Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into 2022 Early Signing Period

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2022

Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into 2022 Early Signing Period

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    Keon Keeley is one of the best players in Alabama's stacked class once again.
    Credit: 247Sports

    At this point, the only drama remaining when it comes to who's going to have the top-rated class is just how many elite playmakers Alabama and coach Nick Saban are going to sign.

    The Crimson Tide have all but locked up this year's top class heading into the early signing session, which starts Wednesday and ends Friday. But there are plenty of storylines heading into what is going to be a wild and crazy final hours.

    As schools make their final pitches to prospects, expect movement, decommitments and some of the top targets coming off the board. Others will sign in the early period and announce their college destinations at turn-of-the-year high school all-star games.

    Much of the coaching turnover already has occurred, so we won't see anywhere near the shenanigans we saw with last year's massive movement.

    The Early Signing Period offers its own share of shock and surprises, so stay tuned. Major flip-watch things are already happening with Dante Moore flipping his pledge from Oregon to UCLA. Alabama is trying to turn Iowa pledge Kaydn Proctor, too, which could affect these rankings.

    Here is B/R's rankings of who has the top classes (as of December 19) heading into what could be a wild few days, giving more weight to the better-ranked players and evaluating quality over quantity.

    247Sports rankings are based on the 247Sports composite rankings.

25-21: Baylor, Iowa, North Carolina, Texas Tech, Utah

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    Iowa OT commit Kaydn Proctor
    Credit: 247Sports

    25. Baylor Bears

    Class size: 22 (3 4-stars, 18 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Without question, the biggest pull of this cycle for Dave Aranda is quarterback Austin Novosad. The Dripping Springs, Texas, 4-star is the type of signal-caller who can help the Bears get more consistency at the most important position on the field in the future. Offensive tackle Isaiah Robinson may be protecting Novosad's blind side for the foreseeable future, too. Add in cornerback Tay'Shawn Wilson, and that's a strong trio sitting at the top of an otherwise solid class.

    24. Iowa Hawkeyes

    Class size: 21 (1 5-star, 1 4-star, 19 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: All eyes are going to be on Des Moines, Iowa, 5-star offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor down the stretch as he decides whether or not to stay at home and play for coach Kirk Ferentz's program or to move to the SEC and become part of Alabama's top-ranked class. Colorado and new coach Deion Sanders are trying to get in on the race, too. So, there's plenty of drama. Along with Trevor Lauck, Proctor would form the top half of a formidable duo. Without him, the Hawkeyes fall out of the top 25 with an otherwise pedestrian class.

    23. North Carolina Tar Heels

    Class size: 18 (6 4-stars, 12 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Coach Mack Brown's Heels haven't quite torn up the recruiting trail like recently, but this class is big on needs met. Wide receiver Chris Culliver is probably the most ready to play, and the 4-star could earn some reps vacated by Josh Downs. A trio of defensive linemen/edge rushers in Jaybron Harvey, Tyler Thompson and Joel Starlings could bolster a defense needing help right away, too.

    22. Texas Tech Red Raiders

    Class size: 26 (4 4-stars, 22 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Joey McGuire's relationships in the Lone State State were a big reason why the Red Raiders tabbed him, and those ties have paid off; all but three commits hail from instate. The big ones are a pair of instant-impact safeties in Arlington's Jordan Sanford and Brenden Jones of Mansfield. Isaiah Crawford is a developmental edge rusher with a huge ceiling who may need to add weight but has the athleticism to be difficult to take off the field. Losing OT Tyler Johnson to Auburn was a big miss, but this is a strong first full class for McGuire.

    21. Utah Utes

    Class size: 20 (5 4-stars, 15 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: All coach Kyle Whittingham does is sign quietly strong recruiting classes that aren't going to make headlines but ultimately will win Pac-12 titles. While the Utes have endured some tough decommitments, this is another quality class. Spencer Fano and Caleb Lomu are bookend offensive tackles who could pave the way for big offensive numbers in the future. Getting cornerback CJ Blocker to re-commit after he wanted to re-open things was a huge deal because he's a future all-conference type of player.

20-16: Michigan, Arkansas, TCU, Florida State, South Carolina

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    TCU commit Markis Deal
    Credit: 247Sports

    20. Michigan Wolverines

    Class size: 21 (7 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: One of the biggest puzzles in this year's cycle is why back-to-back College Football Playoff participant Michigan isn't recruiting better. This is not a bad class by any means, but the Wolverines don't have a lot of immediate difference-makers in this year's class, which is surprising. Getting DL Enow Etta all the way from Texas was a major win, because he has the ability to provide key depth right away. Running back Cole Cabana is an explosive playmaker, too. Losing edge Collins Acheampong to Miami was a big blow. This class is kind of meh for a team of Michigan's ilk. The '24 group is setting up to be strong.

    19. Arkansas Razorbacks

    Class size: 20 (8 4-stars, 12 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: The Razorbacks have been hit hard with transfer portal departures, but coach Sam Pittman has some strong reinforcements coming in. The tight end duo of Shamar Easter and Luke Hasz is as formidable as any tandem at that position in the nation. Cornerback Jaylon Braxton was a major pull out of the Lone Star State, and Isaiah Augustave is a running back coming in from Florida who is a sleeper to get some early snaps. This is a sneaky-strong class with some instant-impact ability. Losing 4-star TE Jaden Hamm on Monday was tough, but this is still an OK class.

    18. TCU Horned Frogs

    Class size: 23 (9 4-stars, 14 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Coach Sonny Dykes has things rolling downhill in Fort Worth, and the Horned Frogs program has taken off. Not only are they in the College Football Playoffs, despite a loss in the Big 12 title game, they are also blazing-hot on the transfer market and putting together a strong class. Markis Deal is a difference-maker along the defensive front, and Cordale Russell is a big playmaker at the receiver position. Help is on the way in the secondary, too, with Warren Roberson, Randon Fontenette and Jamel Johnson providing a healthy trio on the back end.

    17. Florida State Seminoles

    Class size: 15 (1 5-star, 7 4-stars, 7 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: The other team that is killing it right now in the transfer portal is coach Mike Norvell's Florida State program, which looks like it finally might have things turned around after a strong finish to the season. The Seminoles are recruiting well, too. Hykeem Williams may wind up being the best big-bodied pass-catcher in the class, and Keldric Faulk has a very high ceiling on the defensive line. Lucas Simmons doesn't get discussed with the top offensive tackle prospects in the nation, but he should. His ceiling is extremely high. There's a lot to like about this group.

    16. South Carolina Gamecocks

    Class size: 19 (11 4-stars, 8 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: It's been tough for Shane Beamer to end the year with big wins over Tennessee and Clemson and see an exodus of players to the portal and the departure of a couple of offensive line commits. But the Gamecocks are still recruiting pretty well, and the big pulls in this haul are OL Markee Anderson and Edge Desmond Umeozulu. Dontavius Braswell is another guy at running back who could be a future star in Columbia.

15-11: Texas A&M, Oregon, USC, Penn State, Florida

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    USC quarterback Malachi Nelson
    Credit: 247Sports

    15. Texas A&M Aggies

    Class size: 15 (2 5-stars, 8 4-stars, 5 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: After last year's runaway top-ranked class, coach Jimbo Fisher has seen a free-fall of talent enter the transfer portal following a horrific year. But the Aggies are right back at it bringing in strong talent, even if there's a big dip from last year. They're going to try to hang on to elite linebacker David Hicks, who is at least flirting with Alabama, Oklahoma and others. Getting Rueben Owens after Louisville's Scott Satterfield left for Cincinnati was a huge coup, and offensive lineman Chase Bisontis is a strong pull, too. Several members of A&M's class may be worth watching in the early signing period, though, so stay tuned.

    14. Oregon Ducks

    Class size: 23 (1 5-star, 13 4-stars, 9 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: One major question was answered this year as young, first-year coach Dan Lanning proved he could win on the field, and his recruiting acumen looked strong, too, as he put together a big-time class. But losing quarterback commit Dante Moore this week to UCLA was a major loss that can't be sugarcoated. With Ty Thompson waiting in the wings and Bo Nix coming back, that won't have many instant ramifications, but it's a blow to the class and perception, because Moore is special. This is still a strong group, though, with star receiver Jurrion Dickey, do-it-all athlete Kenyon Sadiq and running back Dante Dowdell leading the way besides Moore.

    13. USC Trojans

    Class size: 20 (3 5-stars, 7 4-stars, 10 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: There's a lot of growth potential here in coach Lincoln Riley's first full class with the Trojans, but the top of the group hasn't changed much since early in the process. The big three are all offensive playmakers, led by signal-caller Malachi Nelson, who flirted with other programs but ultimately will sign with USC. Zachariah Branch and Makai Lemon ensure the Trojans will have star receivers for years to come, and guys like edge rusher Braylan Shelby and LB Tackett Curtis should provide depth and instant-impact ability on the other side of the ball. USC isn't going anywhere, and you can look for Utah to have competition at the top for several years to come, especially if Riley keeps bringing in classes like this.

    12. Penn State Nittany Lions

    Class size: 23 (1 5-star, 15 4-stars, 7 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Few teams got more out of their class of 2022 recruits this past year than coach James Franklin and Penn State. The Nittany Lions signed an elite class, and those guys helped all over the field. They're following that up with another great haul in the '23 cycle, led by a pair of strong offensive linemen in J'ven Williams and Alex Birchmeier, who are future all-conference type players. Tony Rojas is big and talented enough to help right away at linebacker, and King Mack brings the goods on the back end. There aren't a lot of "sexy" skill-position guys here, but Franklin has another great group.

    11. Florida Gators

    Class size: 21 (18 4-stars, 3 3-stars)

    Notable recruits: Whether or not Billy Napier is a good on-field coach is up for debate following a disappointing 6-7 season that included a loss to Vanderbilt, but his recruiting chops aren't. The Gators have a strong class, led by QB Jaden Rashada, who may get the opportunity to start right away unless UF gets a better option from the portal. Eugene Wilson III and Aidan Mizell is a great 1-2 punch at receiver, and Kelby Collins could develop into a dominant defensive lineman. This class is deep and strong, and there are quality players on both sides of the ball.

10. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Keeping Smyrna LB Arion Carter instate was a big boost to Tennessee's class.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 24 (1 5-star, 12 4-stars, 11 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    Tennessee and second-year coach Josh Heupel nearly made the College Football Playoff, and the Volunteers parlayed that success into one of the healthiest recruiting classes in years on Rocky Top.

    Bolstered by 5-star signal-caller Nico Iamaleava Jr., the Vols have 14 mid-term enrollees already on campus and ready to go. With Hendon Hooker off to the NFL, Iamaleava is ready to battle for reps right away, and he is the kind of quarterback who can keep the level of play high.

    Tennessee also got major wins with DL Daevin Hobbs, who some services rank as a 5-star talent, and LB Arion Carter, who the Vols kept at home after a heavyweight battle against Alabama. Those two could earn major reps right away.

    A class of linebackers and edge rushers that include Carter, Caleb Herring, Chandavian Bradley, Jeremiah Telander and Jalen Smith is strong, and the DB class looks like it can provide immediate dividends, too, despite the loss of Sylvester Smith to Auburn.

    This is a deep, strong class for the Vols, who loaded up and kept a lot of top talent in the Volunteer State and hit on some fantastic early evaluations on guys like Smith and receiver Nathan Leacock, who wound up surging up the rankings.

9. Clemson Tigers

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    Pulling Peter Woods out of Alabama continues Dabo Swinney's success getting prospects each year from his home state.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 25 (1 5-star, 18 4-stars, 6 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    You don't see Clemson coach Dabo Swinney too involved in the transfer portal, and while that's something he's going to need to adapt to, the Tigers are still trying to build their team the old-fashioned way – through recruiting.

    This year's class is another strong one, bolstered by 5-star defensive lineman Peter Woods, who hails from Alabama and is a player the Crimson Tide wanted. As a matter of fact, three of Clemson's top four players hail from the Yellowhammer State.

    Birmingham's Christopher Vizzina is a top-shelf quarterback who looks like the next in line after Cade Klubnik, and DL Tomarrion Parker is a top-100 player, too, who had offers from a bunch of SEC schools and chose to head over to South Carolina to play in the ACC.

    Georgia defensive lineman Vic Burley looks like the next big-time Clemson player at that position, and he is only going to get bigger and stronger. Ronan Hanafin is a sleeper down on the list, but the athlete could play receiver for the Tigers and be a good one rather quickly.

8. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Brandon Inniss spearheads an incredible class of receivers for the Buckeyes.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 20 (1 5-star, 18 4-stars, 1 3-star)

    Notable recruits

    The strength of Ohio State's class without question is a trio of elite receivers – Brandon Innis, Noah Rogers and Carnell Tate. With the Buckeyes churning out top NFL receivers each year, you can't blame any pass-catchers who want to go play for position coach Brian Hartline, who is doing as well as anybody in the nation in convincing top talent to come to Columbus.

    Luke Montgomery is one of the most college-ready offensive linemen in the nation, and he is going to help anchor the Buckeyes line for years to come.

    One thing Ohio State has been lacking recently is the type of secondary talent on the back end of the defense that former coach Urban Meyer enjoyed, and that lack of defense has been glaring. The Buckeyes are hoping guys like the cornerback duo of Calvin Simpson-Hunt and Jermaine Mathews will change that.

    Coach Ryan Day has 18 players out of the top 200 committed, and Ohio State isn't going anywhere out of the national conversation with a class like that coming in.

7. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Jackson Arnold could wind up being one of the most prolific passers in a loaded QB class.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 23 (2 5-stars, 13 4-stars, 8 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    The Brent Venables experience in Norman isn't off to the best start, and the pressure cooker is turned up a bit because of Lincoln Riley's success at USC. But it was always going to take the first-time head coach time to build his type of program, and he's well on his way to doing that.

    Securing a top-10 class is a big boon for a Sooners team that saw a ton of turnover after Riley left them a year ago. You're still seeing some transfer portal fallout from that team of former Riley guys, but Venables is proving his message is resonating with plenty of recruits.

    Quarterback Jackson Arnold is a quiet 5-star. Even though he's the fourth-rated quarterback in the nation, he's the seventh-rated overall player, and he is a terrific prospect and leader who is the face of the future.

    Edge rusher Adepoju Adebawore is the other 5-star prospect, and he could start right away. Jaquaize Pettaway is a blazing-fast playmaking receiver who is going to be a weapon in coordinator Jeff Lebby's offense. Offensive tackle Cayden Green is a nice player, too.

    Getting a class with seven top-100 players is a nice start to Venables' first full class at OU. There could be some other big wins, too, with players like Peyton Bowen and David Hicks potentially on flip-watch. Those could make a very good class great.

6. LSU Tigers

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    Getting Dashawn Womack to the Bayou from Baltimore was a major win for coach Brian Kelly and Co.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 25 (1 5-star, 18 4-stars, 6 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    Brian Kelly is doing a terrific job recruiting on the Bayou, and that's no surprise. After he was able to get quality players in at Notre Dame, he led the Tigers to the SEC championship game in his first season at LSU.

    Players are taking notice, and while the Bayou Bengals are keeping kids at home, they're also reaching out for quality players, too.

    The best player in their class is edge rusher Dashawn Womack, but offensive tackle Zalance Heard is higher-rated and a 5-star. Both of those players are exceptional pulls and represent both ends of the recruiting spectrum. Heard is local, while Womack comes from Maryland.

    The Tigers also have big-time wins at receiver in Shelton Sampson Jr. and Jalen Brown, who they pulled from Miami under Cristobal's nose and at cornerback, where guys like Javien Toviano and Daylen Austin should be roaming the back end for years to come.

    Don't sleep on the running back tandem of Kaleb Jackson and Trey Holly, either. A more well-rounded Tigers team is coming soon.

5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Peyton Bowen is going to be a force for the Irish, but Oklahoma is trying to steal him and have him join high school teammate Jackson Arnold in Norman.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 26 (1 5-star, 21 4-stars, 4 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    Marcus Freeman is going to be an awesome recruiter as head coach of the Fighting Irish, and even though he lost some guys like 5-star edge rusher Keon Keeley to Alabama, they are signing a loaded class that will be firmly in the top 10.

    Denton, Texas, safety Peyton Bowen is a guy who is going to be all over the field right away, and Freeman is going to put him in position to make plays the way he did former Irish safety Kyle Hamilton. They've just got to hold onto him with Oklahoma trying to steal him.

    Running back Jeremiyah Love is one of the best runners in the nation and is a home-run threat who was a major recruiting victory from the St. Louis area. Also, linebacker Drayk Bowen and offensive tackle Charles Jagusah are great prospects who could have gone anywhere.

    While Cooper Flanagan isn't one of the top-rated recruits, the tight end will have an opportunity to step in and take some of the reps vacated by Michael Mayer, and Flanagan has a high ceiling.

    There are a lot of players to like in this group.

4. Texas Longhorns

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    Arch Manning is one of the most hyped recruits ever if not THE most. Will he live up to the massive expectations?
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 21 (4 5-stars, 9 4-stars, 8 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    Whether you're a big believer in quarterback Arch Manning being the nation's top-ranked player or not, you're eager to see just what kind of prospect he is when he steps on the field. The Louisiana signal-caller definitely has the tools and the bloodlines to be great.

    The Longhorns currently have more 5-star prospects than anybody else (though Bama likely will leap them) with four. Linebacker Anthony Hill is a top-20 national prospect and is a huge win for Texas to get the former Texas A&M decommitment.

    Going into Florida and stealing Cedric Baxter Jr. was massive for coach Steve Sarkisian, and the nation's top-ranked running back could come right into Austin and pick up where Bijan Robinson leaves now that the latter has declared for the 2023 NFL draft. Baxter can do it all and is even a weapon receiving the ball. Teaming him with Manning and 5-star receiver Johntay Cook II gives the Horns a lot of really good offensive weapons.

    Defensive backs Malik Muhammad and Derek Williams and wide receiver Ryan Niblett are other top-100 players in this deep and loaded class. Sarkisian may have endured another up-and-down season, but with the type of talent he's bringing in, better days are ahead.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

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    The addition of Samuel M'Pemba keeps Georgia's tradition of getting elite players from IMG Academy going strong.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 23 (1 5-star, 19 4-stars, 3 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    The Georgia Bulldogs aren't really in the running for the top class this year with Alabama running away with that, but it shouldn't take anything away from another loaded haul for coach Kirby Smart to Athens.

    Georgia already has a nice group of players, and the Bulldogs could land others as they are still in the mix for guys like 5-star edge Damon Wilson, 4-star DT Jordan "Big Baby" Hall, as well as elite tight ends Duce Robinson and Walker Lyons.

    Right now, though they're the No. 2-ranked team in the 247Sports composite rankings, they fall behind Miami and Alabama here because those other teams have more 5-stars than the Bulldogs right now. UGA's class is deep, however, and strong.

    The players Smart and Co. already have in the fold are led by cornerback AJ Harris, a 5-star cornerback from Phenix City, Alabama, whom they plucked from Nick Saban. Edge Samuel M'Pemba was a big win for the Dawgs as they beat conference rival Tennessee for his signature. Safety Joenel Aguero is a big, physical defensive back who looks ready to play right away.

    LBs Raylen Wilson, Troy Bowles and CJ Allen, OT Monroe Freeling, WR Tyler Williams and Edge Gabriel Harris are all top-100 players heading to Athens, too. This group doesn't have a lot of 5-stars, but the top-level talent is still strong.

2. Miami Hurricanes

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    Cormani McClain is absolutely elite, and getting him to the U is huge.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 25 (3 5-stars, 13 4-stars, 9 3-stars)

    Notable recruits

    Nobody in Coral Gables wants to relive 2022 again. This past season—coach Mario Cristobal's first at his alma mater—was about as far away from "The U" as you can get.

    But the future looks much brighter, thanks to some of last year's late-recruiting cycle wins and an outstanding class he's putting together this year. When you combine Cristobal's dynamic personality and recruiting acumen with the hotbed of South Florida, you get the No. 2 class in the country.

    Perhaps most exciting for the Hurricanes was their ability to get two foundational offensive line building blocks in Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola, a pair of 5-stars who should anchor the front for years to come.

    Cormani McClain is a difference-making defensive back and the nation's top-rated cornerback in the class. Edge rushers Rueben Bain and Jayden Wayne are major difference-makers who can get after quarterbacks, and flipping former Michigan edge rusher commit Collins Acheampong was huge, too.

    Getting 15 of the nation's top 300 players will help you turn things around, and this is a very good start to Cristobal's tenure in recruiting. Now, it needs to translate on the field.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Caleb Downs has the potential to step onto the field and immediately be a starter for the Crimson Tide.
    Credit: 247Sports

    Class size: 24 (3 5-stars, 20 4-stars, 1 3-star)

    Notable recruits

    The rumors of Nick Saban slacking after a two-loss season were greatly exaggerated. Yes, it was a disappointing campaign for the Crimson Tide, but they are loading up in recruiting once again and are still on several big-time prospects that could make this class truly special.

    As it stands, safety Caleb Downs and edge rusher Keon Keeley are two of the top-10 players in the country and two of the defenders most ready to help right away. Downs especially is an instant-impact star. Justice Haynes is a do-it-all running back and another 5-star player who is dynamite and a big-time leader.

    This class is so deep and strong, you forget about other great players like RB Richard Young and QB Eli Holstein.

    What's even more ridiculous is the Tide are firmly in the mix if not in the lead for 5-star Montgomery Carter HS teammates James Smith and Qua Russaw, elite defensive back Desmond Ricks and even long-time Iowa OT commit Kadyn Proctor, who took a visit to Tuscaloosa this past weekend as Saban tries to flip him from his home-state school.

    Alabama's class is the best yet again, and it stands to grow. There are not only top targets undecided, but Saban is trying to flip a few, too. This has the potential to be a memorable haul.

    All stats courtesy of cfbstats and Sports Reference. Player rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.