Next week marks the sixth year of the early signing period as National Signing Day takes over the college football world on Wednesday, Dec. 21. With the NCAA transfer portal becoming more prevalent than ever, NIL dominating the landscape and another coaching carousel that resulted in over 20 head coaching vacancies, more and more players are locking in their decisions well in advance of the December signing period let alone waiting until February.
The 2023 recruiting class has had a full evaluation period and spring official visits — experiences many in the 2021 and 2022 recruiting classes were not afforded — which also meant more expedited recruitments. The normal recruiting process also meant a familiar face has returned to the top of the college football recruiting mountain: Alabama.
Heading into the December National Signing Day, the Crimson Tide hold the No. 1 spot with just over a week left to try and secure the top class. Can anyone catch Nick Saban and Alabama in the early signing period? Let’s have a look at some of the top contenders, beginning with a look at the Tide’s haul to this point in the 2023 cycle.
Join us on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 9 a.m. ET for Signing Day Live on the 247Sports YouTube Channel (starting at 11 a.m. on CBS Sports HQ) as our 247Sports experts cover all the ins and outs of the early signing period. From live commitments to updated class rankings and everything in between, Signing Day Live will be your one-stop shop for live coverage as the top programs in the nation sign the Class of 2023.
Early signing period: Who will finish No. 1?
SEC West rival Texas A&M signed a generational class in the 2022 cycle, but Alabama is Alabama and Nick Saban is Nick Saban. How good is this class? Seventeen players in the Top 247, including an astounding 11 prospects in the Top 100, are headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The commitment on Monday of five-star EDGE Keon Keeley gave the Tide their second No. 1 prospect at his position from the prep ranks, joining No. 1-ranked safety Caleb Downs. How about junior college players? Well, Alabama has the top two in the country in receiver Malik Benson and linebacker Justin Jefferson. As Alabama looks to clinch the No. 1 ranking, it will host three more players in the top 25 this weekend for an official visit: defensive lineman James Smith, cornerback Desmond Ricks and EDGE Qua Russaw.
Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs may not be No. 1 heading into the early signing period, but they are the No. 1 team in the country on the field, and that’s what matters. While the Tide may end up with the No. 1 class this cycle, they won’t win the national title, which is music to Georgia fans’ ears. Alabama has its 11 players in the Top 100, while Georgia has a modest eight already in tow, six of them on defense (which surely brings a smile to Smart’s face). The Dawgs will be watching the Smith and Russaw decisions closely while hosting a Top 100 defensive lineman of their own this weekend in Jordan Hall. The home of the reigning John Mackey Award winner — Brock Bowers — will also be keeping their fingers crossed for a pair of elite tight ends: Duce Robinson and Walker Lyons.
3. Notre Dame
The Coach Prime Effect may not launch Colorado to top-10 status this cycle, but it did impact the Irish’s current class as Dylan Edwards, a Top247 running back, recently flipped to the Buffs. Still, the loss of Edwards didn’t affect the Irish’s standing in this cycle all that much. Notre Dame holds five players in the Top 100 with the majority of theheavy lifting down in 2023. Now it’s about holding on to some of the key commits that have been getting pursued by others, such as Drayk Bowen and Jayden Limar.
The Longhorns don’t have many Top 24 prospects, but you know what Texas does have? The No. 1 player in the country, Arch Manning, and that’s a big reason why this class is in the top five. The ‘Horns are still in the mix for the No. 1 player out of Utah, Tausili Akana, and it doesn’t hurt that their Final Four-bound volleyball team has his sister playing a big role. They’ll host Top247 athlete Jelani McDonald this weekend while keeping an eye on what Duce Robinson decides. Even with Manning, however, there are probably not enough horses in play to move up ahead of Alabama or Georgia.
5. Ohio State
If there is anyone in the 3-5 range that could make a late surge, it’s the Buckeyes. Despite losing quarterback commit Brock Glenn, they could still end up better off if quarterback Lincoln Kienholz flips from Washington. Ohio State also leads for five-star EDGE Damon Wilson, are in the top three for another five-star — Matayo Uiagalelei — and is the Crystal Ball leader for the No. 1 player in Indiana, Joshua Mickens. With a new lease on (College Football Playoff) life for Ryan Day, the Buckeyes are hoping their December stays one to remember with a few pass-rushing victories next week.
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