National signing day is Feb. 4, and Football Bowl Subdivision programs are making their final push to bolster their rosters of the future.
Here is a look at the top recruiting classes in 2015 with two weeks to go.
The Crimson Tide are likely to again be atop the national recruiting rankings. Of their 27 verbal commits, 20 are ranked among the ESPN 300. “It’s amazing, just an astounding number,” says Craig Haubert, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. Haubert points to four factors he says provide Alabama with a perfect scenario for recruiting success: having a history of success and a rabid fan base; being a consistent contender for the national title; having a track record of helping players get to the NFL; and identifying players who fit and getting the most out of them. Four players are ranked as the best at their position by Rivals.com and another four are ranked No. 2. That group includes top running back Damien Harris (Madison Southern; Berea, Ky.), No. 1 wide receiver Calvin Ridley (Monarch; Coconut Creek, Fla.) and No. 2 defensive back Deionte Thompson (West Orange-Stark; Orange, Texas).
Florida State reaped the benefits of being the defending national champion and winning 29 consecutive games. Five-stars are all over this class, including defensive backs Tarvarus McFadden (American Heritage; Plantation, Fla.) and Derwin James (Haines City, Fla.), running back Jacques Patrick (Timber Creek; Orlando); and defensive end Josh Sweat (Oscar Smith; Chesapeake, Va.). Sweat likely would have been the top overall player in the Class of 2015 were it not for a serious knee injury as a senior. The Seminoles could make a run at Alabama for the top spot if they can secure several of the top uncommitted players such as defensive end Byron Cowart (Seffner; Armwood, Fla.) and defensive back Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly in California). Marshall was among seven prospects to visit Tallahassee last weekend.
The Trojans already have a very good class; The question is whether this becomes a great class before signing day. USC is in the mix for a half-dozen uncommitted players from the ESPN 300 and is the front-runner for several of them. The group of targets includes five-star defensive back Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly); wide receiver Cordell Broadus (Bishop Gorman; Las Vegas); five-star defensive tackle Rasheem Green (Junipero Serra; Gardena, Calif.); top inside linebacker John Houston Jr. (Serra); four-star linebacker Porter Gustin (Salem Hills; Salem, Utah); and four-star linebacker Osa Masina (Brighton; Salt Lake City). Already in the class is Ronald Jones II (McKinney North; McKninney, Texas), who is ranked as the No. 1 running back by ESPN. USC also is able to offer the full complement of scholarships for the first time in three years after NCAA penalties.
Butch Jones has put together a top-five class with strength at quarterback and on the defensive line. The two quarterbacks are already on campus. Jauan Jennings (Blackman; Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is a dual-threat QB built similarly to incumbent starter Josh Dobbs. Quinten Dormady (Boerne, Texas) is more of a pocket passer. On the defensive line, Kahlil McKenzie (Clayton Valley Charter; Concord, Calif.) and Kyle Phillips (Hillsboro; Nashville) have the chance to compete for playing time. McKenzie’s father, Reggie, is the Oakland Raiders’ general manager.
Dabo Swinney has assembled one of the top classes in school history and should reap the benefits of 11 early enrollees. The depth of this class is in the trenches, led by five-star Mitch Hyatt (North Gwinnett; Suwanee, Ga.) and four-star Jake Fruhmorgen (Plant; Tampa, Fla.) at offensive tackle and five-star Christian Wilkins (Suffield Academy; Suffield, Conn.) and four-star Albert Huggins (Orangeburg-Wilkinson; Orangeburg, S.C.) at defensive tackle.
After a number of recruits wavered following the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to Colorado State, the Bulldogs have steadied. The hiring of former St. Louis Rams coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should help. Georgia recruited well at home. In Terry Godwin (Callaway; Hogansville), Georgia has the No.1 in-state prospect and the top athlete in the class, according to Rivals.com. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson (Westover; Albany), the American Family Insurance All-USA defensive player of the year, is ranked among the top five players overall, and defensive back Rashad Roundtree (Lakeside; Evans) is No. 3 at his position, according to Rivals.com.
The Buckeyes have had a top-four class in each of Urban Meyer’s seasons in Columbus and could have another chance. Ohio State collected commitments for 2016 and 2017 in the aftermath of the national championship but already has a very good group of 24 commits (11 from Ohio) in the Class of 2015. Justin Hilliard (St. Xavier; Cincinnati) is among the top linebackers in the country, and running back Mike Weber (Cass Tech; Detroit) is highly motivated after decommitting from Michigan in his home state to flip to the rival Buckeyes.
The Tigers again will have a top-10 class but could inch up toward the top five with a strong final push. Auburn is coming off what has been dubbed the most important recruiting weekend in school history with multiple five-star players on campus, including three of the top five overall. How many the Tigers can sign will determine their final grade. A potential boon to their recruiting efforts has been the hiring of former Florida coach Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. Muschamp already had relationships with many of the top players in the state, and many are looking at Auburn, including Tim Irvin, a four-star defensive back from Westminster Christian in Miami, who flipped from Texas. Days later, he was an early enrollee. Five-star running back Jovon Robinson (Georgia Military College; Milledgeville, Ga.) is the biggest name in the class thus far. He has taken a long road back to The Plains. He was a member of the Class of 2012 but was declared ineligible and spent two years in junior college.