The early signing period for the 2023 college football recruiting cycle opened on Wednesday asheld the spotlight. Throughout the day, we saw the rich get richer as well as some teams sprint to the finish line with strong closes while others who had high hopes finish with a whimper.
In the end, there are some familiar faces at the top of the heap in addition to a surprising newcomer we’re not all that used to stepping up as a talking point. It’s a rapidly changing college football recruiting landscape, especially in the new world where NIL reigns supreme, so it shouldn’t be all that shocking to see some new power players step up in the game over the next few cycles.
That said, let’s have a look at the biggest winners and losers following as 2022 National Signing Day here in mid-December has reached its conclusion.
Alabama: All is right with the world. The Crimson Tide are back on top of the recruiting rankings with an impressive six five-star prospects from the industry-generated 247Sports Composite Rankings. Of the 27 recruits landed in total, 26 are rated four-stars or higher with just one three-star joining the group. They held on to Caleb Downs, the no. 1 safety in the nation, landed the No. 1 EDGE in the country in Keon Keeley and flipped the no. 1 offensive tackle nationally from Iowa, Kadyn Proctor.
Georgia: The No. 1 team in the country and reigning national champions are firmly entrenched as the No. 2 teams in the rankings. The Bulldogs flipped running back Cyron Jones from NC State to round out their class, but the big news was reeling in edge rusher Damon Wilson out of Florida, a player for whom Ohio State was thinking to be the favorite but the Dawgs’ late push kept him in the Southeast.
Oregon: After losing blue-chip QB prospect Dante Moore to begin the week, many were sad in Eugene. Dan Lanning was not among them, however, as the second-year Ducks coach closed with an absolute fury by pulling in five-star EDGE Matayo Uiagalelei and five-star safety Peyton Bowen, flipping the latter from Notre Dame. Bowen wasn’t the only Irish commit to flip to Oregon, though, as Lanning ended the day by getting Irish running back pledge Jayden Limar. For good measure, he also flipped Baylor quarterback commit Austin Novosad and LSU cornerback commit Daylen Austin. Now, there is no more sadness in Eugene.
Auburn: Speaking of flips, Hugh Freeze’s class to begin his Auburn tenure had a couple of their own with the Tigers peeling Top247 cornerback Kayin Lee away from Ohio State and Top100 EDGE Keldric Faulk away from Florida State. All of this coming a day after Auburn landed the No. 4 junior college offensive tackle Izavion Miller. The Auburn program had zero recruiting momentum under Bryan Harsin, but things appeared to be changing with Freeze at the helm on the Plains.
Texas: On Saturday night, Keonilei Akana served match point for the Texas women’s volleyball team, an ace of Louisville that gave the Longhorns the NCAA volleyball title. On Wednesday, my little brother, Tausili Akana, the no. 1 prospect in Utah, gave the ‘Horns another prize with a commitment from the No. 35 overall prospect. Oklahoma was out in front for Akana entering the day, but defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski never quit in the pursuit to land Akana, who had by far the most scenic backdrop of any recruit announcing in his native Hawaii. But most importantly on Wednesday, Texas got a signed National Letter of Intent from the No. 1 recruit in the country, Arch Manninggiving Steve Sarkisian his crown-jewel recruit throughout his time in Austin to this point.
UCLA: The Bruins didn’t land anyone on Wednesday that shifted the landscape, which is fine because the entire complexion of Chip Kelly’s recruiting was already changed when Dante Moore flipped from Oregon this week. He’s the highest-rated offensive commit in the modern recruiting era for UCLA, the highest-rated recruit Kelly has ever landed and may have the best chance of any 2023 quarterback signee to start as a true freshman. For UCLA to snag the Midwest’s No. 1 player a year before moving to the Big Ten was significant for this program.
Notre-Dame: The Irish aren’t necessarily losers, in the grand scheme of things, but they did have forgettable signing day. It looked liked they may hold on to Bowen, who ultimately ended up being flipped by Oregon. Things got worse when the Ducks also flipped Limar. As good as this class was for the majority of the year, the Bowen loss especially hurts.
Oklahoma: Speaking of losses, the Sooners were hoping to serve as beneficiaries of Bowen. Instead, they watched as there wasn’t even a hat on the table for Oklahoma while Bowen chose Oregon. To make matters worse, they were the presumed leaders for Akana only to see him spurn the Sooners in favor of Red River rival Texas.
USC: The Trojans have the third most five stars in this class (3). The problem is they all announced for USC in December — 2021. Today? They missed out on long-time local target Uiagalelei, who picked Oregon. That was a big loss for a team that needs help on defense and was looking for the optimal replacement for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tuli Tuipulotu.