The annual recruiting rankings came out on National Signing Day, and they naturally touched off a new debate over which team won the recruiting national title.
Since we live in an instant-everything society, the major recruiting services as well as publications such as SI and ESPN.com quickly provided rankings that generally agreed Florida and USC signed the best two classes, and Texas and Alabama also put together impressive groups. But what do we know? For that matter, what do the coaches know?
There's a huge difference between an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, and it's almost impossible to predict how a group of 18-year-olds will produce as 21-year-olds. Like grits or pot roast, the better recruiting rankings take a lot longer to produce. That's why, here at the SI.com Diner, we give you the best slow-cooked recruiting rankings.
Last year, we
As was the case last year and earlier this year in SI.com's
While last year's re-rank didn't stray too far from the original Rivals rankings, this year's deviated quite a bit -- especially at the top. Keep reading to find out how the No. 68 class wound up the No. 2 class three years later.
So how did the evaluators at Rivals -- and Scout and SI and everywhere else -- so badly underestimate this class? Simple. Boise State doesn't have a huge fan base. There aren't as many potential subscribers, so, from a business perspective, it doesn't make sense to spend as much time evaluating Boise State recruits as Alabama or Texas recruits. That's probably the biggest flaw in recruiting rankings; the teams outside the traditional power structure can be vastly underestimated. Because if you look only at the teams that traditionally finish in the top 15, the rankings are usually pretty accurate.
Who knows? Maybe Gailey, now coaching the Buffalo Bills, will draft one or both players in April so he can spend more time coaching them.
Still, this class has produced legitimate stars in Acho and Thomas and solid receivers in Kirkendoll and Williams. It also included tight end Blaine Irby, who would have started in 2009 had he not suffered an offseason knee injury.
To better evaluate this class, place it at another school. For instance, if quarterback-turned-receiver John Chiles -- another 2007 Longhorn -- played anywhere else, how quickly would he have gotten on the field at some position? Immediately.
That said, the fact that this class has produced seven starters is pretty amazing considering the Buckeyes only signed 15 players in 2007. Another member of the class, tailback Dan "Boom" Herron, isn't officially a starter, but he gained 600 yards and scored seven touchdowns as Saine's backup in 2009.
On defense, Rowe led the Pac-10 in sacks with 11.5, and Jackson led the Ducks with four interceptions in 2009.
This class produced the Hokies' most potent offensive weapon (Taylor) and two stud linemen. It also included backs Darren Evans and Josh Oglesby. Remember, Evans -- not Ryan Williams -- was supposed to carry the rushing load for the Hokies in 2009 after gaining 1,265 yards in 2008, but missed the season after injuring his knee in camp.
After the NFL combine later this month, it should be pretty obvious why Bulaga left Iowa City after his junior season. Meanwhile, Sash will return and team with defensive end Adrian Clayborn to lead a group that should be one of the nation's best.
Still, Galippo, Griffen, Johnson and McKnight would have been stars for any program in the nation. We'll have to watch next season to learn whether 2009 was a hiccup or if the rest of the Pac-10 has caught up to USC on the recruiting trail.
Still, predecessor Mike Shula deserves a thank you for securing linebacker Rolando McClain, the best player in the class and the best player on the national title team. (I realize the reigning Heisman winner played on that team as well. I stand by my statement, and I'm pretty sure Saban would agree with me.) McClain was so brilliant during his three seasons at Tuscaloosa that even though this class produced just five starters, it belongs on this list.