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Signing Day: Alabama could lead way again

By Steve Megargee

AP Sports Writer

Alabama is attempting to hold off Ohio State and top the team recruiting rankings once again as prospects across the country finalize their college decisions in a Signing Day featuring less suspense than usual.

According to composite rankings of recruiting services compiled by 247Sports , Alabama is on pace to finish No. 1 in the team recruiting standings for a seventh consecutive year. Alabama also enters Wednesday with an opportunity to have one of the highest-rated classes since 2002, which is as far back as 247Sports’ data goes.

The top-ranked class during that stretch is Florida’s 2010 haul that included NFL first-round draft picks Dominique Easley, Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd.

“Realistically, the best-case scenario would bring (Alabama) just short, but we’re talking about decimals short,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports. “The top-rated class in the country this year will probably be the second-highest rated class of all time if things fall according to plan.”

Simmons said Ohio State still has an outside chance to move atop this year’s team standings “if Alabama doesn’t close the way they’d like.”

The national scope of their classes reflects how much Alabama and Ohio State have dominated recruiting.

Tua Tagovailoa of Honolulu, Hawaii, rated by the 247Sports Composite as the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback, already has enrolled at Alabama. Another Alabama early enrollee is running back Najee Harris, the No. 2 recruit in California.

Ohio State’s list of early enrollees includes three of the top six prospects in Texas: cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, outside linebacker Baron Browning and running back J.K. Dobbins.

The large number of recruits already on campus exemplifies the lack of drama heading into Signing Day. Of the top 24 prospects in the 247Sports Composite , the only uncommitted player is defensive tackle Marvin Wilson of Bellaire, Texas. Wilson is considering LSU, Ohio State, Florida State and Oklahoma.

Other uncommitted players in the top 50 include defensive tackles Aubrey Solomon and Jay Tufele, defensive ends LaBryan Ray and K’Lavon Chaisson, wide receivers Joseph Lewis and Jeff Thomas and offensive tackle Austin Jackson.

While history shows some committed prospects inevitably sign elsewhere, there aren’t as many undecided elite recruits as usual.

“There are less five-stars committing (on Signing Day) this year than in any year I’ve ever done this – and I think less Rivals100 kids,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals. “I think that’s an anomaly. I don’t think it’s a trend.”

These early decisions by top prospects come as an NCAA recruiting reform proposal including a December signing period awaits approval.

Here are some things to know on Signing Day:

GOOD YEAR FOR BLOCKERS: Five of the top 16 prospects in the 247Sports Composite are offensive tackles: Alex Leatherwood, Foster Sarell, Walker Little, Trey Smith and Isaiah Wilson. Leatherwood has enrolled at Alabama and Smith has enrolled at Tennessee. Sarell and Little are verbally committed to Stanford. Wilson has committed to Georgia. “You’re going to see a lot of these guys three to four years from now on draft boards,” Farrell said.

QUALITY RUNNING BACKS: Another strong position in this year’s class is running back. Two of the top three players in the 247Sports Composite are Florida State early enrollee Cam Akers and Alabama’s Harris. Simmons said this is the best group of running back prospects since the 2014 class that included Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook.

SCHOOL TO WATCH: Florida is seeking a late run to salvage what had been a disappointing recruiting season up to this point. Simmons noted that Florida was 30th in the team rankings just a few days ago. The Gators now are hovering around the top 20 and still have several spots available. “They really need to pull a couple of surprises to be up in the regular Florida range,” Farrell said.

USC’S FINISH: Another program to watch Wednesday is Southern California, which already has a top-10 class and could close with a rush. One of the top remaining undecided players is Lewis, a receiver from Los Angeles. “I think it’s critical with the losses that USC has had on the perimeter on offense, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, that they keep the best receiver on the West Coast at home,” said Tom Luginbill, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. USC also remains in the mix for a number of other prospects, including Jackson and Tufele.

HOW NEW COACHES FARE: New LSU coach Ed Orgeron is known for his recruiting skills, and the Tigers should finish in the top 10 and could end up in the top five. Farrell says the most noteworthy recruiting performance by a new coach has come from Baylor’s Matt Rhule, even though Baylor will finish well below LSU in the team rankings. “They had one commitment when he took the job,” Farrell said. Baylor now has commitments from about two dozen players.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee

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