Across college football, coaches are capping the frenzied and chaotic home stretch to this year’s recruiting cycle by tying up loose ends, securing last-minute verbal commitments and preparing the necessary paperwork for national signing day.
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For nearly every program in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a proper grade for these recruiting classes can’t be provided for at least another three or four seasons — enough time for incoming recruits to develop and make an on-field impact.
There are outliers. The elite of college football sign prospects capable of making an immediate push for playing time; Alabama and Clemson, for example, will land first-day help from a number of freshmen and junior-college transfers.
But for the majority, it’s too early to tell. What we can do, however, is look back on the recent past to identify the top signing classes to come through the FBS.
In this week’s top-10 list, let’s look at the best recruiting classes since 2007. While grading recruits can be subjective, this list takes into account college success and number of future NFL draftees. Here’s the top 10, beginning with the class that started a dynasty:.
1. 2008 Alabama
Notable signees: WR Julio Jones, DL Marcell Dareus, RB Mark Ingram, DT Terrence Cody and OL Barrett Jones.
The signing class that kicked off one of the great runs in FBS history. That above list only gives a slight taste of how many difference-making recruits Nick Saban signed in his first full cycle as Alabama’s head coach.
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2. 2013 Ohio State
Notable signees: LB Darron Lee, DE Joey Bosa, QB J.T. Barrett, RB Ezekiel Elliott and DB Eli Apple.
A small slice of this class remains on campus, including Barrett, a fifth-year senior in 2017. But the majority has come and gone, with many already excelling in the NFL: Elliott’s already a star, Bosa was unstoppable in duty for the San Diego Chargers and Apple was fantastic as a rookie for the New York Giants, to name three.
2017 Composite Football Recruiting Rankings by Position.
3. 2009 Alabama
Notable signees: DB Dre Fitzpatrick, RB Eddie Lacy, RB Trent Richardson, QB AJ McCarron and OT D.J. Fluker.
Coming on the heels of the 2008 class, this group solidified the Crimson Tide’s rise under Saban and provided the backbone of a roster that would capture back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
4. 2012 Florida State
Notable signees: QB Jameis Winston, DB Ronald Darby, DL Mario Edwards, DT Eddie Goldman and K Roberto Aguayo.
Though small in number — Florida State signed just 19 players — this class was long on talent. Winston won a Heisman Trophy, Edwards and Goldman were all-conference contributors and future NFL draftees, Darby was a shutdown cornerback and Aguayo one of the most effective kickers in NCAA history.
5. 2009 LSU
Notable signees: LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Morris Claiborne, LB Kevin Minter, WR Rueben Randle and DT Michael Brockers.
By 2011, this class provided the muscle behind one of the most impressive regular seasons in FBS history — even if the year ended with a disappointing loss in the rematch against Alabama. Mingo, Claiborne, Minter, Randle, Brockers, defensive end Sam Montgomery and defensive tackle Bennie Logan ended up being selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
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6. 2008 Oregon
Notable signees: RB LaMichael James, RB LeGarrette Blount, DE Dion Jordan, QB Darron Thomas and LB Kiko Alonso.
Oregon’s stranglehold on the Pac-12 during Chip Kelly’s tenure was built on this class. James is the most productive rusher in program history. Thomas was a multiple-year starter, if overshadowed by Marcus Mariota’s ensuing run under center. Jordan, originally signed as a tight end, developed into a first-round pick at defensive end.
7. 2007 Florida
Notable signees: OL Michael and Maurkice Pouncey, DB Joe Haden, DE Carlos Dunlap, DB Major Wright and TE Aaron Hernandez.
This group would help Urban Meyer win his second national title at Florida, though the final tally — including disappointing 2010 and 2011 seasons — is a bit of a mixed bag. But there’s no overlooking the future NFL talent the coaching staff reeled on board. The Gators’ class also gets bonus points for including five-star quarterback Cam Newton, even if he’d be dismissed from the program before making an impact.
8. 2011 Florida State
Notable signees: DT Timmy Jernigan, TE Nick O’Leary, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Rashad Greene and RB Devonta Freeman.
One year before Winston and others arrived on campus, this 2011 signing class helped Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles lay the foundation for the 2013 national championship.
9. 2009 Stanford
Notable signees: LB Shayne Skov, TE Zach Ertz, RB Stepfan Taylor, LB Trent Murphy and RB Tyler Gaffney.
Unlike most classes on this list, Stanford’s group in 2009 wasn’t loaded with top-100 talent — many were four-star recruits, to be fair, but the majority went largely overlooked in the final rankings. Time told the story: Ertz and Murphy were three-star signees who developed into All-America contributors, and Taylor and Gaffney headlined the Cardinal’s powerful running game.
10. 2009 Notre Dame
Notable signees: LB Manti Te’o, OL Zack Martin, TE Tyler Eifert and RB Theo Riddick.
While Te’o was the star of this class, the Irish signed another two eventual first-round picks in Martin and Eifert. Four years after joining the program, this class would lead Notre Dame to a 12-0 regular season and a spot in the national championship game against Alabama.
PROJECTING THE 2017 PRESEASON TOP 25.