The college football recruiting process never really ends, but on the night following the circus that is national signing day, college coaches can finally take a little breather.
Wednesday marked the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication on both the part of college coaches and the high school players they recruited, soon to depart for their new school.
Several programs found success on national signing day. The usual suspects littered the top of the recruiting ranks, but some surprising schools snuck into the top 10, none more impressive than an Ole Miss program that secured three top-25 prospects on Wednesday.
While Ohio State and Florida made a push for the top spot this year, Alabama ran away with that distinction. The Crimson Tide received letters of intent from six 5-star recruits and a dozen 4-star recruits, finishing the year with 26 in all.
The biggest stories of the day centered on the decisions of such top recruits as Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss), Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) and Montravius Adams (Auburn) joining programs that put together strong recruiting effort. Perhaps lost in the shuffle were the stories of recruits that had last-second changes of heart in the hours leading up to national signing day.
USC lost several recruits in the last two days (via the Los Angeles Times), detracting from a class that was once in the top five of the ranks. The Trojans still finished with 247Sports’ No. 14 recruiting class, but the finale could have gone much better for Lane Kiffin and his USC program.
Months still separate us from the start of the college football season, but now is a good time to evaluate the incoming talent some of the nation’s top teams will infuse with their roster this fall. Some players will find immediate playing time on Saturday and some will not, but each player that committed to a program will have an impact in some way, be it this year or in the next four.
We’ll take a look at the top 10 college football programs from last year as ranked in the final Associated Press poll of the 2012 season and break give grades and analysis for their new recruiting classes.
There are many words to describe Nick Saban’s newest recruiting class, but the most accurate would probably be “special.” After losing several key pieces to the NFL draft, Saban reloaded in a big way.
Alabama received letters of intent from six 5-star recruits this year and added 12 more 4-star prospects to the fold as well. With at least one player for each position, the Crimson Tide recruiting class is both deep and talented.
At 6’3” and 240 pounds, 99 overall athlete Derrick Henry will almost certainly see a good deal of playing time early in his career. He’s an absolute bruiser at the running back position, and he joins a long line of Alabama backs with tons of star potential.
Unlike many college teams, Alabama employs a 3-4 defensive front that requires a different style of player to fill. Saban found plenty of them this year.
Five-star inside linebacker Reuben Foster and 5-star outside linebacker Jonathan Allen will fit perfectly in the Crimson Tide 3-4 front. Both are big, physical and extremely athletic, and each will find a place in the defense without much difficulty.
Pro-style quarterback Cooper Bateman will also join the team in the fall. At 6’3” and 195 pounds, he has some room to fill out and add some bulk to withstand the rigors of college football. He won’t see action in 2013, but don’t be surprised if he takes the reins of the offense in the next couple years.
From offensive line to the defensive backfield, Saban added multiple quality pieces that will be the foundation for more championship-contending teams in the years to come. Five-star offensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson tops the list.
Robinson is 6’5” and 302 pounds of muscle. He’s a mauler with good feet and a solid frame capable of challenging for a starting role in his first year with the team. D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones will all be leaving for the NFL draft in April, and there are plenty of holes to fill on the offensive line.
There wasn’t another program that came close to bringing in the amount of star talent Alabama did this year. After adding another national championship in January, Saban has done everything he could to make sure it wasn’t the last for the Crimson Tide.
In fairness to Oregon, Chip Kelly’s decision to shop around in the NFL, come back to the program and subsequently accept the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles could not have helped its chances in the recruiting process.
Kelly left an ultra-successful program after a fantastic year, but the Ducks won’t fall from grace in the college football world. Former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich takes the reins as the Ducks’ new head coach, and he’ll continue the success Oregon has experience in recent years, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
With a core of talented players already in place, the departure of Kenjon Barner, Dion Jordan and other Ducks to the NFL draft won’t be a death blow to the team. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas will be back for next season ready to pick up where the offense left off in 2012.
Five-star running back Thomas Tyner (98 overall by 247Sports) could see some immediate action during his freshman campaign. At 6’0” and 207 pounds, Tyner is the type of change-of-pace back Oregon can utilize for between-the-tackle running and short-yardage situations. He’s a bruiser with the ball in his hands and adds some depth to a backfield that will be without its 2012 leading rusher next season.
Four-star athlete Tyree Robinson will also likely see some action on offense early in his career. He’s fast, fluid and extremely quick, and at 6’4” and 190 pounds, Robinson will be a big target for Mariota. While he has the skill set to transition to a defensive role if necessary, he’ll probably stay on the offensive side of the ball as a big-play weapon for the Ducks’ fast-paced offense.
Robinson is joined in this year’s recruiting class by twin brother Tyrell Robinson. Both are 4-star prospects, and while the taller, more slender Tyree projects as a wide receiver in college, Tyrell will likely see time at linebacker early in his career.
As is the case with most players, coaches experiment with different positions and fits. Where the Robinson brothers end up is unclear, but both are big and athletic enough to be game-changers at the next level.
Oregon didn’t piece together its best recruiting class this year, but the program will rebound. The Ducks still managed to add 19 total recruits with an average rating of 87.73 (via 247Sports), including a 5-star prospect and seven 4-star prospects. It was a solid effort for a program undergoing a major change.
This year’s recruiting battle was a throwback of sorts. Urban Meyer versus Nick Saban highlighted an intense struggle for the top spot in the rankings, though Meyer is no longer doing so as a coach in the SEC.
Meyer brought in an impressive recruiting class last year, but this year’s group is even more exemplary. Headed by 5-star safety Vonn Bell and 19 4-star prospects, Ohio State’s foundation for the next four years will be a force in the Big Ten.
Bell announced his final decision on Wednesday, ending speculation that he could ultimately choose Tennessee over Ohio State. Bell was the Buckeyes’ only 5-star recruit, but he joins perhaps the most talented incoming class of defensive backs in the country.
OSU received letters of intent from 4-star cornerbacks Eli Apple, Cameron Burrows and Gareon Conley, as well as 4-star safety Jayme Thompson this year. Apple is the Buckeyes’ second-highest rated player (96 overall) behind Bell, while Burrows, Conley and Thompson are rated 95, 94 and 92, respectively.
While OSU’s defensive backs are the highlight of the class, the Buckeyes received letters of intent from several highly ranked players.
Dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett (94 overall) could be the Buckeyes signal-caller of the future when Braxton Miller departs. He’s a pass-first quarterback, but he matches a quality—albeit raw—passing skill set with exception athleticism. In other words, Barrett is the kind of quarterback that Meyer loves to develop.
Meyer’s recruiting class is also littered with some terrific offensive and defensive linemen, led by defensive end Joey Bosa. The 4-star end is a 6’5”, 270-pound, high-motor machine with a mean streak. He has the frame to add more bulk, but he joins the Buckeyes as an extremely versatile defensive lineman with a very high ceiling.
In all, Ohio State received letters of intent from 25 players that will have a major impact on the program going forward. Meyer is loading up for a run at the Big Ten and a potential championship shot in the coming years.
The Fighting Irish already earned an “A” grade prior to Wednesday night, but swaying 5-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes earned them an extra “plus.”
Vanderdoes decommitted from USC, and his decision on national signing day was one of the most difficult to predict. Brian Kelly did enough to sway his decision, though, and he’ll be a crucial piece of Notre Dame’s defensive puzzle for the next four years.
Five-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith joins Vanderdoes as Notre Dame’s biggest signings of the year. At 6’3”, 218 pounds, Smith has the frame to bulk up in the weight room and still maintain his speed and explosiveness.
Kelly did a terrific job loading up on the offensive line and at the running back position this year as well. With the team’s two starting running backs leaving for the NFL draft, 4-star running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant could find themselves in a contributing role early on in their careers at Notre Dame.
In addition to the running back position, Kelly loaded up on offensive linemen. Steven Elmer (94 overall), Hunter Bivin (96 overall), Mike McGlinchey (94 overall) and Colin McGovern (90 overall) highlight a recruiting class that has terrific depth at the offensive tackle position.
While the Fighting Irish have maintained good balance on offense, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kelly put his depth at offensive line and running back to work in the near future with a more run-heavy attack.
The Notre Dame football program is on the rise. Given the work Kelly put in this season to secure a top-five recruiting class, it might not be long before we see the Fighting Irish making another national championship run.
By all other standards, Georgia had a terrific recruiting class this year. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, several SEC rivals did just a little better.
Georgia didn’t sign a single 5-star recruit this year, but given the fact that it received letters of intent from 32 total players, Georgia fans shouldn’t be too concerned. Recruiting sometimes comes down to quantity, and it’s hard to believe there aren’t any players in this year’s crop that won’t end up being 5-star caliber.
The prize of Georgia’s recruiting class is Brice Ramsey, a 97 overall pro-style quarterback who ranks third at his position (via 247Sports). At 6’3” and 197 pounds, Ramsey has the size and arm strength to develop into a terrific quarterback for the Bulldogs. He’ll have to add some polish to his game, but Ramsey looks like he could be the quarterback of the future.
While Ramsey will need some time to develop, 4-star wide receiver Tramel Terry may make a case to earn some playing time very early in his career. He isn’t a huge target, but at 6’0” and 192 pounds, he has the speed and athleticism to be a big playmaker at the college level.
With multiple linebackers departing for the NFL draft this April, Mark Richt did well in recruiting a strong corps of incoming freshman linebackers. Four-star outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is the best of the bunch, adding a terrific mix of size and quickness to the position. Four-star inside linebacker Ryne Rankin and 3-star inside linebacker Reginald Carter should garner some starting attention early in their careers as well.
The Bulldogs didn’t add a ton of flash this year, but they did add tons of players with star potential at the college level. The next four years will simply be a matter of finding the best of the group.
Richt keyed in on defensive backs this season more than any other position, adding five cornerbacks and four safeties to the mix. With some excellent passing attacks in the SEC, Richt obviously wanted to focus his attention on finding players especially capable of defending the pass.
Georgia fans shouldn’t be unhappy with the lack of 5-star players or the No. 12 recruiting ranking. The Bulldogs brought in so much talent and depth this year, and they don’t appear to be in a position to fall off in the SEC any time in the near future.
Texas A&M became a true force in the SEC last season, and with the nation’s No. 10 recruiting class this year, it doesn’t look like the Aggies are going anywhere.
They received letters of intent from 32 total recruits, including a 5-star recruit in Ricky Seals-Jones and 14 prospects of the 4-star variety.
The addition of Seals-Jones should have SEC schools very worried. He’s a monster 6’5”, 230-pound receiver who can dominate opposing defensive backs. He has incredible size, good speed and an extremely high ceiling. While Seals-Jones may see some time at other positions early in his career, it’s hard to imagine the Aggies will leave a player with his talent on the sidelines for very long.
In keeping with the theme, Texas A&M also added four 4-star receivers for its Heisman-winning quarterback. Whether it’s Johnny Manziel, 4-star recruit Kohl Stewart or 4-star dual-threat recruit Kenny Hill under center in future years, the Aggies will have some exceptional target in the passing game.
While Texas A&M’s offense received most of the attention last year, the Aggies finished No. 26 in the country in points allowed, and this year’s recruiting class should only strengthen an already-talented defense.
Texas A&M added 4-star defensive tackle Isaiah Golden (95 overall) and 4-star defensive tackle Justin Manning (94 overall), as well as two highly rated linebackers in Brett Wade and Tommy Sanders (both 4-star recruits).
The Aggies aren’t going away in the SEC, and with a talented recruiting class joining the team in the fall, the Aggies have the potential the challenge for the conference title for at least the next four years.
Stanford could have hoped for a much better recruiting class this year.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal coaching staff, it only received letters of intent from 12 recruits, finishing No. 63 in the final recruiting rankings. Of those 12 recruits, only four were of the 4-star variety and none were 5-star prospects.
If there is a silver lining to Stanford’s efforts, it can be found at the quarterback position. David Shaw secured a letter of intent from the No. 10 pro-style quarterback in the nation this year in Ryan Burns. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Burns is the ideal size for a college quarterback, and he has the arm strength to match.
Stanford also added two quality inside linebackers this season. Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma are both 4-star prospects with good size and athleticism. They should each garner some attention as key contributors early in their careers.
The finished product wasn’t all that impressive for Stanford this year, but as is the case with every team in the country, rankings and numbers don’t tell the whole story. Time will tell how well this class develops, but there are some quality pieces that could prove to be potential starters in the very near future.
With the impressive classes that several SEC teams brought in this year, South Carolina probably hoped it would add a little more to the roster this season.
The Gamecocks received letters of intent from 21 total recruits, but only four of those players earned four stars (no 5-star recruits).
While South Carolina’s class wasn’t especially top-heavy, the Gamecocks did manage to sign pro-style quarterback Connor Mitch (91 overall) and 4-star all-purpose back David Williams to bolster their roster on the offensive side of the ball. Mitch may not see much action early in his career, but Williams could earn some attention as a quality contributor out of the backfield in his first couple years with the team.
The Gamecocks also signed two exceptional outside linebackers in Skai Moore and Larenz Bryant. Both are small, athletic and aggressive—perfect fits for South Carolina’s attacking defense.
While South Carolina’s recruiting class ranked just 21st this year, many of its players will fill positions of need in the coming years. With most of this class playing from the defensive side of the football, South Carolina stands to field some quality defenses in the next three or four years.
The top of the SEC dominated on the recruiting trail this year, and Florida’s 2013 class is proof of that.
The Gators finished No. 3 overall in the recruiting rankings, but they managed to secure more total recruits (27) and 5-star recruits (two) than second-ranked Ohio State.
Florida’s best players arrive at all positions. It signed the nation’s top cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves III, the No. 2 running back in Kelvin Taylor and Alex Anzalone, the fourth-best outside linebacker in this year’s class.
At 5’10” and 216 pounds, Taylor can do it all. He’s fast, powerful and shifty, and should find a spot almost immediately in a backfield needs an every-down runner with his ability.
Anzalone and Daniel McMillian come in at No. 4 and No. 5 (respectively) at the outside linebacker position. Both possess the perfect blend of size and speed to be quality sideline-to-sideline defenders at the next level. Linebackers Matt Rolin and Jarrad Davis should also find a home in Florida’s linebacking corps within the next couple years.
Apart from Taylor, the Gators’ two best offensive weapons to sign this season are Ahmad Fulwood and Demarcus Robinson—both 4-star receivers with good speed and athleticism. Fulwood comes to college with a big frame (6’4”, 200 pounds) while Robinson (6’2”, 196 pounds) isn’t far behind. Both players have the potential to be big-time receiving threats in the SEC.
Florida’s recruiting efforts this year were phenomenal, and the results showed on national signing day. The Gators fell short of a championship run in 2012, but they have a good chance of running down Alabama in the next four years.
Florida State’s defense should be absolutely deadly in the coming years.
The Seminoles signed 22 total recruits this year, but 10 of them earned four stars or better, including two 5-star prospects.
Five-star outside linebacker Matthew Thomas was Florida State’s big signing on Wednesday. The 6’4”, 210-pound linebacker chose Florida State over Miami in a recruiting battle to keep Thomas in his home state. He’s an exceptional athlete. Despite the Seminoles’ depth at linebacker, Thomas could find his way into the starting lineup in the very near future.
Strong-side defensive end DeMarcus Walker, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Freddie Stevenson should also have an impact on the Seminoles defense early in their careers. 247Sports rates both Ramsey and Walker 97 overall and in the top five at their respective positions.
The offensive side of the ball didn’t go unnoticed for Florida State, though. It brought in all-purpose back Ryan Green (96 overall), wide receiver Levonte Whitfield (90 overall) and wide receiver Isaiah Jones (90 overall) to add depth and a foundation of playmakers for the next four years.
While Florida brought in the more impressive recruiting class, Florida State didn’t leave much on the table in the battle for Florida. The Seminoles did a terrific job recruiting for both future need and immediate depth for 2013.
After a failed stint with Rich Rodriguez at the helm, Brady Hoke took the reins in Ann Arbor and reshaped the future of the Michigan football program.
Michigan put together a solid campaign in 2012, but there are much brighter years ahead for the Wolverines and the Big Ten. With 27 total recruits in tow, Hoke’s new class will be a strong foundation on which he will build the program going forward.
The brilliance of Hoke’s approach is in the vision he has for the future of his team. He added a number of players this year that fit the mold of Big Ten football, including five 4-star offensive linemen capable of driving Michigan’s offense on the ground.
The Wolverines also received letters of intent from three big, strong 4-star defensive linemen in Taco Charlton, Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst, Jr, all of whom should see sizeable playing time early in their careers.
When running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was sidelined last year with a leg injury, Denard Robinson took over as the Wolverines’ running back. Robinson will be leaving for the NFL draft in April, though, and Michigan needed to add some depth behind Toussaint.
Derrick Green can be that running back to fill in behind Toussiant and have a big impact on Michigan’s running game. At 6’0” and 220 pounds, Green is a bruiser who is just as capable off the edge as he is between the tackles. Paired with a terrific crop of new offensive linemen, the future of the Wolverines’ running game looks especially bright.
Hoke added quality players at nearly every position this year, and while some of them won’t see much playing time in 2013, several stand to make an immediate impact. With the squads of Meyer and Hoke finishing second and fourth (respectively) in the recruiting rankings, the fiercest rivalry in football should take on new life in the coming years.