Predicting How Current Top-Ranked Recruiting Classes Will Finish the 2015 Cycle
National signing day 2015 is still nearly 11 months away, but this recruiting cycle is already entering a crucial stretch. By now, college coaching staffs have dedicated countless hours to watching junior season game tape, extending scholarship offers to prospects who graded well within the program's scouting system.
Most FBS programs are in the process of planning an on-campus junior day or have already hosted one. Spring practice presents an opportunity for recruits to spend time on the sidelines and gain an understanding of how each program prepares for the upcoming campaign.
Summer camps also loom large on the horizon. When players put pen to paper on signing day, this is a stage of their recruitment that carries significant weight.
Several squads are well on their way to securing impactful 2015 recruiting classes, while others are still searching for momentum. We break down the country's current top 10 classes in 247Sports' composite rankings and look at what lies ahead for each team.
*All recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Current National Ranking: No. 10 (eight players, one 5-star, two 4-stars)
Mitch Hyatt, a 5-star prospect, committed to Clemson last month on signing day, providing head coach Dabo Swinney with a foundation to build on next February. The Georgia standout is America's top-ranked offensive tackle and spurned offers from several national title contenders, including Auburn and Ohio State.
Fellow Peach State product Shadell Bell is the latest in a long line of talented receiver prospects to pick he Tigers. The 4-star pass target pledged in November.
Clemson would like to pull another prospect out of Orlando with a pledge from 4-star tight end Garrett Williams, a frequent campus visitor. If the team opts to sign multiple quarterbacks, Texan Chason Virgil is a strong possibility.
Clemson looks to find continued success in Florida, where the team is also pursuing coveted 5-star athlete George Campbell and elite offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen, who could bookend Hyatt on the line for years to come.
Projected Final Ranking: Top eight
Swinney is a proven closer on the recruiting trail. An exciting Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State supplied late momentum for the 2014 cycle, and another successful season would do wonders as well.
Current National Ranking: No. 9 (six players, four 4-stars)
The Razorbacks have really addressed issues in the trenches so far with this class. Defensive linemen Hjalte Froholdt and Jamario Bell, both 4-star prospect, are physically imposing and ready to battle with SEC offensive attacks.
Jashon Cornell, a 5-star defensive end, can make a case as the best pass-rusher in America. He's built a solid relationship with the Razorbacks coaching staff during his recruitment.
Projected Final Ranking: No. 20-25
Arkansas needs to show serious improvement against SEC opponents in order to carry recruiting momentum through the fall. Players like head coach Bret Bielema, but his success at Wisconsin won't help him if the team stumbles again during his second season in Fayetteville.
Current National Ranking: No. 8 (seven players, four 4-stars)
Head coach James Franklin is off to a strong start recruiting within Pennsylvania. He landed 4-star in-state running backs Andre Robinson and Saquon Barkley in February, when Penn State also picked up a pledge from offensive tackle Ryan Bates.
Athlete Kamonte Carter ranks among the top recruits in Maryland.
Projected Final Ranking: No. 10-15
Franklin has a promising squad primed to make strides this season in an expanded Big Ten Conference. Bill O'Brien laid the groundwork for a rebound from Paterno-era sanctions, and this class should produce impact players ready to help lead the team back into bowl competition.
Current National Ranking: No. 7 (eight players, three 4-stars)
The Volunteers have enjoyed success recruiting top receivers in recent years. Preston Williams, the country's sixth-rated player at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings, pledged to Tennessee early in his junior season.
The team convinced in-state offensive tackles Jack Jones and Zach Stewart to stay home. Georgia defensive end Andrew Butcher and Florida linebacker Cecil Cherry provide the Volunteers with a solid start on defense.
Tennessee is in the mix for Chuma Edoga, a Georgia product who might be America's most dominant offensive tackle. Defensive end Kyle Phillips, a 4-star prospect out of Nashville, Tn., is a key in-state priority.
Projected Final Ranking: Top 10
Volunteers coach Butch Jones turned heads by bringing in a highly rated class after his first season in Knoxville. Though the team finished under .500, his recruiting results showed a freshly charged effort to keep top players in Tennessee. Expect another impressive haul in 2015, setting the stage for a serious rise in SEC standings.
Current National Ranking: No. 6 (nine players, one 4-star)
Head coach Dan Mullen has his sights set on more Mississippi talent, including offensive guard Javon Patterson, athlete Malik Dear and linebacker Leo Lewis. The Bulldogs will attempt to reach into Alabama for commitments from running back Bradrick Shaw and linebacker Amonte Caban.
Projected Final Ranking: No. 25-30
Mississippi State is certainly making up ground in SEC recruiting competition but will once again finish near the bottom of the conference on signing day. Still, a top 25 recruiting class is within reach if Mullen can make inroads with recruits in neighboring states.
Current National Ranking: No. 5 (seven players, one 5-star, three 4-stars)
Derwin James, a 5-star safety commit, has been the catalyst for this class since he committed as a freshman. He's joined on defense by fellow Florida standouts Tyrek Cole and Calvin Brewton, who both excel in the defensive backfield.
The Seminoles secured a pair of premier Jacksonville prospects in dual-threat quarterback De'Andre Johnson and offensive guard Kendrick Norton. Head coach Jimbo Fisher reached north into Georgia for talented linebacker Brian Bell.
Florida State is in a solid situation with Georgia defensive tackle Trent Thompson, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Seminoles are also sitting pretty with 5-star New Jersey cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fisher can fill offensive slots by signing Orlando, Fla., standouts Jacques Patrick (running back) and Garrett Williams (tight end), who is the son of a former Florida State player. Miami receiver Da'Vante Phillips is a pivotal prospect near the top of the team's board, while Tallahassee pass target John Burt would also boost the aerial attack.
Projected Final Ranking: Top three
Florida State has an incredible amount of momentum and swagger in the recruiting spectrum these days. The reigning national champs will remain front and center in the public spotlight with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returning as the sport's most recognizable player. Fisher will capitalize on the constant exposure.
Current National Ranking: No. 4 (10 players, two 4-stars)
The Mountaineers continue to sustain success in the Sunshine State, highlighted by defensive backs Kendrell McFadden and Sheldrick Redwine. Wide receiver Jovon Durante out of Miami committed months before his junior season.
The team remains very much in the mix for Ohio running back Larry Scott. Other possible additions to the offensive backfield include North Carolina rusher Reggie Gallaspy and Florida quarterback Lamar Jackson.
West Virginia will attempt to pry more prospects away from the Miami area, including safety Khalid McGee.
Projected Final Ranking: No. 30-35
The Mountaineers' current placement in national recruiting rankings is based far more on quantity than quality. Expect several squads to surpass West Virginia this summer as the dominoes begin to fall. The program must improve on the field in its third season as a Big 12 Conference member in order to make significant strides on signing day.
Current National Ranking: No. 3 (nine players, two 5-stars, three 4-stars)
Projected Final Ranking: Top five
Les Miles always manages to assemble a strong recruiting class, and his success on signing day this year solidified that sentiment. The Tigers routinely play a ton of nationally televised games and collect recruits from talent-laden Louisiana, although the state's 2015 prospect depth doesn't compare to what we saw during the 2014 cycle.
Current National Ranking: No. 2 (eight players, one 5-star, six 4-stars)
Alabama quickly addressed its running back situation with a commitment from in-state prospect Desherrius Flowers last April. Coach Nick Saban received his commitment days after 5-star Georgia defensive end Mekhi Brown pledged to the program.
The Crimson Tide are firmly in the mix for 5-star defensive linemen CeCe Jefferson, Daron Payne and Byron Cowart. Expect Alabama to land one of those top targets and add a top cornerback like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Kendall Sheffield.
Projected Final Ranking: Top three
Should we expect anything less in Tuscaloosa? Saban has secured four consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes and will challenge for the top spot again in 2015. However, Alabama hits the recruiting trail without the title of defending champ for the first time since 2011.
Current National Ranking: No. 1 (nine players, one 5-star, seven 4-stars)
Quarterback Kyler Murray is a two-time Texas state champion and is the son of former Texas A&M star Kevin Murray. Linebacker Malik Jefferson and wide receiver Damarkus Lodge are 5-star in-state prospects strongly considering careers in College Station.
Projected Final Ranking: Top three
Texas A&M is clearly in control of one of America's top football states. As long as the Aggies continue to take care of business in Texas, there's no reason to anticipate a halt in momentum.