National Signing Day 2012 is drawing to a close, and all of the signings, decommitments and flips caused some major shakeups in the recruiting rankings. But after all was said and done, the top of the recruiting rankings are populated by the usual suspects.
The following chart shows all four rankings services (247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout), and a composite of the four. Fans of teams that didn't finish well will claim that recruiting rankings don't matter. History could not disagree more, however, as the rankings are incredibly predictive of success on the whole. Still, there are always exceptions, and one poor recruiting year does not doom a team to years of future failure.
It's also important to note that thanks to improvements in technology (better cameras, the advent of youtube and digital film), better quality film is being prouced, and more people are able to view it each year. That leads to better rankings, as does the increase in investment in the industry. There are now four major recruiting services, and countless minor players. The chance a talented player goes unseen in 2012 is exponentially less than it was just a few years ago. More, more, more: It all adds up to less. As in, less sleeper recruits, less chances for teams to score big with unknown players, and less of a chance for the little guy.
And for the third time in four years, the national champion of recruiting is Alabama, narrowly edging out the Texas Longhorns. Both have large classes full of blue-chip recruits, and both met their needs, but Alabama was just a bit better at the top, according to the four major services.
Florida fans should quickly stop worrying about UF's failure to close on National Signing Day when they realize that their Gators finished third overall. UF lost out on linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Avery Young, defensive end Leonard Williams and receiver Nelson Agholor. Players who commit on signing day aren't better than those who commit on any other day, but signing day is a way to build momentum and excitement for a program. The Gators did not do that today. Still, UF grabbed the top offensive tackle in the country in D.J. Humphries, of North Carolina, running back Matt Jones, of Tampa, and cornerback Brian Poole, from Bradenton (Fla.).
Urban Meyer and his new coaching staff had a great day in Columbus, as the Ohio State Buckeyes landed a top-five recruiting class. Meyer assembled a dominant class.
Florida State probably has the most impressive class on a per-recruit basis, as the 'Noles signed the No. 5 class despite inking only 19 players. FSU came away with the top defensive end in the country in Mario Edwards Jr., the top defensive tackle in Eddie Goldman, the two fastest recruits in Marvin Bracy and Ronald Darby, and the top dual-threat quarterback in Jameis Winston. Jimbo Fisher is probably wishing he had more scholarships right about now.
Despite a very quiet signing day, Brady Hoke and Michigan finished sixth overall thanks to the work done in the previous months. The Wolverines addressed needs along the offensive and defensive lines in a major way.
Stanford comes in seventh and boasts three amazing offensive line recruits in Joshua Garnett, Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat. That is perhaps the best trio of offensive line recruits assembled by any one team in a century or more. The Cardinal appear here to stay, despite the departure of Andrew Luck.
Al Golden did a fantastic job keeping some top local prospects home, like Tracy Howard. And the Hurricanes' head man also stocked the program with an astounding 33 new recruits, which should help Miami weather the coming NCAA storm without having to play walk-ons or two-way players.
USC once again took home an extremely talented class despite limited scholarships, including two top Florida prospects in Nelson Agholor and Leonard Williams.
As for disappointments? There were a few. Despite playing for the BCS National Title, LSU finished outside the top-10. And Notre Dame closed with no momentum, as the final months were not kind to the once red-hot Irish, who finished 19th.
And then there is Cal, which takes disappointment to a whole new level. The Golden Bears were once dark-horse candidates to finish with the top overall class. Now they find themselves outside the top 25, and behind four other Pac-12 teams.