school recruiting classes need to improve and fast. Their top tier stars in Domani Jackson (DB), Raleek Brown (RB), Zion Branch (S), and C.J. Williams (WR) should all be fantastic, but outside of that, their high school side was pretty awful by USC standards. The good news is Lincoln Riley already has his hands on some top 2023 guys.
Utah is one of four schools (Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, and Iowa too) in the nation that consistently outperforms their recruiting by more than a full standard deviation from expectation. As usual, their defense will keep them in most games. But the list of immediate contributors from this recruiting class begins and ends with Lander Barton at linebacker, and that’s mainly out of necessity with Devin Lloyd departing for the NFL Draft.
Top Independent & Group of Five Schools
Notre Dame finished seventh overall, but actually brought in the fifth most four star recruits in the nation this cycle. If quarterback Tyler Buchner takes one more step forward the Irish will be competing at the highest level for two straight seasons yet again.
Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, and BYU round out the top five independent and Group of Five Conference recruiting classes for obvious reasons. With the news of their promotion to the Big 12, all four have immediately benefited on the recruiting trail. Cincinnati is going to be hard pressed to replace two NFL corners, an edge rusher, an early round quarterback, and their explosive running back in one class. They likely see a steep drop given their lack of elite recruiting replacements outside of Mario Eugenio off the edge. The other three schools have only four four-star recruits between them. It’s going to take a little time in the Big 12 before they’re really pushing for a conference title and playoff consideration.