NCF Nation: others recruiting wrap 2010

TCU concentrates on speed and 2011

February, 4, 2010
TCU prides itself on battling the Texas schools for the best recruits. And while the Horned Frogs did that getting 16 of their 18 recruits in-state, two non-Texas tailbacks, Curtis Carter and Ethan Grant, stood out in the class.

Carter and Grant both decommitted from schools in automatic qualifying conferences. Grant was committed to Oregon and Carter to Nebraska. They were two of the Frogs' seven players who switched commitments to play in Fort Worth.

TCU also signed Matt Brown, an Allen High (Texas) quarterback who was headed to Arizona before offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes became the head coach at Louisiana Tech.

Coach Gary Patterson said the goal of this class was to find speed. And while many of the 18 signees might not see the field in 2010 since the Frogs lose just six starters, several will get an opportunity in 2011.

“We wanted to get speed because we knew we were going to graduate four or five wide receivers and safeties,” Patterson said.

The immediate need for TCU was at cornerback where the Frogs graduate both starters this year. There are two good backups in place, but the depth is depleted. Cornerback Travaras Battle-Smith is already on campus and is expected to compete for playing time. Stony Point High (Round Rock, Texas) cornerback Kevin White is considered one of the sleepers of the class.

“We played six freshman last year,” Patterson said. “If you had asked me before the season I would have told you that we wouldn’t play any. I believe we’ll probably have to play at least one at corner because we lost two seniors.”

Loading up on defense was one of TCU’s priorities considering it loses five starters on that side of the ball for 2011. Defensive tackle David Johnson from Argyle, Texas, is ranked the 26th best defensive tackle in the country according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. He's already enrolled in school and will participate in spring football.

Patterson also noted that he loses five safeties in 2011, which prompted him to pick up three in this year’s class.

“No one ever gets everything they’d like,” Patterson said. “And right now they're just paper tigers. I guess we’ll find out whether they turn out to be any good or not.”
For the past three years, San Diego State has been known for its poor running game and it's not something second-year coach Brady Hoke likes to talk about.

In each of the past three seasons, the Aztecs have ranked 105th, 117th and 116th, respectively, nationally in rushing, and it’s been the reason none of those seasons resulted in winning campaigns.

When Hoke took the job prior to signing day 2009, he said his goal in that class was to fix the running game. But it averaged just 78 yards per game in 2009. So with a full year to identify talent, Hoke thinks he might have righted the ship.

“We, quite honestly, didn’t have the depth or even the quality of depth,” Hoke said of his running back position. “Every recruiting class you’re trying to recruit better than what you have and that’s something that we’ll always try and do.”

Of the 27 players San Diego State signed on Wednesday, five are offensive linemen and three are running backs.

Dwayne Garrett, Adam Muema and Deonte Williams will compete for backfield playing time with returning starter Brandon Sullivan, backup Davon Brown, three other running backs who were signed in the 2009 class and Atiyyah Henderson, who is trying to get a sixth year of eligibility. All will have a chance to show what they can do, but several might move to other positions.

However, the running game is only going to be as strong as the team’s offensive line. Hoke did not recruit any offensive linemen last year because he didn’t have enough time to evaluate them, which makes the additions of junior college linemen Juan Bolanos, Riley Gauld and Joe Unga so important. All three will be asked to fill an immediate need on the offensive line to give the running game some breathing room.

“I think from a standpoint of guys up front and guys who can move people off the ball, I feel better about that,” Hoke said.

The Aztecs also got better defensively. While the unit was OK last year, defensive coordinator Rocky Long didn’t have the right players to run his 3-3-5 defense properly. This year, he had time to find athletic players with the ability to play the Aztecs' hybrid positions and get speed off the edges. Defensive standouts who could contribute right away include linebackers Jake Fely and Cody Galea and defensive ends Jordan Thomas and Everett Beed.

“We’ve added some real speed guys and athletic guys on the edges of the defense,” Hoke said. “Joshua Gabbert is a guy who really may be able to play that Aztec position, that kind of hybrid strong safety, [Brian] Urlacher, middle linebacker guy. So, I think both of those areas will be a real plus for us this year.”
The mystery of the 2010 BYU signing class was really over before the 2009 season started.

That’s when quarterback Jake Heaps, receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Zac Stout committed to the program and the rest of the class fell in place behind them. Those three early commitments from highly touted players gave the Cougars an anchor to be one of the best classes among the nonautomatic qualifying schools. With the addition of defensive end Bronson Kaufusi in late August, the Cougars exceeded their expectations and spent most of signing day as the No. 24 class in the country, according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

“We had the class in place very early with very few surprises,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I can’t say that signing day was completely anticlimactic, but it’s more like taking the lights down after Christmas. Not really opening the presents. The commitments when they happen in June is like Christmas and now it’s like closure to it.”

While the 26-member class is the highest rated of Mendenhall’s six seasons, many of these players might not see the field this year. That’s because the Cougars have 16 players returning from missions. Because most of those guys will be participating in spring football, it’s going to be tough to keep the more mature players off the field.

“They’re all guys that we recruited,” Mendenhall said. “They’re all very good players. They’re all guys that played before their missions here one season as freshmen. So, there isn’t a guy coming back that most likely won’t be in our two-deep. When you add that to the class as well, it makes it even more impactful.”

Already 20 of the new signees have said that they plan on attending church missions and an unspecified five will leave before they enroll in school. Players are eligible for their mission when they turn 19.

Mendenhall said there weren’t many needs to fill in this class because of all the returning missionaries, but that the 2010 class was still one of the most athletic he has recruited.

“Our depth is about where it’s been the past four years, but I think maybe our talent continues to move a inch or two here collectively,” Mendenhall said.

Notre Dame recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
How did Brian Kelly fare with his first Notre Dame signing class? Let's take a closer look:

View class here.

Signees: 23

Heavy on: Receivers (four), quarterbacks (three).

Geographic trend: The signees hail from 12 different states, led by Ohio (five) and Florida (four).

Headliners: DT Louis Nix (ESPNU 150), WR Tai-ler Jones (ESPNU 150) OL Matt James (four stars).

Sleeper: Running back Cameron Roberson got less attention than some of the other tailbacks Notre Dame was recruiting, but Kelly said Roberson was the one he really wanted and fits his offense perfectly.

Best potential for immediate impact: The Irish have five recruits who enrolled in January to get a head start. Among them, Jones and defensive backs Chris Badger and Spencer Boyd might have the best shots at playing early.

Needs met: The Irish clearly needed to stock up on quarterbacks with Dayne Crist being the only scholarship signal-caller on the roster, and they did that. They also needed help at defensive back and the offensive and defensive lines, where they found some intriguing prospects. Defensive end still is an area that needs work, and Kelly says that's a top priority for 2011.

Analysis: It's hard to make a long-term judgment on Kelly's recruiting style based on this class, since he had only two months to put it together. But this does seem to be a departure from Charlie Weis' methods. Weis signed lots of five-star, all-world type players but didn't get the results on the field. Some Notre Dame fans are worried about the lack of five-star players in Kelly's first class, or that he took some two- and three-star kids.

But Kelly's strength has been identifying the kind of player he wants and then developing him over a career. He might not win signing day every year, but he's more interested in winning in the fall. That said, there are some excellent, high-level players in this class like Nix, Jones and James. The key down the line will be if Kelly can consistently recruit the top-notch defensive ends and tackles that Notre Dame hasn't had in recent years.

What Kelly said: "You need time to recruit. You need success if you want to be able to continue to recruit the very best. Clearly, we did not have either one on our side this time. We will.

"I think we've addressed some short-term needs with this class, and some long-term needs. So the class will be representative of all of those areas.

"I think if you look at each position, I think we addressed some immediate needs within this class. Part of that is the five mid-year enrollees. The five mid-year enrollees gives them an opportunity to develop, be part of spring ball, be here in the summer and have an opportunity to contribute.

"We're not going to take a guy just to make a statement. 'Hey, let's just take a guy, and spin these guys on their head. They won't know what we're thinking.' We're taking somebody at the University of Notre Dame that we believe can help us win."

Scouts Inc. national rank: 21

Utes rally late to get top 2010 class

February, 4, 2010

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would be the first to acknowledge that the early half of national signing day was a little unsettling.

The Utes suffered a couple early blows by losing receiver Avery Williams to West Virginia and four-star defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli to Oregon. But as the day wore on, the Utes started to rally and put together what some consider the best class among the nonautomatic qualifying schools.

“We had a good rally on signing day,” Whittingham said. “We had a good idea that that might happen, but you never know for sure. We were able to get a few guys on signing day that were a few pleasant surprises. I won’t say surprises, but it was good to see their commitment sheets come in.”

The biggest name on the board is Fullerton Community College offensive tackle John Cullen, who picked the Utes over USC. Cullen, who took a late visit to Salt Lake City, said he connected with Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn and that that was part of the draw of coming to Utah. For the Utes, Cullen’s decision fills one of the few immediate voids on the depth chart.

“If you had to pinpoint a pressing need, it was probably replacing Zane Beadles at left tackle and John Cullen certainly gives us a leg up on that,” Whittingham said.

Cullen is one of four junior college players the Utes brought in for 2010.

The other saviors of the Utes' class were running back Lucky Radley and V.J. Fehoko, a linebacker and the only Hawaiian in the Utes’ class. Fehoko is rated as the No. 14 inside linebacker by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

The addition of Radley brings the Utes’ scholarship running back total to five, but that could move to six should senior Matt Asiata earn a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and be allowed to play in 2010.

The Utes also picked up two quarterbacks in Brian Blechen and Tyler Shreve since Terrance Cain is a senior and the Utes will only have two quarterbacks on the roster in 2011. However, Whittingham said he doesn’t plan to keep all four at quarterback. He noted that Griff Robles, who will be a redshirt freshman this year, and Blechen are athletic enough to play other positions.

“We really had a situation this year where we were really looking for the best athletes across the board. We didn’t really have an area that was decimated by graduation or what have you. We had the luxury to just take the best players we came across and I think we had a good cross section of players.”

Boise State didn’t have a lot of room in this year’s recruiting class after losing just five seniors this past season, so coach Chris Petersen wanted to make the most of the few spots he had to fill.

There were only a few areas of minor concern -- secondary and quarterback -- and Petersen thinks his staff did a good job of finding players to fill those posts.

“I really kind of feel the same way as I do every year,” Petersen said. “Our coaches do a good job of finding the right guys that are the right fit for us. And the thing that we’re always so proud of is that our guys don’t care who’s recruiting them and who’s not recruiting them. We do a good job of making our own evaluations and our own opinions and not getting caught up in everybody else’s opinion. Our coaches have been on the mark the last however many years and we feel the same about this crew.”

Receiver Troy Ware and athlete Matt Miller could be the two players ready to contribute right away. Both Ware and Miller are tall, rangy guys that should be a nice complement to a young receiving corps.

The surprise of the class was the signing of safety Jeremy Ioane from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ioane was also being recruited by Washington and Notre Dame and since a couple of his former high school teammates were on the Irish roster, he appeared headed to South Bend. But Petersen said they had a gut feeling they might land him.

“We were hoping with Jeremy Ioane,” Petersen said. “We really felt like he would fit into our program really well in just so many different ways. He was recruited by some good schools, so you never know. We were just thrilled to get him because we think that he’s going to be a fabulous player for us. We feel really good about the type of person he is.”

The only other goal of this year’s class was to grab yet another quarterback, which Petersen said he wants to do every year. Grant Hedrick is a little different than the other quarterbacks in the program because of his ability to be a true dual-threat player. He was the Oregon High School State Player of the Year after completing 65 percent of his passes for more than 2,500 yards, 34 touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.

There’s only room for six of the 10 recruits the Broncos picked up this year. But Petersen said the four remaining players might not grayshirt. Changes to the roster could open some more spots before fall camp begins in August.
When Doc Holliday took over at Marshall in mid-December, he started his recruiting from scratch.

The Thundering Herd had midterm enrollees linebacker Trevor Black and long-snapper/tight end James Power, but other than that, Holliday and his staff had to put together a competitive class in less than two months.

Holliday, who was lauded at the time of his hiring for being a recruiting genius, went into this class thinking he’d sign 14 players and came away with a class of 23.

“I hired great coaches with great contacts in areas, and the thing we did was we got those coaches out in the areas that they’re familiar with and familiar with the players,” Holliday said. “We’re extremely excited about the players we were able to locate, find and recruit.”

Holliday went to Florida, where he did most of his recruiting at West Virginia, and came out with 13 signees. Of those, five are three-star recruits, according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Holliday also flipped the commitments of four players who were all committed to schools from automatic qualifying conferences.

One of those switches came from receiver Fred Pickett from Pahokee High in Florida. Pickett is the type of athlete Marshall has been missing in past years. He’s versatile enough to play receiver or running back and should be an immediate contributor.

Another steal was running back Antwon Chisholm, who dropped Mississippi State for the Herd. Chisholm’s recruitment was crucial considering Marshall star running back Darius Marshall opted to leave school early for the NFL draft.

But of all the recruits Marshall signed, Holliday said the most important might be from kicker Justin Haig from American Heritage-Boca-Delray High in Florida. Holliday said securing a kicker was the Herd’s top priority since they were looking at going into the 2010 season without one.

Overall, Holliday said he was pleased with the way his first class turned out despite the rushed turnaround.

“You know, with this being the first year and the amount of time we had, I felt like we made up some ground and signed a good class,” Holliday said.

UCF's 2010 class is full of surprises

February, 4, 2010
Of all the nonautomatic qualifying schools, Central Florida probably had one of the most surprising recruiting days.

Three players who were on UCF’s wish list actually signed and made the Knights' recruiting class the best in school history.

The day started with offensive guard Torrian Wilson switching his commitment from Louisville to UCF. Wilson, the No. 8 offensive guard in the country, took his visit to UCF this past weekend and it was enough to sway his pledge.

“I thought we were on the hunt,” coach George O’Leary said of Wilson. “I know he had committed to Louisville, but he visited last week and I thought we were in the hunt. I had a chat with him and he saw a lot of things that he liked.”

Overall, the Knights signed six offensive linemen, including Miami Southridge Senior High brothers Jordan and Justin McCray. UCF struggled mightily last season with 2.54 sacks allowed per game and a rushing offense that ranked 82nd in the country.

“I always like to have 15 of those guys sitting around soaking,” O’Leary said of his offensive linemen. “They’re the toughest position to play early. So you like to get guys coming in where you have some numbers there. Hopefully, after their first year, they get a chance to come in and get some sophomore or junior work and that’s about the time that they’re really coming into their own from a maturity standpoint.”

O’Leary said other surprises for the Knights included nabbing athlete Jordan Akins out of Union Grove High (Ga.), a school that’s heavily recruited by Georgia. Akins was a Georgia lean.

The Knights also secured offensive lineman Jose Jose, who was committed to South Florida. Jose, who made a switch right before he signed, is one of five signees from Miami Central High School, state semifinalists in class 6A this season.

Maybe the quickest contributor from Miami Central will be quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey, who is one of two new quarterbacks already enrolled in school. Quarterback has been a dicey position for UCF the past couple seasons, and with 2009 starter Brett Hodges gone, the position will be up for grabs in the spring.

SMU continues with youth movement

February, 4, 2010
SMU would be the first to remark that the 2010 recruiting class is the best the Mustangs have signed, maybe since the 1980s.

That’s fitting considering coach June Jones has created a renaissance at SMU, notching an 8-5 record, the school’s first eight-win season since 1984, and the school’s first bowl game since that same year.

But even Jones would tell you that his program isn’t where it wants to be quite yet.

“We’re still probably a recruiting class or half a recruiting class from really just not holding on to your rear ends with injuries,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of good players. In fact, I think every one of the players we have in this class will have chance to get on the field and help us next year. So that’s pretty good.”

For the third consecutive season, Jones is going to put out a team that’s built around young players. The Mustangs started 11 freshmen or sophomores last season, including quarterback Kyle Padron, who came on in place of injured started Bo Levi Mitchell in the middle of the year and never relinquished the spot.

The strength of this class is built around in-state prospects. The Mustangs signed 18 players from the state of Texas and seven of those players are three-star recruits, according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Overall, the Mustangs signed 11 three-star recruits.

The headliner of the class is quarterback Steven Kaiser from De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis, Mo. Kaiser is rated the No. 17 quarterback in the country, and Jones thinks he’ll give SMU's other young quarterbacks, none of which are older than a junior, a run for their money.

“He might be the best quarterback I’ve looked at on film in the last 10 years of coaching college,” Jones said. “We’re excited about those prospects of what we have at quarterback.”

Madill, Okla., running back Darryl Fields might see early playing time with former SMU back Shawnbrey McNeal opting to leave early for the NFL draft. Fields rushed for 1,495 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 145 carries last season.

Kevin Pope is another running back prospect Jones said would probably be utilized as a freshman.

Jones also expects to utilize the versatility of some of his more athletic signees, including John Tyler (Tyler, Texas) duo Jeremy Johnson and Ricky Collins.

“I think this is probably the best recruiting class this school has had in a long, long time,” Jones said.

Houston adds depth with class

February, 4, 2010
Houston didn’t need a lot of immediate help this season, but it didn’t stop the Cougars from signing the best class in Conference USA.

The Cougars played 12 true freshmen last season and five of them started. So for coach Kevin Sumlin, this year’s class was more about increasing the team’s depth rather than plugging holes.

“We wanted to upgrade talent like everybody does, but we wanted to develop depth," Sumlin said. “Basically, we were one-deep at every position except offensive line… I would hope not as many guys play as freshmen next year, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I think there are some talented guys in this group and if they’re better than the guys that are playing or as good, they’re not going to stand next to me during the games.”

Houston returns 16 starters from last year’s team that won 10 games and spent most of the season ranked in the Top 25. Where the Cougars do lose starters, there are competent backups that have playing experience and can step in and fill the void. But Sumlin won’t rule out playing any freshman in 2010. For the past two seasons, the Cougars have had the Conference USA Freshman of the Year.

“One of the luxuries of coming here is playing time,” Sumlin said. “If you’re good enough to play, we’re going to put you on the field. We’ve got some talented guys coming in here and guys coming in June, going through summer school, getting comfortable and learning what goes on has really sped up the process of freshmen playing.”

One of the positions Houston did want to bolster was quarterback. Case Keenum, the nation’s top player in passing total offense, is going to be a senior and his backup, Cotton Turner, is a junior. Sumlin added David Piland and Aaron Johnson to the quarterbacking mix. Piland comes from a great pedigree at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas. Former quarterbacks from Carroll include former Missouri star Chase Daniel, Alabama’s Greg McElroy, who led the Crimson Tide to national championship this season, and Kyle Padron, who helped SMU to its first bowl game and win since 1984.

“I think we were able to recruit some guys where you’ve got a situation where you can come in and really the pressure’s not on you to play right away,” Sumlin said. “You can be a room and be on the practice field and be around a guy who’s one of the best in the country. Learn from him, both the positive and negative, and compete to be the backup quarterback. And then, have the ability to maybe start three or four years here.”
Southern Miss has never shied away from a recruit because he was out of the Golden Eagles’ league. That’s probably why the Golden Eagles have signed at least one big-name player each of the three years coach Larry Fedora has been in charge.

This year was no different as Fedora reeled in two high-level junior college transfers in wide receiver Kelvin Boldin and offensive tackle Lamar Holmes, and Fairhope High (Ala.) running back Jamal Woodyard.

“We’ve got a staff that goes out there and believes in the philosophy that we set forth in recruiting and that’s to identify the players that we feel can help us win a championship and go after them,” Fedora said. “It doesn’t matter who’s recruiting them. We’re not going to back away from anybody.”

Southern Miss’ greatest need was on the offensive line and at running back. The Golden Eagles lost four starters on the offensive line and picked up some immediate help with a couple junior college transfers in Holmes and Jason Weaver. Overall, Southern Miss signed six offensive linemen to help fill the depth.

“That was a huge get for us because we didn’t know if we’d be able to get six quality players and we feel like we were able to,” Fedora said.

The Golden Eagles also lost its top two running backs, including the school’s all-time leading rusher Damion Fletcher, to graduation. And while there’s depth at that position, Fedora still signed three running backs, including Woodyard, a four-star recruit by ESPN’s Scout’s Inc.

“He’s going to be a steal,” Fedora said of Woodyard. “He’s a guy that got hurt. He’s about 200 pounds, about 5-9, great speed, a 4.4 kid, he missed half the season but he rushed for about 1,500 yards in five games and then broke an ankle. So we feel strong about him.”

The Golden Eagles signed several players that have the potential to be contributors in 2010, including receiver Markese Triplett and Steve McNair Jr., son of the late NFL quarterback.

“You feel like all these guys will come in and have an opportunity to play, but you just don’t know who’s going to come in and have an immediate impact,” Fedora said. “It’s hard for me to pick anyone out individually and say they’re going to come in and have an immediate impact, but I think we have the guys that definitely have the skills to.”
As Fresno State looked across the landscape of WAC football and its shift toward spread offenses, coach Pat Hill knew his team needed to catch up.

So in his 2010 recruiting class, Hill set out to find more perimeter speed and develop a wide receiver corps that could complement the talented quarterbacking trio he already had on campus.

“What we really needed to do was really work hard to improve the speed on the perimeter,” Hill said. “We’ve never had the potential at receiver that we do right now. We’ve never had these kind of high school athletes and freshmen in our program. Now, whether they develop …. They’re a long way from when they are in high school and what they do when they’re in college. You never know until they get there. I’m the first one to say that after doing this for 37 years. But we’ve got some guys that have some big time athletic skills.”

Fresno State’s main focus was on improving its receiving corps after losing all of its starting receivers from this past season. At least seven of Fresno State’s 21 signees have the ability to play wide receiver.

While Hill said the Bulldogs are still going to run the ball like they always have, he wants to see what some of the young talent can do in a spread offense.

”We’re probably going to change some of the things that we do as far as spreading it out a little bit more,” Hill said. “We’ll always have a pretty good running game, but we’ll have some weapons on the perimeter and they’re young. We just need to grow together and make that grow very, very fast.”

Fresno State is going to be young all around this year and Hill said he hopes that fosters competition for playing time. Of Fresno State’s 85 scholarship players in 2010, 60 will be true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores. Hill said with the level of talent he was able to bring in this season, the Bulldogs should be able to continue their string of winning seasons.

“We had a very efficient recruiting class and really got some athletes that in the past might not have landed,” Hill said. “This is the first time since I’ve been here that we went head-to-head with Pac-10 teams and got kids to commit to us and decommit from Pac-10 schools. And I think the main reason for that is the consistency that our program has had here for a long time.”