2020 College Football Recruiting Early Signings News

By Corey Long – @CoreyLong
Updated Dec. 18, 2019.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

It’s the first day of the Early Signing Period in college football recruiting. Expect the high majority of prospects to sign their letters of intent between Wednesday and Friday. Check here for updates, immediate analysis and news.

Updated December 18 (3:35 p.m.)

LB Justin Flowe will fly with Ducks, USC left empty handed
For the second consecutive year, Oregon will go into California and walk out with the top defensive player in the class. Flowe was the top player who was undecided going into the first day of the early signing period, and he chose the Ducks over USC, Clemson and Miami.

Clemson was the early favorite and the favorite for much of the offseason, but the Tigers seemed to fade away in the final months and when the Tigers successfully signed another blue-chip linebacker, Trenton Simpson, it was clear they were out of the mix.

In the last few days, Flowe seemed to be down to Oregon and USC. An official visit last weekend to USC kept the tea leaves turning over for the Trojans, but it’s another recruiting failure for Clay Helton and the USC program. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal can go into any home in the nation, heck the world, and give Oregon a chance with that recruit. He has charisma for days and is a winner.

USC had Helton on the hot seat all season, and then the administration announced he’ll be back in 2020 for another season of being on the hot seat. That’s an impossible way to bring top recruits into the program. Coaching stability is one of the most important things in college football recruiting. The prospects and their parents want to know the coach pitching them to join the program has a good chance of being there for the entire 4-5-year period of eligibility. For the first 15 years of this century, USC did not lose prospects like Flowe. It just didn’t happen. Now between Flowe and Kayvon Thibodeaux, it has happened in consecutive years to Oregon.

Jordan Burch stays in his backyard, will play for the Gamecocks
Say what you want about Will Muschamp, but that guy is a fighter. His team struggled on the field this year, and he had to get a message of support from the athletic director. His in-state rival, Clemson, won’t stop winning and has likely secured the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Everything seemed to be going against Muschamp, but at 2:30 p.m., he landed the top player in South Carolina, defensive end Jordan Burch.

As nice as a message of support from the AD is, it means nothing without support from the players who can help turn a program around. I won’t go as far as saying Burch is the next Jadeveon Clowney, but he is a player who can help the Gamecocks pull out of their recent doldrums. And it shows that Muschamp can still get top prospects to believe in him and his vision for the program.

South Carolina is probably still a couple of years away from competing with Clemson, but there is a nice young nucleus in Columbia, and those players will give Muschamp an opportunity to turn things around on the field.

Updated December 18 (2:45 p.m.)

Recruiting-Day Risers

Five programs that helped themselves greatly on the first day of the Early Signing Period.

More and more, it looks like Jeremy Pruitt will be the right fit for Big Orange Nation. A second-half surge on the field during 2019 carried over into the recruiting world Wednesday as the Volunteers landed nearly all their undecided targets and managed to flip a few. Tennessee is going to be a top-15 class for sure and could land at high as No. 12 or 13. One area in which the program really shined was getting prospects out of Georgia. When Tennessee football was at its height, it was a factor with recruits in Georgia. As long as the on-field product continues to improve, expect the Volunteers to be a major factor in the 2021 recruiting cycle and beyond.

Arizona State
The flip of wide receiver Johnny Walker from Oregon tells me that Herman Edwards is getting kids excited about playing football for him at Arizona State. Even though the Sun Devils didn’t hit on all their targets this cycle, they are being mentioned more and more in the mix. And Edwards isn’t just recruiting one area. Prospects from California to Georgia are giving a hard look at the Sun Devils. And with running back Daniyel Ngata expected to commit in a couple of weeks, the news should continue to get better.

The Wildcats will likely secure their first top-20 class under head coach Mark Stoops, and it’s been a constant build since he got there. Every year, it seems like Kentucky improves its roster bit by bit, and this cycle was no different. The Wildcats made a splash early in the cycle by getting Justin Rogers to commit, and on signing day, they pulled Josaih Hayes out of Mississippi. I feel like Stoops was on the cusp of getting a high-profile job this year and Florida State should have hired him. Now, I believe he’ll be at Kentucky for the long haul and Wildcats football will only get better.

This was a tough recruiting job for Scott Frost. I don’t believe Nebraska was as talented as he thought it was when he got there. And the Cornhuskers were expected to at least go bowling this season but finished 5-7 again. Rather than sulk, Frost got aggressive on the trail and realized he needed to be better in the southeast, particularly in Florida. He landed three prospects from Miami-Dade County on signing day, defensive back Henry Gray, wide receiver Marcus Fleming and safety Jaiden Francois – all three with red-chip designations.

Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets kept their original quarterback commitment, Tucker Gleason, and added red-chip quarterback Jeff Sims on signing day. Now, Geoff Collins has the arms he needs to really ramp up things in Atlanta. Georgia Tech didn’t have a great record, but the program was compeitive down the stretch, plus the ACC is ripe for a team on the rise.

Updated December 18 (1:15 p.m.)

Maryland pulls off the shocker of the day, flips WR Jarrett from LSU
Well, there won’t be a bigger surprise Wednesday, I can guarantee. Wide Receiver Rakim Jarrett, who was committed to LSU since April and is one of the top wide receivers in the 2020 class, has decided to sign with Maryland. Despite a 6-40 record as a head coach, Mike Locksley is among the best in the nation at making a signing-day splash.

Almost 10 years ago, Locksley convinced Calvin Smith, a red-chip defensive lineman from the Miami area to choose New Mexico over Miami, Alabama and Florida State in a nationally televised announcement. This flip isn’t as shocking as that announcement was; Jarrett played high school football at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, but it’s not normal to see a top-end prospect leave a program that’s in the playoff for one that went 3-9 last season. Jarrett is the biggest recruit Maryland has landed since Stefon Diggs.

As for LSU, I know there had been rumors about Jarrett flipping to Tennessee during the fall, and there are rumors about another wide receiver, Jermaine Burton, making a switch to Georgia, but I can’t imagine this move was well received by that coaching staff.

QB C.J. Strong gives the Buckeyes their second arm in 2020 class
Ohio State already had quarterback Jack Miller signed in the 2020 recruiting class and will add C.J. Stroud, who chose the Buckeyes over Michigan and Georgia. Stroud, who said one of his favorite players is Justin Fields, gives the Buckeyes additional depth at quarterback for the 2021 season, assuming Fields leaves after next year. It’s a crushing recruiting defeat for Michigan, who will probably not sign an arm this class after quarterback commitment J.D. Johnson was forced to give up football when his doctors discovered a heart defect. Ohio State currently has the No. 3 class.

Sun Devils flips Oregon WR commitment Johnny Wilson
Do not underestimate the power of Herman Edwards. The former NFL coach is proving he has a hang of this recruiting thing and won a major battle with a Pac-12 rival when Arizona State flipped wide receiver Johnny Wilson from Oregon. Wilson (6-6, 225) committed to Oregon at the end of July; but took an official to Arizona State in November, where the Sun Devils staff clearly made an impression on him. Arizona State is a team to watch in the next six weeks. The Sun Devils are also sitting pretty for top-five running back Daniyel Ngata, who will be making his announcement in early January.

Nebraska has a strong finish in Florida
When Scott Frost took the Nebraska job two years ago, it was expected he would use the connections he developed in Florida during his two years as the head coach at Central Florida. It took a while for that Florida-to-Nebraska pipeline to manifest itself, but it appears to be real thing right now. Nebraska started the week off right when linebacker Keyshawn Greene, who was formerly committed to Florida State, pledged to the Cornhuskers.

And on Wednesday, the Cornhuskers picked up two more prospects from Florida in wide receiver Marcus Fleming and safety Jaiden Francois, two red-chip prospects from Miami-Dade County. Currently, I have Nebraska inside the top 20 and sitting at No. 18 in the recruiting-class rankings.

E.J. Smith heads out west
In one of the more touching and classy televised announcements of the day, running back E.J. Smith decided he would take his own path and sign with Stanford. With Smith’s father, NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith, sitting next to him, the younger Smith talked about the inspiration his family had on him and how his father empowered him to make his own choices in life. The elder Smith then jokingly grabbed the Florida hat on the table and put it on to show where his loyalties still lie, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be his son’s biggest fan. In another strange sense of irony, the sons of Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, the two more iconic running backs of the 1990s, both had their sons sign with Stanford.

Updated December 18 (11:45 a.m.)

Current top-10 class rankings

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

Auburn moves into the top five, and Oregon moves out of the top 10 after wide receiver Johnny Wilson flipped to Arizona State. There will be more on that move in the early afternoon update and how it puts Arizona State in the mix for a top-20 class.

OT Marcus Dumervil stops the early bleeding for LSU
It hasn’t been the best morning for LSU after losing recruits to Clemson and Georgia, but the LSU staff received some good news when Marcus Dumervil committed to the school on ESPN2 a few minutes ago. Dumervil’s commitment to LSU was predicted and expected, but the Florida Gators made a hard charge for Dumervil until the end. Dumervil was the highest-rated offensive lineman who was undecided going into signing day. It’s a small offensive line class for LSU, as Dumervil joins projected interior guys Xavier Hill and Marlon Martinez, but Dumervil is a blue-chip player and future left tackle. LSU will have a top-five class, but No. 1 seems to be out of reach as of now.

Auburn makes move with Pegues, Tisdol
Auburn is never going to stay quiet on a signing day. Whether the Tigers are gaining commitments or losing them, they will be part of the story. So far, things are on the up for Auburn, as the Tigers signed jumbo athlete Jeremiah Pegues and linebacker Desmond Tisdol this morning. Pegues (6-3, 280) is an interesting prospect. He’s listed as a tight end, but at 280 pounds, it’s hard to see him there. Will he drop weight to play tight end or will he transition to the offensive or defensive line?

Tisdol (6-0, 215) is a nice addition to Auburn’s linebacker class, with Wesley Steiner and Cameron Riley expected to sign later this morning/afternoon. Tisdol isn’t the biggest middle linebacker out there, but he is a tackling machine.

Tennessee holds off UCLA for ATH Whitehead, flips Holiday
Tennessee had been the favorite for Whitehead (6-1, 225) for a while, passing over South Carolina, but UCLA made a major charge in the past few weeks and even promised Whitehead the opportunity to play running back. I don’t expect Whitehead to play running back at Tennessee; he’s projected as an inside linebacker and it’s a major position of need for Tennessee, which is expected to sign four linebackers in this class. The program has been a rising team on our board.

The Volunteers didn’t stop there, flipping offensive athlete Jimmy Holiday from TCU. Holiday is listed as a quarterback, but he could fit in several places in Tennessee’s offense as a slot receiver or a running back. A strong second half of the 2019 season on the field has carried over into the recruiting cycle and the Volunteers could finish the period with a top-15 class.

QB Jeff Sims gives the Yellow Jackets player to build around
Sims, who was committed to Florida State until about a week and a half ago, signed with Georgia Tech this morning and becomes the biggest commitment for Geoff Collins since he arrived at the program around a year ago. One of Collins’ biggest challenges when he took the Georgia Tech job was changing the personnel to fit the more conventional spread offenses today and transition from the triple option that Paul Johnson did at the school for many years. Georgia Tech now has a big-time arm to lead that process. Add Sims with wide receivers Bryce Gowdy and Nate McCollum, and there should be a lot of excitement around Atlanta for this incoming freshman class. Georgia Tech is pushing to get in the top 20.

WR Poitier gives the Seminoles the late nod
After hiring Mike Norvell two weeks ago, Florida State is going through its second “transition” class in the past three years, so any additions to the class should be considered a big bonus. This morning, wide receiver Kentron Poitier, a long-time lean to Syracuse, decided to stay in state and sign with the Seminoles. Florida State will lose some wide receiver depth with Tre’Shaun Harrison entering the transfer portal and Tamorrion Terry likely to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, so signing Poitier addresses a need. Larry Blustein, the long-time recruiting specialist around Miami says Poitier has “tremendous upside and has only been playing football for two years.”

Updated December 18 (9 a.m.)

Clemson flexes its muscles early
As Ric Flair said many times, “it’s good to be the champ,” and Clemson has proved that this week already. It didn’t take long, the 7 a.m. hour to be exact, for Clemson to make the first headlines of the day when the Tigers flipped Malcolm Green from his commitment to LSU. Green committed to LSU on October 26, but he took an official visit to Clemson this past weekend and signed his letter of intent with the 2018 national champions this morning.

Clemson started the day with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class, ahead of LSU and Alabama. Coming into the early signing period, Clemson snagged a commitment from blue-chip linebacker Trenton Simpson on December 14, a long-time target of ACC rivals North Carolina. Clemson’s class currently sits at 23 commits.

Vanderbilt, Georgia get some early good news
A couple of SEC programs got a good start to the early signing period with positive news Tuesday night. Vanderbilt found the centerpiece to its 2020 recruiting class when it flipped red-chip athlete De’Rickey Wright from Ole Miss. Wright had also committed to Alabama early this cycle before splitting with the Crimson Tide over the summer.

Georgia, currently sitting at No. 5 in the class rankings, picked off former LSU commitment Major Burns late Tuesday night when the safety declared his intentions to sign with the Bulldogs over Texas A&M. Burns backed off his commitment to LSU last week with the cryptic tweet “I’m writing my own book. The chapters written so far were mostly out of my hands, but as I’ve grown, I now control the pen.” Burns is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, home of LSU, and where LSU usually bats 1.000 when it comes to landing the prospects they want.

Will bad start spell rough day for Longhorns?
At one time, the Texas Longhorns had a top-five class and looked to be a serious threat for the best class in the nation. But as the season went on and it was clear that head coach Tom Herman was going to have to make some staff changes, the Longhorns’ class cracked a little. The biggest dent came Monday with blue-chip receiver Quentin Johnston flipping from Texas to TCU, with his primary concern being Texas’ failure to secure offensive coordinator Graham Harrell from USC. Harrell instead signed an extension with the Trojans.

Johnston signed with TCU on Wednesday morning and is the highest-rated player in the Horned Frogs’ class. Texas, which currently sits at No. 8 in our class rankings, will have a tough time staying in the top 10.

Will the Ducks sink or swim?
Oregon, which currently sits ninth in our class rankings, will be playing offense and defense today on the recruiting board and hoping for a couple of big breaks. As of last week, it looked like the Ducks were sitting pretty with the top prize of early signing day, linebacker Justin Flowe, but after Flowe took an official visit to USC this past weekend, the draw to keep the prospect from Upland, California close to home is REAL.

And while Oregon head coach Mario Cristiobal is going big-game hunting, he’ll also have to keep an eye on players currently in the class. The Ducks have already lost safety Avantae Williams, who was committed for most of the year and will now likely sign with a school in the southeast in February, and are potentially looking at more attrition as safety Myles Slusher is looking at Arkansas and Nebraska for a signing-day flip. Slusher has been committed to the Ducks since late April.

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