National Signing Day 2015 winners and losers: USC, UCLA lead the way
The fax machines are slowing down and the ink is almost dry. For the most part, National Signing Day has slowed to a halt. We won’t know for a few years which signing classes will have the greatest impact on college football, but it’s easy to see which programs came away from Wednesday with momentum.
SI.com offers a few winners and losers from National Signing Day 2015.
• Alabama in a familiar place
One of the quietest programs on National Signing Day was also one of the most successful. The Crimson Tide finished with the No. 2 class nationally, according to Rivals.com, trailing only USC. Five-star wide receiver Calvin Ridley and five-star tailback Damien Harris were among the standout additions. Alabama also had eight players enroll early, which eliminated some 11th-hour excitement. Nick Saban probably doesn’t care if the Tide finished first in anyone’s rankings. What matters is that Bama is still cleaning up on the recruiting trail.
• The battle for Los Angeles
UCLA and USC put in plenty of work on Signing Day, and the future of their Pac-12 rivalry is better for it. Finally free of NCAA sanctions, the Trojans actually jumped Alabama for the No. 1 spot in Rivals.com’s team rankings. They grabbed a number of coveted Signing Day commitments, including Junipero Serra (Calif.) High teammates Rasheem Green and John Houston, both five-star defensive players. The Bruins, meanwhile, secured the signatures of five-star running back Soso Jamabo -- the No. 1 player in Texas -- and four-star receiver Cordell Broadus, the son of rapper Snoop Dogg. With the amount of talent amassing in Southern California, it’s hard not to get excited about this rivalry.
• New Florida coach Jim McElwain
The Gators entered Signing Day 2015 with one of the SEC’s worst classes. The coaching transition between Will Muschamp and McElwain left Florida’s class in flux, but McElwain did a phenomenal job of shoring up his first haul. The Gators kicked off Wednesday in the running for three five-star players: defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson and offensive lineman Martez Ivey. McElwain landed Ivey and Jefferson, as well as four-star talents like athlete D’Anfernee McGriff and running back Jordan Cronkite. According to SB Nation’s Florida blog, Alligator Army, McElwain is responsible for securing 16 of the school’s 21 signees. That’s a strong start for a new coach.
• One random Penn State fan
Penn State coach James Franklin thought he was calling to video chat with defensive end commit Shareef Miller on Wednesday. Instead he got Aleem Medley, a Nittany Lions fan from Philadelphia, on the other end of his FaceTime. Franklin had dialed the wrong number, and Medley found himself talking to his favorite team’s coach on the way to work. The snafu made Medley’s day. "I was doing most of the talking," Medley told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. "We just had a good laugh. [The call] was only about 58 seconds or so. I was just so stoked." The day ended on a positive note for Penn State, which secured the No. 15 class in the country, per Rivals.com.
• Michigan's underwhelming class
It’s unfair to judge a coach on his first recruiting class. Players who committed under the former coach often decommit, and the new coach rarely has more than a month to fix it. Even so, perhaps a bit more was expected from Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. Four-star recruits like tight end Chris Clark (UCLA) and wide receiver Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) opted not to come to Ann Arbor. Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith couldn’t even get the Michigan’s name right during his TV announcement. The Wolverines are still reportedly on Smith’s short list, but he’s also considering Georgia, UCLA and Texas A&M. Harbaugh largely salvaged a patchwork class during the transition, but the “Harbaugh Effect” didn’t galvanize the program’s haul the way many expected.
• Byron Cowart’s decision-making
Cowart, the No. 1 prospect in the country, went on national television on Wednesday and pledged his services to Auburn over Florida. The five-star defensive end didn’t show much hesitation. But what followed was, well, a lot of confusion. Rumors spread that Cowart was waffling on his commitment to Auburn. Reports suggested he was waiting to hear from fellow Florida product CeCe Jefferson, who later committed to the Gators. Hours after Cowart’s announcement, the school had yet to receive his signed Letter of Intent. Soon a parody Twitter account called @CowartsLOI popped up and poked fun at Cowart’s indecision. At around 4 p.m. ET, Auburn finally received Cowart’s signed papers.
• Miami's disappointing 2015 haul
The Hurricanes suffered a couple of Signing Day letdowns. Coach Al Golden missed on three-star receiver and longtime Miami commit Terrell Chatman, in-state defensive end Shelton Johnson and four-star defensive back Marcus Lewis. The 'Canes aren’t exactly limping away from Signing Day (their class is still ranked No. 26 nationally by Rivals.com), but in-state rivals Florida and Florida State both had banner days. The Gators began the day toward the bottom of the rankings and still managed to pass Miami for No. 23 overall. The Seminoles boast the nation’s No. 3 class, per Rivals.com. Perhaps most upsetting for ‘Canes fans: Their team landed the same number of four-star signees (seven) as Florida and Florida State managed five-star players combined.
• Coaches’ Signing Day press conferences
Has a coach ever sounded unhappy about his most recent recruiting haul? Ever year, coaches praise their school’s Signing Day class, explaining how it fits every need of the team. Tennessee coach Butch Jones called his class a “great step in the right direction.” Georgia coach Mark Richt said, “We are absolutely thrilled about these young men.” But what if a class didn’t live up to expectations? That’s where South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier comes into play. "I don’t think I did a very good job of maybe going full speed as much as we needed as it turned out,” Spurrier told reporters on Wednesday, referring to his 30-person class that finished No. 18 nationally. You won’t hear that kind of honesty from much of the college football community, and we need more of it.