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National Signing Day storylines: Texas A&M’s super class; five-star QBs; turmoil at USC, OU

When Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was denying an interest in the LSU job in November, one of the reasons he gave was the strong 2022 recruiting class.

“We are going to recruit an unbelievable class this year,” Fisher said at the time.

The national early signing period, which starts Wednesday and runs through Friday, looks like it will back him up and then some.

Alabama has long dominated recruiting rankings under Nick Saban, and Georgia has recently made it a two-team battle for the No. 1 class in recent years under Kirby Smart. But this year, it looks like it will be a three-way race for No. 1.

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“(Fisher) has been telling kids he is signing a historic class, and it might not be lip service,” says Rivals National Director of Recruiting Adam Gorney. “Texas A&M has a very real chance to finish No. 1.”

Texas A&M sits at No. 3 in the 247 Composite team rankings behind Alabama and Georgia in the days leading up to Wednesday, but there are a few difference-makers left on the board, and Gorney says A&M is in very good shape with several of them. Five-star linebacker Harold Perkins is likely signing with Texas A&M. Five-star cornerback Denver Harris looks like he is leaning to Texas A&M over Alabama. Four-star offensive tackle Kam Dewberry is deciding between the Aggies and Ohio State. And five-star defensive lineman Shemar Stewart, who is not planning to sign until the February signing period, also is expected to go to College Station.

Here are some other stories to watch in the early signing period.

Three five-star QBs in 2022 class

Part of Texas A&M’s high ranking can be attributed to five-star quarterback Conner Weigman, a Texas native who decided to stay in state. Cade Klubnik, another Texas QB, will be the latest out-of-state five-star QB to head to Clemson. LSU will be bringing in the only other five-star QB as the Tigers managed to hold on to Walker Howard, who is from Lafayette, La. Howard should have an immediate opportunity to play with the transfers of Max Johnson and Myles Brennan.

What’s happening at USC and Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley threw the first of several coaching curve balls when he announced shortly after Thanksgiving that he was leaving Oklahoma for USC. With Signing Day just over two weeks away, both programs saw a flurry of decommitments.

Four prospects at USC decommitted in the first two days and, as of Monday, Riley’s first class at USC consisted of just four players. One of the players, however, is five-star running back Raleek Brown, a California native who was committed to OU but followed Riley to Los Angeles. The Trojans are also still in the mix for five-star defensive back Domani Jackson, who is deciding between USC and Alabama. High four-star WR Zion Branch is leaning toward USC over Ohio State, and USC is trying to flip four-star Notre Dame WR commit (and California native) C.J. Williams.

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“They will definitely use the transfer portal,” Gorney said. “It looks ugly now, but give it two days and give it until February. There will be some serious quality, if not quantity.”

Oklahoma is in recovery mode, as it saw five 2022 commits back out after Riley’s announcement. New coach Brent Venables brought one of those five back, getting four-star LB Kobie McKinzie to re-commit to the Sooners after looking at Texas. Former Florida QB commit Nick Evers recently committed to Venables.

“Their 2023 class is completely decimated,” Gorney said. “This class won’t be a completely loaded class, but there will be quality.”

Notre Dame, Stanford, South Carolina surprise

Notre Dame appears to be headed for its best class in nine years despite a late and stunning coaching change. Notre Dame is rated No. 5 and appears to be keeping almost its entire class through the transition from Brian Kelly to Marcus Freeman.

“Brian Kelly leaving hasn’t hurt at all in this class,” Gorney said. “That’s not a complete shock because people choose Notre Dame for other reasons than just the football team. They’ve done a good job going everywhere. They got a lot of them committed early and then kept them.”

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Stanford, which limped to a 3-9 season, sits at No. 12 as coach David Shaw tries to get his team back among the elite teams in the Pac-12 North. And first-year South Carolina coach Shane Beamer should finish well inside the top 20, and he did it by going out of state for 17 of his 20 commits.

“The last few weeks have been very good for them,” Gorney said. “They won a tough battle in Maryland for WR Jaishawn Barham and they got a commitment from a quarterback in Mississippi (Stone Blanton) who had one parent that went to Ole Miss and the other that went to Mississippi State. That’s very big. And we love the receiver from Southlake Carroll (Texas), Landon Samson. He’s going to catch a ton of passes.”

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