5 teams that could dethrone Alabama for top 2017 recruiting class
Fresh off of another national championship, Alabama has been the dominant program in college football for the better part of the past decade.
It’s no surprise then that Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have also reeled in the No. 1 recruiting class for six consecutive years, according to the 247Sports composite team rankings.
That streak is in jeopardy in 2017, however, as Alabama has major competition for the coveted No. 1 spot. It speaks to the immaculate success Saban has enjoyed on the recruiting trail that falling short of the top slot would be considered a failure, but that’s the expectation for the Crimson Tide.
To date, Alabama has built a very good class and is ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports composite rankings. With two 5-star and 13 4-star players already committed, the program is in line to have an even better class than last year’s, when they hauled in three 5-stars and 14 4-stars.
But the Crimson Tide aren’t in danger of slipping from the top so much as they are in danger of losing it to another recruiting powerhouse.
Here are the five teams with the best chance to end Alabama’s streak:
Ohio State looks to be the clear favorite to unseat Alabama. The Buckeyes have set a blistering pace for the Class of 2017 with four 5-stars and 10 4-stars.
It’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality. The Buckeyes have commitments from four of the nation’s top 30 players. Offensive linemen Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis are 5-star prospects ranked among the top 20, as is fellow 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade. The Buckeyes’ other 5-star commit, Chase Young, is rated as the No. 4 defensive end prospect.
Ohio State’s 4-stars are notable as well. J.K. Dobbins is the No. 1 all-purpose running back for 2017, and recent commitment Tate Martell is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback. In fact, even one of the Buckeyes’ two 3-star commits, Blake Haubeil, is rated as the No. 1 kicker in the class.
With notable 5-stars like running back Cam Akers and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah still very much in the mix for the Buckeyes, this has the makings of an historic recruiting class.
Holding Ohio State back, however, is the potential size of this class. Most experts believe the Buckeyes will offer between 18-21 scholarships for 2017. As they already have 16 players committed, there doesn’t appear to be much room for growth. Still, the staggering amount of elite talent in one class will keep the Buckeyes near the top until the end.
One of Alabama’s many recruiting advantages was former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Now the head coach at Georgia, Smart has proven himself capable of landing a top class.
The Bulldogs have the No. 4 recruiting class, but with only 15 players committed, they are capable of shooting up the rankings. Smart’s hiring could have been a major factor in helping Georgia land the nation’s top safety, Richard LeCounte III, and 5-star defensive end Robert Beal.
As the premier program in a talent-rich state, Smart and his staff are focused on persuading some of the nation’s top prospects to stay in-state. They’ve landed LeCounte. With home-grown prospects like cornerbacks Deangelo Gibbs and Jamyest Williams and linebacker Nate McBride still uncommitted, Georgia is a team capable of making more noise as the recruiting season wears on.
A tough opponent for Alabama on the field, LSU has proven it can go toe-to-toe in recruiting as well. With a strong advantage for top in-state prospects, the Tigers are always able to field one of the nation’s top classes.
Ranked No. 3, LSU has two 5-star prospects in offensive tackle Austin Deculus and JaCoby Stevens, the nation’s No. 2 safety, who announced his commitment Monday. Along with their two 5-stars, the Tigers also have eight 4-star and nine 3-star prospects committed for 2017.
LSU has the potential to make a serious push for the top spot in the rankings, however. The presumed favorite for 5-star linebacker Dylan Moses, the No. 2 player in the Class of 2017, his commitment would make a big dent in the lead Alabama enjoys over LSU. If the Tigers are able to land another 5-star in defensive tackle Marvin Williams and players like safety Todd Harris and linebacker Christopher Allen, they could vault to the top of the 2017 rankings.
Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp movement shook up recruiting, and Michigan might be in a position to benefit. With five of the Wolverines’ 19 commitment hailing from southern states, including 4-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, it’s clear Harbaugh caught the attention of some recruits in SEC territory.
Led by Dylan McCaffrey, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback recruit for 2017, Michigan holds commitments from nine 4-star and 10 3-star prospects. Notably missing from the class is a 5-star commit, but that could change if in-state wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones picks the Wolverines, as many believe he will.
Michigan’s chance at claiming the top spot doesn’t come from its class containing the most elite players in the country, but rather their standing with several of the remaining 4-star prospects. The 247Sports Crystal Ball sets Michigan as the favorite for seven uncommitted 4-star prospects.
Alabama’s opponent in last year’s national championship game should be considered a dark horse candidate to land the country’s top recruiting class.
With only 12 players committed, Clemson has one of the smallest classes among the nation’s premier programs. What makes the Tigers’ class so interesting, however, is that the average player rating is a 91.82 (out of 100). By comparison, Alabama’s class has an average player rating of 91.36.
Hunter Johnson, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect, and Tee Higgins, the No. 4 wide receiver prospect, are the gems of the class. Both are 5-star prospects. Adding several high-caliber players like cornerback AJ Terrell and linebacker Justin Foster could push Clemson higher up the board as it continues to gain commitments.
Others to consider: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Florida State
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.