-- The first edition of Mark Schlabach's? 2017 Way-Too-Early Top 25 is out.
How are those teams doing on the recruiting trail? Here's our look:
2017 class ranking: 1
Who they have: The Crimson Tide have the top-ranked recruiting class in the country -- and for good reason. With commitments from five-star prospects including running back Najee Harris, linebacker Dylan Moses and offensive tackle? Alex Leatherwood, plus the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country, Tua Tagovailoa, this is one of the best Alabama recruiting classes Nick Saban has put together. Alabama also has commitments from the third-ranked wide receiver in the country ( Jerry Jeudy) and the No. 1-ranked defensive end in the ESPN JC 50, Isaiah Buggs. In total, Alabama has 26 verbal commitments, including 18 in the ESPN 300.
Who they want: Defensive tackle LaBryan Ray, the 36th-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300, is arguably Alabama's top remaining target. Uncommitted ESPN 300 athlete Chris Henderson and four-star wide receiver Henry Ruggs are other prospects Alabama has focused on. With 26 commitments, the Crimson Tide will be very selective about whom they take from here on out.
Storyline to watch: Can Alabama hold off Georgia for the No. 1 recruiting class? The Bulldogs are nipping at Alabama's heels and, with a few more additions, could take over the No. 1 spot. If, however, Alabama is able to land Ray, an Alabama native, it will be difficult for Georgia to take that No. 1 spot.
2017 class ranking: 7
Who they have: This class is anchored by a talented group of running backs led by the second-, fifth- and 15th-ranked running backs in the country, Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White. FSU beat several schools, including Ole Miss, Tennessee and Alabama, for Akers. The Seminoles continue to land top defensive ends, and IMG Academy prospect Joshua Kaindoh, the second-ranked defensive end in the country, will fill that role this year. FSU also has a commitment from an FSU legacy, Stanford Samuels III, who is the third-ranked cornerback in the country. In all, FSU has 17 verbal commits, including 10 ranked in the ESPN 300.
Who they want: The No. 1 target for FSU right now would be five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who included the Seminoles in his top group of schools during Under Armour All-America Game week. FSU is also in contention for big-time safety Jeffrey Okudah. Wilson has already visited FSU along with Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State. ESPN 300 linebacker Levi Jones is another prospect who has heavy interest in the Seminoles.
Storyline to watch: With the seventh-ranked class in the country, FSU already has a very strong recruiting class, but head coach Jimbo Fisher has a history of big recruiting finishes, and this year will likely be no different. The recruitment of Wilson and Okudah will certainly be the biggest storylines to watch for the Seminoles. Wilson and Okudah are both Texas natives, and FSU has done well in the Lone Star state, including landing Dontavious Jackson in last year's class.
2017 class ranking: 15
Who they have: The Trojans scored a big recruiting win by flipping ESPN 300 quarterback Jack Sears from Duke, but the most important prospect in this class is running back Stephen Carr, the nation's No. 32 overall prospect. Both lines were in need of additions, and offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, guard Brett Neilon and defensive end Hunter Echols -- all ESPN 300 prospects -- lead the way there. ESPN 300 athlete Juwan Burgess can help at either receiver or defensive back, and ESPN 300 safety Bubba Bolden was an important piece to bring back into the fold after his earlier decommitment. Defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein, defensive tackle Terrance Lang and offensive tackle Andrew Vorhees are three important additions along the lines.
Who they want: The top targets on the Trojans' wish list are right down the street, in the nation's No. 1 wide receiver, Joseph Lewis, and No. 7 athlete, Greg Johnson, who attend Hawkins High in Los Angeles. USC will continue to look for pieces in the defensive backfield, with Florida commit Elijah Blades, former Oregon commit Deommodore Lenoir and Utah commit Jaylon Johnson all potential targets. Tackle Austin Jackson is likely the top target along the offensive line, and USC will continue to swing for Ohio State offensive guard commit Wyatt Davis and No. 1 defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, though defensive linemen such as Aubrey Solomon, Brandon Pili, Aliki Vimahi and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa are on the board as well.
Storyline to watch: Can USC and head coach Clay Helton close this class as well as they did last year's? USC went into last signing day with seven potential spots open and closed by landing ESPN 300 prospects E.J. Price, Jamel Cook, Keyshawn Young and Jack Jones to go with defensive end Connor Murphy and juco defensive tackle Josh Fatu. USC also flipped running back Vavae Malepeai from Oregon. The Trojans have some huge names left on the board and will head into signing day with several spots to fill and the hope that Helton can author another impressive group of late additions.
4. Penn State
2017 class ranking: 14
Who they have: The Nittany Lions have climbed up to the No. 14 recruiting class with six ESPN 300 commitments. The class is led by quarterback Sean Clifford, who could end up being an important piece for the future. Clifford fits in well with the offense and has the accuracy and talent to be a big contributor. Behind Clifford are some equally important commitments, including ESPN 300 offensive linemen C.J. Thorpe and Michael Miranda?and?ESPN 300 defensive back Lamont Wade. The staff added some athleticism with this class; Wade is one of the best cornerbacks in the country, and receiver K.J. Hamler is known for his elusiveness and quickness on offense.
Who they want: The staff has a good portion of the class committed, but there are still a few prospects they're after. Defensive back Paris Ford has said he is solidly committed to Pitt, but that hasn't stopped the Nittany Lions from coming after him. Wade has said that he has personally tried to flip the Pitt commit, but it looks as though it might be difficult to do. Defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields has Penn State in his top three, and defensive lineman Elijah Conliffe is still listing the Nittany Lions as an option as well.
Storyline to watch: Penn State has surged in momentum on the field and the recruiting trail over the past nine weeks. Despite a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, getting to that game and bringing it down to the wire against one of the top national teams will only help push that positivity forward. The staff already has seven commitments in the 2018 class, and all are ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The question will be whether Penn State can continue the improvement shown on the field this season and replicate it next season. If the staff can continue the momentum into the summer and next season, this could be one of the best recruiting classes Penn State has seen.
2017 class ranking: 12
Who they have: Clemson is knocking on the door of a third straight top-10 class, but small class numbers will likely keep it right outside. Quarterback was a key need, and ESPN 300s Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice more than filled the gap. Johnson is set to enroll this month and compete for the starting job this spring and in August. Receiver was another position of need in 2017, and Under Armour All-America Game standouts Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are both expected to be in the rotation next season, with Rodgers already physically ready to be a difference-maker. Continuing to build offensive line depth is also of upmost importance, and ESPN 300 guard Matt Bockhorst, four-star guard/center Blake Vinson and tackle Noah Dehond are three more steps in the right direction. ESPN 300 cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and LeAnthony Williams Jr. are two more needs filled, as is the quickly developing Justin Foster, who projects to defensive end for the Tigers.
Who they want: The Tigers are looking to add a running back to the class, with ESPN 300 Cordarrian Richardson having decommitted and Clemson having moved on. Speedster Darrian Felix appears to be the most likely prospect on the board, but Clemson is trying to make a run at Under Armour Game MVP and Florida State commit Khalan Laborn, with Cam Akers having recently committed to the Seminoles.
Storyline to watch: Under Armour All-America Game receiver James Robinson was once a silent commit to Clemson late last spring, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver then slowed his recruitment, and Clemson snagged Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins. If Clemson were to decide to take a third receiver, there is a built-in relationship with the Lakeland High star, who has Florida and Alabama official visits on the docket this month and Oklahoma in the mix.
6. Ohio State
2017 class ranking: 3
Who they have: Ohio State is putting together one of the best recruiting classes in the country, currently ranked No. 3 overall. There are 16 ESPN 300 commitments in the class and 18 total commitments. Of the 18 prospects committed, 11 are ranked in the top 10 of their respective position groups. The top-ranked commitment is five-star safety Jeffrey Okudah, the No. 1 ranked safety in this class. Okudah is joined by Shaun Wade, the No. 1-ranked cornerback, offensive lineman Josh Myers, the No. 1-ranked guard, and Baron Browning, the No. 2-ranked outside linebacker, as some of the top commits for the Buckeyes. The class is well-balanced with prospects across the board, including receivers Trevon Grimes and Tyjon Lindsey?and ESPN 300 quarterback Tate Martell. The defensive line is being restocked as well, with defensive end Chase Young and tackles Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage.
Who they want: The staff has pretty much already landed the players it wants, so anyone outside the prospects committed is icing on the cake. However, ESPN 300 defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, the No. 7-ranked prospect overall, has the Buckeyes in his top five. Wilson is likely leaning elsewhere, but the staff has done an excellent job of getting into the top five and in the conversation. Ohio State is still in it for another top defensive tackle prospect as well, with Jay Tufele, who is also considering Michigan and Utah. On offense, receiver Jaylen Harris and offensive lineman Thayer Munford are on the radar and could end up in this class.
Storyline to watch: The Buckeyes saw quite a few early entrants in the NFL draft after the 2015 season and reloaded with young talent to make it back to the playoff in 2016. It looks like that trend could continue, with a lot of big-name contributors heading to the draft again. This 2017 recruiting class doesn't need to be filled from top to bottom with immediate-impact prospects, but having a good amount of early contributors would help keep Ohio State in the playoff picture again in 2017. There are some candidates from this class to play right away, but the storyline to watch is which players step up and lead the way. Can Ohio State continue to plug young players in to stay atop the rankings?
2017 class ranking: 30
Who they have: The Cowboys have the second-best class in the Big 12, but there is certainly some distance between OSU's and OU's classes. The Sooners are in the top 10, while OSU is at No. 30 in the class rankings. That said, there's a lot to like about what Mike Gundy has assembled heading into the final stretch of the 2017 recruiting cycle. The Cowboys have 21 commitments, and their class is headlined by dynamic 11th-ranked receiver Tylan Wallace out of Fort Worth South Hills. Wallace showed at the Under Armour Game that he is one of the nation's elite pass-catchers and could be an immediate-impact player for the Cowboys. OSU also went off the beaten path to land No. 31 running back Chuba Hubbard, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound, four-star prospect out of Alberta, Canada. OSU continues to recruit the Lone Star State really well, with 10 commits from Texas recruits.
Who they want: Oklahoma State has struggled the past few months in recruiting on the offensive line, which makes that a priority down the stretch. The Cowboys are also going to look to add beef along the defensive line, especially at tackle, which makes junior college target Fua Leilua of Snow JC a guy they really need to land.
Storyline to watch: Oklahoma State lost two offensive line commits recently, and if the Cowboys fail to reload at the position, then the class will not be viewed entirely as a success. Yes, there's a lot of talent heading to Stillwater, and juco offensive tackle Arlington Hambright helps, but OSU needs to add more bodies along the offensive line.
2017 class ranking: 17
Who they have: The Huskies hold commitments from six ESPN 300 prospects at six different positions, led by running back Salvon Ahmed, who could play cornerback at Washington. Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu and offensive tackle Henry Bainivalu are the big gets along the lines, while cornerback Elijah Molden was a huge recruiting win over Oregon, and the duo of wide receiver Terrell Bynum and tight end Hunter Bryant will boost the passing game. Washington has its quarterback in Jake Haener and several impressive additions to the back seven in linebacker Ariel Ngata, cornerback Keith Taylor and safety Brandon McKinney.
Who they want: Washington hopes to continue to add potential instant-impact prospects in the defensive backfield, with a pair of ESPN 300 safeties toward the top of the list in Isaiah Pola-Mao and Chaz Ah You. Former Nevada commit Cole Norgaard is a target at offensive tackle after Washington missed out on Foster Sarell. A few targets along the defensive line include Arizona commit Jalen Harris, two-way lineman Brandon Pili and defensive end Jordan Lolohea.
Storyline to watch: Are there any big names left for the Huskies? Washington has already doubled the number of ESPN 300 commitments it signed in the 2016 class, as the Huskies have greatly benefited from a successful season on the field. Washington had a quiet signing day last year -- which was just fine with head coach Chris Petersen -- as the Huskies didn't add any new commitments. But with several players leaving early for the NFL, Washington will have early playing time to sell at a number of positions, and it will be interesting to see if the Huskies can get into the ear of any elite prospects in hopes of reeling them in or flipping them from other schools between now and signing day.
2017 class ranking: 40
Who they have: The Badgers are plugging away on the recruiting trail and finding prospects that fit their culture and program. That doesn't always equate to a flashy recruiting class, but as long as it turns into wins on the field, Badgers fans won't complain. This class does have some big names at the top, including two ESPN 300 prospects in offensive linemen Tyler Beach and Kayden Lyles. The staff was able to land junior college defensive lineman Andrew Van Ginkel, an ESPN JC 50 prospect. The other four-star commitment for the staff comes from tight end Jake Ferguson, out of Madison, Wisconsin. With 15 total commitments, the Wisconsin staff has done a nice job of filling out the roster and landing some talented prospects.
Who they want: The Badgers have a well-rounded class already, but there are still a few targets on the list. The biggest names remaining are likely receiver Danny Davis, an Ohio prospect.
Storyline to watch: The Badgers made it to the Big Ten championship game and put together an outstanding season capped off with a Goodyear Cotton Bowl win against Western Michigan. The staff has a method to its recruiting strategy to look for prospects that fit Wisconsin's system and culture. The question for Wisconsin is if the staff can catapult the positive momentum from this past season into the 2018 class and land some prospects who fit with what the staff wants but can also push the team to the next level on the field.
2017 class ranking: 6
Who they have: The Sooners have the nation's sixth-ranked recruiting class, with 10 of 24 commitments ranked in the ESPN 300. With the Sooners needing to reload at running back, it's a good sign that OU's top pledge is RecruitingNation's ninth-ranked running back, Trey Sermon, out of Georgia. Sermon picked Oklahoma last April and hasn't looked back. Another key running back addition is No. 2 junior college running back Marcelias Sutton out of Lackawanna College. OU has bolstered its defensive back corps with commitments from ESPN 300 prospects such as cornerback Justin Broiles, cornerback Tre Brown and safety Robert Barnes. Quarterback Chris Robison also had a successful high school career and appears to be a solid fit for the Sooners' offense.
Who they want: At the top of the list has to be five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson out of Houston Episcopal. Wilson has already visited Norman and recently included the Sooners in his final five. Landing him would be one of Stoops' biggest recruiting victories in his tenure.
Storyline to watch: With 24 pledges, spots are at a premium in the final few weeks of the 2017 recruiting cycle, so don't be surprised if OU pivots most of its attention to the 2018 class. OU is expected to host several January and February junior day events that will attract several nationally known recruits and a lot of talent from the Midlands Region. It's also about this time that OU traditionally rounds out its class with a few under-the-radar prospects who were either lightly recruited or committed to other programs.
2017 class ranking: 9
Who they have: Regardless of whomever else Auburn signed, the Tigers desperately needed a quarterback. Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee went out and got former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham, the top-rated player in the ESPN JC 50. Stidham is a major upgrade at the position, and the five-star prospect will have a chance to start from Day 1. In addition to Stidham, Auburn has commitments from sixth-ranked offensive tackle? Calvin Ashley, eighth-rated athlete Malcolm Askew and No. 1-ranked junior college running back? Octavius Matthews in its ninth-ranked class.
Who they want: One of the top remaining targets for Auburn is Devon Hunter, the 10th-ranked safety in the country. Hunter also likes Virginia Tech and Florida, but Auburn has made a serious push in recent weeks. Another big target for the Tigers is ESPN 300 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon. The former Michigan commit likes Auburn, along with Alabama, Georgia and Florida. One more prospect to watch is wide receiver Henry Ruggs, an Alabama native who also likes Alabama, Florida and Florida State.
Storyline to watch: There is no question that landing Stidham was the biggest news for Auburn in this recruiting cycle. Now the attention turns to Solomon, especially because Auburn is losing Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson along the defensive line. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, the four-star prospect has the size and athletic ability to see the field early at whichever school he chooses.
2017 class ranking: 4
Who they have: Michigan has done an excellent job with the 2017 class, filling needs and landing top-level talent. The class is led by three big offensive commitments in ESPN 300 receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey and center prospect Cesar Ruiz. All three should be big contributors in the future and could be a big part of moving Michigan forward offensively in the years to come. The defense is not neglected in this class, either, with commitments from ESPN 300 defensive linemen Luiji Vilain, Deron Irving-Bey and Corey Malone-Hatcher, as well as ESPN 300 linebackers Jordan Anthony, Drew Singleton and Joshua Ross. With 17 ESPN 300 commitments in the class overall, this is on pace to be one of the best recruiting classes at Michigan to date.
Who they want: The staff is still trying to reel in ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jay Tufele and linebacker Willie Gay. ESPN 300 receiver Nico Collins is planning to take his time and make a late decision, but Michigan is still hoping he ends up in its class. There are a few names that could end up in this class, depending on what happens with other targets and the total number of commitments. Offensive linemen Mekhi Becton and Toryque Bateman could fall in that category. As we have seen in the past, Harbaugh and his staff have gone after some surprise targets who don't pop up on the radar until the last minute, and that is likely to be the case again with this class.
Storyline to watch: Michigan was close to making it to the playoff, but the team loses a significant amount of talent after this season. The Wolverines will have only five seniors returning who were starters this past season, which means some big holes will need to be filled. The question is whether Michigan has built up enough depth with the 2016 and 2017 classes to get some immediate-impact players to help fill those gaps. A few freshmen showed flashes this past season, with running back Chris Evans, defensive lineman Rashan Gary, receiver Eddie McDoom and offensive lineman Ben Bredeson, but the staff will need more help from its young players to make it to the playoff in 2017.
2017 class ranking: 2
Who they have: New Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has done a tremendous job in his first full year on the job. Georgia has commitments from four five-star prospects, including offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, defensive end Robert Beal, athlete DeAngelo Gibbs and defensive back Richard LeCounte III. Georgia also has a commitment from Jake Fromm, the sixth-ranked pocket passer in the country, and D'Andre Swift, the sixth-ranked running back in the country. In total, Georgia has 23 verbal commitments, including 18 ranked in the ESPN 300.
Who they want: In-state ESPN 300 defensive linemen Aubrey Solomon and Markaviest Bryant are arguably Georgia's top remaining targets, along with South Carolina ESPN 300 defensive back commit Jamyest Williams. Georgia appeared to be on the outside looking in for Solomon, but the Bulldogs have turned up the heat on the talented defensive tackle. Four-star wide receiver Nico Collins is another top prospect considering the Bulldogs.
Storyline to watch: Can Smart overtake his former employer, Alabama, with the top-ranked recruiting class in the country? It won't be easy, as Alabama is still in the mix for a few top prospects, but Georgia has done a tremendous job in this recruiting cycle and still has an opportunity to finish strong.
2017 class ranking: NR
Who they have: This is going to be a small class for Stanford, but there are several elite prospects already included, and the Cardinal are loading up on the offensive side of the ball. Of the nine Stanford commitments, eight are ticketed for offense, including a pair of incredibly talented tackles in Foster Sarell and Walker Little. Stanford has commitments from No. 1 fullback Sione Heimuli-Lund, No. 2 tight end Colby Parkinson and No. 4 pocket passer Davis Mills. Wide receiver Osiris St. Brown rounds out Stanford's six ESPN 300 commitments.
Who they want: A pair of ESPN 300 defensive tackles are still on the board, in Ryan Johnson and Dalyn Wade-Perry, and so is linebacker Leonard Warner. Running back Connor Wedington had been a strong commit to Washington, but he opened up his commitment upon finding out he had been accepted to Stanford. After picking up a commitment from Sarell, the Cardinal could be on track to add another outstanding talent from Washington in Wedington.
Storyline to watch: Is this Stanford's best class ever? Although it won't have the numbers of other recent groups, with Sarell, Little, Mills and others on board already, there's a chance this group could contain more pure talent than the 2012 class that included six ESPN 150 prospects, including five-star offensive tackle Andrus Peat. The most ESPN 300 prospects signed by Stanford came in the 2014 class, with seven, and the Cardinal are already knocking on the door, with six and time to add more.
2017 class ranking: 5
Who they have: The Tigers' class is led by two ESPN 300 quarterbacks,? Lowell Narcisse, a dual-threat prospect, and Myles Brennan, who is more of a traditional pocket passer. LSU also has commitments from ESPN 300 linemen Tyler Shelvin and Austin Deculus; both were Under Armour All-Americans. LSU continues its strong run of elite defensive backs with commitments from Kary Vincent and Grant Delpit, both ESPN 300 prospects.
Who they want: ESPN 300 defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson was a terror for quarterbacks at the Under Armour All-America Game, as he totaled three sacks in the game. He has LSU and Texas in his top two. Another top target, five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, is set to visit LSU in January. The third-ranked defensive tackle in the country, Phidarian Mathis, appears to be torn between LSU and Alabama.
Storyline to watch: How will Ed Orgeron's taking over as the head coach of LSU affect the program's recruiting finish? The Tigers have already put together a solid class, but landing a few more elite prospects, such as Wilson, Chaisson or Mathis, could certainly give the Tigers some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason.
2017 class ranking: 13
Who they have:?With a strong January, Miami has a shot at a top-10 class in Mark Richt's first full recruiting cycle. The 13th-ranked class currently features some big wins out of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties at positions of need, with Under Armour All-America Game offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson, ESPN 300 safety Amari Carter and four-star cornerback Trajan Bandy. ESPN 300 defensive ends D.J. Johnson and Jonathan Garvin were key wins, and both possess very high ceilings as pass-rushers. Quarterback is an annual need, and ESPN 300 N'Kosi Perry was a key hold over Tennessee and others during the coaching transition. ESPN 300 running back Robert Burns will bring more talent to the backfield in Coral Gables. Building up the talent and depth on the offensive line is paramount, and assistant Stacy Searels has Zach Dykstra, Zalontae Hillery and center Corey Gaynor to go with Donaldson.
Who they want: The Hurricanes remain in search of one more tackle in the class, with T.J. Slaton and Michigan commitment Kai-Leon Herbert?at the top of the wish list. ESPN 300 running back Anthony McFarland remains a high priority, as does adding another receiver, with former Notre Dame commit Jordan Pouncey looking possible. ESPN 300s Jeff Thomas and Devonta Smith are also on the top target list at receiver.
Storyline to watch: One-time Miami commit Christopher Henderson is one of the fierce in-state battles remaining in the class, with Miami and Florida duking it out for the speedy cornerback prospect. Both staffs remain confident, but one must lose on signing day. Alabama looks to upset both Sunshine State programs, with all three getting a campus visit this month.
17. Kansas State
2017 class ranking: NR
Who they have: In typical Bill Snyder fashion, you're not going to find the Wildcats' class anywhere near the top 40 nationally. But astute observers are really high on how K-State has added some quality pieces to complement its young roster. The headliner is No. 1 junior college safety Elijah Walker out of Cerritos College. TCU remains in hot pursuit of Walker, which is a concern for K-State, but for now, he's committed. The Wildcats are also ecstatic with their haul of local players, such as No. 53 defensive end Anthony Payne?from Kansas City and No. 61 defensive end Wyatt Hubert from Topeka. K-State has reloaded on the offensive line with five recruits.
Who they want: Safety Evan Fields out of Oklahoma City has been a priority recruit for the Wildcats for months, and K-State was in on him before national programs such as Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA came knocking on his door. The Wildcats could be rewarded for spotting him before others with a commitment in January. Linebacker is also a priority position with Elijah Lee's announcement that he is heading to the NFL, and coveted three-star inside linebacker Daniel Green visits on Jan. 21.
Storyline to watch: This K-State class is going to be smaller in numbers because the Wildcats' roster is so young, and what you see now is likely what you'll get for most of January. However, the Wildcats are desperate to add more depth at defensive back, especially at safety. If the Wildcats strike out with Fields and lose Walker, then maybe it's time to hit the panic button.
2017 class ranking: 24
Who they have: The Cardinals lost some momentum with a three-game losing streak to end the season, but they have a class full of defensive back talent, led by hard-hitting ESPN 300 safety C.J. Avery and senior riser TreSean Smith. Wide receiver is a major need, and Louisville has delivered with four-star Justin Marshall, Under Armour Game slot receiver Russ Yeast II and three-stars Joshua Johnson and Corey Reed Jr. out of the Peach State. ESPN 300 Colin Wilson brings a powerful runner to the Cardinals backfield out of the Sunshine State, and athleticism at tight end in the future will come from Kemari Averett out of Georgia. ESPN Junior College 50 Ronald Rudd is a former UCLA verbal and an impact player on the offensive line.
Who they want: Adding another running back is a possibility with ESPN 300 A.J. Davis slated to visit in January. ESPN JC 50 linebacker Gary Johnson is a special talent and would start from day one. ESPN 300 slot receiver Jeff Thomas has become a top target following a sensational showing at the Under Armour All-America Game. Another offensive lineman and defensive tackle are also on the wish list.
Storyline to watch: The recruitment of Thomas is one to watch. What looked like a likely win for Illinois a few weeks ago is now a battle, with Oregon, Miami and Louisville all likely to get January official visits. Should the Cardinals prevail over Miami and Oregon, it would be a huge win and icing on top of a top-25 class.
2017 class ranking: 37
Who they have: What the Horned Frogs lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality. TCU currently has only 11 commitments, but the level of its commitments rivals that of conference leaders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Frogs just need more commitments in order to shoot up the recruiting rankings. Headlined by No. 6 receiver Jalen Reagor, No. 11 offensive guard Wes Harris, No. 9 dual-threat quarterback Shawn Robinson and No. 28 receiver Omar Manning, TCU's class ranks 37th in the country and has a real chance to climb as more players are added in January.
Who they want: No. 1 junior college safety Elijah Walker, out of Cerritos College, is high on Gary Patterson's wish list. Walker is a hard-hitting hybrid safety who would fit well in Fort Worth, but he has remained steadfast in his commitment to K-State -- for now. The Horned Frogs have worked hard to make a big impression and have certainly caught his eye. Coveted junior college cornerback Kendall Sheffield is another name to keep an eye on. Most believe Texas A&M is where Sheffield will end up, but TCU offers the former five-star high school recruit immediate playing time, and that's something he really likes.
Storyline to watch: TCU always seems to close strong, but there have been a few more bumps in the road for the Horned Frogs than in past recruiting classes. However, TCU still is involved with some quality players who can quickly make the slow start a distant memory. If they don't finish like they normally do, though, the Horned Frogs could slip down the Big 12 recruiting charts.
2017 class ranking: NR
Who they have: Charlie Strong's first goal when he was hired was to keep intact a nice recruiting class, and that has been accomplished. The lone ESPN 300 verbal is versatile playmaker Bruce Judson, a former Ohio State pledge. Cornerback was a position of need in 2017, and three-stars Nick Roberts and Bentlee Sanders have the talent to be multiyear starters for the Bulls. On offense, receiver is a need, and three-stars Daewood Davis and Demetri Burch bring diverse skill sets. South Florida won't go out of state much, but when it does, Georgia will be the top spot, and receiver Frederick Lloyd will bring size and versatility to the receiver position. Three-star guard Jean Marcellus is a good bet to be an early contributor on the offensive line.
Who they want: Adding another defensive tackle is paramount, and George Ellis out of Broward County is at the top of the list. Offensive tackle Connor Robbins is another prospect getting a long look from Strong and staff. Adding another running back will also be key should junior Marlon Mack decide to head off to the NFL.
Storyline to watch: Can the Bulls upset Power 5 schools down the stretch on an area prospect or two? Speedsters Darrian Felix and C.J. Cotman are on the wish list, as is Under Armour All-America Game running back A.J. Davis. South Florida will beat some Power 5 schools in the 2018 class on in-state prospects and could make a big statement in January without having months of relationship-building time.
2017 class ranking: 18
Who they have: The Gators have put together a decent class but have a good chance of a strong finish. Florida has 15 verbal commitments, including six in the ESPN 300. Florida's top commit, Daquon Green, is the 13th-ranked receiver in the ESPN 300. Florida also has commitments from ESPN 300 prospects defensive end Zachary Carter, cornerbacks Marco Wilson, Shaw Davis and Elijah Blades?and?tight end Kemore Gamble.
Who they want: The Gators hope to have a big finish. Several top targets -- including wide receiver James Robinson, linebacker Levi Jones, defensive backs Devon Hunter, Chris Henderson and Brad Stewart, defensive tackles LaBryan Ray and Aubrey Solomon and offensive linemen Kai-Leon Herbert, Tony Gray and Tedarrell Slaton -- are scheduled to visit Florida before signing day. The Gators won't land all of them, but they could certainly close the 2017 recruiting class with a big finish.
Storyline to watch: How will Florida finish? This is Jim McElwain's second full year of recruiting, and the Gators desperately need a big finish. Two of Florida's biggest rivals, FSU and Georgia, have put together incredible classes, and Florida needs some momentum heading into the offseason. With a big finish, Florida could find its way back into the top 10 of the recruiting rankings.
2017 class ranking:?29
Who they have: Pittsburgh is quietly going about building a talented class that could finish in the top three of the class rankings. Future starting cornerback Paris Ford was a standout during Under Armour All-America Game week and is joined in the secondary by three-star Sunshine State safety Albert Tucker Jr. If there is a position of greatest need in 2017, it is most likely offensive line. The Panthers' staff has responded with four-star tackle Jerry Drake, out of South Florida, and four-star Carter Warren, out of neighboring New Jersey. A third lineman to remember down the line is Carson Van Lynn. On defense, end Deslin Alexandre was a huge flip from NC State. ESPN 300 running back Todd Sibley is a former Ohio State verbal and near-perfect scheme fit. Kenny Pickett will add quarterback depth out of New Jersey.
Who they want: The Panthers are not finished on the offensive front, with tackle Thayer Munford a top priority. ESPN 300 running back A.J. Davis remains a top target, and the Panthers have the help of Davis' Lakeland High teammate and Panthers commit Damarri Mathis. Another pass-rusher would be welcome, and former Virginia Tech verbal Tyjuan Garbutt is a high priority, with the Hokies serving as chief competition.
Storyline to watch: The battle for running back A.J. Davis is coming down to three ACC schools, North Carolina, Louisville and Pittsburgh -- unless USF can pull an upset. The Panthers are up against the Tar Heels and Cardinals getting the official visits in January, which could create a huge in-conference victory for the Panthers. A second prospect to pay close attention to is Virginia Tech linebacker commit Nathan Proctor, who is scheduled to visit in January along with a trip to Penn State.
23. Washington State
2017 class ranking: NR
Who they have: ESPN 300 quarterback Connor Neville leads the way for Washington State, which has commitments from four junior college prospects, including ESPN JC 50 defensive end Preston Hendry. Four-star wide receiver Anthony White Jr., safety Josh Talbott and linebacker Fa'avae Fa'avae were all impressive recruiting wins, while Dontae Powell, Joe Tryon, Abraham Lucas, B.J. Thompson, Kelle Sanders and Quazzal White will be nice additions along the lines.
Who they want: Four-star cornerback Javelin Guidry and four-star linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia are arguably the biggest names left on the board for the Cougars. Defensive end Miki Suguturaga and linebacker Anthony Pandy would be big additions to the front seven as well. The Cougars are always looking for wide receivers, and Reggie Roberson and Bryan Thompson are still on the board.
Storyline to watch: Can the Cougars hold off Pac-12 rivals? Even after a nice season on the field, Washington State won't rank as a Pac-12 recruiting power heading into this signing day. It could be like any other, as programs such as Oregon, UCLA, Utah, USC and Washington look to pick off commitments. Tryon is one of those, and the big lineman will take an official visit to Oregon before signing day.
24. Virginia Tech
2017 class ranking: 31
Who they have: Virginia Tech currently has the No. 31-ranked class. The Hokies' major needs on the defensive side of the ball are linebacker and defensive end, and Justin Fuente and staff are on track to fill both. ESPN 300 linebacker Nathan Proctor was a huge win on Jan. 1, but the Hokies still must hold off Pittsburgh and Penn State. Joining Proctor at linebacker are early enrollee Aundre Kearney, in-state tackling machine Rayshard Ashby and Peach State three-star Jaylen Griffin. Tight end is also a key position of need, and verbal Lecitus Smith might be the best blocking tight end in the country. The Peach State three-star is joined by pass-catcher Drake Deluliis out of the Tar Heel State. In-state four-star Tahj Capehart was a nice win out of the 757, and four-star Jalen Holston out of Georgia is expected to push for early time at running back. Three-star Hendon Hooker brings dual-threat ability to the quarterback position.
Who they want: The Hokies are still after a number of top targets, headlined by in-state ESPN 300 Devon Hunter and four-star end TyJuan Garbutt.?Hunter has trips to Florida, Auburn and Alabama this month. A third in-state target is offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. Out-of-state top priorities are Florida defensive back Ameer Speed,?end Robert Porcher IV, Palmetto State safety Tank Robinson and end Brad Johnson.
Storyline to watch: Can the Hokies keep top targets Devon Hunter and TyJuan Garbutt in state to give them three out of the top 10 prospects in the state for the first time since the 2012 class? Virginia Tech enters January official visits trending for both.
2017 class ranking: 36
Who they have: Tom Herman inherited a small class, but he has quickly built up a solid foundation heading into the home stretch of the 2017 recruiting cycle. The headliner is easily No. 10 running back Toneil Carter out of Langham Creek in Houston. Carter was a longtime Georgia commitment, but he switched to the Horns days before he was set to start classes in Athens. Also keep a close eye on Daniel Young, another running back commit out of Houston. Young isn't as highly ranked as Carter, but many insiders believe he's just as talented. When healthy, quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a good one and should be able to add depth to the position.
Who they want: The Longhorns are looking to add even more depth on the defensive side of the ball and have zeroed in on ESPN 300 defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson as a priority prospect. He has hinted at a decision in the coming days, and he would be a welcome addition for the Horns. No. 1 junior college inside linebacker Gary Johnson has also shot up the Texas charts and will officially visit Jan. 20. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Johnson will visit Oregon and USC in January.
Storyline to watch: Texas fans are going to be keeping a close eye on how the Horns finish in their first recruiting class under Tom Herman. The expectations were astronomical, and though he has done well and will do well in the future, many UT fans aren't satisfied with his early results. If Texas can build some momentum in the next two weeks, the Horns could be a real threat with virtually any player in the Lone Star State.