Top recruiting classes of all time (cont.)
10. Florida State, 1995
Plenty of great players came through Tallahassee as the Seminoles racked up 14 consecutive top five finishes between 1987 and 2000, but this group provided the building blocks for the best team of the Bobby Bowden era.
The members of this class played for the national title three times. The Seminoles lost to Florida in the 1997 Sugar Bowl and Tennessee in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, but coming into the 1999 season, Florida State was loaded. Class of 1995 star Peter Warrick was the nation's most dangerous receiver, and defensive tackle Corey Simon led a stingy group of future NFL players. In all, nine members of the 1995 class started for the 1999 FSU team, which was the first in history to stay at No. 1 from the preseason poll until the end of the season.
The class also included junior college transfer Walter Jones, who redshirted in 1995 and started at offensive tackle in 1996 before leaving to become a first-rounder and nine-time Pro-Bowler. Also in the class was Dan Kendra, the quarterback who set school weightlifting records when he wasn't practicing amateur chemistry. Kendra wound up as the starting fullback on the 1999 team.
Simon didn't originally sign with Florida State. He signed with Georgia, but the Bulldogs released him from his scholarship after it was discovered that Georgia gymnast Leah Brown had visited Simon in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Fla., shortly before Signing Day. An NCAA investigation cleared Georgia, but Simon still wound up in Tallahassee.
9. Miami, 1999
Miami had signed two full classes since emerging from the shadow of NCAA sanctions, but this class launched the Hurricanes back into the nation's elite and helped lay the foundation for the 2001 BCS title team, which is on a Muggsy Bogues-short list of the best football squads in NCAA history.
Quarterback Ken Dorsey, receiver Andre Johnson, offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie and Vernon Carey, tailbacks Clinton Portis and Jarrett Payton and cornerback Phillip Buchanon punched their tickets to Coral Gables in 1999. Once there, they joined a group that included safety Ed Reed (class of 1997) and awaited the arrival of a 2000 class that would include tailback Willis McGahee, tight end Kellen Winslow and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
The group would have won two BCS titles if not for a controversial pass interference call late in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl that allowed Ohio State to pull off an upset.
8. Texas, 2002
At the turn of the century, Longhorns coach Mack Brown had the unfortunate nickname "Coach February." In other words, he could sign big-time recruits, but they didn't win championships on the field. Brown's fifth class at Texas changed all that.
The group included nine players (quarterback Vince Young, tailback Selvin Young, tight end David Thomas, offensive guard Kasey Studdard, offensive tackle Justin Blalock, cornerback Aaron Ross, linebacker Aaron Harris, defensive end Brian Robison, defensive tackle Rodrique Wright) who would go on to start for Texas as the Longhorns chased the BCS title in 2005.
Young split time with Chance Mock as a redshirt freshman and took over the starting job in 2004. That season, Young led Texas to an 11-1 record. As a junior, he destroyed opponents, throwing for 3,036 yards and rushing for 1,050. Still, he finished second to USC's Reggie Bush in the Heisman Trophy race.
Young got his revenge against Bush and the Trojans in the BCS title game with the most dominant individual performance in college football history. He threw for 267 yards and ran for 200 and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score on a fourth-down play late in the game.
7. USC, 2003
Shortly after he was hired in December 2000, Pete Carroll stitched together a recruiting class that kept previously committed quarterback Matt Leinart and added defensive tackle Shaun Cody in a Signing Day stunner. Carroll's next class added future stars such as safety Darnell Bing and offensive tackle Winston Justice.
Carroll truly hit his stride in 2003, when he brought in a group that included offensive tackle Sam Baker, quarterback John David Booty, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, center Ryan Kalil, receiver Steve Smith, linebacker Thomas Williams and tailback LenDale White. Carroll topped that list of future pros with San Diego tailback Reggie Bush, who would go on to win the 2005 Heisman Trophy.
Players from this class helped the Trojans win the AP national title in 2003 and the BCS title in 2004. They might have helped USC win the BCS title in 2005 if not for the members of the 2002 Texas class.
6. Florida, 2006
When Urban Meyer arrived to take questions about his second recruiting class as Florida's coach, he made a sheepish admission. '"I hate to say this, but I actually hit Rivals.com and saw we were ranked a little bit ago," Meyer said. "The competitive part of me wants to see where we end up."
The Gators wound up second to USC for the mythical recruiting national title that day, but four years later, Florida's class was clearly the best of 2006 and one of the best ever. The group went 48-7 and won two national titles.
The crown jewel was quarterback Tim Tebow, who in 2007 became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Tebow, receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and return specialist Brandon James were complementary players when the Gators won the 2006 national title, but they and classmates Carl Johnson, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, A.J. Jones and Dustin Doe led the way for the Gators' 2008 title. With Harvin helping the Minnesota Vikings reach the NFC title game in the 2009 season, the Gators went 13-1, losing only to eventual national champion Alabama.
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