Recruiting wrap-up: Takeaways from the 2023 cycle
While it certainly didn't hold the importance of December's start to the Early Signing Period, Wednesday's National Signing Day marked the completion of the 2023 recruiting cycle.
While the schools in the top 10 certainly look familiar, there was some change in the order that was noteworthy for this cycle - along with a certain big-name coach in the Pac-12 making some noise.
Here are five takeaways from the whirlwind recruiting cycle of the 2023 class.
Alabama rules again
The king is back atop the throne following a brief absence in lording over the recruiting kingdom. A year after Nick Saban said Texas A&M "bought every player on their team" to help the Aggies land the top recruiting class, the legendary coach has Alabama back in the No. 1 slot.
Buoyed by an impressive quintet of five-star prospects, Saban delivered a class with 23 players ranked in the ESPN 300 to edge Georgia for the top position. Four of the Crimson Tide's top five players are on defense, led by No. 1 outside linebacker Jaquavious Russaw and top safety Caleb Downs.
On the offensive side of the ball, Alabama double-dipped at the quarterback and running back positions to add great depth. The Crimson Tide landed the top two running backs in the country, with Richard Young and Justice Haynes both headed to Tuscaloosa. The quarterback slot received a shot in the arm to help replace Bryce Young, with top-six passers Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan coming in.
Here's the full breakdown of the top 10 classes this year.
|ESPN 300 recruits
2nd-year coaches shine
Excluding the top three programs in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas, a strong theme emerges when looking at the best classes of 2023 - second-year head coaches are delivering in a big way. Oklahoma, Miami, LSU, Notre Dame, and Oregon are all led by frontmen entering their second seasons in charge.
Oklahoma didn't add anybody of significance Wednesday but had already established a top-five class during the early period. Two headliners steal the show for Brent Venables in highly-touted quarterback Jackson Arnold and electric safety Peyton Bowen.
Mario Cristobal's first season in Miami was a borderline disaster on the field. However, he continues to deliver off it. The former Oregon coach's plan to turn the program into a physically dominant outfit is clear through recruiting as the Hurricanes landed two five-star offensive linemen.
LSU didn't pull any five-star prospects, but Brian Kelly brought in five players in the top 100 of ESPN's rankings. The Tigers managed to go into Texas and land the nation's No. 3 cornerback, Javien Toviano, to bolster the defense.
Marcus Freeman followed the approach of his former boss Kelly, as Notre Dame netted a very strong class missing a five-star headliner. The Fighting Irish recruited eight players in the top 150, with top-seven OLBs Jaiden Ausberry and Drayk Bowen grabbing the most attention.
Dan Lanning did most of his work for Oregon in the Early Signing Period, but he beat out USC for speedy cornerback Rodrick Pleasant on Wednesday. His commitment gives the Ducks four players in the top 100, with receiver Jurion Dickey and edge-rusher Matayo Uiagalelei leading the way.
More than just Manning for Texas
It's easy to see why there was endless hype on a highly-touted quarterback with the last name Manning, but Arch Manning somehow seemed to deliver on that during his storied high school career. Texas landing the nephew of Peyton and Eli was certainly a huge win for Steve Sarkisian. However, the Longhorns' impressive class is more than just the big-name passer.
Texas signed 11 players who rank in the top 10 for their position. That group is led by Manning and the nation's top inside linebacker Anthony Hill. Sarkisian also restocked a couple of key offensive pieces, with third-ranked receiver Johntay Cook II and No. 3 running back Cedric Baxter Jr.
Whether Sarkisian can turn recruiting success into a run at the conference title remains to be seen, but there's no shortage of talent in Austin.
Coach Prime is worth every penny
Deion Sanders wasn't playing when he said he would bring some top talent to Colorado after taking over the Pac-12 program following the 2022 season. The former Jackson State coach immediately went to work in the transfer portal to beef up the roster and delivered a very strong recruiting class to Boulder in just two months' time.
The prize of the haul is undoubtedly Cormani McClain, the nation's top cornerback who flipped his Miami commitment to join the Buffaloes. Adding McClain to a secondary that includes Jackson State transfer Travis Hunter gives Colorado the top cornerback prospect in the country the past two seasons.
It wasn't just defense that Sanders overhauled. The Buffaloes also landed the nation's seventh-best running back in Dylan Edwards and 20th-best receiver in Adam Hopkins.
By Wednesday's end, Sanders secured the 23rd-ranked class in the country. That's a massive improvement from the 50th overall spot last year. When you add in the high number of transfers, more than 40 new players are on Colorado's roster for next season.
Rashada's saga ends at familiar place
While Manning was the most highly-touted recruit over the entire 2023 cycle, nobody got more attention over the past two months than Jaden Rashada. The four-star quarterback finally ended one of the wildest recruitments in recent memory by signing with Arizona State - a school his father played for in the 1990s.
Rashada initially committed to Miami before he signed at Florida on the opening day of the Early Signing Period. A lucrative $13-million NIL deal with the Gators Collective seemed to be the reason for the move. But that contract evaporated shortly after Rashada signed his commitment, immediately throwing into question whether he would head to Gainesville.
Rashada eventually requested a release from his letter of intent, something Florida granted to allow him to sign at any program. He opted to join first-year coach Kenny Dillingham with the Sun Devils. That decision moved Arizona State up a whopping 20 spots in the class rankings Wednesday, going from 66 to 46.