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Bleacher Report's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2014

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystFebruary 5, 2014

Bleacher Report's Top 25 Recruiting Classes of 2014

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    Bleacher Report

    National signing day arrived Wednesday and lived up to the hype. America's future college football stars finalized their choices with long-awaited announcements.

    In most cases, the rich got richer as several SEC powerhouses and perennial top-10 programs added to already elite rosters. But a number of programs seemingly came out of nowhere to grab top talent, too.

    As the dust settles, we weigh the quality of each team's haul based on how the coaching staff addressed roster needs and collected talent depth, from 5-star standouts to unheralded playmakers. Here's how we rank the nation's top 25 recruiting classes.

     

    Recruit star ratings based on 247Sports' composite rankings. School and player preferences also courtesy of 247Sports.

25. Virginia Tech

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    Safety Holland Fisher
    Safety Holland FisherCredit: 247Sports

    Total Players: 27 (four 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star safety Holland Fisher (Midlothian, Va.)

    Fisher is the country's top-ranked prep school player. He starred at Fork Union Military Academy, a program that has produced several Division I stars. The 6'1", 200-pound prospect is a favorite to start as soon as he arrives on campus.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Pittsburgh running back Shai McKenzie provides a much-needed presence in the backfield. The 4-star joins signing-day addition Raymon Minor as the team's top incoming high school seniors.

    Quarterback Andrew Ford threw 70 touchdowns over the past two seasons, per 247Sports. The Hokies will also count on in-state defensive end Vincent Mihota early.

    Dual-threat quarterback Travon McMillian may not wind up behind center, but he is far too special an athlete to remain sidelined for long.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star cornerback Terrell Edmunds (Ringgold, Va.)

    The defensive back is scrappy in coverage and doesn't surrender position easily. He should immediately help on special teams.

     

24. Arizona State

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    Linebacker Derik Calhoun
    Linebacker Derik CalhounCredit: 247Sports

    Total Players: 28 (eight 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

     4-star outside linebacker Derik Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif.)

    The former USC commit should instantly upgrade the Sun Devils defensive front seven. He stuffs the run with a stout frame and made strides in pass coverage as a senior. 

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Arizona State landed California receivers Eric Lauderdale and Jalen Harvey, 4-star targets that fill a void.  Arizona receiver Tyler Whiley is also a candidate to play early.

    Tashon Smallwood decommitted from USC early in the season before joining this class. He is a relentless 4-star defensive tackle. The Sun Devils also welcome 4-star quarterback prospect Manny Wilkins, a product of San Francisco.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star quarterback Coltin Gerhart (Norco, Calif.)

    The younger brother of former Stanford star Toby Gerhart is the lower-ranked of two passers the Sun Devils signed. However, his ceiling is high thanks to excellent mobility. A position shift could eventually make sense in order to utilize his athleticism.

23. Penn State

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    Total Players: 25 (five 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Englishtown, N.J.)

    The 6'3", 210-pound receiver flipped from Rutgers during the late stages of recruiting and gives Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg a brand new weapon. Blacknall's size presents problems for opponents and his long strides allow him to gain separation.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Blacknell is joined in a strong offensive attack by fellow New Jersey product Mike Gesicki, the sixth-ranked tight end in the class. Four-star receiver De'Andre Thompkins adds another dimension to the passing game.

    Offensive tackles Brendan Brosnan and Chance Sorrell, cornerback Grant Haley, safety Amani Oruwariye and athlete Trace McSorley each followed James Franklin from Vanderbilt.

    Early enrollee Michael O'Connor adds depth at quarterback.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive tackle Antoine White (Millville, N.J.)

    White, yet another Garden State prospect plucked by Penn State, is on campus early and will have every opportunity to earn a role in a relatively lean defensive tackle rotation. He is an exemplary interior pass rusher.

     

22. Kentucky

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    Total Players: 29 (six 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star quarterback Drew Barker (Hebron, Ky.)

    Barker boosted Kentucky's in-state recruiting outlook when he opted to stay put and suit up for the Wildcats. He is a savvy improviser when plays break down and can unleash downfield darts.

    He threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013, per 247Sports. Barker enrolled on campus early.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Four-star defensive tackle Matt Elam turned down an opportunity to play for Alabama by staying in Kentucky. He'll be joined on the defensive front by 4-star end Denzel Ware.

    Georgia prospect Stanley Williams fills a depth-chart need at running back, while Ohio receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass can spread the defense with top-tier speed.

    Safety Darius West strengthens the secondary.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive end Lloyd Tubman (Louisville, Ky.)

    Tubman committed to James Franklin twice, at Vanderbilt and Penn State, before signing with Kentucky. The 6'5", 235-pound edge rusher tallied 150 tackles and 30 sacks in the past two seasons, per 247Sports.

     

21. South Carolina

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    Total Players21 (10 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga.)

    South Carolina welcomes a balanced defender who hits like he means it every time. The 6'1", 222-pound prospect is an elite bitzer from the second level.

    He chose the Gamecocks over Georgia and Alabama.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    South Carolina swung former Florida State pledge Dexter Wideman on signing day. He adds to a defensive front that already includes 4-star recruits Dante Sawyer and Abu Lamin.

    The Gamecocks gained secondary support by signing 4-star cornerbacks D.J. Smith Chris Lammons and Wesley Green, who actually decommitted from the Gamecocks in September. Tight end Kevin Crosby and receiver Terry Googer are new offensive weapons, along with 4-star pass target Shaq Davidson.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star offensive guard Malik Young (Piedmont, S.C.)

    Young is extremely athletic and can get out to lead block in the screen game. His power will develop at the next level and fans should expect big things when everything clicks.

20. Oregon

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    Total Players20 (seven 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif.)

    Freeman is the all-time rushing yardage king of San Diego, Calif. He runs with brute force and does his best work near the goal line.

    He rushed for more than 2,600 yards and scored 43 total touchdowns during his senior season, per 247sports.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Oregon added outstanding New Orleans safety Mattrell McGraw on signing day. He joins 4-star San Antonio cornerback Arrion Springs in an improved Ducks defensive backfield.

    Quarterback Morgan Mahalak comes out from California to take on Oregon's unique offensive scheme. Offensive guard Haniteli Lousi is the top-ranked JUCO player at his position.

    Impressive 4-star Florida running back Tony James adds to Oregon's offensive backfield depth. Four-star Phoenix prospect Jalen Brown has the ability to crack the receiver rotation as a freshman.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive end Austin Maloata (Corona, Calif.)

    Maloata decommitted from USC in January and pledged to this class days before signing with the team. The 6'3', 270-pound defender can drop back in short pass coverage if called upon and moves laterally like a linebacker.

     

19. UCLA

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    Total Players: 18 (eight 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star safety Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif.)

    Wadood starred at defensive back and receiver for California state champion St. John Bosco. The former Cal commit cleans up defensive mistakes with exceptional tackling in the open field.

    He is a plug-and-play defensive back in the back end of a burgeoning defensive unit.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Cornerback Adarius Pickett adds physicality and quickness to the Bruins' pass coverage group. UCLA reached across the country to pick up a pair of 4-star linebackers in Zach Whitley (Texas) and Kenny Young (Louisiana).

    Nathan Starks is an exciting running back prospect from Colorado who could ultimately find himself on defense as a Bruin. Wide receivers Alex Van Dyke and Austin Roberts provide options for Texas quarterback Aaron Sharp.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star wide receiver Jordan Lasley (Gardena, Calif.)

    Lasley was surrounded by heralded stars at Junipero Serra High School and certainly deserves a share of the spotlight. He is a quality possession receiver who comes up big in routes across the middle.

18. Ole Miss

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    Total Players: 26 (six 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star safety C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss.)

    After initially committing to Ole Miss, Hampton reopened his recruitment in December. Crisis was averted for the Rebels when he reaffirmed his allegiance after weighing an offer from Alabama.

    The 6'1", 195-pound defensive back brings the boom on hits and provides a quality presence in blitz packages. He wrapped up his senior campaign with 48 tackles and three interceptions.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Cornerback Kendarius Webster and Tee Shepard complement Hampton in the defensive secondary. They'll back up a talented defensive front that features 4-star linemen Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks.

    Roderick Taylor is the type of guard who can anchor an offensive line for three years. He joins Alabama road grader Jordan Sims along the interior. 

    Wide receiver Markell Pack has No. 1 target potential. JUCO linebacker Christian Russell and prep school defensive end Marquis Haynes are among early enrollees.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star running back D.K. Buford (Oxford, Miss.)

    Buford brings an electric style of play to Ole Miss. The 5'11", 215-pound Lafayette High School star is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield.

    He won't be counted on to shoulder the load of carries, but Buford is a reliable sparkplug in the running back rotation.

17. Michigan

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    Total Players16 (eight 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star athlete Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J.)

    MaxPreps named Peppers the U.S. Air Force National Sophomore of the Year in 2011, and he lived up to expectations as an upperclassman. The nation's No. 1 athlete excels as a defensive back, running back, receiver and kick returner.

    The 6'1", 205-pound Paramus Catholic High School standout tallied 137 tackles and eight sacks over the past two seasons, per 247Sports. Peppers heads to Ann Arbor with immense expectations in place, drawing comparisons to Michigan legend Charles Woodson before he even wears the Wolverines uniform.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Wide receiver Drake Harris emerged as a must-have in-state prospect with a 2,000-yard junior campaign. The 4-star recruit missed his entire senior season with a hamstring injury but has the potential to rebound in a big way next fall, when he joins forces with 4-star Maryland receiver Freddy Canteen.

    Defensive tackle Bryan Mone can blow up the interior offensive game plan, while Lawrence Marshall will launch off from the outside edge. Ohio recruit Michael Ferns and fellow 4-star linebacker prospect Chase Winovich add valuable depth to Brady Hoke's defensive unit.

    Four-star Illinois tight end Ian Bunting adds an intriguing element to the passing game.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star wide receiver Maurice Ways (Franklin, Mich.)

    Ways isn't one of the stars of this class, so fans in Ann Arbor may be surprised when he starts making an impact as an underclassman. Ways has a long reach and racks up yards in bunches.

16. Texas

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    Total Players23 (eight 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star quarterback Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas)

    Heard is the most promising dual-threat quarterback to arrive in Austin since Vince Young. He established himself as a leader and a winner at Texas powerhouse John H. Guyer High School.

    Charlie Strong, who left a Louisville program where his quarterback was the foundation of their success, hopes he has a similar talent in Heard. The 6'2.5", 190-pound prospect both passed and rushed for more than 2,000 yards over each of the past two seasons.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    In-state wide receivers Roderick Bernard, Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe elevate the Longhorns' aerial assault. Blake Whiteley, the nation's second-ranked JUCO tight end, is an outstanding blocker who displays soft hands when used as a receiver.

    Texas will lean on San Antonio star Derick Roberson to hassle quarterbacks during his freshman season. The 4-star defensive end is paired with South Carolina tackle Poona Ford, who followed Strong from Louisville.

    The Longhorns defensive backfield is bolstered by 4-star Houston safety John Bonney and New Orleans cornerback Jermaine Roberts, who announced his intentions on signing day. Four-star prospect Edwin Freeman provides sideline-to-sideline speed at linebacker.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star running back D'Onta Foreman (Texas City, Texas)

    Foreman isn't featured in the state's top 100 rankings, but that didn't deter the Longhorns from bringing him into town. While he isn't a burner, he is effective in the short passing game and runs with physicality that commands respect.

     

15. Clemson

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    Total Players20 (10 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star quarterback Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga.)

    Watson will have an opportunity to emerge as the new face of Clemson's offensive attack. The early enrollee established a new Georgia career passing record before the conclusion of his junior season.

    He displays excellent mobility but is at his best when operating from the pocket. Watson, who committed to the Tigers as a sophomore, arrives with a chance to play as a true freshman.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Watson will have a full slate of weapons in this freshman class. Four-star prospects Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Trevion Thompson are destined to spend the upcoming years competing for targets.

    Georgia athlete Adam Choice is an exciting playmaker who projects favorably at cornerback with proper training. Tight end Milan Richard has tremendous potential as a blocker and receiver.

    Four-star linebackers Chris Register and Korie Rogers provide immediate options. South Carolina offensive tackle Cannon Smith can hold his own on either side of the line.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star athlete C.J. Fuller (Easley, S.C.)

    There are differing opinions on Fuller's best position fit but he projects favorably in the offensive backfield. The 5'10", 200-pound playmaker burst onto the scene as an explosive running back by rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns during his junior year.

    He didn't receive an offer from any SEC programs despite starring in South Carolina, but Fuller found a match in Clemson last May.

     

14. Stanford

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    Total Players20 (seven 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas)

    Stanford stole away one of Texas' top talents in Thomas. The 6'2.5", 258-pound defensive end selected the Cardinal over Arkansas and UCLA.

    Thomas tallied 105 tackles as a sophomore and rose in national rankings throughout his career, ultimately ending up at No. 2 nationally among strong-side defensive ends. He continues a strong tradition of excellence along the Stanford defensive font.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Four-star quarterback Keller Chryst stays put in his hometown after an impressive career at Palo Alto High School. He'll be joined in the backfield by all-purpose back Christian McCaffrey, a Colorado standout who is the son of former Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey.

    Arizona offensive tackle Casey Tucker will be tasked to protect the passer's blind side for years to come. Utah recruit Dalton Schultz is the nation's top-ranked tight end prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings.

    Stanford solidified its defensive backfield on signing day, when New Orleans star Terrence Alexander joined fellow cornerback Alijah Holder in the class. The Cardinal also welcome versatile linebackers Bobby Okereke and Joey Alfieri.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star fullback Daniel Marx (Mission Viejo, Calif.)

    The fullback position doesn't receive much attention in this era of spread offenses and high-octane passing attacks, but you'll see Stanford go old school. Marx, who hails from Southern California powerhouse Mission Viejo High School, fits the bill as a selfless battering room ready to pave the way to daylight.

13. Oklahoma

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    Total Players: 27 (seven 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif.)

    Mixon makes plays in the receiving and rushing game. The Freedom High School star is smooth downfield while running routes and finished off plays moving forward.

    He earned MVP honors at the U.S. Army All-America Game. Mixon committed to the Sooners during the event, spurning offers from Wisconsin, California and UCLA.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Oklahoma identified in-state quarterback Justice Hansen as a top priority and managed to get him enrolled on campus this semester. Four-star receivers Jeffery Mead, Mark Andrews and Dallis Todd provide fresh weapons in a potent passing attack.

    The Sooners finished strong on the recruiting trail, landing 4-star safety Steven Parker and sensational California athlete Michiah Quick. Running back Samaje Perine was a coveted prospect in Texas.

    The offensive line improves with guard Natrell Curtis and tackle Alex Dalton.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive tackle Courtney Garnett (New Orleans, La.)

    Garnett was often overshadowed by teammates at St. Augustine High School, most notably top-ranked running back Leonard Fournette. He holds his own against the run and does an excellent job of not losing his bearings in the trenches.

12. Miami

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    Total Players26 (seven 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star running back Joseph Yearby (Miami, Fla.)

    The hometown standout rushed for more than 5,300 yards and 63 touchdowns during his final three seasons at Miami Central High School, according to 247Sports. Yearby suffered a fractured fibula during the 2013 playoffs, so his status remains up in the air for spring practice.

    Incumbent Hurricanes starter Duke Johnson is also recovering from an injury and isn't expected to participate in spring camp. Yearby is already on campus, which gives him a head start at growing acclimated with Al Golden's offensive attack and program procedures.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Miami did a tremendous job locking up a pair of impressive offensive tackles. Florida recruits Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott each rank among the top 10 prospects at the position.

    The Hurricanes have plenty to be excited about with the arrival of 4-star quarterback Brad Kaaya, who comes to town from California. North Carolina receiver Braxton Berrios should excel in the slot.

    Miami aims to manufacture a stronger pass rush with the infusion of 5-star defensive end Chad Thomas and 4-star Trent Harris. Former Florida commit Anthony Moten has a high motor at defensive tackle.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star wide receiver David Njoku (Cedar Grove, NJ)

    The big-bodied New Jersey receiver committed to Miami less than a week before signing day. Njoku, who decommitted from Rutgers in October, is talented enough to emerge as a dangerous tight end if Miami chooses to implement him in that fashion.

    He stands at 6'4" and averaged more than 20 yards per reception as a senior, per 247Sports. He'll be a favorite target in the red zone.

11. Notre Dame

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    Total Players23 (16 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star inside linebacker Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill.)

    Notre Dame acquired a natural leader and dominant defender during the U.S.  Army All-American Game, where Morgan committed to the Fighting Irish. The country's third-ranked inside linebacker doesn't require a heavy dose of seasoning before he will be able to contribute in a large capacity.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see Morgan compete for a starting role before the end of his freshman season in South Bend. He racked up three straight 100-tackle campaigns in high school.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Notre Dame addressed its offensive line depth with the additions of 4-star prospects Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson. Wide receivers Justin Brent and Corey Holmes provide coach Brian Kelly with legitimate downfield threats, while Tyler Luatua follows in line with formidable Fighting Irish tight ends of the past.

    They may eventually run route for dual-threat quarterback DeShone Kizer, an Ohio product. The defensive secondary welcomes tenacious Dallas cornerback Nick Watkins and hard-hitting Indiana safety Drue Tranquill.

    Cincinnati defensive tackle Daniel Cage accepted a late offer and fills a pivotal need at Notre Dame. He'll team up with 4-star New Jersey defensive end Andrew Trumbetti and Brooklyn tackle Jay Hayes up front.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich.)

    Williams flipped from Missouri in late November, two weeks after receiving his offer from Notre Dame. The 6'6", 237-pound playmaker picked up a handful of offers after committing to the Tigers in September, including the one from the Fighting Irish.

    He is an imposing figure still growing into his physical frame. Williams will wreak havoc in short-yardage situations.

10. USC

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    Total Players: 19 (eight 4-stars, two 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif.)

    Jackson is simply one of the top high school athletes in the country. He is impressive as a receiver and dominant in the defensive backfield, ranking as the No. 1 corner in the class.

    Opposing teams must respect his kick-return abilities and he is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Jackson instantly becomes a pillar in a new era for the program.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    USC surged up rankings with a successful signing day. The Trojans signed No. 1 ranked offensive guard Damien Mama. He joins 4-star offensive line duo Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao up front.

    Quarterback Jalen Greene, who played with Jackson at Junipero Serra High School, joins him at USC. He'll have impressive freshman targets to work with in receiver Rahshead Johnson and explosive tight end Bryce Dixon. USC punctuated an amazing signing day by receiving a letter of intent from 5-star Long Beach athlete John Smith.

    The defense improves as 4-star cornerback Jonathan Lockett arrives on campus. Defensive end Claudeson Pelon ranks among the nation's top JUCO defensive ends.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla.)

    The rangy defensive back can cover larger receivers with a 6'2" frame and long reach. He joined this class on signing day after weighing his options. Simmons decommitted from Rutgers in November, the same month USC offered.

     

     

9. Florida

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    Total Players: 24 (eight 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star quarterback Will Grier (Davidson, N.C.)

    The Gators offense has sputtered since the departure of Urban Meyer and must improve if current coach Will Muschamp aims to remain in Gainesville much longer. Grier's arrival for spring practice signals fresh potential behind center.

    The nation's second-rated pro-style passer compiled mind-blowing statistics during his senior season at Davidson Day High School and earned a U.S. Army All-American Game nod. Grier tallied more than 6,000 total yards (4,900 passing yards) and 90 total touchdowns in 2013, per MaxPreps.

    He enrolled early at Florida, a program he picked over Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. 

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Expect Florida's defensive attack to grow more fearsome with this year's freshman class added to the mix. Four-star New Orleans standout Gerald Willis leads a trio of special defensive tackle prospects, which also features 4-star signees Khairi Clark and Thomas Holley, who flipped from Penn State.

    Jalen Tabor is rated the nation's fourth-best cornerback recruit and enrolled early after switching his allegiances from Arizona. He forms a dangerous defensive back duo with 4-star talent Duke Dawson. Miami star Treon Harris, a high school quarterback athletic enough to play elsewhere, flipped from Florida State on signing day.

    Offensive tackles Andrew Mike and David Sharpe are mammoth additions to the offensive front. C.J. Worton picked Florida over West Virginia on signing day and joins fellow receiver J.C. Jackson, who decided to stick with the Gators on signing day after considering Miami and Minnesota.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star offensive tackle Taven Bryan (Casper, Wyo.)

    Bryan arrived on campus this semester built like a tight end, but his frame can handle substantially more bulk at the next level without sacrificing athleticism. The 6'5", 250-pound Wyoming product can prove himself while spending the season as a developmental reserve.

    His footwork and raw power create a high ceiling for Bryan in a class that features several standout offensive linemen.

8. Auburn

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    Total Players23 (11 4-stars, two 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star running back Roc Thomas (Oxford, Ala.)

    If Auburn aims to repeat as SEC champs, the Tigers must fill the void left behind by NFL-bound running back Tre Mason. The program picked up a promising replacement in Thomas, who gained more than 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground as a senior at Oxford High School (Ala.), per 247Sports.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Eventually, Thomas will likely share the backfield with Florida quarterback Sean White, who improved throughout his senior campaign. D'haquille Williams is the nation's top-rated JUCO wide receiver. Auburn's offensive line also received a boost by picking up 4-star guard Braden Smith on signing day.

    Auburn added several standouts to its defensive backfield, including former Alabama commit Kalvaraz Bessent and No. 1 JUCO safety Derrick Moncrief. Five-star in-state prospect Tre' Williams can make a case to be considered the country's best inside linebacker. Four-star defensive end Andrew Williams chose the Tigers over Clemson and Georgia on signing day.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive end Raashed Kennion (Jacksonville, Fla.)

    Kennion is a relatively raw prospect but his size and athleticism give you an indication of the player he could become at Auburn. The 6'6", 228-pound First Coast High School product has incredible length and range along the outside edge.

    A freshman season of strength training and studying the game from the sidelines will go a long way toward Kennion's development as a weak-side defensive end.

7. Tennessee

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    Total Players: 33 (16 4-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    4-star wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn.)

    Malone is the next man up in a long line of productive receivers who have suited up for the Volunteers. The 6'2.25", 191-pound Station Camp High School star erupted during his senior season, becoming one of the most productive pass-catchers in the country.

    He caught 71 passes for 1,404 yards and 19 touchdowns, according to 247Sports. Malone is rated the nation's fifth-best receiver recruit and top overall prospect in Tennessee.

    His chances of competing for a prominent role in 2014 will vastly improve if he shows continued progression during spring practice. Malone picked Tennessee over Ohio State, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Top-tier JUCO prospect Von Pearson is another dynamic receiver who brings a blend of size and burst to the Volunteers' attack. A shoulder injury cost explosive in-state athlete Jalen Hurd his entire senior campaign but memories of his amazing 2012 season (more than 3,300 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns, per 247Sports) loom large.

    Hometown standout Todd Kelly aims to become the best Tennessee safety since Eric Berry. He's joined in the defensive backfield by 4-star cornerback D'Andre Payne, an early enrollee.

    Tennessee edged out South Carolina and Florida for a late commitment from running back Derrell Scott, who rushed for at least 1,700 yards and 22 scores in each of the past three seasons, per 247Sports. Linebackers Chris Weatherd, Dillon Bates and Gavin Bryant are each 4-star recruits.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star athlete Vic Wharton (Thompson's Station, Tenn.)

    The Nashville native can line up at cornerback or wide receiver and give you a boost. Wharton was the first member of this monstrous recruiting class, committing to Tennessee on Christmas Day in 2012.

    He contributed in all facets as a senior at Independence High School, including five kick returns for touchdowns and six interceptions, per 247Sports. He added more than 1,000 receiving yards, 500 rushing yards and 18 total offensive scores.

6. Georgia

21 of 27

    Total Players21 (10 4-stars, three 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star running back Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga.)

    The 5'11", 216-pound prospect is one of the most productive high school running backs in Georgia state history. Chubb churned out more than 2,600 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons, per 247Sports, and scored 77 touchdowns in the process.

    He is a relentless runner who has proven he can handle the workload of 20-25 carries per contest. Chubb's size makes him a hard man to bring down in the open field and early snaps await in Athens.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Five-star Florida running back Sony Michel will enjoy a competitive rivalry with Chubb in the Bulldogs' backfield. Early enrollee Jacob Park aims to validate his No. 5 ranking among the nation's pro-style passers.

    Georgia landed 5-star in-state defensive end Lorenzo Carter on signing day. Malkom Parrish is a college-ready cornerback with game-changing quickness. Georgia enhanced its defensive front with the additions of 4-star linemen Keyon Brown and Lamont Gaillard.

    North Carolina tight end Jeb Blazevich is an instant weapon in the red zone, while Florida guard Isaiah Wynn will push for a spot on the two-deep. Four-star Florida receiver Isaiah McKenzie joined the class on signing day.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star safety Shaquille Jones (Merritt Island, Fla.)

    Jones was a true late-riser in the recruiting class and didn't commit to Georgia until two days before signing day. The 6'2", 175-pound playmaker was a South Alabama pledge just two weeks earlier.

    New Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt identified Jones as a player worth pursuing. The late efforts paid off when this rangy defender chose Georgia over Southern Miss and Louisville.

5. Texas A&M

22 of 27

    Total Players21 (11 4-stars, three 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

    All eyes will be on the quarterback position when spring camp opens in College Station. The Aggies must replace Johnny Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most dynamic college playmakers of his generation.

    Allen, rated the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, isn't the scrambler that Manziel is. However, he has the skill set to put up a strong fight for the starting job, especially as an early enrollee. The 6'2.5", 185-pound passer is more polished than any player at the position in this class.

    During his past three seasons at Desert Mountain High School, Allen completed 67 percent of his passes for 8,200 yards and 86 touchdowns, according to 247Sports. He impressed at the U.S. Army All-American Game, completing his first eight attempts.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Allen arrives on campus with an excellent supporting cast in the passing game. Five-star New Orleans receiver Speedy Noil and 6'6" Houston product Frank Iheanacho create an intriguing tandem.

    Myles Garrett gives Texas A&M a front-line pass rusher who has room to grow in other facets of his game. The 5-star defensive end heads a few hours south from Arlington and is America's top-ranked defender.

    Four-star offensive tackles Jermaine Eluemunor and Avery Gennesy are each ranked among the top five JUCO prospects at the position. Zaycoven Henderson, who flipped from Texas in January, joins fellow 4-star defensive linemen DeShawn Washington and Qualen Cunningham up front.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star wide receiver Joshua Reynolds (Tyler, Texas)

    Reynolds received limited interest during his senior season, but turned heads during a one-season stay at Tyler Junior College. The 6'2.5" receiver average more than 18 yards per reception last fall, hauling in 11 touchdown passes, according to njcaa.org.

    Boise State and TCU also extended offers to Reynolds, who is currently on campus. He certainly isn't the most heralded receiver in this class, but expect him to enter summer training camp with an opportunity to carve out an role in the rotation.

4. Florida State

23 of 27

    Total Players29 (14 4-stars, two 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star running back Dalvin Cook (Miami, Fla.)

    Cook created an additional reason to celebrate in Tallahassee on New Year's Eve, when he flipped his commitment from Florida. The 5'11", 190-pound Miami Central star pledged to the Gators in April, but will only play in The Swamp as a visitor.

    Rated the nation's No. 2 running back recruit, Cook is coming off a strong senior season that featured 1,940 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns, per 247Sports. He capped off the campaign with 223 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a state championship victory.

    Cook will compete for early playing time in the national champion's talent-packed backfield with Karlos Williams. He enrolled on campus early.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Florida State found some fine new targets for reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jamies Winston. Former Florida commit Ermon Lane—a 5-star prospect—completed a long awaited flip to the Seminoles on signing day and pairs up with fellow Sunshine State standout Travis Rudolph in the receiving corps. The team found another potential passing game target in 4-star athlete Javon Harrison, who flipped from Virginia Tech on signing day.

    Lane and Rudolph are ranked third and sixth nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Seminoles also acquired a pair of top tight end targets in Texan Marvin Saunders and New Jersey product Ryan Izzo. Florida State landed mammoth 4-star Missouri offensive tackle Roderick Johnson along with 6'6'', 335-pound guard Kareem Are and six other linemen on signing day.

    Jimbo Fisher's defensive haul is anchored by a stout stable of linebackers. Four-star linebackers Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy are each capable of making an early impact, while 4-star defensive linemen Lorenzo Featherston, Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi provide a formidable presence up front.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star defensive tackle Arthur Williams (Fayetteville, N.C.)

    Versatility is the key component of Williams' value. The 6'4", 280-pound prospect is more polished as an interior defensive lineman than an offensive tackle, but the latter may ultimately be where he has the most potential.

    He displays an athletic lower body and moves well laterally. Williams tallied 93 tackles in each of the past two seasons, per MaxPreps.

3. Ohio State

24 of 27

    Total Players23 (15 4-stars, one 5-star)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga.)

    McMillan is exactly what every college coach looks for in a middle linebacker recruit. The 6'2", 242-pound Liberty County High School standout sniffs out plays off the snap and swarms to the football like a freight train.

    He tallied at least 150 tackles in each of the past two seasons, per 247sports, proving himself as more than capable in pass coverage. McMillan is rated the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker prospect.

    Ohio State earned his signature from a group that included Auburn, Clemson and Alabama.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Urban Meyer made significant defensive strides during this recruiting cycle. Ohio outside linebacker Dante Booker earned honors as the national defensive player of the year at U.S. Army All-American Game festivities and burst onto the scene as one of the state's best with 157 tackles as a sophomore, per 247Sports.

    The linebacker corps becomes even deeper with the additions of Sam Hubbard and Kyle Berger. The 4-star recruits hail from Cincinnati and Cleveland, respectively.

    The Buckeyes secondary also receives an infusion of talent, led by Cleveland defensive back duo Erick Smith and Marshon Lattimore. Detroit product Damon Webb is rated fifth nationally among cornerbacks.

    Ohio State welcomes a impressive group of offensive skill players. Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell are each electric in the open field and fire up the passing attack. Four-star offensive tackle Jamarco Jones stuck by his initial commitment after briefly flirting with Michigan State late in the recruiting process.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star quarterback Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga.)

    You rarely refer to an incoming quarterback recruit as underrated but that may be the case with Collier, a 6'4", 208-pound prospect. Ohio State offered him in June but only thee other BCS squads extended a scholarship during his recruitment process (Boston College, Wake Forest and Cincinnati).

    He is rated the country's 17th-best dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports' composite rankings and didn't even crack the top 50 in Georgia. However, his senior statistics are impressive (2,300 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards and 44 total touchdowns, per 247Sports) and Meyer immediately identified promise in Collier when he attended Buckeyes camp last summer.

2. LSU

25 of 27

    Total Players23 (12 4-stars, four 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La.)

    The crown jewel of a loaded New Orleans recruiting class is rated the nation's No. 1 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. Several pundits have called him the closest thing we've seen to Adrian Peterson and plenty of programs identified him as a top priority years ago.

    Fournette finishes runs with ferocity and bursts through the hole with rare acceleration. He is also an exceptional pass-catcher out of the backfield, evidenced by his 745 receiving yards as a senior.

    There's an immediate opportunity for him to take on a heavy load of carries in Baton Rouge. His other options included Alabama, Miami, Michigan and Texas.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Les Miles continues to stockpile elite talent in his defensive secondary. Early enrollee Edward Paris will be joined by fellow 4-star safeties Devin Voorhies and Jamal Adams, who is ranked second nationally at the position.

    Clifton Garrett is a ferocious 5-star outside linebacker from Illinois. He'll provide support on the edge for 4-star defensive ends Davon Godchaux and Deondre Clark. Former Miami commit Travonte Valentine also heads to LSU.

    In-state quarterback Brandon Harris is on campus this semester. He'll be joined this summer by receiver Trey Quinn, who established a new national career receiving record (6,566 yards) in high school.

    The Tigers enjoyed a spectacular signing day, highlighted by the signing of 5-star New Orleans receiver Malachi Dupre. He should step into a featured role as a freshman.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star outside linebacker Donnie Alexander (New Orleans, La.)

    Fans are likely more familiar with Alexander's Edna Karr High School teammates, 5-star prospects Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis.  Although LSU whiffed on each of those top targets, the Tigers managed to land a linebacker who tallied 234 tackles in the past two seasons, per 247Sports.

    Alexander didn't receive any other documented SEC offers. It's a fact he's certain to remember against conference opponents.

1. Alabama

26 of 27

    Total Players: 26 (15 4-stars, six 5-stars)

     

    Head of the Class

    5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va.)

    If you threw the names of Alabama's top-tier 2014 recruits into a hat and picked one out, that player would lead the way in practically every recruiting class in America. The Crimson Tide boast a nation-best six 5-star prospects so there's no wrong way to go here, but Hand gets the nod because of his ability to impact games immediately.

    The 6'4", 265-pound pass rusher racked up 53 sacks in the past three seasons, earning another All-USA honor. Hand presents a plethora of options along Alabama's defensive front and Nick Saban won't shy away from using a freshman of his caliber to fill a role when the season opens.

    He is rated fifth nationally among all prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings. He chose Alabama over Michigan and Florida.

     

    Premier Playmakers

    Hand and South Carolina linebacker Christian Miller could make quarterbacks' lives miserable together for years to come. Miller totaled 188 tackles and 24 sacks as a senior, according to 247Sports. 

    The Tide's secondary is also stocked with talent. Texan Tony Brown and second-generation Alabama player Marlon Humphrey are rated second and third, respectively, among national cornerback recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings.

    The offense also receives a major infusion of talent, headlined by top-ranked tackle Cameron Robinson. Five-star athlete Bo Scarbrough has the makings of a scary receiving threat. Quarterback David Cornwell, a strong-armed, 6'5" passer from Oklahoma, will also enjoy the company of 4-star Louisiana receiver Cameron Sims.

    Just when it appeared Alabama may be done dominating the recruiting trail, Saban secured a commitment from Auburn native Rashaan Evans. The 5-star prospect is listed as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings.

     

    Under-the-Radar Recruit

    3-star tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith (Milledgeville, Ga.)

    Flournoy-Smith originally enrolled at Georgia in 2012 and played sparingly as a true freshman before his dismissal from the program. He attended Georgia Military Academy and rose to a No. 1 ranking among JUCO tight end prospects despite suffering a broken foot midway through the 2013 season.

    After experiencing several lows in the past year, Flournoy-Smith should arrive in Tuscaloosa determined to exceed expectations. He is an adequate blocker and gives Nick Saban another option in the red zone.

     

National Recruiting Heat Map

27 of 27

    Here's a glimpse at the national recruiting landscape and the regions producing top talent.

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