With Signing Day less than a week away, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss this year’s class, as well as upcoming changes in the world of recruiting. 

Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia have the top three classes, respectively, but defending national champion Clemson is No. 17. Dabo Swinney has been one of the nation’s top recruiters over the last decade, so what do we make of this relatively low ranking?

“They’re bringing in a small class,” Farrell said on Tiki and Tierney. “A lot of early exits to the NFL coupled with a lot of kids graduating on time and a lack of transfers – Dabo has a very close football program there. Not a ton of attrition other than the NFL exits. So they don’t have the numbers this year to get up. So what we do is we take the top 20 kids and we rank them, so if you sign 30, you’re not getting an advantage, but if you sign less than 20, you are at a disadvantage. That 20 number is something we’ve worked on forever and come up with because it’s about the mean for classes. So when you see Clemson down at 17, there’s another button on our team rankings where it’s average, and I love to click that button – because the average star ranking per recruit tells you the quality of the class.”

Clemson’s 13 recruits average a 3.92, which is tied for fourth with Stanford. Ohio State and Alabama are ranked first and second with averages of 4.21 and 4.08, respectively. 

“So they’re a really good class,” Farrell said of the Tigers. “They hit it at quarterback, they do have some wide receivers that I think we’re going to see down the line in the NFL, defensive backs are off the hook in this class, and (it’s) a really good O-Line class. So small numbers, not much they can do, and that’s going to happen, especially when you don’t have a bunch of kids leaving your program. But it’s a great class.”

Individually, two of the top thee players in the 2017 are running backs: Najee Harris, the top overall recruit, has committed to Alabama, while Cam Akers, the third overall recruit, has committed to Florida State.

“It’s a position that was devalued a few years ago with a lot of two-back sets, not only in the NFL, but in college football,” Farrell said. “Now with the emergence of Todd Gurley in his rookie year and Ezekiel Elliott especially this past year, all of a sudden he NFL is going back to a workhorse type of mentality. Melvin Gordon was a first-rounder. They’re not afraid of running backs anymore. Trent Richardson kind of scared everybody, and now they’re more comfortable with it. Our rankings are based on how they’re going to do in college, but we get judged by fans in April when the NFL Draft comes around. What were these guys ranked coming out of high school? So running back is a tough one. Two of our top three players in the class are running backs. (Harris) reminds me of a little bit of Gurley because he’s an upright guy with great speed, and I think he has a chance to be great. And then the Florida State running back, Cam Akers, he plays quarterback in high school, he’s making a transition to running back, he’s 5-11, 212, he muscled up, fast, hard-nosed – I think they’re both going to be superstars.”

In other news, the NCAA is voting in April to allow for earlier signing periods. 

“It’s going to be big, I think,” Farrell said. “Right now, you got one day. Recruiting (used to be) a six- to eight-month process, (but you) weren’t getting offers as a freshman in high school. You weren’t being scouted as an eighth-grader. So now it’s a four- and five-year process. And one day for everybody to sign their letter just seems ridiculous. You got almost 3,000 kids signing on one day. This is about 12 years too late, but they finally decided they’re going to approve an early signing period in December so that the kids that want to get it over with before the holidays and don’t want to deal with this January crush of in-home visits and phone calls and official visits just don’t have to deal with it and can move on with their lives. But it’s going to be interesting because a lot of these kids want to take official visits. They want to remain committed, so they want to be engaged, but they want to date other women. So come the third week of December, it’s going to be one or the other. Coaches are going to put letters in front of kids and say, ‘Are you signing with us?’ Now the only day they can do that is the first Wednesday of February, and so it’s going to cut things off a little earlier and there’s going to be direct communication and really put up or shut up in December. I would like August. I think that would be better, but it’s a start.”

National Signing Day is Feb. 1. 


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