NCF Nation: recruiting moments 0902
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
If things pan out as expected, which is never a given in recruiting, Michigan State's 2009 class could be a program-changer.
ESPN's Scouts Inc. currently ranks the Spartans' class 21st nationally, the program's highest rating in quite some time.
As national signing day approaches, here are five recruiting moments from the past five years that made a significant impact on Big Ten teams and/or the league.
1. Terrelle Pryor signs with Ohio State, 2008 -- One of the most hyped high school recruits in college football history ended his prolonged courtship by signing with Ohio State six weeks after signing day. Pryor chose the Buckeyes over two other Big Ten schools (Michigan and Penn State) and Oregon, giving Ohio State its quarterback of the future.
2. Illinois inks stellar 2007 class -- Despite only four victories in his first two seasons as Illini coach, Ron Zook flexed his recruiting muscle with a superb 2007 haul, ranked 12th nationally by Scouts Inc. Zook's class made national news and brought playmakers like Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson and Josh Brent to Champaign.
3. Penn State signs Derrick Williams, 2005 -- Coming off consecutive losing seasons, Penn State seemed an unlikely destination for Williams, considered the nation's No. 1 prospect. But Williams turned down offers from everywhere to play for the Lions and helped Penn State win 40 games and two Big Ten titles in his career.
4. Iowa signs top-15 class in 2005 -- After winning 31 games between 2002 and 2004, Iowa was rewarded in 2005 with one of the nation's top classes. Offensive linemen Dan Doering and Dace Richardson headlined the group along with tight end Tony Moeaki and defensive tackle Alex Kanellis. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, the 2005 class hasn't panned out, though some of its less-heralded members (Shonn Greene, Pat Angerer) have stepped up.
5. Roundtree spurns Purdue for Michigan, 2008 -- It remains to be seen whether Roy Roundtree becomes a major factor at Michigan, but his eleventh-hour decision to pick the Wolverines after originally committing to Purdue made waves around the league. Purdue coach Joe Tiller sounded off about the need for an early signing date, which would prevent "another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute." Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez joked later at Big Ten media day that he "can't wait to see Joe because I've been working all summer on my new snake-oil concoction."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 has been dotted by several intriguing recruiting stories during its brief history. Here are some of my personal favorites.
1. Oklahoma's Jamar Mozee spurns Kansas State: Mozee, a bruising running back from Blue Springs, Mo., was an apparently solid commitment for Kansas State until late in the 1999 recruiting period. But as signing day approached, Mozee followed several of the Kansas State assistants who had been recruiting him as they joined Bob Stoops' fledgling program at Oklahoma. The late switch earned the wrath of Wildcat fans everywhere, but also provided Stoops one of his top early recruits. Mozee never materialized for the Sooners like expected, but his recruitment fueled an intense early rivalry between the two schools.
2. Kansas' underrated class of 2004: Unheralded prospects like Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins were barely recruited by most powers, but developed into All-Americans while working with coach Mark Mangino's staff by the time they left college. Defensive starters Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and Charlton Keith also didn't catch much recruiting attention, but also became key starters for the Jayhawks' team that made history by claiming the 2008 Orange Bowl and making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history. It also made some recruiting analysts blush, considering they missed so badly with this group.
3. Ryan Perrilloux heads for home: Perrilloux committed to Texas before his senior season and was presumed to be the natural successor for Vince Young after recording a slew of records in his senior season at East St. John's High School in Reserve, La. Throughout the recruiting process, Perrilloux remained committed to Texas. But he made a late switch, signing with the first recruiting class of LSU coach Les Miles. Perrilloux's career never materialized and he was kicked off the LSU team for violating team rules after several earlier legal skirmishes. And his departure opened a place on Texas' roster for Colt McCoy, who developed into a Heisman Trophy runner-up with the opportunity.
4. Darrell Scott picks family and the Buffaloes: The nation's top running back recruit waited until the last minute before choosing Colorado and Texas, following his uncle Josh Smith, a wide receiver/kick returner who already was on the Buffaloes' roster. Scott apparently had given the Longhorns a private commitment which changed when running backs coach Ken Rucker became the team's director of high school relations and player development and was replaced by Major Applewhite. His announcement was carried live on ESPNU, where he became Colorado's highest-ranking recruit since Marcus Houston in the 2000 recruiting class.
5. Travis Lewis chooses Oklahoma: Not all of the most heated battles take place over five-star recruits. Lewis had played little linebacker in Lee High School in San Antonio and had barely even played defense. But several schools saw promise in his unique combination of speed and size, leading to a spirited recruiting battle that intensified as the 2007 signing day approached. Lewis eventually decided on Oklahoma from a fervent group of suitors that also included Oklahoma State and fast-closing Nebraska. After a redshirt season, Lewis developed into an All-Big 12 linebacker and the conference's freshman defensive player of the year in 2008.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
As national signing day approaches, it's important to look back at some of the notable recruiting coups that have occurred among the schools of the Independents and Others during the past couple years. These are a few that come to mind and they are in no particular order.
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
At a time when Notre Dame was losing several star players and coach Charlie Weis was trying to capitalize on the success of the 2006 season, Jimmy Clausen, the No. 1 prep star in the country, pledged to be the Irish's quarterback of the future. Several recruiting Web sites hailed him as a guy you get once every 10 years but unfortunately for Notre Dame, Clausen hasn't quite brought the hype that he had in high school. But he's still young and already has shown flashes of being a stellar college quarterback.
Southern Miss, 2008
Last year, Southern Miss put together one of the best recruiting classes in the program's history despite coach Larry Fedora being hired in the offseason. The big recruiting coup was receiver DeAndre Brown, who was the best player in the state of Mississippi and one of the top receivers in the country. The Golden Eagles also got CB Marcal Robinson to decommit from Arkansas and DB Bud Barksdale and OL Bo Tillman to decommit from Ole Miss.
Riley Dodge, QB, North Texas
In 2008, Dodge switched his commitment from Texas to play for his father, Todd Dodge, at North Texas. It was the second consecutive time a highly-touted quarterback from Southlake Carroll (Texas) shunned Texas for another school. Dodge was a backup last year after recovering from surgery, but was abruptly thrust into the starting role a few weeks ago when Mean Green starter Giovanni Vizza announced he was transferring.
Doug Wiggins, S, Western Michigan
Wiggins has yet to see the field, but could be one of the greatest recruiting nabs for the Broncos since recruits started being tracked by recruiting services. Wiggins originally signed with Miami in the 2007 class, but transferred to Western Michigan -- a school that originally recruited him -- after Miami tried to secure him a medical redshirt by operating on a torn hamstring that Wiggins said was just strained. Wiggins didn't buy it and got out of there after the 2007 season. He joined WMU that spring, but is not able to play for the Broncos until the 2009 season. He originally came to campus as a wide receiver, but will play safety.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Boise State got a steal with Moore, who was hardly recruited by any of the big schools despite being hailed as one of the best players in the state of Washington -- ever. He set numerous state records and now he's doing it at Boise State. As a freshman starter, Moore led Boise State to a 12-0 regular season, including a win at Oregon. He helped win a WAC title and was named a first-team freshman All-America. Moore might be one of the biggest recruiting coups in the entire WAC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
In the realm of SEC football, sometimes I wonder what means more to fans -- finishing in the top 10 in recruiting rankings or finishing in the top 10 in the final polls?
OK, I'm being a little facetious, but there's nothing quite like recruiting in the SEC. You can talk about somebody's mama. You can rag on a guy's girlfriend. But you take your life into your own hands when you dis an SEC fan's recruiting class.
Really, though, it looks like the rich just keep getting richer when you look at the most recent recruiting rankings by ESPN's Scouts Inc. Five of the top 12 teams are from the SEC, led by No. 1 LSU.
As we breathlessly await national signing day, here are five recruiting moments from the past five years that made a significant impact on the SEC:
1. Tebow picks Florida over Alabama: It was an extremely tough decision for Tim Tebow, and a lot of people thought he might choose Alabama. The Crimson Tide and Mike Shula did a really nice job recruiting him. In the end, Tebow couldn't say no to the Gators, and the rest as they say (two national championships and a Heisman Trophy) is history. Imagine, though, if he had chosen Alabama. Chances are Shula would still be coaching the Tide, and who knows where Nick Saban would be right now? Maybe at Auburn. Imagine, too, that Alabama offense last season with Tebow operating behind that offensive line.
2. The failed Springdale experiment: First, Houston Nutt hired innovative Gus Malzhan away from nearby Springdale High to be his offensive coordinator. Then Nutt signed four of Malzhan's best players from Springdale's powerhouse program during the 2006 class, including prep All-America quarterback Mitch Mustain. At the time, it seemed like a coup. Little did Nutt know that the whole thing would blow up in his face and eventually contribute to his demise at Arkansas. It was high drama at its best, complete with nasty e-mails, defections and plenty of finger-pointing. The bitter divorce ended with Nutt walking away following the 2007 season and immediately landing at Ole Miss. Malzhan had left for Tulsa the year before, and tight end Ben Cleveland remains the only player from that Springdale quartet on scholarship at Arkansas.
3. Julio and A.J.: Some would prefer the order to be A.J. and Julio. The debate is sure to rage the next couple of years. Either way, there hasn't been two better receiver prospects to come into the SEC in the same year than Alabama's Julio Jones and Georgia's A.J. Green last year. They were freshmen by classification in 2008, but played like future All-Pros. Jones has an NFL body right now and the strength to go with it. Green separates from defenders like few receivers can and led the SEC with 963 receiving yards and tied for the SEC lead with eight touchdown catches in 2008. Sit back and enjoy, because these are two of the best the league has seen at receiver in a long time.
4. Vols' recent classes wane: The 2006 and 2008 signing classes by Tennessee were the lowest rated of Phillip Fulmer's career. The Vols didn't crack the Top 15 in ESPN's recruiting rankings either year, which was unheard of under Fulmer. Two bad recruiting classes and two bad seasons (5-6 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2008) were too much for Fulmer to overcome, and he was fired this past season after carving out a Hall of Fame career at his alma mater. The Vols signed just one of ESPN's Top 150 prospects nationally in each of the 2006 and 2008 classes, and a total of 10 players from those two classes aren't even with the program at this point.
5. Top 15 status for Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron may be at Tennessee right now, but Ole Miss fans can thank him for the bulk of the talent the Rebels put on the field last season. The 2006 signing class, rated 14th nationally by ESPN and the highest rated class in Ole Miss history, produced 13 starters on last season's 9-4 team, including Marcus Tillman, John Jerry, Kentrell Lockett, Allen Walker, Kendrick Lewis and Cordera Eason. Greg Hardy and Dexter McCluster, also from that class, weren't full-time starters, but Hardy was one of the SEC's best pass-rushers with 8.5 sacks last season and McCluster was one of the Rebels' most versatile offensive threats. And after reeling in that talent-laden class in 2006, Orgeron added a quarterback to the mix that next January -- a transfer from Texas by the name of Snead.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
With national signing day just around the corner, we're joining the other ESPN.com conference bloggers in recalling memorable recruiting moments.
Of course, the nature of the Pac-10 blog's memory might be a bit different, leaning toward the strange instead of the player-personnel moments.
1. Kevin Hart decides to play for California -- Not!: Hart, an offensive lineman, became the first FBS player from Fernley, Nev., when last year he picked the Bears over Oregon, saying, "Coach [Jeff] Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind of gave me that real personal experience." Only problem was: Hart had never talked to Tedford and wasn't offered a scholarship, by Cal or any other FBS program. He'd made his entire recruitment up and then staged a ceremony at the high school in front of television cameras.
2. Pete Carroll arrives at USC: USC had always recruited well, but Carroll has created a recruiting juggernaut that might even eclipse what Bobby Bowden had going at Florida State during its run of dominance in the 1990s. In 2001 and 2002, Carroll's first two seasons at Troy, UCLA finished atop the Pac-10 recruiting rankings. Since then, USC has owned the top spot every year and hasn't been ranked out of the nation's top-10. In fact, the Trojans have finished No. 1 in the nation, according to at least one of the major services, five times over the previous six years.
3. J.J. Arrington signs with Oregon -- Not!: Oregon and California were in a tight battle for the services of touted junior college running back J.J. Arrington in 2003. On the last night a JC player could sign a letter of intent, Arrington told Oregon assistant Gary Campbell that he wanted to be a Duck. Only the midnight deadline passed without a signed letter, with Arrington having second thoughts. According to the LA Times, "Campbell went to the hotel where Arrington was staying, and the player forged his father's signature and falsified the time on the letter of intent." When Cal uncovered the subterfuge and complained, Oregon released Arrington and Campbell was suspended and not allowed to recruit off-campus for a year.
4. Dirty recruiting 2002: Then-Washington coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters on signing day in 2002 that he felt like he needed to hose himself off because of all the dirty recruiting going on against him, specifically naming Oregon and UCLA. To support his case, Neuheisel pointed out that Oregon had been running a video at Autzen Stadium that juxtaposed an image of him with a movie scene of people vomiting. Lovely. As for then-UCLA coach Bob Toledo trying to lure offensive lineman Clay Walker away from Washington, Neuheisel said: "Bob Toledo tells (Walker) that 'if I'm gone, you don't think (Neuheisel) is going to be the next head coach at UCLA?' I mean Bob Toledo is basically telling (Walker) he's going to get fired." Toledo did get fired. And who's UCLA's coach now? Just saying.
5. Bolden's hat spat: On national signing day 2007, touted cornerback prospect Omar Bolden sat in a television studio with three hats in front of him: USC, Washington and Oregon State. Most assumed he was about to don the USC hat. He flipped the Huskies and Beavers hats aside. He picked up the USC hat. Then he tossed the hat away, reached behind himself and produced an Arizona State hat. "I ain't going to be no Trojan... I'm going to be an Arizona State Sun Devil," he said. The move went over way better in Tempe than at Heritage Hall.
National signing day is just a week away now. As teams scramble to fill out their needs and hold on to their commitments, it's a good time to look back at some of the most memorable moments in Big East recruiting over the past five years.
1. Ray Rice spurns Syracuse for Rutgers: The star running back committed to the Orange after his junior season. But after Paul Pasqualoni was fired in late December of 2004, Rice backed out of that pledge and cast his lot with the Scarlet Knights. He went on to become one of the best running backs in Big East history with three spectacular years in Piscataway, while Syracuse struggled offensively during coach Greg Robinson's tenure.
2. The 2004 quarterback coups: Louisville announced itself as a major player when it convinced local schoolboy legend Brian Brohm to stay home instead of going to Notre Dame or Tennessee. Brohm led the Cardinals to an Orange Bowl win his junior year and broke several school records. West Virginia got a quarterback in that class who was less heralded but turned out to be pretty good in his own right. Pat White pulled off a signing day surprise by switching from LSU to the Mountaineers, who told him he could stay under center instead of moving to another position. White ended his career as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NCAA history.
3. Pitt gets real McCoy: Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt found some early success on the recruiting trail, but he really made waves by signing running back LeSean McCoy in 2007. McCoy had been recruited by all the top schools in the country before a senior-year injury prompted him to go to prep school, and then Wannstedt was able to beat out Penn State the following year. McCoy stuck around for only two seasons before bolting for the NFL, but his huge production and star power helped change the fortunes and the image of the program.
4. Cincinnati's super sleepers of '04 and '05: Nobody thought much of Mark Dantonio's first and second recruiting classes. One major recruiting service ranked the 2004 group 80th in the nation, while the following year's class was tied for 94th. But those unheralded recruits included such players as Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, Dominick Goodman, Mardy Gilyard, Terrill Byrd, Trevor Canfield, Connor Barwin and the vast nucleus of a team that would win 21 games in 2007 and 2008, culminating in this season's Big East title and FedEx Orange Bowl berths. Just goes to show you what recruiting rankings are worth.
5. Louisville's 2005 and 2006 disasters: All seemed right in the world for the Cardinals on the field in 2005 and 2006. They were winning lots of games under Bobby Petrino and captured their first Big East title in '06. The recruiting classes Petrino signed were ranked among the highest in school history. But more than half of those two classes never made it to campus, suffered career-ending injuries, transferred or were dismissed for off-the-field transgressions. Several others never lived up to their billing. The program is still paying the price for those recruiting failures, having not reached a bowl game since and facing serious depth issues next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There is enough drama in college football recruiting for its own reality TV show (please, no), but I pulled five particular ACC recruiting memories that stand out over the past five years.
Two you might be wondering about after reading this are A.J. Davis' switch from UNC to NC State after Chuck Amato's Dean Martin serenade, and Miami's infamous recruit, Willie Williams. Well, the Davis thing was in 2002, and the Williams circus happened in February, 2004, so technically, Miami wasn't yet a part of the ACC.
Here are five others I came up with, in no particular order:
Logan-El's hat trick -- Maryland native Antonio Logan-El wore a Maryland-red tie under his black suit, and made his college announcement in the Baltimore ESPN Zone on national TV in front of dozens of Maryland fans, including coach Ralph Friedgen's wife, Gloria. And then, in dramatic fashion, Maryland's top-rated offensive lineman picked Penn State. Logan-El first reached into a bag and pulled out a baseball cap from the University of Florida and tossed it on the floor. Maryland fans roared. Then he did the same thing with a Tennessee cap. Another roar of approval from the Terps fans. Then he got to the Maryland cap, the program which he had verbally committed to before his sophomore year in high school. And he threw it on the ground, too. All this while Gloria Friedgen held her cell phone up to a speaker for her husband to hear. There was stunned silence, followed by a voice in the back of the room that yelled "TRAI-TOR!" By then, Gloria Friedgen had already grabbed her coat and left.
Little's big decision -- Regarded as one of the top high school athletes in the country, Greg Little of Durham, N.C., held a press conference to reveal his choice between North Carolina and Notre Dame early in the 2006 season. At the last minute, he announced he could not make a decision and canceled the press conference. A few weeks later, former coach John Bunting was fired and Little had another press conference where he announced he would attend Notre Dame. A few weeks later, Carolina played at Notre Dame and on the Friday evening prior to the game, rumors circulated that North Carolina would hire Butch Davis as its next head coach. With Little in attendance as a Notre Dame pledge, the Irish defeated North Carolina. Little continued to show up at many men's and women's basketball games in Chapel Hill in December and January and asked to continue to be recruited by Davis. Little called Davis on the night before signing day and inked with the Tar Heels the following day.
Gator tears -- Everyone but C.J. Spiller seemed to think the star running back was going to play for the Florida Gators, which was just about 25 miles from where he grew up. Spiller's mom, Patricia Watkins, certainly thought so. On the morning of Spiller's press conference at Union County High School, his mom broke into tears when Spiller announced he would sign with Clemson.
"Before we got here, he told me that it wasn't going to be Florida State, so I knew Florida State was out of it," Watkins told Scout.com at the time. "I knew it was Florida and Clemson, and in my heart, I really felt that it was going to be Florida, so it was a big shock to me."
Sign what paper? -- Alphonso Smith had it down to three schools -- Pitt, Iowa and Wake Forest. He was committed to Pitt for over a year, but left the door open and visited Wake Forest. On signing day, Smith's two best friends on the football team -- D.J. Boldin and Antonio Wilson -- were pleading with him to come to Wake, and Smith couldn't make up his mind. His mom came to the signing day press conference at Pahokee High and handed Smith about 20 handwritten notes from Wake Forest coaches and advised him to play with his friends. Smith pushed the Pitt paperwork aside and was ready to sign with Wake Forest, but realized he had left the papers at the house. His mom had seen them lying on the kitchen table and stuck them in her purse. Smith's commitment was a key shaping the future of Wake Forest recruiting.
Miami's No. 1 -- at least in recruiting -- Coach Randy Shannon's first full recruiting class in 2008 was considered the best in the nation by ESPN's Scouts Inc., and in 2008 many of them lived up to the billing. The 2008 class included 12 prospects from the ESPNU 150, and some -- like Marcus Forston, Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, and Aldarius Johnson -- played integral roles as true freshman last season. Shannon brought in top-tier defensive talent and kept a lot of the most highly regarded prospects from South Florida at home, despite a 5-7 record in 2007. At the time, our experts wrote: "This top-five class may give Miami the foundation necessary to make a run for a national title."