National Signing Day 2021: Winners and losers of early signing period, college football recruiting rankings


The first day of the early signing period for the Class of 2022 is all but in the books, and easily the biggest shocker in the modern recruiting era dictates a large part of our winners and losers from National Signing Day. With two days of the early period and the traditional signing day in February still to come, plenty can change for these programs and in the 247Sports Composite team rankings as a whole.

Even though there’s still plenty of activity and drama still to come over the next seven weeks, it’s not that tall of a task to determine which teams have put together top-tier classes and which others failed to impress during a key time in the college football calendar. So let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers following the first key day in the 2022 cycle.

Winners

Jackson State / Deion Sanders / HBCUs: Travis Hunter’s stunning decision to sign with Jackson State, after being a Florida State commit for nearly two years, is a win for not only the program but Sanders and HBCU schools as a whole. To land the No. 1 player in the country is unprecedented for an HBCU in the modern recruiting era. To flip a player who was committed to his previous school for so long? Stunning. For Coach Prime to do it to his alma mater? Incredible. No matter who finished at the top of the team rankings, this trifecta easily won Wednesday.

Travis Hunter: There has never been a recruit more talked about on any one signing period than Hunter. With reports that the name, image and likeness deal he’ll get at Jackson State has a significant amount of money attached to it, Hunter won on Wednesday and his brand will see a significant spike. That doesn’t even include the fact that he’s an elite player, the No. 1 prospect in the country for a reason — a guy who projects at cornerback. He’ll now get a chance to play for one of the greatest cornerbacks who ever played the game in Sanders.

Texas A&M / Alabama / Georgia: These teams are 1-2-3 in the recruiting rankings, and all won on Wednesday. The Aggies brought in five-star defensive lineman Anthony Lucas and four-star DL Enai White, their biggest Signing Day pulls on that side of the ball, and beat Texas for four-star offensive lineman Kam Dewberry. Plus, holding onto five-star DL Walter Nolen ensured TAMU moved to the top. Alabama reeled in four-star DLs Jihaad Campbell and Khurtiss Perry, elite wide receiver Shazz Preston and top defensive back Earl Little Jr. Georgia had a pair of five-star signees of their own in Marvin Jones Jr. on the edge and cornerback Daylen Everette to cement its spot in the top three.

Michigan: Whether it was flipping WR Amorion Walker from Notre Dame to start the day, rallying late to grab the No. 1 prospect in Oregon, four-star WR Darrius Clemons, away from the Ducks, pulling in four-star safety Keon Sabb (a longtime Clemson commit) or getting four-star DL Derrick Moore (a former Oklahoma pledge), it’s been the season of Jim Harbaugh and the Big Ten champions, who will be playing in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines kept their on-field momentum and transitioned it off the field on the first day of the early signing period.

Texas: The offensive line class that Kyle Flood and Steve Sarkisian signed on Wednesday could go down as the single most important positional haul Sark’s pulled at any of his stops. Starting with five-star OL Kelvin Banks’ commitment over the weekend and continuing with OT Cameron Williams and four-star OL Neto Umeozulu to start the week, the Longhorns wrapped things up by landing four-star Washington tackle Malik Agbo. Throw in a pair of Big Ten flips in four-star cornerback Terrance Brooks from Ohio State and defensive lineman Ethan Burke from Michigan, plus bringing home another Big Ten guy in five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers from the transfer portal, and Texas is back … in the top 10 … recruiting-wise.

Florida: Despite the idea that Billy Napier might punt to start the early signing period, the Gators played offense and pulled in two stunners with top 100 linebacker Shemar James and five-star safety Kamari Wilson, who most pegged for Georgia. The Gators also landed four-star defensive back Devin Moore to start the day. That’s the kind of recruiting effort Florida fans have craved from their coach and a great way for Napier to endear himself to the fanbase.

Losers

Florida State: Yes, the Noles landed four-star athlete Azareyeh Thomas and and they held on to five-star Sam McCall, but losing the No. 1 player in the country in Hunter is a blow — a big blow. And to lose him to an FSU alum in Sanders? An even bigger blow. The Noles will end up with a top 20 class, but losing the highest rated player in the country and to an FCS program is a loss no matter how you slice it. 

Clemson: Never mind the fact that Dabo Swinney lost his offensive coordinator and his defensive coordinator in the same week. He also lost three commits, all from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Losing coordinators isn’t completely foreign — Jeff Scott left for South Florida a couple years ago — but losing commitments is something that Clemson isn’t used to see happen. For all the deliberate recruiting Clemson does, it doesn’t offer a ton of players. That process may be backfiring because not many players pivoted to the Tigers.

Washington: After being a top five class in the Pac-12 the previous four years, Washington is in dead last and signed just five players on Wednesday, not counting a graduate transfer from the Big Sky. Some of the players who committed to former coach Jimmy Lake had a mutual parting of ways with the Huskies, but losing the commitment of offensive lineman Vega Ioane on Sunday was a blow. Ioane is still in play — he won’t sign until February — and the Huskies could also land hometown standout Josh Conerly Jr., the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, but there wasn’t much to celebrate on Montlake on Wednesday.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers couldn’t mount enough momentum to get out of the cellar of the Big Ten recruiting rankings, finishing 14th at the end of the day. There was some buzz that they could flip Oregon commit Ben Roberts, but he ultimately stuck with the Ducks. Even though Scott Frost was given another year of life leading Nebraska, it seems the lack of certainty with his position in Lincoln, long-term, had a ripple effect with the Huskers.

Virginia: With Bronco Mendenhall stepping down and Tony Elliott just being hired over the weekend, there wasn’t a lot of time for the Cavaliers to add to their class. They did lose in-state offensive lineman Brody Meadows, who committed to the Hoos in June, but then saw him flip to Virginia Tech on the morning of the early signing period. It’s not a big class, and Meadows was their second highest-rated prospect in the class.



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