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Each CFB signing class averages 2.5 different #1 recruits

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Congratulations to your school and its rival for both signing the #1 recruit.

Leonard Fournette at LSU
One of three #1 recruits in the class of 2014.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Banner Society illustration.

There is nothing more college football than having two different groups declare themselves #1 simultaneously. The sport’s national championship history is full of it, back to the very beginning.

That extends to recruiting. Remember when USC fans claimed to have broken Alabama’s #1 streak, thanks to one outlet disagreeing with the majority?

That extends to individual recruits as well.

We can debate the all-time greatest recruits across eras, sure, but we can even debate who gets the honor within individual years.

Since ESPN joined Rivals and Scout in ranking players in 2006 (and thanks to 247’s retroactive Composite, which pools together everyone’s grades), we’ve averaged multiple different #1 recruits per class, three times having four different #1 players at once.

The Composite, Rivals, ESPN, Scout, and 247’s own ratings (distinct from the Composite) weren’t all around for every year, but this era still covers the span in which we had multiple competing perspectives at this level, so we’ll cite all that were available for each year.

Years with four different #1 recruits

2019

  • Georgia DE Nolan Smith (Composite)
  • LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. (Rivals)
  • Alabama DE Antonio Alfano (247)
  • Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (ESPN)

2017

  • UCLA DE Jaelan Phillips (Composite)
  • Alabama RB Najee Harris (Rivals, Scout)
  • Stanford OT Walker Little (247)
  • Tennessee OT Trey Smith (ESPN)

2006

  • Alabama OL Andre Smith (Composite)
  • Florida WR Percy Harvin (Rivals)
  • Florida State DB Myron Rolle (ESPN)
  • Ohio State RB Beanie Wells (Scout)

What makes this even more fun: people reading about recruits on the internet, where the Composite is the typical go-to, and then watching ESPN’s Signing Day coverage, which frames ESPN’s rankings as if they’re the only rankings. It’s kind of like waking up in a different time zone, where all the numbers are a little different than you’re used to.

There’s nothing wrong with that, because this is college football, where everyone is free to rank everything.

Years with three different #1 recruits

2020

  • Clemson DL Bryan Bresee (Composite, Rivals)
  • Ohio State WR Julian Fleming (ESPN)
  • Alabama QB Bryce Young (247)

2015

  • Georgia DT Trenton Thompson (Composite, 247)
  • Auburn DE Byron Cowart (Rivals, ESPN)
  • Tennessee DL Kahlil McKenzie (Scout)

2014

  • LSU RB Leonard Fournette (Composite, ESPN, Scout)
  • Alabama DE Da’Shawn Hand (Rivals)
  • Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett (247)

2007

  • USC RB Joe McKnight (Composite, ESPN)
  • Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen (Rivals)
  • USC DE Everson Griffen (Scout)

It’s kinda impressive how this keeps happening to this degree, even though Scout has left us.

Years with two different #1 recruits

2018

  • Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence (Composite, Rivals, 247)
  • Georgia QB Justin Fields (ESPN)

2012

  • Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham (Composite, Rivals, Scout)
  • Florida State DE Mario Edwards (247, ESPN)

2010

  • Florida DE Ronald Powell (everybody but Scout)
  • Miami OT Seantrel Henderson (Scout)

2009

  • USC QB Matt Barkley (Composite, ESPN)
  • Tennessee RB Bryce Brown (Rivals, Scout)

2008

  • Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers (Composite, ESPN)
  • Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (Rivals, Scout)

For those 12 years, we’re now up to 34 different #1 recruits. This is truly pre-BCS-style discord.

Years when everybody agreed!!

2016

  • Michigan DT Rashan Gary

2013

  • Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche

2011

  • South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney

The only unanimous #1 recruits since Adrian Peterson in 2004 (2005 was before 247 or ESPN, but was also a split year).

So basically, any time anyone tells you their school just achieved the #1 anything in college football, take another look, because a different school quite possibly has a claim just as good.