- The 2018 recruiting season is a wrap, and now that everyone's done looking at which teams brought in the strongest hauls, it's time to drill down to examine who did the best at each position group.
Recruiting classes are typically evaluated in their entirety. They are assessed rankings based on the number and caliber of players they contain, and those rankings inform our evaluations of how much talent teams have. This exercise takes a different approach, highlighting programs that recruited the best at each position group in the 2018 cycle. Adding one really good prospect at a position is obviously a big deal, but we took into account both the quality and quantity of prospects for each category.
You almost certainly won’t see either of the quarterbacks the Huskies added as part of their 2018 recruiting class on the field this fall. That’s because Jake Browning is back as a senior with three years of starting experience. Yet in Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) High four-star Colson Yankoff and Bothell (Wash.) High four-star Jacob Sirmon, Washington added two enviable replacement candidates with different skill sets. Both Yankoff (No. 91) and Sirmon (No. 94) rank in the top 100 of the 247Sports Composite, and Yankoff checks in sixth among dual-threat passers, while Sirmon checks in sixth among pro-style passers. (Pac-12 North challenger Stanford was the only other program to add two of the nation’s top 20 quarterbacks, according to the 247Sports Composite, as part of its 2018 class, and one of them, four-star Tanner McKee, won’t play until 2020 because he’s serving a two-year LDS mission.)
Yankoff and Sirmon can spend the upcoming season learning under Browning while getting ready to battle recently announced Georgia transfer Jacob Eason, a five-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Lake Stevens (Wash.) High, for the starting job.
Running back: Georgia
The top running back tandem in the country, one that propelled Georgia to its first SEC championship in more than a decade and a national title game berth last season, won’t be around in 2018, but the Bulldogs have recruited well enough to not fret too much over the departure of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Their 2018 class includes Scotland (N.C.) High’s Zamir White, the No. 1 running back and No. 9 overall player in the country, and Miami Northwestern Senior (Fla.) High’s James Cook, the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
White has a nickname that should stick (Zeus), provided he fully recovers from the ACL tear he suffered in November, while Cook has strong football bloodlines: The former Florida State commit is the brother of former Seminoles standout Dalvin Cook. White and Cook will bolster a rushing rotation led by freshman All-SEC honoree D’Andre Swift (618 yards, 7.6 yards per carry) that also includes two other backs who recorded at least 200 yards on the ground for Georgia last season, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien.
Wide receiver: LSU
Perhaps the best piece of news for LSU on an overall dour National Signing Day was Archbishop Rummel (La.) High wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s decision to stay home and play for the Tigers rather than sign with a different SEC West program, Auburn. Chase, the No. 15 WR in the country according to the 247Sports Composite, was previously committed to both Kansas and Florida. (Not to mention the possibility that he also could have pledged to TCU, only for the NFL Network to foil a planned announcement.)
Chase ultimately settled on LSU after the Tigers had already snagged an even more highly touted player at Chase’s position in this cycle. That player, Parkway (La.) High’s Terrace Marshall, signed with LSU during the early period and ranks above every other player from the state of Louisiana in 2018, including Chase, who ranks fourth. The two other wideouts in the Tigers’ 2018 haul are Berwick (La.) High four-star Kenan Jones and Jena (La.) High three-star Jaray Jenkins. Add it all up, and LSU assembled a promising crop of pass catchers who could spend the next few years tormenting SEC defensive backs.
Tight end: Miami
The Hurricanes did well to address a number of positions with their loaded 2018 class, which ranks second in the ACC (behind only Clemson) and eighth in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite, but one position that stands out is tight end. Miami signed two four-star TE prospects from different parts of the country who can help fill in for outgoing senior Christopher Herndon IV, who ranked second on the team with 477 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns last season, and compete with returnee Michael Irvin II.
Brevin Jordan heads to Coral Gables as the top-ranked tight end in the 247Sports Composite rankings, after hauling in 63 passes for 1,111 yards with 13 touchdowns as a senior at national powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, according to MaxPreps. Providence (Fla.) School’s Will Mallory, checking in at No. 8 in those same rankings, stuck with Miami after issuing a verbal commitment to the Hurricanes in April, even though his father and uncles played at Michigan.
Offensive line: Georgia
Georgia got deeper and more talented up front by signing two five-star prospects and two four-stars. One of the five-stars, Pace (Ga.) Academy’s Jamaree Salyer, is the No. 1 guard and No. 10 player in the class of 2018 according to the 247Sports Composite, and the other, No. 3 tackle Cade Mays, is a former Tennessee commit out of Knoxville Catholic High who opted to leave Volunteers territory for a different SEC East program. (At least he didn’t chuck a Tennessee baseball cap when he revealed he was headed to Georgia.)
The Bulldogs’ O-line haul is rounded out by two in-state prospects projected to play on the interior: North Gwinnett High center Warren Ericson and guard Deontrey Hill, who blocked for current Georgia starting quarterback Jake Fromm when the latter was at Houston County High. This group will help ensure Fromm is well protected as long as he’s under center in Athens, and neither White, Cook nor any of the Bulldogs’ returning tailbacks need to worry about whether they’ll have adequate running room to gash opposing defenses.
Defensive line: Ohio State
Clemson is deserving of recognition after reeling in the No. 1 strongside defensive end (Xavier Thomas) and No. 3 weakside defensive end (KJ Henry) in addition to two other four-star DLs (Justin Mascoll and Josh Belk) and one three-star (Darnell Jeffries). But Ohio State added five high-end high school prospects in this position group, only two of which, Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep’s Tyler Friday and Pickerington North (Ohio) High’s Alex Williams, are ranked outside the top 60 overall recruits in the 247Sports Composite. The three others are IMG (Fla.) Academy five-star tackle Taron Vincent, Heights (Ohio) High end Tyreke Smith and Highland (Idaho) High tackle Tommy Togiai. (That count excludes four-star Javontae Jean-Baptiste, whom 247Sports classifies as an outside linebacker, but whom Ohio State lists as a defensive end.)
The Buckeyes also landed the 247Sports Composite’s No. 1 junior college recruit in the class of 2018, defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson Jr., who transferred from Auburn to Blinn (Tex.) College in 2017. The infusion of talent will help Ohio State replenish a line losing first-team All-Big Ten honoree Tyquan Lewis, second-team All-Big Ten honoree Sam Hubbard and seniors Jalyn Holmes and Tracy Sprinkle.
Two signing-day flips lifted the Bulldogs past other contenders for this spot, including USC and Ohio State. Georgia convinced four-star Crisp County (Ga.) High Alabama commit Jaquavian Walker to rebuff the Crimson Tide, and it persuaded four-star Lee County (Ga.) High OLB Otis Reese to back off his longstanding verbal pledge to Michigan. Those two moves, plus additional signings from Rome (Ga.) High five-star OLB Adam Anderson and Spring Valley (S.C.) High four-star ILB Channing Tindall, give the Bulldogs four of the top 11 linebackers in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
The crop of young, top-shelf LBs arrives at an opportune time for Georgia, which is waving farewell to Butkus Award winner and projected first-round NFL draft pick Roquan Smith, in addition to fellow linebackers Reggie Carter, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. Georgia also lists Stockbridge (Ga.) High five-star Brenton Cox and Marietta (Ga.) High four-star Azeez Ojulari as linebackers, but for the purposes of this exercise, they were viewed as defensive ends.
Longhorns head coach Tom Herman and his staff assembled the No. 3 class in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite, and five of the six top-ranked prospects in that class, including the top four, are classified as defensive backs: five-star Steele (Tex.) High safety Caden Sterns, five-star Angleton (Tex.) High safety B.J. Foster, four-star Heights (Tex.) High cornerback Jalen Green and four-star Arp (Tex.) High safety DeMarvion Overshown. In sum, Texas grabbed three of the six highest ranked safeties and three of the 15 highest ranked cornerbacks in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The Longhorns will need to make progress on the other side of the ball, after ranking 99th in Football Outsiders S&P+ metric in 2017, to reenter college football’s elite tier, but short of cloning Gary Patterson, stockpiling elite cover men may be one of the only ways to counter the high-octane offenses rattling Big 12 scoreboards, most notably the one that has made rival Oklahoma the conference’s premier team in the College Football Playoff era.
In 2017, Michael Dickson won his second Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year award, led the conference in averaging punting distance for the second consecutive season and earned the Ray Guy Award given to the nation’s best punter. The Longhorns did about as well as they could have finding a replacement for Dickson, who chose to forgo his senior season in favor of entering the draft, by signing Dickson’s cousin, Ryan Bujcevski. Like Dickson, Bujcevski hails from Australia, and the former Australian Rules football player is ranked the No. 2 punter in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The Longhorns also may have upgraded their field goal kicking (after finishing ninth in the Big 12 with a 57.9% make rate on 19 attempts in 2017) by adding a player they didn’t need to travel very far to scout. The 247Sports Composite’s No. 4 kicker in the class of 2018, Cameron Dicker, attended Lake Travis High in Austin, where he knocked in a 53-yarder during his senior season.