The significance of National Signing Day in college football

Photo courtesy of the NCAA

The first Wednesday in February is National Signing Day, the day when high school seniors can sign National Letters of Intent, officially committing themselves to playing football at the scholarship-offering college of their choice. With this year’s edition officially in the books, here’s how the day played out.

Alabama continued its recruiting dominance by landing yet another top-ranked class, its seventh straight dating back to2011. Ohio State, Georgia, USC and Michigan rounded out the top five on the top-25 list. As for local schools, according to 247Sports the University of Utah landed the No. 33 ranked class, BYU finished the day ranked No. 67 and Utah State ended at No. 113.

Regarding high school prospects from Utah, four players found themselves on Scout.com’s national top-250 recruit list. Of the four, two chose to stay in the state as Timpview High safety Chaz Ah You, and Bingham High defensive lineman Langi Tuifua both signed with BYU. Provo High receiver Ty Jones signed with Washington while the state’s top-rated player, Bingham defensive lineman Jay Tufele, signed with USC.

Some may wonder how often prospect rankings correlate with solid play at the next level. While the majority of players come close to expectations, some do fall short. In regards to overall team performance, however, having highly rated recruiting classes is closely tied to winning. Prior to this season, nine of the previous 10 national championship teams had landed at least three top-10 classes in the four years leading up to their title seasons.

Do individual player rankings translate to the professional level? This is where it gets a little more complicated. Take this year’s NFL Pro Bowl, for example. Of the 80 players invited, 11 were five-star athletes coming out of high school, 24 received a four-star rating, 26 three-stars, six two-stars and 13 were not ranked. Less than 50 percent of those invited were four- or five-star players coming out of high school. Similar statistics are seen in the breakdown of the 2016 NFL draft. Of the 32 players drafted in the first round, five were rated as five-star recruits, 17 were four-stars, four were three-stars, one two-star recruit and four players drafted were unranked coming out of high school.

Of course, there are significantly fewer four- and five-star players compared to three-stars and below. Neither the NFL Draft nor the Pro Bowl can be composed entirely of former five-star players. The numbers indicate that after the completion of the college recruiting process, prospect rankings mean much less. Rather than highly-ranked players not panning out, however, it seems more common that players with little acclaim come into their own during their college years.

While highly-ranked recruiting classes usually mean winning teams for college programs, the individual ranking of high school players is of a more hit-or-miss nature. At the end of the day, no one knows what the future holds for these kids. Rather than making comparisons or speculating about what these athletes might accomplish, this day should be about enjoying the here and now. After all, this is one of the biggest moments of their young lives.

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