- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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Since the release of our ESPNU 150 for 2009, we felt it was time to revisit the team rankings after ESPNU 150 Watch List prospects either made the cut or found themselves on the outside looking in, but still with very good and high grades.
As we began to dissect the teams worthy of being considered and the ones already in the last edition, we felt that the only newcomer that needed to be added at this time was Notre Dame at the No. 8 spot. The Irish now boast eight prospects that rank within the top 16 at their respective positions, including the recent acquisition of Athlete EJ Banks (McKees Rocks, Pa./Montour). They also have three top-five positional prospects. In all, five ESPNU 150 prospects reside in the Notre Dame class.
As for the rest of the Top 10, here's the deal: We have decided to shuffle things up a bit. With the announcement of the ESPNU 150 now complete, we sat down as a group and argued many points for and against each team. In our opinion, the USC Trojans are the team that we felt had a slight leg up at this stage. So they take over the No. 1 spot in our team rankings.
With 15 verbal commitments, over half of USC's class is in the ESPNU 150, including four who rank within the top four at their respective positions and three No. 1-ranked players. They have five prospects who rank in the top 50 of the ESPNU 150. They also call the No. 1 overall player in the land a Trojan in QB Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei).
Ohio State moves in to the No. 2 slot, and although we still aren't as excited about the bottom half of this class as some are, the Buckeyes' top 15-17 commitments are as good as anyone's. The Buckeyes have six prospects in the top 100 of the ESPNU 150, which is the same as LSU, our No. 3 team, but OSU has a little bit more meat in the middle. LSU's class could really soar in the coming months, but the Tigers have more numbers to fill between now and then than the Buckeyes do.
This reshuffling won't make Texas fans too happy, but what are you going to do? Texas works at it -- contrary to the beliefs of some of its critics who say the school will always have a top class because of its geography -- and the Longhorns' class is legit. However, since our very first team ranking, Texas has been idling, not adding any new prospects, while other teams have crept up and added some great talent and numbers. Texas has an argument at No. 2 or 3 no doubt, but No. 4 is where we have them right now.
Taking a look at the top four teams, you could argue that they are all interchangeable and deserve consideration for the No. 1 spot in the land. Texas, LSU and USC all have nine ESPNU 150 players committed. Ohio State boasts six ESPNU 150 players and the deepest class to date. But we have questions about the level of talent at the bottom of the Buckeyes' class.
LSU has half of its class in the ESPNU 150. They have five players who rank within the top five at their respective positions and the No. 2-ranked overall player in Russell Shepard (Houston/Cy-Ridge).
To sum it up, we aren't going to argue with fans of the top four teams we have listed because they all have legitimate cases for why their team should be No. 1. Although we have never felt that team rankings amount to a hill of beans, it is good for you fans to be able to gauge where a program stands right now. Legitimately, we could have left the top four the same and just added Notre Dame as our only change and defended it with valid points. Be forewarned, however, that until these kids make it to signing day, put their names on paper and actually get into school and perform, that is the only way you will know how strong a class is. It generally takes two to three years until anyone truly knows how good a class is, and that is the reality of team rankings.
1. USC Trojans 15 verbal commitments, nine ESPNU prospects
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
25 verbal commitments, six ESPNU prospects
3. LSU Tigers
17 verbal commitments, nine ESPNU prospects
4. Texas Longhorns 19 verbal commitments, nine ESPNU prospects
5. Georgia Bulldogs 12 verbal commitments, six ESPNU prospects
6. Clemson Tigers 12 verbal commitments, five ESPNU prospects
7. Florida State Seminoles 18 verbal commitments, three ESPNU prospects
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 14 verbal commitments, four ESPNU prospects
9. Oklahoma Sooners 16 verbal commitments, four ESPNU prospects
10. Tennessee Volunteers 17 verbal commitments, three ESPNU prospects
Chomping at the bit:
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.