The 2017 college football season is still alive and well, but even before it’s over I think everyone can agree that it’s been filled with a lot of twists and turns.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season for programs and fans alike came in the form of the first ever Early Signing Period, which runs from December 20th-22nd. While ESPN still chose to host its signing day spectacular in February; December 20th was essentially the day that most recruits chose to sign on.
Like most things that happen for the first time, not everything went smooth. Commitment dates were pushed up, decisions may have been rushed, and festivities were even held in hotel conference rooms (congrats to Louisiana Tech on pulling this off and then going out and trouncing SMU in their bowl game just a few hours later).
Here’s a recap of some of the players who chose their school over the course of the last few days and weeks, and what they can offer these programs down the road.
Emory Jones, Florida, 4*
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Jones was the top quarterback left, even though he was technically committed to Ohio State. The relationship between the two broke down and he had been expected to flip for some time, and after visiting Florida and Florida State last weekend it seemed as if those two were his finalist. The Gators ultimately won the battle, and got a quarterback that will likely start from day one for them.
After missing out on Justin Fields, and losing Matt Corral to Mississippi, Dan Mullen and his new staff needed a quarterback desperately. Jones fits their system perfectly, as he has a cannon for an arm, good size at 6’3” 193 pounds, and solid speed for a quarterback with a 4.77 forty.
He’ll get to enroll early and come in and compete for the starting job, and Florida’s quarterbacks aren’t exactly the best the nation has to offer. Tyrie Cleveland should be the biggest beneficiary of Jones coming, and could be extremely productive next year because of him.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss, 4*
Like Jones, Corral had quite an interesting recruitment. He initially committed to USC in February 2016, de-committed this June, committed to Florida in July, de-committed last week, and finally signed with Ole Miss yesterday. Still following?
Don’t worry, Ole Miss is getting a good one in Corral. Him and Jones have the two strongest arms in the class, which should allow receivers D.K. Metcalf and AJ Brown to thrive next year should he come in and play. However, he’ll have to beat out Jordan Ta’amu for the job, who was fairly impressive in replacing new Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. He was expected to enroll early at Florida, but there’s no word whether he’ll do that with the Rebels. If he does, I’d expect him to get playing time next year.
Jarren Williams, Miami, 4*
There’s a theme with this group of quarterbacks. Like Jones and Corral, Williams was once committed elsewhere. After committing to Kentucky last May, he de-committed this fall and chose Miami early in December. Williams rocketed up the recruiting ranks after a standout performance at the Opening this summer. Here’s what 247’s National Recruiting expert Barton Simmons had to say about Williams:
“The big takeaway with Jarren is there are very few holes in his game,” and that’s kind of what I meant by the ‘total package.’ It’s hard to find a weakness. There are other guys that are better in any one category, but he’s not deficient anywhere. I felt like he was one of the best quarterbacks there, in terms of his ability to digest the offenses they were being asked to learn. In terms of his comfort level, going through his reads and progressions. And his accuracy and control over the position.”
That’s high praise for a quarterback who was flying under the radar before the Opening. Malik Rosier wasn’t particularly great this year for the Hurricanes (watch the Pitt game), so I think there’s an outside chance that Williams could play as soon as next year for the Canes. If he doesn’t, I would expect him to redshirt and compete with N’Kosi Perry for the job two years from now.
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska, 4*
What’s that? Another quarterback who flipped to a new school late in the process? Yes, Adrian Martinez departed from Tennessee after their debacle of a coaching search, and chose to follow Scott Frost to Nebraska, who recruited him hard at UCF. Martinez is a dual threat quarterback who seems to be a perfect fit to run Frost’s offense. He’s a dynamic runner unlike most quarterbacks in the Big Ten, which will add a layer to Nebraska’s offense that will make them difficult to defend. Here’s how his high school coach described his game:
“I would say that Adrian is a very unique person. He’s extremely gifted and athletic. And very, very intelligent. The combination of those two skills present huge problems for people on the other side of the football. In a very quick-paced offense, he makes quick decisions that I think are very valuable.”
I feel that Martinez is very similar as a prospect to Jarrett Stidham. He’s a more dynamic runner than Stidham was at this stage, and isn’t quite as polished of a passer as he was at this stage, but the similarities are there between the two. With Tanner Lee declaring for the draft, the starting job should come down to him and Patrick O’Brien. O’Brien isn’t a great fit for Frost’s offense, as he doesn’t offer the dual threat ability that Martinez does. With Martinez set to enroll in January, expect to see him as the day one starter for Nebraska.
James Cook, Georgia, 4*
This name may sound familiar to some college fans, and that’s because Cook is the younger brother of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. For a long time it looked like he would be following in Dalvin’s footsteps, as he was a Florida State commit. He de-committed this summer and chose the Bulldogs in October. Florida State made a late push and some expected him to stay in state and choose the Seminoles, but he ultimately decided to stay with Georgia.
Georgia has the number one (five star Zamir White) and three back (Cook) in the 247 running back rankings, adding even more talent to an already crowded backfield. Even though Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be gone, Georgia still will have D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, and Brian Herrian in their backfield.
White likely won’t play right away after tearing his ACL, so there’s a chance that Cook could get some touches right away. However, I think he’s the fourth most talented back on the roster so it will be hard for him to ever be more than a backup for them. He’s not a tremendous athlete, with just a 100 SPARQ score and a 4.71 forty yard dash. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him transfer a few years down the line.
Elijah Moore, Ole Miss, 4*
The last flip of the day, and perhaps the most surprising, was Moore flipping from Georgia to Ole Miss. It was the only player Georgia really lost out on from what was otherwise the best early signing day of any program in the country.
Moore offers something different than the two receivers the Rebels already have in Brown and Metcalf. He’s a smaller receiver at 5’11” 168 pounds, but he offers soft hands, good speed, and quick twitch athleticism. While AJ Brown currently plays the slot and fills the role of a big slot receiver, Moore could fill the role of a field-stretcher, or come in and be a more traditional slot if Brown is out wide. His combination of speed coupled with Matt Corral’s arm should have Ole Miss fans excited about the offense in the coming years.
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