College football recruiting: Teams that can close strong for 2018 National Signing Day

So it's January, college football has been over for more than a week and you want action, but the Early Signing Period has cut into your January recruiting soap opera. Don't worry. We've got you covered. You just have to know the right teams to follow.

With just over two weeks to go before the final National Signing Day of the 2018 recruiting cycles, here are seven teams that you can expect to close strong.


This is tradition for USC: Heisman Trophy running backs, the Coliseum and late January closes in recruiting. This year, USC has as many prospects in play as any major program in the country right now. It is battling with Alabama and Oregon for No. 3 guard Penei Sewell. It is probably considered a slight leader for two of the top four cornerbacks in the country: in-state talents Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart. It has a realistic shot to land top 100 prospects Solomon Tuiliapupu and Devon Williams. When the dust settles, USC could finish as high as No. 2 in the final 247Sports Composite team rankings. That kind of finish would sour the signing days of a few of the other teams on this list as well. Current rank: 11

No. 1 may be tough to reach, but Alabama can still do a lot of damage before Feb. 7 and cause some cold sweats for the teams above it. There are all kinds of cornerback offers that have gone out from the Tide, but the two main priorities are five-stars Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell. The teammates are the No. 1 and 2 corners in the country. The Tide are also in the mix to land the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country in Nicholas Petit-Frere. Senior riser defensive tackle Malik Langham, and four-star wide receivers Justyn Ross, Jaylen Waddle and Jacob Copeland are all on the short list as well. With some decommitments still a possibility, we could see as many as eight new additions for Nick Saban by signing day. Current rank: 5

Willie Taggart may be gone but Mario Cristobal is as energetic as any coach in the country as a recruiter, and he's going to make January count. He's got Oregon firmly in the Penei Sewell race with the Trojans and Tide, but wide receiver is a big priority for Oregon and that's what its big finish hinges upon. Four-star Jalen Hall, top 100 Devon Williams, Top247 Isaah Crocker as well as Texas big receiver Miles Battle are the priorities, and you may see more than one of those guys starting right away next fall. A few defensive linemen like Jackson Cravens and Army All-American Tyler Manoa are also in play during what should be a busy month for Cristobal. Current rank: 15

Jimbo Fisher swung and missed during the Early Signing Period. He got some big names on campus but didn't get them signed, and he even lost a couple of commits to regional rival Oklahoma and conference rival Alabama. But with 14 players in the 2018 class currently, there is plenty of upward mobility now that Fisher has hired his coaching staff. There is room to add as many as nine more signees by February, and there are some realistic top targets like four-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, Alabama athlete commit Vernon Jackson, Army Bowl cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart and the best quarterback available in James Foster. For a finish like that though, Fisher needs to drum up some momentum quickly. Current rank: 31

As much as any new coach this cycle, Jeremy Pruitt has been hard at work, winning a national championship at Alabama and still sparking a 40 spot rise in the team rankings in Knoxville. There's still more work to be done though. The Vols could theoretically add as many as eight more commits before Feb. 7, and though that number is likely to be smaller, the staff is leaving no stone unturned. From cornerbacks Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart out of California to Alabama commit Quay Walker and Auburn commit Coynis Miller, the Vols are heavy on action this time of year. While those are some of the bigger name targets, Louisiana cornerback Eddie Smith, Alabama defensive lineman Malik Langham, Washington, D.C. end Caleb Okechukwu are among the numerous other prospects that are in play. Current rank: 17

Willie Taggart has been here before, one year ago at Oregon. All he did last January was reel in a bunch of guys that would go on to be true freshman starters on one of the youngest teams in college football. This fall, in a new gig with a lot of new faces on staff, Taggart has a new challenge, but he's got some new advantages, too. Taggart's USF background and Florida roots have allowed him to hit the ground running in the region but his layover in Eugene has helped him secure some West Coast talent as well. With about eight more spots to fill, Taggart could land a finishing sequence that goes something like WR Warren Thompson out of Florida, athlete Tre'Shaun Harrison out of Washington, quarterback James Foster out of Alabama, a couple of other Florida defenders and then a flip out of Kentucky linebacker commit Xavier Peters. Current rank: 22

Dan Mullen proved a lot as the head coach of Mississippi State, but the one question that lingers heading into his Florida tenure is his ability to recruit at the highest level, winning living room battles against the likes of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. He'll have an opportunity to answer that question right away if he can put together an aggressive late close. As we get into the back half of January, Florida is looking at as many as nine more spots to fill in its 2018 signing class. Among them, Florida is in the hunt with the nation's top offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere as well as the No. 5 offensive tackle in William Barnes. Mullen would also like to add dynamic wide receiver Jacob Copeland back to the fold, as well as four-star defenders like Noah Boykin, Dorian Gerald and Andrew Chatfield. Current rank: 16
CBS Sports Writer

Barton Simmons has been involved in college football and recruiting since 2000, first as a player and then as a reporter and analyst. As a player, he was a two-time All-Ivy League safety at Yale before... Full Bio

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