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Alabama, UF, FSU look to close recruiting season strong

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Looking at the big board ranking college football recruiting classes, seeing Alabama perched at No. 12 might give hope to fans of other programs. They might be slipping, right?

Not exactly. Despite being ranked behind conference foes LSU, Ole Miss and Florida, Coach Nick Saban and his staff are poised for a big finish culminating on National Signing Day (NSD), Feb. 3.

Among the top 10 high school players, four still remain uncommitted. One of those is linebacker Ben Davis, the No. 5 ranked player. A native of Gordo, Alabama, Davis is strongly expected to join the Crimson Tide next week. His father, Wayne Davis, was a star at Alabama.

The Tide is among the final three for Torrance, California, linebacker Mique Juarez, the ninth-ranked player. UCLA and Ole Miss are the other two.

Landing both Juarez and Davis would be huge hauls for Saban. Alabama appears now to be a long shot for the top-ranked player, defensive tackle Rashan Gary of Paramus, New Jersey. Gary is heavily expected to sign with Michigan next week.

The other uncommitted top 10 player is Demetris Robertson of Savannah, Georgia. Robertson may not even sign on NSD as he carefully chooses his school. Academics are a prime consideration for Robertson and his family as he looks at Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Cal-Berkley and the SEC trio of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

Alabama also appears to have the upper hand on another five-star linebacker in outside linebacker Lyndell Wilson of Montgomery, Alabama. Despite a huge effort by Florida Coach Jim McElwain and his staff, signs point to the 26th-ranked Wilson staying near home to play in Tuscaloosa.

Florida and Florida State are battling each other (and other SEC and ACC schools) for some quality talent that would push them near the top of recruiting classes. Less than 10 days away from signing day, the Seminoles and Gators have the sixth- and seventh-ranked classes respectively.

Great news for Gator fans: They have a three-star kicker coming to Gainesville in the fall. Eddy Pineiro of Miami should end most of Florida’s kicking woes.

Ohio State has the top-ranked class as NSD approaches, followed by LSU, Mississippi, Michigan and Notre Dame. After UF and FSU are Clemson, Michigan State, and Baylor. Alabama will soon be in the top 10.

Miami’s new Coach, Mark Richt, is playing recruiting catch-up after taking over on Jan. 1. The Hurricanes are currently ranked No. 31. Willie Taggart‘s USF Bulls are No. 66, but still are in the hunt for more talent.

National Signing Day always provides a few surprises. Official campus visits are going on now, where minds can possibly be changed. Nothing is official until the name is signed on the National Letter of Intent.

No matter what happens, McElwain and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher will have every right to party hearty next week. If things go as some are predicting, Saban could crash the party.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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