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Early Signing Day 2021: What To Expect In The AAC

Before the early signing day, get ready and know everything you need to know around the American Athletic Conference.

NCAA Football: Navy at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the first Early Signing Day in advance of the 2017-18 school year, it has dominated the recruiting cycle and changed how programs are managed. Now, most teams try and sign as many prospects as possible in the early signing period. They then use the later signing period to fill in the rest of their rosters. When you then add in the transfer portal, you have another way of adding immediate talent to consider. This typically means players want to verbally commit earlier. Otherwise, they run the risk of having their spots given away.

The Early Signing Day also means that first year head coaches struggle to put together classes more than they used to. Before, they were given a couple of months to recruit. Now, they only have a couple of weeks to convince recruits who wanted to play for someone else to commit to them instead. It tends to make turnarounds much more difficult.

This is all broadly speaking, but what should we expect from the AAC this week?

Current Recruiting Rankings

The current AAC recruiting rankings, according to 247 Sports:

  1. Cincinnati (29th Nationally)
  2. UCF (39th Nationally)
  3. Memphis (61st Nationally)
  4. Tulane (68th Nationally)
  5. ECU (76th Nationally)
  6. Houston (77th Nationally)
  7. SMU (82nd Nationally)
  8. Tulsa (86th Nationally)
  9. Temple (100th Nationally)
  10. USF (108th Nationally)
  11. Navy (118th Nationally)

These rankings won’t be exactly where anyone finishes. There are going to be currently committed recruits who flip to a new school, as well as recruits who haven’t yet committed that need to find a home. So, expect some movement. Also, remember that these rankings don’t include any transfer players in them.

It’s also interesting to point out that Cincinnati is recruiting at a Power 5 level, though maybe not surprising. You’d also expect Houston and SMU, based on geography and success to be higher. USF at 10th in the conference is also much lower than they should be, if only because of their access to local recruits. However, they are lacking in recent success and facilities.

Compared to last year, UCF is up a couple of positions, while USF is down from 5th in the conference. Cincinnati is still the conference’s top recruiting program, while Temple and Tulsa were at the bottom of the Class of 2021 rankings.

A few non-AAC teams to be aware of in the current rankings:

  • Alabama, shockingly enough, are currently ranked 1st
  • Oklahoma State and Mississippi State are currently sandwiching Cincinnati in the rankings, though they both have fewer current commits.
  • Boise State is the top Group of 5 school outside the AAC, at 47th
  • BYU, who is joining Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston in the Big 12 is 51st
  • Iowa State at 27th is the top-ranked school in the new Big 12
  • Florida is 79th. That’s insanely low for the Gators
  • Campbell is 85th. One spot ahead of Tulsa
  • Army is the lowest-ranked academy, at 151st. Air Force is the highest at 102nd
  • Future AAC teams rank 87th (Rice), 91st (Charlotte), 96th (UTSA), 110th (North Texas), 137th (UAB), and 138th (FAU)
  • Old friend UConn is currently ranked 99th

Key Prospects

Here is a look at a few key commitments to each team in the AAC:

Cincinnati (20 commitments)

  • Mario Eugenio, a four-star edge rusher from Clearwater, FL. Cincinnati landed Eugenio over Iowa State and Michigan.
  • JQ Hardaway, a four-star defensive back from Phenix City, AL. Cincinnati landed Hardaway over more than thirty schools who offered him.

UCF (15 commitments)

  • Nikai Martinez, a four-star defensive back from Apopka, FL. UCF landed Martinez over South Carolina, Auburn, and several other schools.
  • Quan Lee, a three or four-star, depending on the recruiting service, wide receiver from Gainesville, FL. UCF landed Lee over Miami and Virginia Tech among others.

Memphis (15 commitments)

  • Joshua White, a three-star defensive lineman from Decatur, GA. Memphis landed White over schools like Arkansas and Florida.
  • Tevin Carter, a three-star quarterback from Memphis, TN. The Tigers landed Carter ahead of Georgia Tech and Arkansas.

Tulane (12 commitments)

  • Blake Gunter, a three-star tight end from Madison, MS. Tulane landed Gunter over Ole Miss and thirteen other schools who offered him.
  • Avery Sledge, a three-star linebacker from Brooklyn, MS. Tulane landed him over Mississippi State and Boise State.

ECU (15 commitments)

  • Marlon Gunn Jr., a three-star running back from Baton Rouge, LA. ECU landed Gunn Jr. ahead of 12 other schools, including Cal and Virginia.
  • Jacob Sacra, a three-star offensive tackle from Baltimore, MD. ECU landed Sacra ahead of seven schools who offered him, including Liberty and Boston College.

Houston (9 commits)

  • Moses Alexander, a three or four-star JUCO product, depending on the recruiting service, from Galveston, TX. Houston landed him over Missouri and Utah among others.
  • Quardale Patt, a three-star defensive lineman from Stafford, TX. Houston landed him over six other schools who offered Patt.

SMU (8 commits)

  • Pierre Goree, a three-star defensive back from Duncanville, TX. SMU landed Goree over Arkansas and Cincinnati among other programs.
  • Dylan Frazier, a three-star defensive lineman from McKinney, TX. SMU landed Frazier over thirteen other schools, ranging from Abilene Christian to Baylor.

Tulsa (10 commits)

  • Keith Wheeler, a three-star wide receiver from Humble, TX. Tulsa landed Wheeler over schools like Houston and Arkansas.
  • Cardell Williams, a three-star quarterback from Houston, TX. Tulsa landed Williams ahead of Houston and McNeese State.

Temple (6 commits)

  • Corey Yeoman, a three-star linebacker from Clearwater, FL, Temple landed him over Coastal Carolina and UMass.
  • Jackson Pruitt, a three-star offensive lineman from Detroit, MI. Temple landed Pruitt ahead of 32 other offers, including Pen State and Dartmouth.

USF (8 commits)

  • Jhalyn Shuler, a three-star JUCO linebacker from Abbeville, SC. USF landed Shuler ahead of Incarnate Word and Texas Tech among others.
  • Eddie Kelly, a three-star defensive lineman from Winter Garden, FL. USF landed Kelly over 12 different schools, including Florida State.

Navy (21 commits)

  • Gracen Bell, a three-star tight end from Lees Summit, MO. Navy landed Bell ahead of rival Air Force among others.
  • Jairus Satele, a three-star defensive lineman from Bellflower, CA. Navy landed Satele over Army, Colorado, and Kansas.

The Transfer Portal

In the modern era of college football, it’s important to take transfer portals into account during recruiting, as it’s being used more than ever before. 247 Sports added a transfer portal team rankings to try to manage this. Here is what the AAC currently looks like in this:

  1. USF, 1st nationally, 10 transfer commitments
  2. Tulane, 33rd nationally, 1 commitment
  3. Houston, 48th nationally, 1 commitment

Now, it should also be pointed out that these rankings are currently brand new and incomplete, so it’s difficult to judge their accuracy. However, it’s interesting to keep an eye on.

Storylines To Watch

Here are a few final storylines to watch going into the National Signing Day:

  • Temple is closing in on a coach, but as of the Monday before signing day no one is in place yet. How will this affect their plan and strategy going into signing day? What success can they expect?
  • USF is leaning hard on transfers to fill holes in their roster for next season, will it work?
  • Auburn is seeing an exodus of talent. Gus brought in several former Auburn players last season. Will he do the same in the transfer portal this season?
  • Can Tulane continue to recruit above expectations in the AAC?
  • How will the AAC teams with fewer than 10 commitments approach recruiting?