Victories off the field can turn into wins on the field for college football teams. That’s why the early signing day draws so much interest from fans and schools as the top prospects make decisions on where they will further their playing careers.
Not everything goes according to plan, especially during a year where the early signing day comes in the middle of a recruiting dead period that started in March and hasn’t allowed players to make official recruiting visits and left coaches unable to make in-person visits with them.
A look at some of the top surprises and news from the day:
LSU ends day with major victory
Things may not be going great for the Tigers on the field in defense of their national title, but the outlook got a lot brighter with the signing of one of the nation’s top players. Defense lineman Maason Smith of Terrebone (Houma, La.) was down to SEC heavyweights Alabama, LSU and Georgia. The player ranked No. 1 overall by Rivals.com waited until late in the day before staying in-state and choosing the Tigers. A massive recruiting win for coach Ed Orgeron to cap off a class that should help his team rebound in 2021.
Prized Virginia offensive lineman will wait
It was expected that Tristan Leigh, one of the top offensive line recruits, would make his decision Wednesday with Oklahoma, LSU and Florida considered the top contenders. However, the five-star prospect from Robinson Secondary (Fairfax, Va.) will push his commitment announcement to Jan. 2 and won’t sign until February. Leigh made two visits to Oklahoma and also spent time at LSU this fall before traveling to Florida last week. It will be a long wait for those programs hoping to gain his signature.
Good and bad for Michigan
First, the good news. The Wolverines were able to secure the signature of talented running back Donovan Edwards, who played at West Bloomfield (Mich.). Edwards chose to stay home after considering Georgia, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. He is ranked No. 44 overall and the No. 4 running back, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
On the negative side, two important commitments on defense changed their destination at the last minute. Quintin Somerville, a four-star defensive end from Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), signed with UCLA. Somerville was one of the highest-ranked defenders in the Michigan class and had been committed since June.
“Speaking with coaches from UCLA, their interest and love for me has grown throughout this entire process,” Somerville said at his signing day ceremony. “I’m happy with this decision. I’m happy doing it.”
Four-star linebacker Branden Jennings of Sandalwood (Jacksonville, Fla.) also changed his mind and announced he will be signing with Maryland. The flip comes two months after Jennings committed to the Wolverines on Oct. 16.
Alabama takes two from LSU
A recruiting battle between the SEC rivals is nothing new. There were several this year, including two surprise results Wednesday. The Crimson Tide were able to flip Keanu Koht from Vero Beach (Fla.). Koht, a four-star linebacker, committed to the Tigers on July 4, but kept in touch with Alabama before making the switch and signing his letter of intent.
JoJo Earle of Aledo (Texas) was the second change of plans that helped Alabama and hurt LSU. The four-star wide receiver considered the No. 48 overall recruit by 247Sports composite was committed to the Tigers since April.
Koht and Earle are the third and fourth flipped recruits in Alabama’s class, joining quarterback Jalen Milroe (previously a Texas commit) and cornerback Devonta Smith (previously an Ohio State commit).
LSU was able to make its own steal from an SEC rival. The Tigers turned longtime Mississippi State wide receiver commitment Malik Nabers, a four-star prospect from Southside (Lafayette, La.).
Sorey ends at Georgia
There were several prominent schools for Xavian Sorey to choose from. Ultimately, the IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) product settled on Georgia ahead of finalists Alabama and Florida, giving the Bulldogs a big win against two of their biggest rivals. Sorey, considered the No. 20 overall prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings, projects to play outside and inside linebacker at Georgia.
He told the Gainesville Sun that his comfort with the players and coaches in Athens was a deciding factor in his decision.
Some good news for Florida came when it landed Jeremiah Williams. A defensive end from Ramsay (Birmingham, Ala.), Williams decided at the last minute to sign early with the Gators after interest from Alabama. He initially said he’d sign in February before a late change of heart. The defensive end is the No. 73 overall prospect, according to 247Sports composite.