College football recruiting: Four key storylines to follow during National Signing Day 2022

With the early signing period for the 2023 college football recruiting cycle set to capture everyone’s attention on Wednesday, major storylines abound as the top programs across the country look to load up their classes. A few of these storylines are the same on an annual basis.

Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State consistently recruit a level above many others. A plucky upstart program outkicks its coverage a bit and puts everyone on notice — such as Texas A&M last year and Miami this year. Then we have the player who decides to set signing day on fire by side-stepping the pundits and committing to a surprise school (look at what you’ve started, Travis Hunter!).

There may be 90% of the top 100 recruits off the board as we enter the early signing period, but there is still some drama left that fans should monitor. Can anyone catch Alabama for the top spot? Will Miami cement itself as this year’s Texas A&M? Will there be a Travis Hunter-like seismic shift? Stay tuned, because there is plenty to watch.

Join us on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 9 am ET for Signing Day Live on the 247Sports YouTube Channel (starting at 11 am on CBS Sports HQ) as our 247Sports experts cover all the ins and outs of the early signing period. From live commitments to updated class rankings and everything in between, Signing Day Live will be your one-stop shop for live coverage as the top programs in the nation sign the Class of 2023.

Storylines to follow on National Signing Day

1. Is Colorado … Primed to make a big splash?

Deion Sanders and Travis Hunter shocked the world a year ago when the No. 1 recruit in the class announced he would flip his commitment from Sanders’ alma mater, Florida State, to sign with Jackson State. Coach Prime coached his final game at Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl as he prepares to take over at Colorado, so now all of the attention will be focused on the Buffs program.

Sanders is already making a splash. He’s flipped former Notre Dame running back commit Dylan Edwards, and this weekend he had elite edge rusher Tausili Akana, the No. 1 prospect in Utah, in for a surprise unofficial visit. Also visiting was the No. 1 prospect in Nebraska, Malachi Coleman, who was a one-time Cornhuskers commit but has now drawn interest from the Buffs. Vicari Swain, a Top247 athlete from Georgia, was also in town.

In fact, the Buffs had nearly 20 visitors this past weekend, several of them portal players (not counting Jackson State players expected to follow Sanders). There were a slew of top 2024 and 2025 prospects visiting, too. Colorado is once again cool, and with the way Coach Prime recruited at Jackson State, we shouldn’t count out a Hunter-like surprise this week.

2. Alabama is back on top of recruiting rankings

The race for the top spot is essentially over with Alabama making its triumphant return. After Texas A&M signed its generational class in 2022 with Alabama finishing second, the Crimson Tide are back on top of the recruiting mountain.

As it sits, the Tide have secured commitments from 11 of the top 100 players with six more in the Top247. As a matter of fact, an astonishing 17 of their 25 commits are in the Top247. And just for fun, Nick Saban has also secured pledges from the top two junior college prospects in the class.

Alabama has its eyes on three more top 25 prospects who visited over the weekend, and will also wait to see if it can flip the nation’s No. 1 tackle, Kadyn Proctor, from Iowa. The Tide won’t win the national championship this season, but they’re running away with the recruiting title.

3. Welcome back to Florida’s Big Three

The Sunshine State is better when all three schools — Florida, Florida State and Miami — are good. Right now, all three are recruiting well, especially in comparison to recent years. The success may not be at the level it was in the 1990s or 2000s, when all three were perennial national title contenders, but it’s better than it’s been in recent years.

It’s also stretching outside the confines of the state, and for proof you can look no further than the neck-and-neck battle that took place between Miami and Florida for California quarterback Jaden Rashada. Miami got his commitment in June, but drama unfolded in November when the Gators flipped the five-star signal caller from the ‘Canes. Meanwhile, Florida believed it had made a case for Massachusetts lineman Samson Okunlola, but he ultimately picked Miami.

Then there’s Florida State, who is enjoying one of their best seasons in recent years on the field. While the Seminoles are ranked lower than Miami and Florida in the recruiting rankings, they’re higher in the on-field rankings as coach Mike Norvell continues to lead the program in a positive direction under his rebuild.

Plenty of in-state recruiting battles have unfolded between Florida’s Big Three. The more things change in college football, the more they stay the same.

4. NIL takes spotlight over coaching carousel

The biggest buzz around the early signing period last December was a coaching carousel which included some mind-blowing moves such as Lincoln Riley to USC, Brian Kelly to LSU and Mario Cristobal to Miami. There were no major coaching moves to that extent this year, but even if there was, the buzz would still be all over name, image and likeness. Or, more specifically, how NIL has shaped recruiting classes.

It was murmured in last year’s cycle when some schools performed better than expected on the recruiting trail, but this year, it’s been the most dominant storyline by far. It’s exploded as every recruiting battle lost has been quickly followed by cries of “NIL, NIL, NIL!”

It’s foolish to put your head in the sand and act like NIL isn’t playing a role in recruiting. And it isn’t going anywhere, either.

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