Signing day went much like this past season: Alabama dominated and Jim Harbaugh had everybody talking about Michigan.
For a sixth consecutive year, Alabama landed the nation’s top signing class according to composite rankings of recruiting websites compiled by 247Sports. The reigning national champions soared to the top of the standings thanks to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban’s customary strong finish.
“Saban isn’t even recruiting anymore — he’s selecting,” said Barton Simmons, the national scouting director for 247Sports.
Alabama entered Wednesday ranked behind LSU and Ole Miss within its own conference in the 247Sports Composite standings, but the Crimson Tide closed with a flurry that featured the addition of five-star linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson as well as top-100 defensive end Terrell Hall.
“Nick Saban is working on a whole different plane than everybody else in the country,” Simmons said. “It’s not even about recruiting anymore. It’s about figuring out a way to make the numbers work to get the guys you want. That’s become the challenge for Saban.”
The biggest announcement of the day came when Rashan Gary, a defensive tackle from Paramus, New Jersey, selected Michigan over Clemson. Gary is the consensus pick as the nation’s top No. 1 overall recruit.
Gary’s decision delighted a festive Signing Day celebration on Michigan’s campus that included New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter among others. Brady played for the Wolverines before going to the NFL and Jeter grew up in Michigan.
Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see other schools stage similar signing day events.
“It puts a little pressure on everybody,” Farrell said. “That’s a high bar to set. Good luck to everybody else who wants to do a star-studded signing day.”
Here were some other major stories to develop Wednesday as prospects across the country made their college choices official.
Signing day decisions:
Seven of the top 15 players in the 247Sports Composite were uncommitted heading into signing day. That list was headlined by Gary. Other top-15 prospects to make their announcements Wednesday included the Alabama duo of Davis and Wilson plus defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Auburn), linebacker Mique Juarez (UCLA) and athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. (Georgia). Wide receiver Demetris Robertson of Savannah, Georgia, still hasn’t announced his college choice and has said he planned to wait a couple extra days. He’s the guy whose home received a visit from Notre Dame’s equipment truck last week as the Fighting Irish pursued him.
Like father, like son:
Family connections played a role in a couple of Wednesday’s big commitments. Davis’ father is Wayne Davis, Alabama’s all-time leading tackler. Davis announced his commitment to Alabama by wearing a houndstooth hat like the one made famous by former Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Safety Nigel Warrior, a consensus top-100 recruit, announced he was following his father to Tennessee. Warrior is the son of Dale Carter, a former Tennessee and NFL defensive back.
Ole Miss reloads:
Mississippi made New Year’s Six bowl appearances the last two years thanks largely to a heralded 2013 recruiting class that featured Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell among others. With all those players leaving school early to enter the NFL draft, Ole Miss put together the type of class that could help the Rebels maintain their momentum. The class features offensive tackle Gregory Little and quarterback Shea Patterson, two of the nation’s top four overall prospects according to the 247Sports Composite. “They got three guys going in the first round of the NFL draft most likely, and now they’re just replacing them with big-time playmakers,” Farrell said. “They’ve done well at wide receiver and they have their franchise left tackle in Greg Little.”
Texas’ big surge:
No school made as much of a late run as Texas. The Longhorns were stuck in the middle of the Big 12 recruiting rankings for much of the last few months before its furious finish. The Longhorns moved from the 30s into the top 10 in the team standings of multiple services. “We’re talking about nine commits in 24 hours — and seven on national signing day,” Simmons said. “This is the way I think Charlie Strong had to close, and he really knocked it out of the park with the effort they put together on signing day.” The list of top-100 recruits to pick Texas on Wednesday included safety Brandon Jones and outside linebackers Erick Fowler and Jeffrey McCulloch. Texas got Fowler to switch from LSU and defensive tackle Jordan Elliott to flip from Michigan.
Safety Brandon Burton announced his college selection Tuesday night by putting out a video in which he and some friends played a game of paintball that ended with him capturing a flag of UCLA, the school he had chosen. Hardman’s press conference setup included a table that featured six cakes topped with banners of different schools. Hardman didn’t pick any of those programs and instead announced his choice by running through a banner wearing a Georgia hat and jersey. Safety Deontay Anderson may have topped them al by skydiving in a video that revealed his choice of Ole Miss. Once he hit ground, he opened his jacket to reveal a T-shirt with “Hotty Toddy,” a frequent Ole Miss cheer.