Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into National Signing Day 2014

By (Featured Columnist) on February 3, 2014

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Bleacher Report

The 2014 recruiting cycle is dwindling down to its final hours. The crucial developments during this last stretch to national signing day will define the class in every corner of the country as programs scramble to secure top talent.

With plenty of uncertainties still swirling across the recruiting spectrum, we rank the top 25 classes at this pivotal moment in the process. As always, quality is favored over quantity when examining each group of prospects.

Recruit star ratings based on 247Sports' composite rankings. School and player preferences also courtesy of 247Sports.

25. Virginia Tech

Pennsylvania running back Shai McKenzie
Pennsylvania running back Shai McKenzie
247Sports

Total Commitments: 26 (four 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Running back Shai McKenzie is a 4-star prospect from the Pittsburgh area who is already on campus to compete for an early role. He'll be joined at spring practice by quarterback Andrew Ford, another Pennsylvania product who tossed 35 touchdown passes in each of the past two seasons, per 247Sports.

The defense receives a boost with the addition of top-ranked junior college safety Holland Fisher and in-state end Vincent Mihota. Florida athlete Javon Harrison figures to commence his collegiate career at receiver but could ultimately end up in the defensive secondary.

 

Still Targeting

The Hokies have their sights set on a promising pair of in-state prospects. Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach) is one of the country's finest uncommitted defensive tackles, while athlete Raymon Minor (Richmond) is a physically imposing playmaker on both sides of the ball. Jacksonville wide receiver Isaiah Ford is a possibility after decommitting from Louisville.

24. USC

California guard Toa Lobendahn
California guard Toa Lobendahn
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 15 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Offensive guards Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao give USC a 4-star tandem up front. The duo will look to make life easier for newly enrolled dual-threat quarterback Jalen Greene, who flipped from Washington in late December.

The Trojans secured a commitment from 4-star tight end Bryce Dixon, a Southern California native who will stretch the field with Long Beach wide receiver Rahshead Johnson. Steve Sarkisian welcomes top-tier JUCO defensive end Claudeson Pelon and 4-star cornerback Jonathan Lockett, who followed the first-year USC head coach from Washington.

 

Still Targeting

The Trojans are actively attempting to lock up Los Angeles area star Adoree' Jackson, the nation's No. 1 cornerback recruit. He played high school football with Greene. USC made the final mix for 5-star Long Beach athlete John Smith and is contending with BYU and Alabama for local product Damien Mama, the nation's top-ranked offensive guard.

23. Penn State

New Jersey receiver Saeed Blacknall
New Jersey receiver Saeed Blacknall
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 25 (five 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

The Nittany Lions overcame the departure of head coach Bill O'Brien by luring Vanderbilt leader and super recruiter James Franklin to Happy Valley. He quickly went to work on his former Commodore commits, flipping offensive tackles Brendan Brosnan and Chance Sorrell, athlete Trace McSorley, cornerbacks Grant Haley and Amani Oruwariye and defensive end Lloyd Tubman.

Early enrollees Michael O'Connor (quarterback) and De'Andre Thompkins (wide receiver) provide Penn State with a 4-star connection in the passing game. The program plundered New Jersey, picking up tight end Mike Gesicki, defensive tackle Antoine White and receiver Saeed Blacknall, who flipped from Rutgers in late January.

 

Still Targeting

Franklin is involved in a tight race for 5-star Maryland offensive tackle Damian Prince. Jacksonville cornerback Lamont Simmons backed off his Rutgers pledge in November and remains in play for Penn State.

22. Arizona State

California linebacker Derik Calhoun
California linebacker Derik Calhoun
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 25 (eight 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Arizona State acquired commitments from a trio of talented receivers. California prospects Eric Lauderdale and Jalen Harvey join fellow 4-star pass target Tyler Whiley, an in-state recruit.

Former USC pledges Derik Calhoun (linebacker) and Tashon Smallwood (defensive tackle) were pivotal pickups. San Francisco area quarterback Manny Wilkins is a 4-star talent with impressive mobility.

 

Still Targeting

The Sun Devils are down to the wire with standout 4-star JUCO defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey. Arizona State also hopes to sway defensive end Darrius Caldwell, who is Stuckey's teammate at Pearl River Community College (Miss.). Utah offensive tackle Kenyon Frison could fill a position of need.

21. South Carolina

Georgia defensive end Dante Sawyer
Georgia defensive end Dante Sawyer
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 17 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

South Carolina manages to maintain a stable of sensational talent along the defensive front. Disruptive Georgia pass-rusher Dante Sawyer teams up with 4-star JUCO tackle Abu Lamin and JUCO end Jhaustin Thomas as potential instant-impact members of the rotation.

The Gamecocks continue to enjoy recruiting success in Georgia, as elite outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams and 4-star cornerback D.J. Smith join Sawyer in the neighboring state to the north. Guard Donell Stanley gives the offense added clout up front, while in-state pass targets Shaq Davidson and Kevin Crosby create possibilities downfield.

 

Still Targeting

Steve Spurrier aims to secure another 4-star cornerback from Georgia with a commitment from Wesley Green. Damian Prince is the top-ranked offensive lineman remaining on the board and still has South Carolina on his list. Former Florida pledge Chris Lammons is also in the crosshairs.

20. Kentucky

Total Commitments: 28 (six 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Kentucky has collected a formidable class, and it all starts with in-state recruiting execution. Local 4-star prospects Drew Barker (quarterback) and Matt Elam (defensive tackle) headline the group.

Georgia prospect Stanley Williams should be in line to earn immediate reps, while Ohio receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass increases his chances for a quick start as an early enrollee. Safety Darius West and defensive end Denzel Ware are 4-star additions to the Wildcats defense.

 

Still Targeting

Kentucky essentially put the finishing touches on an excellent class when Elam selected the squad over Alabama on Jan. 30. Still, keep a close eye on JUCO defensive tackle and Louisville native Daniel Ross moving forward.

19. UCLA

California defensive back Jaleel Wadood
California defensive back Jaleel Wadood
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 17 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

The Bruins' class is strongest in the defensive back seven. Four-star prospects Zach Whitley (inside linebacker), Jaleel Wadood (safety) and Adarius Pickett (cornerback) anchor a solid incoming group of recruits.

Colorado product Nathan Starks is capable of playing a variety of positions but is perhaps most intriguing at running back. Alex Van Dyke provides UCLA with a dynamic 6'4" target in the passing game.

 

Still Targeting

Jim Mora has managed to remain in the race for lauded Los Angeles area star Adoree' Jackson, the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect. Five-star New Orleans wide receiver Malachi Dupre paid a late visit to UCLA, along with high school teammate Kenny Young, a 4-star linebacker. The Bruins made 5-star defensive end Solomon Thomas' list of finalists.

18. Oregon

Total Commitments18 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Running back Royce Freeman is the San Diego area's all-time leading rusher and provides Oregon with a physical offensive presence. He'll be in line for early playing time, along with top-ranked JUCO guard Haniteli Lousi.

Cornerback Arrion Springs, a speedy coverage star from San Antonio, adds a spark to a defense that also welcomes 4-star Kansas linebacker Jimmie Swain. California quarterback Morgan Mahalak could make a case to start in Eugene as early as 2015.

 

Still Targeting

Oregon continues its pursuit of standout New Orleans safety Mattrell McGraw. The Ducks also made the final cut for 5-star Southern California athlete John Smith, who can contribute on either side of the ball.

17. Oklahoma

Total Commitments: 23 (five 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

Joe Mixon ranks among the top players in California, and the 5-star running back instantly gives a burgeoning Sooners offense an added dose of firepower. In-state quarterback commit Justice Hansen is already enrolled.

He will eventually team up with talented 4-star receiver prospects Jeffery Mead, Mark Andrews and Dallis Todd. Guard Natrell Curtis and tackle Alex Dalton add explosiveness to the offensive front.

 

Still Targeting

In-state safety Steven Parker is the team's top defensive priority, but Oklahoma faces stiff competition from Texas A&M and Auburn. (Update: Parker committed to Oklahoma on Feb. 4.) California athlete Michiah Quick may end up in the Sooners secondary, though receiver is also a strong option for the versatile Fresno standout.

16. Stanford

Total Players: 19 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Colorado recruit Christian McCaffrey, son of former Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey, may be the most underrated running back of this class. He joins 4-star Palo Alto High School (Calif.) quarterback Keller Chryst at Stanford.

Four-star Arizona offensive tackle Casey Tucker and top-ranked tight end Dalton Schultz added to the Cardinal offense with January commitments. Talented outside linebacker Bobby Okereke and Joey Alfieri each committed in August.

 

Still Targeting

Stanford is one of three finalists for 5-star Texas defensive end Solomon Thomas, and the Cardinal are viewed as favorites against Arkansas and UCLA. New Orleans cornerback Terrence Alexander would be a welcome addition to David Shaw's defensive unit.

15. Ole Miss

Mississippi guard Roderick Taylor
Mississippi guard Roderick Taylor
247Sports

Total Commitments: 23 (five 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Early enrollee C.J. Hampton gives the Rebels an elite safety to tailor the defensive backfield around. Talented Georgia cornerback Kendarius Webster joins Hampton in the secondary.

Roderick Taylor is arguably the nation's most college-ready guard. He'll bolster the offensive interior, while receiver Markell Pack provides speed on the outside. The defensive line improves with the additions of 4-star prospects Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks.

 

Still Targeting

In-state defensive tackle Keontre Anderson is taking his recruitment down to the wire. Ole Miss surprisingly entered the picture for 5-star New Orleans receiver Malachi Dupre during the late stages of this cycle.

14. Texas

Total Commitments: 22 (seven 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

The Longhorns are attempting to weather the storm after a high-profile coaching change. Quarterback Jerrod Heard committed to Texas as a sophomore and has held true to that pledge.

Four-star wide receivers Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe join the offense in Austin. Ferocious San Antonio defensive end Derick Roberson is the team's top incoming defender.

 

Still Targeting

Texas has holes to fill at defensive tackle after a slew of decommitments. Former Louisville pledge Poona Ford could follow Charlie Strong to Texas. Florida prospect Chris Nelson is also a strong possibility at the position.

13. Michigan

Total Commitments: 16 (eight 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

Immense expectations await New Jersey prospect Jabrill Peppers, a 5-star defensive back already drawing strong comparisons to Wolverines icon Charles Woodson. Immediate success is also expected from receiver Drake Harris, the team's top in-state offensive target.

Defensive linemen Bryan Mone and Lawrence Marshall each wreak havoc. Four-star linebacker Michael Ferns, an Ohio product, should play early during his career in Ann Arbor.

 

Still Targeting

Defensive end Malik McDowell is at the center of an intense recruiting battle between Michigan and Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, but the Wolverines may have too much ground to make up. The team extended a late offer to 4-star running back Jeff Jones, who is committed to Minnesota.

12. Clemson

Total Commitments: 19 (nine 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson will do his best to win the starting job as a true freshman after wrapping up his high school career as Georgia's all-time passing leader. He'll have a stable of young receiving talent at his disposal, including 4-star prospects Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Trevion Thompson.

Georgia tight end Milan Richard also adds a dimension to the air attack. Linebacker Chris Register is already on campus, and fellow 4-star LB Korie Rogers joins him this summer.

 

Still Targeting

Clemson is the front-runner to land 4-star outside linebacker Richard Yeargin III, who recently decommitted from Notre Dame. The Tigers seek improvements along the defensive line, where Andrew Williams and Naquez Pringle are key priorities.

11. Miami (Fla.)

Total Commitments: 26 (seven 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

Offensive tackles Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott enrolled early and should each push for consideration on the two-deep. They'll spend several seasons blocking for local running back star Joseph Yearby, who won a state title at Miami Central High School.

California quarterback Brad Kaaya remains a bit raw, but the 4-star recruit has a high ceiling. Defensive ends Chad Thomas and Trent Harris present trouble for ACC passers.

 

Still Targeting

The Hurricanes hope to regain a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, who backed off his pledge in early January and is also considering LSU. If 5-star receiver Ermon Lane doesn't end up at Florida State as anticipated, Miami is a possible plan B.

10. Notre Dame

Indianapolis receiver Justin Brent
Indianapolis receiver Justin Brent
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 22 (15 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Notre Dame landed its offensive bookends of the future with tackles Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson. Ohio quarterback DeShone Kizer will have time to grow in Brian Kelly's offensive attack and is skilled enough to play elsewhere on the field.

Wide receivers Justin Brent and Corey Holmes fit the mold of recent sure-handed dynamic receivers who have starred for the Fighting Irish. Illinois product Nyles Morgan is a natural fit at middle linebacker and bolstered the defense with his January commitment.

 

Still Targeting

If 5-star Southern California athlete John Smith ends up leaving the West Coast, he'll play college football in South Bend. The team is also attempting to steal athlete Michiah Quick away from California. Tennessee defensive tackle Michael Sawyers is a top priority at Notre Dame's most imperative position of need.

9. Florida

Total Commitments: 21 (seven 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

North Carolina quarterback Will Grier leads a strong pack of early enrollees. Elite cornerback prospects Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson are also on campus this semester.

New Orleans defensive tackle Gerald Willis headlines an amazing class of defensive tackles that includes Khairi Clark and former Penn State pledge Thomas Holley. Offensive tackle David Sharpe is a formidable force in need of some seasoning.

 

Still Targeting

Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter is the center of attention in SEC country, and the Gators remain on the hunt. Florida is making a late push for 4-star Minnesota commit Jeff Jones and still could secure a commitment from 5-star Southern California cornerback Adoree' Jackson, although it's a long shot.

8. Georgia

Total Commitments: 19 (10 4-stars, two 5-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Five-star running back recruits Nick Chubb and Sony Michel team up to create one of America's most exciting offensive backfields. South Carolina quarterback Jacob Park is on campus early and will try to impress throughout spring practice.

Tight end Jeb Blazevich is one of the top prospects at his position. Defensive linemen Keyon Brown and Lamont Gaillard pack a punch up front, while cornerback Malkom Parrish is prepared to make an impact in coverage.

 

Still Targeting

In-state defensive end Lorenzo Carter remains the top priority, and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt would acquire a plug-and-play talent with his commitment. Florida prospect Derrick Kelly could provide vital depth at offensive tackle.

7. Auburn

Total Commitments: 21 (nine 4-stars, two 5-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Florida quarterback Sean White is an underrated passer who projects as a quality field general at the next level. Five-star running back Racean Thomas is viewed as a strong candidate to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason.

The Tigers' recruiting efforts extend immensely into junior college ranks, where the program picked up 4-star receiver D'haquille Williams, safety Derrick Moncrief and defensive end DaVonte Lambert. Former Alabama pledge Kalvaraz Bessent is a strong addition to the defensive backfield, while linebacker Tre' Williams looks like an eventual star.

 

Still Targeting

Auburn native Rashaan Evans is down to the wire with his hometown squad pitted against Alabama. The Tigers have made him a top priority throughout the process and hope it pays off. Beastly Kansas guard Braden Smith considers the team one of his top finalists.

6. Tennessee

Ec09f1882596715ff3badf535dc19f48_crop_650
Tennessee athlete Jalen Hurd
Credit: 247Sports

Total Commitments: 34 (16 4-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Josh Malone (71 receptions for 1,404 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior, per 247Sports) is the latest high-profile receiver to call Knoxville home. Four-star JUCO prospect Lavon Pearson will pair up with him as top pass targets at Tennessee.

Jalen Hurd is an explosive 6'3" playmaker who will do damage out of the offensive backfield and beyond. Cortez McDowell and Todd Kelly are excellent safety prospects, while Chris Weatherd, Dillon Bates and Gavin Bryant anchor a revamped linebacker corps. Late commit Derrell Scott is a 4-star running back from North Carolina.

 

Still Targeting

The Volunteers' recruiting class has seemingly reached capacity, but we've said that before. In-state defensive tackle Michael Sawyers could potentially tack on to a huge class.

5. Florida State

Total Commitments: 27 (14 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

The Seminoles landed versatile Florida offensive playmakers Travis Rudolph (wide receiver) and Dalvin Cook (running back) during the late stages of this recruiting cycle. Cook, a 5-star recruit, flipped from Florida.

Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy are all 4-star linebacker prospects. JUCO offensive linemen Kareem Are and Chad Mavety may compete immediately. Defensive tackles Demarcus Christmas and Dexter Wideman are 4-star talents headed to Tallahassee.

 

Still Targeting

Florida State has placed top priority on acquiring another weapon for Jameis Winston. The Seminoles have spent time with 5-star receivers Malachi Dupre and Ermon Lane recently. Either player would provide an upgrade at the position.

4. LSU

Total Commitments: 19 (11 4-stars, three 5-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

LSU expects big things from national No. 1 prospect Leonard Fournette, a running back from New Orleans. The offense also welcomes 4-star wide receivers Tony Upchurch and Trey Quinn, who set the national high school receiving record last fall.

Linebacker Clifton Garrett and safety Jamal Adams are 5-star defenders. Louisiana quarterback Brandon Harris teams up with former Arizona State pledge Darrel Williams in the offensive backfield.

 

Still Targeting

LSU intends to land 5-star New Orleans receiver Malachi Dupre. Five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter is considered a Georgia lean, but Les Miles won't give up his pursuit of the Peach State product.

3. Ohio State

Total Commitments: 22 (15 4-stars, one 5-star)

 

Best of the Bunch

The Buckeyes have been busy building a special class on defense, highlighted by 5-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan and Cleveland defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith. Cornerback Damon Webb and outside linebacker Dante Booker are both dominant at their positions.

Brooklyn standout Curtis Samuel is an exceptional weapon on both sides of the ball. Wide receivers Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell must be considered among the nation's fastest players at their position.

 

Still Targeting

Ohio State is a strong contender to steal 5-star defensive end Malik McDowell away from Michigan. Urban Meyer also aims to add Virginia defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and Missouri offensive tackle Roderick Johnson.

2. Texas A&M

Total Commitments21 (11 4-stars, three 5-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

Arizona quarterback Kyle Allen is considered the top player at his position. He teams up with fellow 5-star prospect Speedy Noil, a wide receiver from New Orleans, and 6'6" Houston pass target Frank Iheanacho.

Defensive end Myles Garrett deserves consideration as the country's most impressive prospect. He joins a dynamic defensive front that also features Qualen Cunningham and DeShawn Washington.

 

Still Targeting

Four-star safety Steven Parker is a strong possibility, but the Aggies must contend with Auburn and Oklahoma. (Update: Parker committed to Oklahoma on Feb. 4.) The team is also a finalist for talented Kansas offensive guard Braden Smith.

1. Alabama

Total Commitments: 25 (15 4-stars, five 5-stars)

 

Best of the Bunch

We're running out of adjectives to describe this sensational recruiting class, which is destined to finish atop the national rankings. Five-star defenders Da'Shawn Hand (defensive end), Tony Brown (cornerback) and Marlon Humphrey (cornerback) strengthen Nick Saban's attack.

Cameron Robinson, the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle, teams up with No. 1 center prospect JC Hassenauer. Oklahoma quarterback David Cornwell already has explosive receivers in place for this class with Cameron Sims and Bo Scarbrough. Outside linebacker Christian Miller compiled more than 180 tackles as a senior, according to 247Sports.

 

Still Targeting

The rich could still get richer. Alabama aims to land another Louisiana star in wide receiver Malachi Dupre. The Crimson Tide are also contending for top-ranked outside linebacker Rashaan Evans, an Auburn native.

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