-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
College football is a fluid situation.
The totally dynamic nature of the NCAA game from one year to the next is a huge reason why it’s is the greatest sport on the planet. Graduation, transfers, knuckleheads, junior college and incoming freshmen make each individual season a completely unique, never-to-be-duplicated experience.
Recruiting classes are no different.
Talent pools change from state to state, position to position and year to year. The class of 2011 in Louisiana, for example, might have been the best class of players to ever come out of the Pelican State. LSU capitalized by landing most of the elite in-state prep stars. The wide receiver class of 2008 – which included Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Jonathan Baldwin and Michael Floyd to name a few – might have been the greatest collection of pass catchers ever. And the 2006 quarterback class was simply unbelievable – Tebow, Bradford, Stafford, Freeman anyone?
So there is no shortage of intriguing storylines in the 2012 edition of the Athlon Consensus 100.
Where Are They From?
Texas, Florida and California top the state rankings each season, and this recruiting editor cannot see that changing anytime soon. Florida leads the 2012 AC100 with 17 top-100 prospects. The Golden and Lone Star states each delivered 13 stellar players to the AC100.
However, the most interesting geography battle each season lies at fourth place. Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have all laid claim to “fourth” place at one time or another. After a stellar 2011 haul – most of which signed with the Georgia Bulldogs – the Peach State once again proves to be a fertile recruiting ground with seven AC100 prospects. Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina tied for fifth with five recruits each.
The strength of the Northeast this year is also worthy of note. Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and D.C. combined for 11 AC100 prospects in this cycle – eight of which landed in the top 32. Meaning that one quarter of the “five star” recruits in this class hail from the Northeast. It’s no wonder teams like Georgia and Alabama have built pipelines to the massive population bases of the east coast.
Illinois (3) and Missouri (3) both have strong classes at the top of the rankings this year. Mississippi, New Jersey and Maryland are the only other states with at least three AC100 recruits.
Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington, Arizona, New York and Pennsylvania each placed two recruits into the list. It appears to be a down year at the top of the rankings for states like South Carolina and Michigan, as each landed a solitary prospect into this cycle’s ranking.
What Positions Do They Play?
Quarterback, left tackle, defensive line and middle linebacker are the four most important positions on the field – in that order. NFL drafts and subsequent contracts illustrate as much. So, it’s nice to see the line of scrimmage dominate the position ranks in 2012. The offensive line claims 17 AC100 prospects, while there are 16 defensive ends and 11 defensive tackles. In fact, 11 of the top 20 players (and five of the top six) in this class will play in the trenches – where championships are won and lost.
The wash-out rate for offensive lineman – meaning players who are considered “misses” or “busts” after the dust settles – is the highest for any position. Considering how much easier it is to evaluate running backs, safeties, receivers and linebackers, it is easy to see why the recruiting experts tend to shy away from the hog mollies.
There are also seven quarterbacks – up a couple from years past. Kudos to the six recruiting services used to compile the AC100 because 51% of the top 100 will play along the line of scrimmage or under center.
Wide receivers and defensive backs each placed 12 prospects into the list. Running back (10), linebacker (7), athlete (6) and tight end (2) round out the position rankings.
Where Are They Headed?
Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns have taken Joe Paterno’s early commitment philosophy to a new level. Burnt Orange nation leads the country with six current AC100 commitments, including the nation’s No. 1 running back for the second straight season (Jonathan Gray, No. 7 overall, pictured), the nation’s No. 4 quarterback (Connor Brewer, No. 57), the country’s No. 4 defensive tackle (Malcom Brown, No. 26) and America’s No. 3 wide receiver (Cayleb Jones, No. 37).
Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles are second in the nation with five AC100 verbal pledges. The new recruiting czar of the Sunshine State has the Noles humming along the recruiting trail after landing the nation’s No. 1 class in 2011. If things continue, it appears Fisher could claim the top spot again. Three of the top 24 players in the nation are currently set to play in Tallahassee, and five the top seven players left uncommitted have the Seminoles listed as a top choice. Additionally, 12 of the top 21 and 18 of the top 38 left on the board have FSU listed as a favorite.
Auburn checks in at third place with four current AC100 commitments, while Alabama, a rejuvenated Michigan and Notre Dame claim three each. Usual suspects USC, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Miami, Texas A&M and Clemson have two verbals apiece.
Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Virginia, TCU, Missouri, Cal and, most notably, Indiana all claim a rare AC100 commit as well. For the Badgers and Hoosiers, this class would mark the first AC100 signee in the brief five-year history of the list.