Signing day: Georgia listed at No.1; Buckeyes keep top recruit

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Associated Press

The early signing period in college football opened Wednesday with some five-star drama.

Georgia likely locked up the top recruiting class by flipping an in-state blue-chip player away from Florida State. The consensus No. 1 recruit in the country had Ohio State coach Ryan Day literally sighing with relief, and then still waiting to make it official. Florida managed to hold on to a couple of five-stars amid a flurry of late de-commits.

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Meanwhile, the long and winding recruitment of Dylan Raiola ended bright and early with the highly touted quarterback signing a national letter of intent with Nebraska, the school where his father was an All-American offensive lineman.

College football’s early signing period, jammed into what has become an overloaded December calendar with postseason games and players transferring, has become the signing period.

“The schedule is not good. It’s chaotic,” Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters.

The big schools sign the bulk of their recruiting classes on the first day of the three-day early signing period. The traditional signing period in February is now more for schools lagging behind, maybe because of a coaching change, or those looking to add some finishing touches.

Almost all the best recruits will be off the board by the end of the week, most signing with schools they have been committed to for months — like Jeremiah Smith, a receiver from Florida considered the top recruit in this class. Smith was a long-time Ohio State commit, but that didn’t stop in-state programs from continuing to pursue him.

Not until Smith slipped on an Ohio State cap at a signing day ceremony at his high school did he put an end to any doubt he might flip to a college closer to home, like Miami.

“I’ll be taking my talents to THE Ohio State University,” Smith said.

Day was holding his signing day news conference at the time. When he was told Smith had stayed true to the Buckeyes, the coach asked “Really?” and pretended as if his knees were buckling before letting out a deep breath.

The Buckeyes were vying with Georgia and Alabama for the No. 1 overall recruiting class.

“This is signing day and when you have really good players it’s going to come down to the wire. That’s how it goes,” Day said.

Day was cautious about speaking about Smith before his signed NLI was officially in hand and it turned out he was right to be so. A few hours later, Ohio State had yet to announce Smith was officially part of the signing class.

Georgia might have locked up the top spot at the expense of Florida State. KJ Bolden, a defensive back from Buford High School near Atlanta, decided to stay home and join the Bulldogs after being a verbal commitment to the Seminoles since August.

According to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, which provide a consensus of the major online recruiting ratings, Georgia coach Kirby Smart will have the No. 1 class for the third time since 2018. It was some good news for the Bulldogs, who missed out on a shot at a third straight national title after losing to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Florida State lost another five-star when defensive linemen Armondo Blount signed with Miami. Blount had originally committed to Miami and flipped to FSU before switching it up again on signing day.

Rival Florida was also working on a possible top-five class, but coming off a 5-7 season coach Billy Napier couldn’t keep the group together.

Five-star cornerback Xavier Filsaime from Texas flipped to the Longhorns earlier this week and then the Gators lost four-star defensive linemen Adarius Hayes (to Miami) and Amaris Williams (to Auburn) and four-star receiver Izaiah Williams (to Texas A&M).

“It’s a battle. There’s no doubt about it,” Napier told reporters. “We got some young men who were up for the challenge. Some were not up for the challenge.”

The Gators did sign blue-chip quarterback DJ Lagway of Texas and defensive lineman LJ McCray.

There was nothing but reasons to smile on signing day at Nebraska, which started the day by announcing it had received Raiola’s sign NLI. A consensus top-10 recruit and the son of former Cornhuskers standout Dominic Raiola, Dylan was first verbally committed to Ohio State and then Georgia. His family even moved to the Atlanta suburbs for his final high school season.

Now Raiola will be part of a top-20 signing class under coach Matt Rhule that Nebraska fans hope can finally revive the once-great program. The Cornhuskers claim five national titles, but have not even played in a bowl game since 2016.

There has been lots of speculation about how much players being allowed to be paid for their celebrity endorsements influences recruiting. The usual suspects continue to rack up the best classes — though maybe some of the top talent is spreading a little thinner.

“Maybe there’s some merit to that but I don’t know that,” Rhule said. “End of the day, a player can walk into my office and say I just got offered this amount of money. And trust me, players have. No one knows what’s real and not real.”