Grading the First Recruiting Class for Every New Head Coach

Tom PerryCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2012

Grading the First Recruiting Class for Every New Head Coach

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    You hear it every time a new coach takes over after the season ends.

    They are either trying to save a recruiting class or they have a tough job of trying to pull in some good players with about a month to do it.

    A coach like UCLA's Jim Mora might have been at the biggest disadvantage because it has been so long since he was on the recruiting trail.

    While a coach like Toledo's Matt Campbell just took over where he left off since he was promoted to the top job.

    Every one of the 26 new head coaches faced his own ups and downs during his first recruiting season with his new program.

    Here is a look at their class and the grade they earned.

Terry Bowden, Akron

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    Terry Bowden takes over an Akron program that has the best facilities in the Mid-American Conference, but one of the worst football teams in the nation.

    Bowden was hired to fix this problem.

    He started by signing 26 players to his first recruiting class, and most of them are from Ohio.

    With Chuck Amato as his defensive coordinator, the two were able to snag six talented players from Florida.

    Bowden also recruited players who were winners in high school, including offensive lineman Michael Casimos, who started for high school powerhouse Don Bosco Prep.

    Grade: B

Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic

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    Since Carl Pelini took over a Florida Atlantic team that went 1-11 last season, it actually made recruiting easy.

    Instead of targeting needs, Pelini and his coaches could just go out and recruit the best possible talent they could find.

    Obviously, Pelini focused on junior college talent in an attempt to make an immediate impact.

    The best pick up was probably quarterback Melvin German, who averaged 346.8 yards a game and threw 21 touchdowns for Pearl River (Miss.) Community College.

    Pelini and his staff also convinced two players to sign with FAU despite never visiting the campus.

    Still, the overall talent level is mediocre at best.

    Grade: C

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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    Hugh Freeze managed to attract some talented players in his first class at Ole Miss; however it was a small group of only 17.

    His predecessor, Houston Nutt, would consider this size of a class an appetizer.

    But don't discount the athletes he attracted to Oxford, Miss.

    The Rebels' biggest get of the day had to be Under Armour All-American safety Trae Elston, who chose Ole Miss over LSU and Oklahoma State.

    Another interesting prospect is 3-star running back I'Tavius Mathers, who rushed for more than 4,800 yards and 56 touchdowns the last two seasons at Blackman High School. Mathers had offers from Michigan, Kentucky and Notre Dame.

    The class still ranked near the bottom of the SEC, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

    Grade: C

Bob Davie, New Mexico

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    Bob Davie has the monumental task of rebuilding a New Mexico program that has been the worst team in the nation the past two seasons.

    When you consider Davie has been out of coaching for a decade, it seems like an impossible job.

    But Davie did well on the recruiting trail.

    He added 24 players to the Lobos' roster, and all of them have the potential to play a role in the turnaround of New Mexico.

    Davie and his staff focused on defensive linemen and also the state of Texas.

    Former coach Mike Locksley was a solid recruiter, but you could say Davie's first class is as good as any Locksley brought into Albuquerque.

    Grade: B-

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

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    Rich Rodriguez has always been a tireless recruiter, as have been his assistant coaches.

    While he has been able to attract 4- and 5-star prospects, Rodriguez' success has been with lesser known players like Pat White and Steve Slaton.

    Rodriguez' first class at Arizona is made up of 25 players from nine states, including six from California and six from Arizona.

    The class was ranked in the top 50 by most services, but don't be surprised if this group does better than that ranking after working under this coaching staff.

    The most recognizable name in this class is Trey Griffey, the son of future baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. The younger Griffey is a 3-star receiver out of Florida.

    His best signing of the day was probably safety Bryan Harper, who was also drawing serious interest from Oregon, Washington and UCLA.

    Grade: B

Justin Fuente, Memphis

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    Probably one of the best moves Justin Fuente made while recruiting his first group at Memphis was to stay close to home.

    Memphis is a talented area for football and Fuente attracted seven players from this area to be Tigers in 2012.

    Fuente realized early on that the Tigers were thin in the defensive backfield so he made this a priority in recruiting.

    Memphis was able to sign three south Florida defensive backs who could make an immediate impact. Those three are Dion Witty of Coral Spring High, Chris Morley of South Plantation high and Chauncey Lanier of Nova High.

    Overall, this class didn't rank high but that's to be expected from Memphis.

    Grade: C

Tim Beckman, Illinois

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    Tim Beckman has taken over for one of the game's best recruiters in Ron Zook.

    While Zook was able to attract talent, they never seemed to live up to the hype.

    Beckman plans to change that reputation of Illinois.

    The new coach didn't sign a single quarterback, but there's a good reason for that. Illinois has four solid quarterbacks already on the roster.

    Beckman added 19 recruits and he plans to give each one a shot at playing in 2012.

    Grade: C

Garrick McGee, UAB

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    Garrick McGee recognized early on that there is a lot of talent in Alabama, so it comes as no shock that 17 of the 25 players who signed are from the home state.

    He even signed nine kids from the Birmingham area maybe in an attempt to draw more interest from the local fans.

    McGee made it a point to add depth to a UAB program that really needed it. And they did just that.

    The Blazers signed two quar­terbacks, one tight end, one receiver, six offensive linemen, a two-way lineman, four linebackers, five defensive backs, two defensive line­men and three athletes.

    That's a pretty solid class for a first-time head coach.

    Grade: B-

Charlie Weis, Kansas

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    Charlie Weis was able to bring in many 4- and 5-star recruits when he was at Notre Dame.

    His first class at Kansas was 20 deep and from all over the country; however, his top recruit might be Schyler Miles, a 3-star inside linebacker.

    Weis might attract better prospects in the future, but for now it looks like the Jayhawks will remain in the Big 12 cellar.

    Grade: D

Todd Graham, Arizona State

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    As far as first recruiting classes go, Todd Graham did a nifty job.

    Landing D.J. Foster, one of the nation's best athletes, should give Graham a future star running the ball.

    It also allowed him to make a statement within the Pac-12, and even more so with the new coaches at rival Arizona.

    ASU also tapped the JUCO route to fill some holes, including linebacker Steffon Martin and defensive tackle Mike Pennel.

    Graham's 23-player class didn't make any top 25 lists, but it wasn't too far on the outside.

    Grade: A

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

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    Do you want to know how well Urban Meyer did with his first class at Ohio State? Just listen to what fellow Big Ten coach Bret Bielema was complaining about.

    I guess the conference coaches realize Meyer is going to do what it takes to win immediately.

    Despite a 2012 bowl ban, NCAA probation and recruiting limitations, Meyer and his coaching staff assembled a top-10 class.

    Ohio State really focused on the defensive line. Meyer added Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Se’von Pittman, who were all highly sought after by Big Ten programs.

    The Buckeyes also snared one of the best running back prospects (Bri’onte Dunn) and two huge offensive linemen Taylor Decker (6'8", 315 pounds) and Kyle Dodson (6'6", 310).

    Grade: A

Jim Mora, UCLA

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    Jim Mora, who is a veteran of the NFL, had not experienced the recruiting trail in more than 25 years.

    So naturally he'd struggle in his first year.

    Not so fast.

    ESPN ranked the UCLA class as the 19th best, and he convinced some of the top talent to play for the Bruins.

    The 25-player class is highlighted by defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy, quarterback Devin Fuller, quarterback T.J. Millweard of Fort Worth, Tex., receiver Jordan Payton and cornerback Ishmael Adams.

    Mora still has a lot of work cut out for him, but this class is definitely something to build on for the new coach at UCLA.

    Grade: A

Mike Leach, Washington State

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    Mike Leach was able to get into the door with some of the best recruits, but he couldn't close the deal.

    Washington State had the worst signing day of any team in the Pac-12.

    But Leach has been known to take unheralded players and get them to perform at a high level.

    In fact, he's looking for guys who fit his system.

    Don't be shocked if this class ends up grading out higher in four or five years.

    Grade: D

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

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    Kevin Sumlin took immediate advantage of Texas A&M's move to the SEC and assembled a top-20 class.

    The Aggies added 19 players, including running back Trey Williams, quarterback Matt Davis and cornerback Devante Harris.

    If Sumlin and A&M want to compete in the deep SEC West, the Aggies will need to put together a few more classes of this caliber.

    Grade: B+

Jim McElwain, Colorado State

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    Jim McElwain stayed with Alabama through the BCS National Championship, so his time on the road for his new job was limited.

    Colorado State still inked 24 players, but only three of them were even ranked as 3-star prospects.

    While McElwain has focused on the make-up of the overall class, the top players are linebacker Kevin Davis, tight end Brett Jordan, and defensive lineman Calvin Tonga.

    The class was ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference.

    Grade: D

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

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    Tim DeRuyter's first class at Fresno State was a small group of just 15, but he believes they'll be the core of a new era in Bulldogs football.

    He signed two big linebackers in Brandon Hughes and Tui Unga, while also adding two sturdy running backs in Marteze Waller and T.J. Thomas.

    DeRuyter also added some offensive linemen who should fit his spread offense.

    Grade: C

Curtis Johnson, Tulane

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    Tulane has struggled for years, but Curtis Johnson seems like a good fit for the Green Wave.

    His first class might not crack the rankings, but it's a respectable 16-player class.

    Headlining the group is 4-star quarterback Darion Monroe, who had given Texas A&M a verbal commitment.

    Grade: B

Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State

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    Gus Malzahn has earned a reputation for his offensive genius, so you can bet he was looking for a certain type of player to recruit at Arkansas State.

    He also had some scholarships to offer as he signed 27 players. Out of that group, 18 of them were rated 3-star prospects.

    The best player may end up being center Bryce Giddens, whom Malzahn expects to anchor the line for three or four years.

    Junior college linebacker Eddie Porter had offers from some SEC and Big 12 schools, but he chose Arkansas State.

    Grade: B+

Norm Chow, Hawaii

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    At 65, Norm Chow is finally a head coach.

    Instead of relishing in his first shot to lead a program, Chow is working like a 22-year-old graduate assistant.

    He has a lot to prove and his first class was solid.

    Chow attracted 18 players to Hawaii, including three of the best players in the state.

    Running back Steven Lakalaka could be a major player in the future, especially as Chow devises ways to get him the ball.

    Grade: C

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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    While North Carolina continues to wait on any additional penalties levied by the NCAA, Larry Fedora convinced 23 players to commit to the Tar Heels.

    UNC signed four receivers, four offensive linemen and four linebackers, while Florida was the top state with seven.

    Four-star receiver Quinshad Davis out of South Carolina was a late pick up that helped raise the profile of Fedora's class. He also brought a few guys he was recruiting at Southern Miss to North Carolina.

    Grade: C

Ellis Johnson, Southern Mississippi

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    Ellis Johnson nabbed 23 players on National Signing Day, but none was bigger than in-state quarterback Anthony Alford.

    The two-time Mississippi Player of the Year led Petal High School to the 6A state title game in 2011. He also rushed and passed for a combined 3,789 yards and 44 touchdowns.

    Alford is also a top baseball prospect and could get millions to quit playing football. For now, though, Johnson will move forward thinking Alford is part of his future.

    The Golden Eagles also stole linebacker Lelland Ducksworth away from Mississippi State late in the recruiting game.

    Grade: B

Matt Campbell, Toledo

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    Toledo's 27-player class may not get national attention, but Matt Campbell's group is easily one of the best in the Mid-American Conference.

    Campbell also focused on getting some big guys for the trenches. He achieved that goal with four 3-star prospects on the defensive line, including Treyvon Hester of Pittsburgh.

    The class included on 4-star recruit, wide receiver Corey Jones.

    Grade: A

Tony Levine, Houston

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    After earning the promotion at Houston, Tony Levine was able to retain a big part of the recruiting class.

    In the end, Levine inked 23 players on National Signing Day but his biggest moment came when he learned Notre Dame-commit Deontay Greenberry, a 5-star wide receiver from California, chose the Cougars.

    Levine also landed running back Jontrey Tillman, who has track speed. Tillman was heading to Stanford, but despite a 4.0 grade point average, he wasn't admitted to the academically elite school in Palo Alto, Calif.

    Houston's class also includes LSU-transfer Trevon Randle, who is a former 4-star linebacker prospect.

    Grade: A

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh

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    Paul Chryst was doing a little double duty before officially taking over at Pitt as he finished up his coaching duties at Wisconsin.

    Once the Rose Bowl was over, though, Chryst got serious about recruiting for the Panthers.

    He landed 16 high school players, including four 4-star recruits.

    Those guys are offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty, running back Rushel Shell, Deaysean Rippy and Chad Voytik.

    Keeping Rippy away from rival West Virginia was a major coup for Chryst.

    Grade: B

Bill O'Brien, Penn State

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    There is not a single first-year coach who faced as many obstacles at Penn State's Bill O'Brien.

    For starters, O'Brien remained with the New England Patriots through Sunday night's Super Bowl.

    Then he had to endure a huge number of defections following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the firing of Joe Paterno.

    His first class included 19 players and ranked anywhere from 39th to 50th in the nation, depending on the recruiting service.

    He did lose six recruits who chose to go elsewhere following all of the turmoil.

    So getting 19 quality players is a good year for the Penn State assistants, who did most of the work this year.

    Grade: B-

Kyle Flood, Rutgers

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    There's not a coach in the nation who took over a program any later than Kyle Flood at Rutgers.

    For about 36 hours, Rutgers looked like it would go with Florida International's Mario Cristobal. When he rejected the offer, Rutgers stayed in house with Flood.

    That proved to be a good move.

    Flood possibly landed the best class in school history, and it was led by 5-star defense end Darius Hamilton.

    Hamilton didn't change his mind despite Greg Schiano leaving for the NFL, and that likely helped keep the class together.

    The 18-player class also included five 4-star recruits.

    That's a huge day for Rutgers.

    Grade: A