Alabama lands No. 5 recruit Patrick Surtain Jr. on national signing day

ByTom VanHaaren ESPN logo
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Patrick Surtain Jr. andTyson Campbell, the top two defensive backs in theESPN 300rankings,have been shutting down opposing receivers as high school teammates. They'll now be rivals in the SEC.

Surtain, the No. 5 overall recruit and top available player left on national signing day,surprised many Wednesday by committing to the Alabama Crimson Tide over LSU. Campbell, the No. 9 overall recruit in the ESPN 300, chose theGeorgia Bulldogs.

Both players were five-star prospects at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida.

National signing day ended with Georgia holding on to lay claim to the No. 1 position in the recruiting class rankings, with Ohio State, Texas, Alabama,Penn StateandClemsonnot far behind.

Miamiwas at No. 7 andAuburn jumped up to No. 8 in the afternoon. Oklahoma and Notre Dame rounded out the top 10.

It's the first time that major college football has had two signing periods, thanks to changes to the recruiting calendar. The vast majority of top recruits, including No. 1 overall prospect Justin Fields (Georgia), signed in December, when most FBS schools had put together the bulk of their classes.

Surtain was down to Alabama and LSU but seemingly had the Tigers in the lead for quite some time. Alabama and Miami came on late in his recruitment, and he visited both schools in January.

"Why Alabama? Because of the coach over there," Surtain said of Nick Saban. "They win championships. Over here, we're used to winning, so I want to be a part of that winning culture."

His father, Patrick Surtain Sr., played 11 NFL seasons as a defensive back for the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. The three-time Pro Bowl selection finished his career with 37 interceptions.

The Crimson Tide are losing all five starters in the secondary and have been in search of replacements within the 2018 class. Surtain is the third ESPN 300 defensive back commit for Alabama in this 2018 class, along with junior college top-50 prospect Saivion Smith.

The commitment gives Alabama two five-star commitments, with Surtain joining defensive end Eyabi Anoma.

Alabama also got a late pickup with ESPN 300 wide receiver Jaylen Waddle out of Texas. The No. 77-ranked prospect, Waddle chose the Tide over Florida State, Texas A&M, TCU and Oregon.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart bolstered his loaded class with Campbell, who chose the Bulldogs over Alabama and Miami.

In addition to Campbell, the Dawgs have added ESPN 300 prospects Tommy Bush, Quay Walker and Otis Reese to fend off the other programs aiming for the top spot in the team rankings.

Campbell, a 6-foot-3, 181-pound cornerback, gives Georgia three five-star commitments -- joining Fields and defensive end Brenton Cox(No. 11).

"When I went to Georgia, I felt comfortable," Campbell told ESPN on Wednesday. "It was a place that I could see myself playing at. ... I feel like the great coaching staff could help better me to get to that next level. That's why I picked them.

"[Smart] showed me a bunch of love. I just felt he was keeping it real with me from the get-go. It's just up to me to put the work in if I want to get on the field early as a freshman."

Campbell is the No. 2-ranked corner in this class, behind Surtain, and is the 12th commitment for Georgia ranked in the top five at his position. The Bulldogs now have landed four ESPN 300 prospects from the state of Florida.

Georgia continued its success later in the afternoon by landing Bush, an ESPN 300 wide receiver out of Texas. Bush chose the Dawgs over Baylor, Michigan State, Ole Miss and Alabama among others.

The No. 71 prospect overall, Bush is also joined by Walker, an ESPN 300 linebacker who flipped from Alabama earlier in the day, and Reese, who flipped from Michigan.

Ohio State made a splash by landing Nicholas Petit-Frere, the No. 13 recruit who is the top offensive tackle in the Class of 2018.

Petit-Frere had been considering Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan. He left everyone in the dark about where he was leaning until he notified coaches of his decision Tuesday.

"I felt like it was the place for me and where my heart wanted me to go," Petit-Frere told ESPN on Wednesday.

The Buckeyes had been looking for an offensive tackle in the class after missing on in-state prospect Jackson Carman, who committed to Clemson. The staff was in on ESPN 300 offensive lineman Rasheed Walker as well, but ultimately Petit-Frere decided to join the class.

The prospect from Tampa, Florida, will join Taron Vincent, who is the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle, as well as No. 1-ranked tight end Jeremy Ruckert and No. 1-ranked center Matthew Jones.

The Buckeyes came into the day ranked No. 2 overall with the second-most ESPN 300 commitments (17), behind only Texas (18). With the prospects on board, Ohio State will now finish with Urban Meyer's 12th top-10 recruiting class since 2006, which would be the most among FBS coaches.

Tanner McKee, the No. 76 overall prospect and top unsigned quarterback heading into national signing day, provided Stanford with a boost for the future, as he won't actually enroll until the 2020 season.

McKee, the No. 5 pocket passer in the ESPN 300 rankings, will take a two-year religious mission after he finishes high school in Corona, California. He is planning to sign a national letter of intent and will be bound to Stanford, but he won't affect the roster until he actually enrolls at the school.

The 6-6, 219-pound McKee is joined in the class by ESPN 300 quarterback Jack West, the No. 100 recruit out of Saraland, Alabama. With the two commitments, Stanford has two of the top 10 pocket-passing quarterbacks in this class and was able to build out the depth chart for future years.

Clemson got into the fun on signing day, landing ESPN 300 wide receiver Justyn Rossout of Alabama.

Ross, the No. 74 ranked prospect overall, chose Clemson over Alabama and Auburn. This is the first time that Clemson has landed the top-ranked prospect in Alabama, and the commitment gives the Tigers the No. 1 ranked prospect from the state of Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Florida.

USCfinished out its signing day on a high note by adding ESPN 300 defensive back Isaac Taylor-Stuart. The No. 78 ranked prospect overall chose the Trojans over Alabama and Tennessee on Wednesday.

The Trojans earliergot ESPN 300 commitments from defensive back Olaijah Griffin and athlete Devon Williams.

Williams, ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 300, is the Trojans' highest-ranked commitment. He played wide receiver, defensive back and linebacker for his high school team, but was recruited as a receiver for the Trojans.

USC was already in the top-15 of the class rankings and now with Taylor-Stuart, the Trojans have 12 ESPN 300 commitments in the 2018 class.

Florida Statemade one of the biggest early moves, rising five spots Wednesday to No. 11 before dropping to No. 22 in late afternoon. The Seminoles, under new coach Willie Taggart, were ranked No. 36 as late as December.

Flipping three players from Tennessee and landing ESPN 300 receivers Warren Thompson and Tre'Shaun Harrison stood out among the day's work as the Seminoles brought their totals up to nine ESPN 300 players and 14 four-stars out of 20 prospects signed.

"I thought our coaches did an unbelievable job just getting on the road and just going out and working," Taggart said. "Some guys were all over the place trying to make sure we get the best guys for us, and our coaches did a great job. ... To have everyone here and the way we did it, it was impressive. I felt like it would be hard for anyone to say no."

A little drama was added to the day when the mother of Pensacola Escambia receiver Jacob Copeland didn't seem all that thrilled with his decision to play for the Florida Gators.

Copeland was surrounded by several people, most of whom were either wearing Alabama or Tennessee gear. Seated to his right was his mother, wearing an Alabama sweatshirt and a Tennessee knit hat.

As soon as Copeland grabbed a Florida hat and announced he would play for the Gators, Copeland's mother left the table.

Said Copeland: "I couldn't go with my mom, I wanted to go with my heart."

Among other notable goings on from signing day, safety Aashari Crosswell, No. 111 in the ESPN 300, signed a national letter of intent with Arizona State, giving new coach Herm Edwards his first ESPN 300 commitment.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Crosswell is the highest-ranked defender to sign with the Sun Devils since 2014.

Crosswell played at California powerhouse Long Beach Poly.

ESPN's Andrea Adelson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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