Uh oh, the SEC is at it again.
Don't look for the national theme to drift from the SEC anytime soon, with Alabama and LSU leading a strong conference charge on the recruiting trails, according to the websites specializing in ranking classes.
National champion Florida State – more bad news, Oklahoma State – and Big Ten power Ohio State also earned high praise.
But the overall storyline, again, tells an SEC stronghold, with as many as 10 league teams in the various Top 25s.
TOP 5 RECRUITS
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, 6-1, 226, New Orleans (Saint Augustine), 5 stars: Signed with LSU
2. Myles Garrett, DE, 6-4, 245, Arlington, Texas (Martin), 5 stars: Signed with Texas A&M
3. Jabrill Peppers, DB, 6-1, 210, Paramus, N.J. (Paramus Catholic), 5 stars: Signed with Michigan
4. Cameron Robinson, OT, 6-5, 330, West Monroe, La. (West Monroe), 5 stars: Signed with Alabama
5. Da'Shawn Hand, DE, 6-4, 260, Woodbridge, Va. (Woodbridge Senior), 5 stars: Signed with Alabama
TOP 5 CLASSES
1. Alabama: According to Rivals.com, the Crimson Tide had as many five-star signees (6) as the next most – Florida State and Texas A&M – combined. They also count seven Parade All-Americans. Counting in 13 four-star prospects, Bama boasts the unanimous No. 1 class in the country. Bama dotted elite recruits across the board, too, with offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, cornerback Tony Brown, athlete Bo Scarbrough, linebacker Rashaan Evans and cornerback Marlon Humphrey all earning Rivals five-star status. The Tide came to Oklahoma to get its quarterback in Norman North's David Cornwell.
2. LSU: Say what you will about Les Miles, players love him. LSU grabbed two of the nation's premium playmakers in running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Malachi Dupre, ranked No. 1 and 2 at their respective positions, by Scout.com. The Tigers got a top quarterback in Brandon Harris and added depth across the board, cleaning up in-state, dipping into Texas and cherry picking from Florida, Illinois and Mississippi.
3. Florida State: What are the Seminoles doing for an encore? The reigning national champions added a nationally touted recruiting class to an already young roster, putting them in play for a possible dynasty. FSU loaded up on playmakers and linemen for both sides of the ball. Running back Dalvin Cook and wideout Ermon Lane are five-star prospects considered among the elite at their positions. Linebacker Kain Daub is a five-star middle linebacker.
4. Ohio State: The Buckeyes dominated its Big Ten rivals, according to the rankings. Urban Meyer appears focused on upgrading the offense, picking up five four-star receivers, including Brooklyn standout Curtis Samuel, as well as four-star running back Parris Campbell. The class is loaded with four-star prospects.
5. Tennessee: Maybe the Vols are finally ready to return to relevancy. Mostly, this is a balanced and deep class – which Tennessee needs in transforming its program overall. There's something for everywhere on the roster, wit the exception of quarterback. Interestingly, the Vols signed two of the nation's top tight end recruits in four-star prospects Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf.
IRISH RELOAD UP FRONT
Notre Dame added depth on national signing day where it was most needed: along the defensive front seven and the offensive line.
“You're winning up front, and building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class, and then having some really good players across the board for us,” coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday.
The Irish have holes to fill along the defensive front. Linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt decided to leave with a year of eligibility left to enter the NFL draft and defensive line recruit Matt Dickerson decided last month to sign with UCLA instead of Notre Dame to stay closer to his ailing father.
Defensive lineman Daniel Cage of Cincinnati announced Wednesday he was signing with the Irish after visiting the school just last weekend, and Peter Mokwuah of Staten Island, N.Y., committed to the Irish late last month before even visiting the school.
Kelly said the Irish coaching staff decided late it needed more defensive line depth.
“We didn't cast a large enough net, and we just needed to be out there larger in terms of our number of candidates, and so that's why we went back in that way,” he said.
The highest-rated recruits signed by the Irish were linebacker Nyles Morgan of Crete, Ill., offensive lineman Quenton Nelson of Holmdel, N.J. and tight end Tyler Luatua of Paramount, Calif.
MEYER TAKES RECRUITING SERIOUS
It's not the same as a victory on the field. Yet having a nationally ranked recruiting class is almost as important to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
“I hear people say it's not important,” Meyer said Wednesday on the first day athletes could sign up to play major-college football. “I disagree. As long as you're keeping score we're going to try to win. I'm disappointed we weren't the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.”
The Buckeyes had to settle for a top-five finish in the rankings, according to most of the experts.
Meyer and his staff were seeking reinforcements at several thin spots – particularly linebacker and offensive line – and were pleased with what they got.
“There is a correlation between how teams do and where your recruiting class is ranked,” said Meyer, 24-2 through two years at Ohio State after winning two national titles at Florida. “But certainly that's not the final product because you've got to coach and develop them after you get them here. But we do pay attention to (the national recruiting rankings).”
Ohio State locked up 23 players, including four linebackers, five offensive linemen and four wide receivers. The Buckeyes needed help at all of those positions, since top linebacker Ryan Shazier left a year early for the NFL draft, the line loses four senior starters and the leading receiver is also graduating.
Perhaps the biggest get was Raekwon McMillan, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound brute out of Georgia who some scouting services called the best linebacker in the nation.
“Every time I visited Ohio State I felt it was the place for me,” said McMillan, who chose Ohio State over several powerhouses including Clemson, which beat the Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl. “Everything about it was great. Coach Meyer, the coaching staff is one of the best in the nation and I really like working with these guys.”
AUBURN FILLS NEEDS
The Auburn Tigers landed highly rated recruits at positions where they could use immediate help, and a top-10 class they're hoping will be a springboard to more success.
Coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers capitalized on a surprising run to the national championship game with Wednesday's haul led by three five-star prospects: junior college receiver D'haquille Williams, linebacker Tre' Williams and running back Roc Thomas.
Malzahn said all three could make an early impact.
“We got some outstanding guys that are going to help us win a whole lot of games,” he said.
Auburn signed six defensive linemen and five defensive backs.
The Tigers are expected to be highly ranked in the preseason.
“We're coming off a year where we were 13 seconds short of winning the national championship,” Malzahn said. “We've got a lot of guys coming back and when you add that to this group coming in, the future's very bright.”
KYLE FOOTBALL FOR A&M?
Texas A&M has signed a player who could replace Johnny Football and another who should boost its struggling defense.
The Aggies signed Kyle Allen, who is rated the top quarterback prospect in the nation, to compete for the job left open when 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel declared for the NFL draft last month. Allen threw for more than 8,000 yards and 86 touchdowns in his career at Desert Mountain high school in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“This is a class that I think addresses our needs across the board,” coach Kevin Sumlin said Wednesday as the Aggies unveiled their national signing class. “We have a plan of how we want to do things. We lost some very, very talented players offensively this year and we've kind of replaced those and we had a depth issue last year on defense.”
They also inked the No. 1 rated defensive end in Arlington Martin's Myles Garrett. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Garrett had 81 tackles and 19 1/2 sacks last season. Sumlin joked about his shock when he saw Garrett shirtless after going to watch him play basketball recently.
“He looked like he had on a Batman costume,” Sumlin said shaking his head. “He's put together like crazy. He's got a tremendous upside. He's what we need as an edge threat. He's real explosive off the edge.”
A third standout in the 22-player class, which is ranked No. 6 by Rivals.com and fifth by Scout.com, is athlete Devante “Speedy” Noil. He was ranked as the top prospect as an athlete after piling up passing, rushing and receiving yards at Edna Karr high school in New Orleans.
WILSON SEEKING DEPTH AT IU
Kevin Wilson keeps raising the bar.
On Wednesday, the Hoosiers coach and former OU offensive coordinator signed 21 new players to go with the five he corralled earlier this year and came up a recruiting class that may go down as better than last year's — and could help the Hoosiers finally start winning more games and become bowl-eligible.
“Hopefully, we can start developing some complete team depth and make some strides,” Wilson said after the national letters-of-intent rolled in Wednesday.
Wilson and his assistants were still trying to firm up commitments early Wednesday morning. The extra work paid off when Robert McCray III, a linebacker from Florida, became the newest addition to Indiana's signing list.
Wilson was after two things: Depth on offense and playmakers on defense.
It appears they got both.
Indiana added quarterback Zander Diamont, the Los Angeles city player of the year, running back Tommy Mister, the Chicago Catholic League MVP, several big receivers and three mammoth offensive linemen. The list includes two 320-plus pound Indianapolis area natives, Tim Gardner and DeAndre Herron, and Delroy Baker, a 290-pound Florida native.
FEDORA FINALLY ON LEVEL GROUND
From now on, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora won't have to worry about having fewer scholarships to hand out.
Fedora, the former OSU offensive coordinator, announced a class of 22 players Wednesday during signing day – the Tar Heels' last under NCAA sanctions that reduced the number of scholarships by 15 over three years.
Fedora says the sanctions meant “you can't make mistakes because it's affecting us depth-wise.”
The Tar Heels seemed to do just fine with their limited numbers.
The recruiting services say North Carolina signed one of its best classes in recent years. The key signee is Charlotte running back Elijah Hood, the state's AP prep player of the year who enrolled in January.