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Recruiting hierarchy

The easiest way to rank a recruiting class is to wait four years and add up a school's wins and losses. But where's the fun in that? With three weeks to go until national signing day, most programs have a pretty good idea how their class will look. And while it's a fruitless exercise to rank classes that aren't yet complete, it's not hard to figure out which category some of the nation's high-profile programs belong in at the moment.

These schools return stocked depth charts and are already considered top contenders for the 2008 national title. On top of that, they also appear poised to reel in top classes.

GEORGIA

Needs: Not much -- the Bulldogs bring back almost everyone from a team that went 11-2.Recruits to watch: Summerville (S.C.) receiver A.J. Green wowed everyone at the Under Armour All-America Game and could give quarterback Matthew Stafford another target. DeAngelo Tyson, a 6-foot-2, 276-pounder from Statesboro, Ga., could carry on the Bulldogs' defensive line tradition. Running back Richard Samuel is already enrolled and could add some depth immediately behind Knowshon Moreno and Caleb King.What now?: Georgia's class is just about full. Lineman A.J. Harmon, who switched his commitment from Clemson to Georgia at the U.S. Army All-American Game on Jan. 5, has said he is firmly committed.

LSU

Needs: The defending national champs lose both starting cornerbacks and also could use more depth at linebacker. The Tigers return a veteran offensive line, which means the time is now to get the players who eventually will replace those veterans.Recruits to watch: Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely High cornerback Patrick Johnson switched his commitment from Miami to LSU earlier this month and intends to enroll this semester. With Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon gone, Johnson may get a chance to compete for a starting spot immediately. LSU also has a commitment from Garland, Texas, defensive end Chancey Aghayere, a 6-4, 244-pounder who could eventually replace Tyson Jackson.What now?: The Tigers have 23 commitments, but they may add a few more players before all is said and done.

OHIO STATE

Needs: Receivers.Recruits to watch: Wideout DeVier Posey from Cincinnati impressed at the Army game and could play early. Jake Stoneburner, a 6-6, 225-pounder from Dublin, Ohio, has receiver speed and tight end skills, which could give Big Ten defenses matchup nightmares in the future.What now?: With 18 commitments, the Buckeyes are close to wrapping up their class. They remain a candidate to sign Jeannette, Pa., quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but their main competitor is rival Michigan.

USC

Needs: The school that has stockpiled the most talent in the country probably could take a year off from recruiting and still be fine.Recruits to watch: Offensive lineman Matt Kalil, the younger brother of former Trojans center Ryan Kalil, is regarded as one of the nation's best. So is Kalil's Anaheim (Calif.) Servite High teammate D.J. Shoemate, who will join an already talented stable of running backs.What now?: Don't be fooled by the Trojans' relatively low ranking from the major recruiting services. They only have 14 commitments. USC typically closes strong. The Trojans remain in the hunt for Buford, Ga., defensive tackle Omar Hunter, Detroit defensive end Nick Perry and the captain of the Class of 2008's all-name team, Baton Rouge, La., offensive lineman Freddie Smooth.

These historically strong programs have fallen from grace lately, but they could get better quickly if their classes live up to their lofty billings.

ALABAMA

Needs: Specifically, the Crimson Tide need help in the secondary. More generally, Alabama needs an overall talent upgrade.Recruits to watch:Burton Scott from Prichard, Ala., likely will work with the safties when he arrives. Cornerback Robby Green from River Ridge, La., also could push for playing time. Alabama also boasts an impressive list of offensive line commitments led by Birmingham offensive tackle Tyler Love.What now?: The class is about full, but coach Nick Saban will make room for special players. If Foley, Ala., receiver Julio Jones wants to join the class, he will certainly have a spot.

FLORIDA STATE

Needs: Quarterback, offensive line, linebacker, secondary.Recruits to watch:E.J. Manuel from Virginia Beach, Va., could be the Seminoles' quarterback of the future. Linebacker Nigel Bradham from nearby Crawfordville, Fla., is already enrolled and could push for playing time quickly, especially considering the suspensions that kept more than two dozen players out of the Music City Bowl will carry over to the first three games of the season.What now?: The academic scandal that produced those suspensions doesn't seem to have scared top recruits away. FSU's coaching succession plan (Jimbo Fisher will eventually take over for Bobby Bowden) seems to have satisfied recruits. The top remaining target is Tallahassee, Fla., cornerback T.J. Bryant.

MIAMI

Needs: Secondary, linebacker, receiver, quarterback.Recruits to watch: The Miami Northwestern High foursome of quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, linebacker Sean Spence and receiver Aldarius Johnson is a perfect example of what Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon wants. If Miami can continue to get the best players from South Florida, the 'Canes should return to glory.What now?: The Northwestern group is trying to enroll for the spring semester, but a transcript delay could force the players to wait until the summer.

NOTRE DAME

Needs: More depth at almost every position.Recruits to watch: If linebacker talent runs in the family, the Fighting Irish may have struck gold with Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell High's David Posluszny, the younger brother of former Penn State star Paul Posluszny. Cornerback Jamoris Slaughter from Stone Mountain, Ga., should help with the athletic upgrade. Quarterback Dayne Crist from Sherman Oaks, Calif., is a longtime friend of Irish freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen.What now?: Irish coaches have convinced recruits that they are building something special in South Bend. That remains to be seen once everyone arrives on campus, but the collection of talent is impressive.

These programs are just outside the national title picture, but the right mix of young talent might push them into contention.

AUBURN

Needs: Defensive line, quarterback.Recruits to watch: Defensive end Raven Gray, a junior-college transfer originally from Enterprise, Ala., is on campus, but a knee injury likely will keep him out of spring practice. Auburn also could get immediate help from a pair of players from Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy. Tailback Enrique Davis and offensive tackle Jermaine Johnson may fit into new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin's spread scheme.What now?: The Tigers remain in the hunt for Gadsden, Ala., linebacker Jerrell Harris.

FLORIDA

Needs: Secondary, offensive line.Recruits to watch: Anyone who watched the Capital One Bowl knows the Gators need immediate help in the secondary. Enter Jersey City, N.J., safety Will Hill and Auburn, Ala., safety Dee Finley. Receiver Carl Moore, a 6-4, 220-pound junior college transfer from Roseville, Calif., also could contribute quickly.What now?: The Gators could take a few more players in this class. They are holding out for Julio Jones, Omar Hunter and T.J. Bryant, but so are several other schools.

OKLAHOMA

Needs: The Sooners could use more depth at receiver, but they are in good shape at most positions.Recruits to watch: Oklahoma grabbed receiver Josh Jarboe (Decatur, Ga.) from several Southern schools. Defensive end R.J. Washington from Keller, Texas, should provide speed off the edge, and Van, Texas, back Jermie Calhoun might compete for carries in an already talented backfield.What now?: Oklahoma's class is small, but the Sooners have put together a quality group. They may not be done yet, either.

TEXAS

Needs: Offensive line, running back.Recruits to watch: The Longhorns already have eight players from this class on campus, including Alief, Texas, running back Jeremy Hills and Allen, Texas, receiver Dan Buckner. Coming in this summer is Klein, Texas, back DeSean Hales, who is a threat to run or catch the ball.What now?: The top recruit remaining on the Longhorns' board is Ventura, Calif., back Darrell Scott, who some consider the nation's best back.

These programs changed coaches this offseason, making recruiting more difficult. Other schools have tried to pillage commitments, and committed players have wondered where they fit with the new coach.

ARKANSAS

Needs: Quarterback, receiver, running back, secondary, defensive line.Recruits to watch: The Razorbacks' extended coaching search made recruiting tougher when Bobby Petrino finally took the job. Petrino is trying to convince Camden, Ark., back De'Anthony Curtis to stick with his commitment, but Curtis is looking around.What now?: Former Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett has reportedly chosen to transfer to Arkansas. If this is true, Mallett likely will be Petrino's biggest pickup of 2008, even though he wouldn't officially be part of the recruiting class.

MICHIGAN

Needs: Quarterback, offensive line, linebacker.Recruits to watch: Cypress, Texas, running back Sam McGuffie's hurdle-heavy highlight video has wowed viewers on YouTube. Can McGuffie be the Steve Slaton of new coach Rich Rodriguez's first Michigan offense? The bigger question: Who will play quarterback?What now?: The Wolverines are hot after QB Terrelle Pryor, who appears a perfect fit for Rodriguez's offense.

TEXAS A&M

Needs: Offensive line, defensive line.Recruits to watch:Mike Sherman and his staff spent the past weekend trying to make sure several committed players remained on board. Aldine, Texas, defensive tackle Rod Davis is still being recruited by Texas and Florida, and Gilmer, Texas, receiver/defensive back Lamar Harris is being recruited by Oklahoma.What now?:Dennis Franchione left Sherman with plenty of quality commitments. If Sherman can get those players on campus, he should have an easier transition.

UCLA

Needs: Receiver, secondary.Recruits to watch: New coach Rick Neuheisel has spent his first few weeks on the job making sure players who committed to predecessor Karl Dorrell remain committed. Receiver/safety Antwon Moutra checked out Cal last week and still plans to visit Washington State. Meanwhile, Miami is after Compton, Calif., cornerback Aaron Hester.What now?: If Neuheisel can keep this class intact, he should have plenty of talent to work with in his first season.

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