Recap: Pac 12 Recruiting Rankings After Early Signing Day

Early Signing Day wrapped up on Dec. 15 with a myriad of high-profile athletes inking their National Letters of Intent (NLI, not to be confused with NIL; name, image, likeness). Some players made history while others made enemies among fanbases hoping to see them sign with their school.

It's pageantry and grandeur giving these athletes, their families, and their schools the national spotlight even if only for a minute. What schools signed the best classes? Where did the nation's top recruits sign? We'll explore below.

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Rankings of teams and players are from 247Sports.

The Nation’s Top Classes

10. Oklahoma Sooners

Despite losing head coach

Lincoln Riley and a slew of assistants, Oklahoma was relatively unscathed when it came to recruiting. Not only is their ranking not a step backwards, it's actually on-par with 2021 and an improvement on their 2019 class.

They didn't sign any five stars– the only team inside the top 12 to not do so– but they're bolstered by a slew of highly-ranked four stars. Running back

Gavin Sawchuk, Colorado's top recruit and the nation's fifth-ranked back, headlines the class. Six of the top seven recruits are offensive recruits, a criticism of Oklahoma's classes over the past few years.

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Moving towards National Signing Day, expect more defensive recruits to join the Sooners under new head coach

Brent Venables (formerly Clemson's defensive coordinator).

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Strengths: Running back, Offensive line

Weaknesses: Defensive secondary, Defensive line

9. Michigan Wolverines

A lot of Michigan's firepower in this class was secured on November 27 when the Wolverines upset Ohio State at home for the first time in nearly a decade. 247Sports ranks Michigan's 2022 crop as their strongest class in three rotations since signing the eighth-ranked class in 2019.

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Spearheading this group is cornerback

Will Johnson, a five star out of Grosse Point, Michigan. Johnson is the 13th-highest ranked recruit ever to be landed by Michigan, an extremely high mark considering the long and storied history of players in Ann Arbor. They complement Johnson with a top-10 safety nationally,

Keon Sabb from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.).

It's no secret that Michigan hangs their hat on a strong and disruptive defense, and the staff ensured that will continue in the future. Their top three recruits and four of the top six play on defense, mixed up only by a pair of four-star receivers.

Strengths: Defensive secondary, Wide receiver

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running back

8. North Carolina TarHeels

In the first surprise on the list, North Carolina did a terrific job in the Early Signing Period. They signed two five-stars which make up two of their top three recruits ever. The 2022 cycle, in terms of talent, is the TarHeels' greatest class signed ever, highlighted by their first-ever top 10 class.

Offensive tackle 

Travis Shaw and defensive lineman

Zach Rice are those five stars, the top recruits in the states of North Carolina and Virginia, respectively. UNC also landed 10 top-10 state recruits to round out this loaded class. It's a well-balanced group, too, with talent coming at the line of scrimmage and on the outside.

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UNC seized the ACC's top spot for the first time ever, as well, taking advantage of coaching changes at Clemson and Virginia Tech. Whether or not the Heels remain inside the top 10 throughout National Signing Day remains to be seen, but with few challengers hot on their heels, UNC may just solidify that milestone this year.

Strengths: Balance, pass rusher

Weaknesses: Quarterback

7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Despite losing head coach

Brian Kelly to LSU, Notre Dame signed another elite class. It's their second straight top-10 class thanks to new coach

Marcus Freeman, who was promoted from defensive coordinator thanks to his contributions on the recruiting trail. Freeman signed elite class after elite class at Cincinnati, turning them into a national defensive power. At Notre Dame, don't expect that to change.

Notre Dame is a national power and their brand exudes excellence, but recruiting the school is a tough ask. Recruits for the football team must meet the rigorous academic standards and subsequent requirements to play at the school. That causes many national recruits to look elsewhere.

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Five star linebacker

Jaylen Sneed (Hilton Head, S.C.) inked his NIL with Notre Dame, becoming the next in a long line of elite linebackers to play in South Bend (Jaylon Smith, Manti Te'o). He's joined by fellow linebacker and four star

Joshua Burnham out of Traverse City, Md. The core of this class is cemented in what Notre Dame excels at: linebackers, offensive linemen, and wide receivers.

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Strengths: Linebacker, Offensive line

Weaknesses: Quarterback, Safety

6. Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State is no stranger to signing nationally-relevant recruiting classes, but the Nittany Lions outdid themselves on this one. They signed two of the top recruits from neighboring Ohio, both recruits that were deciding between taking their talents to Happy Valley or Columbus. Four star receiver

Kaden Saunders was one of those lands, who played his high school ball in a Columbus suburb.

Their class is led by five star quarterback

Drew Allar (Medina, Ohio), their ninth-highest rated recruit and third-highest rated quarterback recruit ever. Allar is the heir apparent for Penn State, but will have to wait at least a year as incumbent

Sean Clifford announced he would return for his senior season. He's bolstered by a pair of four star running backs and wide receivers.

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Overall, this is a big class for Penn State chock full of offensive firepower– their biggest Achilles heel in 2021. A lot of these players could see action early, the best kind of recruiting class.

Strengths: Quarterback, Skill positions

Weaknesses: Cornerback

5. Texas Longhorns

For those new to recruiting, Texas signs one of the nation's top recruiting classes every year. Their unmatched athletics budget, pristine venues, desirable location in Austin, and the dedication to the football program makes the Longhorns a recruiting wagon. The issue at Texas is how the recruits are developed and coached, which has caused the school to cycle through coaches over the past decade.

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Quinn Ewers isn't technically a part of the signing class, he dominates headlines after choosing Texas after transferring from Ohio State. Ewers, out of Southlake Carroll, was originally committed to Texas before changing his mind his junior season. The biggest land of Texas' signing class is five-star offensive tackle

Kelvin Banks out of Summer Creek (Humble).

Their top five recruits this class are from Texas itself, an imperative quality of Longhorn recruiting classes. The crop is defense-heavy, in contrast to head coach

Steve Sarkisian's offensive background, but is a clear response to a couple years of defensive ineptitude and offensive prowess.

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Strengths: Defensive line

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Weaknesses: Wide receiver

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes were victim to recruit poaching this year, causing them to miss out on several key players. A few chose rivals Michigan and Penn State over Ohio State, but this class is still loaded. Also notable, the aforementioned Ewers decided to transfer away from Ohio State after predecessor

CJ Stroud was named a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The class is topped by a pair of five stars, linebacker

CJ Hicks (Dayton, Ohio) and safety

Sonny Styles (Pickerington, Ohio), the state's top two players. Also among the group are four four star receivers, joining the nation's existing best receiver room by far. Though Ewers departed for Texas, the Buckeyes signed four star quarterback

Devin Brown out of Draper, Utah.

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In case the news of losing recruits elsewhere was exciting for anyone, Ohio State continues to add top-five class after top-five class and leads the Big Ten once again.

Strengths: Wide receiver, Linebacker

Weaknesses: Offensive line

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3. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia signed five five star players, tied for most in the nation (Texas A&M). Unsurprisingly, all of those five stars are from the defensive side of the ball. What may come as a surprise is none of the signed players land inside Georgia's top 15 all-time and only one,

Malaki Starks (Jefferson, Ga.), lands inside the top 25– a testament to their historic recruiting prowess.

The strength of this class is in the cornerback duo of

Jaheim Singletary (Jacksonville, Fla.) and

Daylen Everette (IMG Academy). They follow a recent lineage of corners to have been drafted in the NFL like

Eric Stokes and

Deandre Baker. When it comes to being developed into NFL talent in the defensive secondary, Georgia is one of the best places to go.

Defense wasn't the only focus of the Bulldogs– they landed four-star running back

Branson Robinson (Madison, Miss.) and four-star quarterback

Gunner Stockton (Tiger, Ga.), among others. But expect Georgia to reload after a historic defensive season in 2021.

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Strengths: Defensive secondary

Weaknesses: Interior offensive line

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2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Are we surprised anymore? The Tide have signed a top-two class for the past four years running and the embarrassment of riches continues. Three five-stars join Alabama this season: Pass rusher

Jeremiah Alexander (Alabaster, Ala.), quarterback

Ty Simpson (Martin, Tenn.), and running back

Emmanuel Henderson (Hartford, Ala.).

Alabama has some of the best facilities in the nation backed by the nation's best championship pedigree, leading to an annual lock as a top-10 recruiting class. Their quarterback situation is locked with Heisman winner

Bryce Young, who just completed his redshirt freshman year and will be at the helm in Tuscaloosa for at least two more seasons.

This class is filled with foundational pieces: seven of their four or five stars are on the offensive and defensive line. It's a classic 

Nick Saban class, crafted with strategy and care.

Strengths: Offensive line, Defensive line

Weaknesses: None

1. Texas A&M Aggies


Jimbo Fisher was handed a $100 million contract, it was because of his ability to recruit elite classes. Well, you can't get any more elite than number one.

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The Aggies landed five five-stars, tied for the most in the country (Georgia). 

Walter Nolen, a five-star defensive lineman out of Powell, Tenn., is the nation's second-ranked recruit. Receiver

Evan Stewart (Frisco) is the second-ranked player out of Texas and is joined by cornerback

Denver Harris (Houston) and quarterback

Conner Weigman (Cypress). The final five star is defensive lineman

Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy out of Lakeland, Fla.

Texas A&M's loaded class is well-balanced, addressing needs on both offense and defense and at all levels. It's also the nation's largest class at 27 members, meaning they're almost capped out in recruiting. However, don't lose track of the Aggies, as 247Sports projects two of the remaining three highest-ranked recruits to land with A&M.

Strengths: Defensive line, Defensive secondary

Weaknesses: Offensive line

The Nation’s Top Players

Here's where every five star recruit landed:

  1. Travis Hunter, CB, Suwanee, Ga. – Jackson State

  2. Walter Nolen, DL, Powell, Tenn. – Texas A&M

  3. Luther Burden, WR, East St. Louis, Mo. – Missouri

  4. Travis Shaw, DL, Greensboro, N.C. – North Carolina

  5. Harold Perkins, LB, Cypress, Texas – Uncommitted

  6. Evan Stewart, WR, Frisco, Texas – Texas A&M

  7. Domani Jackson, CB, Santa Ana, Calif. – Southern California

  8. Jeremiah Alexander, EDGE, Alabaster, Ala. – Alabama

  9. Shemar Stewart, DL, Opa Locka, Fla. – Uncommitted

  10. Devon Campbell, OL, Arlington, Texas – Uncommitted

  11. Zach Rice, OL, Lynchburg, Va. – North Carolina

  12. CJ Hicks, LB, Dayton, Ohio – Ohio State

  13. Sonny Styles, SAF, Pickerington, Ohio – Ohio State

  14. Malaki Starks, ATH, Jefferson, Ga. – Georgia

  15. Kelvin Banks, OL, Humble, Texas – Texas

  16. Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy, DL, Lakeland, Fla. – Texas A&M

  17. Denver Harris, CB, Houston, Texas – Texas A&M

  18. Cade Klubnik, QB, Austin, Texas – Clemson

  19. Conner Wiegman, QB, Cypress, Texas – Texas A&M

  20. Will Johnson, CB, Grosse Pointe, Mich. – Michigan

  21. Jaheim Singletary, CB, Jacksonville, Fla. – Georgia

  22. Marvin Jones, Jr., EDGE, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Georgia

  23. Josh Conerly, Jr., OL, Seattle, Wa. – Uncommitted

  24. Ty Simpson, QB, Martin, Tenn. – Alabama

  25. Kiyaunta Goodwin, OL, Charlestown, Ind. – Kentucky

  26. Mykel Williams, DL, Columbus, Ga. – Georgia

  27. Drew Allar, QB, Medina, Ohio – Penn State

  28. Kamari Wilson, SAF, IMG Academy, Fla. – Florida

  29. Daylen Everette, CB, IMG Academy, Fla. – Georgia

  30. Emmanuel Henderson, RB, Hartford, Ala. – Alabama

  31. Sam McCall, SAF, Lakeland, Fla. – Florida State

  32. Will Campbell, OL, Monroe, La. – LSU

  33. Raleek Brown, RB, Santa Ana, Calif. – Southern California

  34. Walker Howard, QB, Lafayette, La. – LSU

  35. Jaylen Sneed, LB, Hilton Head, S.C. – Notre Dame

The Top Storylines

The Aggies Dominate

Texas A&M signed this year's top recruiting class after the Early Signing Period. It's headlined by a balanced mix of offensive and defensive players and is anchored by five five-stars.

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Many Classes Surprise

North Carolina signed their first-ever top-10 class, highlighted by a pair of five star recruits, two of their three highest signees ever. Kentucky and Missouri also landed inside the top 12 by landing five-star recruits of their own. UK's 11th rank is steeply up from their 35th finish in 2021 while Missouri (12th) is up 15 spots from 27th last year. 

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Stanford rounds out the biggest surprises in the top 20, signing the nation's 16th-ranked class after finishing 2021 3-9 and bowl ineligibile. They did so without signing a five-star recruit and rank tops in the Pac-12 Conference.

HBCU flips the nation’s top recruit

The biggest story of Early Signing Day was unquestionably

Travis Hunter (Suwanee, Ga.), the nation's number-one recruit, who signed with Jackson State. Hunter was previously committed to Florida State and was on pace to be their second-highest recruit ever signed.

Instead, Hunter announced he would join coach

Deion Sanders at Jackson State, becoming the highest rated recruit to ever sign with an HBCU. To further make history, he's the first top recruit to sign with an HBCU.

It's a trailblazing effort that continues on the spotlight on HBCUs and their history of producing excellent NFL talent. Rumors of a $1.5 million NIL deal where vehemently denied.

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Who’s Left?

Three of the nation's top 10 recruits remain unsigned and a fourth five-star is uncommitted. Offensive lineman 

Josh Conerly, Jr. (Seattle, Wa.) is the uncommitted five star, receiving offers from Michigan, Washington, Alabama, Oregon, and many of the nation's top programs. According to 247Sports, he is deciding between Michigan and Washington.

The two highest-ranked recruits left unsigned– linebacker

Harold Perkins (Cypress) and defensive lineman 

Shemar Stewart (Opa Locka, Fla.)– are projected to sign with Texas A&M, per 247Sports. The final unsigned five star, offensive lineman

Devon Campbell (Arlington) is projected to sign with Texas.

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NCAA College Football Teams, Scores, Stats, News, Standings, Rumors - College Football - ESPN


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College Football Live Show - PodCenter - ESPN Radio