As the ink dries on letters of intent on National Signing Day, college football recruiting gurus are naming winners and losers. Most have already moved on to the next crop of high school studs.
Who needs all that speculation when you can look back in hindsight at how the classes performed, though?
Here are the top 10 college football recruiting classes from 2005-18.
Note: Team ranks referenced for that year come from 247 Sports Composite
1. 2008 Alabama
Rank: 3rd, 33 signees
Key Players: Mark Barron, Julio Jones, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Damion Square, Michael Williams, Robert Lester, Brad Smelley
It really all started for Nick Saban and Bama with the 2008 recruiting class. The players from this group laid the foundation of teams that won national championships in '09 and '11. Even Saban would probably admit his program owes much of its success to the contributions of players from the ‘08 class such as Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Courtney Upshaw, and Mark Barron.
2. 2009 Alabama
Rank: 2nd, 28 signees
Key Players: AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy, Quinton Dial, Nico Johnson, Ed Stinson, Anthony Steen, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick
The players in this class who were in school for four years are carrying around three national championship rings. Saban’s recruits from the ‘09 class included six players who were picked in the first round of the NFL draft. In reality, little separates the Crimson Tide’s 2008 and '09 classes. The ‘08 group just has the honor of having gone first.
3. 2015 Clemson
Rank: 9th, 26 signees
Key Players: Deon Cain, Mitch Hyatt, Christian Wilkins, Ray-Ray McCloud, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Kelly Bryant
The perception of this group changed dramatically in January after the Tigers secured their second national championship in three years. If you signed with Clemson in 2015, you made four appearances in the College Football Playoff and took home four ACC titles as well. That defensive line group is plain nasty.
4. 2006 Florida
Rank: 2nd, 24 signees
Key Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Maurice Hurt, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon James, Marcus Gilbert, Lawrence Marsh, Terron Sanders, Dustin Doe, AJ Jones, Carl Johnson
An ultra-talented group led by Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Brandon Spikes helped Urban Meyer bring two national titles to Gainesville. Players like Jermaine Cunningham and Riley Cooper didn’t achieve the same level of notoriety, but they were key contributors to the rejuvenation of the Gators under Meyer.
5. 2016 Alabama
Rank: 1st, 24 signees
Key Players: Irv Smith, Josh Jacobs, Quinnen Williams, Jonah Williams, Raekwon Davis, Shyheim Carter, Jalen Hurts.
Through three seasons, Bama’s 2016 classmates have won a national championship and played for two more. So many of them left the program after three years that it’s hard to see the group as a whole climbing much higher on future lists. Even so, the bang for the buck from the last three years has been impressive.
6. 2013 Ohio State
Rank: 2nd, 26 signees
Key Players: Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, J.T. Barrett, Darron Lee
The players in this Ohio State class were stars of the Buckeyes’ run to a national championship in 2014. They included Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards that season. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett put together one of the most celebrated careers in OSU history. Defenders like Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, and Darron Lee made a smooth transition from preps to college to the NFL.
7. 2013 Alabama
Rank: 1st, 26 signees
Key Players: Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Allen, O.J. Howard, A’Shawn Robinson, ArDarius Stewart, Tim Williams, Maurice Smith, Eddie Jackson
The top players from the 2015 Alabama team that won a national championship came in large part from the ‘13 recruiting class. Derrick Henry also had the honor of winning the Heisman Trophy that season. Reuben Foster and A’Shawn Robinson carried on the traditions of stud defenders before them.
8. 2011 Florida State
Rank: 2nd, 29 signees
Key Players: Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O'Leary, Timmy Jernigan, Terrance Smith, Tank Carradine, Rashad Greene, Karlos Williams, Bobby Hart, Devonta Freeman, Josue Matias, Tre Jackson, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Nick Waisome
The players from Jimbo Fisher’s 2011 recruiting class at FSU put all the pieces in place for a national championship in 2013 and a 27-game winning streak over a two-year period. Hotshot QB Jameis Winston owes his Heisman from that season to many of the names above. Fisher might owe his gargantuan contract from Texas A&M to them as well.
9. 2006 Oklahoma
Rank: 8th, 28 signees
Key Players: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, Trent Williams, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Chris Brown, Dominique Franks, Mossis Madu, Malcolm Williams
Three-star players (Sam Bradford, Trent Williams and Quinton Carter) in this class demonstrate ex-head coach Bob Stoops’ eye for evaluations. Other players such as five-star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy were harder to miss.
These players joined the program in time to win three straight Big 12 championships, a first in the history of the conference.
10. 2009 LSU
Rank: 1st, 25 signees
Key Players: Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne, Kevin Minter, Rueben Randle, Chris Faulk, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Chris Davenport, Bennie Logan, Michael Ford, Craig Loston, Josh Downs, Stavion Lowe, Lamin Barrow, Russell Shepard
Many of the stars from LSU’s 2011 team that went undefeated and won the SEC came from the school’s '09 recruiting class. The depth of talent on defense in this class is particularly impressive.
Safe to say former LSU head coach Les Miles won’t see any hauls like this at his new gig with Kansas.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.