The early signing period has come and gone as each Sun Belt program tried their hand at the new way of doing things in college football. App State led the way as they landed 24 signatures while new head coach Billy Napier and Louisiana-Lafayette decided not to participate.
It was a wild couple days around the league and it’s time to put a bow on it. Here’s the rundown of the Sun Belt recruiting and a snapshot of what each squad accomplished on the trail.
Rank: 89th (per 247 Sports Composite)
Blake Anderson’s squad had a very successful signing day as they received 22 signatures and addressed a lot of needs for a team that finished the season at 7-5. Much of the focus for this staff was made on the defensive side of the football as the Red Wolves lose six starters, including three on the defensive line. Therefore, Arkansas State added three junior college transfers to play on the line of scrimmage. Jevon Jones was their highest rated high school prospect and could start right away with this defense needing two brand new corners. The Red Wolves continue to load up on talent at receiver position as Oklahoma transfer Dahu Green and Boise State transfer Bubba Ogbebor were included in the class after sitting out as redshirts this past season.
Appalachian State Mountaineers
The Mountaineers received signatures from 24 of their 25 commits including nine three-star prospects per the 247 Sports composite. Scott Satterfield’s program only pulled in one junior college prospect in cornerback A.J. Beach as they hammered the high school ranks. With App State losing two linebackers to graduation, playing time could be there for Harrison Tyler. The Georgia native had listed offers from Colorado State, Marshall, North Carolina, Ohio, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, UCF, and WKU.
In the first full recruiting class under Everett Withers, the Bobcats pulled in the top class in the Sun Belt and they’re off to another solid start in the class of 2018. Texas State had 18 of their 23 commits sign during this session and that includes eight three-star prospects. Houston native Jacoby Hopkins should see the field right away as the Bobcats need immediate help at wide receiver. This class is very Lonestar State heavy as 15 of the signatures call Texas home.
Shawn Elliott’s first full recruiting class is off to a very strong start as the Panthers attempt to build off the seven-win season highlighted by the program’s first bowl victory. GSU landed signatures from 17 of their 20 commits and it is very obvious offensive coordinator Travis Trickett is building a pipeline in Florida. The Panthers hauled in four propsects from south Florida highlighted by three-star wide receiver Cornelius McCoy. However, junior college transfer Dan Ellington could have the biggest impact as the program is looking for the replacement to Conner Manning.
The hottest program in the Sun Belt only landed 14 signatures but are poised to close strong. The Trojans addressed some significant needs along the defensive line by adding three junior college transfers. Neal Brown picked up his next quarterback in Gunnar Watson and this offense’s next power back in Kevin Perkins. If the Trojans close strong, they could contend for the top class in the conference.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
It was Coastal’s first ever full class as an FBS member and the Chants landed signatures from nearly all of their commits. The highlight of the class is dual-threat quarterback Fred Payton who picked Coastal over Purdue. After a year of quarterback issues, the Georgia native should get a look come fall camp. This class will feature seven players that will be enrolling early and that includes junior college linebacker Teddy Gallagher who should be an opening day starter in 2018.
New head coach Chad Lunsford and his staff pulled in the second smallest class in the Sun Belt in the early signing period, but there is some quality in this bunch. Six of the eight signatures call the Peach State home and the highest prospect is linebacker Jontavious Ferguson. Junior college transfer Jawaski Webb should play right away along the offensive line.
After an 8-16 start to the Matt Viator era, it is obvious that talent is needed and should play right away in Monroe. The defensive line has really struggled the last few years and the staff found answers by signing five defensive line prospects. Barry Howard and Lawrence Shaw both hail from junior college and should play right away. The crown jewell of this class is defensive tackle Dayonte Roberts who also had listed offers from Arkansas State and Texas State.
Steve Campbell just took over in Mobile a few weeks ago and is still currently building his staff, but the Jags were able to get 10 signatures on the first early signing period. Nearly half of this class hails from the junior college system as Campbell’s junior college ties should pay huge dividends on future classes. Roy Yancey should start right away at linebacker while Jordan Beaton should contribute on the defensive line next fall.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
In a somewhat surprising move, new head coach Billy Napier decided to not sign any prospects. This was a coaching search that took awhile to complete, so there really was no time for Napier to get out and recruit. With the Cajuns currently only having three commitments, this move made sense. Napier and his staff will not be getting much sleep until February as they try to close out this class.
It comes as no surprise that this conference remains the worst in the Power Five when it comes to winning on the recruiting trail. You have to give Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama breaks due to coaching hires, but ULM coming in at 115th with a total of 16 signatures is not a great sign for the league.
The top class in the Sun Belt would rank 10th in the American, sixth in the C-USA, third in the MAC, and fourth in the Mountain West. This is why the national perception of the league is always that it is the worst league in the FBS.
When you look at the top of the league, there really is not much separating each class. Development and hitting on your junior college signees will always be vital for Sun Belt programs. With the conference moving to 10 teams, we could be seeing a league full of parody.