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Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The University of Alabama followed its second national championship in three seasons by signing college football’s top incoming class, recruiting experts said.
Yesterday was the first chance for high school football players to make an official written commitment to a college under National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. Recruits previously could make only non-binding verbal commitments.
While the nation’s top-rated recruit opted to stay close to home and play for Southeastern Conference-bound University of Missouri and schools such as Florida and Florida State made a signing day push, Alabama’s class finished No. 1 according to recruiting analysts at Rivals.com and ESPNU.
“The rich keep getting richer,” said ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill.
Texas finished atop Scout.com’s recruiting standings and was ranked second by Rivals and third by ESPNU. Florida State came in second in ESPN’s class ranking.
Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, Stanford, Miami, Southern California, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Louisiana State are among the schools that also have top classes, recruiting experts said.
Ohio State benefited from the Nov. 28 hiring of coach Urban Meyer, who won two national titles at the University of Florida. Though Ohio State is facing a 2012 postseason bowl ban and is coming off its first seven-loss season since 1897, among the highly-touted players Meyer landed were Penn State’s top two recruiting targets.
Penn State, stung by the child-sex abuse scandal that led to the firing of the late coach Joe Paterno, has an incoming class that’s ranked 50th by Rivals.com.
Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals, said Penn State usually finishes among the top 20 schools in recruiting and had a “down year” because of the scandal, the delay in hiring a coach and Meyer’s arrival at Ohio State.
Paterno’s successor, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, is coaching in the Super Bowl this week. O’Brien said today he’s appreciative of the players who have stuck by their commitments to Penn State and that he doesn’t put too much stock in recruiting rankings.
“Whether we’re ranked the 50th recruiting class or the No. 1 recruiting class, I really couldn’t care less, to be honest with you,” he said. “We feel very good about the players we brought in here.”
Alabama, which has a 36-4 record under coach Nick Saban during the past three years, finished No. 1 in Rivals.com’s recruiting rankings for the fourth time in five years. Since Rivals started its rankings in 2002, every school that’s been ranked No. 1 -- Texas in 2002, Louisiana State in 2003, Southern California in 2004-06 and 2010, Florida in 2007 and Alabama in 2008-09 and 2011-12 -- has won a national title.
“If you’re a top-10 recruiting program consistently, you’re going to be a good football program,” Farrell said.
The Crimson Tide, which beat LSU 21-0 last month to win the national title, got commitments from 24 players, including 10 in ESPNU’s list of the top 150 prospects
Among them is the nation’s No. 1-rated safety, Landon Collins of Geismar, Louisiana, who spurned LSU in favor of the Crimson Tide. Another five-star recruit is 6-foot-4 wide receiver Eddie Williams of Panama City, Florida.
“Recruiting is not an exact science. No one knows for sure how these players are going to develop in the future,” Saban said at a news conference. “That’s certainly something we work hard on here, as coaches and teachers, is to help these players develop. How adolescents are going to respond two or three years out, nobody can really predict that.”
Florida State made a late push by signing two of the nation’s top defensive linemen in Mario Edwards of Denton, Texas, and Eddie Goldman of Washington. Edwards, whose father Mario played at Florida State before going to the NFL, was the No. 1 rated player in ESPNU’s top 150.
Dorial Green-Beckham, a 6-foot-6 wide receiver from Springfield, Missouri, and the country’s top prospect according to Rivals and Scout, said on national television that he’ll attend Missouri. Green-Beckham, who had 75 touchdowns on receptions in high school, said Missouri’s move from the Big 12 to the SEC, which has had the last six national champions, had a big impact on his decision.
“Having a good relationship with the coach, the people, the players and just the whole atmosphere has been outstanding for me,” Green-Beckham said.
Texas, coming off a 7-6 season, signed nine ESPNU top-150 players, including Johnathan Gray of Aledo, Texas, who’s considered the nation’s top high school running back and scored 65 touchdowns as a senior.
Jameis Winston of Hueytown, Alabama, and Gunner Kiel of Columbus, Indiana, are considered the top quarterbacks, with Winston headed to Florida State and Kiel signing with Notre Dame. Kiel enrolled at Notre Dame last month after previously saying he’d play football at Indiana University and LSU.
Defensive end Darius Hamilton of Ramsey, New Jersey, the No. 11 national prospect, reaffirmed his commitment to play at Rutgers University following the departure of coach Greg Schiano, who joined the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
“Rutgers came in with an already strong class,” Luginbill said on ESPNU’s signing day show. “It’s one thing to keep the good guys in the fold, it’s another thing to go out and secure the best guy in your state.”
--With assistance from Eben Novy-Williams in New York. Editors: Michael Sillup, Rob Gloster
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