What's Left for Top Recruiting Classes Two Weeks From Signing Day?
John Garcia, Jr.
While the bulk of the class of 2020 is already officially off the board having signed during the Early Signing Period (ESP) in December, a good group of talent remains across all positions heading into February.
Two weeks from pen meeting paper for the final time on National Signing Day, SI All-American dishes on what some of the top recruiting classes of 2020 may have left to add before all is said and done.
1. Clemson (No. 1 following ESP)
The Tigers remain at the same number of pledges since the ESP wrapped up, 23, with a class so strong it could be enough to hold off the likes of Alabama and Georgia down the stretch. The defensive line haul is unmatched compared to the other blue bloods and factoring in elites across the board like quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, running back Demarkcus Bowman and linebacker Trenton Simpson make this Clemon's best recruiting class ever.
2. Alabama (2)
Nick Saban and company boast the top linebacker haul in the class of 2020, but the overall headliner is the top passer in the land in Bryce Young. The Crimson Tide's class has a strong running back group and spot stars along the defensive line in Tim Smith and wide receiver in Thaiu Jones-Bell. Among the most at the top with room to grow, Alabama is looking to add elite defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson, who is a battleground prospect among several SEC programs and, notably, LSU. Alabama could pair Jackson with another defensive lineman like Alfred Collins and continue to build the offensive line with prospects like Sedrick Van Pran and Marcus Henderson. UA also stands as the most likely pick for late-rising defensive back Ennis Rakestraw.
3. Georgia (5)
It looks like Georgia's close will be among the best in the country, again. On early signing day it flipped wide receiver Jermaine Burton from LSU and added the fastest player in the country in two-way athlete Arian Smith. The Bulldogs actually added the top corner in the country, Kelee Ringo, and elite tight end/athlete Darnell Washington that day, but those announcements came in January at all-star events. The Zach Evans drama, after he had joined the previous two in signing with Georgia early, puts a bit of a dent in the Bulldogs' late run, but with that recruitment who knows if he may come all the way back around before all is said and done. Holding onto verbally committed offensive line prospects Broderick Jones and Van Pran will be paramount but adding transfer quarterback Jamie Newman may be Georgia's biggest news of the cycle yet. Should it have space, top available safety Avantae Williams says Georgia has the lead for his services, too.
4. Ohio State (3)
The top wide receiver haul in the class, one that may one day stack up against Alabama's 2017 haul, leads the Buckeyes into the 2020 season. A pair of quarterbacks in CJ Stroud and Jack Miller add to the strong offensive group, plus the top tackle in the country in Paris Johnson. The Buckeyes are strong on defense, as usual, with Latham Ransom serving as one of the defensive backs who could see early playing time in Columbus. With 25 pledges on board there was talk of a push for another running back, possibly Evans or Jahmyr Gibbs, but it looks like the group is in the same boat as Clemson—wrapped up.
5. LSU (4)
LSU may have the most space left down the stretch in the top 10 with names like Jackson, Gibbs, multiple offensive linemen, wide receiver Alex Adams and others among the unsigned targets in play. But the overall haul is strong at the expected positions, despite an up-and-down ESP, like at defensive back with Elias Ricks and Jordan Toles coming in. But the offensive additions, specifically among pass catchers like top tight end Arik Gilbert and wide receivers Kayshon Boutte and Koy Moore, are the latest signs of the change in perspective with the reigning champs. The offensive line haul was boosted late in the game with Marcus Dumervil and Xavier Hill jumping in.
6. Texas A&M (8)
The Aggie class moves up the rankings with the latest round of evaluations this post season. Jaylon Jones at defensive back, Demond Demas at wide receiver and Donell Harris at defensive end put in ideal performances against national competition. The rest of the class has balance on either side of the ball with a nice combination of talent, size and polish. The Aggies could also add to the haul in the next two weeks, with Evans leading that list in a major way. The aforementioned Jackson and Collins are among those considering making College Station their collegiate home, too.
7. Florida (6)
The Gators had a rough ESP on Dec. 18 itself but built a no-doubt top-10 class prior to that point and held onto committed prospects in the meantime. Florida will fare much better in the New Year on the trail and is positioning itself for prospects like Gibbs, Williams, defensive end Princely Umanmielen, tight end Dee Beckwith and maybe Evans. It added a major piece in wide receiver Xzavier Williams at the All-American Bowl Jan. 4 along with speedy Miami transfer running back Lorenzo Lingard. It has a few committed prospects worth keeping an eye on in wide receiver Leonard Manuel and athlete Marc Britt, but odds say each stick with UF at this time. Manuel won't sign until April 1, though.
8. Auburn (7)
Auburn used a big ESP to add to an already-strong group, adding linebacker Desmond Tisdol, pass rusher Romello Height and defensive lineman Jeremiah Pegues while holding onto wide receiver Elijah Cannion and defensive lineman Jay Hardy out-of-state. The Tigers are the top threat to add the top unsigned offensive prospect in the country in Broderick Jones and will get his final official visit. AU is also in it for Jackson, tight end Brandon Frazier and could add a kicker late in the game to fill another two-year need.
9. Oregon (12)
Oregon joins Georgia as the programs in the top 10 with the lowest number of current verbal commitments—21—and the Ducks' star power at the top is as good as it gets. The monster win of Justin Flowe in December paired well with the already-pledged Noah Sewell and UO added dynamic defensive back Dontae Manning at the Under Armour All-America Game Jan. 2. Two intriguing quarterbacks are in the class, as Robby Ashford joined Jay Butterfield as a surprise signing during the ESP. Oregon is looking to make another splash come Feb. 5 with late offers in to Jackson and Beckwith while trending for local tight end Seth Figgins and Washington linebacker Peter Latu. Oregon will get some big-time committed prospects on campus this month, too, in Florida State wide receiver pledge Malachi Wideman and Alabama trench commitment Jayson Jones.
10. Oklahoma (10)
The battle in the Big 12 is unsurprisingly coming down to OU and Texas down the stretch, and the Sooners have the advantage with two weeks to go. An elite offensive line haul is most noticeable with what Lincoln Riley's staff has put together and it added a mobile fit in quarterback Chandler Morris in early January. You'd expect pass-catchers to be another strength of Oklahoma's and you'd be right yet again with the nation's leading wide receiver Marvin Mims signed along with tight end Jalin Conyers and UCLA transfer wideout Theo Howard. The defense saw a signing day boost with Floridian Kendall Dennis added to the haul. Adding to the defensive line haul in February, whether it be Collins, Umanmielen or a junior college defensive lineman. Of course Texas is the main contender for this group and could leap over OU should it close the deal with the high school pair.