College football's early signing date and accelerated recruiting cycle force coaches to always look forward, not backward. Most coaches are already examining the 2021 recruiting cycle, or even peeking ahead to 2022.
For this story, we asked coaches to reflect a little. The 2020 recruiting class is signed and sealed, and many top prospects have already spent time on campus, going through spring practice or at least being around their new college teammates. But who are the top newcomers? We asked coaches to identify the best players they saw in the 2020 cycle.
We polled head coaches, coordinators, position coaches and personnel directors from every Power 5 conference, as well as a handful from the Group of 5 ranks. Some coaches are in different jobs than they had for most of the 2020 recruiting cycle. Some evaluated specific position groups rather than the national landscape. Coaches were granted anonymity, which made many more comfortable picking players who ended up signing with other programs.
We gathered responses from 66 coaches and tallied the votes. The results validated Clemson's spot atop ESPN's national recruiting rankings, as coaches love the Tigers' top prospects on both sides of the ball. An LSU player again received the most votes, but this time on offense, while Ohio State's offensive line and Oregon's linebacking corps added transcendent talents.
Here's a look at the 2019 recruit survey, which correctly identified some immediate contributors (LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., Michigan safety Daxton Hill, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux) and missed on some others (USC wide receiver Bru McCoy).
Let's see how the voting went this year.