Georgia makes big statement with No. 1 class on National Signing Day

Georgia may have been the runner-up for the national championship, but the Bulldogs were the clear-cut winners on National Signing Day.

Coach Kirby Smart signed the top 2018 recruiting class, unseating an Alabama program that had racked up seven consecutive No. 1 classes entering Wednesday.

Cornerback Tyson Campbell was one of seven five-star prospects to sign with Georgia, with the Fort Lauderdale American Heritage athlete picking the Bulldogs on live television.

“I felt comfortable and it’s a place I could see myself playing there,” Campbell said on ESPNU.

Smart said the new early signing period in December gave his staff an edge.

“One of the things that helped us today is the fact we knocked a lot of the work out in December,” Smart said. “… We were able to focus a lot of our contact attention on the four or five guys that made up the remainder of our class.”

But Georgia wasn’t done making waves, flipping five-star linebacker Quay Walker from Alabama and four-star linebacker Otis Reese from Michigan, convincing both to remain in their home state.

“What [Smart] did and what the previous staff had been unable to do was put a fence around the state of Georgia,” said Tom Lemming, national recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network.

The Bulldogs signed 15 players from the Peach State this cycle and 17 players in 2017.

“He seemed to sign almost every single guy he wanted from the state,” Lemming said. “It’s a class loaded with superstars.”

Smart said the No. 1 ranking wasn’t a concern to him or his staff.

“I don’t think it’s what’s important,” he said. “What’s more important was the quality of kids we were able to get both academically and athletically.”

Ohio State finished behind Georgia in the rankings, according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, despite featuring a better overall average of player (94.29 to 94.23).

Much of the Buckeyes’ class was in place before National Signing Day began on Wednesday, with eight recruits already enrolled in school.

“January was far less drama. Far less panic like … normally you deal with in January,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, noting the impact of the early signing period.

Ohio State did secure the top tackles in the class, landing Tampa Berkley Prep offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere and Bradenton IMG Academy defensive tackle Taron Vincent.

“I felt like this was the place for me,” Petit-Frere said on ESPNU.

With close to three-quarters of the high school prospects signing letters of intent in December, much of the thrill was drained from Wednesday’s activities.

The remaining undecided elite recruits were popular and it made it tougher to figure out where they might land.

“I thought it was a really tough group of kids to predict where they were going to go,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com. “I thought there were a lot of 50-50 battles that could have gone either way. In year’s past, it’s been much more predictable.

“It wasn’t shocking, but I thought this year there were a lot more prospects that were up in the air that you pick one school, but you could easily see them pick another one.”

Campbell’s teammate, Patrick Surtain Jr., another five-star cornerback and the fifth-best overall player in the class, chose to play for Nick Saban at Alabama.

“They win championships and I want to be a part of that,” Surtain said of his decision.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the strong performance by Willie Taggart and his staff at Florida State. The Seminoles salvaged a top 10 class despite a major coaching change at the end of November.

“Willie Taggart, I think, will do even better than Jimbo Fisher when it comes to recruiting,” Lemming said. “Willie Taggart is an exceptional recruiter and now he’s got the great state of Florida to recruit.

“I think next year, they’ll have a shot at the No. 1 recruiting class. That’s how good Willie Taggart is and with a powerhouse like Florida State behind him, [I think] within a year, people are going to be forgetting about Jimbo Fisher.”

Elsewhere, Michigan endured a disappointing day. The Wolverines finishing with a class ranked in the mid-20s.

“They’ve finished in the top five each of the last two years. They lost their best player to Georgia today, so they definitely didn’t close like they wanted to and didn’t put together the class they wanted to,” Farrell said of Michigan.

USF Football Twitter account down

Talk about unfortunate timing.

USF’s official football Twitter account (@USFFootball) was down for a bit Wednesday morning. The school was forced to rely on its main athletics account instead as it worked to rectify the issue.

The Tampa Bay Times reported the Bulls weren’t alone, with Missouri, Georgia and Texas accounts all suspended by Twitter at various times.

Yahoo Sports reported the school accounts likely were shut down for copyright infringement when the schools used unlicensed music in video posts.

Top 10 honors

Check out the top 10 team recruiting rankings provided by various websites:

247Sports.com

1. Georgia

2. Ohio State

3. Texas

4. Penn State

5. Clemson

6. Alabama

7. USC

8. Miami

9. Oklahoma

10. Notre Dame

ESPN

1. Georgia

2. Ohio State

3. Texas

4. Penn State

5. Clemson

6. Alabama

7. Miami

8. USC

9. Notre Dame

10. Oklahoma

Rivals.com

1. Georgia

2. Ohio State

3. Texas

4. Penn State

5. Miami

6. USC

7. Clemson

8. Oklahoma

9. Florida State

10. Notre Dame

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