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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
FSU, 'Bama sign top classes

By Sharon Katz

Florida State may have had the most impactful National Signing Day, inking No. 10 overall player DT Eddie Goldman and No. 38 overall player CB Ronald Darby on Wednesday. It came in addition to already having top overall player DE Mario Edwards in the fold.

The Seminoles finished with 10 ESPNU150 recruits, including three of the top five defensive line prospects in the nation. They added to a defensive front that has posted the most sacks (88) and the second-fewest yards per rush (2.92) in the nation the past two seasons.

But Florida State’s 2012 class wasn’t the best in the nation.

Alabama took home the honor of 2012’s top recruiting class after finishing second to Florida State last year.

The Crimson Tide addressed their greatest needs, filling holes at defensive back and wide receiver.

Alabama struggled to replace Julio Jones in 2011, with no player catching more than 56 passes or four touchdowns last season. Next year, they'll face a similar problem when they have to again replace their top receiver, Marquis Maze.

But this year they signed four 4-star or 5-star athlete/wide receivers, the most of any school in the nation, adding options for AJ McCarron on offense.

McCarron improved throwing downfield last year, completing nearly 56 percent of his attempts of more than 15 yards in Alabama’s final six games (nearly 41 percent in team’s first seven games), and should have more chances to go vertical in 2012 with a deeper receiving corps.

Alabama also signed the top safety and No. 2 cornerback of the 2012 class to help replace three secondary starters in Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie. Alabama had a historically stingy secondary in 2011, allowing the same number of completions (seven) as they made interceptions on passes of 20 or more yards.

Recruits Landon Collins and Geno Smith should fill in nicely for the Alabama backs that graduate or enter the draft.

Conversely, Florida State loaded up an already-strong defense but failed to address needs on offense.

The Seminoles’ offensive line was porous in 2011, allowing 41 sacks in 13 games, 14 more than in 2010 and 21 more than in 2009. Florida State signed two offensive tackles from abroad, but did not have a commitment from any offensive line recruits in the US.

Whether any of these recruits have an impact is yet to be known. None of the schools with the top-ranked recruiting class the last four years reached 10 wins in the following season.

Regardless, Florida State’s defensive front is positioned to be formidable for years to come while Alabama filled critical needs while putting together the nation’s top recruiting class.

--Mike Freer and Jonathan McDonald contributed to this report