Early signing period winners and losers: Clemson, Ohio State keep winning; USC, SEC's new coaches struggle

Bowl season hasn’t even begun and we’re already talking about the 2020 season.

Wednesday was the first day of the 2020 college football early signing period. Players have until Friday to sign with their school of choice if they want to commit right now. Otherwise they need to wait until February to sign.

There were a lot of familiar faces at the top of the Rivals’ team recruiting rankings, which you can view in full right here. And there were a few notable teams near the bottom, too. Here are our winners and losers from the first day of the early signing period.

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WINNERS

Clemson

Clemson hauled in the top recruiting class in the country for the first time in the Rivals era, which dates back to 2002. The program’s previous best was No. 4 back in 2015, a class that had three five-star commitments — Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Christian Wilkins. By comparison, the 2020 class has six five-star prospects, including three defensive linemen. The Tigers have eight players in the Rivals 100, all of whom are ranked in the top 59. Among Dabo Swinney’s haul are defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, the No. 1 player in the nation, and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, the No. 2 player in the nation. Clemson closed out the class by adding five-star linebacker Trenton Simpson earlier this week before flipping Malcolm Greene, a four-star safety who was previously committed to LSU, on Wednesday. Not too shabby. 

Oregon

Much has been made of the poor recruiting effort from USC in the 2020 class, and no program has benefited more from that than Oregon. Of the 21 commitments in Oregon’s class, which is ranked 12th in the country by Rivals, eight are from California. That total includes the newest member of the class, linebacker Justin Flowe. 

Flowe, a five-star recruit from Upland, California, chose the Ducks over USC and Clemson. It was another massive recruiting win for Mario Cristobal, who also lured five-star California defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux in the 2019 class. Thibodeaux was ranked No. 6 overall last year. Flowe comes in at No. 4 and, like Thibodeaux, is expected to make an immediate impact in Eugene.

Georgia signed four receivers for Jake Fromm to throw to in 2020. Assuming he stays in Athens for his senior season. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Georgia signed four receivers for Jake Fromm to throw to in 2020. Assuming he stays in Athens for his senior season. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Georgia

When you watched Georgia this season, the lack of speed at outside receiver was noticeable compared to other top programs in the country. Kirby Smart made sure to address that with his 2020 recruiting class. The Bulldogs added four wide receivers in this class, all of whom are rated as four-star prospects by Rivals. 

Marcus Rosemy (No. 44 overall) and Justin Robinson (No. 173) have been in the fold for months, but Smart’s staff was able to add two more on Wednesday with former LSU commit Jermaine Burton (No. 110) and Arian Smith (No. 153) joining the fold. According to Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy, Smith is one of the fastest players in the 2020 class and will also compete in track in Athens. 

Ohio State

When it comes to recruiting in the Big Ten, Ohio State is in a category of its own. The Buckeyes’ 2020 class currently sits at No. 2 in the country after Ryan Day’s staff added CJ Stroud, one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Stroud, a native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, is the third-best pro-style prospect in his class, according to Rivals, and is ranked No. 41 overall in the country. Michigan and Penn State rank Nos. 10 and 14 in the Rivals class rankings respectively, so they are trailing OSU in recruiting just like they are on the field. 

Florida State

Mike Norvell got to work upon his arrival in Tallahassee. Since he was officially named Florida State’s head coach 10 days ago, Norvell and his staff have landed six new commitments for FSU’s 2020 class. That includes two quarterbacks — a position FSU inexplicably missed out on in both the 2018 and 2019 classes. 

Norvell’s first order of business was flipping three-star QB Tate Rodemaker from South Florida last week. But he landed a bigger fish on Wednesday, flipping four-star Chubba Purdy from Louisville. Purdy is the younger brother of Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy. FSU also received a signature from heralded receiving prospect Bryan Robinson. Robinson, ranked No. 122 in the 2020 class, was being heavily pursued in the lead-up to the early signing period, but Norvell convinced him to stay in his home state and play for the Seminoles. 

Nebraska

Nebraska had a massively disappointing season, but it was still able to assemble an impressive 2020 recruiting class. After adding 10 new commitments over the last week, the Huskers rose up to No. 18 in the Rivals team rankings. Especially of note were the two four-star wide receivers that signed with the Huskers on Wednesday. First, after a bit of drama at his signing ceremony, Jaiden Francois chose Nebraska over Miami. Later Wednesday, Marcus Fleming also chose the Huskers. Like Francois, Fleming was previously committed to Miami. Nebraska has made its presence felt in Florida in this recruiting cycle as seven Florida natives signed with Nebraska in the 2020 class. That includes four four-star prospects. 

Tennessee

Just like it did during the season, Tennessee closed strong. Of the 22 commitments in the Vols’ 2020 class, seven joined the fold within the last nine days. That includes four new additions on Wednesday, including an important commitment from Knoxville native Tyler Baron. Baron is a four-star defensive end who comes in at No. 108 nationally, per Rivals.com. Tennessee has 12 four-star commitments in its class and currently comes in at No. 11 in the Rivals team rankings.

BONUS WINNERS

The social media teams at programs across the country really stepped it up this year. We were especially impressed by Syracuse and Kansas State.

Notre Dame and Kansas also got the parents involved, making for some really compelling content.

LOSERS

SEC teams that changed coaches

None of the teams that made coaching changes in the SEC currently have classes in the top 10 of the conference or the top 40 in the country. 

Ole Miss, which fired Matt Luke and hired Lane Kiffin, currently has the No. 44 class in the country and is No. 11 in the SEC. The Rebels have just two four-star recruits but have 13 three-star players committed.

Missouri and new coach Eliah Drinkwitz are ranked all the way down at 71. The Tigers don’t have any four-star players but all 11 of their commits have three-star ratings. 

All the way down at No. 90 is Arkansas and new coach Sam Pittman. The Hogs have just nine players in the class, though they scored a flip from Mizzou — perhaps thanks to new defensive coordinator Barry Odom — when Dominique Johnson moved from Mizzou to Arkansas.

The early signing period is always rough for new coaches scrambling to keep the kids who had committed to teams run by their predecessors. But it was especially rough for Missouri and Arkansas. You don’t see SEC teams outside the top 50 in recruiting rankings all that often.

USC's 2020 class is nowhere near the top 20. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
USC's 2020 class is nowhere near the top 20. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

USC

The Trojans didn’t make a coaching change, but the swirling winds surrounding Clay Helton’s job status throughout the 2019 season sure look like they hindered USC’s recruiting efforts. 

Southern Cal is currently 74th in the rankings with just 11 players committed. Just one, OL Jonah Monheim, is rated as a four-star recruit. 

No matter how well USC does before February’s final signing day, this will likely be the Trojans’ worst signing class in years. In the five previous seasons, USC’s classes have ranked first, 10th, sixth, third, and 18th.

Yeah, it’s not good. And not a good sign for Helton in what could be another seemingly lame-duck season in 2020.

Utah

As of Wednesday evening, only USC has a class rated lower than the Pac-12 South champs, who sit at No. 60 on Rivals’ list.

Utah typically doesn’t reel in top-15 classes; the Utes’ highest recruiting ranking in the last five years is No. 25. But any boost from a run of success in the Pac-12 hasn’t seemed to materialize. 

Kyle Whittingham’s team did score four-star DE Van Fillinger, however. The Utah native was one of four new additions to the class on Wednesday and should be a great addition to a stacked defensive line. And we also can’t forget the transfer addition of former South Carolina QB Jake Bentley. He’ll be eligible immediately with the Utes. 

Virginia Tech

The Hokies are another big name buried in the bottom half of the recruiting rankings. Tech’s 14-player class currently is tied at No. 71 in Rivals’ rankings. 

Seven of those 14 players are on the defensive side of the ball, including four players listed as defensive ends, as Tech transitions this offseason following Bud Foster’s retirement. The biggest impact player of the bunch could be four-star defensive end Alec Bryant from Pearland, Texas. He’s the only four-star player currently in the Hokies’ class.

LSU

Wednesday could have gone better for LSU.

Better is, of course, relative. Things were really, really, really good. They just could have been even better. The Tigers have the No. 4 class according to Rivals and signed five-star defensive back Elias Ricks and five-star tight end Arik Gilbert. Ricks and Derek Stingley Jr. — the top recruit in the class of 2019 — are a nice pair to have in the secondary for the next couple of seasons.

Michigan State 

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio has said that his program doesn’t look at the recruiting services’ rankings of his players. That’s probably a good idea. 

Michigan State has 20 players in its 2020 recruiting class committed but ranks just 34th in Rivals team rankings. That’s because athlete Terry Lockett is the only four-star member of the Spartans’ class. 

MSU fell flat in the Big Ten East this year as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan all had good seasons. The pressure is on in 2020 for Dantonio to get the team back to being competitive in the division.

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