NCAA Football News

UCLA Football Recruiting 2015: Top Commits and Class Outlook After Signing Day

Although UCLA may not have landed one of the top few recruits in the 2015 class, the Bruins still walked away winners on national signing day. They did a nice job of securing some key additions as the dust settled on perhaps the most hectic day of the college football year.

Coaching staffs around the country work constantly to secure verbal commitments. It's not until signing day, when prospects start making their final decisions, that they find out where they stand, though. Head coach Jim Mora and Co. should be pleased with this year's result.

Of course, now it all comes down to player development. A high star rating doesn't mean anything if the player doesn't grow and make the most of their talent. Let's check out some of the biggest names heading to UCLA based on 247Sports' commitment tracker and then evaluate the class' outlook.

 

Top 2015 Commits

 

Class Outlook

As mentioned, the Bruins didn't land any of the biggest names available in terms of the top five players in the nation. Josh Rosen is still a strong top recruit at No. 12 and getting two players inside the top 20 is a terrific foundation.

The overall result saw UCLA finish with the seventh-best recruiting class after signing day, according to 247Sports. The site notes that was a 12-spot jump from beforehand. It was an example of a program gaining some early momentum and carrying it through the day.

Mora wasn't completely satisfied, though. Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News noted the coach felt they missed out on some key targets up front on defense:

He also wanted to make sure the Rosen addition wasn't overlooked. The quarterback has been enrolled at UCLA since January, which took away the typical attention paid to a top player at the position. Abbey Mastracco of Fox Sports West provided Mora's thoughts on him:

I think today, kind of lost in the shuffle, was Josh Rosen. It was such an exciting day because there were these new names and these new commitments. Unfortunately because of the hype, but fortunately for us, it was kind of a little bit under the radar. But you can't take away from the fact that this class includes the No. 1 ranked quarterback and the Rivals No. 1 ranked football player in the United States of America.

Overall, the class is very well-rounded, aside from the defensive front. The five players listed above are obviously major building blocks. DeChaun Holiday is of particular interest because he's got the size to become a perfect corner for today's game, assuming he stays at the position.

Edward Lewis of Rivals.com notes he could eventually make the switch to wide receiver:

There are several players outside of that top group that could make a quick impact, as well.

Josh Wariboko is a guard with massive power and solid short-area quickness. He's excelled in both pass protection and run-blocking without any serious technique flaws. He has plenty of polish for an incoming freshman and will continue to improve once he gains experience against top college linemen.

ESPN Stats & Info put the spotlight on the Bruins' struggles up front last season:

Then there's Cordell Broadus. The wide receiver is best known at this point for being Snoop Dogg's son, which is unfortunate because he can really play. A terrific route-runner with a nice burst and the moves to make defenders miss.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports points out he also has some history with Rosen:

UCLA could add another notable piece in the form of Roquan Smith. Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes he originally chose the Bruins but is waiting to see how some things with the coaching staff play out before a final decision is made.

Ultimately, the class the Bruins brought in is definitely worth it's top-10 ranking. They were able to fill crucial voids at quarterback and on the offensive line with top recruits and build a strong supporting class around them.

It's going to take a few years before the full impact of the class is felt. But if the Bruins are able to force their way into the playoff conversation, fans will likely be able to pinpoint this class as the one that jump-started the championship rejuvenation.

 

All recruiting details via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Meet Deondre Francois, the Heir to Jameis Winston's Throne

The future of the Florida State football program is nothing like Jameis Winston, and he's everything like Jameis Winston.

The young man's name is Deondre Francois, and he can currently be found behind the gates of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Francois has many of the same tools on the field that made Winston a Heisman winner, national champion and potential top pick in this year's draft, but they're kept in a very different box off the field. 

"He's a good player," Francois says of Winston. "But I like to play my own game, have my own swag."

Where Winston is outspoken and brash, Francois is soft-spoken and matter-of-fact, rarely raising his voice more than a few decibels above a murmur. But the 6'1", 190 pound quarterback's words, and more importantly his game, carry weight.  

Francois will not hesitate to say he is the man for the job in Tallahassee, regardless of who is on the depth chart. He doesn't say it brashly, but with confidence and no fear of whether it will make other quarterbacks on the Florida State roster dislike him.

"I don't think they like me," Francois told the Orlando Sentinel in late December, "but that's just what comes with competition."

IMG wide receiver K.J. Osborn has grown accustomed to Francois' matter-of-fact way of communicating. "He's always telling me, 'Get out of your break faster,' or, 'Why you running so slow,' " Osborn told Bleacher Report. "I tell him, 'We not running slow. You just throw far.' "

 

Anything you can do, I can do better

Winston was an unusual case at Florida State. Most quarterbacks take a while to pick up Jimbo Fisher's complex pro-style offense, but Winston grasped it almost instantly. His football IQ is considered the highest in this year's draft, and QB guru George Whitfield Jr. has said Winston is every bit as sharp as Andrew Luck. It is something Francois notices when he looks at film of the 2013 Heisman winner.  

"I see he expects perfection from his wide receivers and his line," Francois said. "He's calm in the pocket. I like the way he sees the field. He has good vision. I can tell by how he plays the game, he can see the whole field."

According to IMG head coach Chris Weinke, Francois possesses the same processing ability.

"Against Clearwater Central Catholic (Fla.), at the snap I thought he should go somewhere else with it, but he ended up making an outstanding touchdown pass to T.J. Chase," the former Seminole Heisman winner said. "When he came off the field, I said, 'Why did you throw it there?' He said, 'I saw the leverage on the corner, and I knew that T.J. was gonna get by him.' I said, 'Well, what about the crossing route that came wide open right across your face?' He said 'I know that was there. I could see it, but I wanted to take a shot, and I knew that I had it.' "

"I know I can trust him," Osborn said. "I'm not gonna be set up [for a big hit], I know the ball is going to be where it needs to be, and I know he's not gonna throw six interceptions."

Weinke knew what he had when Francois transferred from Orlando's Olympia high school in 2013. The feet and the arm have been special for a long time.

"When I first got to high school, I compared my arm strength to all of the quarterbacks that were older than me," Francois said. "I felt like I was better as a freshman."

The rest of Central Florida also noticed the talent, but it was Weinke who taught Francois how to harness it into the full package. He taught Francois all the nuances of quarterbacking, how to throw with more accuracy, how to identify the holes in complex defensive sets, how to throw with different speeds and arcs so he can fit it over linebackers and in front of the secondary.  

Most importantly, Weinke taught Francois an offense similar to the complex pro-style offense Jimbo Fisher runs at Florida State.

 

Coming out party

The full package was on display during the Under Armour All American game in early January. Francois spent a majority of the game running read-option and handing off the ball. However, he took advantage of his limited opportunities in the air, going 4-for-4 for 103 yards one touchdown—and two wow moments.

In his first series, he stepped up in the pocket and threw a 60-yard bomb that dropped right into the hands of his roommate for the weekend, George Campbell, also a Seminole recruit. The very next play was a 30-yard touchdown pass to former Pop Warner teammate and Clemson-bound Garrett Williams.

Francois almost instantly made a fan of his coach for the week, Herm Edwards, who said he could tell the future Florida State signal caller was especially polished after only two practices. 

"He was a little step above everyone else as far as footwork, ball security, where to have the ball to get it out of his hands." Edwards said. "He had good vision coverage. When he saw it, he knew where to go with the ball. He didn't force a lot of things where he didn't need to and made some plays with his legs."

Edwards also coached Winston in the Under Armour game and had this to say about how Francois compares to the Heisman Trophy winner.

"He's not as big—Jameis is huge," Edwards said. "He's probably a quicker footed guy...but his release point isn't as high. You want quarterbacks with poise and confidence. You could just tell right away, the game's not too big for him. Some guys you can just tell when the lights come on and they play good."

 

Cool under pressure

Most kids would be nervous for their first high school start. In Deondre Francois' first one, as sophomore at Olympia, he threw for an astounding 358 yards and two touchdowns while flashing uncommon calm that led the Orlando Sentinel to declare, "It takes a lot to get Deondre Francois riled up."

That poise is a characteristic that those who know him are quick to compliment. Edwards said it was the biggest thing that separated him from the other quarterbacks at the Under Armour game. Weinke discovered it firsthand during what may have been Francois' only moment of on-field adversity at IMG: the second game this past season, when Francois threw four interceptions and IMG got trounced 35-2.

"There were some frustrating moments," Weinke said. "[Francois] made some good throws that weren't caught and had some interceptions."

But Francois didn't let the adversity affect him and continued to battle.

"That game was probably the true indicator that we have something special here. Even though he was obviously frustrated after the game, the first thing he wanted to do is [ask himself], 'Hey, what can I do to get better?' "  

That poise was on display again in late January in an incident that set the recruiting world on fire for a couple of hours.

Francois was walking back to his dorm when his phone started to blow up. When he checked his Twitter account, he read, "I'm officially decommitting from the university of Florida State." But he says he didn't type it. He immediately deleted the tweet and reset his password, extinguishing the blaze with a tweet saying:

Then, as sports media everywhere scrambled to confirm or deny the potential bombshell tweet, Francois took a nap.

When asked where his poise comes from, Francois did not hesitate with an answer.

"I grew up with a single mom," Francois said. "She raised me well."

 

The journey continues

Francois may have become gained notoriety in Orlando, but the roots were planted in Miami. He grew up at his grandparents' house, under the guidance of his three quarterbacking uncles, all of whom parlayed stardom at Miramar high school into Division I scholarships.  He admired his uncle Patrick Julmiste, quarterback at USF, the most.

"He'd have the football, bring it home from school. I'd have it in my hand, and it would be so big," Francois said. "I had to go on YouTube and look up Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and [Aaron] Rodgers and how to throw a football. Then I'd grab a can of yams and do the same motion. As soon as I got a football in my hand, it was all natural."

He moved to Orlando with his mother permanently in the seventh grade. He experienced continued football success through his sophomore year at Olympia. After a new coaching hire and some graduations led to a tough junior season, a change was necessary. That led him to IMG, seemingly an athlete's paradise.

He transferred shortly before finals and he got a crash course in the life of a student athlete.

"Wake up about 6:45 and eat breakfast. From 7:30 to 12:30, I'd have class," Francois said. "Eat lunch at 1:00. Go to dorm and relax from 2:15 to 3:40. Team meetings and individual meeting. Then practice until 6:45. Then I thought my day was done, but it really wasn't. After practice, I'd have to get dinner, then go to tutoring from about 7:30 to 9:00. Our curfew is 10, so I'd only have an hour to socialize, then I'd have to go back to my dorm and do homework again until I go to sleep around [midnight]."

There were times when Francois questioned his decision. Was all of this sacrifice and time away from his family worth it?

"Sometimes I think it wasn't, but it really was," Francois said. "I learned that me doing the right things, it's going to pay off in the future. And I knew that me keeping my grades up and studying the playbook, that I would be happy with my decision coming here. I'm already ready for college. When I get there, I sure won't be homesick."

He won't have time to be. This is football, and just like the bounce of the oblong shaped ball, anything can happen. There will be seven quarterbacks on the Florida State roster in the fall, including incumbents Sean Maguire and J.J. Cosentino. Even Winston redshirted as a freshman.

That said, perhaps the biggest challenger to Francois will be 2016 commit Malik Henry. The California recruit is the second-ranked dual-threat quarterback in his class, according to Rivals.com, and at least an inch taller.

While admitting he was shocked when he heard Henry committed, Francois said he is not concerned about someone who won't be at the school until next year. His mindset was clear while watching the end of the Rose Bowl in a room full of Florida State recruits. While everyone else in the room grew a little agitated during the demoralizing second half, Francois was thinking, "I can't wait to get there."

Quiet and direct. Doesn't sound much like the next Jameis Winston. But that might be just what he is.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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How Will Urban Meyer and Ohio State Handle 6 Scholarship Quarterbacks?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — "Everybody has three or four quarterbacks. If you don't, you're struggling. Our three or four happen to play really well. Don't hold that against us."

That was Urban Meyer's message to both Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow these past few months, as opponents attempted to use Ohio State's loaded quarterback depth chart against the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail.

Before inking the nation's sixth-ranked class on Wednesday, Ohio State was already slated to return a national champion quarterback in Cardale Jones, 2014's third-team AP All-American in J.T. Barrett, a two-time Big Ten MVP in Braxton Miller and last year's lone quarterback signee in Columbus, Stephen Collier.

Immediate playing time? Meyer sure couldn't sell that. But what the Buckeyes head coach could pitch was a track record that spoke for itself, his star-studded depth chart as tangible proof.

Both Gibson and Burrow—each 4-star prospects in their own right—bought in, and as a result, Ohio State now finds itself with six scholarship quarterbacks on its roster for the 2015 season. Meyer's dealt with a crowded cast of prized quarterbacks before—think Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and John Brantley at Florida in 2008—but never one with this many players, or so much uncertainty about where each will fit.

"It will be interesting," new Buckeyes quarterbacks coach Tim Beck admitted on Wednesday. "I'm excited to get a chance to get to know the guys and look forward to seeing really what develops."

Ohio State's depth chart will presumably shrink in 2016, but until then the Buckeyes are set with six QBs, each of whom possesses his own distinct possibilities for both now and the future. So where could each member of Ohio State's sextet of signal-callers wind up?

 

Cardale Jones

After leading the Buckeyes to a national championship with consecutive postseason wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, Jones finds himself as the favorite to start for Ohio State—at least according to Las Vegas. After his three stellar starts, the 6'5", 250-pounder passed on the opportunity to enter this year's NFL draft in order to return to Columbus for his junior season.

Jones claims he did so with no guarantee to reclaim his starting spot next season, although spring practice could give him the chance to build an insurmountable lead in the Buckeyes' QB derby. With Barrett and Miller each recovering from injuries, Jones will receive most, if not all of Ohio State's first-team quarterback reps in spring practice, a valuable opportunity for him to continue to ride his momentum from the winter.

"I can get a lot better," Jones said as he announced his return to the Buckeyes. "As each week and each game went on, I think I got a lot better and I progressed. With a full offseason taking reps as a [No.] 1, I think it'll make me be the best quarterback I can possibly be."

That may be the case, but it's also not a lock that even a strong spring would allow Jones to hold off Barrett and/or Miller come fall camp. While both are currently injured, each has a more proven track record than the Cleveland native, who still has only started three games in his college career.

Regardless of if he winds up as the Buckeyes' starter or backup, it's hard to imagine he'll be back at Ohio State in 2016 after coming so close to leaving for the pros after 2014. Meyer acknowledged as much on Wednesday while speaking to the future of his quarterback depth chart.

"Cardale might leave after next year, and Braxton [a senior] is out," Meyer said. "You're down to one, maybe two [quarterbacks]."

Jones will either start for the Buckeyes this season or serve as one of the most reliable backups in the country. After that, it appears his future will be elsewhere.

 

Braxton Miller

A three-year starter who was a preseason Heisman favorite before tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder last offseason, Miller possesses the most intrigue of the Buckeyes' quarterback bunch. His options are aplenty, but nothing will be known until he's fully rehabbed from his injury.

After that—and it likely won't be until at least the middle of the summer—Miller will decide whether to return to Ohio State as a quarterback, or perhaps another position—or to use his ability as a fifth-year graduate transfer to head to another school.

Beck said on Wednesday he's certain Miller will be back on the OSU roster in 2015, although Meyer has recently admitted he's aware the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten MVP will have a decision to make. “He’s in a unique situation. We’ll cover that later," Meyer said of Miller following the Buckeyes' national championship celebration on Jan. 24.

Without knowing how the rehabilitation of Miller's shoulder will progress—in some cases, a torn labrum can be career-ending for a quarterback—it's nearly impossible to project where he'll wind up. The NFL's supplemental draft could also be a possibility for Miller, as he certainly fits the bill of a player whose circumstances have changed.

Whether he returns to Ohio State or heads elsewhere this summer, Miller won't be on the Buckeyes roster in 2016 with his eligibility having expired. Until then, he'll presumably compete at either quarterback or another position this summer, but of the Buckeyes' six quarterbacks, his status is the most uncertain at the moment

 

J.T. Barrett

Leading Ohio State to an 11-1 regular-season record before fracturing his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett appeared to have a stranglehold on the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position just two months ago. His injury, however, opened the door for Jones to capture the national title and what is now a three-man race to start at quarterback in Columbus next season.

Barrett's injury will keep him limited—if not completely out—of spring practice, but his prognosis is he'll be full-go by the start of fall camp. The Big Ten's reigning Freshman of the Year, Barrett broke Ohio State's single-season total offense record (3,772) and the conference's total touchdown mark (45) in 2014, despite not playing in a single postseason game.

Of the three players competing for the Buckeyes' starting spot, Barrett appeared to have the best command of Meyer's spread offense. His dual-threat ability as both an efficient passer and runner played a key role in Ohio State's run to the nation title, particularly in its monumental road win over eighth-ranked Michigan State.

Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, it's more than possible Barrett will reclaim his starting spot, but if not, he appears to be all but a lock to start for the Buckeyes in 2016. Should Barrett play well enough this season, he could also be a candidate to enter the 2016 draft, although his size (listed at 6'1", 225 pounds) may not make him an ideal pro prospect.

Barrett will likely play in some capacity in 2015 before fully taking back over the reins at quarterback the following year. A lot can happen between now and the start of the season, but for now, the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year seems to be the surest thing at the position on the OSU roster.

 

Stephen Collier

Outside of Jones, it is Collier who will benefit most from Miller and Barrett's injuries, as he'll see increased reps as the only other healthy quarterback at Ohio State this spring. A year ago, the freshman was an early enrollee just getting his feet wet, but now he'll have plenty of opportunities to work with the Buckeyes second team.

After redshirting last season, Collier likely won't play again this season, although if Miller leaves, he could very well find himself as Ohio State's third-string quarterback. As the Buckeyes learned with Jones last year, that can be a valuable position, and one that's only two plays away from finding itself on the field.

A former 3-star prospect, Collier is the least heralded of the OSU quarterbacks and could face an uphill climb when it comes to his long-term future in Columbus. The 6'3", 220-pounder will continue to serve in a backup capacity before attempting to hold off younger players in a race to replace Barrett down the road.

But if Meyer and former OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman—who recruited Collier—have proved one thing, it's that they know quarterbacks. Collier could develop into a starting quarterback in the future, he'll just have to hold off some very talented players to do so at Ohio State.

 

Torrance Gibson

Traditionally, it's been Meyer's preference to redshirt quarterbacks, which he did with the first three players at the position he recruited to Ohio State. But he's also proved that if a player is ready and brings something different to the table, he's not afraid to play him right away.

Gibson could very well fit that bill, a 6'4", 204-pound freak who measured in as the nation's sixth-ranked athlete in the 2015 class. Gibson's chief recruiter, OSU wide receivers coach Zach Smith, was adamant the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native's future is as a signal-caller, and said he could see reps as soon as his freshman season.

"Torrance is coming in as a quarterback," Smith said. "If he's a dynamic player we need to get on the field, we may need to have a package for him to get on the field as a freshman. We've done that from Tebow to Cam Newton. We've done that with a number of guys."

Smith did admit Gibson is talented enough to play somewhere else on the field, should another player take long-term hold of Ohio State's quarterback position. But he continued to insist he's being brought to Columbus as a quarterback, which he has the ability to be one of the best of.

"There was a lot of questions about, 'Can he be a quarterback, is he an athlete, can he throw the ball?'" Smith said. "We were kind of confused by the confusion. I watched him throw live in July, I watched him throw live at practice in the spring, I watched him throw live in a game in the fall. And then he goes out to the Army [All-American] Game and they're talking about he's one of the best quarterbacks there. His future is nowhere but the quarterback position."

If that's the case, Gibson could see reps as a package player this season before expanding his role throughout his career. Circumstances can change too and a position switch isn't out of the realm of possibility, but it's a safe bet Gibson will be making an impact for the Buckeyes in one place or another, maybe sooner rather than later.

 

Joe Burrow

Burrow wasn't as highly touted as Gibson, but Meyer recalls his recruitment distinctly. He was in Columbus while Herman was 75 miles southeast in Athens, Ohio, sending Meyer live video of Burrow's workout from his iPhone.

"I remember he sent me a stream into his phone as he's watching this kid throw," Meyer said. "He said, 'I found your next Alex Smith.'"

Smith, of course, is arguably the greatest quarterback Meyer has developed, the leader of Utah's 12-0 team in 2004 who went on to be drafted first overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 and is still starting in the NFL. That's certainly a high ceiling for the nation's ninth-ranked dual-threat quarterback, who totaled 4,437 passing yards and 63 touchdowns en route to being named Ohio's Mr. Football in 2014.

Despite his outstanding numbers and high praise from Meyer, Burrow is probably a lock to redshirt this upcoming season as his services simply won't be required. But with Ohio State's status at quarterback in 2016 much less certain than it currently stands, he should have a chance to insert himself into the starting lineup within the next three years.

"I'm ready to compete," Burrow said at his signing day ceremony. "I'll be ready to compete for the starting job in a couple years. I'm very confident in my abilities."

After presumably sitting out this season, Burrow should be fighting for the top backup role in 2016 and the starting spot not shortly thereafter. The son of Ohio University defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, Joe isn't fazed by the Buckeyes' loaded depth chart and is embracing the opportunity ahead of him.

"I'm going to work like crazy alongside the guys who are already there," Burrow said. "I'm ready to compete and I'll be a better football player coming out of it."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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LSU Football Recruiting: Meet the Tigers' 2015 Class

LSU head coach Les Miles and his coaching staff did exactly what they needed to do with their 2015 recruiting class. The Tigers are now ready to compete for SEC championships again.

Miles firmly believes that to be true. He shared his excitement about his new players at his national signing day press conference:

National signing day turned out to be magnificent for Miles. LSU's 2015 crop ranks fifth, which is good for third in the SEC.

After the abrupt departure of defensive coordinator John Chavis in January, it looked as if the Tigers would not make the top 10. Credit must be given to Miles for hiring ace recruiters Kevin Steele and Ed Orgeron as the new defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, respectively.

Miles raved about his new hires on Wednesday, per Tiger Rag's James Moran:

One fantastic recruiting class does not win championships. It takes consecutive years of bringing in top talent, which the Tigers have accomplished. LSU's 2015 class marks the third straight year during which the Tigers have finished in the top six.

Here is a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of this class:

 

Offensive Firepower

LSU arguably had the best young collection of receivers and running backs in the SEC before this recruiting cycle, led by Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural.

It is now tough to miss the Tigers' loaded arsenal after the talent reeled in by Miles.

The highest-rated offensive prospect in LSU's 2015 class is 5-star receiver Tyron Johnson. He has an amazing array of moves and can make tough catches in tight spaces. His game should immediately translate to the SEC level of competition.

LSU also received signing-day additions from receivers Derrick Dillon and Brandon Martin.

Dillon was a Florida commitment all the way up to signing day, but the Franklinton, Louisiana native decided to stay close to home. Martin was a Missouri pledge, but the 3-star pass-catcher from Houston chose to be a Bayou Bengal.

Unfortunately for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Martin is expected to attend a junior college next fall, per Shea Dixon of Geaux247.

Fournette will be the workhorse back next year, but he will have help on the way from Baton Rouge prep stars Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette. Guice and Brossette do different things well and will add plenty of versatility to the backfield.

The Tigers also have early enrollee David Ducre on campus. At 5'11" and 238 pounds, Ducre is a load coming through the hole, which is one of many reasons why he was rated the No. 1 fullback prospect in the country.

Second-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes also had a major day on Wednesday. Grimes helped bring in five new offensive linemen to add to his already-gifted group.

Grimes shared his excitement through social media:

Maea TeuhemaChidi Valentine-Okeke and Toby Weathersby are all ranked in the top six at their respective positions. George Brown Jr. and Adrian Magee are massive 3-star tackles with tremendous upside.

The only disappointment on the offensive side of the ball was at quarterback. The Tigers do have 3-star early enrollee Justin McMillan who will compete with returnees Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings. According to Moran, Miles believes McMillan has a chance to make an instant impact:

But McMillan is a player not likely to be ready as a true freshman to play in the SEC. Another year of Harris and Jennings does not sound promising for Tiger fans.

Hopefully, their new weapons will help them progress as passers this offseason.

 

"DBU" Tradition Continues

LSU's most exhilarating position group in the 2015 class is in the secondary, which means enrollment at "Defensive Back University" is still in good standing.

The No. 1 prospect the Tigers brought in is Kevin Toliver II. The Tigers did not have to sweat over Toliver II's signature yesterday, as he is an early enrollee ready to shake up the secondary this spring. His speed, ball skills and willingness to jam receivers in press coverage will be an instant hit.

The Tigers received a pair of signatures from 4-star cornerbacks Xavier Lewis and Donte Jackson. Lewis and Jackson might have to wait their turn in a loaded secondary, but both could play right away if called upon.

Lewis is more of a traditional cornerback with smooth ball skills and body control. Jackson is an electrifying playmaker who is a dynamo with the ball in his hands. Miles said he might play him in all three phases of the game.

"If you look at Donte, Donte will have an ability to catch balls out of the backfield, carry balls out of the backfield, return punts, return kickoffs and be a lockdown corner with great speed,” said Miles, per Dixon.

Defensive back coach Corey Raymond already has some elite talent coming back. He now has enough playmakers to create two, maybe even three, starting secondaries.

 

Run-Stopping Nightmare

Recruiting powers like LSU rarely come up empty at critical positions. Unfortunately for Miles, the Tigers not only blanked once, but twice, on national signing day.

LSU brought in no defensive tackles or linebackers. Stopping the run is critical in the SEC, where nearly every team has an NFL-caliber back carrying the ball. Depth is critical when dealing with the wear and tear in the trenches.

The Tigers were in the running for 4-star Leo Lewis, but narrowly missed out to Mississippi State. Moran reports that Miles was shocked:

LSU will be able to survive at both positions with the players it has returning, but Miles knows this is an issue that needs to be fixed in the 2016 class.

LSU might also have some issues stopping the run at defensive end. The Tigers are thin at that position after losing starters Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco. Though 4-star signee Arden Key is a promising pass-rusher, he will need to add weight (currently 6'5", 230 lbs) to face the massive tackles in the conference next season.

 

The Full 2015 Class  

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

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National Signing Day 2015: 10 Biggest Takeaways

The holiday that is national signing day is in the books.

For well over 12 hours, fans were glued to televisions, computers and smartphones in an effort to see which athletes would officially join their favorite teams. Coaches paid attention to fax machines, waiting for letter of intent after letter of intent. Final flips from undecided athletes made the days of some and crushed the hopes of others.

What a day. It happens every year, and it's always loaded with entertainment.

In fact, there's quite a bit of information worth a water-cooler discussion for the next few days. Here are 10 takeaways from a wild Wednesday.

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College Football Recruiting 2015: Rankings and Analysis of Top Classes

The Alabama Crimson Tide fell short in the College Football Playoff, but Nick Saban's football machine is still tops in the 247Sports college football recruiting rankings. 

The Tide pulled in the most 5-star recruits with six and supplemented that haul with a whopping 14 4-star prospects. Ladies and gentleman, the Tide will still be really good for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the most highly rated Crimson Tide recruit is wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The 6-foot, 170-pound wideout was the Tide's biggest signee on national signing day. The 5-star Pompano Beach, Florida, native is already 20 years old, so he may not be in Tuscaloosa too long. 

However, his advanced age might help him make more of an immediate impact. That's something Alabama is likely to need considering Amari Cooper is foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Ridley needs someone to throw him the ball. Blake Sims was the quarterback last season, but should Ridley be in Tuscaloosa for three years, he might be catching passes from Blake Barnett. The 6'4", 205-pounder from Corona, California, is the second-highest ranked pro-style QB in nation. He enrolled at Alabama back on Jan. 5.

Alabama didn't just bolster its offense. Defensive studs like cornerback Kendall Sheffield and defensive tackle Daron Payne are five-star recruits who should prove to make the Crimson Tide's defense strong in the near future.

Let's take a look at the two other schools with a top-three class in the nation, according to 247Sport's rankings.

 

Iman Marshall, CB, Highlights USC's Commitments

There was some flirtation with Michigan close to NSD, but when it was all said and done, Marshall did what most expected him to do. He signed with USC.

Hailing from the historic Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, California, it seemed like a stretch that Marshall would leave Pac-12 country to go to college. As it stands, the 6'1", 190-pound cornerback has a chance to be one of the best cover men in the nation.

He's the crown jewel of a Trojans' recruiting class that should keep Steve Sarkisian's team near the top of the conference for the next two to three years.

Other parts of the defense also got a jolt of talent. Defensive tackle Rasheem Greene is a 5-star prospect from Gardena, California. He weighs just 275 pounds right now, so it might be a year or two before he can play inside, but he projects to be a force in the trenches.

The top offensive prize on USC's board has to be pro-style quarterback Ricky Town. The 6'3", 206-pounder from Ventura, California, has been enrolled since Jan. 18, and he has the look of a player who could become the next great signal-caller in the Trojans' long and storied history at the position.

TJ Gaynor of the Sporting News lauded Town's lower-body mechanics and threw out some lofty comparisons. 

"The feet. Town has fantastic feet for an NFL quarterback, let alone a senior in high school," Gaynor writes. "Conjures up images of a much smaller signal-caller in the Drew Brees or Jeff Garcia mode with his flawless footwork and marvelous mechanics. Always sets his feet precisely prior to delivering the mail."

Trojan Nation is hoping Town delivers plenty of "mail" in his time in Southern California.

 

Derwin James, Safety, Is Best of Florida State Signees

Defensive backs were the bee's knees for the programs with the highest-rated recruiting classes. James is the key to the Florida State Seminoles' class. The 6'2", 201-pound safety has enormous potential. 

Mike Farrell of Rivals.com said this to Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat"He's got as high a ceiling as a safety that I've ever seen in my 15 years covering high school football. That's why he's the (No. 5 player) in the nation and the highest-ranked safety we've ever had."

With a prospect like that on the way to the Seminoles' secondary, the defense should have a significant leader to captain that side of the ball.

Another potential standout on defense is Josh Sweat. The 6'5", 240-pound edge-rusher has the look of a player whose presence could make an immediate impact. Both he and James have been enrolled since January.

As it pertains to NSD, the Seminoles' biggest get was Fort Lauderdale's Tarvarus McFadden. The 5-star cornerback turned down efforts to recruit him from the Georgia Bulldogs and decided to stay in Florida. With three defensive studs on the way, the future of the Seminoles' defense looks bright.

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LSU's Les Miles Gives a Very Blunt Take on Louisiana Recruits Going out of State

College football coaches around the country hope that they hold a bit of an edge over out-of-state programs on in-state recruits. After all, "home-field" advantage should apply even in recruiting.

LSU coach Les Miles has a pretty straightforward take on in-state recruits: "If he doesn't wanna stay home, [to] hell with him."

It appears as though Miles was talking about in-state recruits in general, not a particular recruit.

[Instagram user Cody Worsham, h/t The Big Lead]

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How Florida and Michigan Can Return to Recruiting Glory in 2016

Here's the positive takeaway for two of college football's blue bloods on national signing day: They avoided unmitigated disasters.

Florida and Michigan entered Wednesday with plenty of similarities: new head coaches—Jim McElwain and Jim Harbaugh, respectively—small classes and a lot of work to do. The uncertainty surrounding their predecessors—Brady Hoke and Will Muschamp—put each program behind the proverbial eight-ball on the recruiting trail. 

Still, Florida and Michigan finished the day with the No. 21 and No. 38 classes in the nation, respectively. Those represent jumps of 45 and 33 spots in one day.

They may not have had top-10 classes, but all things considered, things could have been worse. Much worse.

Now, each program has to use whatever momentum it gained on Wednesday and put it toward a better 2016 recruiting class. That's the class with which McElwain and Harbaugh's programs will be more accurately defined.

A coach's first signing class requires a pass. Because of the recruiting dead period from Dec. 15 to Jan. 14, McElwain had about a month to recruit. Harbaugh, hired at the end of December, had just a few weeks to put his first class together.

Compare that to most other coaches around the country who have been building relationships with prospects for a year or more.

As Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com opines, Harbaugh's name only carries so much weight by itself in a short period of time:

At the same time, though, Michigan's number of near-misses over the past three weeks proved two things:

1. Harbaugh's name does, in fact, carry a lot of weight. Otherwise, Michigan doesn't come close on a number of the head-to-head battles over recent weeks;

2. Michigan's football brand needs to be rebuilt, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

Harbaugh likely sold his 14-member class on the future, guaranteeing that he'll get things turned around. Unless the Wolverines immediately get back to double-digit wins and knock off Ohio State in 2015, next year's pitch shouldn't differ too much.

The primary change is that Harbaugh might promise more playing time to incoming freshmen.

It's a similar strategy to what head coach Charlie Strong is using at Texas: Hold the first class together and then put your stamp on the second class with impact freshmen.

McElwain, however, could be in a position where several members of his 2015 class, like the 5-star duo of Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson, see the field. 

As Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com notes, "Ivey is the most important piece of a concerted effort by Florida's staff to rebuild the offensive line with only two starters among seven scholarship players returning at the position."

"I feel like I’m the No. 1 defensive end and I know he’s the No. 1 offensive tackle," Jefferson told Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. "So us going head-to-head in practice, once game time comes it’s going to feel easy."

Playing time is only part of the equation, though. This year is more about getting players and recruits alike to buy in and see what works.

Developing relationships is crucial, not just with 2016 recruits, but with current players. After all, they'll be hosting prospects on visits as well. Coaches can pitch a number of things, but the vibe of a program is most accurately seen through the ones playing in it.

Signing day is over. Now, the real work begins to get Michigan and Florida back among college football's elite.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Meet the Bulldogs' 2015 Class

Though Georgia's 2015 national signing day may be remembered for its frantic chaos, the members of the Bulldogs' 2015 class should not be overlooked. 

Head coach Mark Richt and his staff assembled a large class that addressed a need for defensive depth while also targeting offensive playmakers. In the process, the Dawgs signed the nation's top overall recruit, according to 247Sports, Trent Thompson, and 15 prospects who rank among the nation's Top 25 at their respective position, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Here's an introduction to the Georgia Bulldogs 2015 signing class.

 

Defensive Numbers

Filling up coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense was obviously a top priority for Georgia this year. Of the 28 new Bulldogs who enrolled early or signed this week, 18 will play on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, Jake Ganus, a transfer from UAB who was introduced as part of the class on Wednesday, will play linebacker.

Further, the most impressive facet of this group is the strength of the defensive front. Thompson, a defensive tackle, signed as the best player in the country, but he wasn't the only big name brought in to bolster the defensive line. Georgia added five 4-star defensive ends (Jonathan Ledbetter, Natrez Patrick, Michael Barnett, D'Andre Walker and Chauncey Rivers) and two more defensive tackles (DaQuan Hawkins and Justin Young) to the mix.

The linebacking unit was also bolstered beyond Ganus. Chuks Amaechi (a JUCO transfer) and 4-star outside linebacker Gary McCrae could play right away. And, there's still a possibility that Roquan Smith, the nation's fifth-best outside linebacker, could sign with Georgia, according to the Macon Telegraph's Ron Seibel (h/t Dawgs247's Jake Rowe).

In the secondary, Rashad Roundtree (safety) and Rico McGraw (cornerback) are poised to fight for serious playing time this fall, but several other prospects could benefit tremendously from Pruitt's educational coaching style.

 

Offensive Pieces

Obviously, Georgia's offense returns a lot in the backfield, and as such it was both hard and somewhat unnecessary to bring in a big haul of running backs. That being said, Georgia's lone running back of this class, Tae Crowder, has a unique element to him that Richt compared to another versatile Bulldog, via GeorgiaDogs.com:

Well, he does have the ability to do a little bit of what Quayvon Hicks is doing as far as an H-back type guy, even possibly tight end type guy, enough of a body to do that. But he's a pretty good runner in his own right.  He is a very physical guy, big tackle breaker, guy that we think could hold up well in our league, got a great stiff arm, just down after down after down, just stiffing guys into the ground and running them over. Very impressed with him.

Given that assessment, it's hard not to be optimistic about what Crowder can add to the offense, despite a 3-star rating and only one additional SEC scholarship offer.

In the passing game, 5-star athlete Terry Godwin could be a breakout star at receiver—even as a true freshman. His elusiveness and ability to attack the football and snag passes will make him a college-ready threat when Georgia opens its schedule in September.

Jayson Stanley is a good receiver with good size and could also work into a rotation desperately looking for ways to replace four-year contributors Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.

While this class doesn't have a plethora of offensive weapons, it does have players with tremendous upside. And it's important to remember that there's more to an offense than game-changing running backs and big-play wide receivers.

Georgia signed four offensive linemen (Patrick Allen, Sam Madden, DeVondre Seymour and Sage Hardin) who combine for an average size of 6'6" and 305 pounds, according to 247Sports profiles.

Additionally, Jackson Harris (a tight end and early enrollee) could be the most underrated member of this Georgia haul. Harris, a Tennessee native, was regarded as the fifth-best tight end in the country and one of the 200 best prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite.

 

General Assessment

This class was better than good but less than great for the Georgia Bulldogs. While a top-10 class is nothing to scoff at, it's also somewhat expected for Georgia. After all, the Dawgs haven't finished lower than 12th in any year since 2001.

A few narrow misses on players like Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Darius Slayton (Auburn) hurt, as did the leaking out of several in-state prospects. As of this moment only four of the state's top 10 prospects signed with Georgia. Roquan Smith could bump that number up to five, but losing elite talent to the likes of Clemson, Southern California, Tennessee, Oregon and LSU still hurts.

And that trend continues down the list. Only nine of the top 35 players in the talent-rich state of Georgia chose to stay at home with the Bulldogs. And unfortunately, far too many chose to play with rivals like Tennessee, Auburn and South Carolina.

But those negatives should not overshadow the positives. Thompson and Godwin are stars. The defensive front is flooded with talent. The offensive line has bolstered depth.

Georgia addressed needs and got better on national signing day.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Jim Harbaugh's Strong Recruiting Season Should Have Urban Meyer, B1G Worried

Jim Harbaugh has been the head coach at Michigan for 37 days, but that was all it took to turn a rotten six-player recruiting class into a rock-solid group of 14. On national signing day alone, the Wolverines climbed 33 spots on the 247Sports team rankings, finishing No. 36 in the country.

Like all partial classes, Harbaugh's first effort at Michigan looks underwhelming on paper. It does not suggest his ceiling on the recruiting trail. What it does do, however, is strike the fear of God into the rest of the conference—Ohio State included.

This was Harbaugh in 37 days. Imagine him in 365.

Harbaugh didn't make the big splash some fans hoped for. He didn't lure Iman Marshall or Keisean Lucier-South out of Los Angeles. He didn't convince Chris Clark not to travel to Los Angeles. He couldn't sell the Ann Arbor winter over 72 degrees in February.

But for all the near-misses Harbaugh accumulated, there was always a direct hit for balance. And he made those moves despite a limited pool of "availability." Because he joined so late in the cycle, six of the eight players Harbaugh added were flips from another school.

The most important of those flips was quarterback Zach Gentry, the No. 175 overall player in the class who had long been committed to Texas. Gentry is a 6'7" freak whose high school coach claims he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, per Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News.

"He kind of molded Andrew Luck into what he is today," Gentry told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "When Jim Harbaugh is calling you, you're excited."

Harbaugh created a brand for himself at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers. More than that, he created a national brand—one that extends outside of any specific region.

His primary home has been the West Coast, but Harbaugh landed Gentry out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And three of his other big additions (defensive end Shelton Johnson, running back Karan Higdon and defensive end Reuben Jones) hail from Florida.

How did Brady Hoke fare in the Sunshine State? Per MGoBlog:

Harbaugh stacked his coaching staff with former NFL assistants. The pay cut he took allowed the Wolverines to hire Tim Drevno, Tyrone Wheatley, Greg Jackson and Jedd Fisch. According to Phil Callihan of Bleacher Report, he did this with an eye on recruiting.

"Many coaches can say they have helped develop NFL draft picks, but Harbaugh and his staff have experience on both sides of the NFL pipeline," Callihan wrote. "They can speak firsthand about how NFL coaches evaluate talent."

Ever notice how many prospects commit "for the next three years" instead of four? If you haven't, take my word: It's a lot. The biggest fish on national signing day, 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, said he was recruited with a "three-year plan" by Auburn.

Harbaugh doesn't have to sell kids on his NFL track record because it's sitting right in front of them. And despite the lack of splashy moves on signing day, it's already paying dividends. He only inked 14 players, but those players' average composite grade (87.82) was No. 20 in the country.

If he wanted to, Harbaugh could have filled this class with lesser recruits. Doing so would have made the numbers look better—would have pushed Michigan near the Top 25—but it also would have cost future scholarships. In short, it would have been myopic.

Harbaugh didn't waste scholarships on players he knows, down the road, will not satisfy Michigan's recruiting standards. If there's one word to describe his first class, it's "confident." It's a confident group of 14 that says: "Just wait and see the village we sign next cycle."

The Wolverines have eyes for some of the top 2016 recruits, most of whom are co-Big Ten targets. Players who might have otherwise committed elsewhere will look hard at playing in Ann Arbor. This brief sampling comes from the top 100 players alone:

Harbaugh is calling, and these kids are excited.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

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College Football Recruiting Rankings: Top 2015 Schools Post-National Signing Day

National signing day is finally in the books, and those schools that made the best haul over the 2015 recruiting cycle have bragging rights ahead of them.

There are more than a dozen impressive classes across the landscape of college football, but a couple of star-studded ones stand out. We won't know for sure how the stars translate onto the field for some time, but which schools finish atop the recruiting rankings is often a telling indicator of what's to come.

With that said, let's look at the top 15 schools atop the 247Sports composite team rankings after national signing day.

 

Top Classes

USC

Steve Sarkisian had about a month to assemble his first USC recruiting class, but he hit the ground running for his second class and turned it into one of the best in the land.

The Trojans' 2015 class gained so much steam on national signing day that it even trumped Alabama for No. 1 at one point before the Crimson Tide regained their spot. But it's safe to say they won't be disappointed with their haul.

They built it from the defense up, adding 10 players on the defensive side of the ball who ranked in the top 10 at their position nationally. Among them are three of the top six outside linebackers, adding No. 6 outside linebacker John Houston to the mix on signing day, as per ESPN College Football:

Their defensive haul continued through Wednesday, when they secured No. 5 defensive tackle Rasheem Green and also locked down prized cornerback Iman Marshall. The No. 4 overall recruit revealed his decision with the following music video from Bleacher Report:

While they beefed up the defensive side of the ball considerably, the Trojans obviously didn't forget about offense. And two of the most important players on that side of the ball are already on campus. No. 1 offensive guard Chuma Edoga and No. 6 pro-style quarterback Ricky Town are both enrolled for the spring.

 

Tennessee

Tennessee's 2015 class was all but wrapped up entering national signing day, but Butch Jones and Co. had their sights set on one final flip to complete the class.

The stars seemed to be aligning for a late commitment from No. 3 offensive tackle Drew Richmond, who visited Knoxville over the weekend and followed it up by de-committing from Ole Miss. On Wednesday, he made the switch official, per Tennessee Football:

It'd be hard to deny the Volunteers' place among the top classes of 2015 even without Richmond. But according to Jones and the Tennessee staff, securing one of the top players at a position of need couldn't have been bigger.

"It completed the class," Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown. "We get back to improving our overall athleticism in the offensive front, and Drew obviously does that. ... I'm excited because he's going to add to the offensive line."

Of course, Tennessee already made quite the haul. It locked down No. 2 defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie early on, who helped spearhead the peer-recruiting efforts to help make late flips like Richmond's happen.

With 29 total signees and 16 of them boasting 4-star ratings or more, Jones has compiled yet another loaded recruiting class to bolster the talent level in Knoxville.

 

Alabama

Few schools had as quiet of a national signing day as the Alabama Crimson Tide, but nobody finished with a more stacked recruiting class.

Head coach Nick Saban and crew finished atop the recruiting rankings again, and once again, it's a heap of 5-star talent that helped to get them there. They locked down No. 1 receiver Calvin Ridley, No. 4 cornerback Kendall Sheffield and No. 1 running back Damien Harris long before signing day.

While finishing atop the 247Sports rankings is a feat in itself, ESPN's Adam Schefter noted how they dominated the ESPN rankings as well:

It's just another year, another recruiting championship for Alabama, as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted:

Recruiting rankings only mean so much, but they've never been validated more so than at Alabama. Its recruiting dominance has seen a direct correlation with the team's continued on-field prominence, and Saban has seemingly stocked the cupboard again.

What makes Alabama truly great is how it's able to reload. Notice how the Tide cleaned up with the top recruits at receiver and running back, coincidentally at the same time they look to replace star wideout Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon.

 

All recruiting rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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National Signing Day 2015: Highlighting Top Recruits Commitments

The strong, silent type took home national signing day's top class in 2015. 

Alabama and Nick Saban need not say much these days to lure the top talent in the land to Tuscaloosa. If Steve Sarkisian's haul is any indication, neither do the USC Trojans, now free from recruiting shackles.

The biggest splashes feature familiar faces. The most notable, though, are those decisions by prospects that alter the landscape of college football, as one program misses out and must not only compensate on the field but also alter its strategy in future recruiting battles to compensate.

When it comes to those type of program-altering decisions, a few of the most notable 2015 recruits come to mind.

 

Top Impact Commitments 

Iman Marshall, USC

Let's start with the biggest fish in the 2015 pond. 

Iman Marshall, a 5-star cornerback and Long Beach Poly High School product, was the crown jewel of a handful of 2015 classes, but Sarkisian's staff brought home the signature after much ado about nothing—he always seemed destined to stay local.

This is especially the case when one digests a comment he made after the announcement, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive Media Group:

The Trojans are scarier than ever in the defensive secondary. Down the line, Marshall—who comes in at 6'1", 190 pounds with 4.5 40-yard dash speed—will pair with a past top-tier recruit in Adoree' Jackson as well as others.

Also consider how the news impacts the other programs that were in the hunt. UCLA must now avoid throwing his way for years. Florida State does not so easily replace P.J. Williams. Notre Dame will continue to struggle. Ditto for Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh's last-ditch efforts fell flat.

Any talk about the college landscape changing with one signature is not an exaggeration.

 

Porter Gustin, USC

While not the biggest linebacker name in the class, Porter Gustin dashed the future plans of a few notable programs Wednesday as he signed on the dotted line with USC.

A 4-star recruit out of Salem Hills High School in Utah, Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes were in the running in a big way before the announcement.

Per the recruit himself, Meyer put up a strong fight, as captured by Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State needs more talented linebackers, but it appears Meyer and Co. will need to wait another year to better solidify the position.

In the meantime, USC's defense figures to be an annual power led by its linebacking corps. Gustin is one piece of the puzzle and joins fellow recruits in 4-star linebacker John Houston and 5-star linebacker Osa Masina.

Few offenses around the nation will want to see the Trojans anytime soon.

 

Byron Cowart, Auburn

Wednesday's biggest shocker came rather early in the day, as 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart chose Auburn over a host of other top programs.

Truthfully, Florida only has itself to blame for the egg-on-face scenario.

These sort of recruiting flips happen when coaches who handle the recruiting move on to other endeavors. Cowart, a Seffner, Florida, native, figured to roll with the Florida Gators until Will Muschamp's departure cast a shadow of doubt over his future.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports confirms the situation:

Cowart instead lands with Muschamp at Auburn and does much to solidify the unit for the future against powerhouses such as Alabama and LSU.

For Florida, Cowart represents growing pains in the worst possible way as the staff ushers in a new era.

 

Michael Weber, Ohio State

Meyer did not lose every battle on national signing day.

Far from it, actually.

Michael Weber, a 4-star recruit, represents the first recruiting shots exchanged between Meyer and soon-to-be archrival Harbaugh.

The Detroit native initially committed to the Wolverines but changed course as Michigan tanked and Ohio State went on to bigger things this past season.

May captures just how important the recruiting rivalry victory is for the Buckeyes:

Weber will not change the Buckeyes in a major way on the field right out of the gates. The important takeaway, though, is that Meyer can go right into Harbaugh's backyard and steal a top recruit.

The battle lines in the sporting world's best rivalry are set in stone.

 

Player rankings based on 247Sports' composite ranking system. All recruit measurements and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Isaiah Prince to Ohio State: Recruit Bio and Projected Impact for Buckeyes OT

Big, versatile, athletic offensive tackles are at a premium in today's college football realm, and the Ohio State Buckeyes acquired a great one in Eleanor Roosevelt High School product Isaiah Prince.

Here's a look at Prince's decision, courtesy of The Buckeye Nut:

The 4-star recruit is the seventh-ranked offensive tackle by 247Sports' composite ratings. He also rates as the nation's 105th overall prospect and is considered the top recruit out of Maryland.

Prince boasts some impressive physical measurables, standing at 6'6" and weighing 272 pounds. He has experience anchoring both sides of the offensive line, logging time at right and left tackle.

Since displaying some impressive athleticism on the left side as a sophomore, Prince added some weight and strength, helping him make the switch to a run-blocking force on the right side as a junior. He continued to develop during his senior season, displaying good explosiveness, leg drive and the ability to catch opponents off balance with this quickness.

Roosevelt coach Tom Green summed up his star tackle during an interview with Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun in July:

A lot of people look at his size and the fact that he's close to 6'7" and close to 275 [pounds]. But what makes him special is his flexibility. His hips are really flexible. He can sink in a hole. He can move for a big kid. He can change direction. A lot of kids aren't natural benders, and he's a natural bender.

With that description in mind, take a look at the sheer dominance from the towering tackle during his senior season with the Raiders in this video from hudl.com (which opens up with a massive pancake block):

That prowess earned Prince All-American honors:

We saw what Ohio State is capable of accomplishing when the running game gets going (the answer is a national championship). A big part of the team's success on the ground was due to a solid offensive line that has four starters returning for another season, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

During a press conference, via Sebastian Salazar of CSNBaltimore.com, Prince expressed his desire to contribute immediately at Ohio State.

"I want [to play] as a true freshman," he said.

While Barton Simmons of 247Sports loves what Prince brings to the table, he also thinks the tackle may need to develop a bit before playing:

With Prince, he is another kid with a great frame. He is so long. He is 6'6" plus. He has really good feet at that size and length. He has to continue to get stronger and also needs to learn to play with leverage. His tools he has to work with make him another impressive prospect.

He'll be able to work on the edge and keep your quarterback clean. He may be a couple years away from that but he has a chance to be really good.

Prince may still be a bit raw. However, he boasts some impressive power and acceleration off the line. While he does need to improve in pass protection and work on lowering his pad level, he has the length and athleticism to play on either side of the line with the Buckeyes.

With a budding skill set and an ideal frame, Prince may not see some action in a starting role in the immediate future, but he should be expected to become one of Ohio State's standouts down the road. 

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Top College Football Recruiting Classes: 2015 Rankings and Groups to Watch

It is not an exaggeration to say national championships are won on national signing day.

After all, Ohio State just took home the title on the back of a 2012 class that was ranked No. 5 nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings, a 2013 class that was ranked No. 2 nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings and a 2014 class that was ranked No. 3 by 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Landing the best recruits in the country means something, and it is the surest way to secure your place among college football’s elite.

With that in mind, here is a look at the top 10 classes in the 2015 recruiting cycle, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, as well as some specific groups to watch moving forward.

 

USC

USC brought in the No. 2 class in the country with four 5-star players. More importantly, this class represented the first time USC could sign a full 25-member class after NCAA sanctions stemming from Reggie Bush's time on campus.

The Trojans capitalized on the opportunity on signing day by securing Rasheem Green, Iman Marshall and John Houston after landing Porter Gustin on Tuesday. It was one of the strongest finishes to the 2015 recruiting cycle for any program.

Colin Becht of Sports Illustrated painted an enticing picture for USC fans:

With the influx of marquee recruits plus the return of several major contributors, including Jackson and star safety Su’a Cravens, USC should be set for a stellar defense as it seeks to reenter the national title landscape. Quarterback Cody Kessler’s decision to stay for his senior campaign leaves the offense in capable hands, creating plenty of room for excitement.

USC needed a class like this in the resurgent Pac-12. UCLA also landed a highly ranked class, and Oregon is a perennial power that is fresh off an appearance in the national championship game. 

The Trojans finally and officially put their sanction-era issues in the rearview mirror with a dominant national signing day Wednesday. It was a fitting statement, and the Ducks will have company atop the conference standings as soon as this season.

 

Tennessee

Tennessee brought in the No. 4 class in the country with 29 commitments.

Tennessee has one of the richest traditions in college football history, but it has fallen off in recent years. Coach Butch Jones has to rebuild the program in the daunting SEC, which is no easy task, but the Volunteers have plenty of momentum after destroying Iowa in the Gator Bowl to end the 2014 campaign.

Jones parlayed that momentum into a dominant recruiting class Wednesday and took care of a glaring area of need in the process. The Volunteers struggled up front on both sides of the ball last year, but their 2015 class was loaded with both offensive and defensive linemen, including Kahlil McKenzie, Drew Richmond and Kyle Phillips.

Barton Simmons, the director of scouting at 247Sports, discussed Tennessee’s position, via Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel:

I think there’s a lot of factors in place. One is that Tennessee has been a sleeping giant. They have the facilities, the stadium, the fan base, the resources. Then all it takes is for someone to sort of capture that and realize it. I think Butch Jones understood those advantages and really has been pretty masterful in taking advantage of those. He’s taking advantage of legacies, taking advantage of commitments, using those guys to recruit other players. 

There are plenty of reasons for Tennessee fans to be optimistic after Wednesday’s developments. The right coach is in place, and the players are starting to follow suit. It may only be a matter of time before the Volunteers are once again atop the SEC East.

 

Texas

Let the rebuilding begin in Texas.

Coach Charlie Strong hauled in the No. 11 class in his first full year of recruiting in Austin and set the stage for what promises to be a quick turnaround. After all, you would be hard-pressed to find a school that is better suited for extended recruiting success than Texas.

The Longhorns have the illustrious history, the incredible facilities and the name brand that should appeal to almost any recruit. What’s more, Texas is as good as it gets for high school football, which means there will always be impressive talent ready for the taking in Strong’s backyard.

Strong is a defensive-minded coach, and he brought in a number of linebackers and secondary members, but he recognized Texas’ issues were on the offensive side of the ball last year and recruited accordingly. Between running back Chris Warren, wide receiver John Burt, tight end Devonaire Clarington and wide receiver Ryan Newsome, the Longhorns have plenty of playmakers in this class.

They should help bring Texas back to prominence within a couple of years. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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