1. The shine is quickly wearing off Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
It should worry Michigan fans that Harbaugh’s recruiting is slipping in year three. Usually it’s the other way around. No five-star recruits and – more worrisome – no real superstars from SEC country. In fact, Michigan lost verbal commitments from that area.
Harbaugh better hope Shea Patterson fixes UM's QB situation.
2. Penn State is coming on strong.
James Franklin has recruiting surging at Penn State, with the best kids from Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania sticking with the Nittany Lions. Penn State’s current run of top NFL picks at skill positions is only going to aid future recruiting.
Another top 10 class in 2019 and Franklin is going to start having the talent base to be a playoff contender every year.
3. LSU and Coach O are in trouble.
LSU had its lowest-rated recruiting class in more than a decade and is outside the top 10 for the first time in 10 years. The class is still good and features a lot of in-state talent. The problem is that LSU has been surviving on awesome classes loaded with difference makers.
LSU is not a “do more with less” school like Wisconsin. The Tigers overwhelm opponents with talent. Ed Orgeron needs those loaded rosters because LSU's offense is still archaic. (And once again, LSU did not sign a big-time QB.)
The cracks are starting to appear: LSU has already lost a couple of 2019 commitments. The bowl game loss to Notre Dame was embarrassing as well.
4. Texas has a great class, but hold off on firing up the hype machine.
One, this cycle set up great for UT. Texas A&M’s de facto firing of Kevin Sumlin after the 2016 festered for 13 months. LSU was mired in a coaching mess as well. This neutered UT’s two biggest Houston-area competitors, which provided the majority of the talent to the Longhorns in 2018.
Two, although the class is stacked with talent, it’s built for 7-on-7 football. The offensive linemen are better than last year’s group, but it doesn't have any elite kids. (The best OT in Texas signed with OU.) After Keondre Coburn, the defensive linemen are just okay.
(As an aside, the two QBs signed by Texas in this class have very different in skill sets. What is Tom Herman's plan for the offense?)
5. The best talent in the college football resides in Georgia.
Georgia signed a ridiculous eight five-star kids, half of whom are from inside its home state. By way of comparison, the state of Oklahoma has not produced four five-stars recruits in 10 years.
The Atlanta metro area has the best football talent in the country, and right now, UGA looks like an unstoppable recruiting machine because of it.
6. Life will get harder for Alabama.
Georgia is surging. Miami has re-emerged. Wille Taggart is building a recruiting machine at Florida State. Florida will probably stabilize under Dan Mullen. Nick Saban's latest protégé is now running the show at Tennessee.
Can Alabama keep up its amazing run? 'Bama is going to face increasing pressure in recruiting from programs copying Saban's process. Implementing roster management strategies is getting tougher. Other SEC programs have been using Saban's player personnel staffing model.
Also, it appears as though early recruiting will hurt the Crimson Tide’s "non-commitable offer" strategy – recruits have commitable offers from other schools. In addition, it hurts the ability of 'Bama to poach commitments at the 11th and to land fast-rising prospects.
'Bama is not going away – the QB prospect of the Saban era is just starting to take over. The Tide's path to the College Football Playoff is going to get tougher, though.
7. Recruiting in Texas is going to be a three-way battle royale.
Jimbo Fisher is going to take recruiting to the max for Texas A&M to justify that huge contract. Lincoln Riley appears to be the best recruiter Oklahoma has had since Barry Switzer, and the Sooners are showing signs of being a perennial fixture in the top 10 of the annual class rankings. If Texas finds any kind of success, Herman might bring UT's recruiting back to the Mack Brown days.
Meanwhile, Ohio State and the entirety of the SEC will continue to try to poach elite talent from the Lone Star State.
(While 2019 looks like a great year in Texas for defensive ends, the pool at defensive tackle and linebacker still seem a little shallow. Once again, there’s a bumper crop of defensive backs and wide receivers.)
8. A second shock wave is going to hit the recruiting landscape.
The early signing period was a huge adjustment for everyone. Now get ready for spring official visits.
In particular, I think the Pac-12 schools are in for a rude surprise, with teams like OU, Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska poised to take great advantage of the new rules. For instance, OU may get a dozen top prospects from California on campus for the spectacle of its spring game.
Similarly, Penn State, Ohio St. and Michigan will invite recruits from SEC country in for the spring – easier to sign players from the Southeast when they experience spring weather in Ann Arbor and Columbus, as opposed to life in Big Ten land in December and January.
9. Early signings will increase.
Around 230 of ESPN's top 300 recruits in the 2018 class signed in December during the first signing period. Some talking heads speculated that number will drop going forward as recruits see the chaos caused by coaching turnover.
However, spring official visits may have more recruits ready to end the process early. I think the number in year two could be closer to 90 percent of the top 300 players signing during the early period. Some schools like Oklahoma could be completely done in December, save for some all-star game announcements.
10. Who are the national championship contenders?
We've been beaten over the head lately with the stat that national champions land multiple top 10 recruiting classes in years prior to winning the title. If that holds up, your likely College Football Playoff participants in the near future include:
- SEC – Alabama, Georgia, Auburn
- ACC – Clemson, Florida St.
- Big 12 – Oklahoma (Texas is close on paper, but far away in terms of production)
- Big Ten – Ohio St., Penn St.
- Pac-12 – USC
Notre Dame is very close.