College Football Preseason Top 25 Ranking Post-2018 National Signing Day

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 9: Head Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide answer questions from the media during the College Football Playoff Champions News Conference after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Sheraton Hotel Grand Ballroom on January 9, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Alabama defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 26 to 23. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

As the first major landmark of the offseason, national signing day offers a chance to reassess the outlook of the 2018 college football season.

Plus, initial top-25 polls occurred prior to the cutoff for early NFL draft entries. That deadline has since passed.

Now, it would be careless to suggest the day had a significant impact on ranking changes in an early top-25. Some freshmen will contribute, but championship-caliber rosters are always filled with experienced and returning players.

Four of B/R's college football writers—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller and Brad Shepard—submitted an updated ballot. A first-place vote counted for 25 points, and the sequence continued to one point for the No. 25 team.

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Michigan
6. Miami
7. Oklahoma
8. Washington
9. Wisconsin
T-10. Auburn
T-10. Penn State
12. Stanford
13. West Virginia
14. Michigan State
15. South Carolina
16. Notre Dame
17. Florida State
18. Virginia Tech
19. Oregon
20. Boise State
21. UCF
22. USC
23. LSU
24. Florida Atlantic
25. TCU

     

Elite Teams Have Elite NSD

In the four-year history of the College Football Playoff, five teams have reached the national championship game. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have sustained excellence, and Georgia is poised to join the group. Only Oregon has dipped from title contention.

And that simple group of facts is reflected in the 2018 recruiting rankings.

Eyabi Anoma and Patrick Surtain Jr. highlighted Alabama's seventh-ranked group, one that featured a dozen top-200 prospects and the second-best JUCO player, Saivion Smith.

Clemson took a relatively small class for the second straight year, but Dabo Swinney and Co. attracted a handful of 5-star recruits for the No. 6 haul. Trevor Lawrence, the top quarterback and No. 1 overall prospect, led the haul, followed by Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry, Jackson Carman and Derion Kendrick.

Georgia attracted seven 5-stars, including the No. 2 overall recruit in quarterback Justin Fields. Zamir White, Jamaree Salyer, Tyson CampbellAdam Anderson, Cade Mays and Brenton Cox complete the impressive unit, which ranked No. 1 nationally.

Thirteen top-100and seven top-50talents signed with Ohio State, propelling the team to the No. 2 recruiting class of 2018. The Buckeyes landed a trio of 5-stars in Nicholas Petit-FrereTaron Vincent and Tyreke Johnson.

     

Ranked Teams Hit Hard by Early Draft Entries

Among schools ranked in Bleacher Report's Top 25, three rosters had at least five players forgo their remaining eligibility. And both LSU and Florida State must replace six non-seniors.

LSU needs to address the vacancies left by running back Derrius Guice, edge-rusher Arden Key and cornerbacks Kevin Toliver II and Donte Jackson. Offensive lineman Toby Weathersby and defensive tackle Travonte Valentine round out the group.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles lost five starters in safety Derwin James, cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, wide receiver Auden Tate, defensive end Josh Sweat and tight end Ryan Izzo. Defensive end Jalen Wilkerson also made a surprise move to the NFL.

Four of Alabama's five early entriesMinkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Da'Ron Payne and Ronnie Harrisoncould be first-round selections. Bo Scarbrough will be selected later on.

Each of Miami, Oklahoma, Auburn and USC endured four departures, with the Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold being the highest-profile player.

     

The Lucky One

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 11:  Christian Wilkins #42 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after a play against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

"Entirely unfair" comes to mind when looking at the draft-eligible talent returning to Clemson.

Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant combined for 42 stops for a loss with 22.5 sacks, and the defensive linemen are all coming back along with two-time All-ACC tackle Dexter Lawrence.

Linebacker Kendall Joseph, who amassed 108 tackles in 2016 and a team-high 96 last season, decided to stay for his senior season. Cornerback Mark Fields is eyeing a healthy year to boost his draft stock, too.

On the offensive side, the Tigers lost wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud yet kept tackle Mitch Hyatt. He's been starting on the left side for each of the last three seasons, which all featured College Football Playoff appearances.

Clemson would've already been a popular CFP pick anyway, but the return of six NFL-caliber starters guarantees heavy preseason attention.

     

Top Spring Storyline: QB Competitions

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide passes against the Georgia Bulldogs during the College Football Playoff National Championship held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Alabama defeated G
Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Some quarterback jobs are secure, but several Top 25 teams are preparing to hold wide-open competitions this spring.

Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, LSU, Florida Atlantic and TCU each had its starting quarterback pursue the NFL draft, exhaust his eligibility or retire. Plus, Alabama, Michigan, Miami and Notre Dame return a starter, but none is either experienced or in a real competition.

To further complicate matters, Clemson and Georgia have 5-star freshmenLawrence and Fields, respectivelywho enrolled early. Though stealing the starting job is unlikely, they'll at least create a conversation in March and April.

Winners of those position battles may not be decided until the fall, but the spring will be a pivotal time for the potential starters at Top 25and especially Top 10programs.

      

All recruiting information via 247Sports' composite. Stats from NCAA.comcfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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