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February 2, 2011

Bama holds down No. 1 ranking

MORE: Team recruiting rankings | NSD surprises | Complete NSD coverage

De'Anthony Thomas not only knows how to make things interesting but entertaining as well, showing up about 45 minutes tardy for his announcement ceremony at Los Angeles Crenshaw and then switching schools from USC to Oregon.

It is a tremendous recruiting coup for the Ducks, who hosted Thomas on a visit last weekend, a trip that seemingly changed everything in the five-star athlete's recruitment. Until then, other programs were under consideration but it came as a shock to many when word leaked out this week that Thomas was seriously thinking about changing his pledge.

The Ducks are getting a phenomenal player and it's one of the biggest National Signing Day switches in recent memory. Rivals.com rates the U.S. Army All-American as the nation's best athlete, fifth in the 2011 class and second in the California state rankings.

His decision has not only impacted USC and Oregon but it has played a major influence in the final Rivals.com recruiting rankings. If Thomas would have stayed with the Trojans, they were projected to finish No. 1 for the second consecutive year. However, since the Black Mamba changed to Oregon, Alabama will stay in the No. 1 spot.

USC dropped to fourth. Florida State was No. 2.

Thomas' decision to leave USC is not good news but the rest of signing day went extraordinarily well for the Trojans.

Coach Lane Kiffin and his staff closed phenomenally well and landed four-star linebacker Lamar Dawson, four-star offensive guard Aundrey Walker, four-star defensive tackle Christian Heyward and three-star athlete Javorius Allen all on Wednesday.

Four-star receiver Junior Pomee and three-star cornerback Ryan Henderson, teammates at Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, committed to USC later in the day.

That is an impressive haul for the Trojans but since Thomas will skip town and head to Oregon it won't be enough to beat Alabama in the Rivals.com team rankings.

The Crimson Tide had a huge day as well first getting four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan this morning and following that up with four-star Brent Calloway, who originally committed to Alabama, then flipped to Auburn and has now signed with coach Nick Saban's club.

Five-star prospects Hasean Clinton-Dix and Demetrius Hart give Alabama's class a huge boost, possibly to No. 1 in the rankings.

For No. 2 Florida State, five-star running back James Wilder Jr., and five-star safety Karlos Williams signed with the Seminoles without much fanfare this morning. FSU landed a big pledge later in the day when four-star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan picked the Seminoles over LSU, Florida and others.

THE TOP 10
The nation's top 10 recruiting classes for 2011:
1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Texas
4. USC
5. Georgia
6. LSU
7. Auburn
8. Clemson
9. Oregon
10. Notre Dame
COMPLETE TEAM RANKINGS
Texas was No. 3, followed by USC and Georgia, which capped off its class by signing five-star running back Isaiah Crowell.

Clemson has five-star finish

Coach Dabo Swinney has some work to do on the field after a disappointing 6-7 season but Clemson fans have to be ecstatic how the Tigers closed on signing day with commitments from five-star linebackers Steward and Anthony.

What's even more impressive is that Swinney and his staff landed three five-star pledges from the state of Florida in Steward, who was also highly considering Florida State and UCLA, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Mike Bellamy.

"It was tough because I mean the whole time I really, really thought I was going to go to Florida State," Steward told reporters.

" I guess being my age and being able to leave home is tough because I am still young and will be leaving behind a bunch of family and friends. This is a different feel for me, a new experience. It'll be easier for me to grow into my own man."

On top of signing the five-star recruits, Clemson' linebackers corps will also be bolstered by four-star signee Lateek Townsend, who surprisingly picked the Tigers over South Carolina at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and then stuck with them leading up to signing day. Defensive end Roderick Byers flipped his commitment from Oregon as well.

Kouandjio rethinks decision

Cyrus Kouandjio sat behind a microphone, on national television, and the five-star offensive tackle from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha said that he was going to sign with Auburn instead of Alabama, New Mexico and others.

That decision has been put on hold though because Kouandjio never faxed his letter of intent to the Tigers. In an apparent instant change of heart, the 6-foot-7, 322-pound standout now says he needs more time to make a decision.

His brother, Arie, plays at Alabama and many believed he would follow his brother to Tuscaloosa. Kouandjio's commitment to Auburn came as a surprise but it might not stick. There are more considerations to be made before anything is faxed.

"I'm getting phone calls from Auburn saying he never faxed anything back, so I'm on the phone asking him, 'Well, why didn't you fax anything?'" DeMatha coach Bill McGregor said. "All I know is he is not 100 percent sure of his decision and he wants more time."

Day of twists and turns

Every year brings a new batch of wild and sometimes strange recruiting stories on signing day and this was no different. Brining a baby Bulldog is certainly high on the list of memorable moments for Crowell, a five-star running back from Columbus (Ga.) Carver who picked Georgia over Alabama.

Crowell's move wasn't the only eye-opener.

How about the flip-flopping of Calloway from Alabama to Auburn back to Alabama all in a month? The four-star flashed Crimson Tide gloves at his news conference and those in Tuscaloosa fell right back in love with him.

Coach Nick Saban reportedly said at his signing day news conference that Calloway will get a shot at running back which was the main reason why Calloway switched to Auburn in the first place - to play offense.

What about four-star defensive end Andre Sturdivant signing with Toledo over numerous Big Ten programs including Penn State, Michigan State and others. The Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville standout who's in the Rivals 250 made many people do a double take but it's a huge pickup for coach Tim Beckman and his staff.



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