Longer days and rising temps mean it’s time for spring football. This is when we shake off the dust from the wreckage of last fall and renew our hopes that the forthcoming version of our school’s team is destined to become a great one.

In our March issue of the The Kickoff, we listed the schedule for spring games, as well as giving Editor Tommy Duff’s insight into the recruiting wars. As we approach the later half of April, most teams have already had those spring games with thousands of alumni and fans converging on campuses for a look at things to come.

All eyes will be on the Alabama Crimson Tide to see if Nick Saban’s crew can reload and take home yet another trophy. They recently signed four 5-star players, including 3 ranked in the Kickoff Top 30 and eight ranked in the top 10 at their respective position out of 24 total signees. The Tide returns 11 starters this fall and are given 19/4 odds of defending their national championship, according to Sportsbook.

“Really, you can close your eyes and put your finger on the page, and you will undoubtedly choose a potential headliner for this recruiting class,” Duff said. “Most impressive, however, was the number of highly touted LBs Saban signed, led by 5-star Ben Davis.”

Duff also had praise for the recruiting efforts of Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Ole Miss, Georgia, Southern Cal, and Auburn. Rounding out our Top 20 were Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, Texas A&M, and Baylor.

Duff said Clemson, which came within five points of a national championship earlier this year, looks to be fierce again with Deshaun Watson returning and new talent added. “Dabo and Co. signed 2 players ranked in our Top 30 and 8 players ranked in the top 10 at their position, including the #2 overall prospect DT Dexter Lawrence and the #1 overall RB Tavien Feaster. Lawrence was the #2 overall prospect and will provide immediate help on the Tigers’ DL. Feaster is an electric playmaker who could’ve gone anywhere in the country and competed for playing time.”

Sportsbook gave Clemson 15/2 odds of winning the CFP this coming season. They start the campaign Sept. 2nd on the road against Auburn, which endured a massively disappointing season in 2016 but should perform better with Coach Gus Malzahn on the hot seat, signing two players rated in the Kickoff’s Top 30.

“Auburn was one of the big Signing Day winners, having multiple players commit on live television, and none may have been bigger than 5 star DT Derrick Brown,” Duff said. “The #1 rated player from the state of Georgia, he picked the Tigers over UGA and Tennessee. Juco DT QB John Franklin is expected to step in and compete for the starting job. Franklin played for the Seminoles for a season before transferring and is considered an excellent run/pass option at the QB position.”

LSU also looks to win the SEC West. Duff said the Tigers would have finished even higher than #3 in its recruiting class if Les Miles had not been surprisingly forced to deal with questions about his job security last season. “Regardless, LSU signed two 5 stars in our top 30 and 10 players rated in the top 10 at their position. The biggest news for LSU’s class has got to be the DB haul Coach Miles signed,” Duff said.

This time last year, everyone expected Ohio State to compete for the CFP. Coach Urban Meyer has added several players expected to be solid contributors in the years ahead.

Look for Michigan to make waves with Jim Harbaugh’s first full signing class, which included the #1 ranked recruit DT Rashan Gary, RB Kareem Walker and WR Eddie McDoom.

The Ole Miss Rebels have to replace WR Laquan Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, but they finished with the 7th rated class, with two players ranked in our Top 30, including the #3 overall prospect in OL Gregory Little.

Kirby Smart left Alabama to be head coach at Georgia, which pulled in 3 players in the Kickoff Top 30 and 5 players ranked at their position, including 4 wide receivers. Mark Richt, who left for Miami (FL), was undoubtedly disappointed when the Hurricanes lost two highly coveted prospects to Tennessee early on signing day.

A coaching change didn’t seem to hurt Southern Cal much either after the removal of Steve Sarkisian due to off-field issues and the promotion of interim Head Coach Clay Helton. The Trojans reeled in the #1 WR prospect in the nation, Tyler Vaughns.

These are just some of the new names you’ll probably be hearing this fall as college football teams look ahead to a blank slate and the championship hunt begins anew.

How did your team do on national signing day? Did anyone impress you during the spring game? Can anyone stop Alabama from running away with a fifth national championship since 2009? Talk to us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn  pages.

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