- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

And the rich get richer.

College football’s perennial powerhouse league dominated National Signing Day, as the SEC inked five of the land’s top recruiting classes on Wednesday. According to D1SCOURCE’s quasi-official consensus (a secret recipe involving Rivals.com, Superprep and our own special sauce), the final Top-7 for 2007 reads: 1) Florida 2) Tennessee 3) USC 4) LSU 5) Texas 6 )Auburn and 7) South Carolina.

The Gators parlayed their recent national title into a superb haul, as Urban Meyer allayed fears among the reptile faithful that he could only recruit skill-position superstars. The Urbanator addressed significant current and and coming losses by loading up on both sides of the trenches, putting together a class that halted USC’s three-year reign of terror atop the recruiting heap.

Highlighted by national top-20 studs Torrey Davis (DT) and freakishly long sackmeister Carlos “Condor” Dunlap — 6-feet-7 inches of evil off the edge — Florida squeaked past the Volunteers courtesy of the superior balance of its class. Though Meyer’s focus was on big uglies, the spread-obsessed guru couldn’t completely abandon his quick-six roots, also scooping Smurflike burners Deonte Thompson, Chris Rainey and Joe Haden (Friendly HS).

Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer left the buffet line at Denny’s long enough to sign perhaps the best class of his impressive tenure in Knoxville. Not only did the Vols ink 33 players, they mated quality with quantity by signing the nation’s top CB (Eric Berry), OLB (Chris Donald), KR/PR (Gerald Jones), JUCO (WR Kenny O’Neal) and prep schooler (Hargrave WR Brent Vinson). Ironically, the Vols came up short of the Gators because the fat man and former OG signed only two hogs (OLs Cody Pope and Darris Sawtelle).

Though the Trojans aren’t officially February’s Finest for the first time since 2003, USC did collar our two top-ranked players in the ‘07 class: RB Joe McKnight and DE Everson Griffen. McKnight, a 6-1, 190-pound blur from River Ridge, La., who averaged an absurd 16.4 yards per carry as a senior, has been billed as the “next Reggie Bush.”

Hopefully, that doesn’t mean McKnight’s parents are perusing San Diego real estate guides.

Griffen, a 6-4, 265-pound DE from Avondale, Ariz., with 4.4 speed (eat your heart out, Jevon), is the closest thing this class has to a first-round NFL lock.

Other Inkblots:

Locals: It was an odd year for the top area prospects, as top-20 national prospects Marvin Austin (Ballou) and Arrelious Benn (Dunbar) steered clear of the nation’s elite programs. A long agile WR, the 6-2, 210-pound Benn stuck with his verbal commitment to Ron Zook and rebuilding Illinois. And Austin, considered the nation’s top DT before a lackluster showing (one coach commented on his “zero effort”) at the Army All-American Bowl, surprised many observers by picking North Carolina yesterday over USC and supposed heavy favorite Florida State.

Buy: Speaking of North Carolina, new coach Butch Davis worked a trio of signing day miracles by inking Austin, in-state WR Dwight Jones (a 5-star possession receiver thought to be a heavy Tennessee lean) and athlete Greg Little, who backed out of his verbal to Notre Dame.

Sell: For the first time in recent memory, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden didn’t work his customary 11th-hour magic. The Seminoles didn’t sign a single consensus Top-25 recruit and failed to ink a Top-10 class for the first time since folks began seriously tracking such nonsense (approximately a decade ago). The Seminoles have been slipping for some time under Diddy, but yesterday’s weak performance could be the ultimate sign that the party’s over in Tallahassee.

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