NCAA change dims spotlight of February's signing day

Cornerback Tyson Campbell of American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., could give Georgia 11 signees from the top 100 of the 247Sports composite player rankings.

SEC recruiting stretch run

With less than two weeks remaining until February’s national signing day, here are where Southeastern Conference programs stand in the rankings (national rank included):1. Georgia (2)2. Alabama (6)3. Auburn (9)4. LSU (12)5. Florida (16)6. Tennessee (17)7. South Carolina (18)8. Kentucky (27)9. Mississippi State (28)10. Texas A&M (34)11. Vanderbilt (37)12. Ole Miss (38)13. Missouri (40)14. Arkansas (63)

Two weeks from today, the February signing date for college football prospects will have come and gone.

For many, this unique recruiting cycle is already over.

The first cycle with an NCAA-implemented early signing period has greatly shaped the recruiting process, leaving February's traditional day for faxing the letters of intent as a skeleton of what it was before. ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said there were 2,003 players who signed with Football Bowl Subdivision programs in December, which is roughly 71 percent of the total signees for the 2018 class, he added.

"It's like a bunch of college coaches sitting around a poker table, only everybody can now see each other's cards," Luginbill said. "It's a whole new avenue that we haven't experienced in recruiting."

The impact of college football's early signing period can be felt on both national and state levels. Of ESPN's top 300 prospects nationally, 216 elected to sign early, which is a 72 percent clip.

Closer to home, each of the Volunteer State's top 10 prospects according to the composite rankings are signed, sealed and delivered - Knoxville offensive tackle Cade Mays (Georgia), Memphis defensive end Jordan Davis (Alabama), Franklin offensive tackle Max Wray (Ohio State), Manchester receiver Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), Jackson defensive tackle Greg Emerson (Tennessee), Murfreesboro running back Master Teague (Ohio State), Nashville defensive tackle Brant Lawless (Tennessee), Brentwood receiver Camron Johnson (Vanderbilt), Nashville cornerback Jaylon King (Georgia Tech) and Chattanooga safety Brendon Harris (Vanderbilt).

Georgia's top five 247Sports prospects signed early as well, with Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence inking with Clemson, and with Kennesaw quarterback Justin Fields, Atlanta guard Jamaree Salyer, Rome outside linebacker Adam Anderson and Stockbridge defensive end Brenton Cox choosing the in-state Bulldogs.

Yet there remains some intrigue as the recruiting cycle enters its stretch run.

The Peach State's No. 6 and No. 7 prospects, outside linebackers Quay Walker of Cordele and J.J. Peterson of Moultrie, are committed to Alabama and Tennessee, respectively. Walker, however, is being heavily pursued by Georgia, while Peterson visited Alabama last weekend.

Three of the top four prospects in Florida are not even committed, including the cornerback tandem of Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain Jr. of American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale. LSU is considered the team to beat for Surtain, whose father played 11 seasons in the NFL, while Georgia is the favorite for Campbell. And offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere of Berkeley Prep in Tampa may be the biggest mystery among the remaining five-star prospects in the South. The 6-foot-6, 272-pounder has Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State as his five finalists.

It's abundantly clear the first Wednesday in February is no longer the primary signing day for touted prospects, and Luginbill believes the gap between programs that recruit well and those that struggle is going to widen. The top five teams in the 247Sports rankings as of Wednesday evening - Ohio State, Georgia, Texas, Penn State and Miami - combined last month for a staggering 102 signees.

"The top teams are already mapping out the 2019 class, and they're setting up junior days," said Luginbill, who was a recent guest of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM. "They're starting to map out and identify 2020 kids. They're creating a huge head start."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.