Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-8-miami-hurricanes

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 8: Miami Hurricanes (33 total signees)

ACC Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 9

Where They Got 'Em:

The Hurricanes have always been at their best when south Florida players stay near home. With all of the changes around the Miami program the last few years, other schools have been able to find more success in the fertile recruiting ground of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Al Golden and staff were able keep more local talent home this year with a monster signing class of 33 student-athletes, with 26 of those hailing from the Sunshine State.

Miami scored big by inking three members of the AC100. Miramar defensive back Tracy Howard was the top signee, choosing the “U” over Florida and Florida State. Ranked as our No. 3 DB in the country, Howard had over 50 tackles and 10 interceptions during his senior year. Randy “Duke” Johnson is a speedster at running back, and he led Miami’s Norland High School to the Florida Class 5A Championship with his 1,957 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. The third member of the top 100 trio is Palm Beach Central athlete Angelo Jean-Louis, who had eight touchdown catches this season and should play wide receiver for the Hurricanes.

Areas of Focus:

Golden and staff were able to address many concerns in signing 33 new players, and one of those was getting more bodies on the roster for spring practice. Miami had nine early enrollees, including national signees Raphael Kirby at linebacker and Ereck Flowers on the offensive line. Flowers was a teammate of Duke Johnson at Norland, paving the way for the superstar back. Miami also brought in two of their three quarterback signees early, with Preston Dewey of Austin (Texas) and Clearwater’s Gary Crow already on campus.

The Hurricanes will look to add to their stellar wide receiver legacy after signing five wideouts along with the aforementioned Jean-Louis. Malcolm Lewis, a teammate of Tracy Howard at Miramar, highlights this group after a senior campaign with 716 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Robert Lockhart is another wideout to watch. He attended West Boca Raton High School before spending last season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy.

Another huge area of focus for Miami was the defensive line. Seven new players were inked in this group, including national signees Tyriq McCord from Tampa’s Jefferson High School and Jelani Hamilton from Fort Lauderdale powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. McCord was one of the top pass rushers in the Sunshine State, while Hamilton was a longtime Canes commit who lost much of his senior season to a knee injury.

The Hurricanes also added seven new players to the secondary, highlighted by Howard and Deon Bush from Miami’s Columbus High School. Rated as one of the top safeties in the country, Bush had 40 tackles and seven interceptions during his senior season. Rayshawn Jenkins played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back at St. Petersburg’s Admiral Farragut Academy and looks to be another impressive athlete who should improve the Miami secondary.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 3, RB: 2, WR: 5, TE: 0, OL: 3, ATH: 1
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 5, DB: 7, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 170), Miramar (Fla.) High
36. Randy "Duke" Johnson, RB (5-9, 183), Miami (Fla.) Norland
85. Angelo Jean-Louis, ATH (6, 182), Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central

Other National Signees:

102. Deon Bush, DB (6-1, 179), Miami (Fla.) Columbus)
107. Tyriq McCord, DL (6-3, 212), Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson
133. Raphael Kirby, LB (6, 207), Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson
154. Jelani Hamilton, DL (6-5, 262), Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
173. Malcolm Lewis, WR (6, 194), Miramar (Fla.) High
204. Ereck Flowers, OL (6-6, 312), Miami (Fla.) Norland

Early Enrollees:

Preston Dewey, QB (6-2, 203), Austin (Texas) St. Andrew's Episcopal
Gary Crow, QB (6-3, 233), Clearwater (Fla.) Countryside
Ereck Flowers, OL (6-6, 312), Miami (Fla.) Norland
Taylor Gadbois, OL (6-7, 292), Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding
Raphael Kirby, LB (6, 207), Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson
Ladarius Gunter, LB (6-2, 196), Montgomery (Ala.) Fort Scott C.C. (Kan.)
Josh Witt, LB (6-2, 206), Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay)
Larry Hope, DB (5-11, 160), Miami (Fla.) American
Dwayne Hoilett, DL (6-3, 217), Vero Beach (Fla.) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Miami Hurricanes landed the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 13, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-7-stanford-cardinal

-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)

No. 7: Stanford Cardinal (22 total signees)

Pac-12 Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 8

Where They Got 'Em:

David Shaw and staff signed an excellent class of 22 student-athletes from all over the nation. The future Cardinal hail from 14 different states, including three each from California, Texas and Arizona. Stanford also inked a pair of signees from Florida and Washington, as well as one player each from the states of Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Utah.

Perhaps no team in the nation closed better on Signing Day than the Cardinal, who signed seven players rated in the top 79 in the country. Another interesting note is that seven players in this star-studded class have fathers who played in the NFL. The most famous surname in that group belongs to Barry Sanders Jr., son of NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. The young running back amassed 5,037 yards and 70 touchdowns during his career at Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City.

Areas of Focus:

Stanford signed one of the top offensive line groups ever seen in one recruiting class. With All-Americans David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin headed to the NFL, the seven new Cardinal blockers could compete for early playing time. The o-line crew includes three players who ranked in the top 30 of the AC100. Andrus Peat was thought to be a Nebraska lean with his brother playing for the Cornhuskers, but the son of former NFL lineman Todd Peat chose to matriculate in Palo Alto. Kyle Murphy was ranked as the top offensive lineman in the state of California, while Josh Garnett was the best blocker from the state of Washington. Brandon Fanaika (Pleasant Grove, Utah) was ranked as a top 10 offensive guard in the country, but he is expected to take a two-year church mission before enrolling at Stanford in 2014.

The defensive line was also a priority for the Cardinal, and the new crew is led by AC100 defensive end Aziz Shittu. The Atwater native decided to play his college ball close to home, and Shittu registered 101 tackles and eight sacks as a senior at Buhach Colony HS. Luke Kaumatule (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Jordan Watkins (Decatur, Ga.) were also highly-rated pass rushers.

Stanford also focused on the wide receiver position, signing four new pass catchers. Conner Crane (Lantana, Texas), Dontonio Jordan (Hickory Creek, Texas) and Michael Rector (Gig Harbor, Wash.) will be joined by Cardinal legacy Kodi Whitfield (Los Angeles) at wideout. Whitfield is the son of former Stanford offensive tackle and 15-year NFL veteran Bob Whitfield.

Along with Peat, Murphy, Garnett, Shittu and Sanders Jr., the two other AC100 signees are linebacker Noor Davis (Leesburg, Fla.) and cornerback Alex Carter (Ashburn, Va.). Davis was the recipient of this year’s High School Butkus Award as the nation’s top prep linebacker, and he is the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Carter was named Virginia’s Gatorade State Player of the Year.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 1, WR: 4, TE: 0, OL: 7, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 2, DB: 3, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

21. Andrus Peat, OL (6-7, 305), Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-7, 278), San Clemente (Calif.) High
30. Josh Garnett, OL (6-3, 305), Puyallup (Wash.) High
49. Noor Davis, LB (6-4, 235), Leesburg (Fla.) High
63. Aziz Shittu, DE (6-3, 275), Atwater (Calif.) Buhach
76. Alex Carter, CB (6, 195), Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods
79. Barry Sanders Jr., RB (5-10, 185), Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall

Other National Signees:

Brandon Fanalka, OL (6-3, 320), Pleasant Grove (Utah) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Stanford Cardinal
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Stanford landed the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-6-michigan-wolverines

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 6: Michigan Wolverines (25 total signees)

Big Ten Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 3
National Signees: 10

Where They Got 'Em:

This class was equal parts Buckeye and Wolverine. In his first full class as the head coach at Michigan, Brady Hoke utilized the Buckeye State for a huge chunk of this top-10 class. Nine players apiece from in-state and from that state down south set the foundation what turned out to be the Big Ten's No. 2 signing class.

Missouri supplied two, including the No. 2 player in the class, and Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, Utah and California provided one prospect each. The No. 3-rated player in this class, Erik Magnuson, comes to Ann Arbor from Carlsbad, Calif., so two of the three AC100 prospects hail from outside of Michigan's Midwestern recruiting base.

Areas of Focus:

The two biggest ares of concern for the Maize and Blue heading into the 2012 season is the defensive line. And while most recruiting classes don't solve team issues until a couple of years down the road, Hoke did his best to ensure quality depth along the D-Line in 2012.

An extraordinarily talented six-man defensive line class is spearheaded by massive, field-ready AC100 tackle Ondre Pipkins. The 320-pounder proved late in the process that he was physically capable of contributing early and could be the biggest impact recruit in this class. His six forced fumbles as a senior are only a glimpse of what this stud tackle will do once he is a Wolverine.

Two very large, nationally recruited Buckeye State ends, Chris Wormley (6-5, 250) and Tom Strobel (6-6, 265), help with depth as well. Wormley posted 23 sacks and 126 tackles over his final two prep seasons, while Strobel posted 139 tackles and 20.5 sacks over his final three years. This group is complimented nicely by the much smaller Mario Ojemudia. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, the in-state product registered 28 sacks and 207 tackles as a junior and senior. Throw in tackles Matthew Godin and Willie Henry, and Hoke has solved his D-Line issues in one fell swoop.

Linebacker is also a deep area of this class. Early enrollees Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer head north to Ann Arbor from Ohio. Bolden was a force at the Under Armour event in Tampa and could make an immediate impact in spring practice. He was coached by his uncle at famed Colerain High, and his fundamentally developed game sets him up for early success. Nationally rated James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone, who combined for 298 tackles in 2011, make this one of the most intriguing linebacking groups in the Big Ten.

Jenkins-Stone's teammate at Cass Tech, defensive back Terry Richardson, heads a secondary class that features four quality names. Richardson did everything as a senior (49 tackles, 24 rec., 425 yards) after intercepting an absurd 12 passes as a junior. Ohio safety Jarrod Wilson is already enrolled and will help in spring ball. Tall safety prospects Jeremy Clark (6-4, 195) and Allan Gant (6-2, 205) make this one of the biggest (in stature) defensive back classes in the league. Gant's father, Allen Trail Gant, played safety at Michigan from 1982-1986.

Two AC100 blockers, Kyle Kalis and Magnuson, join Nashville product Blake Bars and in-stater Ben Braden to form a solid foursome up front along the offensive line. Kalis is the No. 2-rated player in the state of Ohio, had previously been committed to the Buckeyes and led his team to a state title as a junior. He is the highest-rated player in this Michigan class for a reason.

The offensive skill players, other than quarterback, are well represented as three running backs, two wide receivers and two tight ends signed with Michigan in this class. None were nationally rated. Michigan fans should already know all about Ann Arbor star Drake Johnson, who rushed for 2,805 yards and 37 touchdowns on 343 carries. He is joined in the backfield by scatback Dennis Norfleet and fullback Sione Houma.

With Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway and Darryl Stonum no longer with the team, it will fall to wideouts Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as well as tight ends Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams to step up and create viable depth behind Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 0, RB: 3, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 4, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 3, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

45. Kyle Kalis, OL (6-5, 305), Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward
60. Ondre Pipkins, DT (6-3, 320), Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill
73. Erik Magnuson, OL (6-6, 275), Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon

Other National Signees:

108. Joe Bolden, LB (6-3, 230), Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
128. Terry Richardson, DB (5-9, 165), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
152. Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB (6-2, 215), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
157. Chris Wormley, DE (6-5, 250), Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer
161. James Ross, LB (6-1, 215), Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's Prep
196. Tom Strobel, DE (6-6, 265), Mentor (Ohio) High
254. Mario Ojemudia, DE (6-2, 220), Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison

Early Enrollees:

Joe Bolden, LB (6-3, 230), Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
Kaleb Ringer, LB (6-1, 225), Clayton (Ohio) Northmont
Jarrod Wilson, DB (6-2, 190), Akron (Ohio) Buchtel

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Michigan Wolverines
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Michigan Wolverines landed the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-5-florida-state-seminoles

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 5: Florida State Seminoles (19 total signees)

ACC Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 10

Where They Got 'Em:

Jimbo Fisher and company went all over the world to get players this cycle. Yes, that is right, Florida State signed 17 players from the United States and two stationed in European countries. Massive offensive tackle prospect Menelik Watson, who played at Saddleback Community College (Calif.), is orginally from Manchester, England. Fellow offensive lineman Daniel Glauser excelled the last two seasons at New Mexico Military Institute but comes to the state from Rheinfelden, Switzerland.

Obviously the state of Florida will supply the bulk of any FSU class, and this group features a small but talented six-man collection of Sunshine State prospects. The states of Texas and Alabama treated Fisher well in 2012 as Florida State landed five total players from those two states including the top player in each state. The D.C./Maryland area provided two elite prospects as well, including the top player in the greater D.C. area. 

The national (and worldly) approach to this class further illustrates the ongoing return to national prominece for Florida State under Fisher. Of the seven AC100 signees, only one hails from in-state. North Carolina, New Jersey, California and Georgia provided the Seminoles with one signee each.

Areas of Focus:

No one area in particularly dominated this class as no position got more than three new faces and seven of the 11 "official" positions got at least two signees. However, if there is a major strength to this class it comes clearly along the defensive line. Mario Edwards, the Lone Star State's top player and the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, is headed to Tallahassee. The Noles list him as a defensive end, but he has added 30-40 pounds over the last year and is listed at 290 pounds. At that size and strength, it is hard not to see him sliding inside. He finished his final two prep seasons with 199 tackles, an astonishing 82 tackles for a loss and 29 sacks while leading Ryan to a state runner-up finish in 2010.

Along with Edwads, a talented foursome of hog mollies make this one of the top defensive line classes in the nation. Eddie Goldman (No. 9 in the AC100) is one of two top-10 players to sign with FSU, giving the Noles the top two defensive tackle prospects in the nation. He is a disruptive force up the middle as his 23 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks in 2011 will attest. Toss in pass-rushing specialist Chris Casher — who sat out his senior season after transfering from Faith Academy to Davidson — and Fisher should have plenty to work with in the front seven. Casher was talented enough to play some receiver (22 rec., 408 yards in 2010) while still being a dominant edge-rusher (50 tackles, 19 TFL, 10 sacks). Nationally rated Justin Shanks and tackle Dalvon Stuckey round out a phenomenal five-man D-Line class.

After landing Goldman and Darby on National Signing Day, the biggest unknown with this class concerned the nation's No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston. The talented signal-caller made Noles faithful wait a few extra days, but on Friday sent in his signed LOI to Florida State. Now, fans might still be nervous until the June MLB Draft where Winston is considered the No. 64-rated prospect in the nation by Baseball America. Should he stay at Florida State, he is expected to be a two-sport star — unless he gets selected in the first round and has a lucrative signing bonus staring him in the face.

Until then, Florida State fans can brag about the nation's top quarterback being a Nole. Winston is the heir apparent to E.J. Manuel's throne should he stick around campus following the MLB Draft. Just in case Winston takes the paycheck, Fisher also landed the pocket-passing Sean Maquire from New Jersey. The 6-3, 200-pounder managed to throw 46 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions in a wing-T offense over his last three seasons at Seton Hall prep. He is a quality consolation prize if Winston should decide to play hardball instead.

Darby, also a two-sport track star, brings explosiveness and big-play ability to a small but talented secondary class. The do-everything star for Potomac High played six different positions as a senior after rushing for 1,329 yards and 23 TDs as a junior. Nationally rated P.J. Williams joins him with a versatile skillset that could land him at safety or corner. This isn't a deep secondary class at all, but the dynamic abilities and elite talents of these two make for an intriguing future in the defensive backfield.

The offensive line got a veteran boost with a pair of international JUCO recruits, and AC100 linebacker Murkuss Eligwe leads a two-man class of backers into Tallahassee. Eligwe is a special, versatile player who could play inside or out on defense.

Nationally rated athlete Marvin Bracy and top-100 running back Mario Pender should add some much-needed play-making ability to the offense. A track star, Bracy is considered by many as the fastest high school athlete in the nation and will likely end up playing wide receiver this fall. Pender is one of the more complete backs in the nation. The nation's No. 7 tailback averaged 11.9 yards per carry (1,543 yards) on only only 130 attempts and scored 17 times in 2011. He posted an absurd 13.9 per carry average as a junior when he rushed for 2,261 yards and 32 touchdowns back in 2010.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 0, TE: 1, OL: 2, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 2, DT: 3, LB: 2, DB: 3, K/P: 2

AC100 Recruits:

2. Mario Edwards Jr., DE (6-4, 290), Denton (Texas) Ryan
9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 310), Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
15. Jameis Winston, QB (6-3, 195), Hueytown (Ala.) High
24. Chris Casher, DE (6-4, 240), Mobile (Ala.) Davidson
34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 176), Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
37. Mario Pender, RB (6, 190), Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast
71. Markuss Eligwe, LB (6-3, 225), Stone Mountain (Ga.) High

Other National Signees:

124. P.J. Williams, DB (6-2, 190), Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard
126. Marvin Bracy, ATH (5-9, 170), Orlando (Fla.) Boone
137. Justin Shanks, DT (6-3, 310), Prattville (Ala.) High

Early Enrollees:

Mario Pender, RB (6, 190), Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast
David Glauser, OL (6-6, 317), Rheinfelden, Switzerland
Cason Beatty, P (6-2, 225), Charlotte (N.C) Olympic

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes

5. Florida State Seminoles
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Florida State Seminoles landed the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-4-ohio-state-buckeyes

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 4: Ohio State Buckeyes (25 total signees)

Big Ten Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 11

Where They Got 'Em:

The Ohio State University has been a national brand for decades, and with Urban Meyer now at the helm, its recruiting stature will only continue to grow into the Southeast. Expect Meyer to hit the Sun Belt hard in 2013 for talent. In his short three-month tenure as the Buckeyes' coach, however, Meyer concentrated on dominating the more traditionally recruited areas for tOSU.

Like Florida, Alabama and Texas ahead of them in the rankings, Ohio State used a heavy in-state crop to land an elite class. Meyer signed 16 players from the Buckeye State, including three of the top five and the state's top target in defensive end Adolphus Washington.

The Scarlet and Gray also landed the top players in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts en route to the top class in the Big Ten. Meyer also dipped into California, Florida, Indiana, Colorado and North Carolina for one signee each.

Areas of Focus:

The story most Buckeyes fans are waiting on is obviously Stefon Diggs, the No. 1 athlete in the nation who will announce this Friday primarily between Florida, Ohio State and Maryland. The Gators are the team to beat but should he sign with OSU, this class becomes the No. 3 class in the nation, jumping Florida in the process.

Even without Diggs, this is a special group of future Bucknuts — especially along the defensive line. Meyer is clearly establishing his SEC style along the defensive front by landing the nation's No. 1 pass rusher in end Noah Spence. The 2011 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year finished with 204 tackles, 50 tackles for a loss and 35.5 sacks over his final two prep seasons. He will lead the Ohio State pass rush into the Meyer era with force.

Joining Spence is fellow AC100 ends Washington and Se'Von Pittman as well as top-100 defensive tackle Tommy Schutt. That gives Ohio State four AC100 defensive linemen — which equates to signing four of the top 25 trench players in the nation. This was a clear area of focus for Meyer's staff, and he delivered in brilliant fashion.

The back-end of the defense was improved with plenty of depth as nine players are slotted into either the linebacker or defensive back positions. Nationally rated linebackers Joshua Perry and Camren Williams replenish the middle of the defense. Williams, who finished his final season with 119 tackles, is the son of 11-year NFL vet Brent Williams. At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Perry, who is already enrolled in class, is a tremendous athlete who play inside, outside or even along the D-Line. He is a track and field long-jumper and brings tremendous athletic ability to the linebacking corps.

Armani Reeves and De'Van Bogard head up the secondary class. Reeves was the Catholic Conference MVP after 445 yards rushing on offense, 57 tackles on defense and nine total touchdowns. His ability to score on offense, defense and special teams makes him one of the more versatile prospects in this class. Bogard, who hails from OSU pipeline and prep powerhouse Cleveland-Glenville is one of the hardest-hitting safety prospects in the entire nation.

On offense, the offensive line got the most focus as five total — two nationally ranked — new faces join the offensive front. Joey O'Connor, Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson add tremendous size, talent and depth to an area that Meyer is sure to solidify early on in his career. The lines of scrimmage are where national championships are won, and Meyer landed elite talent on both sides of the ball as six of his 11 nationally ranked prospects will play in the trenches. And lone tight end signee Blake Thomas is considered an overpowering blocker who will make his earliest impact in the running game.

Tailback Bri'onte Dunn is the most touted offensive player in this class, however. The early enrollee checks in at 220 pounds and rolled up 5,479 yards in his prep career at GlenOak High. He posted 1,657 yards as a senior and 2,030 yards back in 2009 while scoring 51 touchdowns over his final three years. Dunn and local product Warran Ball add depth to an already deep but undistinguished tailback depth chart.

Three wide receivers and one tight end also add much-needed depth to the pass-catching pool. Michael Thomas led the state of California (no easy task) with 1,656 yards receiving this fall, while Ricquan Southward brings that Florida speed north to Columbus. He is the lone Sunshine State signee in this class.

After one year at Fork Union Military Academy, quarterback Cardale Jones, who claimed MVP honors of the 2010 Offense-Defense bowl, finally gets to campus — and at 6-5 and 220 pounds, he has the exact skill set Urban Meyer looks for from his quarterback.

The biggest storyline surrounding Meyer's instant recruiting fame has been his ability to yank prospects from other powerful Big Ten programs. Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all lost highly touted prospects to Ohio State down the stretch — and opposing coaches have been outspoken about Meyer's recruiting practices. That said, all is fair in love and recruiting, and Meyer deserves all the praise he has gotten for pulling together the Big Ten's top class in a short three-month period of time.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 5, ATH: 0
Defense: DE: 3, DT: 1, LB: 5, DB: 4, K: 0

AC100 Recruits:

4. Noah Spence, DE (6-4, 245), Harriburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt
27. Adolphus Washington, DE (6-5, 245), Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft
67. Tommy Schutt, DT (6-3, 300), Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard
86. Se'Von Pittman, DE (6-5, 245), Canton (Ohio) McKinley
98. Bri'onte Dunn, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak

Other National Signees:

120. Joey O'Connor, OL (6-4, 295), Windsor (Colo.) High
142. Armani Reeves, DB (5-10, 185), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.
175. Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
179. Taylor Decker, OL (6-8, 315), Vandalia (Ohio) Butler
215. De'Van Bogard, DB (6, 175), Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville
256. Camren Williams, LB (6-2, 215), West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Mem.

Early Enrollees:

Bri'onte Dunn
, RB (6-2, 220), Canton (Ohio) GlenOak
Jacoby Boren, OL (6-2, 275), Pickerington (Ohio) Central
Cardale Jones, QB (6-5, 220), Cleveland (Ohio) Glendale/Fork Union
Joshua Perry, LB (6-3, 230), Lewis Center (Ohio) Olentangy
Tyvis Powell, DB (6-3, 180), Bedford (Ohio) High
Michael Thomas, WR (6-4, 205), Los Angeles (Calif.) Taft

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
5. Wed., Feb. 8
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Ohio State Buckeyes landed the No. 4 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-3-florida-gators

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 3: Florida Gators (23 total signees)

SEC Rank: 2nd
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 13

Where They Got 'Em:

The primary reason that Florida is the best job in the SEC is because of the talent in the Sunshine State. If any head coach is going to be successful in Gainesville, they will have to milk high schools from Dade County to the Panhandle for prospects. And those prep programs are some of, if not the, most talent-rich teams in the entire nation. Will Muschamp knew this going in and signed the bulk of his 23-man class from in-state. With 12 Florida prospects, the Gators didn't have to travel far to build the foundation of this class. Nor should they.

That being said, Muschamp was incredibly productive in the state of North Carolina this season as well. The state is no stranger to Gator staffers, but the job Muschamp's guys did in the Tar Heel state was incredible. Florida signed four total players from North Carolina, including the best two recruits in the state. Offensive lineman D.J. Humphries is the No. 1 offensive lineman in the nation, and it marks the second time in four years that Florida pulled the top blocker in the nation from the Tar Heel State (Xavier Nixon). Defensive end Jonathan Bullard is the No. 2 end prospect in the nation, and he, too, headed south to Gainesville. Humphries is already in class and ready to compete this spring.

Georgia and Pennyslvania provided a pair of talented athletes each while Muschamp signed one player from both Illinois and Mississippi. Urban Meyer had built plenty of inroads to the northeast, and it appears Muschamp wants to the do the same with Keystoners Colin Thompson (TE) and Skyler Mornhinweg (QB).

Areas of Focus:

The most woriesome and startling issue with this Gators' roster is the lack of explosive play-makers on the outside of the offense. For a team built around speedy, ball-in-hand guys for the better part of two decades, it's shocking that Muschamp has this issue on his hands. Carl Moore, Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond and Andre Debose are just few of the elite-level receiver prospects to flop in Gainesville.

So February 10 can't get here fast enough for Muschamp. He and new coordinator Brent Pease are holding out hope that Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs picks the Gators this Friday. The No. 1 athlete in the nation and the No. 5 overall prospect in America is considered a Gator lean, but he would drop this class to No. 4 in the rankings if he signed with Ohio State. More importantly, Pease would still be without an elite playmaker on his new offense.

Otherwise, this collection of talent is worthy of the Gator Chomp. And the best cure for a team that lacks proven outside options is to build from the inside out. Florida did just that with Humphries and fellow top-100 blocker Jessamen Dunker already enrolled. Pease added a pair of complementary tight ends in pass-catcher Kent Taylor and in-line blocker Colin Thompson. They are two of the top three tight end prospects in the nation, and Taylor is the country's highest-rated player at his position. With the developing youth already along the line, these four new faces could make this an area of strength for the first time since 2008.

However, the only nationally rated skill talents in this class are tailback Matt Jones and wideout Latroy Pittman. For most programs, these two could be considered marquee recruits so they are clearly very talented athletes, but can they develop into game-changers? Jones is a big, powerful back, which Gators fans aren't used to seeing in the backfield. He missed four games due to a knee injury but still helped Armwood to a 15-0 season and Class 6A state title. Pittman, an early enrollee, excelled on both sides of the ball in high school as a wideout (481 yards, 8 TD) and defensive back (37 tackles, 5 INT). There is a lot of pressure on these two — and fellow wideout Raphael Andrades — if Diggs signs with the Buckeyes, as they're the only three offensive skill players signed in this class.

The defense, which should be a major area of strength in 2012 already, added some seriously talented athletes to the two-deep. Bullard, who posted 16 sacks in 2011, has a chance to be special off the edge and could make the biggest immediate impact of anyone in this class. He is joined by five other stellar defensive line prospects, most notably Dante Phillips and Quinteze Williams. The nationally rated tackle duo will add quality depth to an already loaded position. They are tall (6-6 and 6-5 respectively), athletic and used to winning — Williams led Sandy Creek to the GHSA 3A State title two years ago, and Phillips helped Venice to the regional semifinals this fall.

The heart of the Gators defense got some help as well as four new faces will slide in at linebacker. Long-time Florida State Seminole commitment Dante Fowler Jr., at 6-3, 261, has a good chance of playing with his hand in the dirt. He is currently listed by Florida as an outside linebacker but would be perfect rushing the passer — something the Gators could use. Either way, he has a chance to be a star. Early enrollee Antonio Morrison and Jeremi Powell are much more traditional outside backers and will be joined by another potential hybrid in 6-6, 223-pound Alex McCalister. On the surface, it looks like the defensive line class could end up being eight-deep instead of six, but either way, the front seven for Florida should be well taken care of for years to come.

Muschamp, a former safety, didn't forget about his area of the field. Three of the four defensive back signees were nationally touted, and 202-pound cornerback Brian Poole leads the way. Poole is fiercely strong for a cornerback and is rated as the No. 9 overall defensive back in the nation. Marcus Maye and Rhaheim Ledbetter, who both weigh in at around 200 pounds as well, give the Gators a new pair of safeties.

Atlanta's Austin Hardin is ranked by some as the nation's top kicker.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 2, ATH: 0
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 1

AC100 Recruits:

3. D.J. Humphries, OL (6-6, 271), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
11. Jonathan Bullard, DE (6-3, 263), Shelby (N.C.) Crest
28. Dante Fowler Jr., LB (6-3, 261), St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood
64. Jessamen Dunker, OL (6-4, 320), Boynton Beach (Fla.) High
65. Kent Taylor, TE (6-5, 225), Land O'Lakes (Fla.) High
71. Brian Poole, CB (5-10, 202), Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast

Other National Signees:

118. Marcus Maye, DB (5-11, 200), Melbourne (Fla.) Holy Trinity
129. Dante Phillips, DL (6-6, 270), Venice (Fla.) High
136. Colin Thompson, TE (6-4, 252), Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood
165. Matt Jones, RB (6-2, 213), Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
203. Latroy Pittman, WR (6, 195), Citra (Fla.) North Marion
247. Quinteze Williams, DL (6-5, 255), Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek
268. Rhaheim Ledbetter, DB (5-11, 195), Shelby (N.C.) Crest

Early Enrollees:

Willie Bailey, DB (6-1, 167), Hallandale (Fla.) High
Jessamen Dunker, OL (6-4, 320), Boynton Beach (Fla.) High
D.J. Humphries, OL (6-6, 271), Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Damien Jacobs, DL (6-3, 310), Scooba (Miss.) East Miss. C.C.
Antonio Morrison, LB (6-1, 209), Bollingbrook (Ill.) High

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Texas Longhorns
3. Florida Gators
4. Tues., Feb. 7
5. Wed., Feb. 8
6. Thur., Feb. 9
7. Fri., Feb. 10
8. Mon., Feb. 13
9. Tues., Feb. 14
10. Wed., Feb. 15
11. Thur., Feb. 16
12. Fri., Feb. 17
13. Mon., Feb. 20
14. Tues., Feb. 21
15. Wed., Feb. 22
16. Thur., Feb. 23
17. Fri., Feb. 24
18. Mon., Feb. 27
19. Tues., Feb. 28
20. Wed., Feb. 29
21. Thur., Mar. 1
22. Fri., Mar. 2
23. Sat., Mar. 3
24. Sun., Mar. 4
25. Sun., Mar. 4

<p> The Florida Gators landed the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 6, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recruiting-rankings-no-2-texas-longhorns

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

No. 2: Texas Longhorns (28 total signees)

Big 12 Rank: 1st
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 7
National Signees: 17

Where They Got 'Em:

As is the case with every Burnt Orange signing class, the state of Texas supplied the majority of the talent. The Lone Star State provided 24 of the 28 total signatures delivered to the 40 Acres on Wednesday. Despite missing on top in-stater Mario Edwards, Mack Brown signed six of the 11 Athlon Consensus 100 recruits from Texas.

Louisiana provided the most excitement as Texas stole top-100 defensive end Torshiro Davis (AC100 No. 77) right out from underneath LSU on National Signing Day. Arizona provided a potential quarterback of the future — a position the Horns need to solidify if they expects to compete for the Big 12 title — and Mississippi supplied a pair of junior college prospects.

Areas of Focus:

With Manny Diaz now steering the ship, Texas fans have to be excited about the development of the defense moving forward — especially considering what the Horns have returning in 2012. Never satisfied, however, Brown helped his rising star coordinator in a big way by signing 12 front-seven defenders.

This group is the strength of the class and features two nationally ranked linebackers, defensive ends and defensive tackles. The headliner is the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation Malcom Brown. He is joined by AC100 end Davis and a pair of stud tacklers in linebackers Peter Jinkins and Dalton Santos. Jinkins, ranked at No. 105 nationally, barely missed landing in the AC100 and should slide to the outside while Santos, at 250 pounds, is built for the middle of the defense. Nose guard Alex Norman and end Hassan Ridgeway were also nationally rated and provide incredible depth to the front seven heading into the future.

The secondary should also be well represented as at least four prospects will be heading to the defensive backfield. Nationally ranked athletes Duke Johnson and Adrian Colbert are already listed as a cornerback and defensive back respectively by Texas while Bryson Echols and Kevin Vaccaro are tagged as DBs as well. Athlete Daje Johnson is the only official “ATH” listed by the Longhorns, so his position is only one yet to be determined.

Quarterback Connor Brewer was, at one point, during this cycle an AC100 prospect but slipped outside of the top-100 and finished as the No. 7-rated signal caller in the nation. While his stock dipped a bit late in the process, Brewer is still the only quarterback in Arizona prep football history to win three state championships and holds the state record with 100 touchdown passes. Athlete Jalen Overstreet is slated to start his career as a quarterback, giving Brown a couple of new options at the biggest position of concern heading into the summer.

The offensive line, as usual, is also loaded with massive upside — in all senses of the word. Three of the four future blockers were nationally rated with blockers Kennedy Estelle and Curtis Riser landing in the AC100. Estelle and Camrhon Hughes both stand 6-foot-7 and both tip the scales at over 300 pounds.

The offensive skill positions have to get coordinator Bryan Harsin excited to get to work this summer. The nation’s No. 1 tailback and prized jewel of the class, Jonathan Gray, holds the national high school record with 205 touchdowns scored and finished his career with 10,889 yards rushing and 1,244 yards receiving. He claimed National Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2011 after rushing for 3,888 yards and 65 touchdowns in Aledo’s 14-2 state championship. Once packaged with Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and D.J. Monroe, the Longhorns could boast the best running back corps in the nation. Gray marks the second straight season that Texas has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Brown).

A pair of AC100 wideouts should give whomever is playing quarterback some talent play-making options on the outside. Cayleb Jones is the No. 7 wide receiver prospect in the nation while Kendall Sanders finished as the No. 11 wideout in the country. Jones, more of the pure pass catcher, finished his prep career with 213 receptions, 3,025 yards and 27 touchdowns. Sanders was utilized in a more unorthodox manner as he rolled-up at 1,000 yards receiving and rushing over the last two seasons. He also played plenty of defense as he earned Defensive MVP honors at the U.S. Army All-American bowl. Along with lower-rated Marcus Johnson, the duo provides new blood to a position that Texas has missed on of late.

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 0, OL: 4, ATH: 1
Defense: DE: 4, DT: 4, LB: 4, DB: 4, K: 1

AC100 Recruits:

7. Jonathan Gary, RB (5-11, 202), Aledo (Texas) High
10. Malcom Brown, DT (6-4, 285), Brenham (Texas) High
51. Kennedy Estelle, OL (6-7, 300), Pearland (Texas) Dawson
59. Cayleb Jones, WR (6-3, 198), Austin (Texas) High
77. Torshiro Davis, DE (6-3, 220), Shreveport (La.) Woodlawn
79. Curtis Riser, OL (6-4, 285), DeSoto (Texas) High
87. Kendall Sanders, WR (6-0, 175), Athens (Texas) High

Other National Signees:

105. Peter Jinkins, LB (6-1, 200) Dallas (Texas) Skyline
134. Connor Brewer, QB (6-2, 200) Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
138. Bryson Echols, DB (5-10, 165) DeSoto (Texas) High
139. Camrhon Hughes, OL (6-7, 320) Harker Heights (Texas) High
155. Alex Norman, DT (6-4, 275) Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne
163. Duke Thomas, CB (5-11, 170) Killeen (Texas) Copperas Cove
181. Adrian Colbert, DB (6-2, 191) Mineral Wells (Texas) High
194. Dalton Santos, LB (6-3, 250) Van (Texas) High
217. Hassan Ridgeway, DE (6-4, 255) Mansfield (Texas) High
255. Daje Johnson, ATH (5-10, 175) Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson

Early Enrollees:

Connor Brewer, QB (6-2, 200), Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Alex De La Torre, LB (6-1, 230), Denton (Texas) Ryan
Donald Hawkins, OL (6-5, 310), Tunica (Miss.) Northwest Miss. C.C.
Camrhon Hughes, OL (6-7, 320, Harker Heights (Texas) High
Brandon Moore, DT (6-5, 335), Montgomery (Ala.) East Miss. C.C.
Duke Thomas, CB (5-11, 170) Killeen (Texas) Copperas Cove

Athlon Sports' Top 25 Classes of 2012:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

<p> The Texas Longhorns landed the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation in 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/2012-recap-national-signing-day-storylines

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

This was easily one of the more entertaining National Signing Days in history.

And in stark contrast to years past, the dramatics had nothing to do with the nation’s top class. In fact, there was a noticeable absence of hype, conversation and overall excitement surrounding the reigning national champions’ No. 1-rated class. It’s almost as if Nick Saban has turned recruiting into a business or something? Alabama's ho-hum collection of five-star future All-Americans aside, there was still plenty of interesting, bizarre, baffling and intense happenings from coast to coast.

Here are the most memorable moments from Signing Day (with a distinct west coast feel):

The Nation’s No. 1 Player Signs With Missouri

Deontay Greenberry Shocks The Nation

Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union wide receiver Deontay Greenberry is ranked as the No. 52 player in the nation. He was a long-time Notre Dame commitment whose best friend and cousin, fellow Athlon Consensus 100 talent Tee Shepard, is already enrolled in class in South Bend. All signs pointed to the duo continuing their friendship on the football field as Irish teammates. But after a very late visit to the Houston Cougars, Greenberry pulled the biggest shocker of National Signing Day by signing with the CUSA-turned-Big East program. The 6-3, 190-pound wideout is the first AC100 signee in Cougars’ program history and the twittersphere nearly exploded when his LOI arrived in Houston. New head coach Tony Levine was one of the toasts of NSD '12.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was apparently as shocked as the rest of us at the news. Kelly likely regrets letting his emotions get the better of him with this commentary on Greenberry, "I used to have a saying about players like that and that was I'd rather play against him for four games than with him for four years," he told Sounds an awful lot like message board trolls who scream sour grapes when star recruits sign elsewhere.

The Great Tosh Lupoi

Washington hired former California defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi on January 16. The Bears featured the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 and were ranked just outside of the top-10 in recruiting after landing Shaq Thompson, Ellis McCarthy and Jordan Payton at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl two weeks earlier.

Since Lupoi was hired in Seattle, Washington has stolen Thompson, the No. 1 defensive back in the nation (and rightly so), and landed nationally-rated SoCal athletes Jaydon Mickens and Brandon Beaver. The Huskies also held onto the No. 4 quarterback in the nation Cyler Miles and stole Patterson (Calif.) defensive end Pio Vatuvei from USC. McCarthy and Payton (more on him in a moment) switched to UCLA and the No. 8-ranked player in the nation, Arik Amstead, sited the loss of Lupoi as part of the reason he landed elsewhere. Armstead signed with Oregon on Wednesday. 

Cal is currently ranked outside of the top 25 in recruiting by every major service and is leaking water on the talent trail. It's hard to see how one young, energetic defensive line coach could have such a huge impact on a conference, but that is exactly what the 30-year old Lupoi has done to the Pac-12. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau probably deserves some credit too.

Stanford’s New Recruiting Cachet

Jim Harbaugh is still rubbing off on the Stanford Cardinal. After landing AC100 star tailback Barry Sanders Jr. (No. 80) back at the start of the 2012 calendar year, head coach David Shaw landed Puyallup (Wash.) offensive lineman Josh Garnett (No. 30). He hasn’t slowed down either as he has convinced the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston to rethink his Florida State commitment and signed a trio of AC100 lineman on Wednesday.

Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol’s Andrus Peat is the No. 3 offensive lineman in the nation and his older brother just finished his first collegiate season on the Nebraska roster. Yet, somehow Shaw overcame the legacy factor and lured the stud blocker to Palo Alto. Late Wednesday afternoon Stanford also got signatures from the No. 4 offensive lineman in the nation, San Clemente (Calif.) High’s Kyle Murphy, and the No. 6-ranked defensive tackle in the nation, Atwater (Calif.) Buhach’s Aziz Shittu.

This is a top-10 class that features three of the top five offensive lineman in the nation. Toss in Sanders, star linebacker Noor Davis and top-100 defensive back Alex Carter, and Shaw has assembled a Cardinal class of unprecedented proportions. Only Alabama’s 10 top-100 signatures top the seven Stanford signed. The Cardinal's national appeal has never been higher.

Kiffin’s Quality over Quantity

Lane Kiffin is picking up right where Pete Carroll left off and NCAA sanctions appear to have had little effect on the USC's ability to recruit. The Trojans entered National Signing Day with 13 commitments. There were only two three-star prospects in the group, one of which is fullback Jahleel Pinner — who is rated as the No. 1 blocking back in the nation. The quality of USC's classes has been astounding for over a decade and the 2012 group is no different.

Despite losing Vatuvei to the Huskies, USC once again won the day by landing Sunshine State talents Nelson Agholor (No. 26) and Leonard Williams (No. 68). Additionally, the Trojans stole Inglewood (Calif.) cornerback Devian Shelton from Oregon State. Kiffin has built an entire staff full of former recruiting coordinators who know how to pound the trail and it shows. Only Alabama has more AC100 signees than the Trojans’ seven.

The offensive line class is one of the best in the nation. Three of USC's seven top-100 signees will play along the offensive line with Zach Banner (No. 50) leading the way. The 6-9, 310-pound Lakewood (Calif.) Lakes product is the son of former NFL star Lincoln Kennedy and could compete for playing time at left tackle right away now that Matt Kalil has moved on to the NFL.

Texas Actually Closes Strong

This is much less of an indictment on Mack Brown’s ability to close as much as it's a testament of his talents for locking down an incredible class earlier than everyone else, but the Texas Longhorns closed on NSD better than they have in years. Brown offered and landed Daje Johnson and Dalton Santos very late in the process and then pulled one of the biggest upsets of the day by stealing Louisiana's own Torshiro Davis away from LSU. It appears that maybe Brown and his staff is beginning to realize that they can now slow the process down a bit — which is strange coming from the program that has accelerated the recruiting calendar more so than any other university in the nation. Brown is showing his ability to adapt and it could lead to a 10-win season in 2012.

Jordan Payton Better Be Good

There are always a few recruiting stories that simply take the cake. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton announced on national television at the U.S. Army All-American on January 7 that he would be attending Cal. On Tuesday, however, Payton switched his verbal commitment to Washington following star recruiter Lupoi to Seattle. However, where did he send his signed letter of intent the very next day? Yup, you guessed it, the UCLA Bruins? There are few stories that have had as many twists and turns as Mr. Payton’s and he better be prepared to put his head down and work hard because there will be more than a few fanbases watching his development over the next few seasons.

Delayed Signatures

The nation’s No. 1 athlete, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel star Stefon Diggs, is the latest on a long list of recent recruits who decided to postpone their signing until well after National Signing Day. He is the No. 5 player in the nation, is considered a strong Florida lean, has friend and former teammate Jelani Jenkins in Gainesville and would be a perfect fit on a roster that is in desperate need of a play-maker on offense. What is left to decide? Why does he have to wait until Feb. 10 to sign? Fellow AC100 prospects Davonte Neal and Jordan Diamond also failed to sign on Wednesday.

Bryce Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Latwan Anderson, Seantrel Henderson, Orson Charles, Cyrus Kouandjio and Vidal Hazelton are just a few of the names that delayed their signings. And for the most part, it has appeared like a mistake as Charles, Pryor, Brown, Hazelton and Anderson have failed to live up to the recruiting hype — or got kicked out of school prematurely. Is signing late a serious issue that indicates the maturity and focus levels of young kids? The evidence, at least in a broad sense, certainly points in that direction.

The biggest name still waiting to sign, however, is the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston. The Hueytown (Ala.) passer is also a stellar baseball prospect and has gotten cold feet after being committed to Florida State since the first week of August. He is considering a late push by Stanford and could wait until Friday to make his decision.

I understand it is an incredibly complex decision, but if 18 years isn't enough time to make up your mind, I can't imagine how an extra week will help. And a late signing is not the same thing as a flip-flop...

The Flip Flops

Every year there are loads of names that seem to be destined for one location only to land on another campus. Athlon Consensus 100 talents Dante Fowler (Florida State to Florida), the aforementioned Greenberry (Notre Dame to Houston), Torshiro Davis (LSU to Texas) and apparently Josh Harvey-Clemons (Georgia to ??? - all in one day) are just a few. Nationally-ranked Bralon Addison (Texas A&M to Oregon) and Jordan Payton (everywhere to UCLA) are just a couple of other highly-touted names to switch on NSD.

At first glance, it can be easy to get frustrated with the flip-flopping and waffling involved with some recruitments. But fans need to remember that this is the single most important decision most of these 17-year olds have ever made and that maybe a touch of patience is necessary.

I think Compton (Calif.) Dominquez cornerback Brandon Beaver said it best at 1:09 p.m. ET Wednesday on his twitter account (@B_2times): “Never been so unsure in my life.” Beaver committed to Washington roughly six hours later.

<p> 2012 Recap: National Signing Day Storylines</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 18:33
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-wins-recruiting-national-championship

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

It didn’t take long for the dust to start settling on what has turned out to be one of the most entertaining National Signing Days in history.

At 8:15 a.m. ET, Nick Saban landed his first big unknown when Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville defensive tackle Korren Kirven (No. 198 nationally) signed his paperwork for the Crimson Tide.

And the Tide just kept on rolling to the 2012 recruiting national championship.

Alabama entered NSD ’12 with a virtual stranglehold on the mythical recruiting national title. It was going to take some minor miracles in Austin, Gainesville, Columbus or Tallahassee to knock Saban’s bunch off that top slot in the rankings.

But Athlon Consensus 100 safety Landon Collins from Geismar (La.) Dutchtown stuck with his initial (and bizarre) pledge to the Tide, essentially sealing the recruiting national championship for Alabama.

With eight early enrollees, Bama already had a huge head start on NSD as AC100 names like T.J. Yeldon and Ryan Anderson have already been to a few freshman English classes. But after finishing with a nation-leading 10 AC100 signees and second-best 16 nationally rated recruits, there is little doubt that this Crimson haul is the best in the nation.

It starts with the linebackers. This five-man group is the best in the country bar none and couldn’t come at a better time after losing stars Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw as well as starter Jerrell Harris. Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones tackler Reggie Ragland is the No. 2 linebacker in the nation and is the No. 44 overall player in the AC100. Ragland proved at the Under Armour event that his size-speed combination is one of the best in the nation. Anderson is the No. 8-rated linebacker, and Dillon Lee checks in as the No. 9-rated LB in the nation. All three are top-100 prospects.

Add to it Taylor Hayes (No. 15 linebacker, No. 143 nationally) and Denzell Devall (No. 20 linebacker, No. 158 nationally) and Saban should have plenty to work with in the middle of his defense. Anderson and Devall, at 6-3, 250, and 6-2, 240, respectively, will fit perfectly in his 3-4 scheme that features a variety of hybrid end/backer combo players.

The secondary, which loses Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Mark Barron, is also well represented with five potential athletes landing in the defensive backfield. Collins, Panama City (Fla.) Arnold star Eddie Williams and Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X corner Geno Smith are three of the top seven defensive back prospects in the nation. Both Collins and Williams rank in the top-21 nationally and could grow into one of the most imposing safety tandems in the country. Collins is listed at 6-2, 210 while Williams checks in at 6-4, 205. That is serious strength at the backend of Saban’s defense. Smith is the No. 3-rated coverman in the nation.

The big news on NSD for Saban, however, came along the defensive line. He got the day started with the 6-4, 275-pound Kirven and followed that up almost immediately with McDonough (Ga.) Henry County nose guard Dalvin Tomlinson. Packaged with a trio of three-star defensive tackles, Alabama has added incredible depth to the middle of its defensive line.

The only blemish on the day for the Crimson Tide was the loss of Atlanta (Ga.) Washington tailback Justin Taylor to Kentucky. Yet, with Dee Hart returning from injury and Yeldon already enrolled — to go with incoming Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove speedster Kenyan Drake — the Alabama running game should be in great hands for years to come.

A pair of Sunshine State AC100 wide receivers, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast’s Chris Black and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern’s Amari Cooper, should help replenish a receiving corps that saw Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks depart due to graduation. Do-everything top-100 athlete Cyrus Jones could also contribute in a big way on the offense as well.

In all, Alabama signed at least one player ranked in the top five nationally at his position at five different spots on the field: LB, RB, DB, ATH, WR. It signed three of the top seven defensive backs nationally, three of the top nine linebackers and two of the top five wide receivers.

The Yellowhammer State has always provided the Tide with loads of talent, and generally speaking, it’s arguably the most territorial state in the nation. Saban signed seven in-state players in this class. Florida (3) and Louisiana (2) also provided some elite talents as well. However, the Peach State was the biggest surprise for Alabama during this cycle. The Tide signed eight players from the state of Georgia, including two AC100 prospects.

In short, this is an extraordinarily talented, deep and balanced collection of players heading to the Capstone. Saban won a recruiting national title back in 2008 and finished third nationally in 2009, and those two classes laid the foundation for his third BCS national championship. Of the 22 starters in the BCS title game win over LSU, 15 signed in either 2008 or 2009.

So while Will Muschamp, Les Miles, Mark Richt, Gene Chizik and Bobby Petrino sat in nervous anticipation for names like Dorial Green-Beckham, Eddie Goldman, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tracy Howard, Torshiro Davis, Avery Young and Dante Fowler to sign their letters of intent with other programs, Saban coolly sat back and collected another stellar 26 signees.

Needless to say, Alabama football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Athlon Consensus 100 Signees (in order of national rank):

12. Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla.): No. 2 DB
21. Landon Collins (Geismar, La.): No. 4 DB
32. T.J. Yeldon (Daphne, Ala.): No. 4 RB
42. Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla.): No. 3 WR
44. Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala.): No. 2 LB
48. Cyrus Jones (Baltimore, Md.): No. 4 ATH
58. Amari Cooper (Miami, Fla.): No. 5 WR
61. Geno Smith (Atlanta, Ga.): No. 7 DB
84. Ryan Anderson (Daphne, Ala.): No. 8 LB
94. Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga.): No. 9 LB

Other Nationally Rated Recruits:

130. Kenyan Drake, RB (Powder Springs, Ga.)
135. Brandon Greene, OL (Ellenwood, Ga.)
143. Tyler Hayes, LB (Thomasville, Ala.)
158. Denzel Devall, LB (Bastrop, La.)
198. Korren Kirven, DT (Lynchburg, Va.)
251. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT (McDonough, Ga.)

<p> Alabama Crimson Tide Wins Recruiting National Championship</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 16:52
Path: /college-football/recruiting-trail-dominated-urban-meyer-ohio-state

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

It helps to have two coaching staffs.

While Luke Fickell's Ohio State staff prepared for the bowl match-up with Florida, new head coach Urban Meyer and his staff plowed through the recruiting trail in true General Sherman fashion.

This story began on November 27 rather than National Signing Day. In reality, Meyer had a rather quiet Signing Day, landing only the one big name (Kyle Dodson). But he had a monstrous two months leading up to Wednesday for the Buckeyes. Meyer stepped onto campus in Columbus and wreaked havoc almost instantly by pilfering powerful Midwestern classes for elite level talent.

Meyer landed 11 of his 25 total signees after taking over late in November including a number of former Penn State commitments, one Michigan State verbal, a former Wisconsin commitment and a Notre Dame pledge. He flipped Athlon Consensus 100 talents Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (No. 67) and Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se’Von Pittman (No. 86) from PSU and MSU respectively. He also pulled nationally-rated defensive back Armani Reeves from Penn State and landed the No. 3 player in the nation in Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence. Spence is the No. 1 defensive end in the nation and was considered a Penn State lock before Meyer took over at Ohio State.

Finally, Meyer stole a pair of offensive lineman in Vandalia (Ohio) Butler’s Taylor Decker and Cleveland (Ohio) Cleveland Heights’ Kyle Dodson. Decker had previously been committed to the Irish and Dodson has been set to go to Madison, Wisc.

With elite Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington (No. 27) on board as well, Meyer boasts four AC100 defensive lineman. It is one of, if not the, best defensive line class in the nation. He has clearly brought his SEC theories on rushing the passer to the Big Ten.

The last piece to the masterful Meyer puzzle will fall into place on Friday, February 10 when Olney (Md.) Good Counsel athlete Stefon Diggs makes his decision. Florida has long been the leader for the No. 5 player in the nation, but Ohio State made a late push for the do-everything talent. Meyer can simply pop in the tape of Percy Harvin and show Diggs exactly how he would be used in Columbus. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chapparell play-maker Davonte Neal is a player with a similar skill set to that of Diggs and is also waiting until past NSD to make his call. Those are the only two names left on the Scarlet and Gray's board for the class of 2012.

Meyer has put together the best class in the Big Ten and a top five group nationally.  However, should they land Diggs next week, the Buckeyes could finish as high as No. 2.

And he did it in less than three months. Vintage Meyer.

<p> Since taking over in Columbus, Meyer's impact on Buckeye recruiting has been astounding.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 14:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, News
Path: /college-football/dorial-green-beckham-signs-missouri-tigers

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One of the best-kept recruiting secrets in years came from Athlon’s No. 1 player in the nation, Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

The top name in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 took only three visits — to Texas, Arkansas and Missouri — and kept his recruitment incredibly quiet and impossibly impenetrable. After his visit to Fayetteville, Hogs fans felt great about their chances to land the superstar wideout. Yet, Gary Pinkel and the Tigers got the last opportunity to impress DGB when he visited the beautiful Columbia campus just before Signing Day.

And Pinkel capitalized.

Eventually, the star treatment from the in-state school proved to be too much, and Green-Beckham signed with Missouri in front of a circus of cameras and reporters at his high school on Wednesday morning.

His resume makes him a once-in-a-lifetime prospect for the ShowMe State. The Calvin Johnson clone caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards — the fourth-highest total in history — and 24 touchdowns as a senior. In the process, his astounding 6,353 career receiving yards broke Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian Abram Booty’s national record of 5,867 yards. His 300 career receptions rank fourth all-time, and his 75 career touchdowns rank third all-time in American high school football history.

The impact of landing the nation’s top prospect is immeasurable for the Missouri Tigers.

As Pinkel leads his squad into the shark-infested, murky waters of the SEC, Green-Beckham could prove to be a program-changing recruit — not just on the field, but off of it as well. DGB's immense talent will obviously play in that high-flying Mizzou offense, but, much in the way Kevin Jones' signing impacted the Virginia Tech Hokies brand image back in the class of 2000, the recruiting clout gained off the field from the DGB signing should elevate the Tigers’ cachet on the recruiting trail. Especially considering they are now competing with the likes of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina within their own division every year.

Rising star quarterback James Franklin will feel the immediate impact of signing Green-Beckham the most as he now has an elite target who is only a freshman. Once the Tigers integrate former elite recruit Darius White, who is transferring in from Texas, Mizzou's passing attack in 2013 could downright impossible to stop.

Only time will tell, but February 1, 2012, could go down in the Mizzou annals as one of the most influential days in Tigers football history.

<p> Dorial Green-Beckham Signs With Missouri Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/green-beckham-diggs-top-list-uncommitted-prospects

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

One glance at the Athlon Consensus 100 will prove that it should be an electric ride through National Signing Day 2012. In total, 18 players ranked in the AC100 are left uncommitted and a few massive names could pull the old flip-flop. Teams like Auburn, Florida, Florida State, USC and Ohio State could all experience major gains — or major heartbreak — once those faxes start rolling in tomorrow at 7 a.m. ET.

Related: National Signing Day Craziest Stories
Related: Team Rankings Heading Into Signing Day

Here are the Top Players left on the board (in order of AC100 ranking):

1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (6-6, 220)
Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest
Announcement: NSD at 10:15 a.m. ET

The nation's top prospect, who conjures images of Calvin Johnson, took three official visits to Texas, Missouri and Arkansas. Rumors were that his visit to Arkansas gave the Hogs a clear advantage. That is, until he visited Mizzou last weekend. The M-I-Z-D-G-B chants rang through the rafters of Mizzou Arena during the weekend's hoops contest in Columbia. It appears that DGB wants to stay closer to home and reports have been the Tigers and Hogs will be his final two choices. Gary Pinkel has the luxury of holding the final visit, offers an in-state campus (Arkansas is actually a few miles closer to home) and now carries that all important "SEC" patch on their shoulder pads. Prediction: Missouri

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. The Hurricanes, possibly his original team of choice, appears to have made a huge run at the talented DB. Prediction: Miami

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

22. Andrus Peat, OL (6-6, 295)
Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol
Announcement: NSD 1:35 p.m. ET

The big blocker was excellent in the Under Armour game and has proven his stock is warranted. His older brother, Todd, and cousin Avery Moss either play at or will play at Nebraska. So heading for a NSD announcement, the Huksers have the edge over his other three finalists. Peat has visited his four finalists — Nebraska, USC, Florida State and Stanford — and has them all technically listed even. That said, Bo Pelini has to be considered the clear leader. Prediction: Nebraska

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

29. Thomas Johnson, WR (6-0, 180)
Dallas (Texas) Skyline
Announcement: NSD 12:20 p.m. ET

Johnson decommitted from the Texas Longhorns the day after playing in the Under Armour game (strangely, with a big number of future teammates). After nearly one full calendar year as a Texas verbal, Johnson now looks to be picking between Cal, Oregon, Texas A&M and TCU. He visited all of his finalists except Cal and looks like all signs are pointing to him staying in the Lone Star State. The lure of the SEC will be too strong for Johnson. Prediction: Texas A&M

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

56. Davonte Neal, ATH (5-9, 175)
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Announcement: N/A

Neal can play anywhere on the field and could still play anywhere in the nation. His list of finalists includes Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He has visited all five and has told everyone that he will not be deciding until, for whatever reason, after National Signing Day. This one appears to be wide open but the home state program might be the team to beat. Prediction: Arizona

63. Aziz Shittu, DT (6-3, 275)
Atwater (Calif.) Buhach
Announcement: NSD at 5 p.m. ET

If there is an interesting recruit who could pull something very interesting out of the hat on NSD, it might be the intriuging Shittu. Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA are his finalists, but appears all but locked into a Palo Alto scholarship. Prediction: Stanford

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

95. Joel Caleb, ATH (6-2, 205)
Midlothian (Va.) Clover Hill
Announcement: NSD at 8:30 a.m. ET

Caleb has officially listed three programs as his finalists. Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia are his programs of choice, but the Hokies have long been rumored as the team to beat. The talented athlete missed some of this season with a torn meniscus and has been rehabbing hard in order to be ready for 2012. Prediction: Virginia Tech

<p> Who are the best players left on the board and where will they land on National Signing Day?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/can-national-signing-day-save-auburns-class

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Auburn Tigers won the 2011 BCS National Championship. But you wouldn't be able to tell it from looking at the team recruiting rankings. and has the Tigers ranked No. 20 in the nation and 247Sports has Auburn ranked 21st in the nation. That is nothing to sneeze at and provides enough talent to any roster to compete for conference championships.

Yet, those rankings put the Tigers in the bottom third of the SEC. Eighth to be exact.

Certainly, having to replace two coordinators for the first time in years hasn't helped Gene Chizik maintain his astounding recruiting momentum from recent years. But with Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, he has put together a fantastic new staff and could close the 2012 class with a flourish on National Signing Day.

Will Auburn land most of the names listed below? Probably not. But the Tigers need to pull a couple of upsets in order salvage a top-20 class — and keep up with that other in-state SEC school that currently owns the recruiting trail.

Here are the Athlon Consensus 100 targets Auburn has left on its board:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today on the 10th. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locklsey will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Auburn is a heavy long-shot in the race for Diggs, but his inability to make up his mind only helps the upset cause. Prediction: Florida

9. Eddie Goldman, DT (6-4, 305)
Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate
Announcement: NSD 10:05 a.m. ET

The star defensive tackle has taken four visits thus far to Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami. It has appeared to be a two-team race between the Crimson Tide and Seminoles but Auburn has made a strong push. The Seminoles are still the top team to beat for his services as almost all experts are in agreement that Goldman will pick FSU on NSD. Auburn's class has to be consider a slight disappointment, so you can bet Gene Chizik's staff is working the phones hard for Mr. Goldman. Prediction: Florida State

34. Ronald Darby, DB (5-11, 175)
Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac
Announcement: NSD 2:30 p.m. ET

The longtime Notre Dame commitment reopened his recruitment and has Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame listed as his finalists. Of those final choices, Darby visited Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Auburn. Look for Auburn and Florida State to battle it out for this talented speedster's athletic ability. Prediction: Florida State

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Or will the new coordinator and sheer desire of the Auburn staff win out? Prediction: Auburn

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: USC

82. Kwon Alexander, LB (6-2, 210)
Oxford (Ala.) High
Announcement: NSD 11:05 a.m. ET

Alexander is down to three schools and the BCS Championship game could have played a large role in helping him to decide. The talented tackler has visited Auburn and LSU thus far but has interestingly enough not visited Alabama. He is currently rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered back in October and Auburn never backed down — and has new DC and strong recruiter Brian VanGorder working hard to land him. Prediction: Auburn

88. Jordan Diamond, OL (6-6, 290)
Chicago (Ill.) Simeon
Announcement: Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Diamond has tripped to all of his five finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin. He has decided to postpone his decision to just beyond National Signing Day and will make his final call on Friday at 8 p.m. The Badgers got the all-important final visit and may be in the lead after losing a few offensive line prospects of late. Prediction: Michigan

Other Nationally Rated Names to Watch:

Alex Kozan, OL (6-4, 295)
Castle Rock (Colo.) Valor Christian
Finalists: Auburn, Iowa, Michigan

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (6-4, 205)
Hutchinson (Kan.) C.C.
Finalists: Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Ricardo Louis, WR (6-2, 190)
Miami Beach (Fla.) High
Finalists: Auburn, Florida State

<p> Auburn's 2012 class has been a disappointment, but can National Signing Day save the day?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 16:11
Path: /college-football/recruiting-florida-gators-ready-huge-national-signing-day

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The Florida Gators need some good news these days.

One of the best jobs in America — and the best job East of the Mississippi — has featured four different coordinators in four seasons in Gainesville and eleven losses in two seasons. And shockingly, it is the lack of play-makers on that side of the ball that is so startling absent from the Gators' roster.

That could all change on Wednesday, however, as National Signing Day could be a huge day for second-year head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. There are eight Athlon Consensus 100 targets left on the Gators board and two of them in particular could add some offensive spark to an otherwise dormant offense. Landing all eight is highly unlikely and virtually impossible, but if three or four of the names listed below pick Florida, Muschamp could actually push Alabama and Texas for the No. 1 class in the nation. Right now, the class currently sits at No. 3 in the Athlon Sports team rankings.

Here are the names Florida is waiting for:

5. Stefon Diggs, ATH (6-0, 185)
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
Announcement: Friday, Feb. 10

Diggs will not sign on Wednesday so don't hold your breath. He has a scheduled visit to Maryland coming in the near future and is slated to announce two Fridays from today. The Florida Gators have long been the favorite but Ohio State has made a late push for the do-everything dynamo. Urban Meyer has promised to use the talented Diggs much like he did Percy Harvin. Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley will make a strong push for the local product during the visit but it appears to be a rematch of the 2006 BCS title game for Diggs. Prediction: Florida

18. Tracy Howard, DB (5-11, 175)
Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar
Announcement: NSD 9:35 a.m. ET

Howard has long been considered a heavy Florida Gator lean and the smart money is still on Will Muschamp. However, the Miami Hurricanes have come out of nowhere and made a huge push. Alabama, Florida State, West Virginia and USC might still be in the mix, but it appears to be a Gators-Canes battle. Howard played well in the U.S. Army Bowl and figures to be an instant impact coverman. Prediction: Florida

20. Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB (6-4, 205)
Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes
Announcement: NSD 9:15 a.m. ET

This rangy linebacker (potential defensive end) has Florida, Georgia, Louisville and Florida State as his finalists with the Gators and Dawgs leading the charge for his services. He has visited Florida, Georgia and Florida State and has long been thought of as a heavy Georgia lean. All of the experts have lined-up behind Athens as the landing spot for this versatile front-seven defender. Prediction: Georgia

25. Kyle Murphy, OL (6-6, 270)
San Clemente (Calif.)
Announcement: N/A

Murphy is down to four: Stanford, USC, Florida and Oregon. He visited those four programs over the last few months and has not set a time for his announcement. At this point, Stanford and USC look to be his true finalists with David Shaw and the Cardinal looking like the team to beat for his services. Most would be shocked if he landed at Florida or Oregon. Prediction: Stanford

26. Nelson Agholor, ATH (6-0, 180)
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Announcement: NSD 12:05 p.m. ET

Agholor is a young player who is wise and mature beyond his years and it shows on the field. He is dynamic and will be an immediate impact player on the next level – be it at running back, wide receiver or special teams. Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC are his finalists with the Gators and Trojans leading the way. He was considered a strong Gators lean, but USC has made a huge final push and may be the team to beat. This is one of the more intriguing recruitments in the nation — and could be one of the most important. Prediction: USC

53. Avery Young, OL (6-5, 275)
Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Palm Beach
Announcement: NSD at 2:00 p.m. ET

Young has trimmed his list to four: Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Miami. His mother is from Georgia and he will be announcing on TV in Atlanta on Signing Day. With Georgia and Auburn listed as his final two choices, his announcement time and location could this be a positive omen for Mark Richt and the Dawgs? Prediction: Georgia

68. Leonard Williams, DE (6-5, 255)
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Announcement: NSD, TBD

Florida, USC, Auburn and Florida State will be the four teams holding their breath for Mr. Williams come NSD. He has visited all four but USC and Florida look like the two teams to beat. Lane Kiffin is all but assured of pulling at least one or two upsets and landing Williams could be considered one of them (Agholor would be the other). Where Kyle Murphy ends up could impact Williams decision. Prediction: Florida

<p> National Signing Day 2012 could be a huge day for Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 15:06
Path: /college-football/recruiting-signing-days-craziest-stories

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Children are complicated, fickle, naive creatures who seldom have any perspective on the trappings of adult life. Few 16-year old kids in this country are clued in to the rise of democracy in the Middle East, the emerging debt issues in Europe or the far-reaching effects of upcoming elections in South America. Hell, most of them have never even done their own taxes.

It’s why uniform colors, shoes, weather, license plates and even a coin flip have been used to select a university in the recent past. And I don’t expect National Signing Day 2012 to be much different.

The 2012 cycle has already provided one of the most bizarre recruiting stories I have ever witnessed. Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety Landon Collins, the No. 21-rated player in the Athlon Consensus 100, announced on national television for the University of Alabama much to the chagrin of his mother, April Justin. Justin, just moments after her son committed to the Tide, was not only visibly upset but openly cheered for “her” LSU Tigers:

"I feel like LSU is a better place for him to be," Justin said at the time. "LSU Tigers, number one. Go Tigers.”

Collins’ girlfriend, Victoria Lowery, is reportedly going to Alabama and wants her significant other to come with her. Apparently, Justin and Lowery got into an altercation just before the announcement about who should be on set when Collins made the big decision. Well, Collins is still committed to Alabama and Lowery was on camera standing just behind her man at the Under Armour game.

Lowery 2, Mom 0.

But Mama isn’t going down without a fight as she has recently accused Nick Saban and Alabama of a recruiting violation. She claims Lowery has been offered a job in the football office by Saban – and obvious NCAA violation. Alabama has denied the accusation as it would be virtually impossible to cover-up such a blatant disobedience.

Les Miles and the Tigers are still recruiting Collins hard and nothing is certain with this saga until the ink is actually dry on Wednesday.

Collins is just one of many interesting, bewildering and sometimes hilarious recruiting decisions. My personal favorite came from Florida State signee Fred Rouse. On our national radio show on Sirius, he was asked, where are you going to college? And Mr. Rouse responded with “You know, a lot of people want me to go here or there. But I had to think, you know, what Fred wanna do? And Fred want to go to Florida State.” I think I have replayed that clip a thousand times since. The first-person, verbally illiterate announcement was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately for everyone involved, his career wasn’t nearly as entertaining on the football field as it was on radio airwaves.

Rouse and Collins are just two of many memorable tales from the trail…

Related: 2012 Team Recruiting Rankings Heading Into Signing Day

The Imaginary Scholarship

As bizarre as the Collins’ girlfriend-mother feud is, nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernely (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On February 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.

There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken too, visited or contacted Mr. Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.

The Forged Signature

April Justin isn’t the first parent to disapprove of their son’s educational choices. Just last year, Reserve (La.) East St. John defensive back Floyd Raven had decided that Texas A&M was the right school for him. There was only one issue, however, his letter of intent had already been sent to Ole Miss. The Rebels admissions department couldn’t read the signature and asked for a second copy. Raven’s mother wanted him to go to Ole Miss so badly, that she had forged the signature and sent it to Oxford without her son’s knowledge. Eventually, Floyd learned of his mother’s “betrayal” and sent the appropriately signed paperwork to Texas A&M.

The Coin Flip

It takes thousands of hours of labor and thousands of dollars to recruit athletes at the highest level. But in 2009, Atco (N.J.) Winsow Township linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud trimmed the entire process to a few cents. After taking five school-funded official visits, Glaud had narrowed his list to West Virginia and Rutgers. But the linebacker was still so torn he couldn’t make up his mind. So naturally, he decided to let chance decide his fate as he literally flipped a coin between the two programs. Heads he goes to WVU, tails he goes to Rutgers. He has posted 47 total tackles in three seasons for the Scarlet Knights.

The Five-Minute Flip-Flop

Flip-flops happen in recruiting all the time – especially, as national signing day draws near. The recruiting picture gets clearer for all parties involved, while schools get desperate to fill needs with late scholarship offers. The nation’s No. 2 player in 2011, however, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, made heads spin in record time last year. Kouandjio, whose older brother was/is a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, announced on ESPN that he would be attending Auburn. Yet, five minutes after the bright TV lights had gone out, the younger Kouandjio, recanted his pledge to Auburn. He never sent in his letter of intent to the Tigers and three days later it was revealed he had officially signed with Alabama via twitter. Longtime commitments are snaked away at the last minute every season, but never has a kid committed on national television only to decide to sign with someone else five minutes later. The venom of the Yellowhammer rivalry only added to the drama of the Kouandjio signing.

The Announcement Props

I am not one who enjoys recruiting announcements. They are filled with superfluous rhetoric from coaches, analysts and handlers. They go on too long and rarely does a recruit offer any pertinent news or information other than his college of choice. Every now and then, however, if done with style, an announcement can be fun – or infuriating. Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell made fans coo when he pulled out an actual Bulldog puppy last year to signify his decision to play for Mark Richt in Athens. Andre Smith sent the Crimson Tiders into hysterics when he pulled out the houndstooth hat at his announcement for Alabama.

But Antonio Logan-El’s live announcement back in 2006 was met with a slightly harsher response. The Forestville (Md.) High offensive lineman had been committed to Maryland for the better part of a year. While dressed in Maryland red in front of a Terps crowd at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland — including head coach Ralph Friedgen’s wife — Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat before tossing it to the ground. He then pulled out a Tennessee hat. That, too, was tossed aside before picking up the Terps black and red headgear. After a few nice words, Logan-El threw his Maryland hat to the ground and held up a picture of Joe Paterno and announced he would be heading to Penn State. The decision was met with screams of “traitor” and violence nearly resulted. Logan-El, much to the pleasure of Terps fans, washed out at Penn State after only one redshirt year.

At least he actually made a decision, however, as the worst recruiting press conference in history has to belong to Greg Little. The peculiar wide receiver held a press conference in October of his senior year to announce what school he would be attending. Fans waited with anticipation while Little huddled with his family and coaches for a long period of time. He emerged from the mini-summit to announce that he had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and North Carolina. It’s the only news conference I can remember where a recruit officially announced that there was nothing to announce.

The Slimy Mentor

The most recent trend for elite recruits, for some reason unbeknownst to me, is to wait until after National Signing Day to make a decision. Terrelle Pryor, Orson Charles, Latwan Anderson, Vidal Hazelton, Seantrel Henderson, Kouandjio and last year’s top prospect Jadeveon Clowney all signed their LOIs well past signing day. But Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown, and his handler/mentor/coach/agent/leech Brian Butler, set a new low for recruiting sludge.

Brown, whose older brother Arthur was enrolled at Miami, had been committed to the Hurricanes from the early stages. He did not sign on NSD and instead took a couple of extra visits to Tennessee and LSU after Signing Day. While Brown watched the calendar flip to March without a decision, Butler, who was a convicted felon and fledgling rapper, set up a website in order to charge $9.99 per month for recruiting updates on his protégé.

Threats from Butler about Brown potentially skipping college for the Canadian Football League only further exemplified how ridiculous the handler’s influence was over Brown. Meanwhile, Miami (and others) stopped recruiting the troubled tailback until halfway through March, when Brown got “a sign from god” to sign with Tennessee. Arthur left Miami for Kansas State (where he will be a standout senior in 2012) shortly thereafter. Bryce lasted one year in Knoxville before transferring back to Kansas State as well. He played in two games this season, got three carries and comically declared for the 2012 NFL.

Obviously, most of the names who waited until beyond signing day to sign have had major trouble getting their careers started on the next level (with the potenial exception of Clowney).

So there does appear to be a fairly simple and obvious lesson to be learned here: Sign the stinking papers and get to work because nothing is guaranteed on the next level.

Who knows what National Signing Day 2012 will bring. Will Shaq Thompson switch from Cal to Washington? Will Andrus Peat see a Nebraska license plate on the road in Tempe, Ariz., and therefore pick the Huskers much like his older brother did last winter? Which woman has more influence on Landon Collins? And how long will peacock playmaker Stefon Diggs wait to sign his papers?

Love or hate the press conferences and high-profile visibility of high school students, National Signing Day has become appointment viewing for all college football fans.

<p> National Signing Day has always provided plenty of bizarre, hilarious and eye-opening stories.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:04
Path: /college-football/2012-team-recruiting-rankings-signing-day-targets

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day is upon us!

Tomorrow coaches, parents, fans and media members alike will be starring at fax machines (yes, they still use those) in anticipation of building a championship roster.

You can’t win football games without good players – and having better athletes than the next guy normally helps with the winning process. The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2008 recruiting national championship and it turned into an actual national championship four years later. Additionally, the 2009 Alabama class was ranked No. 3 in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Of the Crimson Tide’s starting 22 in the BCS national championship destruction of LSU, 15 signed in either the 2008 or 2009 classes. It's safe to say recruiting is the lifeblood of the college football machine.

Certainly, the evaluation, development and scouting process plays a bigger role in eventual wins and losses. And yes, the star-ranking system is an imperfect science. But as the years go by, the evaluation process becomes more accurate and more predictable. So the current recruiting rankings, e.g.. the Athlon Consensus 100 where all the internet rankings are averaged together, are as perfect a system as we have ever had.

Who will land the top collection of players in the 2012 haul? There will be fireworks a plenty come NSD, but here is how the team rankings stand with less than 24 hour until players can sign (7:00 AM ET, Feb. 1).

Note: A national recruit is a prospect who is ranked in the top 150 by one of the six recruiting services. Athlon’s “national” recruits are roughly the top 300.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (27 commitments)
AC100: 10, National Recruits: 14
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), Korren Kirven, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ricardo Louis

Green-Beckham is the nation’s top player but it appears that race might be over with Missouri holding a slight edge over Arkansas. Tracy Howard looks like he will be selecting the Florida Gators. Nick Saban could still miss on all six national recruits left on the board and still land the top class in the nation. Alabama leads the nation by a wide margin with 10 AC100 verbal pledges at this point. Holding onto star safety prospect Landon Collins might be his top focus during the final hours of this recruiting cycle. It appears that, barring a small miracle, that Alabama will earn its second recruiting national championship in five years under Saban.

2. Texas Longhorns (26)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 16
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham

Mack Brown had most of his work done nearly a year ago when they entered March of 2011 with 12 commitments already. Roughly a year later, Brown has an outside chance to push for the top slot. He landed two national recruits, defensive back Daje Johnson and linebacker Dalton Santos, to push their total to a nation-leading 16 national recruits. With DGB the only big fish left on the block, Horns’ fans should actually have one of the more stable NSD.

3. Florida Gators (21)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 12
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Darius Hamilton (No. 14), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

No team may have a better finish to the 2012 class than Will Mushcamp. With six player ranked in the top-26 nationally still listing Florida as a finalists, Gators fans should have plenty of excitement to look forward to on Wednesday. Diggs, Hamilton, Howard and Williams look to be Florida leans with Agholor likely choosing between USC and the Gators. With Harvey-Clemons leaning towards Georgia and Young likely picking between Auburn and Georgia, landing all of the coveted names above is virtually impossible. However, if Muschamp can land three of four AC100 targets, Florida could push Alabama and Texas for the top slot.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (24)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 11
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Joel Caleb (No. 95), Kyle Dodson

Few coaches have ever impacted a recruiting class in such short order as Urban Meyer has in Columbus this winter. He has landed eight prospects – a number of whom were former Penn State, Notre Dame or Michigan State verbals – since being presented as the head coach and this weekend stole Armani Reeves from Penn State. He is making a serious late push for the No. 1 athlete in the nation in Stefon Diggs and has a chance to land three other AC100 recruits as well. Should Meyer pull Diggs, Neal, Diamond and Caleb, the Buckeyes might have an outside chance to push for the top slot.

5. Michigan Wolverines (23)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10
National Targets: Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Alex Kozan

Brady Hoke has done an excellent job in his first full year on the job in Ann Arbor. Landing Diamond or Kozan would merely be icing on the cake. The Maize and Blue are basically set heading into National Signing Day and won’t be waiting to hear from too many big names. Certainly, Hoke was to keep Diamond away from fellow Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Wisconsin, but signing the big offensive lineman might give Michigan the top class in the conference.

6. Florida State Seminoles (16)
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Colin Blake, Ricardo Louis

One thing is certain about NSD 2012, one team from the state of Florida is going to make big waves. Be it the Gators or the Seminoles, a Sunshine State program will push Alabama for the top slot in the nation. The Noles rank second in the nation with six AC100 commitments and Jimbo Fisher seems to be in a shape for the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and fellow elite level prospect Ronald Darby. If Fisher can pull an upset or two on NSD, the Noles could easily push into the top five, but possibly the top two.

7. Miami Hurricanes (32)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 8
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Avery Yong (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68)

With only two AC100 commits, Miami lands in the top-10 based on the depth of a potential 32-man class. And in the face of the issues surrounding the Nevin Shaprio scandal, Al Golden has done a fantastic job attracting talent. With one of the largest classes in the nation already intact, Canes fans shouldn’t expect too much movement on Wednesday despite still being mentioned by four AC100 recruits as a finalists. It would be an upset if Miami landed any of the AC100 targets left on the board.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Davonte Neal (No. 56), Ken Ekanem

Brian Kelly won his biggest recruiting battle two weeks ago when the nation’s No. 2 quarterback, Gunner Kiel, enrolled in class in South Bend. With another stellar group of defensive lineman coming to Notre Dame, Kelly’s haul should once again be one of the nation’s best. If Kelly can pull an upset or two with Agholor, former commit Darby and Neal, this group has a chance to land in the top five.

9. Oklahoma Sooners (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 1), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Brandon Beaver, Colin Blake, Will Latu

There is still plenty of work to be done for Bob Stoops but it appears that landing the country’s top player is an unlikely proposition. And the Sooners also look like a long shot for Agholor and Banner as well. That said, the Crimson and Cream always does something exciting on signing day and that could include names like Beaver or Latu. Regardless of what happens on NSD, this Oklahoma haul will likely land it he top-10 nationally.

10. Georgia Bulldogs (16)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 20), Avery Young (No. 53), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Cordarrelle Patterson

This isn’t one of the bigger classes in the SEC, but it has some serious star power. With two of the top 16 prospects in the nation heading to Athens, the quality of this class is elite and likely underrated nationally. With Harvey-Clemons looking like a UGA lock, Mark Richt would claim four of the top-31 players in the nation. Young will be picking between Auburn and Georgia with the Dawgs a slight favorite in that race. Should Richt land both, the Bulldogs could finish No. 2 in the nation with 7 AC100 signees and would lock the Dawgs into the Athlon top-10.

11. Clemson Tigers (20)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34)

12. South Carolina Gamecocks (24)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

13. Texas A&M Aggies (22)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Thomas Johnson (No. 29)

14. USC Trojans (13)
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Tracy Howard (No. 18), Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Nelson Agholor (No. 26), Zach Banner (No. 50), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kyle Dodson

15. LSU Tigers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Kwon Alxander (No. 82), Cordarrelle Patterson

16. UCLA Bruins (25)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Brandon Beaver, Deaysean Rippy, Bryce Treggs, Javon Williams

17. Cal Golden Bears (18)
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Shaq Thompson (No. 6), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Aziz Shittu (No. 63), Kenny Lawler, Raymond Ford

18. Stanford Cardinal (16)
AC100: 4, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: Andrus Peat (No. 22), Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Aziz Shittu (No. 63)

19. Auburn Tigers (15)
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 9
National Targets: Stefon Diggs (No. 5), Eddie Goldman (No. 9), Ronald Darby (No. 34), Avery Young (No. 53), Leonard Williams (No. 68), Jordan Diamond (No. 88), Kwon Alexander (No. 82), JaQuay Williams (No. 99), Alex Kozan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ricardo Louis

20. Oregon Ducks (19)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Kyle Murphy (No. 25), Thomas Johnson (No. 29), Jaydon Mickens

21. Tennessee Volunteers (20)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 6
National Targets: Richie Brown, Quinshad Davis, Korren Kirven, Cordarrelle Patterson

22. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 5
National Targets: None

23. Virginia Cavaliers (26)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: None

24. Virginia Tech Hokies (27)
AC100: 0, National Recruits: 4
National Targets: Joel Caleb (No. 95), Ken Ekanam, Korren Kirven

25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (25)
AC100: 1, National Recruits: 2
National Targets: Richie Brown, Alonzo Moore

<p> Who has the top class heading into Signing Day and which teams will close hard?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/texas-alabama-compete-recruiting-title

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

National Signing Day 2012 is two days away.

As usual, the flip-flopping fireworks should provide plenty of entertainment for recruitniks and college football fans alike. But while fans bases all across the fruited plain await the vital decisions from Athlon Consensus 100 recruits like Dorial Green-Beckham, Stefon Diggs, Arik Armstead and Eddie Goldman, fans in Austin and Tuscaloosa have their sights set on a slightly bigger prize.

Barring some unforeseen prospect Armageddon, the 2012 Athlon Sports National Recruiting Championship will be given to either the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns.

Mack Brown, who recently was given a contract extension through 2020, and the Texas Longhorns have set a new benchmark for early commitments. Twelve of Brown’s current 26-man class committed before March of 2011, and he has had to hold onto his future stars for nearly a full year. With the exception of AC100 wideout Thomas Johnson, the coaching staff in Austin has kept the core of the 2012 class completely intact. It is a testament to the power of the Burnt Orange brand in the state of Texas.

Texas is currently leading the nation with 16 “national” commitments (a player who is ranked in the top 150 by at least one service) and is second in the country with six AC100 verbals. The Horns boast two of the top-10 players in the nation in tailback Jonathan Gray and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. It marks the second year in a row that Brown has signed the nation’s No. 1 running back (Malcolm Brown, 2011). This is a balanced and versatile class with four stellar “athletes,” a group headlined by AC100 newcomer Kendall Sanders. Senator Brown, as usual, has added elite depth to virtually every position on his roster.

That said, Signing Day shouldn’t bring too much movement for the Longhorns’ class with the exception of one very big name, although Burnt Orange fans picked up some good news this weekend with commitments from four-star Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson defensive back Daje Johnson and three-star Van (Texas) three-star Dalton Santos. Green-Beckham is the No. 1 player in the nation, and five teams will be holding their breath on Wednesday when the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wideout signs his name. Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are the only schools that received an official visit, giving Texas a great shot to pull the upset. If Brown wants to claim the No. 1 class in the nation, landing DGB will be imperative.

That is because Nick Saban’s bunch is the team to beat.

Not only can the Tide show off their flashy new BCS Crystal Ball, but the mythical recruiting title will only ensure Alabama’s continued success into the near future. The Tide's 2008 — which was Athlon’s No. 1-ranked group — and 2009 classes both landed in the top three nationally and were the reason Alabama claimed the 2011 BCS National Championship. Fifteen of the Crimson Tide’s 22 BCS game starters signed in either 2008 or 2009. And the 2012 haul could be a phenomenal foundation for yet another title run in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama currently leads the nation with 10 AC100 commitments, is second behind Texas with 14 national verbal pledges and is ranked No. 1 in the team rankings by all four major recruiting services heading into NSD. While Bama lacks a top-10 recruit like the Horns’ Gray-Brown duo, Saban can point to a much longer list of potential NSD targets than Texas. Green-Beckham has Bama in his final five, but Alabama is considered a long shot. However, landing the country’s top defensive tackle, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman, would likely sew up the recruiting national title for the Tide.

Fellow AC100 prospects Tracy Howard and Kwon Alexander could also land at Alabama. It appears, however, that Howard, the No. 18-rated player in the nation, will choose between Florida and LSU. The Gators are the team to beat with the Hollywood (Fla.) Miramar prospect. Alxander, from Oxford (Ala.), is ranked as the No. 82 player in the AC100 and will pick between Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Saban has other names in mind that would likely wrap up the 2012 NSD championship as well. Nationally ranked Korren Kriven and Dalvin Tomlinson would also be enough to crown this Alabama haul as the best in the nation. Sitting at 10 AC100 commitments, the Tide does have a chance, albeit a long one, to potentially set or tie the all-time record for AC100 signees in one class. Should Saban pull the clean sweep — meaning Green-Beckham, Goldman, Howard and Alexander — he would set a new record with 14 AC100 signees. Urban Meyer and the Gators signed a record 13 such recruits in 2010.

Speaking of the Gators, and barring unprecedented miracle work from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Will Muschamp is really the only coach who can challenge Brown or Saban for national recruiting supremacy this week. There are 22 AC100 prospects left uncommitted as of today, and Florida is listed as a finalist for at least seven of them. Top-10 athlete Stefon Diggs, along with Howard, linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, speedy play-maker Nelson Agholor, big blocker Avery Young and defensive end Leonard Williams could all pick the Gators.

While it’s extremely unlikely that the Gators pull all seven AC100 names, Muschamp is assured to land at least a couple and will likely be one of the bigger stories on NSD. Diggs, Howard and Agholor are all ranked in the top 26 nationally, and all three appear to be headed to Gainesville. Should those three names pop for Florida, the Gators would claim five of the top-26 prospects in the nation (D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard). The Gators are the only team in the nation as hot as the aforementioned Buckeyes on the recruiting trail. (Hmm, what do those two schools have in common?)

That said, the Gators are a long-shot to compete for the recruiting crown. In fact, it would be an upset if anyone other than Alabama claims the trophy. Even if the Tide misses out on Green-Beckham, Goldman and Alexander, it could still claim the national recruiting title by simply clinging to its current 27-man group. It would likely take Saban losing a recruit or two (looking at you Landon Collins) while Texas lands DGB to push the Horns to the top slot. And the odds of Saban not pulling off at least one upset is slim-to-none.

All signs point to Alabama claiming its second recruiting national title of the Saban era.

<p> Texas and Alabama enter Signing Day as the top two classes in the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-war-stories-trail

The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.

Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects

From Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on twitter), Athlon Sports:

Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.”

Chris Level (@ChrisLevel),

I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.

Barry Every,

When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.

J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt),

One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.

I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting- which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet- that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.

Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport),

There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.

Scott Kennedy,

One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer),

I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons),

A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.

Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:

In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.

Scott Kennedy,

A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’

Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons),

Just this year one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.

Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.

Related: Athlon Consensus 100: 2012's Top 100 Prospects

<p> Recruiting is complicated and Athlon has collected some of the best tales from the trail.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/texas-extends-mack-brown-means-absolutely-nothing

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Texas’ Board of Regents met yesterday to extend head football coach Mack Brown’s contract to 2020. The move was an effort to quell rumors of Brown’s potential exit from the 40 Acres — be it by retirement, resignation or firing.

There is only one problem: Longhorns’ athletic director DeLoss Dodds is dead wrong.

Dodds seems to think that the negative recruiting against the Longhorns will cease and desist once Brown extends his $5.2 million annual contract an additional four years. He seems to believe that if Brown is signed through 2020 — instead of merely 2016 — that the head coach won’t consider retiring over the next nine years. Or perhaps that if Texas goes 13-12 over the next two seasons (again) that the “endowment conglomerate” won’t be pressuring the AD to get fresh blood on the sidelines.

This is because coaching contract extensions are not worth the paper they are printed upon.

Cincinnati’s Butch Jones also got his deal sweetened this week, and it’s a great day for Bearcats fans to celebrate the recent success of their second-year head coach. It's a time for Cincy fans to be proud of their program and be excited about the future. But the fact remains: A little extra coin and a few extra years on the deal won’t keep Jones from taking a better job.

And there are a lot of better jobs than Cincinnati.

Does Dodds honestly believe that big, bad Bob Stoops will stop saying mean things about little ol’ Texas on the recruiting trail now that Brown is signed through 2020? Does he really believe that Tommy Tuberville, Mike Gundy or Art Briles, out of the kindness of their hearts, won’t negatively recruit Big Brother any longer?

Does Brown himself, in the interest of fair play, stop telling recruits that Bill Snyder is really old? Especially considering Texas has lost four straight games to Kansas State?

Does new language in new contracts make it more costly to fire a coach — or more costly for a coach to bail for a better gig? Slightly. Can giving Jones or Brown more cash make them a little happier and therefore more likely to stick around? Possibly. But the power brokers at any major university can sneeze enough money to pay a coach’s buyout if they have soured on the current field general.

Really, what is a $4 million buyout to T. Boone Pickens if he no longer wants Gundy on the sidelines of…T. Boone Pickens Stadium?

Tuberville is a perfect example. Following the 2007 season, the current Texas Tech coach was given an extension by Auburn for seven seasons (through 2014). He was 42-9 in the previous four seasons and had six straight seasons of at least eight wins. Tubes went 5-7 in 2008 and was fired barely one year into his seven-year contract. It doesn’t end there, however, as the Red Raiders gave Tuberville an extension through 2015 last week.

After the first losing season in Lubbock since 1992, Tuberville enters 2012 securely on the coaching hot seat.

Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer received a massive seven-year, $21 million extension in the summer of 2008. The Vols had played in the 2007 SEC Championship game, getting handled by eventual BCS champ LSU. Tennessee started 3-7 in 2008, including a loss to Wyoming, and AD Mike Hamilton announced that Fulmer would be stepping down at the end of the season. Fulmer made it through nine games of a seven-year contract before being fired.

Tommy Bowden at Clemson finished 2007 with a 9-4 record and had never experienced a losing season with the Tigers in nine years. He was given a seven-year extension following the season. "Tommy Bowden has made us a consistent winner," said Clemson Athletic Director Dr. Terry Don Phillips. "He has built a firm foundation for this program in all aspects.”

Bowden didn’t make it to the seventh game of the 2008 season before getting fired. Did Phillips believe anything he said the eight months before?

Ron Zook took his Illinois squad to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and was given a new deal through 2013. One month prior to the start of the 2009 seasons, the Illini felt so strongly about The Zooker that they tacked on another year, pushing his deal to 2014. He went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired three years before the end of his contract.

Sylvester Croom won nine total games in his three years at Mississippi State but finally broke through in 2008 with eight wins and a bowl appearance. He was given an extension through 2011, but after going 4-8 in 2009, was fired by the Bulldogs.

And then there is Notre Dame. Charlie Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons with two trips to BCS Bowls (both bad losses). The Irish decisions makers inked Weis to a hefty 10-year contract that was slated to run through 2015. He too went 16-21 over the next three years and was fired by Notre Dame following the 2009 season — with seven years left on the deal.

But the tomfoolery goes both ways in this head coach-university contract relationship.

On July 13, 2006, Bobby Petrino signed a 10-year, $25.6 million extension with Louisville. On January 7, 2007, Petrino announced, six months into his 10-year deal with the Cardinals, that he was leaving to take the Atlanta Falcons job. He signed a five-year, $24 million deal with Atlanta. On December 11, 2007, he left the Falcons and signed a five-year contract with the Arkansas Razorbacks at $2.85 million annually.

Petrino signed 20 years' worth of contracts for a total $63.85 million with three different organizations over an 18-month period of time.

In 2006, Alabama was looking for a coach and offered West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez a six-year, $12 million contract. He flirted with the Tide before milking a one-year extension from the Mountaineers. His contract ran through the 2014 season, but two seasons later (2007), RichRod was headed north to Ann Arbor despite a $4 million buyout.

In June of 2009, Brian Kelly signed a contract extension with Cincinnati through 2013. He was given a nice raise to nearly $1.5 million — quite a commitment for Cincinnati. Six months later, Kelly was introduced as the new head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

There are literally hundreds of examples of coaches accepting more lucrative, more prestigious jobs on the heels of signing an extension with their current employer. And there are just as many instances of programs locking down coaches to long-term deals just months before handing that same coach a pink slip.

Negative recruiting cannot be stopped. It will continue to be a seedy, unfortunate but necessary aspect to the recruiting trail until the end of time, regardless of how many years are on your coach’s contract. Coaches will continue to be fired, some rightly so, well before the culmination of their contracts. And field generals will continue to retire or pursue greener pastures without honoring current agreements forever.

So fans in Austin and Cincinnati get a day in the sun to celebrate their football programs and the men responsible for achieving success. It is absolutely a time to be proud and thump chests.

But don’t forget that these contracts mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of college football. And college football is about as fickle as a 17-year old five-star.

<p> Coaching contract extensions are basically worthless in the modern college football arena.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/recruiting-top-15-two-star-recruits

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year-old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.

As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 this week. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon, and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of names that fall through the cracks.

The "modern recruiting era," aka the internet recruiting service era, dates back just more than a decade of time. There have been countless contributors who have blossomed into All-Americans despite being much-lesser known commodities than the likes of Matt Barkley.

Here are the best two-star prospects of the modern recruiting era (signing class):

1. Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Abilene (Texas) Wylie (2006)

The NCAA’s all-time record-holder for passing yards (19,217), total offense (20,114), 300-yard games (38), 4,000-yard seasons (3), completions (1,546), passing touchdowns (155) and touchdown responsibility (178) had a single offer coming out of high school. After Keenum had won the state title as a junior at Wylie, Art Briles was the only head coach to offer the slender passer a chance to play FBS football. Over 20,000 yards later, Keenum has not only reinvigorated Cougars football but has also helped elevate his program to the Big East Conference.

2. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower (2004)

The big offensive tackle was passed over by local schools USC and UCLA, but Dan Hawkins at Boise State saw something he loved right away. Clady redshirted in his first season in Idaho but started every game for the next three seasons. He was a major part of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma before landing on several All-America teams in 2007. After his redshirt junior season, Clady left for the NFL and was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Denver Broncos. He has blossomed into one of the NFL’s top left tackles.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Washington Township (N.J.) Westwood (2004)

The big nose guard had three offers coming out of high school: Boston College, Rutgers and Wisconsin. While the offer sheet was certainly more prestigious than the average two-star prospect’s, it took until October of his final prep season to land the BC scholarship ( During his final season at Chestnut Hill, Raji helped lead a unit that ranked No. 1 in the ACC in rushing defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense. The big nose guard was taken with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and played a major role in the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship in 2010.

4. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Pewaukee (Wisc.) High (2007)

Originally committed to Minnesota and signed with Central Michigan, Watt needed two schools and multiple positions to finally land with the Houston Texans. Watt played tight end upon entering college before transferring and walking-on at Wisconsin, where he earned a scholarship with his work ethic and intensity. His switch to the defensive line paid off in droves as he racked up 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in two seasons. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and became the first rookie defensive lineman in NFL history to record a sack and an interception for a touchdown in a playoff game. Watt started all 16 games as a rookie, led Houston in tackles for a loss (13) and helped the Texans to their first postseason berth in franchise history.

5. Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho
Anaheim (Calif.) Western (2005)

Hailing from American Samoa originally, Iupati moved to Southern California and excelled as a defensive tackle at Western High School. He was shown interest from other larger programs — Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona — but due to insufficient academic performance, Iupati was not eligibile to receive a scholarship. So the family of this powerful blocker took out a loan to pay for tuition, room and board at Idaho. Under Robb Akey and behind the leadership of Iupati, Idaho went to only its second bowl in school history in 2009 when the Vandals defeated Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl. Iupati was selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the 49ers and was a huge part of the NFC Championship run by San Francisco in 2011.

6. Eric Weddle, SS, Utah
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Alta Loma (2003)

The California native’s offer sheet included New Mexico State, Wyoming, UNLV and Utah back in 2003. It didn’t take long to realize that the Utes had found a great player in Weddle, as the versatile defensive back started the last nine games as a freshman, garning freshman All-America honors. He was a standout strong safety and return man his second year in Salt Lake City. He was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and claimed Emerald Bowl MVP honors. In 2006, he claimed his second straight MWC Defensive POY award. He started 45 of his 48 career games (21 at corner, 18 at safety and six at nickelback) while finishing with 277 tackles, 10 sacks and an MWC-record 18 interceptions. He also ran the ball 52 times for 259 yards and six touchdowns on offense, completed 2-of-6 passes, punted twice and was a holder on field goals. The do-everything athlete was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 62nd (second round) pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

7. Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
Sugar Land (Texas) Austin (2006)

TCU, Iowa State and North Texas were the offers Hughes had to choose from coming out of high school. Gary Patterson knew he had a special player as Hughes was one of only four freshman to see the field in 2006. As a senior in 2009, Hughes led the Mountain West with 11.5 sacks and helped lead a defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in total yards allowed (239.7 ypg). He was a two-time All-America selection and finished with 142 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. The Frogs went 42-10 during Hughes’ time, and the defensive end was selected in the first round by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft.

8. Jordan Todman, RB, UConn
Dartmouth (Mass.) High (2008)

With offers from only UConn, Purdue and Northeastern, Todman quickly overachieved in Storrs, Conn. As a freshman, Todman rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. As a sophomore, his first season as the starter, he rushed for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns. In Todman’s final season as a Husky he finished second in the nation in rushing at 141.3 yards per game. His 1,695 yards led the Big East and he scored another 14 times as a junior. He skipped his final season in college to test the NFL waters and landed with the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft.

9. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Jasper (Texas) High (2006)

Coming out of high school, Weatherspoon was listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. He is now a star 6-foot-2, 244-pound outside linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. His offer sheet included Missouri, Houston, Iowa State, TCU and Tulane. He claimed Special Teamer of the Year honors as a freshman for the Tigers and in only two full seasons as a starter, Westherspoon registered 266 total tackles, nine sacks, four interceptions and 33.5 tackles for a loss. He was a part of the winningest two-year span in Mizzou history (2006-2007) and was drafted by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Owen Marecic, LB/FB, Stanford
Portland (Ore.) Jesuit (2007)

The Marecic family moved all over the country — from New Jersey to Boston to Los Angeles to Oregon — before Owen was recruited by Yale, Army and Stanford. Only the Cardinal and Portland State officially offered the two-way star. In his junior season, Marecic was the lead blocker for the Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. He was also used in short yardage situations on defense as an inside linebacker. Jim Harbaugh then made him a true two-way star as a senior as Marecic was the only FBS player to start on both offense and defense. In a game against Notre Dame, he scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass in a 26-second span. Marecic was a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft.

11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy (2007)

Castonzo was the first true freshman to start along the offensive line at BC since 1998, blocked for Matt Ryan and claimed freshman All-America honors in 2007. Became a two-time All-ACC performer and was the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Colts.

12. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith (2004)

A freshman All-American, Curry eventually earned the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

13. Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
Huntsville (Ala.) Lee (2003)

How many 15-year-olds decide to play football at Louisville instead of Harvard? But a year later Okoye, at 16 years old, became the youngest player in the NCAA. He finished his college career with 55 tackles and eight sacks as a senior. The All-Big East and All-America selection was the youngest senior in the nation (19) before being selected by the Texans with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

14. Alex Mack, OC, Cal
Santa Barbara (Calif.) San Marcos (2004)

Mack made 39 consecutive starts for the Golden Bears and was a Rimington Trophy finalist for the nation’s top center. He is now a Pro Bowl center for the Cleveland Browns after getting drafted with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

15. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Richardson (Texas) Berkner (2004)

Offered by Arizona, Kansas, Baylor, Tulsa and Kansas State. Talib’s risky play paid off in college as his highlight reel play at corner earned him the Jack Tatum Trophy and the Orange Bowl MVP in his final season. He was a consensus All-American and the 20th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Other Top Two-Stars To Consider:

Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri (2006) Martin (Texas) High
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU (2003) Moorpark (Calif.) High
Tank Carder, LB, TCU (2007) Sweeney (Texas) High
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (2005) Piscataway (N.J.) High
Mardy Gilyard, RS, Cincinnati (2005) Palm Coast (Fla.) Flagler Palm Coast

<p> Who are the best two-star recruits in the modern recruiting era?</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 07:40
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-2008-top-100-busts

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Recruiting rankings are inexact science and even the experts will admit that. It is virtually impossible to measure heart, work ethic, mental focus and self-awareness in 17- and 18-year old kids. Especially, in the face of the most important decision they will ever make.

As National Signing Day looms next Wednesday, Athlon Sports finalized its Athlon Consensus 100 for the Class of 2012 yesterday. It is the fifth annual conglomerate recruiting top 100 for Athlon and even as the truest, most accurate recruiting ranking, there are still plenty of massive busts.

And the debut of the list back in 2008 featured plenty wastes of talent – particularly at the running back and wide receiver position. And don’t ask Dan Hawkins about his 2008 Buffaloes haul, either.

Here are the biggest busts from the 2008 AC100:

1. Lynn Katoa, LB, AC100 No. 76
Salt Lake City, UT (Colorado)

Katoa got his college career off to a “rocky” start when the Buffaloes linebacker was placed on probation after an off-campus fight in 2008 in which he hit a man in the head with a rock. He violated the terms of his sentence by skipping his substance-abuse monitoring and was sent to jail’s work-release program the following March. He was forced to transfer to an Arizona junior college after Colorado cut him due to academic ineligibility. And four months after his sentencing in the original fight, the troubled linebacker was arrested a second time on third-degree assault outside a Boulder bar. He was held on $2,500 bond at Boulder County Jail. Then in January of 2011, Katoa became one of Boulder's most wanted after being wanted for two counts of second degree assault, two counts of third degree assault, criminal mischief and one count of false reporting to authorities.

2. Boubacar Cissoko, CB, AC100 No. 52
Detroit, MI (Michigan)

The former Wolverine cornerback is currently in prison for committing three thefts and an attempted robbery. To top it off, Cissoko was accused of assaulting three Washtenaw Country jail employees while awaiting sentencing back in July of 2010. He admitted to stealing money from two food deliverymen in Ann Arbor and grabbing money from a cab driver in Ypsilanti in March of 2010. He was also accused of attempted robbery with a pellet gun in Ann Arbor in April of 2010. He was dismissed from Michigan in October of 2009 for violating unspecified team rules twice in 2009.

3. DeVoe Torrence, ATH, AC100 No. 57
Massillon, OH (Akron)

Torrence had been committed to Ohio State before rape charges were brought against the star recruit by Stark Country. The one-day trial ended in a clearing of his arrest due to insufficient evidence as a number of Massillon players were under investigation for sexual misconduct with minors. The sixth-grade girl in question changed her testimony during the trial. Torrence signed with Akron and rushed for 146 yards as a freshman before Rob Ianello announced he would not be returning to the team in March of 2010.

4. Aldarius Johnson, WR, AC100 No. 30
Miami, FL (Miami)

As part of the state champion “Northwestern 8” to sign with Miami (which didn't include future Nebraska star LaVonte David), Johnson entered college as part of the best wideout class in history. He was ranked as the No. 6 receiver in the nation — behind names like Julio Jones, AJ Green, Floyd and Baldwin. Johnson caught 31 passes for 332 yards and three scores as a freshman, but saw all three statistics decline four straight years until being suspended for his final season due to Nevin Shapiro allegations. Johnson has declared for the NFL Draft in 2012.

5. Darryl Stonum, WR, AC100 No. 46
Sugar Land, TX (Michigan)

After 76 career receptions, 1,008 career yards and Michigan’s single-season kick return record of 1,001 yards (2009), Stonum was dismissed from the Wolverines on January 18, 2011. He violated his probation by driving on a suspended license, stemming from multiple arrests. In September of 2008, Stonum was first arrested for operating a vehicle while visibile in impaired. He violated that probation, landing him in jail for three days during the summer of 2010. Then in May of 2011, Stonum received his second DUI while at Michigan and was suspended for the entire 2011 season. His third incident forced Brady Hoke to dismiss the talented but troubled wideout.

6. Kavario Middleton, TE, AC100 No. 44
Lakewood, WA (Washington)

Less than three weeks before the start of camp in 2010, Middleton was dismissed from the Huskies for violating team rules. Drug, attitude and effort issues have all been cited as reasons why Washington had to cut ties with Middleton. After a promising sophomore season in 2009, Middleton completely failed to realize his obvious physical potential. He attempted to enroll at Nebraska but could not meet requirements and landed at Montana. He could be a late-round draft pick this spring.

7. Josh Jarboe, WR, AC100 No. 63
Decatur, GA (Oklahoma)

The gun-toating, troubled wideout won’t be a bust for Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State after a 54-catch, 730-yard, 2-TD junior season in Jonesboro. It just took him three schools to get to the Red Wolves after signing with Oklahoma initially. He was charged with two felonies, including having a weapon on school property, and dropped from the Sooners. He landed at Troy for two seasons before Larry Blakeney had to kick the sophomore off the team. He enrolled at Northeast Community College before signing with Arkansas State in 2011.

8. Darrell Scott, RB, AC100 No. 3
Oxnard, CA (Colorado)

Scott was originally from Tallahassee and lived in Texas before landing at Moorpark High School in California. Apparently, his parents shopped him to private high schools after a 3,194-yard junior season. He landed at St. Bonaventure where he became the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. He signed with Colorado and complained during his first two seasons about lack of touches. He announced he would be transferring to UCLA, however, the Bruins didn’t want the tailback and Scott landed at USF. He did have his best season in 2011 with 814 yards and five touchdowns. But for a kid who played at multiple high schools and multiple colleges before leaving early for the NFL, the No. 1 RB in the nation has to be considered a bust — especially in Boulder.

9. Jameel Owens, WR, AC100 No. 45
Muskogee, OK (Oklahoma)

After catching four passes as a true freshman for Oklahoma, Owens redshirted in 2009 and transferred mid-semester to Tulsa. He caught 18 passes for 246 yards and six touchdowns in 2010 before taking a leave of absence from the team in the spring of 2011. Head coach Bill Blankenship announced in April that Owens would not be returning to the team in 2011. Owens was the No. 9-rated wideout in the nation in a class that might be considered the best WR class in history.

10. Jermie Calhoun, RB, AC100 No. 8
Van, TX (Oklahoma)

In four full years in Norman, Okla., the nation’s No. 2 running back played in 14 of the possible 40 games. He didn’t see the field one time in 2011 and prompted a transfer to Angelo State early in the year. Calhoun touched the ball 11 times in 2010 before tearing his ACL. He has scored one career touchdown and posted career highs of 18 carries and 94 yards back in 2009 against Texas A&M. It is the only game Calhoun has received more than nine touches and more than 45 yards from scrimmage.

11. Justin Johnson, RB, AC100 No. 89
Gilmer, TX (Oklahoma)

After one year in Norman, Okla., Johnson transferred to Abilene Christian for the 2009 seasons. He played in seven games for ACU, carrying 31 times for 103 yards. He transferred and sat out the 2010 season at his second school in Abilene, Texas: McMurry University. He rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011.

12. Blake Ayles, TE, AC100 No. 11
Orange, CA (USC)

The SoCal product was the nation’s No. 1 tight end recruit back in 2008 and never lived up to the hype while at USC. In three years at Southern Caolifornia, Ayles caught 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Miami. He was slated to compete for a starting role in 2011 before a second concussion likely ended his college career. He did not play a single snap in 2011. Hey, at least he isn’t in jail.

13. Deion Walker, WR, AC100 No. 67
Christchurch, VA (Notre Dame)

The highly-touted pass catcher simply never was good enough to contribute for the Irish. Walker has played in seven career games in four years and has caught one career pass for 15 yards. Certainly, the Irish have had elite talents at wide receiver, but one career reception defines the term bust.

14. Brandon Barnes, ATH, AC100 No. 98
Bunn, NC (NC State)

The talented do-everything prep athlete has played in five games in his four-year Wolfpack career (one redshirt year). He has totaled 31 touches for 131 yards from scrimmage and will enter his senior year third on the depth chart behind James Washington and Tony Creecy.

15. Brenden Beal, LB, AC100 No. 71
Bethlehem, PA (Florida)

Beal redshirted his freshman year at Florida after suffering an ACL injury and did not see the field in 2009. He sat out 2010 after transferring to Minnesota but missed the entire 2011 campaign with a knee injury. Fans can call it bad luck or misfortune, but from a recruiting perspective, Beal has been a bust.

16. Will Hill, S, AC100 No. 5
West Orange, NJ (Florida)

Hill played on a national championship team and actually made 48 tackles back in 2008 as a freshman. So he isn’t really a total bust. However, his charming personality, mixed with the fact that he was the No. 1 safety prospect in the nation, lands Hill on this list. He finished with four career interceptions, posted 143 total career tackles and left Florida early to enter the NFL Draft after three years. He was not selected in the 2011 Draft and signed with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. Hill may not belong on a the same list as prison inmates, but his intriguing twitter feed alone deserves a mention. Note: the EDSBS article includes graphic information.

17. Aundre Dean, RB, AC100 No. 54
Katy, TX (UCLA)

The No. 6-rated running back in the nation played in six games for UCLA as a freshman before transferring back to the Lone State State and TCU. Dean earned TCU Offensive Scout Team MVP honors in 2009 and has played the last two seasons for the Horned Frogs. However, Dean has managed only 353 yards on 63 carries over the last two seasons in Ft. Worth. He has played in 20 of the possible 26 games, but got a touch in only 13 of those 20 games. With Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker returning, Dean should be limited once again in 2012.

18. Dayne Crist, QB, AC100 No. 20
Sherman Oaks, CA (Notre Dame)

The California product has never been able to stay healthy. After showing solid promise to start the 2010 season (2,033 yards in eight games), Crist suffered his second ACL tear and has never been the same since. He has graduated and will compete for the starting job at Kansas under former head coach Charlie Weis next fall. He was the No. 2 quaterback in the nation in 2008, trailing only Terrelle Pryor in the QB rankings. He has the chance to change his legacy in 2012, but has never come close to fulfilling his lofty recruiting status.

19. Lamaar Thomas, ATH, AC100 No. 68
Fort Washington, MD (Ohio State)

One of the fastest players on the Buckeyes roster, Thomas proved he was capable of contributing in his first two seasons with a 20.9 kickoff return average on 18 attempts in 2009. However, "Flash" failed to grasp the wide receiver position and eventually transferred to New Mexico. He sat out 2010 and played in four games in 2011, catching nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns to go with 10 rushes for 50 yards.

20. Terrelle Pryor, QB, AC100 No. 1
Jeannette, PA (Ohio State)

It's hard to label a kid with his numbers, wins and production a bust, but TP2 threw away a chance to play for a national title as a senior for a little extra ink. He, and his teammates', actions led to Ohio State vacating the entire 2010 seasons (wins and dollars) and forced head coach Jim Tressel to retire. However, Pryor's decisions have led to Urban Meyer landing in Columbus, so maybe Buckeyes fans need to thank TP2 for affiliating with federally investigated drug dealers.

<p> Who were the biggest busts of the 2008 Athlon Consensus 100?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, Recruiting
Path: /college-football/recruiting-rankings-2012-athlon-consensus-100-finalized

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

The 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 is finalized.

Like it is every recruiting cycle, the final revamping of Athlon’s top-100 is always the most volatile. The national, regional and state all-star games allow scouts to see the best compete against equivalent talent, sometimes for the first time in their careers. Thus, it creates rapid risers and late fallers in the recruiting rankings.

All six major recruiting services have totally reworked and finalized their rankings for the class of 2012, and the AC100 reflects that. As National Signing Day 2012 inches closer, the ink is now dry on the 2012 recruiting rankings permanently. There are plenty of new faces in the AC100, but the name atop the rankings remains the same.

Dorial Green-Beckham Still No. 1

Green-Beckham, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver, debuted atop the AC100 back in the summer and never fell off the top spot. In fact, he widened the gap as the nation’s best player by adding two additional first place votes. Offense-Defense and named the Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest wide receiver as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, while and NCSA left DGB atop their lists. He finished as the No. 2 player in the nation by and No. 3 in the nation by ESPN.

Green-Beckham is planning on a National Signing Day announcement and took his second official visit last weekend to Arkansas. He has visited Texas officially, but Missouri, Oklahoma and the Razorbacks appear to hold a slight edge over Texas and Alabama. The star wideout claimed co-MVP honors in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl two weeks ago after scoring on a USAAA bowl-record 79-yard touchdown reception.

There was plenty of movement around DGB, however, as three names dropped out of the top 10. Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol blocker Andrus Peat dropped from No. 5 to No. 23. Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles lineman John Theus, who is committed to Georgia, fell from No. 8 to No. 13. And Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook running back Keith Marshall, formerly the top running back in the nation, dropped from No. 6 to No. 16. Marshall is also headed to Georgia. Hueytown (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston also fell from No. 10 to No. 15.

The biggest jump into the top 10 came from Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek blocker D.J. Humphries, who went from No. 17 to No. 3. The future Florida Gator is now the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman. A pair of defensive tackles, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate’s Eddie Goldman (previously No. 13) and Brenham’s (Texas) Malcom Brown (previously No. 24) , both finished 2012 as top-10 players.

Olney (Md.) Good Councel athlete Stefon Diggs, who recently visited Florida, made a big jump from No. 11 to No. 5. Diggs has stated he will wait until after NSD to sign but proved in San Antonio that he is one of the nation’s most dynamic football forces.

Biggest Risers and New Faces

There are 16 new faces in the Athlon Consensus 100 – by the far the biggest number of new names ever to leap into the top 100. In fact, Daphne (Ala.) linebacker Ryan Anderson was completely unranked — meaning not one of the six recruiting services had ranked Anderson in the top-150 nationally — for the entire recruitment process until today when he lands in the AC100 at No. 84. Future Washington quarterback Cyler Miles made a huge jump after a co-MVP showing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He is now the nation’s No. 4-rated quarterback. A pair of tailbacks, Tarboro (N.C.) runner Todd Gurley and Stone Mountain (Ga.) tailback Mike Davis, both used all-star showings to vault themselves into the AC100 as well. Gurley is headed to Georgia and Davis is committed to South Carolina.

Here is the list of the biggest risers in the final AC100 (* - new to the AC100):

Name Pos. Hometown +/- Rank Prev. Verbal
Ryan Anderson* LB Daphne, AL N/A #84 UR Alabama
Todd Gurley* RB Tarboro, NC +148 #83 #231 Georgia
Mike Davis* RB Stone Mountain, GA +88 #54 #142 South Carolina
Amari Cooper* WR Miami, FL +75 #58 #133 Alabama
Cyler Miles* QB Denver, CO +73 #91 #164 Washington
Kendall Sanders* ATH Athens, TX +73 #87 #160 Texas
Leonard Williams* DE Daytona Beach, FL +66 #68 #134 --
Kevon Seymour* DB Pasadena, CA +65 #96 #161 USC
Ondre Pipkins* DT Kansas City, MO +61 #60 #121 Michigan
JaQuay Williams* WR Tyrone, GA +46 #99 #146 Auburn
Ukeme Eligwe* LB Stone Mountain, GA +44 #72 #116 Florida State
Alex Carter* DB Asburn, VA +44 #76 #120 Stanford
Deontay Greenberry WR Fresno, CA +40 #52 #92 Notre Dame
Jonathan Bullard DT Shelby, NC +40 #11 #51 Florida
Brian Poole* DB Bradenton, FL +40 #71 #111 Florida
Isaac Seumalo OL Corvallis, OR +38 #39 #77 Oregon State
Zach Kline QB Danville, CA +34 #40 #74 Cal
T.J. Yeldon RB Daphne, AL +29 #32 #61 Alabama
Sterling Shepard* WR Oklahoma City, OK +23 #100 #123 Oklahoma
Trey Williams RB Spring, TX +22 #19 #41 Texas A&M
Curtis Riser* OL DeSoto, TX +22 #79 #101 Texas
Zach Banner OL Lakewood, WA +21 #50 #71 --
Josh Harvey-Clemons ATH Valdosta, GA +20 #20 #40 --
D.J. Foster* ATH Scottsdale, AZ +15 #97 #112 --

Biggest Fallers and Dropouts

If there were a record 16 new faces in the AC100, that unfortunately means that 16 old names had to drop off the list. The quarterback position took a big hit in the finalized rankings as Texas A&M’s Matt Davis, Auburn’s Zeke Pike and Texas’ Connor Brewer each fell outside of the top 100. The highest player to fall out of the rankings, however, was Rochester (N.Y.) Aquinas Institute defensive tackle Jarron Jones. The future Fighting Irish defender had some difficulty at the All-American events once he was facing the nation’s best. New York prep football leaves much to be desired, and his adjustment period likely caused him to drop from the AC100. Yuri Wright, formerly of Don Bosco Prep, plummeted for other reasons, as his lewd and inappropriate twitter timeline ended with his discharge from the program.

Here is the list of the biggest fallers in the final AC100 (* - dropped out of the AC100):

Name Pos. Hometown +/- Rank Prev. Verbal
Avery Johnson* WR Pompao Beach, FL -99 #166 #67 LSU
Jelani Hamilton* DE Ft. Lauderdale, FL -74 #154 #84 Miami
Matt Davis* QB Houston, TX -73 #161 #88 Texas A&M
Zeke Pike* QB Edgewood, KY -71 #153 #82 Auburn
Connor Brewer* QB Scottsdale, AZ -70 #134 #64 Texas
Jarron Jones* DT Rochester, NY -69 #101 #32 Notre Dame
Dominique Wheeler* WR Crockett, TX -69 #127 #58 Texas Tech
Anthony Alford* QB Petal, MS -49 #119 #70 Southern Miss
Yuri Wright DB Ramsey, NJ -49 #70 #21 --
Kwon Alexander LB Oxford, AL -44 #82 #38 --
Barry Sanders, Jr. RB Oklahoma City, OK -35 #80 #45 Stanford
Ricardo Louis* WR Miami Beach, FL -34 #121 #87 Florida St
Quay Evans DT Morton, MS -34 #93 #59 Mississippi St
Devonte Fields* DE Arlington, TX -27 #122 #95 TCU
Noor Davis LB Leesburg, FL -27 #49 #22 Stanford
Jordan Payton* WR Westlake Village, CA -25 #124 #99 Cal
Dan Voltz* OL Barrington, IL -24 #114 #90 Wisconsin
Sheldon Day* DT Indianapolis, IN -20 #116 #94 Notre Dame
Cayleb Jones WR Austin, TX -20 #59 #39 Texas
LaDarrell McNeil* DB Dallas, TX -16 #112 #96 Tennessee
Tyriq McCord* DE Tampa, FL -10 #107 #97 Miami
Evan Boehm* OL Lee's Summit, MO -3 #103 #100 Missouri

<p> There was plenty of movement in the final 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. Who were the risers and fallers?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/joe-paternos-career-numbers

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Joe Paterno’s legacy will cause mixed emotions and create division amongst sports fans and non-sports fans alike across the country from now until the end of time. He impacted thousands of lives in the most positive and meaningful ways possible. But he also was in charge when the worst scandal in college football history hit his university.

Either way, the facts don’t lie about how successful he was as the head coach at Penn State University. He is arguably the greatest college football to ever live and the stats back it up:

December 21, 1926: Joe Paterno was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Angelo and Florence Paterno.

1944: Joe Paterno played his final season at Brooklyn Prep High School. He lost one game his senior season – the season finale against the Vince Lombardi coached St. Cecilia’s squad.

1950: Graduated from Brown University as the star quarterback — and an English major. He accepted a position on Rip Engle's Brown coaching staff. Shortly thereafter, Engle took the Penn State head coaching job and was allowed to bring one assistant. He selected a young and completely inexperience Paterno to take with him to Happy Valley.

1962: Married Suzanne Pohland, Penn State Class of 1962.

1966: Is hired as the head coach of Penn State University.

1969: Hires Jerry Sandusky as Penn State’s defensive line coach.

1970: Multiple sources indicate had the Green Bay Packers offered the head coach/General Managing job to Joe Paterno, that he would have accepted the position after only five years of leading Penn State.

5-2: The seven-man Green Bay Packers' Board of Trustees votes to hire Missouri head coach Dan Devine over second choice Joe Paterno.

2: National Championships under Joe Paterno. In 1982, Penn State defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and in 1986 Penn State defeated Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

5: Undefeated Seasons under Joe Paterno. He didn’t lose a game in 1968, 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1994. Only one of those seasons earned him a National Championship.

46: Years as head coach at Penn State University by Joe Paterno.

409: The most wins all-time by any D-1 head football coach. His final coaching record was 409-136-3.

24: The most bowl wins all-time by an D-1 head football coach. His final bowl record 24-12-1.

23: It took Joe Paterno 23 seasons to finally experience his first losing season in Happy Valley.

40: The number of winning seasons Paterno had as a head coach at Penn State. Also the initial number of counts of aggravated child sexual assault levied against Jerry Sandusky.

35: Number of Top 25 postseason rankings in 46 seasons of coaching. Also, the number of 8+ win seasons for JoePa.

21: The number of double-digit win seasons for Penn State in 46 years of coaching.

15: Number of 11-win seasons as the head coach at Penn State for Paterno.

5: Number of children with wife Sue, which eventually led to 17 grandchildren.

5: Number of major bowls Joe Paterno won. Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Cotton.

5: Number of AFCA National Coach of the Year Awards for Joe Paterno.

5: Maxwell Trophy winners coached by JoePa: Rich Lucas (1959), Glenn Ressler (1964), John Cappelletti (1973), Chuck Fusina (1978), Larry Johnson (2002)

4: Chuck Bednarik winners coached by JoePa: Lavar Arrington (1999), Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007)

3: Big Ten titles won while at Penn State (PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993).

1: Heisman Trophy winner John Cappaletti, who led the 1973 Nittany Lions to an unblemished record while rushing 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns. Also, the same number of flavors of ice cream named after Joe Paterno on campus (Peachy Paterno).

8: Number of College Football Hall of Famers coached by Joe Paterno at Penn State: Mike Reid, Ted Kwalick, Jack Ham, Dennis Onkotz, John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Lydell Mitchell, Curt Warner

250: Over 250 NFL players played under Joe Paterno at Penn State.

$3.5 million: Dollars Joe Paterno and wife Sue donated to the brand new Paterno Library on Penn State’s campus in 1998. He and his wife gave more than $4 million total to Penn State over his the course of his career.

9: Days between being fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees via phone and when he announces that he has a “treatable” form of lung cancer.

44: Days between being fired by Penn State on November 9 and passing away at 9:25 AM on January 22.

4: Number of weeks Bear Bryant lived after retiring as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

<p> Joe Paterno's Penn State Career By The Numbers</p>
Post date: Monday, January 23, 2012 - 08:32
Path: /college-football/very-early-2012-big-ten-predictions

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

Very Early 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Key Returnees: QB Braxton Miller, RB Jordan Hall, RB Jamaal Berry, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Corey Brown, TE Jake Stoneburner, OL Jack Mewhort, OL Andrew Norwell, DT John Simon, DL Jonathan Hankins, LB Storm Klein, LB Ryan Shazier, DB Christian Bryant, DB Bradley Roby, DB C.J. Barnett, K Drew Basil

Key Losses: RB Boom Herron, WR DeVier Posey,  OL J.B. Shugarts, OL Michael Brewster, OL Mike Adams, LB Andrew Sweat, DB Tyler Moeller

The Ohio State Buckeyes should not only be the class of the Leaders Division but might finish with the best overall record in the conference in 2012. Unfortunately for Scarlet and Gray faithful — and new head coach and immediate cult hero Urban Meyer — tOSU cannot play for the Big Ten Championship or in a bowl game. But that does not mean that the Bucks won't ruin a few seasons along the way.

The non-conference slate is highlighted by a visit from Cal, and Ohio State will have to visit Michigan State and host Nebraska in a tough cross-over schedule. With Michigan visiting the Horseshoe in the finale, OSU has the chance to knock off what should be the other three top teams in the league.

With the entire defense returning largely intact and Braxton Miller looking to take another big step in his already stellar development, Meyer has the makings of a championship squad in 2013. And with the way he is burning down the recruiting trail in Columbus right now, things are only getting better on the Banks of the Olentangy's.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

Key Returnees: RB Montee Ball, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Jacob Pedersen, OL Ricky Wagner, OL Travis Frederick, DL Beau Allen, LB Chris Borland, LB Mike Taylor, DB Shelton Johnson

Key Losses: QB Russell Wilson, WR Nick Toon, OT Josh Oglesby, OG Kevin Zeitler, OC Peter Konz, FB Bradie Ewing, CB Antonio Fenelus, S Aaron Henry, K Philip Welch, P Brad Nortman,

The Badgers were two passes away from a magical season in Madison. But it wasn't to be and they lost their second straight Rose Bowl. What's worse, is losing the star quarterback-receiver duo and three-fifths of a stellar offensive line heading into 2012. Rebuilding the offense will be no easy task, however, Montee Ball, James White, Jacob Pedersen and Jared Abbrederis offer whoever the new quarterback is plenty of offensive weaponery. Replacing offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who is the head coach at Pitt now, however, might be the biggest issue facing this team.

The non-conference schedule is easy as usual with the possible exception of a trip to Corvallis, Ore., to face the Beavers. Facing Nebraska in Lincoln and hosting Michigan State won't be easy tests in cross-divisional play either. They also will get Ohio State at home in the penultimate contest of the season.

This team has a chance, by default, to land in its second straight Big Ten title game, but will have to do so with its defense. A solid front seven, led by the Big Ten's top two returning tacklers Chris Borland (143 tackles, the Original Honey Badger) and Mike Taylor (150 tackles), will be the strength of this entire team. If Bret Bilema can fill major holes on his coaching staff — Matt Canada was hired as the new OC — then UW has a chance to reach the title game once again.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

Key Returnees: RB Silas Redd, WR Justin Brown, WR Devon Smith, DL Jordan Hill, DL Sean Stanley, LB Glenn Carson, LB Gerald Hodges, K/P Anthony Fera

Key Losses: WR Derek Moye, WR Chaz Powell, OL Johnnie Troutman, OL Quinn Barham, DL Jack Crawford, DL Devon Still, DL Chima Okoli, LB Nathan Stupar, DB Drew Astorino, DB D'Anton Lynn

Where should we begin? First, Joe Paterno will not be roaming the sidelines at Beaver Stadium for the first time since 1950. And Bill O'Brien cannot devote his full attention to recruiting until the Patriots finish up their little romp through the NFL playoffs. But at least this football team can move forward and will do so in true Nittany Lion fashion: By running the football on offense and playing stout defense.

The biggest issue facing this team is still at quarterback, but all three may be in jeopardy of missing time in 2012. Robert Bolden could transfer out, Matt McGloin was involved in a locker room fight and Paul Jones has academic issues. If this position can be solidfied under new offensive guru O'Brien, and the holes along the defensive line can be filled, this team could push the Badgers for a bid in the title game.

While reaching the Big Ten title game certainly isn't out of the question, 2012 will more than likely be a year of transition and struggles. Recruiting has obviously taken a big hit amidst the worst scandal in college football history. The schedule includes a trip to a feisty Virginia squad and crossover opponents Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. And the holes at QB and along the D-Line make it tough to pick Penn State over Wisconsin — even with the Badgers visiting Happy Valley in the season finale.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

Key Returnees: QB Nathan Scheelhaase, RB Donovonn Young, WR Spencer Harris, WR Ryan Lankford, OL Graham Pocic, DL Akeem Spence, DL Michael Buchanan, DL Glenn Foster, DL Justin Staples, LB Jonathan Brown, LB Houston Bates, DB Justin Green, DB Terry Hawthorne, DB Steve Hull, DB Supo Sanni, P Justin DuVernois

Key Losses: WR A.J. Jenkins, OT Jeff Allen, OL Jack Cornell, RB Jason Ford, DE Whitney Mercilus, LB Ian Thomas, S Trulon Henry, K Derek Dimke

There was a lot of positive momentum for Illinois in 2011. And six weeks into the season, the unbeaten Fighting Illini had apparently proven that the preseason hype was warranted. However, Ron Zook's squad lost six straight games to finish the season and former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman is now the head coach in Champaign-Urbana.

Beckman has some nice pieces to work with on offense despite the loss of Jason Ford and A.J. Jenkins. Nathan Scheelhaase needs to get back to 2010 form and the offensive line needs to fill holes left by Jeff Allen and Jack Cornell. But Beckman's Rockets posted big numbers in the MAC and Scheelhaase has all of the tools needed to be successful.

Losing the NCAA sack leader (Mercilus) will hurt, but the defense is young, talented and deep at nearly every position. Look for this unit to lead the team early against a brutal first half of the season. Illinois will play at Arizona State, Louisiana Tech, Penn State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan before the bye week in Week 8.

5. Purdue Boilermakers

Key Returnees: QB Caleb TerBush, RB Akeem Shavers, RB Ralph Bolden, WR Antavian Edison, WR O.J. Ross, WR, Gary Bush, WR Raheem Mostert, OL Jesse Schmitt, OL Rick Schmieg, DL Kawann Short, DL Bruce Gaston, DL Ryan Russell, LB Dwayne Beckford, LB Will Lucas, CB Ricardo Allen, DB Josh Johnson, DB Max Charlot, P Cody Webster

Key Losses: OL Ken Plue, OL Dennis Kelly, OL Nick Mondek, OL Kevin Ballinger, DL Adam Brockman, DL Gerald Gooden, LB Chris Carlino, DB Joe Holland, DB Albert Evans, DB Logan Link, K Caron Wiggs

There will be a weird vibe eminating from West Lafayette this off-season. Purdue won its first bowl game since 2007 but most fans are treading water on Danny Hope's future as the head coach. He returns Caleb TurBush at quarterback and a collection of talented offensive skill names. If the reworked offensive line can hold up, this offense as a chance to be better than it has been in years.

On defense, Ricardo Allen returns to lead a secondary that has experience but ranked 10th in the Big Ten in pass defense. The front four also needs to show improvement as they ranked 9th in the Big Ten in rushing defense and 77th nationally in getting to the opposing quarterbacks. However, the top three sack masters return to the roster and three of the top four tacklers return as well. This unit needs to show improvement across the board if it expects to sneak into the Leaders Division race that appears to be wide open at this stage.

6. Indiana Hoosiers

Key Returnees: QB Tre Roberson, RB Stephen Houston, WR Kofi Hughes, LB Mark Murphy, DB Lawrence Barnett, DB Greg Heban, KR Shane Wynn, K Mitch Ewald, P Adam Pines

Key Losses: WR Damarlo Belcher, LB Jeff Thomas, LB Leon Beckum

No one named Kiel will be under center as Kevin Wilson missed out on Gunner and has watched Dusty transfer. However, Tre Roberson added a spark to the Hoosiers offense in the second half of 2011. He rushed for 72.8 yards per game over the last five contests and took one of the worst rushing offenses in the league (118.8 ypg) to a team rolling up over 160 yards per game. With Stephen Houston back at tailback, expect Wilson to lean on his running game all season long.

On defense, two of the top four tacklers are gone as the linebacking corp will need to be reworked. The secondary returns plenty of talent but the bottom line, the worst rushing, total, scoring and pass efficiency defense needs to improve in all facets if the Hoosiers are going to return to the postseason since 2007 — its only bowl trip since 1993.

Legends Division

1. Michigan Wolverines

Key Returnees: QB Denard Robinson, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, WR Jeremy Gallon, OL Taylor Lewan, DL Craig Roh, LB Kenny Demens, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Jake Ryan, DB Thomas Gordon, S Jordan Kovacs, DB J.T. Floyd, K Brendan Gibbons

Key Losses: WR Junior Hemingway, OC David Molk, DT Mike Martin, DL Ryan Van Bergen, CB Troy Woolfolk,

All signs are go in Ann Arbor in 2012. This team will likely be the preseason favorite to win the conference as Brady Hoke returns the most electric and atheltic quarterback in the nation in Denard Robinson. And he will have plenty to work with as emerging star Fitzgerald Toussaint also returns to carry the load. The offensive line and receiving corps should be plenty capable of leading this team to a Big Ten title.

The only issues will come along the defensive line, where the Wolverines must replace three starters including all-everything Mike Martin. With the back-seven returning largely intact and still relatively young, Greg Mattison's defense should maintain status quo in 2012.

If all things fall into place, the Maize and Blue should be thinking not only Big Ten title but National Championship heading into next fall. However, those dreams could be shattered right out of the gate as Week 1 features a huge test against the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. If they somehow get past Bama, a trip to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State still loom with home tests against rivals Michigan State and Iowa sprinkled in. Make no mistake, however, Shoelace has this team thinking South Beach.

2. Michigan State Spartans

Key Returnees: RB Le'Veon Bell, RB Larry Caper, OL Chris McDonald, DE Williams Gholston, DL Marcus Rush, LB Max Bullough, LB Chris Norman, LB Denicos Allen, DB Isaiah Lewis, DB Darqueze Dennard, DB Johnny Adams, K Dan Conroy, P Mike Sadler

Key Losses: QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR B.J. Cunningham, WR Keshawn Martin, OL Joel Foreman, DT Jerel Worthy, DL Kevin Pickelman, S Trenton Robinson

The biggest question heading into 2011 for Michigan State was its offensive line. There will be no such problem for the Spartans heading into 2012 as the front line on offense should be the strength of the team. This time, however, it has to find a replacement for the school's all-time touchdown king and unquestioned leader in quarterback Kirk Cousins as well as the school's all-time leading receiver B.J. Cunningham. With a talented backfield and strong front line, it should be easier for Mark Dantonio to break in a new quarterback.

On defense, losing Jerel Worthy hurts but William Gholston and a stacked group of front seven defenders give this team a chance to contend for the third year in a row. The defense, as is the case under most Dantonio teams, will be stellar, but will be tested early.  The season opener features Boise State and Week 3 provides a visit from Notre Dame. While neither are expected to be elite squads, the non-conference slate will clearly set the tone for Sparty in 2012.

Michigan State also gets no favors in its cross-over schedule. It has to face Ohio State at home and travels to Madison to take on Bucky.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Key Returnees: QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Kenny Bell, TE Ben Cotton, OL Spencer Long, DL Cameron Meredith, DL Baker Steinkuhler, LB Will Compton,  DB Daimion Stafford, K/P Brett Maher,

Key Losses: OL Marcel Jones, OL Mike Caputo, OL Marcel Jones, DE Jared Crick, LB LaVonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DB Austin Cassidy

Once again the Nebraska Cornhuskers' upside will hang on quarterback Taylor Martinez's shoulders. With superstar tailback Rex Burkhead back to take the pressure off Martinez, the third-year starter's ability to develop into an efficient passer will determine if Nebraska loses four games for the fourth straight year under Bo Pelini or if the Big Red can challenge the state of Michigan for Big Ten supremacy.

The defense loses its three biggest stars from each level of the unit but will return with plenty of depth and a new face calling the plays. Longtime Pelini understudy John Papuchis will be charged with improving a run defense that ranked eighth in the Big Ten a year ago. If the front seven can return to its 2009 form, Nebraska could contend for a conference title.

Magnifying all of the question marks for the Huskers is a brutal cross-over schedule that includes a visit from Wisconsin and a trip to Ohio State in the first two conference games of the year. Later, Penn State will visit Lincoln, meaning NU will face the top three teams in the Leaders once again in 2012.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes

Key Returnees: QB James Vanderberg, WR Keenan Davis, WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, OL James Ferentz, LB James Morris, LB Christian Kirksey, DB Tanner Allen, DB Micah Hyde, K Mike Meyer

Key Losses: WR Marvin McNutt, RB Marcus Coker, OL Riley Reiff, OL Markus Zusevics, DL Mike Daniels, DL Broderick Binns LB, Tyler Nielsen, CB Shaun Prater

In a league loaded with elite level dual-threat quarterbacks, James Vandenberg is easily the top returning pure passer in the Big Ten. Keenan Davis, Kevonte Martin-Manley and C.J. Fiedorowicz will have to replace the loss of record-setting wideout Marvin McNutt and troubled tailback Marcus Coker. Even with those losses, this offense has a chance to be solid if the offensive line can develop. The Hawkeyes struggled mightily to run the football or protect the quarterback in 2011, so improvement in this area will be imperative for head coach Kirk and starting center James Ferentz.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ferentz has no trouble developing linebackers and this should be the strength of the unit again. Filling holes along the defensive line in the a league that features more power rushing attacks than any other league will be key. The Hawkeyes will also have a new defensive coordinator, as veteran Norm Parker decided to retire following the 2011 season.

The rivalry game against Iowa State is always tight and has the added motivation of revenge in 2012. The cross-over schedule gives reason for optimism, however, as Iowa misses both Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Hawks face Purdue, Indiana and Penn State from the Leaders.

5. Northwestern Wildcats

Key Returnees: QB Kain Colter, RB Treyvon Green, WR Demetrius Fields, OL Brian Mulroe, LB Damien Proby, LB David Nwabuisi, DB Ibraheim Campbell, K Jeff Budzien, P Brandon Williams

Key Losses: QB Dan Persa, WR Jeremy Ebert, TE Drake Dunsmore, OL Al Netter, DE Vince Browne, DB Jordan Mabin, DB Brian Peters

The Dan Persa era is officially over and the Kain Colter era has officially begun — at least, under center. Colter, who has excelled as a receiver will be given the reins to one of the more quarterback-friendly offenses in the nation. Not having Jeremy Ebert or Drake Dunsmore to throw to will be an issue Pat Fitzgerald will need to address in spring ball, but the offense should once again over achieve in 2012.

As a former linebacker, Coach Fitz always seems to find quality talent to play his former position and Damien Proby, David Nwabuisi and Ibraheim Campbell have as much potential as any group on the league. Filling a few holes in the secondary will be important.

The non-conference schedule offers some intriuging tests as the Wildcats will face three BCS conference teams in Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. But missing Wisconsin and Ohio State in cross-over play helps as Northwestern gets Indiana, Illinois and Penn State from the Leaders.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Key Returnees: QB MarQueis Gray, RB Donnell Kirkwood, DL D.L. Wilhite, DL Ra'Shede Hageman, LB Mike Rallis, LB Keanon Cooper, DB Brock Vereen, DB Kyle Henderson

Key Losses: RB Duane Bennett, WR Da'Jon McKnight, WR Brandon Green, TE Eric Lair, OL Chris Bunders, LB Gary Tinsley, S Kim Royston, DB Christyn Lewis

After years of longing for his superb physical talent to bubble to the surface — and changing positions — quarterback MarQueis Gray is poised for a huge season. He rushed for 966 yards and six scores and capped his junior season with back-to-back 160+ yards games — including a second Big Ten win over Illinois. Jerry Kill needs to fill some holes on the offense but has his leader at quarterback and appears to have put his stamp on the program by the way his team competed at the end of 2011.

Defensively, this team will return plenty of experience throughout the defense as three of the top four sack masters and four of the top six tacklers return to action. If this group can build on its stellar defensive finale against Illinois, in which it allowed a season-low 78 yards passing and seven total points, the Gophers might be able the pull the upset. It also posted its best defensive conference performance against the run as Illinois rushed 32 times for 82 yards.

2012 Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan vs. Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers return to the Big Ten title game, but do so by default. Ohio State will finish with the best record in the Leaders but the nod will go to a slightly better than average UW team. Michigan, meanwhile, will ride its senior quarterback to the big game and handle the overmatched Badgers with relative ease.

Related 2012 Content:

Very Early Big East 2012 Preseason Predictions
Very Early Big 12 2012 Preseason Predictions

2012 Heisman Trophy Candidates

Very Early Preseason 2012 College Football Top 25

Athlon Roundtable: Who are the BCS National Title Contenders in 2012?

What To Expect from the Crimson Tide in 2012?

What To Expect from the LSU Tigers in 2012?

2012 SEC Schedule Analysis

Three Teams on the Rise in 2012

Three Teams Sliding Back in 2012

Top Non-Conference Games to Watch in 2012

<p> Athlon releases its very early predictions for the Big Ten Conference for 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-bcs-national-champions

-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter) and Mark Ross

The BCS just finished its 14th season of action, and has for the most part, been a major improvement on the previous bowl system. How do each of the 14 official champions stack-up against each other? Who has the most talent? Who had the best resume? Who played the toughest schedule? And who performed the best on the biggest stage?

Athlon Sports has ranked the 14 BCS National Champions — and there is a decided Sun Belt feel to the list. Just not at the very top. That distinction belongs to the Big East, Big 12 and Pac-12.

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)

2. USC Trojans, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Championships: Pac-12, Orange Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense (79.4 ypg) and turnover margin (+1.46), led the Pac-10 in scoring (38.2 ppg) and finished No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (13.0 ppg), USC did not rank below third in the Pac-10 in any of the 14 tracked team stats.
Award Winners: Matt Leinart (Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp, Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Reggie Bush (Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Shaun Cody (Pac-10 Co-Def. Player of the Year),
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), Lofa Tatupu (2nd, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Lawrence Jackson (1st, 2008), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Sedrick Ellis (1st, 2008), Keith Rivers (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), Terrell Thomas (2nd, 2008), Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009)

The best team in the Pac-10 since the BCS began might have been the best team in any league during the BCS era. After a split national title in 2003 with LSU, the Trojans entered 2004 as the No. 1 team in the nation. An opening weekend win over ACC champ Virginia Tech in Landover started what would become a magical ride to a BCS National Championship. The Trojans went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the nation, claimed the Heisman Trophy and put together the most impressive national championship game in the brief history of the BCS. Quarterback Matt Leinart, in his second year under center and armed with an NFL roster full of skill players, led the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (156.54) and finished with 3,322 yards and 36 total touchdowns (against only six interceptions). He capped his Heisman campaign with 332 yards and a BCS bowl record five touchdown passes in the destruction of unbeaten No. 2 Oklahoma. The two-headed rushing attack of LenDale White (1,108 yards, 15 TDs) and Reggie Bush (1,416 yards from scrimmage, 15 TDs) made it virtually impossible for anyone to stop the 2004 Trojans. Eighteen different Trojans from the 2004 BCS National Championship team were selected in the first or second rounds of the NFL Draft. This team had the stats, the resume, the undefeated title season, the NFL talent, a superstar coach and is the best Pac-10 team of the BCS era because of it.

2004 Schedule:

Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10 (Provo, UT)
Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28 (Palo Alto, CA)
Oct: 9: USC 23, (#7) Cal 17 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 16: USC 45, (#15) Arizona State 7 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12 (Pullman, WA)
Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 20 (Corvallis, OR)
Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24 (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 (Miami Gardens, FL, Orange Bowl, BCS NCG)

3. Texas Longhorns, 2005 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: School record 50.2 points per game, school single-season record for total yards (6,657), touchdowns (55), total yards per game (512.1) and yards per rushing attempt (5.9), Vince Young no. 6 in total offense (314.3 ypg) and no. 3 in passing efficiency
Award Winners: Mack Brown (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Big 12 Coach of the Year), Michael Huff (Jim Thorpe Award, Rose Bowl Defensive MVP), Vince Young (Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl Offensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (9): Michael Griffin (1st, 2007), Michael Huff (1st, 2006), Brian Orakpo (1st, 2009), Aaron Ross (1st, 2007), Vince Young (1st, 2006), Justin Blalock (2nd, 2007), Tim Crowder (2nd, 2007), Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006), Limas Sweed (2nd, 2008)

Texas entered the season ranked No. 2 behind defending national champion USC, and that’s where the two found themselves when they met in the Rose Bowl in January 2006. To get to Pasadena, Texas steamrolled the competition, averaging more than 50 points a game and scoring 60 or more four times. In the second week of the season, Texas became the first non-conference opponent in 15 years to defeat Ohio State at home, and followed that win up about a month later by dominating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns destroyed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship to set up the showdown with No. 1 USC. The Rose Bowl title tilt lived up to every bit of its billing as Vince Young put on the most impressive performance in BCS National Championship history, accounting for 84 percent of Texas’ total offense (467 out of 556) yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to capture the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in thrilling fashion. Young was one of four consensus All-Americans on this Longhorns team, which also produced a total of 24 NFL Draft picks.

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Texas 60, Louisiana-Lafayette 3 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 10: Texas 25, (#4) Ohio State 22 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 15: Texas 42, (#24) Colorado 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 22: Texas 52, (#10) Texas Tech 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29 (College Station, TX)
Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colorado 3 (Big 12 Championship — Houston, TX)
Jan. 4: Texas 41, (#1) USC 38 (Rose Bowl, National Championship)

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Finished second in the nation in total (244.1 ypg), rushing (78.1 ypg) and scoring defense (11.7 ppg).
Award Winners: Mark Ingram (Heisman Trophy), Rolando McClain (Butkus, SEC Def. Player of the Year), Javier Arenas (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

Led by boy genius quarterback Greg McElroy and a host of national award-winning first round NFL Draft picks, the Alabama Crimson Tide won their first national title since 1992. Nick Saban defeated five ranked opponents before taking down No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game 37-21. This was the best defense in the nation, finishing second nationally in three of the four major statistical categories. In a rematch of the 2008 SEC title game, McElroy did his best Tebow impression by completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards without a turnover while picking up key yards on the ground. Heisman winner Mark Ingram rushed 28 times for 113 yards and three scores in the tear-inducing 32-13 win over Florida in Atlanta. Thus far, six first round picks have entered the NFL from the 2009 roster. Expect that number to grow in the spring with names like Trent Richardon, Dre Kirkpatrick, Barrett Jones and Mark Barron grading into or around the first round.

Florida and Alabama split against each other over the 2008-2009 seasons. Both had a Heisman Trophy winner and both went on to claim the national title. However, the Crimson Tide get a small edge because they finished the season undefeated — something Tim Tebow never did in his four-year college career. Since these two specific teams will obviously never have the chance to face each other, fans are left to argue about which team would win if pitted against each other on a neutral field with all the marbles on the line.

Now, that might actually be something worth Tebow-ing for.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24 (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North Texas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 10: Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 17: Alabama 20, South Carolina 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 7: Alabama 24, LSU 15 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 21: Alabama 45, Tennessee-Chattanooga 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 (Auburn, AL)
Dec. 5: Alabama 32, Florida 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 37, Texas 21 (Pasadena, CA, BCS NCG)

5. Oklahoma Sooners, 2000 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Championships: Big 12 South, Big 12, Orange Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 7 in nation in both scoring offense (39 ppg) and scoring defense (16 ppg), no. 8 in total defense (278.9 ypg), no. 9 in pass defense (170.5 ypg) and no. 2 in pass efficiency defense, Josh Heupel no. 6 in nation in total offense (294.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Josh Heupel (AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award), Bob Stoops (AP National Coach of the Year, Big 12 Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson/FWAA Coach of the Year, Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Walter Camp National Coach of the Year, Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year), J.T. Thatcher (Mosi Tatupu Award — national Special Teams Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Roy Williams (1st, 2002), Andre Woolfolk (1st, 2003), Teddy Lehman (2nd, 2004)

This Sooners team entered the season ranked No. 19 in the country, but fueled by an impressive three-game stretch in October, it ended the season ranked considerably higher. Behind quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel and a stingy defense, the Sooners started October by destroying No. 11 Texas in the Red River Rivalry and then out-scored No. 2 Kansas State on the road and two weeks later dominated No. 3 Nebraska at home to vault to the top of the rankings. The Sooners would defeat Kansas State a second time in the Big 12 Championship to set up a showdown with No. 3 Florida State (No. 2 in the BCS standings) in the Orange Bowl. Even though they were playing in their home state, the Seminoles’ potent offense, led by quarterback and Heisman winner Chris Weinke, was held in check and scoreless by the Sooners defense in the lowest scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Fittingly enough, linebacker Torrance Marshall, who had six tackles and an interception (which ranks as the no. 4 Greatest BCS National Championship Performance), took home MVP honors as Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 to capture its seventh national championship and first since 1985.

2000 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (#11) Texas 14 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (#2) Kansas State 31 (Manhattan, KS)
Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (#3) Nebraska 14 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (#23) Texas A&M 31 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, Texas Tech 13 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7 (Stillwater, OK)
Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (#8) Kansas State 24 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (#3) Florida State 2 (Orange Bowl, National Championship)

6. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Led the SEC in rushing (231.1 ypg), total offense (445.1 ypg), scoring (43.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (96.76), scoring defense (12.9 ppg), punting (38.1 ypp), turnover margin (+1.57) and passing efficiency (170.6). Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring at 10.2 ppg.
Award Winners: Tim Tebow (Maxwell, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Brandon James (SEC Special Teamer of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006). But when the Florida Gators lost to the Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp on a final drive fourth-down stop, Tebow took his legendary legacy to new heights. After fumbling, taking sacks and missing open receivers, the Gainesville idol gave one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. The win over No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama pushed the Gators into the national title game against another No. 1. The Chosen One then delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by throwing for 231 yards and two scores while rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries to outlast Oklahoma 24-14. He claimed his second national championship in three years before announcing he would return for his senior year. The 2008 Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points).

2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: Florida 56, Hawaii 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 6: Florida 26, Miami 3 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 20: Florida 30, Tennessee 6 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 4: Florida 38, Arkansas 7 (Fayetteville, AR)
Oct. 11: Florida 51, LSU 21 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 1: Florida 49, Georgia 10 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 15: Florida 56, South Carolina 6 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 22: Florida 70, Citadel 19 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 29: Florida 45, Florida State 15 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 6: Florida 31, Alabama 20 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)

7. Florida State Seminoles, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Championships: ACC, Sugar Bowl, National
Key Stats: Janikowski led NCAA in FGM/Game (23 FGM), Led the ACC in passing 302.9 ypg and fourth in the nation in scoring at 37.5 ppg. Led the ACC in total defense (302.6 ypg).
Award Winners: Sebastian Janikowski (Lou Groza), Peter Warrick (Sugar Bowl MVP)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Peter Warrick (1st, 2000), Corey Simon (1st, 2000), Sebastian Janikowski (1st, 2000), Jamal Reynolds (1st, 2001), Derrick Gibson (1st, 2001), Tommy Polley (2nd, 2001), Anquan Boldin (2nd, 2003)

The best team of the BCS era in the ACC claimed nine first-team All-ACC performers (AP) and six second-team selections. Florida State became the first team in history to go wire-to-wire as No. 1 team in all three polls after beating five ranked opponents. It was the second-highest scoring Noles team of the BCS era and No. 7 highest-scoring team in FSU history. Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick outlasted Michael Vick and the Hokies in the memorable 1999 championship game. Warrick, after surviving some off-the-field incidents, claimed MVP honors after catching six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt for a score. His 220 all-purpose yards are fourth all-time in a title game and his 20 points (3 TDs, 2-pt) are a BCS title game record. (It was the No. 11 BCS title game performance.) The win gave Bobby Bowden his second national championship.

1999 Schedule:

Aug. 28: Florida State 41, Louisiana Tech 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 11: Florida State 41, (#10) Georiga Tech 35 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 18: Florida State 42, (#20) NC State 11 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 25: Florida State 42, North Carolina 10 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Oct. 2: Florida State 51, Duke 23 (Jacksonville, FL)
Oct. 9: Florida State 31, (#19) Miami 21 (Tallahasse, FL)
Oct. 16: Florida State 33, Wake Forest 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 23: Florida State 17, Clemson 10 (Clemson, SC)
Oct. 30: Florida State 35, Virginia 10 (Charlottesville, VA)
Nov. 13: Florida State 49, Maryland 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 20: Florida State 30, (#4) Florida 20 (Gainesville, FL)
Jan. 4: Florida State 46, (#2) Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the ACC Championship game

8. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Championships: SEC, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: This team put 11 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft; Peerless Price is second all-time in BCS bowls with 242 all-purpose yards in the Fiesta Bowl, his 49.8 yards per catch is a BCS title game record.
Award Winners: Phillip Fulmer (AP National Coach of the Year), Peerless Price (Fiesta Bowl MVP), David Cutcliffe (Broyles)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Peerless Price (2nd, 1999), Jamal Lewis (1st, 2000), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Chad Clifton (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Casey Coleman (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Travis Henry (2nd, 2001), John Henderson (1st, 2002)

In Year 1 A.P. (after Peyton), the Vols put together their greatest season in nearly five decades. Tee Martin stepped in at quarterback, and aided by a monster backfield that included Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Travis Stephens and Shawn Bryson, led the Vols past six ranked opponents for Tennessee’s sixth national championship. The defense held nine of its 13 opponents to 18 points or less. Despite a BCS record 199 yards receiving (242 all-purpose yards) and the game-winning 79-yard touchdown for game MVP Peerless Price, the most important and memorable moment from the 1998 title run involved a stumbling Razorback. Late in the Arkansas game, Tennessee was all but beaten until Billy Ratliff forced guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner, who gently and inexplicably “placed” the football on the ground. The Vols used a Henry touchdown run in the final seconds to seal the comeback from a 21-3 deficit and the eventual national championship.

1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Tennessee 34, (#17) Syracuse 33 (Syracuse, NY)
Sept. 19: Tennessee 20, (#2) Florida 17 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 26: Tennessee 42, Houston 7 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 3: Tennessee 17, Auburn 9 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 10: Tennessee 22, (#7) Georgia 3 (Athens, GA)
Oct. 24: Tennessee 35, Alabama 18 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 31: Tennessee 49, South Carolina 14 (Columbia, SC)
Nov. 7: Tennessee 37, UAB 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 14: Tennessee 28, (#10) Arkansas 24 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Tennessee 59, Kentucky 21 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 28: Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 0 (Nashville, TN)
Dec. 5: Tennessee 24, (#23) Mississippi State 14 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: Tennessee 23, (#2) Florida State 16 (Tempe, AZ, Fiesta Bowl)

9. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: National Championship
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners:
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: N/A (Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and William Vlachos could all be on this list come April.)

As Athlon Sports' preseason pick as the National Champion, Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but was destroyed on special teams and it cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep openly, the Tide held Jordan Jefferson and the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the 2009 Alabama title squad.

2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (#23) Penn State 11 (Happy Valley, PA)
Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (#14) Arkansas 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (#12) Florida 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 5: (#1) LSU 9, Alabama 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14 (Auburn, AL)
Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (#1) LSU 0 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)

10. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Championships: SEC, Sugar Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Only one time did a team score more than 14 points against LSU (Arkansas, 24). Led the nation in total defense (252.0 ypg) and scoring defense (11.0 ppg), held Heisman winner Jason White to 13-of-37 passing in title game.
Award Winners: Chad Lavalais (SEC Def. Player of the Year), Nick Saban (AP National Coach of the Year), Justin Vincent (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Joseph Addai (1st, 2006), Andrew Whitworth (2nd, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007), Dwayne Bowe (1st, 2007), Chris Davis (1st, 2007)

Armed with the nation’s nastiest defense, Nick Saban restored the LSU name to prominence in only his fourth year at the helm. His team led the nation in total defense at 252 yards per game and scoring defense at exactly 11.0 points per game. Arkansas was the only team to score more than 14 points against the Bayou Bengals in 2003. Quarterback Matt Mauck steered the ship, freshman Justin Vincent and sophomore Joseph Addai powered the offense and one of the deepest receiving corps in history gave LSU tremendous balance. With three one-loss teams sitting atop the standings — and USC ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll — the computers controversially placed the Sooners in the National Championship game against the Tigers. After the 21-14 win over an Oklahoma team boasting the Heisman, Thorpe, Lombardi and Bednarik winners, LSU claimed the BCS national title — splitting the votes with USC. It was their first national championship since 1958.

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 6: LSU 59, Arizona 13 (Tucson, AZ)
Sept. 13: LSU 35, Western Illinois 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 20: LSU 17, (#7) Georgia 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 27: LSU 41, Mississippi State 6 (Starkville, MS)
Oct. 11: Florida 19, LSU 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 18: LSU 33, South Carolina 7 (Columbia, SC)
Oct. 25: LSU 31, (#17) Auburn 7 (Baton Rouge, LA
Nov. 1: LSU 49, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 15: LSU 27, Alabama 3 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 22: LSU 17, (#15) Ole Miss 14 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 28: LSU 55, Arkansas 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 6: LSU 34, (#5) Georgia 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: LSU 21, (#3) Oklahoma 14 (New Orleans, LA, Sugar Bowl)

11. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 8-0*)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Cam Newton's 4,327 yards of total offense fset a single-season SEC record; Tigers set a school record with 41.2 points per game, led the nation in passing efficiency 180.52, won seven games by one score or less.
Award Winners: Cam Newton (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, SEC Off. Player of Year), Nick Fairley (Lombardi), Lee Ziemba (SEC Top Blocker)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cam Newton (1st, 2011), Nick Fairley (1st, 2011)

The one-year wonders Cam Newton and Nick Fairley gave Auburn arguably its most important recruiting haul in history when they both chose the Loveliest Village on the Plains. The Heisman Trophy winner willed his team to victory against Mississippi State, Clemson, Kentucky, Alabama, Oregon and defined his legacy with an incredible 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of a tied game with LSU. His 217 rushing yards in the 24-17 win over the Tigers broke a single-game SEC rushing record for a quarterback. Newton finished with 2,854 yards passing, 1,473 yards rushing and an SEC second-best 51 total touchdowns. This is the only 14-win team in school history and was the highest-scoring Tigers team in program history by a wide margin — their 577 points topped Terry Bowden’s 1995 team by 139 points (41.2 ppg against 36.5 ppg).

2010 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 9: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14 (Starkville, MS)
Sept. 18: Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 25: Auburn 35, (#12) South Carolina 27 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 2: Auburn 52, UL Monroe 3 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 9: Auburn 37, Kentucky 34 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 16: Auburn 65, (#12) Arkansas 43 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 23: Auburn 24, (#6) LSU 17 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 30: Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 6: Auburn 62, Tennessee-Chattanooga 24 (Auburn, AL)
Nov. 13: Auburn 28, (#9) Alabama 27 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Dec. 4: Auburn 56, (#18) South Carolina 17 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 10: Auburn 22, (#2) Oregon 19 (Glendale, AZ, BCS NCG)

12. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Championships: Big Ten Co-Champs, Fiesta Bowl, National Championship
Key Stats: Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (77.7 ypg), this was the first team in NCAA history to finish 14-0
Award Winners: Maurice Clarett (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Mike Doss (Big Ten Co-Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Mike Doss (2nd, 2003), Will Smith (1st, 2004), Chris Gamble (1st, 2004), Michael Jenkins (1st, 2004), Mike Nugent (2nd, 2005)

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and slowing grinded their way to the No. 1 spot in the final standings. The Buckeyes beat five ranked teams, including the Big East's No. 2 team of the BCS era, en route to the 2002 National Championship. Behind gritty play from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a freshman school rushing record from Maurice Clarett (1,237 yards), the Bucks found themselves as heavy underdogs to defending national champs Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Yet, the staunch Buckeye defense and two key touchdowns (and one great forced fumble/recovery) from Clarett gave Ohio State its sixth consensus national championship. The much-debated pass inference penalty also will go down in history as one of the more controversial plays — even if it was the right call. This Ohio State team sent an NFL record 14 players to the league in the 2004 draft (five were selected in 2003 and three in 2005). This is the only Big Ten team to have claimed a BCS National Championship making them the top Big Ten team of the BCS Era.

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 24: Ohio State 45, Texas Tech 21 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 7: Ohio State 51, Kent State 17 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 14: Ohio State 25, (#10) Washington State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 21: Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 19 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 28: Ohio State 45, Indiana 17 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 5: Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16 (Evanston, IL)
Oct. 12: Ohio State 50, San Jose State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 19: Ohio State 19, Wisconsin 14 (Madison, WI)
Oct. 26: Ohio State 13, (#17) Penn State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 2: Ohio State 34, (#19) Minnesota 3 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 9: Ohio State 10, Purdue 6 (West Lafayette, IN)
Nov. 16: Ohio State 23, Illinois 16 (Champaign, IL)
Nov. 23: Ohio State 14, (#12) Michigan 9 (Columbus, OH)
Jan. 3: Ohio State 31, (#1) Miami 24 (Fiesta Bowl, BCS NCG)

13. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 7-1*)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: Florida held Heisman winner Troy Smith to four completions in the title game and the Buckeyes to 82 total yards.
Award Winners: Percy Harvin (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

After defeating a ranked Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas, the Florida Gators entered the 2006 BCS national title game as a big underdog to Ohio State. But an NFL-heavy defense delivered one of the greatest defensive performances in championship game history. Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey and company harassed Heisman winner Troy Smith all day. Smith threw for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and was sacked five times. They held the OSU rushing attack to 47 yards on 23 carries. Ohio State totaled 82 yards of offense in the 41-14 beatdown. Cult hero Tim Tebow touched the ball 11 times and scored twice to begin his eternal legacy at Florida. Florida sent nine played into the 2007 NFL Draft. The only loss came at the hands of No. 11 Auburn 27-17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

14. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2*)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Championships: SEC, BCS National Championship
Key Stats: LSU beat seven ranked teams; the only BCS champion with two losses.
Award Winners: Glenn Dorsey (Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott, SEC Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Glenn Dorsey (1st, 2008), Tyson Jackson (1st, 2009)

By definition only, this is the “worst” BCS national champion due its two losses. However, wins over ranked Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee (with back-up quarterback Ryan Perrilloux) and Ohio State gave the Bayou Bengals the crystal ball nonetheless. The Tigers were undefeated in regulation, however, as both Kentucky and Arkansas needed overtime to top the Tigers. Despite the two losses and the 83 combined points allowed, the LSU Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in relatively easy fashion 38-24. Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes, and the defense, led by an 8-tackle, 1.5-sack, forced fumble performance by Ali Highsmith, kept the Bucks at arm’s length the entire game. It was the Tigers' second national title in five years.

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team won a conference championship game

<p> The BCS just finished its 14th season. How do the 14 champions stack-up against each other?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 05:50