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College Football

Best of ESPN’s 2018 National Signing Day

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  • Georgia Earns ESPN.com’s No.1 Recruiting Class Ranking
  • Announcements: 12 of the Nation’s Top Recruits Made Their College Commitments
  • Reactions from Football and Recruiting Analysts Including ESPN National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill; Gene Chizik and Marcus Spears Reactions on SEC Network

Today, 2018 National Signing Day Presented by Nissan provided five hours of coverage across ESPNU and ESPN2, including live college commitments from 12 of the nation’s top recruits, numerous coaches’ interviews and seven reporters stationed on campuses across the country.

Coverage on ESPNU and ESPN2 was hosted by Matt Schick and he was joined by national recruiting director Tom Luginbill—who has been a part of National Signing Day coverage since ESPNU began covering in 2006—and college football analysts Mack Brown and Rod Gilmore, as well as recruiting analysts Craig Haubert and Tom VanHaaren.

ESPN’s National Signing Day coverage also included SEC Now: National Signing Day Special Presented by ZipRecruiter on SEC Network. Dari Nowkah hosted and was joined by analysts Haubert, Marcus Spears and Gene Chizik.

ESPN.com class rankings, player commitment videos, expert analysis, head coach quotes/videos and overall highlights available below.

Class Rankings:

Final ESPN.com RecruitingNation Class Rankings of 75 schools are available here. The Top-10 recruiting classes of 2018 are:

  1. Georgia
  2. Ohio State
  3. Texas
  4. Penn State
  5. Clemson
  6. Alabama
  7. USC
  8. Miami
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Oklahoma

Player Announcements on ESPN2 and ESPNU

No. 5 Patrick Surtain Jr. (CB) commits to Alabama
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “Look at the arm length and the ability to match-up on the parameter. It is just so difficult [for opposing players] when you have that ground that you can cover and close the gap because of your length.”
  • Craig Haubert: “You always talk about filling a need, but with Patrick, you’re filling a need and making an impact. He can contribute right away.”

No. 9 Tyson Campbell (CB) commits to Georgia
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “He can flat out run. On the 50/50 ball, you need to be able to compete down field. That is what he brings.”

No. 13 Nick Petit-Frere (OT) commits to Ohio State
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “He has length, can run. . .moves like a basketball player. Such a mild-mannered kid, but then this switch goes off when the pads go on and he becomes this nasty finisher. I love that.”

No. 16 Devon Williams (ATH) commits to USC
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “He is a dynamic player, with gifted measurables. Once he settles in and becomes acclimated in whatever his position will be, that is when you will see his level of play become elevated.”

No. 40 Jacob Copeland (WR)
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “He is physical, stout and explosive. This is important for Florida, for him to stay at home. They need this type of weapon in Gainesville.”

No. 71 Tommy Bush (WR) commits to Georgia
Commitment Video

  • Luginbill: “A big, long kid that can run.”

No. 72 Olaijah Griffin (CB) commits to USC
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “Another guy that is over 6’1” who has some length, some physicality. These guys aren’t growing on trees.”
  • Tom Luginbill: “A very, instinctive, parameter player that the Pac-12 can’t afford to let leave their footprint.”

No. 74 Justyn Ross (WR) commits to Clemson

  • Luginbill: “Big, tall and can flat out run.”

No. 76 Tanner McKee (QB-PP) commits to Stanford
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “He can stroke the football. He reminds me of a taller version of what Stanford has right now in KJ Costello.”
  • Rod Gilmore: “Tanner was able to look at Stanford and know that everything fits for him, including his Mormon mission. [Also] Shaw has a great reputation for developing quarterbacks.”

No. 93 Maurice Washington (RB) commits to Nebraska
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “This is the dynamic type of offensive play maker that can get the ball rolling for Nebraska.”

 No. 159 Andrew Chatfield (DE) commits to Florida
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “You can’t coach that first step…he can use his hands…he can play chase. This is the type of player that can be disruptive shaving the edge.”
  • Craig Haubert: “Here are the things he does well: he has a very good first step, he has good body length, he can get after the quarterback. He’s a well-coached player and has the ability to squeeze down and take away cutback lanes and be a factor in backside pursuit.”

No. 197 Solomon Tuliaupupu (ILB) commits to USC
Commitment Video

  • Tom Luginbill: “Has the size, speed and athleticism you look for in a complete linebacker.”

Coaches Interviews

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban on Early Signing Period: “It made the recruiting a lot more intense in December when you were trying to practice and get ready for a championship game. Now, its really intense there are fewer players available and less players to fall back on.”

Arizona State Head Coach Herm Edwards: “[Recruiting] never ends, that is what you learn when you get into it. Talented players help you become a better coach, but there has to be a formula.”

Arkansas Head Coach Chad Morris: “I felt like our biggest need was speed. We had to go and target players with great speed, quickness and lateral movement…especially on the defensive side. This signing class was more defensively  heavy, but that was by design.”

Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn: “Today went as expected. We’ve had a lot of these guys committed for a long time, we didn’t have any decommitments, and so our class was pretty solid.”

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney: “It has been a very purposeful building of our culture here. We know who we are. We know the fit for Clemson. We are very, very disciplined in how we recruit and how we evaluate. We stick to that. We really do.”

FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin: “Last year we had to paint a picture for kids, where now it is a lot easier [because of the success we had].”

Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen: “We had a good idea what was going to happen but we didn’t have [Andrew Chatfield’s] letter yet. It was great; we had the TV on and everyone was celebrating in the room. We’re really excited to have him be part of our family.”

FSU Head Coach Taggart: “Our players want to live up to the expectations that come with being here.”

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart: “I don’t think you flip kids late in the game. You have a consistent message. You be present throughout the recruiting process. These are relationships that started a long time ago. So flips don’t happen in the last minute, like a lot of the public opinion is. It develops over time. It is built over relationships. We encourage people to come visit our campus.”

Mississippi State Head Coach Joe Moorhead: “The first thing for us heading into the initial signing day was getting the guys we had verbal commitments from and I think we did a great job retaining coaches from Coach Mullen’s staff to help us do that.”

Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost: “It has been a challenging couple of months but it has been rewarding. I like the new signing day, the early signing day, personally. I think kind of cleans a lot of things up but it’s really difficult on people who are taking new jobs.”

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly: “You win championships with 85 players; you can’t just rely on one recruiting cycle….These players are all going to be able to contribute in some fashion… I love the depth of the class in the sense it addresses all the needs we have and guys can come in and contribute at some level going into next year.”

Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer on Early Signing Period: “The time after Christmas is usually chaos. There wasn’t a lot of drama like years before.”

Ole Miss Head Coach Matt Luke: “I think we were able to build off the momentum of the Egg Bowl win. Ole Miss is a great place, it sells itself. It’s a great town and great tradition. Our coaches did a great job getting out on the road and building those relationships.”

Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt: “I think you always have to recruit from you home state and we have a lot of talent in this state, especially when you look at the five hour radius.”

Texas A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher on the Early Signing Period: “Evaluations is key, getting the right guys. That early signing period when you are trying to transition is tough.”

Vanderbilt Derek Mason Head Coach: “We had to establish ourselves as place to groom quarterbacks. With Kyle Shurmur going into his senior year and Deuce Wallace behind him and Allan Walters behind him, we’ve become a place for quarterbacks. Overall, we just tried to recruit size, length, athleticism, and we grow them up in house.”

 

ESPU/ESPN2 Analyst Signing Day Quotes:

Mack Brown:  “Tom Herman is a great fit at University of Texas, because every year he has ever coached [over 20 years], he has recruited the state of Texas.”

Tom Luginbill on Texas: “If you are going to change the face of the Big 12 and change the perception of it, you better start playing some defense. If you look at the focus of this class on behalf of Tom Herman and his staff, it’s almost all defense.”

Mack Brown: “You want to sign confident players, who are used to winning.”

Tom Luginbill on Florida’s Class: “I really like this class. Dan Mullen deserves a lot of credit. They’ve address needs at quarterback and the offensive line.”

Mack Brown on Early Signing Period: “I think what’s going to happen. .is guys that didn’t sign in the early period got more attention this year, so we’re going to see kids wait until February next year.

Tom Luginbill on Crop of New Coaches: “I don’t think any of these coaching staffs are going to be judged on this recruiting day five years from now.”

Mack Brown on Crop of New Coaches: “The key thing for these coaches is not to take anyone who can’t play just because of the fan base.”

Rod Gilmore on Alabama: “There are the championships, the NFL and competition – you will practice and play against the best. That formula appeals to guys”

Tom Luginbill on Alabama: “I’ll add sustainability to the formula. Each and every year is different and you aren’t guaranteed anything that you can’t work for.”

Rod Gilmore: “It’s great to be here on a day when teenagers make grown men cry.”

Tom Luginbill: “Georgia is closing the gap when it comes to talent with Alabama and LSU.”

Tom Luginbill: “Ohio State really making the big push particularly in the offensive line.”

Rod Gilmore: “I think in the early signing period you could see teams going after best athletes, really filling out their rosters, but now they’re targeting [specific needs and players].”

Mack Brown on Georgia: “It’s a very powerful message to recruits when you are in the playoff. That’s an advertisement every day.”

Rod Gilmore: “The Pac-12 has got to start winning and critical non-conference games.”

Tom Luginbill: “For Arizona schools to be good, they have to be dominate in California.”

Mack Brown: “Today has been about tall receivers, corners, and pass rushers. . . huge players that make a difference.”

Tom Luginbill: “Penn State has firmly entrenched themselves, not only in the Big Ten discussion, but the College Football Playoff discussion.”

Mack Brown: “The power of USC shows once again [with this recruiting class].”

Rod Gilmore: “It’s too soon to say [that Georgia is passing Alabama], but it’s a good start for Georgia. They are the ‘cool, it’ school right now.”

Rod Gilmore: “USC getting a Pac-12 team into the Top 10 recruiting class, I thought was huge for USC and the Pac-12.”

Tom Luginbill: “Many of the new coaching staffs won today – Texas A&M really made some strides, maybe more than some anticipated. Lot of work being done in Knoxville; Florida had a strong day. Chip Kelly, the amount he has done in the last week, really got ramped up.”

Rod Gilmore: “For Matt Rhule to get a Top 25 class, was amazing.”

Rod Gilmore: “There wasn’t a lot of balances of power changing; [for the most part], we saw the rich get richer.”

SEC Analyst Signing Day Quotes:

Gene Chizik on Saban and Smart: “Nick Saban is always going to have success in Alabama. I want to caution people to not make a big deal if Alabama’s class finishes third or fourth; they’ll be okay. Let’s be real here. The reality is these guys know how to assess players, know what they want to fit their systems. Now, yes, Kirby has entered the picture as the new sheriff in town that Nick has to compete with in the state of Georgia. Because Alabama has always had great players from the state of Georgia, so that’s changing somewhat. But the bottom line is these programs almost mirror each other with how they’re recruiting.”

Marcus Spears on the importance of keeping kids in state: ““I think, philosophically, you look at how [Saban and Smart] are approaching it. The #1 thing is, and I go back to when I was being recruited by Nick Saban at LSU, is they want to perimeter around the state they’re in. Now, fortunately for Kirby, a lot of really good football players are in the state of Georgia, including the #1 player in the country. But when you look at what Nick Saban has done over time, if you talk to any of these coaches, the main thing is to get the top guys where you are, and that usually infiltrates the rest of the country…you have to get your state done.”

Craig Haubert on Georgia’s recruiting class: They were trying to go out and flip a few players and they got that done. Players that were in state and looked to be going out of state, [Georgia is] doing a nice job at building that fan base. They’ve also done a nice job in the secondary, getting a 5-star corner, so they’ve been able to hit those targets.”

Gene Chizik on coaches caring about class ratings: “In terms of the coaches and how they look at it…do they care? No. Do they pay attention to it? Of course they do, because if you’re going to keep score, I want to win. And they’re always keeping score. But it really comes down if your needs were fulfilled, but all the fans keep score.”

Marcus Spears on LSU’s recruiting class: “When you look at the receiver spot, I think they’ll be okay; Stephen Sullivan is returning from last year, as is Drake Davis. There was a time in this conference where LSU was like Bama, and you’d say ‘they lost 9 guys but those 9 are all first round draft picks.’ That has changed. They have to rebuild and Ed [Orgeron] will address that.”


Craig Haubert on Florida’s recruiting class:
“He’s looking at the same pool of players he was looking at when he was at Mississippi State, but he has a better chance of getting them, I think. Recruiting to Florida and recruiting to Mississippi State are two very different things. He was able to take advantage of actually being in state and recruit one of the deepest states in the nation for talent. He did bring some MSU recruits to Florida, he’s been able to add some pieces, and he also inherited a good class that included Emory Jones, who was a good pickup during the early signing period.”


Craig Haubert on Tennessee’s recruiting class:
“Remember the disarray they were in in November during the coaching change. To think they might finish with a top 25 class speaks highly to Jeremy Pruitt. Clearly with Tennessee going through that rough stretch in the coaching search, they got the right guy. He’s showing that you can come in, not have your staff assembled for a week or two, and still get into January and be successful.”

 

Craig Haubert on Missouri’s recruiting class: “One thing that’s interesting about Missouri, when they first got in the SEC, they pulled away from Texas a bit and maybe they thought they had to. Coach Odom has done a nice job at getting them back into the state of Texas, and this would be their strongest coach under him.”

 

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Contact: Kimberly Elchlepp at [email protected] or 860-424-2923; @kimelchlepp