(AP) — Alabama came up just short in its bid for a second straight national title on the field, but the Crimson Tide’s dominance on the recruiting trail remains as strong as ever.
According to composite rankings of recruiting services compiled by 247Sports , Alabama finished atop the team standings for a seventh consecutive year. And this might have been Nick Saban’s best class yet.
Florida’s 2010 class that included NFL first-round draft picks Dominique Easley, Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd is 247Sports’ only higher-rated class since 2002, which is as far back as 247Sports’ data goes.
“It just speaks to the process that they’ve put in place there and the machine that is really unstoppable,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports.
Alabama’s class includes seven of the top 34 players in the 247Sports Composite : running back Najee Harris, offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Willis, outside linebacker Dylan Moses, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, defensive end LaBryan Ray and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Rivals and Scout rated Harris as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect.
“On paper, when you’re talking about our point system and the number of five-stars, it’s the best (Saban’s) had at Alabama,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals.
Ohio State and Southern California also had reason to celebrate.
Simmons said the average 247Sports Composite rating of Ohio State’s signees is the highest of any class since 2002. Alabama finished higher in the team standings largely because it signed more players than Ohio State.
Southern California surged into the top five in the team standings with a fabulous finish. Linebacker Levi Jones, defensive tackle Jay Tufele, wide receiver Joseph Lewis and offensive tackle Austin Jackson made Signing Day decisions to join USC’s class. All three are top-100 prospects in the 247Sports Composite.
“I think USC is the clear Signing Day story in terms of the way they rose in the rankings and in the days leading up to it,” Simmons said. “They really had the perfect close.”
Here are other notable Signing Day stories.
SIGNING DAY DECISIONS: Florida State landed the biggest prize of the day with the addition of defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who was No. 6 in the 247Sports Composite and the highest-rated uncommitted player entering signing. Other members of the 247Sports Composite’s top 50 who were uncommitted before Wednesday include defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon (Michigan), defensive ends K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU) and Ray (Alabama) plus wide receiver Jeff Thomas (Miami).
QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY: Ohio State wasn’t the only program to make the most of relatively limited numbers. Although the small size of their classes kept them from ranking higher in team standings, Clemson and Stanford landed plenty of star power. Clemson has the nation’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback (Hunter Johnson) and No. 2 wide receiver (Tee Higgins) according to the 247Sports Composite. Stanford has four of the top 36 players in the 247Sports Composite (offensive tackles Foster Sarell and Walker Little, quarterback Davis Mills and tight end Colby Parkinson). Mills was rated as the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback.
LEAVING TEXAS: New Texas coach Tom Herman will have to do a better job of keeping the state’s best players home in future recruiting cycles. Texas didn’t sign any of the Lone Star State’s top 19 recruits according to the 247Sports Composite. Of the top 12 prospects in Texas, the only ones who chose Texas schools were inside linebacker Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) and offensive guard Jack Anderson (Texas Tech). “I think the Tom Herman effect was expected to do a little bit more,” Farrell said. “You can never gauge a coach on his transitional year, (but) 2018 has to be a really good one though. I would say he’d better knock it out of the ballpark in 2018 or a lot of fans will be wondering, `Did we really upgrade?’ at least in the recruiting department.”
SEC DOMINATION: Although some late decisions could shuffle the team standings, six SEC schools were ranked among the top 12 in the 247Sports Composite as of late Wednesday afternoon. Joining Alabama in that group of six were Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. While the SEC sizzled, the Big 12 fizzled. Oklahoma likely will be the only Big 12 team in the top 20.
MISSISSIPPI’S MISERY: Ole Miss landed a top-five class in 2016 even with an NCAA investigation looming, but the effects of the Rebels’ off-field issues were much more apparent this year. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss was outside the top 30 in the 247Sports Composite rankings and ahead of only Missouri and Vanderbilt in the SEC. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged negative recruiting made an impact. “It was ugly,” Freeze said.
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