The Top 15 College Football Recruiting Classes of 2011: July Edition
Before you check out my updated list of 2011's top 15 recruiting classes, make sure to skim through June's edition. It introduces the foundations of many of these classes and provides a context for what's changed in the past month and a half.
(Also be sure to check out fellow B/R writer Michael Pinto's assessment of the top 10 classes for another take).
Now that you've done that, you're free to examine which teams crack the current top 15 ranking, and which have fallen out entirely.
Big movements in June and July brought a few new faces to the table, and solidified the positions of others. Some classes are still coasting on their early momentum...or seeing their leads slip away. Others are putting it all on autopilot.
Click through to find out who went where when.
No. 15: Texas Tech
Texas Tech did gain four verbals in June, and one blue-chipper for the 2012 class in LB Derek David, but they were somewhat unheralded.
Only Le'Raven Clark, an offensive tackle out of Rockdale, TX, was ranked by Rivals. However, Clark did hold offers from Nebraska, Louisville and TCU and interest from Oklahoma and Texas A&M, so I would consider him a fringe four-star player with adequate upside.
The Red Raiders' position among the top 15 still hangs on five outstanding offensive commitments: four-star RBs Bradley Marquez and Kenny Williams, four-star QB Michael Brewer, four-star TE Jace Amaro and four-star OT Tony Morales.
I fully expect new defensive coordinator and former Alabama LBs coach James Willis to grab one or two more big-time defensive commitments. But hopefully they do it soon, as Auburn, Pitt, and Virginia are angling for a spot in the top 15.
No. 14: Florida State
Since our last check-in, the Seminoles found their 2011 QB in Mobile, AL prospect Jacob Coker and added a big-time target for him in WR Rashad Greene, a four-star receiver out of Fort Lauderdale.
But this class actually took a step back with the departure of safety Cortez Davis. One of the most high-profile soft verbals in the 2011 class, Davis flipped back to Clemson after originally decommitting from the Tigers in favor of Florida State.
Davis's departure now makes fellow four-star 2011 safety Karlos Williams much more crucial to hang on to. And you'll notice he, too, is a soft verbal, with interest growing in Alabama.
Based on the late heroics of the FSU coaching staff in the last class, I don't think they'll ever be down and out. A great year from Heisman candidate Christian Ponder could help recruiting on the scoring side of the ball, which has actually been somewhat lacking despite coach Jimbo Fisher's offensive pedigree. And heck, Davis could always flip back to FSU tomorrow.
No. 13: Stanford
The Cardinal entered the ring as a serious contender with back-to-back June commitments from four-star LB James Vaughters and four-star RB Remound Wright, neither of whom live within 2,000 miles of NorCal.
Other meaningful commitments include DE Charlie Hopkins, a four-star out of Spokane, WA; QB Evan Crower, an underrated passer; RB Amir Carlisle, a bruising running back who may be looking twice at Notre Dame; and Anthony Sarao, a three-star middle linebacker who is waiting on a good SAT score to clear admissions.
No. 12: UNC
Everyone say hello to the newest members of the top 15, the UNC Tar Heels.
The Heels landed right in the top 15 after an outstanding stretch of commitments in late June and early July.
Four-star OTs Kiaro Holts, Landon Turner and Jamar Lewter, four-star QB Marquise Williams, and SN100 LB Christian Russell have all verballed to UNC just in the last three weeks.
They join QB Everett Golson, one of the top athletes in the class, and four-star offensive guard Jarrod James, a March verbal and decorated lineman on the interior.
Not surprisingly, that flurry of activity has piqued the interest of other top prospects. Four-star linebacker Travis Hughes named UNC a leader and has iterated that their efforts on the recruiting trail have only widened that lead.
Everybody knows top 2011 recruit Jadeveon Clowney named UNC as a leader out of spring ball. He could become the crown jewel in a top five class.
Plus, given the potential the Tar Heels have for a breakthrough season, you have to think their stock could only rise from here.
No. 11: Nebraska
The Cornhuskers are holding fast to a top 15 ranking after two solid June commitments.
QB Bubba Starling pledged to the Cornhuskers over an aggressive campaign from Notre Dame, setting up an interesting future battle for the QB spot between him, fellow 2011 signee Jamal Turner, 2010's Brice Carnes and Cody Green.
The Huskers also grabbed top in-state recruit and four-star tackle Zach Sterup, putting them at five decorated commitments on the offensive line for 2011.
I don't know as much about Daniel Davie, a 6'0, 181 lb safety out of Beatrice, NE who also verballed in June, but he looks like a solid pickup who held offers from Ohio and Kansas and interest from Iowa before committing.
This class could crack the top five with some movement from five-star RB Aaron Green, four-star DT Mickey Johnson and/or four-star LB Anthony Sarao, a current Stanford commitment who may not qualify academically for the Cardinal.
For the moment, they're still my pick for top QB haul in the 2011 class, and that offensive line haul is outstanding too.
No. 10: Georgia
The Bulldogs's 2011 class is still worthy of a top-10 ranking on the strength of QB Christian LeMay and DE Sterling Bailey, two blue-chip performers at their position.
The Dawgs solidified their current position in the top 10 by grabbing a big-time contributor in ATH Nick Marshall, whom many believe will step in at cornerback, a position of great need in this class.
Marshall, a 6'2", 185 lb athlete out of Rochelle, GA, is also an accomplished quarterback who took a long look at Clemson and Georgia Tech before committing to the Dawgs. If UGA's cornerback depth improves, perhaps a position switch is in the cards?
Another June verbal, center Hunter Long, is a legacy commit who earned an offer after competing at a UGA summer camp. He was receiving interest from Alabama, Arkansas and UNC as well.
No. 9: Notre Dame
After completing Phase One of Notre Dame's new recruiting plan by grabbing four of the most talented offensive linemen in the class, the Irish are turning to phase two: rebuilding the patchwork defense that got them in this mess in the first place.
ND grabbed three solid defensive commitments since our last update: LB Ben Councell, DE/OLB Clay Burton and four-star DB Eilar Hardy, a safety/corner hybrid out of Pickerington, OH.
In that same stretch, however, they've seen two major QB targets go off the board, Bubba Starling to Nebraska and Justin Worley to Tennessee. Though I question how severely the Irish need a QB with underrated prep star Andrew Hendrix in the last class and Dayne Crist with two years of playing time, I trust ND's coaches know more than I do about what's necessary in a given class.
The departure of freshman safety Matt Badger on a two-year mission also increases the need for defensive backs in this class, especially given Kelly missed out on many of ND's top targets in last year's class. Also, watch for movement from Florida DE Aaron Lynch. The four-star prospect named the Irish his leader in March and has been hinting that he's approaching a decision recently.
No. 8: Clemson
In my June write-up, I said Clemson's class was talented and populated, but bereft of a player or players to "hang one's hat on."
The Tigers added more than a few hat-hooks in June, grabbing five-star wide receiver Charone Peake, five-star all-purpose back Mike Bellamy, fringe four-star tackle Isaiah Battle and flipping four-star safety Cortez Davis from Florida State back to Clemson.
The Tigers lead for a surprising number of blue-chip defenders, too, including linebacker Tony Steward and defensive back Sammy Watkins, both Florida prospects.
The Tigers easily win the June's Best award, and, at 16 commitments and counting, could put themselves in contention for a top-five class with an outstanding fall if they can get a few more elite defenders in for an official.
No. 7: Florida
I can't give credit for commitments from fake people, but once five-star athlete James Wilder does drop for the Gators, I'll be willing to put them in the top five.
Until then, UF sits just outside.
The Gators enjoyed solid June/July verbals from a strong group of receivers, four-stars Ja'Juan Story and Javares McRoy; four-star tackle Tommy Jordan; in-state linebacker Ryan Shazier, a must-get recruit in the class; versatile RB Hunter Joyer; and kicker Kyle Christy, whom I've heard described as the second-best in the class.
They bizarrely missed out on linebacker Kent Turene, who committed to USC just after a meeting with Florida's coaches, and are also on the outside looking in at ATH Sammy Watkins, who now favors Clemson and Miami after an early Gator lean.
But doubt their recruiting wizardry at your peril. Despite a slow start, the bite is back.
No. 6: LSU
LSU maintains their top ten ranking just by holding serve.
Picking up no verbals in the months of June and July would be disconcerting for most, but the Tigers still hold one of the most talented classes in the country on the strength of stud tackle La'El Collins, versatile receiver Jarvis Landry and dynamic RBs Kenny Hilliard and Jeremy Hill.
Trai Turner, their most recent pickup, is a monster guard, slightly raw but with enormous upside.
No. 5: Alabama
Alabama added two prospects to its now 14-man class since our last check-in: inside linebacker Vinnie Sunseri and center Isaac Luatua.
Neither are blue-chips, but both held competitive offers, Sunseri from Pitt (where his brother Tino is competing for the QB spot; his father Sal is Alabama's newly-minted LBs coach), Luatua from Arkansas, Tennessee and UCLA.
The Tide still boast the strongest wide receiving positional group in the 2011 class, and are in on several top prospects: No. 1 prospect and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Trey Depriest, RB Isaiah Crowell and safety Damian Swann. A verbal from any of those puts them in serious contention among the top five.
No. 4: Oklahoma
Oklahoma made up for the defection of former tight end commitment Chris Barnett with a verbal from TE Dan Tapko, an ideal talent for the heavy receiving role TEs play in the OU offense and No. 178 on the Rivals top 250.
The Sooners also added tackle Dylan Dismuke, another Rivals top 250 talent, and unscouted cornerback Brandon Carter out of Euless, TX.
OU hasn't closed the gap on its divisional rival for the top class like some Sooner fans might like, but this is still an extremely diverse, rich and deep class at every position, especially RB and DT. A blue-chip verbal at defensive end is still a top priority, however, with the Sooners missing out on Jackson Jeffcoat in the previous class.
No. 3: USC
Ironically, USC's class is four commitments stronger than it was when I last posted a grading of the classes.
One of those, Kent Turene, was a huge surprise and a reach even in the best of times. Few, if any, recruitniks predicted the four-star Florida linebacker was leaning towards the Trojans on the eve of his decision.
The other three are perhaps less heralded though no less crucial. The Trojans gained a verbal from top 2011 kicker Andre Heidari, long-snapper Peter McBride and monster offensive tackle Marcus Martin.
With no decommitments to speak of and none on the horizon, it looks like the USC coaching staff has done a good job convincing it's 2011 class that all will be well. The same can't be said for the reaction from the current roster or from its biggest 2010 signee, but from a recruiting standpoint, it's as though the whole thing never happened.
No. 2: Ohio State
The Buckeyes enjoyed a solid month, picking up four-star tight end Nick Vannett, wide receiver Devin Smith and underrated safety Ron Tanner and adding DT Joel Hale to the stockpile of talented defensive linemen they already have in the fold.
At 17 commitments already, Ohio State can now afford to get choosy with their remaining spots. There's absolutely no need at running back, so watch for OSU to turn the heat up on Trey DePriest, who is rumored to be leaning to OSU after a long flirtation with Bama, as well as OLB Curtis Grant, LB Andre Sturdivant and DB Doran Grant, a must-get five-star corner from their own backyard.
No. 1: Texas
Any hope the rest of the country had of topping Texas for 2011's best class was likely squashed in June.
The Longhorns were able to lure four-star DT Quincy Russell back into the fold, as well as add fringe five-star cornerback Josh Turner to the top defensive backfield group in the country. This despite Turner having practically no fondness for burnt orange at the start of his recruitment, and hailing from Oklahoma.
Regardless of whether five-star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins earns and accepts an offer to Texas on his forthcoming visit, this class, at 22 commits and nary a weak link among them, can't be touched.
That said, this won't be a complete class until a running back, hopefully Malcolm Brown but possibly Aaron Green, gives his verbal to UT.