Top 25 Recruiting Capsules
FSU closes strong with Darby
FSU closes strong with Darby
Director of Scouting
Posted Feb 2, 2012
Scott Kennedy 60x80


Now that Signing Day for 2012 has come and gone, let's take a closer look at the Top 25 Classes.

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Avg. Star Rating of Top 20 Commits - 4.15
Headliner: #2 RB Johnathan Gray - Aledo, Texas
Before Texas inked Malcolm Brown in 2011, the Longhorns had not signed a 5-Star running back since Scout's inception in 2002. Now Texas will have two in a row with Brown and the nation's No. 2 running back Johnathan Gray (5'11/195). All Gray does is run for touchdowns. He had eight in the State Championship game as a junior, and scored a whopping 70 touchdowns as a senior. Texas is no stranger to top recruiting classes, but this group is special even by Longhorn standards. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown (6'2/280) is rated No. 1 at his position in the nation. Offensive guard Curtis Riser (6'5/300) and Kennedy Estelle (6'7/305) are offensive linemen that bring some steak to Gray's sizzle. Receiver Cayleb Jones (6'2/185) is yet another 5-Star who will keep defenses honest by stretching the field vertically. With another commitment from defensive end Bryce Cottrell (6'3/220) on Monday. This was Texas' first No. 1 Class by Scout.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 4.00
Headliner: #2 S Landon Collins - Geismar, La.
Alabama is in position to pull off a second championship in less than a month. While the BCS Championship is the one that counts, Signing the No. 1 class in the country is nothing to take lightly, especially when it's the Crimson Tide. Alabama's No. 1 class in 2008 finished with two BCS Championships and a host of NFL talent. This year's class is headlined by safety Landon Collins (6'0/203) of Geismar, La. who made national headlines when he chose Alabama over LSU on national television. Collins is a force in run support and equally effective closing on passes in the deep third. It's not all about the defense for Alabama in 2012. Wide receiver Cyrus Jones (5'10/185) brings an element of speed and elusiveness that Alabama didn't have on its 2011 championship team. Alabama did well within its state borders as well, specifically with a commitment from the nation's No. 1 middle linebacker Reggie Ragland (6'4/245). Alabama has already added commitments from two more 4-Star defensive linemen in Dalvin Tomlinson (6'3/270) and Korren Kirven (6'4/280) putting the Crimson Tide mere percentage points behind Texas for the No. 1 Class.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.95
Headliner: #2 DE Noah Spence - Harrisburg, Pa.
It finally looked like this would be the year the rest of the Big 10 would catch or pass Ohio State on the recruiting trail. An NCAA investigation led to the dismissal of popular coach Jim Tressel and a mediocre season on the field. But then the Buckeyes went and hired Urban Meyer coinciding with Penn State being removed as a contender for top players. Meyer immediately solidified 5-Star running back Brionte Dunn (6'1/220), secured a commitment from long time Penn State lean Noah Spence (6'3/240), flipped Penn State commitment Tommy Schutt (6'3/290), Michigan State commitment Se'Von Pittman (6'4/260), and Notre Dame commitment Taylor Decker (6'8/288). Ohio State wasn't recruiting badly, but they were on pace for a Top 20 class. With Meyer at the helm, the Buckeyes have an outside shot at the No. 1 class, unthinkable as recently as Halloween. The Buckeyes have kept the momentum going this week with a commitment from another Scout 300 prospect in cornerback Armani Reeves (5'10/185) out of Massachusetts. 4-Star offensive tackle Kyle Dodson (6'6/310) announced for Ohio State on Signing Day as the Buckeyes and Wolverines swapped places several times on Signing Day.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.80
Headliner: #6 OT Kyle Kalis - Lakewood, Ohio
Head Coach Brady Hoke and the rest of his staff are showing what it means to energize a tradition rich program like Michigan. Hoke's connections to the state of Ohio paid off early with six Scout 300 members from Ohio including 5-Star offensive tackle Kyle Kalis (6'5/305) and maniacal linebacker Joe Bolden (6'3/230). Michigan got off to a fast start with 20 of its 24 commitments coming before kickoff in 2011. Michigan got back on the board on Monday with a commitment from defensive tackle Willie Henry (6'3/273), another prospect out of Ohio. Michigan missed on running back Dee Hart in 2011, but they got a clone of his in 4-Star back Dennis Norfleet (5'7/175) who had previously been committed to Cincinnati for months.
Avg. Star Rating for 20 Commits - 3.80
Headliner: #3 OT D.J. Humphries - Charlotte, N.C.
That gnashing of teeth heard from the South are the Florida Gators being less than thrilled being left in the lurch by Meyer so suddenly...again... leading to a 2011 recruiting class that finished outside of the Top 20. But like Michigan, with a full year at a program like Florida, Will Muschamp has his Gators headed in the right direction in recruiting. Former Gator Aaron Hernandez will be playing tight end for New England in the Super Bowl, and Florida is doing its best to find someone like him bringing in the nation's top two tight end prospects in Kent Taylor (6'5/230) and Colin Thompson (6'5/255). Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (6'6/265) was the talk of the Army All-American Bowl and saw his ranking skyrocket into the the Top 11 nationally. Cornerback Brian Poole (5'11/185) is a shutdown defender who has a chance for immediate playing time in Gainesville. Defensive end Dante Fowler (6'3/240) added fuel to an already explosive rivalry when the long time Florida State commitment inked with the Gators on Signing Day.
Avg. Star Rating for 19 Commits - 3.65
Headliner: #4 OT Kyle Murphy  - San Clemente, Calif.
A frequent comment I hear from fans of all programs after losing a recruiting battle to Stanford it "I can't really blame a kid for picking Stanford." Stanford has always had a world-class education, and now that they seem to be a perennial Top 20 program, they are winning more and more of the recruiting battles prompting the initial response. Stanford has been recruiting on a high level the last four years including three straight Top 25 finishes, and the Class of 2012 could be its best yet after reeling in 5-Star offensive guard Joshua Garnett (6'5/290). Stanford has a punishing style of play, and Garnett is joined by 4-Star linemen Graham Shuler (6'5/272) and Nick Davidson (6'6/280). Running behind this fearsome group is a name that will sound familiar, Barry Sanders. Yes, he's the son of that Barry Sanders, but he is a legit prospect who would be heavily recruited even if he were just another Smith. Stanford added a commitment from big Andrus Peat (6'7/305) and are in the process of signing the top offensive line class in the country. Stanford was expected to make a run at the Top 10 on Signing Day if long time leans ended up inking with the Cardinal, and in the end 5-Star offensive tackle Kyle Murphy (6'7/285) and 4-Star defensive tackle Aziz Shittu (6'3/275) joined Peat on Signing Day. Stanford's offensive line class is the best in the country, and one of the best on paper... ever.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.60
Headliner: #3 TE John Thomas - Bossier City, La.
Scout's first full year of ranking recruiting classes was the Class of 2003. Since that time, LSU has finished outside of the Top 10 in recruiting just once: in 2005 when the Tigers had just 13 signees. LSU enjoys one of the best homefield advantages in college football, and not just under the lights in Death Valley. While the state of Louisiana lacks the upper level star power of the Class of 2011, it is still deep in talented prospects and LSU has commitments from a whopping 10 members of the Scout 300, seven of which are from within the state. Maybe the most talented prospect on LSU's commitment list is Jeremy Hill (6'1/225), a running back from the Class of 2011 who didn't sign with anyone but enrolled at LSU in January. Tight end John Thomas (6'5/245) could see time early as a middle of the field pass catching threat. Fitting that LSU got a commitment this week from 6'4/260 pound Jeremy Liggins in that he is most compared to former Tiger Rohan Davey if not Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen because of his size. LSU poached the state of Texas for a big commitment from 4-Star linebacker Corey Thompson off of Texas A&M's commitment list late Monday night. The Tigers poached the state of Alabama for No. 3 outside linebacker prospect Kwon Alexander who is coming off of an injury, but he has a world of talent.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.50
Headliner: #5 RB Duke Johnson - Miami, Fla..
Welcome back to the big time Miami. While Miami isn't likely to finish at No. 6 in the nation come Signing Day with a class that's already well past 25 commitments, the Hurricanes should crack the Top 15 and have an outside shot at a Top 10 class. That's a far cry from the 35th ranking they finished with last year. Running back Duke Johnson (5'9/188) is an elite talent from Miami and is the type of player the Hurricanes must keep home to regain past glory. Six of Miami's seven Scout 300 commitments are from South Florida and is one of the few areas in the country that can alone support a Top 10 team. The Hurricanes added another South Florida prep star in 5-Star cornerback Tracy Howard (6'0/175) on Signing Day.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.50
Headliner: #1 WR Trey Metoyer - - Whitehouse, Texas
Oklahoma's top commitment for the Class of 2012 is the same as it was for the Class of 2011. Trey Metoyer is one of only two Scout 5-Star prospects in the last three years who failed to qualify. He spent the last year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Of the new players to watch on the commitment list, keep an eye on Derrick Woods (5'11/180) of Inglewood, Calif. Woods is a dynamic athlete who can play receiver or defensive back on the next level. Running back Alex Ross (6'1/205) of Jenks, Okla. is a punishing running back who can get the tough yards when Oklahoma needs them. The Sooners continue to poach commitments from other teams lists grabbing safety Zack Sanchez (6'0/165) from Baylor on Monday. The Sooners pulled a Signing Day coup when they inked junior college transfer Courtney Gardner (6'3/215), a 4-Star wide receiver, after Gardner had been committed to Arkansas.
Avg. Star Rating for 19 Commits - 3.95
Headliner: #1 DE Mario Edwards - Denton, Texas
Florida State wrote the book in the '90s and early '00s on closing strong on Signing Day, and 13th is likely as low as we'll see the Seminole class for 2012. Florida State has more players in the Scout 100 than any other team, but their total number of commitments is close to sanctioned USC. Expect the Seminoles to add to their already impressive list and vault into the top 10 by Signing Day. Defensive lineman Mario Edwards (6'4/290) has the build of a defensive tackle and the agility of a linebacker. Florida State's defensive line class is chock full of talent including 5-Stars Edwards and Chris Casher (6'4/240) . It's not all about defense though as Florida State has commitments from Scout's No. 2 quarterback Jameis Winston (6'4/205) and 5-Star running back Mario Pender (6'0/210). Florida State solidified its argument as having the best defensive line class in the nation with a signature from 5-Star defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (6'4/315). A Signing Day announcement by Scout's No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby (5'11/175) helped take the sting out of losing Fowler to Florida.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.40
Headliner: #2 DT Ellis McCarthy - Monrovia, Calif.
If it weren't for Urban Meyer stealing the new coach headlines, more people would be talking about the job Jim Mora is doing at UCLA. Left for dead on the recruiting trail under former coach Rick Neuheisel, Mora seized the opportunity of a conference in turmoil with nearly half the schools undergoing coaching changes and USC being crippled by scholarship limitations. The first big coup was 5-Star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy (6'5/295) who had announced for Cal earlier in January on national television. Scout's No. 3 quarterback Devin Fuller (6'0/185) from New Jersey is a dynamic athlete that also represents one of the bigger recruiting surprises of the year. Mora also got a commitment from former Washington/Oregon commitment Jeremy Castro (6'3/245), and got the state's best players to give UCLA a bonafied look after one top recruit had described the previous staff's recruitment strategy as "desperate and disorganized." Receiver Jordan Payton's 4th public commitment pushed the Bruins into the Top 10 on Signing Day.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.35
Headliner: #4 WR Shaq Roland - Lexington, S.C.
It doesn't raise any eyebrows any more to see South Carolina highly ranked in recruiting. The Gamecocks have been a steady Top 15 presence three out of the last four years. Keeping some of the state's best players home has been key, and this year is no different with 5-Star wide receiver Shaq Roland (6'1/180) out of Lexington. Roland plays bigger than his listed 6'1/180 and will have a chance to be on the field quickly as Alshon Jeffrey moves on to the NFL. A very different receiver, Roland will trade Jeffrey's brute force for quickness and precision. Running back Mike Davis (5'10/200) out of Georgia is a former Florida commitment that can be the hammer in the middle of a defense while Roland hovers on the perimeter.
Avg. Star Rating for 18 Commits - 3.68
Headliner: #1 RB Keith Marshall - Raleigh, N.C.
Georgia is in a similar position as Auburn in that they have a terrific group of players committed, there's just not as many of them as the team ahead of them. For the second year in a row, Georgia has landed the nation's top running back. In 2011 it was Isaiah Crowell who led the Bulldogs in rushing and was named SEC Freshman of the year, and this year its lightning fast back Keith Marshall out of North Carolina. Marshall and Crowell will be joined by running back Todd Gurley, a bruising 6'1 and 210 pounds. It's not all about the running backs though as offensive tackle John Theus (6'6/295) and defensive lineman Jordan Jenkins (6'3/250), both rated 5-Stars by Scout. The Bulldogs continued their good work this week getting a commitment from 4-Star cornerback Sheldon Dawson (5'10/185) out of Tennessee and keeping 5-Star linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (6'4/207) out of Valdosta, Ga. home on Signing Day.
Avg. Star Rating for 19 Commits - 3.63
Headliner: No. 5 OT Avery Young - Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Auburn finished with its highest ranked class ever on Scout in 2011 (2), and the Tigers are having another very good year on the recruiting trail. While short on commitments to this point, Auburn's 3.6 star per player would put the Tigers back in the Top 10. With several undecided prospects still looking at Auburn, the Tigers are likely to make a run at the Top 10 on Signing Day. Auburn's Class of 2012 is long on big bodies on offense including Scout 300 tackles Patrick Miller (6'7/270) and Shane Callahan (6'6/285) as well as tight end Ricky Parks (6'4/230). Much was made about Auburn struggles on the offensive side of the ball without Cam Newton, and the national media seemed to gloss over the fact that the Tigers lost four starters on the offensive line. With four total linemen committed already, Auburn is rebuilding in the trenches. Auburn survived a late push for 4-Star wide receiver Jaquay Williams by Georgia and inked his teammate Will Adams. Williams and Adams come from the same high school as receiver Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech). In Johnson's class, teammate Andrew Gardner was considered by many to be a throw in to Johnson, but he ended up being a plus starter for Georgia Tech. Auburn is hoping Williams and Adams can repeat history. Auburn got big news on Signing Day with a signature from 5-Star offensive tackle Avery Young and resecured a commitment from 4-Star receiver Ricardo Louis
Avg. Star Rating for 20 Commits - 3.55
Headliner: #1 OT Arik Armstead - Elk Grove, Calif..
For the second year in a row Oregon landed the top ranked prospect in the West and players who were once committed to USC. In 2011 Oregon got a last minute switch from über athlete DeAnthony Thomas on Signing Day, and in 2012, Arik Armstead (6'7/280) had decommitted from USC months ago, but chose Oregon on Sunday. Armstead is Scout's No. 1 offensive tackle prospect and No. 2 overall nationally. I don't say this lightly in that he may be the best offensive tackle prospect I've scouted in 10 years. Unfortunately, he's got his heart set on playing defense. He's a good defensive lineman, but he can be an all time great on the offensive line. Oregon has always done a good job of scouting nationally, but now they're going head to head with major programs in their own back yards and winning getting 4-Star prospects from Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Arizona, Hawaii and California in addition to Oregon. The Ducks have made a late charge towards the Top 10 with two receiver commitments from Texas including Scout 300 member Bralon Addison (5'10/180).
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.35
Headliner: #3 RB Trey Williams - Houston, Texas
While Texas A&M will be joining the SEC this year, no one expects the Aggies to abandon the nation's most fertile recruiting state. Of the Aggies' 20 commitments, 16 reside from the state of Texas including lightning in a bottle running back Trey Williams (5'8/180). Williams is a small back, but he has an extra gear that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. He made a strong push for the No. 1 running back spot before settling in at No. 3. Quarterback Matt Davis shook off some rust after missing his junior season. He is a pass/run threat that can team with Williams to form one of the more fearsome running attacks in the SEC. The Aggies are getting serious about the defense that they'll need to play in the SEC with commitments from safety Edward Pope (6'3/175) and defensive end Polo Manukainiu (6'6/255) on Sunday. Adding the nation's No. 8 receiver in Thomas Johnson was a nice Signing Day coup for the Aggies.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.40
Headliner: #8 DT Carlos Watkins - Forest City, N.C.
Clemson is following up its ACC Championship season with another big year on the recruiting trail. After finishing outside of the Top 25 in 2009 and barely cracking the Top 25 in 2010, Clemson is poised for back to back classes ranked 11th or higher. Obviously Sammy Watkins was the headliner last season, but the big impact could come on the defensive side of the ball in the form of defensive linemen Carlos Watkins (6'4/280) and Martin Aiken (6'3/250) and defensive back Travis Blanks (6'1/194). Despite a historically bad showing during the bowl game against West Virginia, top recruits inevitably see an opportunity to play early for an ACC Champion.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.35
Headliner: #3 DT Quay Evans - Morton, Ms.
Florida State and Ohio State have generated most of the headlines on the defensive line, but Mississippi State is bringing in a class that rivals any in the nation led by 5-Star defensive tackle Quay Evans (6'2/320). Junior college transfer Denico Autry (6'5/250) is also rated 5-Stars by Scout, and both players will be on campus for Spring practice giving them a leg up on next year's action. Evans and Autry are NFL caliber talents that should see the field right away. Defensive tackle Nick James (6-5/330) and cornerback Will Redmond (6'0/180) are also Scout 300 prospects who will help State reload on defense. Linebackers Beniquez Brown (6'2/202) and Richie Brown (6'2/222) had to like the idea of playing behind that defensive line, because they made Signing Day decisions for the Bulldogs.
Avg. Star Rating for 16 Commits - 3.69
Headliner: #1 QB Gunner Kiel -
Head Coach Brian Kelly's first class last year was dominated by contributors on the defensive side of the ball, and the Class of 2012 is bringing in the skill players that get fans excited including the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel (6'4/200). Kiel's merry-go-round recruitment saw him committed to Indiana and LSU before enrolling at Notre Dame in January. While Kiel got the headlines, 5-Star cornerback Tee Shepard (6'0/180) is the best overall prospect in this class. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (6'6/285) out of Nevada is another national recruit who could have a big future in South Bend. 5-Star wide receiver and long time Irish commit Deontay Greenberry pulled maybe the biggest Signing Day surprise when he inked with Houston.
USC
Avg. Star Rating for 15 Commits - 3.80
Headliner: No. 4 OG Jordan Simmons - Encino, Calif.
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Think what these guys could do with a full class. Teams aren't supposed to go national and recruit Scout 300 players when they're facing three years of scholarship reductions, but that's exactly what USC has done, getting Signing Day announcements from athlete Nelson Agholor (6'1/175) and defensive end Leonard Williams (6'5/275) out of Florida. The big story at USC though is on the offensive line. Jordan Simmons (6'5/340), Max Tuerk (6'3/290), and Zach Banner (6'8/300) are Scout 300 offensive linemen. Simmons and Tuerk are game-ready and Banner may have the most upside of all.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.20
Headliner: #20 RB Jonathan Williams - Allen, Texas
Arkansas has joined the ranks of the SEC power programs under Bobby Petrino with a BCS bowl appearance in 2010 and Top 5 finish in 2011. It's a spectacular year for running backs in the state of Texas, and if it weren't for Johnathan Gray and Trey Williams, more people might be talking about Jonathan Williams. It's no surprise that Head Coach Bobby Petrino is landing talent at the wide receiver position with 4-Star Keon Hatcher (6'1/195). Arkansas added some help on defense Tuesday in the form of linebacker Otha Peters (6'2/210) who had previously been committed to Tennessee, and continued the defensive trend through Signing Day getting announcements and signatures from defensive ends Jamichael Winston (6'6/230) and Darius Philon (6'2/265).
Washington
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.20
Headliner: No. 1 S Shaquille Thompson - Sacramento, Calif.
Washington has not only salvaged a recruiting class, the Huskies are turning in a terrific effort, mostly at the expense of Cal. Washington hired Cal's ace recruiter Tosh Luopi, and Lupoi brought Cal's best commitment Shaquille Thompson with him. Washington also got an announcement this week from former USC commitment receiver Jaydon Mickens. The Huskies continued their good Signing Day work with a commitment from defensive end Pio Vatuvei out of California, but lost 4-Star wide receiver Jordan Payton on Signing Day who had announced on national television the day before for Washington. It couldn't have come as too big of a surprise for Washington fans that Payton might change his mind so quickly, just three weeks ago, he had announced on national television for Cal, and before that he was a USC commitment. Crazy does not begin to describe the Pac-12 this year.
Oklahoma State
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.20
Headliner: No. 17 WR Brandon Sheperd - Chesterfield, Mo..
After seeing what the Cowboys have done on offense the past few seasons, it should be no surprise that each of their four highest rated commits are all on the offensive side of the ball. Two 4-Star offensive linemen anchor the class in Greg Brantley (6'6/305) and Michael Wilson (6'6/250). Oklahoma State tapped into a deep year in the state of Missouri for receiver Brandon Sheperd (6'2/185). The Cowboys are intent on getting bigger and better on defense bringing in seven defensive lineman. Former Arkansas signee Calvin Barnett (6'3/295) is expected to see the field right away at defensive tackle after transferring from Navarro Community College. 4-Star linebacker Seth Jacobs (6'2/215) was a late Signing Day addition. Jacobs is from California and his decision came late in the afternoon. The Cowboys held off a late charge by UCLA to keep the long time Oklahoma state lean.
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.35
Headliner: #5 OG Michael Starts - Pflugerville, Texas
Texas Tech isn't content to wait and rebuild, the Red Raiders are bringing in nine junior college players for 2012 including 4-Stars Will Smith and Javon Bell at linebacker and receiver respectively. Head Coach Tommy Tuberville's reputation as a run first coach could take a hit with three 4-Star receivers coming with Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis of the prep ranks joining junior college transfer Bell. The Red Raiders also have a commitment from offensive lineman Michael Starts who has a chance to come in and play early.
West Virginia
Avg. Star Rating for Top 20 Commits - 3.15
Headliner: #4 OG Sam Lebbie - Hyattsville, Md.
West Virginia crept back into the Top 25 on Signing Day and it looks like they are preparing for the Big 12's wide open attacks. The Mountaineers have commitments from give wide receivers led by linebacker like Deontay McManus (6'1/210) and seven defensive backs. However, West Virginia's top commitment Sam Lebbie (6'2/235) is a linebacker. West Virginia does a good job going into Florida to mine talent and the Mountaineers picked up two new players on Signing Day from the Sunshine State in linebacker Eric Kinsey (6'3/240) and Travares Copeland (6'0/180)

Updated 2/2/12 1:30 PM EST

Scott began with Scout as the Southeast Regional Manager in 2002. In addition to his recruiting responsibilities, Scott developed and ran the National Scout Combine series from 2005 thru 2008. Scott has been Director of Scouting since 2006 and oversees the Recruiting Rankings for Scout.
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