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Time for a crash course on National Signing Day, 2017

Don’t look now, but National Signing Day is approaching quickly!

I will admit that the last week or so has seen me take a step back from the college football focus as the season came to a close following a thrilling College Football Playoff national championship game. But because I am a proud member of Team No Offseason, I must pay attention to the most important part of the offseason, which is National Signing Day! This year’s signing day is coming up on February 1, which means we are just 13 days away from this year’s extravaganza.

As I have said before, I do not pay nearly enough attention to recruiting until right about now, so my opinions on players coming in to college football programs is limited at best. I tend to rely on those I have come to respect with recruiting knowledge that follow this stuff year round. Their work often goes underappreciated but those who track recruiting for recruiting services and various websites are doing terrific work every season, and I for one am appreciative of their efforts.

One thing I do pay attention to is where the top-rated recruits are heading and which programs are bringing in top classes (other than Alabama). I like to see how the success of the most recent season leads to any bumps in recruiting in the month or months following, so there are some things I am paying attention to this recruiting cycle.

Will Clemson get a championship boost?

247 Sports currently ranks the reigning national champions at No. 14 in the composite team rankings as of this posting. There is no doubt that Clemson’s recent recruiting success under Dabo Swinney has paid off because without bringing in the classes they have in recent years, there is no back-to-back championship game appearances and national title to celebrate. Clemson was just on the outside of a top 10 class in 2016 (No. 11), but Swinney pulled in a No. 9 class in 2015 (Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Mitch Hyatt, Christian Wilkins), No. 17 class in 2014 (Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, C.J. Fuller, Alex Spence) and No. 15 class in 2013 (Shaq Lawson, Ben Boulware, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett). Perhaps Clemson’s recruiting efforts look better now than when they were originally rated, but this goes to show that championship teams are not built in one year. They are built over multiple recruiting cycles.

So the question now is whether or not Clemson has a chance to get a final boost as it comes down the finish line of this year’s recruiting cycle. Based on some of the top players still on the board, which I’ll get to below, it does not appear Clemson has any wild card shots at some of the top recruits still on the board, so the Tigers may be sitting in a pretty solid position in the team rankings. But a national championship is a heck of a sales pitch Swinney and his staff can use in the final weeks of recruiting for the Class of 2017.

What about other conference champions?

This could prove to be a key recruiting cycle for a couple of programs coming off conference championship seasons. Washington (No. 17) has a chance to build off a Pac-12 championship season and a College Football Playoff berth with Chris Petersen out west, which will be important given the expected rise of USC (for real this time?). The Trojans did not win the Pac-12 but they did take down the Pac-12 champion Huskies and top Big Ten champion Penn State in an epic Rose Bowl. USC always recruits well though, and the Trojans are routinely a candidate to watch on signing day for a strong finish. The No. 11 Trojans should be in the mix for a handful of players on signing day and have just about everything going their way with UCLA coming off a rough season.

As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions have already seen a bit of a push coming off a Big Ten championship season. Penn State will get a couple of chances to try and flip a couple of players these next couple of weeks but for now it appears Penn State will have to settle for finishing no higher than third in the Big Ten recruiting rankings, as Ohio State and Michigan each are looking to lock down top five classes. Ohio State is even making a bid to dethrone Alabama as recruiting national champion.

The Top 10 Classes

Alabama has been dominating the recruiting game for a while now under Nick Saban, and the work being done by Urban Meyer at Ohio State stands above the rest fo the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have always recruited well, but things have been ramped up since the hiring of Meyer. This year, Ohio State is looking to land their top recruiting class in years. Here is how the top 10 looks as of this posting, according to the 247 Sports composite team rankings.

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Georgia
  4. Michigan
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Florida State
  7. LSU
  8. Auburn
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Tennessee

At first glance, we see plenty of familiar names in this list. Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, LSU and Georgia always seem to do well in recruiting, and Tennessee and texas A&M have been doing well under their current coaches as well. On the flip side, Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones are once again setting themselves up for disaster if they cannot show improvement with their programs with another highly-touted recruiting class heading their way.

Michigan has been on a surge since hiring Jim Harbaugh, who apparently is doing anything and everything possible when out recruiting again this season, although go-karting is pretty normal compared to past Harbaugh recruiting stories. Still, Harbaugh can’t even seem to beat Ohio State here either. On a side note, I’d totally love to see Jim Harbaugh in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe now.

The Top Uncommitted Recruits on the Board

While a good number of the top players around the country have already committed, there are still some late prizes to be won on the recruiting trail leading up national signing day. A good number of the top players still on the board figure to make an impact in the trenches in the years to come with defensive and offensive linemen still uncommitted.

Player rankings are based off 247 Sports composite ranking system. Schools listed are considered favorites based on 247 Sports crystal ball predictions.

No. 4 DT Marvin Wilson (Bellaire, Texas) – LSU, Florida State, Texas

No. 25 DT Aubrey Solomon (Leesburg, GA) – Michigan, Alabama, Georgia

No. 26 DE LaBryan Ray (Madison, AL) – Alabama

No. 31 WR Joseph Lewis (Los Angeles, CA) – USC, Nebraska

No. 35 OT Austin Jackson (Phoenix, AZ) – USC, Arizona State, Washington

No. 37 DE K’Lavon Chaisson (Houston, TX) – Texas, LSU, USC

No. 40 WR Jeff Thomas (East Saint Louis, IL) – Miami, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisville

No. 41 DT Jay Tufele (South Jordan, UT) – Utah, Ohio State

No. 45 S Devon Hunter (Chesapeake, VA) – Virginia Tech (scheduled to announce on Friday)

No. 64 WR Devonta Smith (Amite, LA) – Alabama, LSU, Florida State

Will we see a crazy signing day?

One of the great aspects of signing day is the great unknown stories we are bound to see. From parents not approving of their kid’s decisions to live animals at press conferences, there will be plenty of show and drama to unfold on signing day. Much of the signing day experience has blown up in ways that open the doors wide open for critics of the system, but we all come back to it and live and breathe it for 24 hours. Who knows what we will see this year.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.