Sports

Alabama's on top (in recruiting) and Ohio State gets over Michigan

Alabama is the consensus recruiting champion for the fifth season in a row.

Alabama is used to being No. 1 in college football rankings, and that's where the Crimson Tide stood Wednesday when recruiting analysts finished tabulating the winners and losers of national signing day.

Alabama was the consensus football recruiting champion for the fifth consecutive season, but now the Crimson Tide has the challenge of living up to its rating on the field — which it couldn't do after being top ranked at the end of the last regular season.

Ohio State, the reigning on-field champion, also performed well in recruiting, pulling in the sixth-rated class. The Buckeyes' roster is log-jammed with quarterbacks, but they'll bring in two more, including highly regarded Torrance Gibson, from Plantation, Fla.

Ohio State's biggest win of the day was running back Mike Weber, who chose the Buckeyes over rival Michigan. It was the first proxy battle between Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, who took over the Michigan program in December.

"We do keep score against our rivals in everything we do," Meyer told reporters.

Harbaugh, who had about a month to fill out Michigan's small class, missed on the Wolverines' three biggest targets. Weber went to the Buckeyes; tight end Chris Clark to UCLA; and cornerback Iman Marshall to USC.

The Wolverines did sign Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a tight end-defensive end whose father is a Michigan assistant, and defensive end Shelton Johnson, who chose Michigan over Florida State. The Wolverines' class was rated No. 38.

Another first year coach, Jim McElwain of Florida, had a recruiting class rated among the worst in the Southeastern Conference just weeks ago. But he picked up two five-star linemen Wednesday and has now filled out a class that is ranked No. 21 overall.

Byron Cowart, a defensive end whom some analysts considered the best recruit in the nation, announced he would sign with Auburn, setting off the wild celebration in the offices of the Tigers' coaches. But then he took six more hours to mull second thoughts.

In the end, he sent in his fax, and Auburn class rose to a No. 9 ranking.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand

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