The Georgia Bulldogs may have finished runners-up to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff National Championship, but they were the big winners on Wednesday's national signing day.
While a number of blue-chip recruits signed with their schools when the early signing period opened Dec. 20, others were more patient in their deliberations. A few of the top players who signed Wednesday are listed below:
Patrick Surtain Jr. (Alabama); No. 6 OVR, No. 1 CB
Nicholas Petit-Frere (Ohio State); No. 7 OVR; No. 1 OT
Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC); No. 11 OVR; No. 2 WR
Tyson Campbell (Georgia); No. 12 OVR; No. 2 CB
J.T. Daniels (USC); No. 16 OVR; No. 2 pro-style QB
Taron Vincent (Ohio State); No. 20 OVR; No. 1 DT
Olaijah Griffin (USC); No. 28 OVR; No. 3 CB
Quay Walker (Georgia); No. 31 OVR; No. 2 OLB
Tyreke Smith (Ohio State); No. 34 OVR; No. 4 WDE
Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA); No. 36, No. 2 dual-threat QB
In the weeks leading up to national signing day, Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart remained tenacious on the recruiting trail to add to his already loaded 2018 class. Smart commented on Georgia's success this recruiting season:
Coach Kirby Smart @KirbySmartUGA
Great Day to be a Dawg !! Who’s Next ?? #RareBreed182018-2-7 16:48:20
The Bulldogs rank No. 1 nationally, with seven 5-star recruits in the fold. Dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields, running back Zamir White, offensive guard Jamaree Salyer and outside linebacker Adam Anderson are all the best players at their respective positions.
It's not like Georgia is coming off an underwhelming 2017 recruiting season. Smart and his staff assembled the No. 3 class a year ago. Still, few expected the Bulldogs to achieve what they have over the last few months:
Radi Nabulsi @RadiNabulsi
Of the Top-100 rated players in the nation, #UGA now has: 3 of the top 10 4 of the top 12 5 of the top 20 7 of the top 25 8 of the top 33 (all-5-stars) 9 of the top 38 10 of the top 42 11 of the top 56 12 of the top 93 Georgia coaches: https://t.co/sNvUHLc6Wz2018-2-7 16:49:39
Georgia doing things on a different level. My goodness2018-2-7 17:08:11
Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN
Let’s check in with Kirby in Athens with all the 5 Stars... https://t.co/rkUTrOZAyG2018-2-7 15:52:30
SEC Network @SECNetwork
Kirby Smart rn https://t.co/XAwoOtfT1m2018-2-7 17:21:33
Georgia got the bulk of its work done in December, with Wednesday more about tying up any loose ends.
Tyson Campbell, the second-best cornerback in the country, gave the Bulldogs their fourth signing at the position. The other three are all 4-star recruits: Nadab Joseph, Chris Smith and Divaad Wilson.
Quay Walker, the No. 31 player overall and No. 6 outside linebacker, originally committed to Alabama back in June 2017, but he had yet to officially sign with the Crimson Tide. Instead, Smart convinced him to join the Bulldogs.
By spurning Alabama, Walker already earned a special place in the hearts of Georgia fans. UGASports.com's Radi Nabulsi thought the Cordele, Georgia, native further endeared himself with the nature of his announcement:
Radi Nabulsi @RadiNabulsi
Quay Walker may have just become a #UGA fan favorite. Flipped from Alabama to Georgia and that Tennessee hat toss... https://t.co/eplNS8MdF32018-2-7 17:10:40
As much as the school dominated headlines Wednesday, national signing day wasn't all about Georgia.
Patrick Surtain Jr., the No. 1 cornerback in 2018 and son of 11-year NFL veteran Patrick Surtain, signed with Alabama. The younger Surtain is a big addition for the Crimson Tide, who are losing basically their entire starting secondary from 2017.
The native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was succinct in his reasoning for joining Alabama.
"They win championships," Surtain said of the Tide, per SEC Country's Marq Burnett. "Over here [American Heritage High School], we're used to winning. I want to be a part of that winning culture."
Surtain's signing aside, national signing day was relatively underwhelming for Alabama, which has generally dominated the recruiting trail. Head coach Nick Saban also signed 4-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who ranks fifth at the position.
SEC Country's Chris Kirschner posited it could just be a one-year blip for the Crimson Tide:
Chris Kirschner @ChrisKirschner
This is a bad take. Alabama will no doubt be in contention for the No. 1 class next year. Having to replace almost the entire staff hurt the Tide. https://t.co/7wyZfjl0gJ2018-2-7 19:17:24
Most importantly, Alabama lost coordinators Brian Daboll and Jeremy Pruitt, the latter of whom is an excellent recruiter. Even for a school like Alabama, turnover on the coaching staff can have a big impact on the decision-making process of high school recruits.
There's no reason the Crimson Tide can't reclaim the top spot from Georgia in 2019 with a little more stability on the sideline.
Alabama unwittingly became part of the most viral moment of national signing day when 4-star wide receiver Jacob Copeland committed to Florida. The Gators were one of three finalists with Alabama and Tennessee. Copeland's mother was by his side, wearing a Volunteers hat and a Crimson Tide sweatshirt.
When Copeland announced Florida as his school of choice, his mother got up and walked away from the table completely. Sports Illustrated shared a clip from his announcement on ESPN2:
Sports Illustrated @SInow
Jacob Copeland's mother — in an Alabama sweater and Tennessee hat — just got up and left after he announced he was going to Florida https://t.co/tOZHnZeamv2018-2-7 19:41:14
It was reminiscent of Landon Collins' mom looking visibly upset when he committed to Alabama in 2012. The New York Giants selected Collins in the second round of the 2015 draft, and he's a two-time Pro Bowler, so things worked out well in the end.
On the other side of the country, USC signed Gatorade Player of the Year J.T. Daniels, who's the No. 2 quarterback in 2018. With Sam Darnold moving on to the NFL, Daniels should have a shot at starting right away for the Trojans.
Daniels joins 5-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, giving a dynamic one-two punch in the passing game for at least the next three years.
Like Georgia, Ohio State had one of the strongest collective national signing days. The Buckeyes showed their full haul from Wednesday:
Ohio State Football @OhioStateFB
#Boom💥: The 2018 Ohio State Buckeyes Signing Class. #Supreme18 #NSD18 #GoBucks https://t.co/zfOVJkFBac2018-2-7 18:37:32
Nicholas Petit-Frere headlines the class. He's the seventh-best player overall and the top offensive tackle. Ohio State also added the top defensive tackle, Taron Vincent. Both players are Florida natives, illustrating how well head coach Urban Meyer has been at recruiting the state he once called home when he coached the Florida Gators.
There wasn't much question, though, as to whether Meyer could bring the talent to Columbus. But Buckeyes fans might start getting antsy if the team is unable to at least reach the national title game.