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North Carolina's football recruiting class could be an exception to the rule

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Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

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I have been following the discussion on whether the Chicago Cubs can break the all-time record for wins in a single season in baseball, and it's gotten me thinking about some of the schools currently off to a hot start in college football recruiting.

Recruiting is a bit easier to predict than baseball. The current top 15 classes for 2017, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, are Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Miami, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Iowa, Northwestern, North Carolina, Florida State and Maryland.

I feel very confident that at least half of those 15 will stay there in the final rankings. Miami is probably a good bet to stick around the top of the country, too. But what are the chances that one of Kentucky, Mississippi State, Iowa, North Carolina, Northwestern or Maryland finishes there?

I'd say the chances are decent for one and very slim for more than one. And I'm not all that confident in picking the one.

Recruiting rankings can be a bit deceptive this early in the cycle, because teams hold wide-ranging numbers of commitments. The rankings do a far better job of telling the story when teams all have a similar number of pledges, as they typically do around National Signing Day in February. At that point, it becomes more about quality than quantity.

Teams that finish in the top 15 typically sign a minimum of 10 four- and five-star prospects. Seven of the teams in the current top 15 are not even halfway there yet. Kentucky, Mississippi State, Iowa, Northwestern, North Carolina and Maryland have not finished in the top 15 in the last five recruiting cycles. Already, Northwestern might be losing its best recruit to Ohio State.

While Maryland has some momentum at the moment, If I had to choose the outsider likeliest to stay atop the rankings, I'd pick North Carolina, the current No. 13. The Tar Heels had an excellent 2015 season on the field and made progress in recruiting, too. Larry Fedora has a good recruiting staff, and UNC looks poised for another successful season.

Recruiting is simply more static year-to-year than some fans want to believe, but progress can be made by turning wins on the field into wins on the recruiting trail.

With schools like LSU, Penn State, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee, USC, Florida, Auburn, UCLA and Stanford waiting to kick the door down, the final top 15 will look a lot different come February than it does now.

What do you think the final top 15 will look like come February?


Recruits from the class of 2016 are starting to report to campus, and it's a good sign that Miami is getting its star players in. This doesn't get discussed much, but actually getting the players on campus is an important part of recruiting.

Maize n Brew, our Michigan site, went to The Opening's regional camp in Chicago and came away impressed with a number of Michigan targets. Recruits also like Michigan's sponsorship deal with Jordan.

Chris Petersen is doing a good job with the Washington program, and I've been impressed with his ability to find underrated recruits and turn them into serviceable Pac-12 players. He had some experience doing this at Boise State, too.