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July 12, 2011

Rivals at 10: Ten best recruiting classes

Having highly ranked recruiting classes is one thing; those prospects producing once they get to campus is another.

When it comes to production, here is a look at what we think are the top 10 recruiting classes from the first decade of Rivals.com (the classes from 2002 through 2011).

(Click on player names for a look at their Rivals.com recruiting profiles coming out of high school)

10. Florida 2007
Coach: Urban Meyer
Class rank: 1st
Five-star signees: 4 (DT Torrey Davis, DE Carlos Dunlap, QB Cameron Newton, G James Wilson)
Buzz: Florida's 2007 class might appear better on paper than it has been on the field. Some key signees failed to make an impression in Gainesville because of off-field issues, among them DTs John Brown and Torrey Davis and QB Cameron Newton. But there were numerous players who made an impact in Gainesville and helped the Gators win the 2008 national title, among them SS Ahmad Black, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Joe Haden, P Chas Henry, TE Aaron Hernandez, FS Major Wright and the Pouncey twins, Maurkice and Mike Pouncey. A few players from the class, including QB John Brantley, RB Chris Rainey, G James Wilson, DT Jaye Howard and WR Deonte Thompson, remain on campus and are expected to play key roles this fall.

9. Ohio State 2008
Coach: Jim Tressel
Class rank: 4th
Five-star signees: 4 (OT Mike Adams, C Michael Brewster, WR DeVier Posey, QB Terrelle Pryor)
Buzz: While there have been numerous negative headlines about members of Ohio State's 2008 class, their on-field success was impressive. The group, led by QB Terrelle Pryor, won three Big Ten titles while putting together a 33-6 record over the past three seasons. OT Mike Adams, WR DeVier Posey, C Michael Brewster, CB Travis Howard, ATH Orhian Johnson, LB Etienne Sabino, OT J.B. Shugarts, TE Jake Stoneburner, LB Andrew Sweat and DE Nathan Williams are expected to play key roles this season. Still, because of the controversy, the potential of this class never may be fully realized.

8. LSU 2003
Coach: Nick Saban
Class rank: 1st
Five-star signees: None.
Buzz: The class was loaded with talent, including the likes of QB JaMarcus Russell, WRs Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis and S LaRon Landry, all of whom went on to become NFL first-round picks. The group helped the Tigers win the 2003 and '07 national titles. Russell was MVP of the Sugar Bowl after the 2006 season and went on to be the No. 1 selection of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL draft after that season. Matt Flynn, who was a member of this signing class, was the quarterback on LSU's national title team in 2007.

7. Oklahoma 2006
Coach: Bob Stoops
Class rank: 9th
Five-star signees: 1 (DT Gerald McCoy)
Buzz: Oklahoma never won a national championship with this group, but the players did help the Sooners get to the 2008 title game. Among the talent reeled in was DT Gerald McCoy, QB Sam Bradford, TB Demarco Murray, TE Jermaine Gresham, OT Trent Williams, DE Jeremy Beal and S Quinton Carter. In addition, C Chase Beeler signed with OU but transferred to Stanford, where he became an All-American. Bradford was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft.

6. Texas 2005
Coach: Mack Brown
Class rank: 20th
Five-star signees: None
Buzz: A small but efficient class for the Longhorns that was part of two national championship games (a win in 2005 and a loss in 2009). The class was led by QB Colt McCoy, who set a NCAA Division I record for wins by a starting quarterback. He was joined in the class by the likes of RB Jamaal Charles, WR Quan Cosby, TE Jermichael Finley, LB Roddrick Muckelroy and DT Roy Miller.

5. Alabama 2008
Coach: Nick Saban
Class rank: 1st
Five-star signees: 3 (WR Julio Jones, OT Tyler Love and ATH Burton Scott)
Buzz: The Crimson Tide's 2009 national championship has direct ties to the strength of this monster class brought in by Nick Saban. Some of the top-tier prospects included WR Julio Jones, RB Mark Ingram, DT Terrence Cody, DE/DT Marcel Dareus, FS Robert Lester, G Barrett Jones, SS Mark Barron and LBs Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Ingram earned the 2009 Heisman as a sophomore.

4. Texas 2002
Coach: Mack Brown
Class rank: 1st
Five-star signees: Six (OL Justin Blalock, WR Marquis Johnson, DB Edorian McCullough, DE Brian Pickryl, DT Rodrique Wright, QB Vince Young)
Buzz: The class had six five-star prospects, led by QB Vince Young. Young was joined by numerous future NFL players, including DT Rodrique Wright, G Justin Blalock, LB Brian Robison, OL Kasey Studdard, RB Selvin Young and DB Aaron Ross in the class. The class was the main reason Texas won the 2005 national championship.

3. Ohio State 2002
Coach: Jim Tressel
Class rank: 5th
Five-star signees: 2 (RB Maurice Clarett, LB Mike D'Andrea)
Buzz: Ohio State's 2002 class was led by offensive weapons such as QB Troy Smith, RB Maurice Clarett, C Nick Mangold and WR Santonio Holmes. On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes' haul included LBs A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter. The group helped the Buckeyes win the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl in January 2003. Among their individual accomplishments, Smith won the Heisman in 2006.

2. USC 2003
Coach: Pete Carroll
Class rank: 3rd
Five-star signees: 2 (RB Reggie Bush, ATH Whitney Lewis)
Buzz: The Trojans' 2003 class had unparalleled success, as the group played in four BCS bowls and won two national titles. The class was led by four prospects who went on to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft - RB Reggie Bush, OT Sam Baker, DE Lawrence Jackson and DT Sedrick Ellis. But there was more star power: RB LenDale White, WR Steve Smith and OL Ryan Kalil went on to the NFL. Bush earned the Heisman during his time at USC.

1. Florida 2006
Coach: Urban Meyer
Class rank: 2nd
Five-star signees: 4 (WR Percy Harvin, G/T Carl Johnson, LB Brandon Spikes, QB Tim Tebow)
Buzz: Florida's 2006 class was led by QB Tim Tebow and WR Percy Harvin, but what makes this group stand out above the rest was the number of prospects who panned out: 16 members of the class were starters at one time. Beyond Tebow and Harvin, there were guys such as LBs Brandon Spikes, Dustin Doe and A.J. Jones, DE Jermaine Cunningham, T/G Marcus Gilbert, DTs Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders and WR Riley Cooper. The group helped Florida win two national championships, and Tebow won the 2007 Heisman as a sophomore and was a finalist as a junior and senior.

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