Ranking the Top 15 Recruiting Classes of 2011: August Edition
It's that time again: time to rank the top 15 college football recruiting classes of 2011.
Since my last update, several big time recruits have made their decisions. In so doing, they've bumped their selections way up the board, which accounts for a major discrepancy between the July edition and this edition.
Which teams make a top 15 premiere? Which drop off completely? Click through and find out...and I hope your team didn't get shafted, for what it's worth.
No. 15: Washington
Four-star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins bumped Washington into the top 15.
The Huskies join the Top 15 fray by pulling the biggest coup of the year so far, landing in-state tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins over Texas and Florida.
Washington hadn't seemed to be on ASJ's radar for most of the summer. He considered an early commitment to Florida before deciding Texas was the ideal offense for him and angling for an offer.
But something on the unofficial visit he took to Texas didn't sit well—rumors were that the Longhorns wanted to move him to tackle if he kept up his current weight—and he chose the Huskies in a shocker.
Washington is also rumored to lead for 4-star, top B/R 100 receiver Kasen Williams, and holds a soft verbal from top-25 recruit Brendon Bigelow.
I'd like to see a little more balance on defense, but this is shaping up to be an all-star reloading effort on offense for Sark.
No. 14: UNC
Four-star tackle Landon Turner is part of UNC's stellar offensive line haul this year.
I consider UNC's class one of the best offensive classes in the country, with elite commitments all around.
Take three (three!) 4-star tackles—Kiaro Holts, Landon Turner, and Jamar Lewter. Add a 4-star guard, Jarrod James. Bring in two athletic, underrated QBs (Everett Golson and Marquise Wright). Wrap it up with two fringe 4-star running backs—Travis Riley and new commit Romar Morris. And top it off with a 4-star tight end—Eric Ebron.
What do you get? A brewing controversy over your defensive line coach and his ties to agents. Well, yes, you get that. But you also get the antidote to UNC's extremely poor offense for years to come: a solid o-line, and people who can run and throw well behind it.
This class of o-linemen should come to maturity just as stud QB Bryn Renner hits his senior year. If so, UNC could be the Miami of 2013.
No. 13: Pitt
ATH Terrell Chestnut (No. 10) will be a good project for Pitt's coaches to develop either on offense or defense.
Pitt has had arguably the best recruiting summer no one saw coming.
They've landed 4-star commitments at defensive back (Kyshoen Jarrett), athlete (Terrell Chestnut and Bill Belton), DT (Marquise Wright), and RB (Jameel Poteat) just in space of two months.
Three defensive ends dropped within a week: Desimon Green, Deonte Gibson and Max Issaka, the latter of which is on the fringe of receiving a fourth star.
Though balance is lacking, the Panthers have a ton of momentum heading into the season. Whether they're capitalizing on the lackluster performance of Penn State or selling a line about jumping to the Big Ten, whatever they're doing is working.
No. 12: Auburn
Four-star cornerback Jonathon Rose is Auburn's best commitment on defense to date.
Auburn sits comfortably in the top 15 with new commitments from 4-star cornerback Jonathon Rose, 4-star receiver Jaylen Denson, and fringe 4-star defensive end Keymiya Harrell.
Finally, this class is balancing outstanding commitments on offense (QB Kiehl Frazier and OG Reese Dismukes) with the defensive talent and depth that will make Auburn a more complete team.
The Tigers enter the season with interest from several top recruits like RB Demetrius Hart, LB Kris Frost, and RB Mike Blakely and high hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC West. A great season, and they could come close to matching their No. 4 overall finish in the 2010 recruiting rankings.
No. 11: Georgia
Four-star QB commit Christian Lemay will forego his senior season of high school.
No change for Georgia's 2011 recruiting class aside from missing out on James Wilder. A rumor that Wilder would commit to Georgia was spread a few days before his commitment from that wasteland of college football writing, AOL Fanhouse. But Wilder wound up at Florida State.
In other interesting news, UGa QB commitment Christian Lemay will skip his senior season of football due to conflicts with his high school. He will complete his secondary education independently, and still plans to enroll early at Georgia.
The year off can't possibly help his development at reading defenses, but I welcome him to the league of armchair quarterbacks across the country.
No. 10: USC
The status of five-star athlete DeAnthony Thomas' commitment to USC is suddenly in doubt.
The Trojans' hold on the top 15 is slipping with the rumor that 5-star CB/RB DeAnthony Thomas, who was already a soft verbal, now favors UCLA and Washington and will take visits to both.
Thomas is USC's best recruit at this point, a versatile player who would enroll at a time when versatility is what the Trojans need most.
ESPN writer Tom Luginbill still considers this the best class in the Pac-10 on the strength of defensive line commits Antwaun Woods and Jalen Grimble, and I can't argue with that.
But with no new commitments over the past month and the biggest one wavering, I'm hedging my bets that this class will look different in September.
No. 9: Notre Dame
Four-star defensive end Aaron Lynch made his love of the Irish official with a commitment.
Notre Dame's class caught another updraft at the end of July with the commitments of two 4-stars, defensive end Aaron Lynch and all-purpose back Justice Hayes, and two 3-stars, CB Jalen Brown and DE Anthony Rabasa.
Hayes will spread teams out as a pass-catching RB or slot receiver. Brown was one of ND's top targets at cornerback; he'll complement current safety commit Eilar Hardy well. Lynch and Rabasa are ideal fits for ND's move to the 3-4 defense. They're tweener recruits who will rotate between end and outside linebacker before settling at the position where depth is most needed.
This keeps the Irish in the top 10. Finding (or stealing) a top QB is the best way to fill out this class and maybe make a run at the top five, if he's good enough.
No. 8: Oklahoma
Four-star receiver DeAnthony Arnett is planning an official to Oklahoma for this fall.
No additions to or subtractions from Oklahoma's 2011 recruiting since the last update. The buzz is that their 17-man recruiting class is approaching completion after OU signed a huge class (29) last year.
A few names to watch: 4-star receiver DeAnthony Arnett, who is setting up an official visit for during the season; 4-star athlete Hakeem Flowers, who enjoyed his visit to Norman; and 5-star tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, who included Oklahoma on his final 11 list.
Also, I do think they'll be on the receiving end of more than a few recruit switcheroos, and maybe a few from Texas to boot, after a good season.
No. 7: Clemson
Florida is expected to fight Clemson hard for current Tigers' commit Mike Bellamy.
After a busy June, Clemson's recruiting front has gone quiet as far as commitments.
However, fall will be busy as the Tigers battle with ACC rivals for two top commitments: vs. Florida State for 5-star linebacker Tony Steward, and vs. Miami for 4-star athlete Sammy Watkins.
Also watch for an all-out war for Clemson commit fringe 5-star running back Mike Bellamy. The Punta Gorda, FL prospect is rumored to be Florida's top choice for running back. It will be interesting to see if they can hold onto him up against a more local program as the season progresses and Florida is able to quiet some doubts about its offense.
No. 6: Florida
New Florida cornerback commit Nick Waisome needs to eat a sandwich.
The Gators miss their chance at cracking the top five after losing James Wilder to rival Florida State.
But new commitments Louchiez Purifoy and Nick Waisome cement UF's place in the top 10, at least for this month.
Purifoy and Waisome form an imposing cornerback tandem, perhaps one of the top three in the class. Purifoy rocketed up the Rivals100 list after a recent re-ranking, while Waisome's status as one of the top cover corners in the class was a known quantity.
Next up is attempting to secure a commitment from a running back, either all-purpose stud Mike Blakely, Clemson commit Mike Bellamy or New Jersey stud Savon Huggins, all of whom are top 100 players. The Gators will also be looking to make a splash at linebacker.
No. 5: LSU
Alabama QB Stephen Rivers is LSU's first commitment at QB for the 2011 class.
LSU addressed two big needs since the last update.
They loaded up at the cornerback and safety position since the last update, adding 4-star David Jenkins and 3-stars Jalen Collins, Ronald Martin, and Paul Turner.
They also added QB Stephen Rivers, a 3-star recruit out of Athens, AL and the younger brother of Phillip Rivers...which is all you will hear about Stephen Rivers until he wins a game.
Ohio QB Cardale Jones has expressed an interest in LSU, as has 4-star linebacker Travis Hughes. Hughes also likes UNC, and has said that the winner will get a closer look than the loser. Both are looking to take officials to LSU's campus during the season.
Watch too for a break from in-state DE Jermauria Rasco, for whom LSU is battling Texas, Alabama, and Florida State.
No. 4: Ohio State
A verbal from five-star CB Doran Grant would secure the Buckeyes a spot in the top five national rankings.
Nothing new to report on Ohio State's monster 2011 class. The Buckeyes are still waiting for a decision from top CB target Doran Grant and Glenville players OT Aundrey Walker and LB Andre Sturdivant.
This 17-man class appears a lock to finish top five overall and the best in the Big Ten. Grant's verbal would seal the deal.
No. 3: Alabama
Plant QB Phillip Ely pulled a shocker when he committed to Alabama two weeks ago.
Center Ryan Kelly and QB Phillip Ely are the new commitments for Alabama since the last update, and they're good ones.
Rivals criminally underrates Kelly at three stars—he was one of the most hotly pursued centers in the country, with Michigan and Florida giving chase prior to his commitment. He's a major boost for the interior offensive line, an area of recruiting Bama had only addressed so well over the past few classes.
Ely's pick of Alabama was a shocker. The 4-star Florida QB was rumored to be down to Clemson, LSU, Wake Forest, and Ole Miss, but announced for Alabama in a ceremony at his high school. He's led Plant HS (the alma mater of current D-I QBs Robert Marve and Aaron Murray) to two straight titles and is eying a third as a senior. The latter title he won while going undefeated—Alabama fans, fire up the comparisons to Greg McElroy.
Those commitments keep Alabama in the top five, but I'm hearing they might have lost their chances with 5-star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. ThaRinger's Charles Drake tweeted that Clowney's ties to staying in state are too strong to overcome—this despite Clowney nearly committing to Bama a few times already.
Also, the Tide's rumored tie with Texas for Malcolm Brown looks to have been more conjecture than truth, as the latter verbaled to Texas last week. Their sights now turn to 5-star RB Isaiah Crowell, for whom they will battle Georgia.
No. 2: Florida State
Five-star athlete James Wilder's commitment vaults Florida State into the top three.
A top-three commitment warrants top-three placement for the Florida State Seminoles.
Five-star athlete James Wilder shocked everyone (well, everyone except B/R writer Michael Pinto) by committing to Florida State over Florida and Georgia last week.
While he may not be as natural a running back as outside linebacker, he brings a punishing running style to Florida State. With him in the backfield, the Noles could become one of college football's most feared teams again.
The Seminoles now match two great commitments on offense (Wilder and 4-star OT Bobby Hart) with two more on defense. Safety Karlos Williams is the newest 5-star recruit in the Rivals100, having torn up the camp/combine circuit all summer. Four-star DT Nile Lawrence-Stample is FSU's second-best verbal on defense.
Next up, the Noles will try to spin Wilder's commitment into some momentum with 5-star linebacker Tony Steward, for whom they will battle Clemson.
No. 1: Texas
Texas fans breathed a sigh of relief when five-star running back Malcolm Brown made his commitment to UT official.
Did Texas actually lose a battle for a recruit in 2011? Or was Austin Seferian-Jenkins just hoarding attention from the Longhorns and favoring Washington the whole time?
We may never know. Yet any sting Texas fans felt from the snub was more than overcome when 5-star running back Malcolm Brown made his commitment to the Longhorns official.
Once every other must-get recruit committed to UT, Brown became the must-get of the class. The Cibolo, TX native is expected to lead Texas' transition from a pass spread to a ground-based offense. He has the durability, power, speed and balance to do it, too, and break a couple Big 12 records while he's at it.
Having cemented the top class in the country, I'm not sure if Texas a) desires or b) has room for any more recruits in 2011.
To my knowledge, they've cooled somewhat on Shreveport, LA defensive end Jermauria Rasco (any paranoia Mack Brown had about out-of-state recruits was likely confirmed by ASJ). Any other Texas recruitniks out there want to enlighten us?