Every team gets better on national signing day, if only because it’s impossible to get worse. But some teams get better than others, led by those programs that annually top the national recruiting rankings — Alabama, Georgia, Texas and the like.
For those teams pegged to contend for national honors, signing day can often yield the sort of single player or positional upgrade that means the difference between meeting or falling short of preseason expectations in the upcoming campaign.
Using the USA TODAY Sports early Top 25 for the 2019 season, here’s how the best of the best fared in this recruiting cycle:
Notable addition: DE Antonio Alfano (Colonia, N.J.)
Alfano is joined by another eight defensive linemen ranked among the nation’s top 255 recruits by 247Sports.com in what is considered among the best classes of the Nick Saban era.
Notable addition: WR Joe Ngata (Folsom, Calif.)
The rich get richer as Ngata and several others join what was already the nation’s top receiver corps.
Notable addition: WR George Pickens (Hoover, Ala.)
Meanwhile, Georgia added some needed help at wide receiver by nabbing Pickens away from Auburn in a five-star flip on signing day.
Notable addition: QB Spencer Rattler (Phoenix)
Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will be the starter, but Rattler can ascend into the backup role as a freshman and gain valuable experience before taking over in 2020.
Notable addition: ATH Bru McCoy (Santa Ana, Calif.)
McCoy joins Texas via Southern California, as a former USC signee who switched to the Longhorns after Kliff Kingsbury’s brief stay as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator.
6. Ohio State
Notable addition: DE Zach Harrison (Lewis Center, Ohio)
A five-star prospect and one of the nation’s top players regardless of position, Harrison also represented one of the first key recruiting wins for new Ohio State coach Ryan Day.
Notable addition: S Dax Hill (Tulsa, Okla.)
Formerly an Alabama commitment, Hill is a potential difference-maker on defense for Michigan and perhaps the top talent set to join the Big Ten in 2019.
Notable addition: CB Derek Stingley (Baton Rouge, La.)
Stingley is slated to be the Tigers’ next standout cornerback as a five-star prospect and one of the most-wanted recruits in country.
Notable addition: DT Faatui Tuitele (Honolulu)
Much like Alabama, the Huskies’ sterling signing class is headed by an enviable crop of defensive linemen — Tuitele seems the most prepared to step right into a key role.
10. Texas A&M
Notable addition: OT Kenyon Green (Humble, Texas)
Green is the rare tackle with the build and footwork to play important snaps as a true freshman in the SEC.
Notable addition: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Westlake Village, Calif.)
He’ll be greeted with sky-high expectations, but Thibodeaux is the sort of talent who could mean the difference as the Ducks fight for a New Year’s Six bowl.
12. Central Florida
Notable addition: QB Dillon Gabriel (Mililani, Hawaii)
Gabriel is an undersized, super-productive quarterback from Hawaii who fits the Knights’ scheme like a glove — that might sound familiar.
13. Notre Dame
Notable addition: S Kyle Hamilton (Atlanta)
Hamilton developed over the course of his senior year into one of the nation’s top secondary recruits and a real contender to play immediately for the Irish.
Notable addition: DE Khris Bogle (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Adding the four-star end is good enough, but that Dan Mullen and the Gators pulled him away from Alabama makes this signing even better.
15. Southern California
Notable addition: WR Kyle Ford (Orange, Calif.)
USC is set at the top of its receiving depth chart but could rely on Ford for snaps in a reserve role should he recover from a knee injury suffered during his senior year.
Notable addition: OT Ezra Miller (Holstein, Iowa)
Miller is one of several impressive offensive linemen inked by a program viewed nationally as among the best at evaluating and developing talent at the position.
17. Iowa State
Notable addition: RB Breece Hall (Wichita, Kan.)
It’s expected that Hall will immediately provide Iowa State with the boost it needs to help replace one of the top running backs in program history in David Montgomery.
Notable addition: C Branson Bragg (Crandall, Texas)
Bragg is one of the nation’s top-ranked interior offensive linemen and has the frame to see the field early in his career with the Cardinal.
19. Penn State
Notable addition: RB Noah Cain (Bradenton, Fla.)
Cain will have a great chance at sliding into a substantial role as Penn State reworks its depth chart in the backfield.
(By policy, Army does not release the list of student-athletes until they arrive on campus during the summer.)
Notable addition: ATH Wandale Robinson (Frankfort, Ky.)
Robinson is a do-everything offensive weapon for Scott Frost’s scheme and the top-rated addition in a class that ranks among the success stories of this recruiting cycle.
Notable addition: LB Mikel Jones (Hialeah, Fla.)
Jones chose Syracuse over offers from a list of power players, including Clemson and Auburn, and represents perhaps the jewel of a group put together on the heels of the program’s best season in years.
Notable addition: QB Graham Mertz (Mission, Kan.)
Mertz is one of the top-rated quarterback prospects in program history and a contender to grab a starting role for the Badgers as a true freshman.
24. Boise State
Notable addition: TE Austin Griffin (Saint George, Utah)
The nation’s top junior-college tight end and the most likely to make an early impact from the Mountain West’s top class, Griffin brings size and skill to a position that needs a jolt of production.
Notable addition: ATH Peyton Powell (Odessa, Texas)
The Bears’ class is heavy on defense but is topped by Powell, who is pegged to begin at quarterback but has the athletic ability to find a home at multiple positions on either side of the ball.