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October 11, 2005

Horns hold top spot

This time last year, everybody was talking about the great start that the Virginia Cavaliers had gotten off to and they were sitting at No. 1 when the Rivals.com team rankings were unveiled. However, most knew that UVA would not remain at No. 1 because of the overall depth of its class.

This year, Texas jumped out of the gates early too with 24 commitments and its No. 1 in the team rankings that were released for the first time today for the class of 2006. However the big difference is that UT has a great shot at remaining there on February 1.

Some might think it has gotten old talking about the start that UT has gotten off to, but the job Mack Brown and his staff have done has been amazing. Five-star studs Sergio Kindle and Eddie Jones are the best players in this deep class, and if UT can hang onto talented running back Emmanuel Moody and land a quarterback that would be the crowning jewel.

The job that the Horns did in Texas was nothing short of masterful, but what makes this class the top in the nation right now is Brown's ability to cherry pick other states like South Carolina and Colorado for their top players. Lamarr Houston of Colorado Springs, Colo., has had an amazing senior season and could be a beast for the Horns.

Georgia's run toward the top of the Rivals.com team rankings has been done with local and national firepower. Last year the Dawgs were widely criticized by fans for not keeping some of the top players in the Peach State at home, but this year that won't be the case.

Sure, some of the top players are still going to go elsewhere in the SEC, but the Dawgs definitely had the pick of the litter in state in this recruiting cycle and the pickups have been impressive. Cornerback Asher Allen from Tucker, Ga., should be a star for UGA, and offensive lineman Justin Anderson and defensive end Brandon Wood are special players.

But what puts UGA at the No. 2 spot in the overall team rankings now is the job they've done outside its own backyard. Landing Matthew Stafford, the nation's top quarterback and No. 2 player in Texas, helped, but it's guys like linebacker Akeem Hebron, offensive lineman Kevin Perez and athlete Tony Wilson that give this class incredible depth.

One of Charlie Weis' biggest goals when he arrived in South Bend, Ind., was to go out and get the best talent for his team - no matter where it's located at. And from the looks of this Irish class so far he's more than surprised those objectives.

Not only have the Irish done a good job in the Midwest, they've taken their efforts nationwide and have pulled in players from 12 different states. Along the way, he's built up some immediate depth on offense with five-star running back James Aldridge and quarterbacks Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones key commitments early in the process.

Notre Dame is at No. 3 in the rankings, the best still might be to come. The Irish are expected to host more than 15 recruits this weekend on official visits for the USC game and some big-time talent will be there. If a few decide to jump on board, they could move even higher in the rankings.

It's not often that two losing programs crack the top 10 in the Rivals.com team rankings, but that's the case with Pittsburgh at No. 7 and Clemson at No. 8.

The Panthers did it early by going out and keeping a lot of the top Western Pennslyvania talent at home. Coach Dave Wannstedt's NFL background is attractive to recruits and despite the struggles on the field the recruits believe he is the right man to put Pittsburgh back on top of the Big East.

With Clemson, many of the recruits know that they are two over time losses away from having a winning record. A rugged early ACC schedule that saw losses to Boston College and Miami sting, but the loss to Wake Forest really bites and Clemson could have its work cut out for them if they want to remain on top of the ACC recruiting wars.

Joining UGA from the SEC in the top 10 are LSU at No. 4, Florida at No. 6 and Auburn at No. 10. Alabama is right outside the top 10 at No. 12, showing how good of a job the recruiters in the Southeast are and that the South still produces some of the nation's top talent year in and year out.

Les Miles and LSU have done it a lot like Nick Saban did - go out and dominate in-state early on. However, Tiger fans have to love the job LSU has done in Texas and in Mississippi. Defensive end Marcus Tillman from Mississippi should be a star, and offensive lineman Matt Allen from Texas could start for several years.

Florida's hot start was sparked by the early commitment of five-star offensive lineman Carl Johnson. The 6-foot-6, 348-pounder would have been one of the most heavily recruited kids in the nation, but he picked UF before the process could even get started.

Auburn has stockpiled its offensive talent for the future, especially at the running back spot. Benjamin Tate and Mario Fannin are guys that should be a perfect fit for Auburn's offense. The Crimson Tide are putting together what could become the nation's top offensive line class and they still have a good shot at Andre Smith, the nation's No. 2 player.

Some might be surprised to see that it's UCLA - not USC - holding down the top spot out West. The Bruins are ranked as the nation's No. 5 team and have raced off to a great start on the field and in the recruiting wars.

If Alabama doesn't have the nation's top offensive line class on signing day then it might be UCLA up there. The Bruins have assembled a group that should be able to continue to transform UCLA from a skilled team to a physical team that has very good skill players.

In a somewhat down year in Ohio, the Ohio State Buckeyes have still put together a class that already ranks as the tenth best in the nation. The Bucks class is highlighted by five-star stud running back Chris Wells. Linebacker Ross Homan is also in the mold of the current OSU star defenders. He's strong, fast and has a mean streak that it takes to be a star linebacker in college.


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