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At a news conference in River Ridge, La., John Curtis High senior Joe McKnight, who is ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 2 prospect, picks Southern California over LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss.
AP photo by Alex Brandon
At a news conference in River Ridge, La., John Curtis High senior Joe McKnight, who is ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 2 prospect, picks Southern California over LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss.

Gators growl in recruiting, too
Florida adds top recruiting title to national crown but USC closes strong

By Josh Dubow
Associated Press Writer

Florida won the recruiting crown in nearly as dominating fashion as the national championship.

The Gators capitalized on last month's national title win over Ohio State and down years from Sunshine State rivals Florida State and Miami to bring in the top recruiting class in the country Wednesday.

"No one is even that close to them," recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CSTV said. "They got help everywhere. In the past 10 years, this has to rank right at the top in recruiting classes. Every position is absolutely loaded."

The Gators also were picked as the top class by SuperPrep, Rivals.com and National Blue Chips, beating out Southern California, SEC rivals Tennessee and LSU, and Texas.

The Trojans closed strong, adding top running backs Joe McKnight from Louisiana and Broderick Green from Arkansas on Wednesday.

USCadded them to a class that already included another top back in Marc Tyler; defensive end Everson Griffen, SuperPrep's No. 1 overall player; the nation's No. 1 receiver, Ronald Johnson from Michigan; and blue chip linebacker Chris Galippo from Anaheim, Calif.

"USC continues to be the place that a lot of skill-position players look to first," said analyst Bobby Burton of Rivals.com. "That doesn't mean the guys they get on defense aren't special. It just means they have the pick of the litter when it comes to offensive skill players."

But the Gators' class was best of all, signing nine of the top 16 players in talent-rich Florida and the No. 1 players from South Carolina, Indiana, Maryland and New England, according to Rivals.com.

A coaching change at Miami and another down year for Florida State played a key part in the Gators' success.

"They play an exciting brand of ball on offense and defense and a lot of kids want be in that situation," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor for Scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine. "There's no question they've moved into the catbird seat in Florida. They have taken advantage of tough times for both the Hurricanes and Seminoles."

Florida's class includes Rivals' third-best pro-style quarterback in John Brantley, the nation's top guard in James Wilson, top weakside defensive end in Carlos Dunlap, second-best defensive tackle in Torrey Davis, and top two safeties in Jerimy Finch and Major Wright.

Two recruits from last year's stellar class, quarterback Tim Tebow and receiver Percy Harvin, played key roles in the 41-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS title game, and coach Urban Meyer is hoping for similar production from some in this year's class.

"We have taken a new attitude toward recruiting this year that every freshman in my opinion will play next year," Meyer said. "Obviously, that won't happen but we are taking that approach. It used to be, 'Boy, I will be able to save this guy.' But that's over."

Florida's haul was part of a banner recruiting year for the SEC, where Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia and Alabama all received at least one top-10 ranking.

"The SEC is loaded," Burton said. "They are year in and year out the most talented conference. But even this is unusual."

Jimmy Clausen, the top-ranked player by Rivals and CSTV, headlines a top-10 class at Notre Dame and could be ready to step in next season as Brady Quinn's replacement at quarterback. Clausen is one of many players who already have started college, giving him a leg up because he can take part in spring practice.

Clausen made a high-profile commitment to the Irish last April, arriving at his news conference in a limo and predicting four national titles for Notre Dame.

"He heaped pressure on himself with the way he announced he was going to Notre Dame," Wallace said. "He's demonstrated that the added pressure has not affected him at all. If you play quarterback, especially at Notre Dame, you have to be able to handle that pressure. He could be perfectly suited for the situation."

National signing day top 10 rankings

SuperPrep

Allen Wallace

1. Florida

2. Southern California

3. LSU

4. Tennessee

5. Texas

6. South Carolina

7. Auburn

8. Michigan

9. Oregon

10. Notre Dame

CSTV

Tom Lemming

1. Florida

2. Tennessee

3. Texas

4. Southern California

5. LSU

6. South Carolina

7. Notre Dame

8. Nebraska

9. Auburn

10. Georgia

Rivals.com

Bobby Burton

1. Florida

2. Tennessee

3. Southern California

4. LSU

5. Texas

6. South Carolina

7. Auburn

8. Notre Dame

9. Georgia

10. Michigan

National Blue Chips

Max Emfinger

1. Florida

2. Southern California

3. LSU

4. Tennessee

5. Texas

6. Auburn

7. South Carolina

8. Ohio State

9. Notre Dame

10. (tie) Georgia

10. (tie) Alabama

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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