The early signing period had its share of drama and suspense, but at the end of the day things went pretty much as expected.
Few Florida high school players flipped on Wednesday, and Miami, Florida and Florida State all locked in top 20 classes.
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State of Florida Recruiting H.Q. hosts Jon Santucci and Chris Boyle break down their biggest surprise, which school did the best job of holding on to a commit and who did the best job in the transfer portal.
Biggest in-state surprise from the early signing period
Boyle: Most of the surprises happened on a national scale. I think Cormani McClain not signing with Miami on Wednesday was surprising. But I’ll go with Keyone Jenkins going to FIU. He was committed to Auburn. It looked like everything was set. He was coming off a state championship win at Central. It has to be seen as a huge win for FIU to keep him home. This is an FIU program that hasn’t had a lot of recruiting juice in awhile and they have a state champion gift-wrapped on the doorstep.
Santucci: Obviously Cormani and Conrad Hussey not signing Wednesday cast a large shadow and I was stunned that Antoine Jackson used East Carolina as a prop in his Miami announcement. But I’m actually going to say Benjamin wide receiver Micah Mays sticking with Wake Forest. That’s not in any way a slap at Wake Forest, I just thought that Miami or N.C. State was going to get Mays to flip. Mays is a guy I felt was underrated throughout the process, but after the way he played at the All-American game, I thought one of those teams would do enough to change his mind. It’s a huge win for Wake Forest.
Biggest win for a player
Boyle: Andre Otto came out of nowhere and signed with Florida State. It seems like most of the schools that were recruiting him were high academic schools. But Florida State liked what they saw and they really went after him. Not a lot of us knew much about him, but the tape is really good.
Santucci: I’ve been pretty vocal in saying how much I like Markus Strong, so it was really nice to see the Union County defensive lineman see his recruiting take off late in the season and then have him sign with Oklahoma on Wednesday. For some reason, the current Big 12 programs seemed to take the most interest and the Sooners got his signature. It’s good for both player and team.
Biggest win for a team
Boyle: Shawn Russ to Arizona State. I saw Russ in person. I was really impressed to see him line up with a No. 1 receiver and also ball hawk as a safety. He had two interceptions against Mainland. He was down to Florida State, Michigan and Louisville originally and Arizona State snuck in out of nowhere in the last few weeks. He went out there, loved it and they capture a four-star out from under the noses of some heavy hitters.
Santucci: Miami landing Damari Brown. Brown isn’t as highly rated as Cormani McClain, but he is a legitimate four-star cornerback who is elite. He was outstanding against Chaminade-Madonna’s Jeremiah Smith early in the season. He’s been going up against Brandon Inniss in practice every day. I can see him coming in and making an early impact. And beating out Alabama and Florida State in the process was big, too.
Best job of holding on to a commit
Boyle: UCF with John Walker. Everyone wanted him. Florida spent the entire season recruiting him and trying to get him to flip. He visited Michigan and Ohio State, two playoff teams, during the summer. He visited Miami, which had a monster recruiting cycle. He committed early and stuck with it all the way through. He stayed with them the entire way. To me, it legitimates UCF as the fourth Florida power.
Santucci: Walker is the obvious answer, but I’m going to say Florida State holding on to Stranahan wide receiver Hykeem Williams. Miami made a really strong push late and did all it could to flip him, but he couldn’t. Getting a big outside receiver is one of the few things Miami wasn’t able to do Wednesday and still Florida State got the job done. I really like what the Seminoles did at receiver, with Williams, Vero Beach’s Vandrevius Jacobs and Seminole’s Darren “Goldie” Lawrence.
Biggest win in the transfer portal for state schools
Boyle: Florida State addressed two positions of need on the offensive line and tight end with immediate impact players. Keiondre Jones was a starter at Auburn. Jeremiah Byers was highly rated out of UTEP. Jaheim Bell was one of the top-rated guys going into the portal. And the kid from Shorter (Kyle Morlock) is fascinating for me.
Santucci: I really like what UCF did in the portal with Christian Leary and Fred Davis, but I think the best combination of talent and need is Miami landing Alabama offensive lineman Javion Cohen. Miami wants to run the ball between the tackles and this guy can move bodies on the interior. He’s already a starter.
Best job recruiting Florida by an out-of-state school
Boyle: I’ll be boring and say Georgia. Georgia won three of the most important battles among who was uncommitted in the state in getting Daniel Harris, Damon Wilson and Jordan Hall. The fact they beat Ohio State head-to-head for Wilson. They beat Miami and others for Harris. They beat Alabama, Florida and LSU for Hall. They were able to lock in and just improve on what they already had. It was already one of the top five classes in the country.
Santucci: Again, you have the obvious answer in Georgia. So, I’ll say after that I really like what Oklahoma did. They brought in impact guys all over the defense with safety Makari Vickers, linebackers Lewis Carter and Phil Picciotti, defensive linemen Derrick LeBlanc and Markus Strong and wide receiver Keyon Brown. There are some high-upside guys in there. Vickers and Carter could see the field early. Picciotti runs and hits like a heat-seeking missile. But Oklahoma basically brought in the middle of the defense in the next few years. I like it.