• 18 Slides

Ranking the No. 1 recruiting classes since 2000

Which class was the best: Alabama in 2011 or 2012, USC in 2005 or Texas' loaded 2002 class?

How much does a No. 1 recruiting class really matter?

For some schools, that served as the foundation for a national championship run. For others, the class just simply didn't deliver up to expectations. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to take a look back at how those other top-ranked recruiting classes fared.

MORE: Best recruiting schools since 2010

Sporting News broke down the No. 1 recruiting classes from every season since 2000 and ranked them. Alabama's No. 1 classes from 2019 and 2021, Georgia's class from 2018 and Clemson's class from 2020 are ineligible because players because they have not hit the four-year mark. 

That leaves 17 classes that ranked No. 1 in the final recruiting rankings according to 247Sports.com. Who had the best No. 1 class? The worst?

Here's a closer look.

  • Coach: Larry Coker

    Five-star players: 4

    Four-star players: 8

    Four-year record: 30-21 (.612)

    NFL Draft picks: 1

    Star players: Calais Campbell

    Lowdown: This class marked the start of Coker’s downturn at Miami. It was full of five-star busts, and the dearth of NFL talent is noticeable. Its four-year run ended with a 5-7 record in Randy Shannon’s first year at Miami.

  • Coach: Charlie Weis

    Five-star players: 2

    Four-star players: 16

    Four-year record: 29-22 (.569)

    NFL Draft picks: 4

    Star players: Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph

    Lowdown: Weis built this class after a 3-9 season, but the Irish went 13-12 the next two seasons. This class finished its college career under Brian Kelly.

  • Coach: Urban Meyer

    Five-star players: 5

    Four-star players: 17

    Four-year record: 30-21 (.588)

    NFL Draft picks: 5

    Star players: Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam

    Lowdown: This class had NFL talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but Meyer left after the 2010 season and this class finished its four-year stretch with a 4-8 record in 2013.

  • Coach: Bobby Bowden

    Five-star players: 5

    Four-star players: 6

    Four-year record: 36-15 (.706)

    NFL Draft picks: 3

    Star players: Craphonso Thorpe, Adrian McPherson

    Lowdown: This class came two years after Florida State won the national championship, and it wasn’t bad. The Seminoles won eight games or more each of the next four seasons. They just weren’t the dominant class some had projected.

  • Coach: Phillip Fulmer

    Five-star players: 5

    Four-star players: 6

    Four-year record: 37-14 (.725)

    Consensus All-Americans: Michael Munoz (2004)

    NFL Draft picks: 3

    Star players: Jason Witten

    Lowdown: Fulmer crafted this class after the national championship season in 1998, and it helped the Volunteers reach the SEC Championship Game as sophomores. They also split four meetings with rival Florida.

  • Coach: Ron Zook

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 8

    Four-year record: 37-14 (.725)

    Consensus All-Americans: Reggie Nelson (2006)

    NFL Draft picks: 7

    Star players: Reggie Nelson, Jarvis Moss, Andre Caldwell

    Lowdown: Zook brought in a loaded class after his second season, and it’s a group that Urban Meyer helped mold into a national championship team in 2006. They had a 22-4 record in two seasons under Meyer.

  • Coach: Pete Carroll

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 11

    Four-year record: 43-9 (.827)

    Consensus All-Americans: Taylor Mays (2008)

    NFL Draft picks: 3

    Star players: Taylor Mays

    Lowdown: Carroll had so many loaded classes, and this is the one that had the most misses. This class won four bowl games and closed out the Carroll era, but it never won a national championship.

  • Coach: Les Miles

    Five-star players: 4

    Four-star players: 10

    Four-year record: 44-9 (.830)

    Consensus All-Americans: Morris Claiborne (2011)

    NFL Draft picks: 7

    Star players: Reuben Randle, Michael Brockers

    Lowdown: This class helped deliver everything but a national championship to LSU, including the SEC championship team in 2011.

  • Coach: Urban Meyer

    Five-star players: 5

    Four-star players: 13

    Four-year record: 43-11 (.796)

    Consensus All-Americans: Maurkice Pouncey (2009), Joe Haden (2009)

    NFL Draft picks: 11

    Star players: Haden, Pouncey, Carlos Dunlap

    Lowdown: The 2006 class that brought in Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes might have been better, but it was ranked No. 2 behind USC. This class had just as many pieces, including the Pouncey brothers, Dunlap, Haden and might have been even better had Cam Newton stayed with the Gators.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 3

    Four-star players: 16

    Four-year record: 48-6 (.889)

    Consensus All-Americans: Cyrus Kouandujio (2013), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (2013), Ryan Kelly (2015)

    NFL Draft picks: 5

    Star players: Clinton-Dix, Kouandijo, Kelly

    Lowdown: The only knocks againstthis class, which opened with national championships in 2011 and 2012, would be back-to-back postseason losses to Oklahoma and Ohio State the next two seasons.

  • Coach: Pete Carroll

    Five-star players: 5

    Four-star players: 6

    Four-year record: 46-6 (.885)

    Consensus All-Americans: Rey Maualuga (2008)

    NFL Draft picks: 9

    Star players: Maualuga, Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing

    Lowdown: Carroll reeled in a loaded class at the height of the dynasty's power, one that had several pieces that came close but never could bring in a national championship. The 2003 class for USC that brought in Reggie Bush and LenDale White was loaded too, but that class was ranked No. 2 in the country.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 7

    Four-star players: 16

    Four-year record: 50-6 (.893)

    Consensus All-Americans: Amari Cooper (2014), Landon Collins (2014), Reggie Ragland (2015)

    NFL Draft picks: 7

    Star players: Cooper, Collins, Ragland, T.J. Yeldon

    Lowdown: This class closed its four-year run with a national championship run in 2015, and that was with the early departures of Cooper, Collins and Yeldon. The 50-win standard will be a test for future recruiting classes.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 3

    Four-star players: 14

    Four-year record: 52-5 (.912)

    Consensus All-Americans: Jonah Williams (2018), Quinnen Williams (2018)

    NFL Draft picks: 8

    Star players: Jalen Hurts, Quinnen Williams, Josh Jacobs, Jonah Williams, Raekwon Davis, Irv Smith Jr., Mack Wilson

    Lowdown: This class played in three straight national championship games before missing out on the Playoff in 2019. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, but the two Williams and Jacobs emerged as star players at the next level. The class behind it was set up for success, and this one should finish with double-digit draft picks.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 16

    Four-year record: 53-5 (.914)

    Consensus All-Americans: Cam Robinson (2016)

    NFL Draft picks: 9

    Star players: Robinson, Marlon Humphrey, Bo Scarbrough, Rashaan Evans, Da’Shawn Hand. Shaun Dion Hamilton

    Lowdown: Alabama's senior class graduated after coming off another national championship. Robinson and Humphrey were early defections to the NFL Draft, but the class won three straight SEC championships and played in the first four College Football Playoffs.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 12

    Four-year record: 51-6 (.894)

    Consensus All-Americans: Derrick Henry (2015), A’Shawn Robinson (2015), Jonathan Allen (2016), Rebuen Foster (2016)

    NFL Draft picks: 10

    Star players: Henry, Robinson, Foster, Allen, O.J. Howard, Tim Williams, Eddie Jackson

    Lowdown: This was the class that produced a national championship in 2015 and another appearance in 2016. Henry and Robinson left after the national championship season, and Allen and Foster anchored a team that lost 35-31 to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship. This class won three straight SEC championships.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 14

    Four-year record: 55-4 (.932)

    Consensus All-Americans: Minkah Fitzpatrick (2016-17), Deionte Thompson (2018)

    NFL Draft picks: 8

    Star players: Calvin Ridley, Da'Ron Payne, Minkah Fitzpatrick

    Lowdown: This No. 1 class is the standard of the College Football Playoff era with two national championships and two runner-up appearances the last four years. Fitzpatrick, Ridley and Payne were five-star studs, and it had veteran leadership from five-star running back Damien Harris. They lost two SEC games in four seasons, but Clemson ruined their chance to go out on top.

  • Coach: Mack Brown

    Five-star players: 4

    Four-star players: 13

    Four-year record: 45-6 (.882)

    Consensus All-Americans: Vince Young (05), Rod Wright (05), Justin Blalock (06)

    NFL Draft picks: 7

    Star players: Young, Brian Robison

    Lowdown: Mack Brown brought in a haul in 2002 with Young as the centerpiece. Aaron Ross, David Thomas, Lyle Sendlein and Selvin Young were also among the pieces brought in for the class that would eventually win the national championship in 2005.

  • Coach: Nick Saban

    Five-star players: 6

    Four-star players: 18

    Four-year record: 51-4 (.927)

    Consensus All-Americans: Tua Tagovailoa (2018), Jerry Jeudy (2018), Mac Jones (2020), DeVonta Smith (2020), Najee Harris (2020), Alex Leatherwood (2020)

    NFL Draft picks: 5

    Star players: Tagovailoa, Jeudy, Smith, Jones, Harris, Henry Ruggs III

    Lowdown: This class started and closed their four-year careers with national championships and will undoubtedly have double-digit players selected in the NFL. They ushered in record-setting offenses in the SEC. Tagovailoa and Jones were both Heisman Trophy finalists, and Smith won the award in 2020. It’s the most decorated recruiting class yet under Saban.

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