National Signing Day is tomorrow. After months of verbal commitments, which essentially amount to a handshake agreement, the stars and contributors of tomorrow will sign their National Letter of Intent, officially committing them to their school of choice. On the other end of the spectrum, college football programs across the nation are looking to rebuild, fill holes on their depth chart and find that diamond in the rough that other schools didn't find.
The Bearcats, obviously, are one of those schools. Following a tough season, which resulted in a 7-6 overall record and disappointing 4-4 record in the American Athletic Conference, Cincinnati is looking to replenish a wide receiving core that is getting absolutely gutted due to graduation, find depth defensively, particularly in the secondary, and find more hog-mollies on both sides of the line of scrimmage, while keeping an eye out for the best available talent.
It's no easy task and seems to have been even harder heading into this year's National Signing Day with the rest of the conference recruiting well and Cincinnati trying to lessen the blow of former offensive coordinator and key recruiter Eddie Gran departing for the University of Kentucky. Still, Cincinnati has a number of intriguing players currently committed to their 2016 class.
First, let's start with who is verbally committed, enrolled and have already signed. Interior offensive lineman Zach Bycznski and wide receiver Tyrin Summers, both three-star recruits, are already enrolled, along with two-star tight end Bruno Labelle from Canada. Bycznski and Summers are more decorated as recruits, but Labelle is a solid player in his own right.
Wide receiver Devin Gray and offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun are already signed. Both three-star junior college recruits signed on National JUCO Signing Day on December 17. Cornerback Eric Jenkins also signed his National Letter of Intent on December 17, but his NLI was voided because he was one class short. He is still committed to Cincinnati, but he has been on the market.
The rest of the board isn't guaranteed. James Wiggins and Malick Mbodj are the most recent commits, which makes you think they are pretty set on becoming Bearcats. There are a lot of good players in the list below who could be major contributors if they do officially sign with Cincinnati.
What To Watch For
- K'Von Wallace
The three-star safety has quickly reeled in a number of big-time offers just in time for National Signing Day. In fact, he recently announced that his top-five choices will include Michigan State, Ohio State, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
As of one month ago, the Bearcats and James Madison were his only offers, but just in the last couple weeks the other schools extended offers and hosted the Virginia native to visits. When Wallace gave an oral commitment last summer I said he could see an increase in offers by the time we reached February, but the onslaught of offers is a bit staggering. Cincinnati could really use his services. It will be interesting to see if the Bearcats can hold onto their guy, despite College Football Playoff participants stepping in at the final hour.
- Wish List
If you're a Bearcats fan, you're hoping Cincinnati can win a commitment or two come tomorrow, hopefully without losing any of their own verbal commitments in the process. A couple names to watch in that regard are Darius Harper (a three-star, 6-foot-8, 268-pound offensive tackle), Marquis Smith (a three-star athlete), Sylvester Mayers (a three-star athlete) and KJ Sails (a three-star cornerback), among others.
Cincinnati isn't necessarily favored with any of these players, but if Cincinnati could reel in one of these guys, it would greatly benefit the Bearcats. Harper has been on Cincinnati's radar for a while now and is a massive, athlete offensive lineman. Smith has listed the Bearcats as one of his finalists and Cincinnati is Mayers only scholarship offer, according to 247Sports. Sails has been a Cincinnati fan favorite, but is predicted to commit to North Carolina, according to 247Sports and their Crystal Ball Predictions.
Hopefully the Bearcats can reel in one or two of those guys, or can find some additional recruits from elsewhere to further fill out their 2016 recruiting class.
Current Class Rank
Part of fans frustration with Cincinnati, centers around the 2016 class rank amongst the likes of the AAC and nationally, with the Bearcats currently ranked 7th in the conference and 79th nationally. With Cincinnati ranking 1st in the AAC just a year ago and 68th nationally, it's a fair frustration. Rankings, especially the star rating, aren't everything, as countless players have gone from two or three-star ratings to quality, if not star players, at the college level.
Cincinnati's own Mike Boone, was a two-star recruit who would have graded out as the worst recruit in the current 2016 class. An even more stark example is the Oakland Raiders' star outside rusher Khalil Mack who graded out as a two-star with a Composite score of 73 and ranked as the 2,314th best player in the 2009 class, according to 247Sports.
Still, the Bearcats rank behind Houston, USF, Memphis, SMU, Temple and East Carolina in the conference rankings, with the Cougars currently reeling in one five-star and three four-star players among 20 recruits under Tom Herman. USF has two four-star players of their own and Memphis, SMU and Temple all have 21 or more players slated to officially join their program in this 2016 class.
Cincinnati still has a chance to rise up the rankings, but Bearcats fans may need to take a wait and see approach with this class. There are a lot of players who could be very good, if their current verbal commitments sign, but I understand how the rankings are hard to ignore. Either way, Cincinnati's National Signing Day will be interesting to watch.