The underlying element of Alabama's 2008 class is versatility. Nick Saban brought in a diverse group of athletes that can do a lot of different things. Mark Barron could play early at safety, outside linebacker or even on offense. Similarly, five-star prospect Burton Scott could be a threat on offense in the slot or even line up as a cornerback or safety. The list goes on, with players like TE/WR/LB Devonta Bolton, ILB/DE Don'ta Hightower and RB/LB Chris Jordan. On top of that versatility, the Tide also pulled in some of the best players at their positions with the top wide receiver (Jones) and the No. 2 cornerback in the country (Alonzo Lawrence).
As with Alabama, the Irish needed an influx of young talent. Charlie Weis and his staff brought in players from all over the country, and it looks like the Irish have truly upgraded their team speed. The class included three five-star prospects on the offensive side of the ball in QB Dayne Crist, WR Michael Floyd and TE Kyle Rudolph.
Florida not only pulled in an immensely talented group, but the Gators had success in areas of need. Five-star Carl Moore can step in immediately for Andre Caldwell at receiver. Omar Hunter and Earl Okine will provide depth on the defensive line as freshmen, while Will Hill has the kind of ability to challenge for the starting safety job from Day One. Matt Patchan and William Green may become superstars with the right physical development.
The Sooners went into Texas and pulled out the top three players in the state in Washington, Stephen Good and Jermie Calhoun. They added two big pickups from within the state lines in Muskogee teammates Stacey McGee and Jameel Owens. However, perhaps the biggest boom or bust prospect came out of Atlanta, Ga. Joshua Jarboe has the potential and tools to be another great receiver at OU. However, he needs to play with more consistency. Meanwhile, Rivals100 safety Joseph Ibiloye can add immediate depth to the secondary. Landry Jones could step in as the quarterback of the future.
Georgia brings in a class with a lot of balance and some key cogs on each side of the ball. The offensive line has two big men of the future with A.J. Harmon and Cordy Glenn. Green should provide immediate help in the receiving corps, and Richard Samuel could be special at running back if not at linebacker. On defense, DeAngelo Tyson is the anchor on the inside. Marcus Dowtin has the potential to provide immediate depth at linebacker. The class even gets special teams help with return man Carlton Thomas and kicker Blair Walsh rounding out things.
USC's group is highlighted by two five-star offensive tackles. The Trojans will build their line of the future around Kalil and Tyron Smith. Throw in Armond Armstead at defensive tackle and Blake Ayles at tight end, and this class is another solid all-around effort for Pete Carroll and his staff. USC needed to add depth along the offensive and defensive lines, and it did a tremendous job. Wes Horton could be a star at defensive end, and athlete D.J. Shoemate could see the field at a number of positions.
The Ohio State class will be special with or without Terrelle Pryor. The group is led by "Block O" – the nickname given to the talented offensive line class highlighted by five-star tackles Adams and Michael Brewster. Skill-position players such as DeVier Posey should keep Ohio State in the national title hunt for years to come.
Give Rich Rodriguez credit. When he arrived in Ann Arbor, there were more questions than answers. Would he be able to salvage the commitments already in place? Would he be able to get the type of players needed to run his system? He answered those questions. While he might not have yet hit the home run he wanted to at quarterback, he still brought in plenty of guys who fit what he wants. The way he surprised Wednesday by pulling Ricky Barnum from Florida, Roy Roundtree from Purdue and Michael Shaw from Penn State will be talked about in Ann Arbor for years.
Rick Neuheisel's hire at UCLA was one of the biggest offseason headlines. His hiring helped UCLA keep in place almost all of the top players already committed. There were some defections, but for the most part the class – No. 1 in the nation at one point early in the process – stayed intact. USC has had its claws in most of the top talent in Los Angeles for years now, but it should be interesting now that Neuheisel is in L.A. again. He was able to keep top guys such as Hester, four-star safety Rahim Moore and four-star athlete Johnathan Franklin committed despite pushes from other schools.
Texas is picking up two elite defensive backs in Williams and the small but speedy D.J. Monroe. Add safety Nolan Brewster, and you've got the makings of Texas' secondary of the future. The Longhorns are also getting help in the receiving corps with Rivals100 member Dan Buckner and four-star prospect D.J. Grant. Both receivers have good size and will be dangerous red-zone threats. The defensive line should also get a big boost with the addition of late-riser Kheeston Randall and Rivals100 member Jarvis Humphrey. The icing on the cake may be the highlight-producing slot receiver DeSean Hales. He is very good with the ball in his hands, but must polish his route-running ability.
In Mike Sherman's first year recruiting at Texas A&M, he has managed to hold on to a good chunk of the commitments already in place from the previous staff. He also landed some big pieces of his own. One of those big pieces was wide receiver Jeff Fuller. With his size and body control, Fuller is one of the top players in the class and one of the top wide receivers in the nation. Two sleeper safeties will be heading to College Station in Hunter and Keon Furtch. They will be joined on the defensive side of the ball by three impact linemen: Rod Davis, Tony Jerod and Andrew Wolridge.
Before Wednesday afternoon, Dan Hawkins had a great class already in the fold. However, the addition of the top running back prospect in the nation really put this group over the top. The strength of the class is the phenomenal linebacking corps. It is led by four-star prospects Lynn Katoa and Jon Major, both of whom have all-conference potential. The Buffs also got two terrific offensive line prospects in Max Tuioti-Mariner and Bryce Givens.
In previous stops, Tim Brewster was considered one of the nation's best recruiters. Now that he has recruited an impressive class to Minnesota, he has enhanced his reputation. The Gophers were downright awful on the field last season, but that didn't stop them from reeling in a top-20 recruiting class. Minnesota needed help everywhere, and it met needs at almost every position – especially on defense.
The Ducks had a ton of success nationally this season. They recruited well in California, and they recruited well in other parts of the country, too. They went into Kansas to pull in Chris Harper and went into Texas to get standout running back LaMichael James. They even dipped into the junior college ranks to grab running back LaGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Blake Ferras. The Ducks also grabbed four-star quarterback Chris Harper, who immediately adds quality depth. Offensive lineman Nick Cody will be a vocal leader on and off the field.
The installation of Tony Franklin's offense played a major role in the composition of the 2008 class. Tommy Tuberville's staff has done a nice job finding the speed and athleticism to make that offense work. Philip Pierre-Louis and Harry Adams are burners with track speed that should immediately help Auburn with depth at wide receiver. The newcomers should also prove valuable on special teams. Reggie Hunt and Onterrio McCalebb - the running backs in the class - also fit the mold of versatile, all-purpose players that will thrive under Franklin.
The Sun Devils did a tremendous job on the field this season, then followed that up on the recruiting front. Dennis Erickson complemented his high school class with a talent-laden junior college class. The biggest gets, though, are in-state high school stars such as Gerell Robinson and Jarrell Barbour. Getting Ryan Bass from rival Arizona also had to feel good. The Devils knew they needed to add depth along the defensive line, and they scored high marks in that area.
After a year in which South Carolina pulled in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, Steve Spurrier had trouble maintaining that momentum. However, he still put together a top-25 group with some high-end talent. The Gamecocks went the prep school route to land defensive backs Antonio Allen and Akeem Auguste as well as running back Eric Baker. Those standouts will be joined by Charles Whitlock, who put together an impressive postseason performance in the Under Armour All-Star Game. Jarrett Burns, D.L. Moore and Devin Taylor could end up being sleepers in the long run and round out a solid, balanced class.
Ron Zook and Co. continued to take major strides on the field, and they did the same thing off the field by landing another top-flight class. The Illini did great in the Midwest, landing 15 players from the region. They were also able to branch out and recruit nationally, landing players such as defensive tackle Reggie Ellis and wide receiver Alfred Jenkins.
Houston Nutt's first class at Ole Miss is high on numbers, but his inability to hang on to some of former coach Ed Orgeron's commitments stung the group a little bit. Still, the Rebels will close with one of the top junior college prospects in the country in Emmanuel Stephens. They were also able to pick up one of the top prep school wide receivers - four-star wideout Andrew Harris. Davis and Baton Rouge (La.) Scotlandville's Brandon Bolden form a solid pair of running backs, and each brings a different skill set to the table.
Tyrone Willingham got it done on the recruiting front this season. Washington rivals Minnesota as the biggest surprise nationally this season, but it shouldn't be a true surprise because the Huskies have some recruiting advantages – major urban area, great facilities, good tradition, great fan base. The Huskies did most of their damage this season in the Northwest with the additions of stars such as Kavario Middleton, Everrette Thompson and Alameda Ta'amu. But stealing Chris Polk away from USC also had to be exciting for the Huskies' coaches.