Order restored in recruiting universe after one-year blip

Nick Saban and Alabama didn’t have to wait until after Christmas to lord it over college football. A year after the Crimson Tide’s eight-year reign of recruiting dominance was snapped by Georgia, they’re headed back to their customary perch.

Alabama’s recruiting class was ranked No. 1 ahead of No. 2 Georgia as the early-signing period began Wednesday (it runs through Friday followed by the traditional signing day on Feb. 6).

The Tide landed Trey Sanders, the top-ranked running back in the country, and fifth-ranked offensive tackle Evan Neal, according to 247Sports.com, along with four-star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, younger brother of current star signal-caller Tua. Of their 26 recruits, 25 are four- or five-stars.

Turn away, SEC haters, the powerhouse conference has the top four classes in the country and nine of the top 20. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s first full class at Texas A&M is a blockbuster, with 12 four-star recruits.

The big surprise is Arkansas, coming off a two-win season, at No. 20. One of the keys to the class, Razorbacks coach Chad Morris told Yahoo Sports, is recruiting assistant SJ Tuohy, a familiar name for those who followed the rags-to-riches story of former NFL lineman Michael Oher. that was made into a Hollywood hit, “The Blind Side.” Tuohy became Oher’s younger brother after the lineman was adopted by a well-to-do family. Now, Tuohy is making a name for himself.

Urban Meyer’s impending retirement has led to the dawn of a new era in Big Ten recruiting, at least for now. For the first time since 2010, the Buckeyes don’t have the conference’s top class. In fact, they’re third, at No. 12 overall in the country, behind No. 7 Michigan and No. 10 Penn State.

That’s not to say new coach Ryan Day had a bad day Wednesday. He landed top-ranked strong-side defensive end Zach Harrison, beating out Michigan and Penn State, along with fellow five-star recruits at wide receiver (Garrett Wilson) and offensive lineman (Harry Miller). Day also saw four-star quarterback Dwan Mathis flip to Georgia, possibly the result of the potential transfer of Justin Fields, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country a year ago, from the Bulldogs to the Buckeyes.

The hot seat for USC coach Clay Helton hasn’t cooled. His underwhelming season at USC seems to have impacted recruiting. The Trojans, usually winners this time of year, have the 21st-ranked class, without a single five-star recruit. USC hasn’t finished with a class out of the top 10 since 2013. The Trojans were able to flip a Washington State commit, three-star defensive lineman Dejon Benton.

USC isn’t alone in its recruiting struggles. The Pac-12 as a whole, minus Oregon and its fifth-ranked class, had problems. The league signed just one five-star prospect, weak-wide defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the nation’s second-ranked recruit, who is headed to Oregon, and had just two classes ranked nationally in the top 15. The conference’s playoff drought — it won’t be represented in the final four for the third time in four years — can’t be helping matters.

Signing day always brings hijinks, prospects finding unique ways to announce commitments in the hope they’ll to go viral. Cooper Dawson, a three-star defensive end from South Carolina, took a different route in picking Syracuse over Clemson and Central Florida. Dawson had his close friend, Kingsley Feinman, who has paraplegia from cerebral palsy, announce his decision at a press conference after whispering his choice in his ear.

“I brought Kingsley out here today because he’s inspired me a lot through the torn ACL process,” Dawson said at the press conference. “He taught me that the only disability is a bad attitude. And if he can come around every day with this big ole smile on, I can do it just the same.”

Feinman’s mother told Syracuse.com the announcement was the highlight of her son’s life.

Hopefully this heartwarming gesture becomes a trend. It sure beats corny rap videos.

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