College Football Recruiting Rankings: 2012 Team Update

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With just over a month to go before Signing Day, who claims the nation's top class?

<p> With just over a month to go before Signing Day, who claims the nation's top class?</p>

-by Braden Gall (follow at @BradenGall)

National Signing Day 2012 is just over one month away.

With 11 of the top 20 players in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 — and exactly one-third of the entire list — still left uncommitted, the furious finish to the 2012 recruiting cycle could be one of the more memorable in history.

There is still plenty of room for upward (and downward) movement for many of the top classes in the nation. Teams like Clemson and USC always seem to finish with a flurry of success, so these team rankings are merely markers at the three-quarter poll. And with so much talent still left on the board, there will be plenty of late Christmas presents this season.

"I think one team to really keep an eye on is Ohio State. They’ve already jumped from outside the top 20 to inside the top five in the team rankings and I think there’s a chance they could climb higher," 247Sports.com national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons told Athlon Sports. "It’s a perfect storm in a lot of ways having a home-run hire like Urban Meyer who also has good ties in a talent-rich state like Florida. Meyer always closed strong at Florida; I expect this year to be no different."

"On the west coast, UCLA has a chance to hit it out of the park down the stretch," Simmons continued. "Jim Mora has hired an all-star recruiting staff, and the Bruins have built some real momentum. The best recruiters from Washington, Arizona State and SMU are all in Westwood now, and prospects in California have taken notice."

However, it appears one team may stick atop the ’12 team recruiting rankings.

Note: Team rankings by Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPNU and 247Sports.com in parentheses. AC100: Top 100 prospect by Athlon Sports, National Recruit: Top 300 prospect by Athlon Sports

1. Texas Longhorns (Rivals: 1, Scout: 1, ESPN: 1, 247: 2)
Total Commitments: 25
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 14

No team gets the recruiting train rolling quicker and more effectively than Texas. No team has more Athlon Consensus 100 commitments and national recruits than the Horns. Three of the top 25 players nationally, including tailback Jonathan Gray (AC100 No. 7), and the nation’s No. 3-rated quarterback, Connor Brewer (AC100 No. 64), make this another stacked collection for Mack Brown. With the recent struggles on offense for Texas, it should come as good news that this group is heavy on offensive skill talents. Three elite wideouts, the aforementioned Brewer and Gray and four versatile “athletes” add some play-making spark to the Burnt Orange roster that desperately needs some juice on offense.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide (Rivals: 2, Scout: 2, ESPN: 3, 247: 1)
Total Commitments: 24
AC100: 6, National Recruits: 13

No team has more Top-100 commitments than the Crimson Tide (tied with Texas). A recent defection from AC100 star tailback T.J. Yeldon (No. 61) pushed the Tide into the No. 2 slot on this list. Few teams could withstand the loss of talent the Tide will be experiencing from its linebacking corps and secondary, but Nick Saban has totally restocked the cupboard. Four of his six AC100 verbals will play in the back seven of the defense, including the nation’s No. 2 and No. 7 defensive backs in Eddie Williams (No. 12) and Geno Smith (No. 42). This five-man linebacking class is one of the best in the nation.

3. Michigan Wolverines (Rivals: 3, Scout: 3, ESPN: 6, 247: 3)
Total Commitments: 24
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 9

Brady Hoke’s first season on the recruiting trail for the Maize and Blue has to be considered a massive success thus far. He has attacked the line of scrimmage, as 10 of his 24 commitments look to be headed to the trenches — a place where Rich Rodriguez lost ground to the rest of the Big Ten. This group is led by the top two players in this class, offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (No. 44) and Erik Magnuson (No. 86). Four linebackers and four defensive backs shore up the back seven of the defense in a class clearly focused on the line of scrimmage and the defense. Only six of his 24 verbals will touch the football on the next level.

4. Florida Gators (Rivals: 4, Scout: 6, ESPN: 4, 247: 7)
Total Commitments: 18
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10

This is not a vintage star-studded Urban Meyer-type class, but Will Muschamp has proven in short order that he will, at least, maintain the Gators' dominance on the recruiting trail. A very balanced group is led by the offensive line of scrimmage as the top three players in this class will play along the offensive line in some capacity. D.J. Humphries (No. 17) and Jessamen Dunker (No. 43) are two of the top-rated blockers in the nation, and America’s No. 1 tight end, Kent Taylor (No. 80), should help solidify a major area of weakness for Florida of late. Nationally recruited lineman Omari “Dante” Phillips (No. 138) could land along the O-Line as well, further bolstering the struggling offensive line. At 6’3 and 220 pounds, nationally rated tailback Matt Jones (No. 109) could also put a serious jolt into the running game as well.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes (Rivals: 6, Scout: 5, ESPN: 10, 247: 5)
Total Commitments: 19
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 8

Few coaches have ever had the instant impact on the recruiting trail like Urban Meyer has on Ohio State. This class was outside of the Top 25 when he took over as the head coach in Columbus. After stealing AC100 talents Adolphus Washington (No. 23), Tommy Schutt (No. 52) and Se’Von Pittman (No. 93) out from underneath Big Ten rivals Penn State and Michigan State, he landed a gem in defensive end Noah Spence, the nation’s No. 3-rated player. All four of these AC100 prospects will play along the defensive line as Meyer attempts to recreate those stellar Gator D-Lines up north. Spence may be the best pass rusher in the nation. With a few more slots left to fill and plenty of talent ripe for the picking, don’t be surprised if Meyer pulls another upset or two before NSD.

6. Florida State Seminoles (Rivals: 7, Scout: 12, ESPN: 2, 247: 8)
Total Commitments: 15
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 9

Jimbo Fisher claims four of the top 30 players in the nation, including prep football’s top quarterback prospect in Jameis Winston (No. 10) and the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit in end Mario Edwards. This isn’t a very deep class at the moment other than along the defensive line, where Fisher boasts one of college football’s top incoming classes. Edwards, with ends Chris Casher (No. 29) and Dante Fowler Jr. (No. 30), gives an already ferocious front seven three of the top five defensive end prospects in the nation. Sprinkle in one of the most complete running backs in the nation, Mario Pender (No. 35), and the Noles are looking at yet another top-ten class.

7. LSU Tigers (Rivals: 5, Scout: 5, ESPN: 14, 247: 4)
Total Commitments: 22
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10

There seems to be some discrepancy when trying to evaluate the Bayou Bengals’ haul for 2012. Prior to Gunner Kiel announcing on Tuesday in favor of LSU, Rivals already saw this group as a top-five class, while ESPN barely had them ranked in the top 15. Scout immediately bumped the Tigers from No. 7 to No. 5, 247Sports moved LSU from No. 9 to No. 4 and Athlon jumped LSU one spot from eighth to seventh. The nation's No. 2 quarterback bolsters and already potent Tiger class as Kiel attempts to follow in former Hoosier State product Matt Mauck's footsteps. Their ten national recruits are among the most in the nation; however, only four land in the top 200. Yet, there are few weak spots in Les Miles' ’12 haul. The offensive line class is deep and talented, headlined by Vadal Alexander (No. 107) who just missed landing in the AC100. The No. 2 player in this group is Patrick Peterson’s little brother Avery Johnson (No. 67). The talented wide receiver will be joined on offense by three stellar skill talents each hailing from Breaux Bridge High School: Lamar Louis, Travin Dural and Kavahra Holmes.

8. Oklahoma Sooners (Rivals: 8, Scout: 10, ESPN: 9, 247: 4)
Total Commitments: 18
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 8

The focus of this group is obvious: Restock the offense with talented skill players and provide some protection. Four of the six top-rated players in this class, including both AC100 talents — running back Alex Ross (No. 60) and wideout Durron Neal (No. 62) — will play either running back or wide receiver. The loss of Ryan Broyles clearly hurt this offense, but Bob Stoops should have plenty of firepower on the outside in the form of arguably the best pass-catching class in the nation. In addition to Neal, receivers Derrick Woods and Sterling Shepard are nationally ranked, while 2011 AC100 talent Trey Metoyer will finally arrive on campus after a year of prep school. A pair of talented tight ends also should make Landry Jones’ job, should he return for his final season, easier in 2012 than it was post-Broyles this fall.

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Rivals: 17, Scout: 9, ESPN: 12, 247: 10)
Total Commitments: 16
AC100: 5, National Recruits: 8

Only Alabama and Texas have more AC100 recruits committed than Brian Kelly. And again he is making serious headway on the defensive side of the ball. After one of the nastiest defensive line classes in history last cycle, Kelly once again has reeled in a talented group along the line. AC100 tackles Jarron Jones (No. 32) and Sheldon Day (No. 94) fortify the interior, while AC100 defensive backs Ronald Darby (No. 51) and Tee Shepard (No. 55) strengthen the back end of the Irish defense. A solid trio of receivers headlined by Deontay Greenberry (No. 92) will help fill the void left by a strong departing class of pass catchers.

10. Clemson Tigers (Rivals: 10, Scout: 11, ESPN: 5, 247: 11)
Total Commitments: 20
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 10

After an outstanding linebacking and offensive skill class a year ago, Dabo Swinney filled in the gaps with plenty of line of scrimmage help in 2012. Five outstanding blockers — three of whom are nationally ranked — will help solidify the front line on offense while five defensive linemen — led by AC100 talent Carlos Watkins (No. 91) — bolster an always potent D-Line. While ten of the 20 future Tigers will play in the trenches, the secondary isn’t without skill. The top-rated prospect in the class is standout DB Travis Blanks (No. 33), who leads a secondary class that could be as large as five should the “athletes” land on defense. Jim Kelly’s nephew, quarterback Chad Kelly (No. 103), barely missed the AC100, and wideout Germone Hopper (No. 69) merely adds to the embarrassment of riches in what is already one of the best receiving corps in the nation.

11. Texas A&M Aggies (Rivals: 9, Scout: 4, ESPN: 8, 247: 6)
Total Commitments: 23
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 5

This class does not have the star power of some of the other top classes, but it more than makes up for it in quantity and balance. This class claims two top 100 and only three top 200 recruits, but it has depth at nearly every position. Five defensive backs, five offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, four wide receivers and two elite ball carriers (one of whom will be under center) give new head coach Kevin Sumlin plenty to work with next fall. Tailback Trey Williams (No. 41) and dual-threat quarterback Matt Davis (No. 88) are the gems of the class. Davis is already enrolled at College Station.

12. Miami Hurricanes (Rivals: 11, Scout: 8, ESPN: 11, 247: 12)
Total Commitments: 28
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 7

Al Golden has put together one of the largest and deepest classes in the nation for 2012. No team ranked in the top 15 has as many commitments as the Canes’ 28. This group is headlined by a pair of elite offensive playmakers in tailback Randy “Duke” Johnson (No. 49) and wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis (No. 76). These two top an offensive skill class that will feature three quarterbacks, five wide receivers, two tailbacks and a tight end. The defense wasn’t ignored by any stretch, as this outfit includes four linebackers, five defensive backs and four defensive ends — including AC100 talent Jelani Hamilton (No. 84).

13. Auburn Tigers (Rivals: 12, Scout: 15, ESPN: 13, 247: 17)
Total Commitments: 16
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 9

Losing AC100 talent Yeldon to Bama certainly didn’t help, but Gene Chizik still has an outstanding group of incoming freshman slated to join his roster on NSD. The class isn’t incredibly deep, but each position is represented equally, adding depth to a roster that is very young at nearly every spot on the field. Quarterback Zeke Pike (No. 82), receiver Ricardo Louis (No. 87) and tight end Ricky Parks (No. 89) are the top-rated players in this class, and all three should help whoever is the new offensive coordinator on the Plains.

14. Georgia Bulldogs (Rivals: 19, Scout: --, ESPN: 7, 247: 16)
Total Commitments: 15
AC100: 3, National Recruits: 5

There is only one team in the nation with two of the top ten recruits currently committed, and that team is the Dawgs. Mark Richt has only 15 verbal pledges, but he has the nation’s No. 1 running back in Keith Marshall (No. 6) and country’s No. 3 blocker in John Theus (No. 8) ready to sign in February. The defensive line is stacked with elite prospects as well. AC100 talent Jonathan Taylor (No. 36) could play either side of the ball, and nationally ranked John Atkins and Leonard Floyd bolster an already loaded D-Line in Athens. With the depth of the 2011 class, and the star quality of this smaller group, Richt's Dawgs could be the class of the SEC East for the next few years.

15. USC Trojans (Rivals: 15, Scout: --, ESPN: 18, 247: --)
Total Commitments: 11
AC100: 2, National Recruits: 7

The Trojans get knocked by the computers due to the lack of total numbers in this small but very talented group. Seven of the 11 total commitments (four of whom have already signed) are ranked nationally, giving USC arguably the best “quality” of any team in the nation. With a few more upsets (Arik Armstead, Shaq Thompson, Eddie Goldman for example), Lane Kiffin could find himself in the top ten. This group is currently led by linebacker Jabari Ruffin (No. 47) and offensive lineman Jordan Simmons (No. 54).

16. Tennessee Volunteers (21 total, 1 AC100, 3 National)
17. South Carolina Gamecocks (20 total, 1 AC100, 3 National)
18. Oregon Ducks (17 total, 0 AC100, 4 National)
19. Virginia Cavaliers (25 total, 1 AC100, 4 National)
20. Virginia Tech Hokies (27 total, 0 AC100, 3 National)
21. Texas Tech Red Raiders (23 total, 1 AC100, 3 National)
22. Cal Golden Bears (14 total, 2 AC100, 5 National)
23. Arkansas Razorbacks (22 total, 0 AC100, 0 National)
24. Stanford Cardinal (15 total, 1 AC100, 3 National)
25. TCU Horned Frogs (19 total, 1 AC100, 3 Naitonal)

View the complete Athlon Consensus 100 here

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