Looking back at the '06 Big East recruiting classes

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

My colleague Ted Miller out in the wild, wild west of the Pac-10 had a really fun post earlier this week. He looked back on that conference's 2006 recruiting class. Players who signed that year should be seniors or redshirt juniors now, so it's a perfect time to judge the class on actual results, not promise.

And so, I figure that's a good idea to steal and apply to the Big East. Pittsburgh had the 16th-best recruiting class in the nation that season, according to our Scouts Inc. experts, while Louisville ranked 21st. No other Big East team cracked the top 25.

Let's take a look back and see how things have turned out, shall we?

Cincinnati

Class: 22

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

Expected major contributors in 2009: 7 -- LB John Goebel, LB Robby Armstrong, CB Marcus Barnett, TE Ben Guidugli, DL Ricardo Matthews, RB Jacob Ramsey, S Aaron Webster

Misses: DT Oren Wilson

Verdict: Mark Dantonio's final full class contained some players who have already contributed, like Ramsey, Guidugli, Barnett and Webster, and some who should assume bigger roles this year, like Armstrong and Matthews. But overall, this lacked the quality of the deep '05 bunch that formed the core of last year's Orange Bowl squad. Receiver Jamar Howard, who was part of the '06 class but didn't qualify in 2006, is back this year after a stint in junior college.

Connecticut

Class: 24

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

Expected major contributors in 2009: 11 -- WR Brad Kanuch, S Robert Vaughn, K Desi Cullen, OL Zach Hurd, LB Scott Lutrus, CB Robert McClain, LB Lawrence Wilson, DE Lindsey Witten, OL Mathieu Olivier, DT Alex Polito, DE Mike Cox

Misses: CB Jamie Nixon

Verdict: As usual, Randy Edsall's '06 class didn't draw much attention nationally. But he found a whole bunch of players who exceeded their star rankings and became key pieces for the Huskies. Lutrus is one of the best linebackers in the Big East, while Vaughn is a top safety and Witten has NFL potential. UConn could use a breakthrough from the oft-injured Kanuch.

Louisville

Class: 30

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

Expected major contributors in 2009: 7 -- DE Rodney Gnat, DT L.T. Walker, LB Brandon Heath, WR Josh Chichester, CB Johnny Patrick, WR Troy Pascley, OT Jeff Adams

Misses: DT Aundre Henderson, DT Kareem Crowell, QB Emmanuel Francis

Verdict: Bobby Petrino's final class at Louisville looked great on paper but was hit hard by attrition and misevaluations, which is part of the reason why the Cardinals have been so thin the past two years. Some problems were unforeseen; promising defensive end Peanut Whitehead had his career ended after just a season by a back injury. Henderson decided he didn't like football and quit. Running back Anthony Allen transferred. Several others were dismissed for disciplinary reasons or never panned out.

Pittsburgh

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 2

Expected major contributors in 2009: 9 -- TE Nate Byham, OT Jason Pinkston, CB Aaron Berry, OL John Malecki, CB Jovani Chappel, OL Joe Thomas, S Elijah Fields, DE Greg Romeus, CB Ricky Gary

Misses: QB Kevan Smith, CB Aaron Smith, DT Scott Corson

Verdict: Overall, this was a deep, solid class that will form the backbone of this year's team. Add in the fact that star left tackle Jeff Otah was part of this group as a junior college transfer, and it becomes all the more impressive. Byham, Pinkston, Berry and Romeus are All-Big East-caliber players with pro futures. Pitt hasn't seemed able to figure out what to do yet with once highly-rated prospect Dorin Dickerson. Running back Kevin Collier could contribute this year.

Rutgers

Class: 27

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

Expected major contributors in 2009: 9 -- RB Kordell Young, WR Tim Brown, LB Antonio Lowery, DT Blair Bines, LB Ryan D'Imperio, DB Zaire Kitchen, TE Shamar Graves, FB Jack Corcoran, DT Charlie Noonan

Misses: TE Jeff Minemeyer, LB Sorie Bayoh

Verdict: The best player from this class, Kenny Britt, was a first-round NFL draft pick in April. Combine that with a high number of contributors, and Greg Schiano had a pretty good batting average with this class.

South Florida

Class: 30

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

Expected major contributors in 2009: 11 -- WR Carlton Mitchell, OL Zach Hermann, S Nate Allen, DB Jerrell Young, OL Jeremiah Warren, LB Sabbath Joseph, DL Aaron Harris, DL Craig Marshall, K Delbert Alvarado, WR Ed Alcin, OL Kevin McCaskill

Misses: DT Leslie Stirrups, WR Jason Sherman, DE Joseph Jackson

Verdict: Surprisingly, some of the Bulls' highest-rated recruits in the 2006 class are the ones who didn't pan out, while the lesser-regarded names have gained regular playing time. The best player so far of this group is Allen, who should have an NFL future. This is a good class that just needs a little more star power.

Syracuse

Class: 22

ESPNU top 150 players: 1

Expected major contributors in 2009: 9 -- TE Andrew Robinson, RB Delone Carter, OL Jim McKenzie, OL Ryan Bartholomew, OL Tucker Baumbach, OL Jonathan Meldrum, DE Jared Kimmel, LB Derrell Smith, WR Mike Williams

Misses: WR Andrey Baskin, S Derek Hrinya

Verdict: Several players from the '06 batch will start this year, including nearly all of Syracuse's offensive line. But this class, like most of Greg Robinson's efforts, is short on all-conference caliber players. Baskin was the Orange's biggest recruit, but he failed to qualify and never made it to campus. Robinson was the starting quarterback two years ago before switching to tight end this spring.

West Virginia

Class: 16

ESPNU top 150 players: 0

Expected major contributors in 2009: 6 -- DT Chris Neild, WR Wes Lyons, LB Anthony Leonard, C Eric Jobe, S Franchot "Boogie" Allen, LB J.T. Thomas

Misses: S John Maddox, CB Robert Williams, OL Eric Rodemoyer, CB Greg Davis

Verdict: The Mountaineers had a small class in '06, and they could have handed out half the scholarships and gotten the same results. Only eight 2006 signees are on the current roster. Several from that class are expected to take a step up this year, including Neild, Lyons and Allen. Still, only getting six major contributors from any class is a hard pill to swallow.

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