Ranking nation's 10 most-talented teams
May, 16, 2013
By Travis Haney | ESPN Insider
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesWith dozens of top players, such as QB AJ McCarron, Alabama again is loaded with talent.I appeared on a radio show earlier in the week, and the hosts reminded me that there are only about 100 days until the college season begins. We can make it, right?
Along with the approaching season, more and more top 25 rankings will begin popping up. Heck, I'm convinced that colleague Mark Schlabach will start compiling one for 2014 before the 2013 season is even done.
Now that were talking about rankings, here's my take on a top 10: ranking the most-talented teams in the country. The basis? I researched and cross-pollinated Schlabach's most recent top 25, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s top 50 draft prospects and positional prospectus, and the past four years of ESPN.com recruiting class rankings.
The results were at times predictable -- but there were a few surprises, including some more heat for a veteran Big 12 coach to win big. As a byproduct, the "Talented 10" could indicate underrated and overrated teams this fall -- that is, if coaching and the schedule mesh well with personnel.
Here's a look at the nation's 10 most-talented teams heading into the 2013 college football season.
Kiper's top 50 prospects: 6
Kiper's positional prospects: 16
Four-year recruiting class average rank: 1.75
This comes as no shock for college football's current king of the mountain. The Tide do not have any glaring holes, a result of how well coach Nick Saban and his staff have recruited and developed players.
The supposed soft spot is the offensive line, where the Tide will replace two NFL first-rounders and former Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones. But Alabama still has Cyrus Kouandjio, Kiper's top tackle and No. 4 overall prospect, and third-rated senior guard Anthony Steen. So, a drop-off is not anticipated.
And why would there be? Not with linebacker C.J. Mosley putting off the NFL for another year, a returning quarterback in AJ McCarron who threw 30 touchdowns and just three picks, and emerging, young skill players such as Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon. No, the Tide are not going anywhere.
Kiper's top 50 prospects: 2
Kiper's positional prospects: 16
Four-year recruiting class average rank: 6.5
Surprised to see the Longhorns appear so high on the list? They actually have the richest senior class of any team I researched, as judged by the five rated positional prospects, including Jackson Jeffcoat, the No. 1 defensive end.
Coaches all over the country tell me how difficult it is to find defensive tackles, and yet Texas has three rated prospects even after Brandon Moore surprisingly left school early. The program is solid at running back, with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and David Ash is the fifth-rated quarterback prospect for the 2015 NFL draft.
What are the Horns doing with all of this talent? They won nine games last season, but losing their final two Big 12 games, to TCU and Kansas State, took away some of the their steam. They've bounced back from the five-win season of 2010, sure, but the results still do not reflect the talent level.
That's one reason why coach Mack Brown has given coordinator Major Applewhite license to run a tempo offense. But what about Manny Diaz's defense, the injury-rattled unit that ranked 84th in 2012 in yards-per-play allowed? That's the side of the ball that will dictate whether Texas will win its first conference title since 2009.