By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
The opening of college football’s traditional signing period for high school prospects brought an apparent end to two of the cycle’s most notable recruitments.
Blue-chip quarterback Jaden Rashada, who signed with Florida in December and then asked to be released from the commitment when a name, imagine and likeness deal fell through, announced Wednesday he is going to Arizona State.
“Glad to truly be home!” Rashada posted on Twitter.
Also in the Pac-12, Cormani McClain, previously committed to Miami, signed with Colorado to make it two straight years that coach Deion Sanders has landed a five-star cornerback.
Rashada’s recruitment made national headlines and became something of a cautionary tale for the college football’s NIL era.
The four-star recruit from California was the focal point of a recruiting fight between Miami and Florida. That led to a bidding war between booster-run collectives that try to secure sponsorship deals for athletes from those schools.
Rashada had originally given a verbal commitment to Miami, but flipped to Florida and signed with the Gators during the early signing period after being offered an NIL deal that could have been worth more than $13 million.
When it became clear that Gator Collective, which is not part of the University of Florida or its athletic department, did not have the money to fund the deal, Rashada asked to be released from his national letter of intent. Florida granted the request.
Gators coach Billy Napier told reporters he could not provide details on what happened with Rashada, but did say he did not anticipated hearing from the NCAA about possible violations of recruiting rules.
“I think the reality is the current structure of NIL with third parties being involved, with agents being involved, with marketing representatives, with lawyers, with collectives, very fluid and I think a very unique dynamic,” Napier said. “I think ultimately NIL is a strength for the Gators.”
Rashada becomes the highest-profile high school recruit in new Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham’s first signing class. The 32-year-old Phoenix native and Arizona State graduate was hired in December.
Rashada’s father, Harlen, was part of Arizona State’s football team in the 1990s. Jaden Rashada called ASU his “childhood dream school.”
“Can’t wait to carry on the family name at the University and start my journey. Forks up!” Rashada posted.
McClain’s recruitment was more traditional in its twists and turns. One of the highest-rated players in the country, he was pursued by most of college football’s most successful programs, including Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State.
The Lakeland, Florida, product committed to Miami last fall, but even then it seemed he might be lured away from the Hurricanes by the Crimson Tide.
Then Coach Prime took over in Boulder, Colorado, and changed the game.
Last year, Sanders made recruiting history when he swayed five-star cornerback Travis Hunter to renege on a verbal commitment to Florida State and sign with Jackson State.
Never before had a player rated that highly signed at a school that plays in Division I football’s second tier, the Championship Subdivision.
Colorado hired Sanders to turn around a program that has been stuck near the bottom of the Pac-12 for most of the last decade. McClain visited Boulder last month and soon after committed to become the first five-star to sign with the Buffaloes in more than a decade.
He made it official early on signing day. McClain will join Hunter, who transferred to Colorado, in the Buffs’ secondary.
“First time CU signed two five-star players in the same class,” Sanders said. “Same position, by the way, and both of them are dogs. I can’t wait to see them play together.”
SOUTH CAROLINA SPEEDSTER
Nyckoles Harbor from Washington was one of the few five stars, as rated by 247 Sports’ composite rankings, who entered signing day uncommitted with real mystery surrounding where he would end up.
The decision came down to Oregon and South Carolina and the Gamecocks were the choice for the 6-foot-5, 225-pound edge rusher who might wind up playing receiver in college.
Harbor runs track, has posted elite times in the 100 and 200 and has Olympic aspirations.
STILL DUCK SEASON
Oregon drew a lot of attention during the early signing period, winning a handful of high-profile recruiting battles to be in position to have the Pac-12’s highest rated class.
The Ducks missed out on Harbor but had one more big score, landing four-star cornerback Rodrick Pleasant. The California player picked Oregon over Pac-12 rival — at least for another year — Southern California.
“Ultimately, we want to sign the best players everywhere but if you can win in your footprint, and our footprint, certainly California is part of that, we want to have success there and think this year we proved that we’re able to do that,” Lanning told reporters.
USC, which moves to the Big Ten after the 2023-24 school year, did get a signing day win with four-star tight end Walker Lyons.
Alabama had already locked up the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for the 10th time in 13 years before the February signing period.
The Tide landed nine five stars. There were only 39 players given a five-star rating in the class, according to 247’s composite.
Two-time defending national champion Georgia was second, followed by Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio State. The rest of the top 10 were LSU, Miami, Oregon, Tennessee and Notre Dame.
While there has been much angst over the impact of NIL money being used as a recruiting inducement, the early results suggests it isn’t changing which schools are coming away with the highest-rated classes.
Using a five-year average of recruiting rankings from the 247 composite, here are the top 20 schools from 2017-21.
1. Alabama, 2 (average ranking)
2. Georgia, 2.2
3. Ohio State, 5
4. LSU, 6.8
5. Clemson, 8.2
6. Oklahoma 9.2
7. Texas A&M, 9.6
8. Texas, 10.8
9. Florida, 11.0
10. Oregon, 11.4.
11. Auburn, 11.6
12. Michigan, 11.6
13. Notre Dame, 12.4
14. Penn State, 13.8
15. Miami, 15.0
16. Florida State, 16.0
17. Tennessee, 16.8
18. USC, 19.6
19. Washington, 20.0
20. Nebraska 20.6.
Over the past two years (2022 and ’23), 17 of the top 20 teams remain in the top 20. USC was knocked out by an unusually low 70th place in 2022.
1. Alabama, 1.5
2. Georgia, 2.5
3. Texas, 4
4. Ohio State, 4.5
5. Oklahoma, 6
6. Texas A&M, 8
7. Notre Dame, 8.5
8. LSU, 9
9. Penn State, 9.5
10. Clemson, 10.5
11. Oregon, 10.5
12. Miami, 11.5
13. Tennessee, 13
14. Michigan, 13.5
15. Florida, 16
16. Auburn, 19
17. North Carolina, 19
18. Florida State, 20
19. South Carolina, 20
20. Kentucky. 22.5
AP sports writers Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida, and Pat Graham in Boulder, Colorado, contributed to this report.
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