College football’s winners and losers in recruiting

The advent of an early signing period has achieved its primary purpose: to take a good chunk of the drama and stress from college football’s never-ending recruiting process.

It’s also rendered the first Wednesday in February far less eventful than in the past. With the exception of those led by first-year head coaches, teams across the Bowl Subdivision wrapped up the majority of their recruiting work two months ago. Even as a few stragglers waited until the second period — including a handful of five-star prospects — it’s clear that recruiting’s red-letter day now occurs in December.

Several programs still made a mark on Wednesday, most from the Power Five leagues. Others fell short of tying a bow on the recruiting period, led by a Florida State team that needed to add depth at quarterback but lost out on its top target.

Here are the winners and losers from college football’s second signing day:



The Bulldogs locked down one of the nation’s top classes by taking five-star wide receiver George Pickens away from Auburn. According to, that’s Georgia’s fifth five-star prospect, led by the nation’s top-ranked recruit in defensive end Nolan Smith. Pickens is a significant addition for an offense that needs high-impact potential at receiver to team with quarterback Jake Fromm, a Heisman Trophy contender.

Miami (Fla.)

In short order, new coach Manny Diaz has reversed Miami’s recruiting tailspin to reel in a group that easily exceeds expectations — if not in the overall sense, at least when compared to the state of recruiting when Diaz replaced Mark Richt a month ago. The Hurricanes’ biggest signing-day win came in four-star cornerback Christian Williams, who backed out of his verbal commitment to Alabama. Diaz is off to a great start.


Tennessee took a step toward narrowing the gap in the SEC East with a strong close to Jeremy Pruitt’s first full recruiting class. The Volunteers landed one of the nation’s top linebacker recruits in landing Henry To’oto’o over Alabama and Washington, among others. Tennessee then signed a speedy, under-the-radar cornerback in Kenney Solomon, an intriguing developmental prospect. But the biggest coup came in five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright, who chose the Volunteers over offers from nearly every major program in the country.


The Gators joined Miami in flipping a former Alabama commitment: Khris Bogle, a four-star defensive end, opted against the Tide to join a signing class that will add valuable blue-chip talent to a roster that needs a slight overhaul to build on Dan Mullen’s successful debut season. With 17 four-star signings in the fold, Mullen has answered any questions about his ability to recruit in Gainesville.

Virginia Tech

It’s been a rough offseason for Virginia Tech, which has dealt with a troubling run of transfers and defections since capping a stressful season with a Military Bowl loss to Cincinnati. Wednesday brought some good news in the addition of four-star offensive lineman Doug Nester, a former Ohio State commitment who becomes the top-ranked signing in the Hokies’ class. Overall, the Hokies’ class is strong along the line.


The Tigers’ recruiting class is loaded with defensive backs, led by the nation’s top cornerback prospect in local product Derek Stingley. Adding four-star cornerback Maurice Hampton on signing day gives LSU at least four defensive backs in this year’s class and perhaps five, should four-star Marcel Brooks end up safety instead of linebacker.


Florida State

Willie Taggart went into Wednesday desperate for a quarterback to augment a position short on depth and proven production. And the Seminoles had even identified the prospect: Lance LeGendre, a four-star recruit from New Orleans pegged for FSU by most recruiting services. In the end, LeGendre opted for Maryland and new coach Mike Locksley, who showed why he’s expected to ramp up the Terrapins’ recruiting efforts. It’s a big loss for FSU, which had already lost one former commitment at the position in North Carolina-bound Sam Howell. Taggart has yet to sign a high school quarterback to the Seminoles’ roster since arriving in Tallahassee.

Southern California

Clay Helton and USC might have come close to evening out the loss of Bru McCoy to Texas by keeping four-star receiver Kyle Ford, but the end result for the Trojans is below the standard: USC had 24 signings as of Wednesday afternoon but just eight were rated as four-star recruits, per 247Sports. That’s enough to keep the Trojans inside the top 20 of the site’s team rankings but is a far cry from the sort of class the program needs to reverse its recent ways.


Pickens’ decision to sign with Georgia is a tough blow to ignore. It still wasn’t all bad news for Auburn. After a slow start to the day, the Tigers did grab a pair of four-star recruits: running back Mark-Antony Richards and defensive end Charles Moore. Richards is the only true back in the Tigers’ class, while Moore represented a late win over SEC West foe Mississippi State.


The Wildcats were in on four national prospects on signing day but came away with just one, cornerback MJ Devonshire. The misses: wide receiver Jammie Robinson picked South Carolina while defensive back Jay Ward and receiver Devonta Lee chose LSU. During the early signing period, the state’s top recruit, athlete Wandale Robinson, backed off his commitment to Kentucky to sign with Nebraska.


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