National Signing Day for College Football, an event that is as big as the NFL Draft for some fans, has come and gone. At the top of the class rankings were the usual suspects. Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Notre Dame hauled in the top four classes according to ESPN.com. You can also find Michigan (6), Louisiana State (7), Florida State (9) and Georgia (10) in the top ten.
There were surprises in the top rankings however, as Ole Miss hauled in the number five recruiting class in the nation, fending off questions about its recruiting tactics and whether any rules were broken in helping it achieve such a lofty ranking.
With a total class of 28 signees, Ole Miss was able to sign many high profile players that boosted their rating with expectations that these players will have an immediate impact on the win-loss record for the next few years. Players included the No. 1 overall recruit DE Robert Nkemdiche, whose brother plays linebacker for the Rebels, Nos. 1 and 2 Offensive Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson, No. 1 Wide Receiver Laquon Treadwell and No. 2 Safety Antonio Conner.
There were many who said Ole Miss being able to land so many recruits had to mean that some rules violations took place. After all, this is a football team that is playing in a conference with recruiting giants such as Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU. The football team has not won the SEC championship since 1968 and they have never won the SEC West. Their win against Auburn last year stopped a 16 game conference losing streak, so its understandable why so many people have a hard time believing that they could gather so many top recruits so soon. According to head coach Hugh Freeze, however, there were a lot of individual factors that equaled the program being able to sign so many top players.
There were some unique circumstances. It was a perfect storm, Freeze said.
Ole Miss wasnt the only surprise however. Texas A&M is clearly riding the high of beating then No. 1 Alabama and winning 11 games with the eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel by reeling in a No. 8 class ranking with a whopping 34 commits.
Texas seems to be losing its luster with certain players as it reeled in just a No. 15 ranking after a decade of usually hauling in a top 3 class. Other schools who surprised people with their rankings were North Carolina (20), Vanderbilt (22), Baylor (28) and Kentucky (36). These are all teams that occasionally make it into the top 50, but almost never higher.
There were surprises from individual players as well, as some very high profile athletes either picked schools after refusing to reveal earlier who they were leaning on or stuck by their commitments after mounting pressure to change.
Christian Hackenberg, the No. 1 QB in the nation, honored his commitment to Penn State even though there was some pressure to swap colleges considering the Nittany Lions are banned from bowl or postseason games for the next two years.
Mackenzie Alexander chose Clemson as his choice college. Alexander, the No. 2 CB and No. 4 recruit overall, refused to give any indications as to who he was leaning towards signing his letter of intent with days to go before the official signing day.
Reuben Foster, the No. 1 Inside Linebacker, originally chose Auburn in July and commemorated the decision with a tattoo sporting his new teams logo. But by signing day he had recalled his commitment and instead chose rival Alabama.
One practice of recruiting, that is a norm for top teams was in full swing on Wednesday was the practice of over signing. Eight teams in the top 15 class rankings signed over 25 players. According to NCAA rules, a team may only sign 25 total players with each recruiting class. However, there are ways around that number, and the top teams continually take advantage of the loopholes.
The two most common reasons that a team will over-sign are expecting a couple of players will not qualify academically or later decide to be released from their letter of intent. Another way to avoid the scholarship cap is by gray-shirting certain players. Essentially this means the player will commit to the school, paying their own way the first semester at the school and sticks with the football team, then he will be offered a scholarship in the spring when the offer would count toward the next years recruiting class rather than this year. It will be interesting to see which players drop out from a teams signing class as they prepare for the fall.