By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
Every coach claims to have a great national signing day. Nick Saban actually does - every year.
By lunchtime on Wednesday, the Alabama coach had most of his latest highly rated recruiting class locked up.
"He's the best at (recruiting) in the country," said Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. "Over the last five years, nobody has been better at it than Nick Saban."
The national signing period for high school football players opened with the usual plethora of pick-a-cap news conferences and a few high-profile flip-flops.
New Ohio State coach Urban Meyer showed that a year away from coaching didn't hurt his ability to recruit. Meanwhile, Meyer's old school, Florida, followed a mediocre season with a promising signing day - despite having Southern California pluck a couple of blue-chippers from Gator country.
Missouri didn't need to leave the state to make the biggest grab of all on signing day, getting a letter of intent from the nation's most celebrated prospect, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham from Springfield, Mo.
In Tuscaloosa, Ala., there were no surprises for the national champion Crimson Tide. And that was a good thing because Saban and his staff had already lined up a class that most of the analysts had ranked as either the best in the nation or very close to it.
"There was little intrigue or drama to this class," said Allen Wallace of SuperPrep Magazine.
No, just talent.
The Tide swept through the South to reload with 26 signees. Alabama went to Baltimore to get wide receiver Cyrus Jones, down to Lynchburg, Va., for defensive tackle Korren Kirven - one of the few late additions - scooped up eight players from Georgia, three from Florida, picked up a quarterback, Alec Morris, from Texas, and even dipped into LSU territory to grab highly touted safety Landon Collins from Geismar, La.
Collins' selection of Alabama over LSU last month on national TV was memorable for his mother's vocal disapproval ("Tigers No. 1," she said, eyes rolling at her son's choice). On Wednesday, with mom by his side, Collins signed his letter of intent at Dutchtown High School.
Here's a look around the nation at more of the top stories from signing day.
RETURN OF URBAN
The Buckeyes' recruiting coaches - as opposed to their coaching coaches - did a bang-up job with Meyer's first Ohio State class.
You might remember Michigan wasn't pleased with the fact that Meyer and the staff he was assembling was allowed to recruit while the old staff was preparing the Buckeyes for their bowl game. The NCAA signed off on the arrangement. This just after Ohio State was handed a one-year bowl ban for transgressions under former coach Jim Tressel.
Considering Meyer's track record, simply having him on Ohio State's side was probably all the advantage the Buckeyes needed.
Meyer's class was a consensus top-five, loaded with defensive linemen, including Noah Spence from Harrisburg, Pa., and Adolphus Washington from Cincinnati. The Buckeyes got a late boost when offensive tackle Kyle Dodson from Cleveland switched from Wisconsin to Ohio State on Wednesday.
"We had to have him," Meyer said of Dodson.
Dodson was one of at least a half dozen players who switched commitments to play for Meyer.
"He's done an amazing job flipping kids away from schools like it was easy as can be. And it's not," said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com.
Michigan did OK for itself, too. Coach Brady Hoke's recruits received high marks from the experts and stacked up nicely with Ohio State.
So signing day was just like the old days in the Big Ten. There was Ohio State and Michigan, then everybody else.
With NCAA sanctions kicking in at USC, Lane Kiffin had 10 fewer scholarships to hand out this year.
While the quantity is down, the quality of the Trojans' class was not, and Kiffin's crew made a couple of big scores in Florida on signing day.
Defensive end Leonard Williams from Daytona Beach, Fla., and receiver Nelson Algholor from Tampa both chose the Trojans.
After announcing his decision on ESPNU, Algholor said he was looking forward to catching passes from Matt Barkley, who decided to return for his senior season.
Looks like Kiffin can thank his quarterback for that victory.
SNUBBING THE IRISH
Did Case Keenum get a seventh year of eligibility?
Maybe the most surprising signing day flip-flop came from receiver Deontay Greenberry from Fresno, Calif., who backed off of a long-standing verbal commitment to Notre Dame and signed with Houston.
"Out of left field," Farrell said.
Greenberry made a last visit to Houston, but was still considered a lock to end up in South Bend, Ind., as one of the top prizes of coach Brian Kelly's class. His cousin, cornerback Tee Shepherd, has already enrolled at Notre Dame.
Instead, Greenberry is off to Houston to play for new coach Tony Levine, whose Cougars will still use a pass-heavy offense even with Keenum out of eligibility.
LONGHORN'S LATE PITCH
Signing day at Texas tends to be pretty boring. Coach Mack Brown's classes are usually locked up airtight weeks, if not months, before letters of intent start setting off the fax machines.
This year, however, the Longhorns swooped in late to pick up linebacker Torshiro Davis, who is from Shreveport and had committed to LSU.
For the second straight year, Texas signed one of the most highly regarded running backs in the country, landing Johnathan Gray from Aledo, Texas, to go with last year's freshman sensations Joe Bergeron and the other Mack Brown.
COMMITTED, BUT NOT SIGNED
Quarterback Jameis Winston from Hueytown, Ala., said in an interview on ESPNU: "I'm a Nole."
But he also said he won't sign a letter of intent with Florida State until at least Friday. Winston seems intent on sticking with the Seminoles, but until it's official Jimbo Fisher will no doubt have to sweat it out.
Stanford has at least caught Winston's attention.
As for Florida State, Fisher signed a second consecutive class rated in the top 10 by the analysts - which should only make Seminoles fans even more eager for their team's long-awaited return to national championship contention.
Green-Beckham, born in St. Louis and adopted by a family from Springfield, Mo., made the hometown fans happy by signing with the Tigers.
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, the receiver already looks like an NFL prototype, comparable to stars such as Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson.
He whittled his choices down to Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri in January, and on Wednesday morning at Hillcrest High School he picked the Tigers.
"I felt like they've (Missouri) been there since Day One," Green-Beckham said.
Missouri first offered him a scholarship at the age of 15.
RU SERIOUS? YES, RUTGERS
When Greg Schiano left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, the fear was that Rutgers would loss much of what was being touted as its best recruiting class ever.
In the end, new coach Kyle Flood and the rest of the staff kept it together.
Rutgers lost only one player that had previously committed and came away with a class that included most of the top players in New Jersey, a typically solid state for producing football players, though often those players don't go to Rutgers.
The cream of the crop was Darius Hamilton, a defensive end from Ramsey, N.J., and the son of former NFL player Keith Hamilton.
"This shows you how good a job the assistant coaches did because in the end Schiano didn't matter," Farrell said. "These kids wanted to play for Rutgers."
Florida fans might be worried about some of the recruits that got away from the Gators, but coach Will Muschamp was able to secure a strong class that included Lakewood defensive end Dante Fowler, who switched his Florida State commitment to Florida on Wednesday. ... Stanford landed two of the best offensive tackles in the country, beating out USC for Kyle Murphy from San Clemente, Calif., and Nebraska for Andrus Peat from Tempe, Ariz. Peat's brother, Todd, plays for the Cornhuskers. ... California was headed toward a top-10, maybe top-five, class before defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi left the staff to join Steve Sarkisian at Washington. It helped the Huskies land blue-chip defensive back Shaq Thompson from Sacramento.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.