7 College Football Programs Who Will Surprise on 2014 Recruiting Trail
When a juggernaut recruiting program lands another top recruit or finishes with a terrific class, no one is surprised. Schools such as Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Notre Dame and Florida State are perennial powers on the trail.
However, it is surprising when non-traditional schools recruit at such a high clip. Every February, when the final recruiting rankings come out, a surprise school or two will be celebrating a good class. In 2013, that school was Ole Miss. In 2012, it was Washington.
The 2014 class will also have its surprising classes.
A school in the Big 12 has a new coach and is recruiting with more confidence. An ACC school with "sleeping giant" potential may be awakening. A Big Ten program with tough academic standards is finding good players who fit its profile, and a school with crippling sanctions has found a way to beat the odds.
The Cavaliers, who could bring in the best class in school history, received a big commitment on Saturday when Andrew Brown, the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, pledged to play for Mike London.
Brown joins a class already led by stud safety Quin Blanding, who, according to 247Sports, is also a 5-star prospect. Virginia has nine commitments and is the hunt for a top-25 finish.
The Cavaliers have not been a dominant recruiting program. However London has gradually raised the school's recruiting profile.
Landing two 5-star commitments before the summer is a big surprise in Charlottesville.
Northwestern, which has 12 commitments, is not a school that is going to routinely recruit at the elite rate of Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten. The Wildcats play for a university that demands academic excellence, making it difficult to find recruits who qualify academically.
However, Pat Fitzgerald is enjoying a solid recruiting year. Northwestern has a top-25 class, according to 247Sports, and three of its 12 pledges are 4-star recruits.
With the Buckeyes and Wolverines recruiting like they always do, the Big Ten has to be pleased that another school is enjoying recruiting success, although it must be surprised that school is Northwestern.
The Tigers, who have nine commitments, are having a surprisingly good recruiting year. Gene Chizik recruited in elite fashion on The Plains, and many wondered if new coach Gus Malzahn could sustain Chizik's recruiting success.
Yet Malzahn is doing just fine. 247Sports ranks his class in the top 25, while ESPNU lists Auburn at No. 16. Dameyune Craig, who previously coached at Florida State, has been Malzahn's ace recruiter. Craig is credited with six commitments and ranks as the No. 1 recruiter in the country.
A cloud of doubt hoovered over The Plains at the start of this recruiting cycle, but it has been replaced with sunshine as Auburn's recruiting future looks bright.
After being handed severe sanctions for its role in the Jerry Sandusky case, Penn State was left for dead by the NCAA. Landing elite recruits was thought to now be impossible, as many parents were expected to send their kids anywhere other than Happy Valley.
However, Bill O'Brien landed a great class in 2013, an occurrence many attributed to O'Brien's shrewd use of the sanctions as a rallying cry on the recruiting trail.
Naysayers pointed to 2014 as the recruiting year that would accurately reflect how crippling the sanctions were to the Nittany Lions' recruiting hopes.
That's what makes Penn State's No. 19 position in ESPNU's 2014 recruiting rankings one of the biggest surprises of the year.
The Red Raiders, who saw Tommy Tuberville bolt for Cincinnati, are now led by former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. The first-year head coach has brought much moxie and confidence to Lubbock, which has netted results on the trail.
Texas Tech has 16 commitments and a top-25 class, per 247Sports and ESPNU. The Red Raiders were not an elite recruiting program under Mike Leach, and Tuberville did not exactly threaten Texas or Texas A&M during his time recruiting in West Texas.
Kingsbury is not only in his first year at Texas Tech, he is a first-time head coach who has put together a top-25 class at a tough place to recruit.
North Carolina State
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With Dave Doeren taking the reigns, the Wolfpack are under new leadership. Doeren previously coached at Northern Illinois and made a name for himself as an assistant at Wisconsin.
Tom O'Brien never consistently brought quality classes to Raleigh and North Carolina State does not have the glamour of many of its neighboring programs. However, with Doeren leading the charge, the new alpha wolf has sprinted to 24 commitments.
North Carolina State has a top-25 class (247Sports) and still could its top two in-state targets in defensive ends Kentavius Street and Lorenzo Featherston.
While O'Brien never could provide a much-needed jolt to Wolfpack recruiting, Doeren is shocking the trail.
Steve Addazio, who once coordinated the offensive attack at Florida, is the now in charge on Chestnut Hill, taking over a program that had not landed an elite recruiting class in quite some time.
However, Addazio has turned things around, getting 20 commitments in a 2014 class that is No. 22 in the nation, according to 247Sports.
Some felt the Eagles were a dying program and the head coaching gig was a dead-end job, but Addazio has resurrected the program and is recruiting like he's going to be a firm fixture in Boston.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.