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February 6, 2014

B1G among biggest disappointments in '14 recruiting

It's no secret why the Southeastern Conference has won seven of the past eight national championships. All you have to do is skim the Rivals.com archives to see how well the league has recruited in recent years.

In four of the past six years, Alabama has recruited Rivals' No. 1 class, and the Crimson Tide have hardly been the SEC's only big winners. That trend continued this February.

On signing day, eight of Rivals' top 15 recruiting classes were compiled by SEC teams. The Crimson Tide clearly had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, with five five-star recruits among the 25 members of its latest class. Nick Saban signed Rivals' top-ranked overall player, defensive end Da'Shawn Hand of Woodbridge, Va., along with four other five-star prospects: defensive backs Tony Brown of Beaumont, Texas, and Marlon Humphries of Hoover, Ala.; offensive lineman Cameron Robinson of West Monroe, La., and athlete Bo Scarbrough of Northport, Ala. And in addition to those players, the Tide signed 13 four-star and six three-star recruits.

With so much talent headed to Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide are certainly well equipped to continue competing for national championships on an annual basis.

The big challenge for Saban and his staff is the fact that many of the Tide's SEC rivals have been recruiting nearly as well as they have. Right behind Alabama in this year's Rivals rankings are LSU (No. 2 nationally), Tennessee (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 6), Florida (No. 7), Auburn (No. 8), Georgia (No. 9), Kentucky (No. 14) and Mississippi (No. 18). In addition, South Carolina finished with the 24th overall class in the country, while Arkansas was ranked 28th. All told, the SEC landed 11 of the nation's top 30 classes.

The SEC's recruiting success clearly illustrates why some college football analysts believe the league could routinely qualify two teams for the semifinals of the Football Bowl Subdivision playoff system that will take effect this coming season.

There is no question that it is the premier football conference in the country, and its recent recruiting successes only underscore that point.

After the SEC, the most successful league this year was the Atlantic Coast Conference. Three ACC teams ended up in Rivals' top 20: Florida State, Miami and Clemson.
For the second consecutive year, the Seminoles landed a top-10 class, ranking fourth on Rivals' list. They landed 30 players, including three five-star prospects, 14 four-star players and 11 three-star players. Heading up their class are running back Dalvin Cook of Miami and wide receiver Travis Rudolph of West Palm Beach, Fla., both of whom received five stars.

Miami's class was rated 11th overall, Clemson's 12th and North Carolina's 21st. The big surprise here was the Tar Heels, who signed 22 players, including five-star running back Elijah Hood of Charlotte, N.C.

The most disappointing conference? That distinction probably belongs to the Big Ten, which had only two schools in Rivals' top 20. As expected, Ohio State held up its end of the bargain, landing the nation's third-ranked class. The Buckeyes signed 22 players, including five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan of Hinesville, Ga., as well as 15 four-star and six three-star recruits.

Michigan State finished 20th in the rankings, while Penn State was 22nd. James Franklin was able to corral 25 recruits, including six four-star and 18 three-star prospects. The factor that vaulted the Nittany Lions into Rivals' top 20 was their wide receiver group consisting of Troy Apke of Mt. Lebanon, Pa., Saeed Blacknall of Manalapan, N.J., Chris Godwin of Middletown, Del., and DeAndre Thompkins of Swansboro, N.C. Blacknall, Godwin and Thompkins all received four stars, while Apke received three.

Like the Big Ten, the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences struggled. Oklahoma (No. 15) and Texas (No. 17) were the only Big 12 schools to finish in Rivals' top 20, while the Pac-12 had three top-20 finishers: Stanford at No. 13, UCLA at No. 16 and Arizona State at No. 19.

Finally, it bears mentioning that Notre Dame finished with the 10th-best overall class. Its 23-player haul included one five-star recruit - offensive lineman Quentin Nelson of Red Bank, N.J. - 10 four-star recruits and 12 three-star recruits.

But even with Notre Dame and Ohio State assembling superb classes, the SEC managed to continue its signing-day domination. It truly is the king of college football.




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