National Signing Day isn’t a major event in FCS college football, but impressive Yale and Coastal Carolina classes top the 2016 FCS recruiting rankings.
North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz signed with North Dakota State as an unheralded QB prospect whose only real FBS interest came from Central Michigan. Now, he has a great chance to become the first FCS quarterback drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since Joe Flacco in 2008.
While Flacco began his career at Pitt, having signed with the Panthers as a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, Wentz landed in Fargo as a no-star prospect. Wentz redshirted in 2011 and spent two years as a backup before finally earning the a starting role. He led the Bison to two national championships in his two seasons as a starting quarterback – earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the NCAA Division I Championship Game in both 2015 and 2016 – and has five championship rings.
Like Wentz, players that sign with Football Championship Subdivision programs out of high school do so far away from ESPN cameras. However, like Wentz, many players joined programs with national championship aspirations that could make them highly sought-after NFL prospects.
FBS programs landed the top 117 spots on the 247Sports Composite team rankings, but the Yale Bulldogs topped the 2016 FCS recruiting rankings with 17 commits as of National Signing Day, which includes six players ranked as three-star prospects. The Elis finished 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the Ivy League last season, yet currently boast a more talented class than Mountain West programs Wyoming and Hawaii, Conference USA schools Charlotte and Rice, MAC West champion Northern Illinois, and bowl participants Georgia State and Akron, among others.
The headliner of Yale’s 2016 recruiting class is 5-10 wide receiver Abu Daramy, a Connecticut native ranked No. 157 in the nation at his position and seventh in the state. Offensive lineman Sterling Strother, and defensive linemen Charles Callender and Josh Keeler all rank among the top 100 players in the country at their respective positions.
Coastal Carolina, who has made four consecutive appearances in the FCS playoffs and will jump to the FBS Sun Belt Conference in 2017, comes in second with 15 commits and five three-star prospects. The Chanticleers currently have the No. 124-ranked class in all of college football – better than six current FBS programs. Two of Coastal Carolina’s commits, wide receiver Larry Collins and dual-threat quarterback Avery McCall, rank among the top 750 players in the country at No. 517 and No. 749, respectively.
Perhaps the most interesting class in the country belongs to one of Yale’s Ivy League rivals, the Columbia Lions. Columbia finished the 2015 season with a 2-8 record, which was a huge upgrade over the last two seasons that saw the program finish winless. In fact, the Lions’ 26-3 victory over Wagner snapped a 24-game losing streak that dated back to 2012. The team’s second win? A 17-7 victory over Yale.
Columbia is on the rise thanks to head coach Al Bagnoli, who took over the program prior to the 2015 season after a legendary career at Penn in which he won nine Ivy League titles across 23 seasons. Bagnoli’s first full recruiting class at Columbia will include at least 16 signees and six three-star prospects – tied with the Elis for the most among FCS programs.
And, the Ivy League as a whole is dominating the current FCS recruiting rankings, with No. 6 Harvard, No. 24 Penn and No. 25 Dartmouth all landing at least one three-star prospect.
As for five-time defending national champion North Dakota State, the Bison have the No. 7 class in the country with one player rated as a three-star product.
2016 FCS Recruiting Rankings (Total number of commitments/Three-star prospects)
- Yale: 17/6
- Coastal Carolina: 15/5
- Columbia: 16/6
- Lamar: 24/2
- Samford: 18/2
- Harvard: 10/4
- North Dakota State: 14/1
- Stephen F. Austin: 23/2
- Sam Houston State: 12/2
- UC Davis: 9/3
- Austin Peay: 14/0
- Abilene Christian: 9/2
- Bethune-Cookman: 8/4
- Furman: 12/4
- James Madison: 12/3
- Central Arkansas: 8/2
- Montana: 5/2
- Northern Arizona: 8/3
- Western Carolina: 6/2
- Southeastern Louisiana: 9/1
- Delaware: 5/3
- Chattanooga: 5/1
- McNeese State: 10/3
- Penn: 12/1
- Dartmouth: 9/1
* Note: All recruiting rankings referenced come from the 247Sports Composite unless otherwise noted.