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Friday February 28th, 2020 10:15PM

Top heavy: Handful of elite programs hoard most top recruits

By The Associated Press
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McKinnley Jackson, a huge and talented defensive tackle from Mississippi, was one of the few five-star recruits whose college choice was a mystery coming into signing day.

“I'll keep this short, simple and sweet,” Jackson said during a news conference Wednesday at George County High School in Lucedale, Mississippi. “For the next three to four years, I'll be attending Texas A&M.”

The five-star prospect picked the Aggies over Alabama and LSU, allowing one more school to break into a small group that landed the majority of the top available players. Signing day is typically about the rich getting richer, and this year the best classes were especially top heavy.

According to 247 Sports' composite rankings, there were 31 five-star prospects in this year's class. Six schools signed 22 of those players. Clemson led the way with five as part of the highest-rated class coach Dabo Swinney has ever signed. Alabama and Georgia each landed four five-star players. National champion LSU, Ohio State and Oregon each had three.

For the second time in three seasons, 247 Sports crowned Georgia the recruiting champion, with Alabama and Clemson close behind.

Looking at the top 100 players rated by 247 and again a handful of schools cleaned up. Georgia (11), Alabama (10), Clemson (10), LSU (9) and Ohio State (7) signed 47 of them.

By landing Jackson, Texas A&M became the sixth school with more than four top 100 players in its new freshman class, The Aggies came away with six, which means 53% of the top 100 players signed with just six schools.

Last year, seven schools signed at least five of the top 100 for a total of 48 players. Five more schools landed four top-100s.

In 2018, eight schools had at least five top-100 signees and five schools (Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Texas) signed 46 of those players. That year, 12 of the 29 five-stars signed with either Georgia (7) or Clemson (5).

DONE DEAL?

Is five-star defensive end Jordan Burch heading to his hometown school?

Burch committed to South Carolina during the early signing period, but never actually signed a national letter of intent with the Gamecocks and he took a late visit to LSU.

At a signing day ceremony Wednesday at Hammon School in Columbia, South Carolina, Burch had only a Gamecocks hat. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, whose son plays on the same high school team with Burch, was sitting just a few feet away.

Burch never made an announcement nor did any interviews, simply saying: “For the next three or four years I’ll be with my friends.”

When South Carolina posted a list of 21 signees a few hours later, Burch's name was not among them. The signing period ends April 1.

FLIPS

It's been three years since the early signing period in December was implemented in college football, and it is clear the February frenzy is gone for good.

"Today used to be the craziest day on the face of the earth," Florida coach Dan Mullen told reporters.

Signing day surprises are now rare as most teams have their classes complete or close to it in December. Ohio State, for example, signed one player Wednesday to complete its class.

Two of the few decisions that could be called surprises involved Florida schools.

Four-star safety Avantae Williams from Deland, Florida, signed with Miami instead of the University of Florida. And Florida State lost out on four-star receiver Malachi Wideman, who flipped from a longtime verbal commitment and signed with Tennessee.

Oregon finished off the top class in the Pac-12 by flipping 340-pound defensive tackle Jayson Jones from Caldera, Alabama. The four-star player had been a verbal commit to the Crimson Tide, but Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, a former Alabama assistant, was able to lure him to Eugene.

FAMILY TIES

New FAU coach Willie Taggart once said when asked whether his son, quarterback Willie Taggart Jr., would play for him in college: “Only if I need him.”

Taggart Jr., a three-star prospect, signed with the Owls on Wednesday.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall's son, wide receiver Breaker Mendenhall, decided to go to school close to his roots. The younger Mendenhall signed with Utah State. Bronco Mendenhall is a Utah native and was coach at BYU for more than a decade before taking over at UVA in 2017.

Memphis is getting another Gainwell. Running back Kory Gainwell from Yazoo County High School in Mississippi signed with the Tigers to play with his brother, Kenneth, who was one of the leading rushers in the nation as a redshirt freshman last season.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and https://appodcasts.com/category/ap-top-25-college-football/

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/APTop25CollegeFootballPoll and https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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