Clemson's national title hopes came to an end, but the new year did bring a big win on the recruiting trail and moved the Tigers forward a spot in the rankings. They landed their fourth ESPN 300 OL commit, beating out programs like Oklahoma and LSU, for No. 4 OT Tristan Leigh. The eighth prospect in their class that ranks among the top-five nationally at their position, Leigh is a big player with good quickness, lower-body flexibility and a physical style.
Texas A&M notched a win in the Orange Bowl and also added a pair of defensive prospects to their 2021 recruiting class. Closer to securing a third straight top-10 class, the Aggies further strengthened their D-line haul with Elijah Jeudy, who along with top-five DE Shemar Turner gives them four ESPN 300 prospects projected to the defensive trenches.
If there was an award for comeback class, USC would be at the front of the line, as the Trojans have rebounded from a disappointing 2020 cycle when they finished 54th. Clay Helton now has his program in the top 10 after keeping five-star DE Korey Foreman in state. In addition to landing the explosive defensive lineman, they added a top-10 CB to their class in Ceyair Wright. After signing one ESPN 300 prospect a year ago, they now have nine among their 2021 class.
Maryland has made a big jump in recruiting from a year ago as well and is assembling one of the top classes in the Big Ten. The Terps have put a focus on defense and put together one of the best collections of front-seven prospects in the nation, including five-star Terrence Lewis. The aggressive, rangy defender leads a class in which the top 10 commits all project to defense, six in the ESPN 300.
While cross-town rival USC broke into the top-10, UCLA was able to make a jump of its own. The Bruins added one of the more versatile big men in this class with Tiaoalii Savea, who projects to defense with good strength and initial burst but could arguably have even greater upside as an OL.