Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In the FBS, it's never too early to
start looking toward next season.
Recruiting is a year-round job, especially for elite programs attempting to
stay at or near the top of the ranks, and with players leaving school early
for the NFL at a higher rate than ever before, it's never been more important
to keep replenishing the talent pool with top-level high school recruits.
While a few blue-chip prospects still remain undecided heading into National
Letter of Intent Day on Wednesday, most of the recruits have already made a
verbal commitment, leaving a pretty clear view of which schools have fared
the best when it comes to its 2014 recruiting class.
Alabama lost out on a chance of winning its third consecutive BCS national
championship when its perfect season was ended by Auburn in the Iron Bowl, a
performance which was followed up by a lackluster showing in a loss to
Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, but the Crimson Tide have wasted no time in
attempting to correct their late-season woes and get back to being the cream of
Of the Tide's initial 25 commitments, they have locked down five five-star
recruits, according to Rivals.com (only four other programs were able to nab
more than one).
Headlining the class is arguably the nation's top defensive recruit in
defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, and the 6-foot-4, 262-pound freak from Woodbridge,
Va., will likely be an integral piece in Nick Saban's elite defense from Day 1.
The Crimson Tide also are ready to sign the consensus top offensive line
prospect, Cameron Robinson (6-5, 330), who will be expected to fill in for
the departed Cyrus Kouandijo at tackle. Five-star cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey
(6-0, 179) and Tony Brown (6-0, 196) are on their way to Tuscaloosa, as
is hyped offensive weapon Bo Scarbrough, who has a combination of size (6-2,
215) and athleticism (4.4-second 40-yard dash) that simply can't be taught.
The race for the nation's second-best recruiting class likely won't be
determined until all the undecided signees make their decisions on Wednesday,
but it appears Texas A&M has the edge.
Of the Aggies' first 22 commitments, three are of the five-star variety,
including Myles Garrett (6-5, 247), a home-grown Texas kid who's considered to
be neck-and-neck with Hand as the nation's best defensive end prospect.
The squad also is adding another weapon to its potent offense in Speedy Noil,
the nation's top receiving prospect, who, as his namesake would suggest, has
explosive playmaking ability with the ball in his hands.
The Aggies also are bringing in quarterback Kyle Allen, who eventually may fill
the big shoes of Johnny Manziel.
While the Tide and the Aggies cleaned up this recruiting season, they were far
from the only two SEC teams to lock down top-notch classes. With the
competition in the nation's best conference stiff from top to bottom, the need
to one-up each other is higher than ever, which has led to the conference
currently owning the majority of the top-ranked classes.
LSU is right in the conversation with Alabama and Texas A&M thanks mostly to
its prized get, running back Leonard Fournette. The 6-1, 226-pound tailback
in considered to be the nation's top recruit by many scouting services. The
New Orleans native opted to stay close to home and is expected to thrive in
Les Miles' running back-friendly offense.
The Tigers' class may be headlined by Fournette, but they will fill plenty of
other holes with safeties Jamal Adams (6-0, 204) and Edward Paris Jr. (6-0,
201), wide receiver Trey Quinn (6-1, 200), linebacker Clifton Garrett (6-2,
224) and quarterback Brandon Harris (6-2, 186).
Tennessee has fallen from the upper echelon of the SEC in recent seasons,
having missed out on a bowl appearance in three straight years, but a
turnaround appears to be in place under second-year head coach Butch Jones,
and an elite recruiting class will certainly help matters.
The Volunteers have 33 commitments, more than any other team prior to signing
day. The emphasis this year comes on the offensive side of the ball with the
addition of receiver Josh Malone (6-3, 195) and running back Jalen Hurd (6-3,
Auburn is following up its improbable run to the national championship game
with a strong class, headlined by running back Racean Thomas (5-11, 202),
quarterback Sean White (6-1, 199), and cornerbacks Stephen Roberts (6-0, 180)
and Kalvaraz Bessent (6-0, 175).
While the SEC has dominated the recruiting headlines, everyone's still looking
up at reigning national champion Florida State heading into next season, and
the Seminoles are making a splash of their own by committing to running back
Dalvin Cook (5-11, 196) and receiver Travis Rudolph (6-1, 188) on the offensive
side of the ball, while also replenishing the defense with linebacker Kain Daub
(6-4, 243) and defensive end Lorenzo Featherston (6-7, 220).
Ohio State has reeled in just one five-star recruit, linebacker Raekwon
McMillan (6-2, 249), and while that number my pale in comparison to some of
its SEC counterparts, the Buckeyes have made up for it with the addition of a
national-best 15 four-star signees, with receivers Johnnie Dixon (5-11, 197)
and Marshon Lattimore (6-0, 178), cornerback Damon Webb (5-10, 179) and
offensive tackle Jamarco Jones (6-4, 300) just to name a few.
Michigan's class as whole is a modest one at best, currently ranking just
28th on Rivals.com, but it has landed one of the most high-profile players
in the country in Jabrill Pepper (6-1, 205), the unquestioned top cornerback
While the majority of players already know where they are heading, there still
remains some intrigue for national signing day with several top recruits
The top talent still making his suitors sweat is cornerback Adoree' Jackson,
who will either choose Florida, LSU, UCLA or USC. Rashaan Evans, an Alabama-
born-and-breed linebacker, will choose between bitter rivals Auburn and
Other top players still unannounced include wide receiver Malachi Dupre
(deciding between LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss), defensive
end Lorenzo Carter (Georgia, Florida State, LSU and Florida), athlete
John Smith (USC and Notre Dame) and offensive tackle Damian Prince (Florida,
South Carolina and Maryland).
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