Georgia holds on this time to finish No. 1 in recruiting
By RALPH D. RUSSO
Georgia was not about to blow this lead.
The Bulldogs, who let a 13-0 halftime advantage get away in a national championship game loss to Alabama, finished their 2018 recruiting class with a flourish and laid claim to the No. 1 ranking on national signing day.
Georgia loaded up in the new early signing period and came into Wednesday's start of the traditional signing period with the top-rated class, according to 247 Sports' composite rankings. Coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on the recruiting championship by flipping a pair of four-star linebackers, one who had been committed to Michigan (Otis Reese) and another who had been committed to Alabama (Quay Walker), and grabbing a highly touted wide receiver from Texas (Tommy Bush).
Georgia also beat Miami and Alabama for star cornerback Tyson Campbell from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida.
"It's ridiculous," said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting coordinator for Rivals. "The average star ranking is near historic levels."
National champion Alabama had finished on top of the recruiting rankings each of the last seven years, but the Tide finished outside the top three this year. No, coach Nick Saban is not slipping. The Tide had a relatively small class (18 signees), which kept down its ranking. Alabama also landed the top-rated uncommitted recruit left in the country entering the second signing period when cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. picked the Tide over LSU early in the day.
It's the first time that major college football has had two signing periods, thanks to changes to the recruiting calendar. The vast majority of top prospects signed back in December and most FBS schools had signed the bulk of their classes. That made for a quiet signing day for most schools.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted "6:34 a.m. ... that's a wrap on (hash)NSD18 and (hash)NUView18." The Wildcats signed two more players and called it a day.
The recruiting calendar was new, but it was a typical signing day in this respect: The rich got richer.
Ohio State finished with the second-ranked class, topped with five-star offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere from Tampa, Florida. Texas came in third, with its best class in years. Coach Tom Herman cleaned up in state, signing 10 of the top-20 ranked recruits in the Lone Star state. Penn State and Clemson, which signed the top-rated player (receiver Justyn Ross) in the state of Alabama on signing day, rounded out the top five in 247's composite rankings.
Alabama was ninth with a few more players left to sign, but not enough to make a huge leap.
Other notable goings on from national signing day:
BETTER THAN EXPECTED
Coming off a 1-11 season and just a couple years removed from an ugly scandal involving the handling of sexual assault cases under former coach Art Briles, Baylor and coach Matt Rhule signed a top-30 class.
Mississippi also was right around top-30, solid work by new coach Matt Luke, coming on the heels of the NCAA sanctions that will keep the Rebels out of the postseason for another season.
Michigan is looking at a top-20 class. Not bad, but considering coach Jim Harbaugh's first two full classes in Ann Arbor were top-five level this has to qualify as a disappointing recruiting year for the Wolverines. Especially with Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Penn State cleaning up.
Coming off an 8-5 season on the field, 2018 will be huge for Michigan to change the trajectory.
For new coaches, the first recruiting class is generally a bit underwhelming after getting a late start.
Not for Willie Taggart of Florida State. The Seminoles closed strong enough to have a borderline top-10 class. Signing day started for Florida State by flipping Tennessee commit Anthony Grant, a three-star running back.
- Former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, now at Texas A&M, got the Aggies into the top-20, flipping defensive lineman Bobby Brown away from an Alabama verbal commitment.
- Oregon, which promoted offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal after Taggart left, did a solid job of holding together a class that had top-10 potential when Taggart was there.
- Scott Frost showed off the recruiting reach Nebraska hoped he would bring to Lincoln, signing a top-25 class that included linebacker Caleb Tannor from Georgia and running back Maurice Washington from Texas.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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Updated February 7, 2018