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Alabama has the top-ranked team in the country and locked in the top-ranked recruiting class for the ninth time in the past 12 years.
The Crimson Tide landed the No. 1 class, according to the 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. Alabama signed 23 players, including six five-star recruits on the first day of the early signing period Wednesday. Ohio State was second with its best showing since the 2017-18 recruiting classes.
Georgia, which took home the top spot last year, finished third after signing 20 players, including four five-star recruits.
Much of Alabama’s success on the recruiting trail can be attributed to player development, according to Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell.
“The guys that they continue to put in the first-and-second rounds of the NFL draft and how many guys they have on NFL rosters,” Farrell said. “[It’s] continued winning and success. It’s consistency.
“Georgia has had higher ranked recruiting classes over the past few years, but they haven’t developed players as Alabama does.”
This was a different recruiting cycle for coaches and recruits, who were forced to interact online and by phone after the NCAA instituted a dead-period in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. FaceTime and Zoom calls replace in-person home visits and on-campus recruiting trips. Coaches were forced to rely on videos and word-of-mouth from high school coaches to evaluate talent.
Despite the uncertainty, a lot of players signed letters of intent on the first day they could under NCAA rules. And coaches leading the top 25 teams seemed to have no issues assembling their classes.
“It didn’t really impact it much at all,” said Tom Lemming, college football recruiting analyst for CBS Sports. “About the same number of ballplayers have committed and most of them signed. It’s the rich getting richer. ... I saw absolutely no difference.”
Farrell noticed a geographic change triggered by COVID-19.
“I think more kids stayed close to home because of their inability to get out and take visits because of the pandemic,” Farrell said. “Some examples of this would be Wisconsin did really well in the Midwest and kept some kids closer to home that might have left and Missouri in the Midwest as well and especially Miami, where a lot of those South Florida kids decided to stay and play for Miami when they were supposed to go elsewhere.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment was among recruits who live in states that did not allow them to play high school football due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“A lot of those kids who were borderline may not be getting scholarships,” said Lemming, who said he’s received calls from parents of recruits who are worried their kids may not get offers because they didn’t play this season. “The majority of the ones that [would have] had a good senior year to [help them get] ... looked at either by Big Ten or MAC, ... now they’re not getting that chance.”
Farrell said the impact on those recruits could be felt in a couple of years.
“I think there’s a lot of kids that flew under the radar who weren’t able to get out to summer camps this year because there weren’t any summer camps this year and they weren’t able to get evaluated in person,” Farrell said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of kids go to the [Football Championship Subdivision] level and then in two years or one year be in the portal and [get] recruited like a four-star out of high school.”
If the NCAA approves a one-time transfer rule next season, it could also open the door for recruits who made decisions without visiting schools to change their minds and transfer.
All the variables had little impact on the Power 5 conferences.
The SEC continued to feature strong recruiting classes, with four teams ranked in the top 15: Alabama (1), Georgia (3), LSU (5) and Florida (9).
Clemson, which is two years removed from winning the national championship, landed its fourth consecutive top 10 class with 18 signees.
The biggest surprise may have been Michigan, which landed a top 10 class despite the uncertainty surrounding coach Jim Harbaugh’s job security.
“There was a lot of Harbaugh intrigue and there still is because he still has some kids in that class that [are] making their decisions because they don’t know,” Farrell said. “He doesn’t have a contract yet and [it’s unclear] whether he’s going to jump to the NFL, even though he said he had no interest in doing that.”
247Sports.com college recruiting rankings
2. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
13. North Carolina
14. Texas A&M
18. Ole Miss
21. Penn State