-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Athlon Sports continues its Class of 2011 national team recruiting rankings today with the No. 1 class in the nation.
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1. Florida State Seminoles (29 signees – 7 AC100)
This was the closest national championship race in the modern era of recruiting rankings. Alabama and Texas, and to a lesser extent USC, each had a legitimate claim to the mythical 2011 recruiting title. Trying to decipher between the three is virtually impossible. Texas had the most "nationally rated" recruits while Alabama had the most Athlon Consensus 100 prospects. Florida State had the biggest class by a wide margin - with nearly identical nationally rated and AC100 signees as the others.
The tiebreaker was the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, however, the front line - on both offense and defense - is where championships are won and lost. Florida State signed 15 potential LOS prospects, including seven nationally rated players. Texas signed eight and Bama inked 10 - both of which were not nearly as highly touted as FSU's big uglies.
A serious edge, along with the 2011 recruiting championship, goes to the Noles.
Ever since Jimbo Fisher officially took over the reins of the Seminole program, Florida State recruiting has been on a roll. With arguably the most balanced class in the nation, the Noles added depth to every position. The offensive line, which was a major issue for the better part of a decade, got loads of help with eight new prospects projecting to contribute up front. Bobby Hart and Jordan Prestwood are the highest ranked prospects and lead what is one of the largest offensive line groups in the nation. Josue Matias and Jake Fahrenkrug also add high end talent the front line (and a new pronunciation guide in the FSU media book).
Arguably the top defensive tackle class in the nation is also headed to Tallahassee. Five defensive tackles, including the nation's No. 2 nose guard Tim Jernigan, provided plenty of help to the middle of the defense. Nationally rated prep stars Derrick Mitchell and Nile Lawrence-Stample creates an elite three-man group right at the heart of the FSU defense. Mitchell, at 6'5" and 285 pounds, and Terry Bell, at 6'5" and 270 pounds, add some serious beef to the line.
Defensive end Giorgio Newberry, who just missed AC100 honors, and junior college signee Cornellius "Tank" Carradine should help keep Florida State atop the pass rushing column in the ACC - where it led the league in sacks a year ago.
Fisher might also be able to claim the best safety class in the nation. Karlos Williams is the country's No. 2 player at the position, while nationally rated Tyler Hunter and Keelin Smith offers loads of athleticism to the back end of the defense. The undersized but supremely talented Nick Waisome has a chance to be the next great lockdown coverman for Florida State. Lamarcus Brutus could play a number of spots in the secondary.
The offensive skill class is dotted with elite level players at nearly every spot. James Wilder Jr., son of NFLer James Sr., is the nation's No. 2 athlete and will likely end up toting the rock for Fisher's offense. The bigger, more physical Wilder will be complimented by nationally ranked DeVonta Freeman. The much smaller Freeman, who also just missed making the AC100, brings speed and versatility to the backfield.
Tight end Nick O'Leary has a chance to be a special player. America's No. 1 tight end prospect is the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. O'Leary's raw athleticism will be a nightmare mismatch for defenses in all phases of the game.
AC100 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin will be a difficult cover as well. The massive prospect - 6'6" 210 - has long arms, huge hands and will be a monster in jump ball, redzone and over-the-middle situations. Rashad Greene is much smaller but brings excellent speed and explosiveness to the offense.
Fisher added quality and quantity to nearly every position on his team. In a loaded year in the Sunshine State, he landed three of the top four prospects in Florida. Of the 29 signees, 22 of them hail from in-state – including the top 12 players in this class.
Eight of the 29 signees have enrolled early and will be involved in spring practice, including Waisome, Prestwood and Freeman.
No. 11 Karlos Williams, S (Davenport, Fla.)
No. 12 James Wilder Jr., ATH (Tampa, Fla.)
No. 13 Tim Jernigan, DT (Lake City, Fla.)
No. 26 Nick O’Leary, TE (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
No. 47 Bobby Hart, OL (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
No. 75 Kelvin Benjamin, WR (Belle Glade, Fla.)
No. 93 Nick Waisome, CB (Groveland, Fla.)
No. 104 Giorgio Newberry, DE (Ft. Pierce, Fla.)
No. 123 DeVonta Freeman, RB (Miami, Fla.)
No. 127 Jordan Prestwood, OL (Plant City, Fla.)
No. 147 Keelin Smith, S (Port St. Lucie, Fla.)
No. 154 Rashad Greene, WR (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
No. 195 Tyler Hunter, S (Valdosta, Ga.)
No. 214 Derrick Mitchell, DT (Jacksonville, Fla.)
No. 255 Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT (Davie, Fla.)