Posted: Mon February 11, 2013 12:17PM; Updated: Mon February 11, 2013 12:14PM
Andy Staples

Re-ranking 2010 recruiting classes based on production

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Star offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (76) was part of a loaded 2010 recruiting class at Texas A&M.
All-America offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (76) was part of a loaded 2010 recruiting class at Texas A&M.
Thomas Campbell/US Presswire

As I watched Ole Miss coaches celebrate the signatures from members of a historic class on National Signing Day, I couldn't help but think of other War Rooms in other years.

In 2008, how heartily did Alabama coaches celebrate the signatures of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Barrett Jones? Did they know they had poured the foundation for three national titles? Did they have any inkling when Barrett Jones' National Letter of Intent rolled off the fax machines that he would win a ring at three different positions? Or did they lament the players who spurned them for other schools?

What about Tennessee in 2009? Lane Kiffin had flipped some sought-after players close to National Signing Day, and Volunteers coaches knew they had a great chance to land tailback Bryce Brown, the nation's No. 1 recruit. The future looked so bright in Knoxville. A departure (Kiffin) and a firing (Derek Dooley) later, Butch Jones spent the first month of 2013 scrambling to put together his first Tennessee class.

Those Ole Miss coaches looked so happy, but they don't know what the future holds for Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and the rest. Recruiting stars don't guarantee success, though they are a fair predictor. In reality, it will be up to those coaches to determine how this recruiting class is judged in the long term.

Today, as we have for each of the past four years, we'll re-rank three-year-old classes to see which staffs really hit and which ones really missed. As with real-time recruiting rankings, the criteria are somewhat murky. The best way I can describe them is that a class that produces impact players for a successful team will earn the highest rankings. Basically, these re-rankings honor the coaches who develop talent instead of the ones who simply collect it.

In past years, most of these choices were fairly cut-and-dried. We could quibble over placement, but most would choose the same set of teams. But 2010 included one extremely odd recruiting class. Some of you will agree with me, while some of you will have perfectly reasonable arguments against its inclusion on this list. Here's a hint: It went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in record time.

1. Texas A&M

Original Rivals rank: 17
Record since 2010: 27-12
BCS bowl appearances: 0
Big 12/SEC titles: 0
National titles: 0

2012 starters: OG Jarvis Harrison, TE Nehemia Hicks, OT Luke Joeckel, WR Malcome Kennedy, RB Ben Malena, OT Jake Matthews, DE Damontre Moore, OG Cedric Ogbuehi

Four-fifths of one of the nation's best offensive lines came from this class. Two potential top-five picks in the 2013 NFL draft (Joeckel and Moore) came from this class. Much of the support system that helped Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy came from this class. What does that mean, given the fact that the Aggies' record since 2010 is much worse than some of the other programs on this list? It means Mike Sherman and his staff recruited some talent, but they didn't coach it very well. The Aggies needed Kevin Sumlin to unlock the potential already on the roster. For those Aggies who suffered through the Sherman era, this should be even more infuriating than the second half of the 2011 Oklahoma State game.

2. South Carolina

Original Rivals rank: 24
Record since 2010: 31-9
BCS bowl appearances: 0
SEC titles: 0
National titles: 0

2012 starters: OG A.J. Cann, CB Victor Hampton, DT Byron Jerideau, RB Marcus Lattimore, OL Ronald Patrick, DT Kelcy Quarles, OL Corey Robinson, WR Ace Sanders, QB Connor Shaw, QB Dylan Thompson, S Brison Williams

Here's a trivia question: Can you name the only programs in the BCS AQ conferences to win at least 11 games in each of the past two seasons? Alabama, Oregon and Stanford are the easy answers. The fourth? The Mighty Gamecocks. Had you answered that correctly late last month, Uncle Steve Spurrier might have handed you an envelope containing an $100 bill. This class played a big role in those wins. Lattimore helped raise South Carolina to another level, while Shaw and Thompson have each proven themselves capable quarterbacks. Sanders has developed into a dangerous weapon in the slot and on punt returns. This past Wednesday, Spurrier fired a shot at recruiting rankings in general. "I'm not saying it's not important," Spurrier said, "but we'd rather make our noise out in Williams-Brice on gameday." This group has been awfully loud.

3. Alabama

Original Rivals rank: 5
Record since 2010: 35-5
BCS bowl appearances: 2
SEC titles: 1
National titles: 2

2012 starters: K Cade Foster, LB Adrian Hubbard, CB Dee Milliner, LB C.J. Mosley, WR DeAndrew White

Alabama has clearly been the most successful program in college football for the past five seasons, and that success probably has something to do with why the Crimson Tide don't top this list. When I re-ranked the 2009 classes, I had Alabama No. 1 because of a class that included quarterback AJ McCarron, tailbacks Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and guard Chance Warmack. Here's the problem when a team recruits that well. Sometimes classes have a difficult time breaking through. Still, this class produced a first-round cornerback (Milliner) and the guy who was the best linebacker on the field in the BCS title game (Mosley). It also included junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie, who started at cornerback for a national champion in 2011, and Deion Belue, who wound up going to junior college, re-signing with Alabama in 2012 and starting for the national champs. This class also included offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, who has overcome knee injuries and should compete for a starting job in 2013. But Kouandjio is also important for another reason. He helped Alabama land younger brother Cyrus, who started at left tackle in 2012 and who probably will be a first-rounder in the 2014 NFL draft should he choose to leave school early.

Rivals: 'Bama takes home top-ranked 2013 recruiting class

4. Auburn

Original Rivals rank: 4
Record since 2010: 25-14
BCS bowl appearances: 1
SEC titles: 1
National titles: 1

2012 starters: CB Chris Davis, LB Jake Holland, DE Corey Lemonier, CB Jonathon Mincy, K Cody Parkey, OG Chad Slade, DT Jeffery Whitaker

In the five years I've done this re-ranking exercise, the 2010 Auburn class is by far the most perplexing. Based on recent results, this group should be nowhere near the list. Yes, it produced seven 2012 starters, but those starters helped the Tigers go 0-8 in the SEC. But this class makes the list because it also contained a juco transfer named Cam Newton. In his one year at Auburn, Newton turned in one of the most dominant seasons in college football history, got investigated by the NCAA, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to a national title. Fellow 2010 signee Mike Dyer broke Bo Jackson's Auburn record for rushing yards by a freshman and did this in the BCS title game before washing out of the program following the 2011 season. So while the class as a whole didn't pan out, it contained two key ingredients to a national title. Since the goal is to win the national title, that counts for a lot. Seventeen of the 32 signees remain with the program. Some, such as Newton and Lemonier, left because they were so good. Others, such as Dyer, left for disciplinary reasons. Three members of this class -- Shaun Kitchens, Antonio Goodwin and Dakota Mosley -- were dismissed after they were arrested on armed robbery charges. Goodwin was sentenced to a 15-year prison term. We'll see how well new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who helped recruit some of these players as Auburn's offensive coordinator, develops the remainder of the 2010 class.

5. Notre Dame

Original Rivals rank: 14
Record since 2010: 28-11
BCS bowl appearances: 1
National titles: 0

2012 starters: CB Bennett Jackson, WR T.J. Jones, OL Christian Lombard, DT Louis Nix, QB Tommy Rees, LB Prince Shembo, LB Danny Spond

The Fighting Irish team that went 12-0 in the 2012 regular season had its talent spread out over several recruiting classes, and this group made a significant contribution in spite of the fact that it came in the middle of a coaching change. After watching the BCS title game, it became clear that Nix is Notre Dame's best player. His recruitment was fascinating in that he committed when the Irish didn't have a coach. Charlie Weis had been fired. Brian Kelly hadn't been hired. Nix committed anyway. Kelly's finest recruiting job may have been getting Nix to stay for his senior season.

6. Ohio State

Original Rivals rank: 25
Record since 2010: 30-8
BCS bowl appearances: 1 (It has been vacated, but I was there and can verify it happened.)
Big Ten titles: 0
National titles: 0

2012 starters: K Drew Basil, WR Corey "Philly" Brown, CB Christian Bryant, DT Johnathan Hankins, RB Carlos Hyde, OL Andrew Norwell, CB Bradley Roby

Jim Tressel's penultimate recruiting class produced some key players on a team that Urban Meyer would lead to a 12-0 record in 2012. Hankins, who will skip his senior year, is a surefire first-round draft pick. Brown led the Buckeyes in receiving in 2012. Hyde rushed for 970 yards last season. Roby, who could have left for the NFL but elected to return, could be the Big Ten's best cornerback in 2013. This class gets extra degree-of-difficulty points because it contained only 19 signees.

MANDEL: Urban Meyer, Nick Saban rule Signing Day once again

7. LSU

Original Rivals rank: 6
Record since 2010: 34-6
BCS bowl appearances: 1
SEC titles: 1
National titles: 0

2012 starters: RB Alfred Blue, WR Kadron Boone, FB J.C. Copeland, S Eric Reid, CB Tharold Simon, RB Spencer Ware, P Brad Wing

This class probably would have ranked higher had cornerback Tyrann Mathieu not washed out following his sophomore season. The 2009 LSU crop ranked No. 2 in last year's re-rank because of its spectacular defensive line haul. This one is lighter on beef -- save Copeland, for whom one thigh is the the size of the average cornerback -- and heavy on speed. It's also heavy on early NFL departures. Reid, Simon, Ware and Wing are already gone.

8. Florida State

Original Rivals rank: 10
Record since 2010: 31-10
BCS bowl appearances: 1
ACC titles: 1
National titles: 0

2012 starters: S Terrence Brooks, OT Cameron Erving, LB Christian Jones, S Lamarcus Joyner, DT Anthony McCloud, LB Telvin Smith, DE Bjoern Werner

This group provided a huge boost to the Seminoles' defense with two quality linebackers (Jones and Smith), two playmaking safeties (Brooks and Joyner) and an elite pass rusher (Werner). Heck, even Erving came to Tallahassee as a defensive player. Werner is headed to the NFL, but the return of Jones and Joyner for their senior seasons should help ease new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt into the job.

9. Oklahoma

Original Rivals rank: 7
Record since 2010: 32-8
BCS bowl appearances: 1
Big 12 titles: 1
National titles: 0

2012 Starters: RB Brennan Clay, CB Aaron Colvin, OG Bronson Irwin, S Tony Jefferson, FB Trey Millard, DE Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson, OG Adam Shead, WR Kenny Stills, OT Tyrus Thompson

This group seems to have underachieved only because the bar has been set so absurdly high in the Bob Stoops era. These players only contributed a little as freshmen to a Big 12 title, and the fact that this group was last seen getting spanked by Johnny Football and Texas A&M tarnishes the memory of another double-digit win season. But just look at the numbers. Most programs would cherish a three-year run like the Sooners had. This group also is 3-0 against Texas, winning those games by a combined score of 146-58. Though it has a distance to cover to catch some of the SEC powers, Oklahoma remains the safe bet against the field in the Big 12. Though Jefferson and Stills are headed to the NFL early, this class might also add another high-profile starter in 2013. After racking up 24 rushing touchdowns as a goal-line replacement, Blake "The Belldozer" Bell is one of three quarterbacks competing to replace Landry Jones.

10. Michigan State

Original Rivals rank: 30
Record since 2010: 29-11
BCS bowl appearances: 0
Big Ten titles: 0
National championships: 0

2012 starters: RB Le'Veon Bell, LB Max Bullough, CB Darqueze Dennard, S Kurtis Drummond, DE Will Gholston, C Travis Jackson, S Isaiah Lewis, WR Tony Lippett, WR Keith Mumphrey, DE Marcus Rush, DT Anthony Rashad White

This class produced the heart of a defense that helped the Spartans win 11 games in 2011. In 2012, Michigan State lost five games by four points or less, and since only one of the opponents in those losses cracked 25 points, it's tough to blame the defense. If Michigan State rebounds in 2013 to a third double-digit win season in four years, this class will play a major role.

Just missed: Florida, Oregon, Clemson, Texas, Stanford original 2010 recruiting class rankings
RankTeamWhat went rightWhat went wrong
1USCWR Robert Woods, CB Nickell Robey, LB Hayes PullardToo many busts, not enough wins
2FloridaS Matt Elam, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Ronald Powell Two tough seasons, but members of this class helped Florida win 11 games in 2012. If they keep progressing, they might make this ranking correct
3TexasLB Jordan Hicks, WR Mike Davis, CB Carrington ByndumGets consistently smoked by Oklahoma
4AuburnQB Cam Newton led the Tigers to a national titlePretty much everything else
5AlabamaLB C.J. Mosley, CB Dee Milliner and company have two ringsThere's nothing wrong with two rings
6LSUCB Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman finalist in 2011CB Tyrann Mathieu got thrown off the team in 2012
7OklahomaDeep group of contributors wins consistentlyDeep group of contributors doesn't win as consistently as spoiled Sooners fans would like
8UCLADE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Eric KendricksJim Mora didn't start coaching this group until 2012
9TennesseeQB Tyler Bray, OT Ja'wuan JamesThe defense never developed
10Florida StateA great group of future defensive starsThe usual random ACC road losses
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