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Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
National signing day does not carry the same drama and intrigue that it did prior to the inception of the early signing period. But there was still plenty to talk about across the college football landscape as teams put the finishing touches on their 2021 recruiting classes Wednesday.
Running back LJ Johnson was the top remaining uncommitted player heading into national signing day aside from defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, who will not be making his decision for some time.
A trio of top-100 defensive recruits in safety Terrion Arnold, outside linebacker Raesjon Davis and defensive tackle Tywone Malone joined him in ending their recruiting by signing on the dotted line Wednesday.
Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines from this year’s national signing day.
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The first big story of national signing day was Michigan flipping 4-star defensive tackle Rayshaun Benny from a commitment to in-state rival Michigan State.
The 6’5″, 275-pound Benny is the No. 16 defensive tackle recruit and the No. 195 recruit overall in the 2021 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He committed to Michigan State in November, but he didn’t sign his letter of intent during the early signing period, making him a prime candidate to be flipped.
He is now the sixth-highest ranked recruit in Michigan’s 2021 class and the second-best defensive prospect of the group.
Less than an hour later, news broke that head coach Jim Harbaugh had flipped another defensive tackle. This time, he snagged 3-star Ikechukwu Iwunnah away from a commitment to Colorado.
The Wolverines didn’t offer Iwunnah a scholarship until six days after he initially committed to Colorado on Jan. 19, laying the groundwork for the flip.
Harbaugh and the Wolverines had a good day as they put the finishing touches on another top-10 recruiting class by addressing an area of need.
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The Florida State recruiting class ranked 30th nationally heading into Wednesday, as the program continues to try to right the ship after three straight losing seasons.
The No. 19 wide receiver and No. 113 recruit overall in this cycle, Hill immediately jumps to the top of Florida State’s recruiting class.
The Seminoles have long been the favorites to land the 6’0″, 200-pound pass-catcher from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. All 15 of his Crystal Ball predictions were to Florida State, many of which came in early 2020.
Barton Simmons of 247Sports called Hill a “very likely a productive Power Five starter who has mid- to late-round NFL draft potential.” He’s a welcome addition to a Florida State passing game that ranked 98th in the nation with less than 200 passing yards per game in 2020.
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One of the most compelling recruits in this year’s class is 6’4″, 305-pound defensive tackle Tywone Malone.
Not only is he a 4-star prospect with the size and strength to make a huge impact on the defensive line, but he’s also a high-level baseball prospect who intends to play both sports in college.
The first baseman will be doing it at Ole Miss.
The Rebels, long viewed as the favorites to sign him, finally secured his commitment Wednesday, winning out over Texas A&M and Florida State.
Lane Kiffin has the Ole Miss program headed in the right direction, and Malone has the potential to be a significant part of the Rebels’ continued rise.
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The Pac-12 has struggled to keep West Coast talent out west in recent years, but USC head coach Clay Helton did a fantastic job locking down the state of California in 2021.
When outside linebacker Raesjon Davis from powerhouse Mater Dei High School committed to the Trojans on Wednesday, he became the 13th in-state recruit in a 22-player recruiting class.
The top defensive player left on the board outside of J.T. Tuimoloau, who is not expected to make his college choice until at least April, Davis is a 4-star recruit and the No. 48 player overall in the 2021 class.
He trails only 5-star defensive end Korey Foreman among USC’s incoming crop, and that duo has a chance to wreak havoc on the rest of the conference in the years to come.
Thanks to a well-rounded skill set from rushing the passer to dropping back into coverage, Davis has an extremely high floor and is a safe bet to be a highly productive player for the Trojans.
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When 5-star safety Sage Ryan chose LSU over Alabama, the Crimson Tide seemingly ramped up their pursuit of Arnold, and it paid off in the end.
Ranked No. 50 overall in the recruiting class and No. 3 among safeties, Arnold chose Alabama over Florida and Georgia, giving the Crimson Tide yet another victory over those SEC foes.
“Will need to adjust to the speed of the college game and keep perfecting his craft, but has the skill set to emerge as an all-conference-caliber player for a Top 25 program,” Andrew Ivins of 247Sports wrote about Arnold. “Position versatility only makes him more valuable. Destined to play on Sundays.”
Arnold is only the 10th-highest-rated player in Alabama’s 2021 class, which speaks to the embarrassment of riches that head coach Nick Saban has landed in this recruiting cycle.
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Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
When 5-star running back Camar Wheaton officially submitted his signed letter of intent Wednesday morning, Alabama clinched the greatest recruiting class in history, according to Hank South of BamaOnLine.
The 2010 Florida Gators were the previous record holders.
Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam led that Florida class. It featured five 5-star recruits and 17 4-star recruits in a 28-player class.
All told, the Crimson Tide reeled in 16 of the top 100 recruits in their 26-player class, finishing things off with Wheaton and Arnold on Wednesday.
It will be a few years before we see the full impact of this historic class, but Alabama figures to be squarely in the national title hunt for the foreseeable future as a result.
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Despite a strong late push from new Texas Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian, 4-star running back LJ Johnson wound up where he was expected to go all along when he committed to Texas A&M on Wednesday.
The No. 4 running back in the 2021 recruiting class and the No. 45 player overall, Johnson could develop into one of the top ball-carriers in the nation before his time at College Station comes to an end.
Gabe Brooks of 247Sports compared him to former Pro Bowler Jonathan Stewart and offered up the following scouting report: “Solidly built with naturally lower center of gravity to provide for prototypical running back stature. Combines impressive big-play ability with high-volume grind. Consistently shows good lateral foot quickness and can make defenders miss in the hole. At his best as a downhill hole-puncher with one-cut explosiveness.”
With 4.42-second 40-yard speed and a 5’10”, 204-pound frame, Johnson brings an exciting mix of power and speed. He’ll be the heir apparent to Isaiah Spiller in the Aggies backfield, and he’ll have a chance to steal some carries early if he impresses in the spring.
All recruiting information and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.