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Ranking the top 2012 recruiting classes by defensive position


Now that the dust has settled from Signing Day, the winners of the 2012 recruiting cycle have emerged. And the top classes are deeper than just the big names. Here's a look at which teams fared best, on a position-by-position basis, on defense.

1. Florida State

Key recruits: Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Justin Shanks, Dalvon Stuckey

It's simple: The Seminoles signed the nation's top two players at the position in Edwards and Goldman and rounded out their class with the U.S. Army All-American Shanks. This is one of the top hauls at any position by any program in the country.

2. Texas

Key recruits: Malcom Brown, Paul Boyette Jr., Brandon Moore, Alex Norman

Brown is the headliner, a five-star talent who showcased his talent -- and deceptive speed -- during the Under Armour All-America Game. Norman was also an Under Armour selection, while Moore is one of the first JUCO standouts to sign with the Longhorns in quite some time. There's lots of upside coming to Austin.

3. Alabama

Key recruits: Dakota Ball, Korren Kirven, Darren Lake, Alphonse Taylor, Davlin Tomlinson

By landing Kirven and Tomlinson on Signing Day, the Tide added two top prospects to an already impressive defensive tackle crop. Ball, Lake and Taylor provide Nick Saban with enviable depth.

4. Michigan

Key recruits: Ondre Pipkins, Matthew Godin, Willie Henry

The Wolverines scored a huge get in the five-star Pipkins, a tremendously strong Kansas City native who should contribute right away. Three-stars Godin and Henry are solid, too, and could develop into starters by their junior or senior seasons.

5. Florida

Key recruits: Damien Jacobs, JaFar Mann, Dante Phillips

The four-star Jacobs is the nation's No. 3 JUCO defensive tackle, while the four-star Phillips is No. 9 in the high school ranks. Mann spurned offers from Alabama, Auburn and Georgia, among others, to sign with the Gators.

1. Florida

Key recruits: Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Dante Fowler Jr., Alex McCalister, Quinteze Williams

The Gators boast a terrifying defensive line haul, bookended by two five-star ends in Bullard and Fowler Jr., the latter a Signing Day flip. Cox Jr., a standout at high school power St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), could be the sleeper of the bunch.

2. Ohio State

Key recruits: Noah Spence, Se'Von Pittman, Adolphus Washington

Urban Meyer strikes again. The Buckeyes nabbed two five-star ends in Washington and Spence, and bolstered their depth by adding Pittman, a one-time Michigan State pledge. He's no consolation prize. The nation's No. 95 recruit could see action as early as his freshman year.

3. Oregon

Key recruits: Arik Armstead, Alex Balducci, DeForest Buckner, Cody Carriger

Armstead and Balducci are U.S. Army All-Americans, and should wreak havoc upon their arrival to the Pac-12. Buckner, a four-star Honolulu native, also looms large at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds.

4. Stanford

Key recruits: Aziz Shittu, Luke Kaumatule, Nathanael Lohn

One of Stanford's three five-star gets on National Signing Day, Shittu headlines David Shaw's incoming haul. But Kaumatule and Lohn shouldn't be overlooked. The former is a U.S. Army All-American, and the latter is a power-lifter out of Kansas City.

5. Georgia

Key recruits: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Dawson, James Deloach, Leonard Floyd

Better known for its running back haul (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall), Georgia made out similarly well with defensive ends. Jenkins, the nation's No. 56 prospect, is the crown jewel, while Dawson and Floyd are both four-star talents. They should bolster a unit that tallied 35 sacks in 2011.

1. Alabama

Key recruits: Ryan Anderson, Denzel Devall, Tyler Hayes, Dillon Lee, Reggie Ragland

Surprise, surprise: Nick Saban scored another coup of supremely talented linebackers. All five signees are four-star prospects, and three of them rank among the top five at the position (Ragland is No. 1, Lee is No. 4 and Devall is No. 5). Even with Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower's departure, 'Bama shouldn't miss a beat.

2. Texas

Key recruits: Dalton Santos, Torshiro Davis, Peter Jinkens, Timothy Cole, Alex De La Torre

The Longhorns picked up two elite last-minute pledges, flipping Santos from Tennessee and Davis, a U.S. Army All-American, from LSU. Cole and Jinkens should also add depth to a unit that finished 11th in the FBS in total defense last season.

3. LSU

Key recruits: Kwon Alexander, Ronnie Feist, Trey Granier, Deion Jones, Lorenzo Phillips

Alexander lessened the sting of Davis' switch to Texas by signing with the Tigers over Alabama and Florida State. Feist, an Under Armour All-American, and Phillips, a one-time Florida pledge, should also reinforce Les Miles' defense in Baton Rouge.

T-4. Virginia Tech

Key recruits: Ken Ekanem, Deon Clarke, Trey Edmunds, Dahman McKinnon

Three of the Hokies' four signees -- Clarke, Edmunds and Ekanem -- are Rivals250 prospects. They'll enter a well-coached linebacking corps that held opponents to just 17.6 points per game last year, seventh in the nation.

T-4. Michigan

Key recruits: Royce Jenkins-Stone, Joe Bolden, Kaleb Ringer, James Ross

Bolden was one of the most impressive performers during the Under Armour All-America Game, while Jenkins-Stone and Ross starred in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. All three could make an impact for Brady Hoke and Co. in the not so distant future.

1. Miami

Key recruits: Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Antonio Crawford, Vernon Davis, Nate Dortch, Ladarius Gunter, Larry Hope, Rayshawn Jenkins

The Hurricanes' class centers quantity (eight defensive back recruits), but boasts its fair share of quality, too. Tracy Howard, the nation's top-ranked cornerback, was a huge grab on National Signing Day, and Deon Bush, a homegrown four-star prospect, is brimming with potential. This haul should set Al Golden's secondary for years to come.

2. Alabama

Key recruits: Landon Collins, Geno Smith, Travell Dixon, Deion Belue

It seemed virtually impossible to pull five-star safety Landon Collins from Louisiana, but Nick Saban proved to be up to the task. The nation's No. 17 recruit leads a defensive back crop that includes Dixon, the No. 3 JUCO prospect, and Smith, a U.S. Army All-American.

3. Washington

Key recruits: Shaq Thompson, Brandon Beaver, Cleveland Wallace, Darien Washington

Washington made national headlines by swiping Thompson, the top-ranked safety in the country, from Cal in advance of Signing Day. Beaver, a U.S. Army All-American, should also see playing time early and often for the Huskies.

4. Florida

Key recruits: Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Rhaheim Ledbetter, Willie Bailey

The Gators may have lost Howard to Miami, but they still locked up an impressive batch of budding defensive backs. Rivals100 cornerback Poole stayed despite a late charge from Notre Dame, while Maye never wavered as a long-time Florida commit. Both could be standout performers by their sophomore or junior campaigns.

5. Ohio State

Key recruits: De'van Bogard, Armani Reeves, Najee Murray, Tyvis Powell

Four-star safeties Bogard and Murray have been Buckeye commits since June, while Reeves flipped from Penn State days before Signing Day. Reeves' switch further demonstrates Meyer's impact -- and bolsters what could be a terrific young defense in Columbus.

1. Texas

Key recruits: Kendall Sanders, Orlando Thomas, Adrian Colbert, Daje Johnson, Jalen Overstreet

Rivals100 prospect Sanders intercepted two passes during the U.S. Army Bowl, four-star Johnson flipped from TCU the weekend before Signing Day and four-star Thomas showed promise at both cornerback and receiver. Needless to say, the Longhorns aren't lacking in young talent and versatility.

2. Alabama

Key recruits: Eddie Williams, Cyrus Jones

Though the Tide signed just two recruits classified as athletes, they were two big ones. Five-star Williams was the No. 4 recruit in talent-rich Florida, and four-star Jones was the No. 3 prospect in Maryland. The duo makes Nick Saban's already dangerous roster even more potent.

3. Georgia

Key recruits: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sheldon Dawson

Like Alabama, the Bulldogs signed just two prospects listed as athletes. But like 'Bama, both could make immediate impacts. Harvey-Clemons has the makings of an all-SEC linebacker, while Dawson, a 5-foot-11, 169-pound speedster, could turn into a standout defensive back. Both provide Mark Richt and staff with plenty of options.


Key recruits:Devin Fuller, Kenny Orjioke, Paul Perkins

The Bruins staged one of the bigger surprises of the 2012 recruiting cycle when Fuller, a four-star talent out of Old Tappan, N.J., signed with UCLA over Rutgers, Arizona and Nebraska. Though a high school quarterback, he has the speed and field-savvy to thrive at a number of positions. Orjioke and Perkins, a pair of three-star talents, could contribute early as well.

T-5. Mississippi State

Key recruits: Beniquez Brown, Deonte Evans, Brandon Holloway, Adarrius Perkins, Will Redmond

The Bulldogs loaded up on athletes, led by Redmond, the No. 8 prospect in Tennessee. Brown, the No. 20 recruit in Alabama, could also play a big role in Mississippi State's SEC success.

T-5. Georgia Tech

Key recruits: Marcus Allen, Dennis Andrews, Travin Henry, Micheal Summers, Justin Thomas

The Yellow Jackets pulled off a major coup when they convinced Justin Thomas, a Rivals250 prospect, to renege on his pledge to Alabama. Marcus Allen, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder out of Hilliard, Fla., is also polished for an incoming freshman.