These are the top questions as college football’s early signing period begins

Wednesday marks the start of college football’s early signing period.

Though the traditional signing day remains in February, the early signing period in recent years has seen a large majority of the top high school prospects ink their letters of intent with Division I programs. Will COVID-19 alter that trend in any meaningful way?

Many top recruits’ minds seem to be made up, but the dead period for recruiting – meaning no in-person visits from coaches or official visits to campus from recruits – was recently extended into next year, past signing day, due to the pandemic. That means the class of 2021 has largely made their decisions based on their virtual interactions with coaches over the past year (barring, of course, any visits they were able to get in in the “before times”).

College football recruiting battles can take wild turns even when it’s not an unprecedented year. Keeping that in mind, here’s where things appear to stand entering Wednesday’s early signing period:

Who’s in line to have the top recruiting classes?

According to the 247 Sports Composite rankings (which we will be using from here on out), Alabama enters the early signing period with the top 2021 class based on commits. The Crimson Tide has 22 players committed, 18 of the “blue chip” variety – including six five-star recruits.

Of the top 10 recruits in the country, three – towering offensive linemen JC Latham (No. 2 player nationally) and Tommy Brockermeyer (No. 5) and defensive end Dallas Turner (No. 8) – have committed to Alabama.

Not that any of this is particularly surprising. Alabama has been a recruiting machine under Nick Saban, finishing first in 247’s rankings eight times in the prior 10 recruiting cycles. Alabama did not take the top spot last year, falling all the way to second. Its worst finish the past decade was fifth in 2018.

Nick Saban is once again expected to bring a top recruiting class to Alabama.

Ohio State, though, is right behind the Tide.

Ryan Day’s Buckeyes currently have 21 commits, equaling Alabama with 18 blue-chip recruits, five of those five-stars. They have two commits from the 247 top 10 in defensive end Jack Sawyer (No. 4) and wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (No. 9).

Based on commits, the rest of the 247 top 10 looks like this: Georgia, LSU, Clemson, Oregon, Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma.

The key for all these teams to stay in these spots, of course, is getting those commits to actually sign. That’s where the drama can come in.

Where are the top prospects projected to go?

Half of the top players in the 247 Sports Composite’s top 10 are projected to go to either Alabama or Ohio State. Two are undecided, but the remaining three say they are going to historic powers.

Caleb Williams, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 6-ranked recruit nationally, has committed to Oklahoma. Amarius Mims (No. 7), a massive 6-foot-7 tackle, has committed to his native Georgia. And in what would be a big get for Manny Diaz, defensive tackle Leonard Taylor (No. 10) is planning to stay home and go to Miami (Fla.).

Those are the plans, anyways. We can’t stress enough that the recruiting battles aren’t over until they’re over.

Who are the top undecided prospects?

The intrigue begins with the 247 Composite’s No. 1 player: Korey Foreman.

A defensive end out of Corona, California, Foreman plans to make his announcement on Jan. 2. His top two choices, via 247’s “Crystal Ball” predictor, are USC and LSU.

J.T. Tuimoloau, a defensive end out of Washington who is the No. 3 player nationally, is also without a hard commitment. 247’s Crystal Ball heavily predicts Ohio State to be his landing spot, which would obviously be another huge get for the Buckeyes and seemingly could push their 2021 class into the top spot. His other school under serious consideration is Washington.

There are two five-star prospects who hadn’t made commitments yet who are expected to announce their commitments Wednesday in Xavian Sorey and Maason Smith. Sorey’s choices appear to be coming down to Georgia and Florida, while Smith seems a lock for LSU, per 247’s Crystal Ball. Smith is the 247 Composite’s No. 18 prospect, while Sorey is No. 20.

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