Grading the 2014 Recruiting Class of Every AP Top 25 Team

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst ISeptember 24, 2013

Grading the 2014 Recruiting Class of Every AP Top 25 Team

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    The AP Top 25 Poll is one of the most influential ranking formats in college football. Being ranked is always a good thing, but if a team wants to stay ranked in future seasons, it needs to bring in a great recruiting class.

    Some Top 25 teams are acing the recruiting test for 2014, while other programs may want to repeat the course. With October rapidly approaching, many recruiting classes have taken shape, so it's time for a recruiting progress report.

    The No. 1 team in the country is on track to pass "Recruiting 101" with flying colors, but the No. 2 team needs a tutor. Also, several programs in the Top 25 are doing the work to earn high grades.

    Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals247Sports and ESPNU.

25. Fresno State

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    The Bulldogs are never among the top recruiting programs in the country, as they're not in a BCS conference and have to deal with many Pac-12 schools on their region's recruiting trail.

    Fresno State has just three commitments, with only one being a 3-star prospect. Athlete Justin Green leads the small class, which likely won't be a focus for FSU's coaching staff until after the season.

    Although the Bulldogs can be criticized for having a low amount of commitments, they're not expected to make much of an impact on recruiting anyway.

    Grade: C-

24. Texas Tech

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    Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has the Red Raiders off to a great start to the season. He also has boosted the program's morale on the trail, which has led to 19 commitments.

    Texas Tech has no 4-star prospect sewn up, but 3-star quarterback Patrick Mahomes may be one of more underrated passers in the nation. Safety Derrick Dixon is barely 5'9", but he has played in some big games at Skyline High School in Dallas.

    Kingsbury has a solid class of prospects who he and his coaching staff figure to season up and win the Big 12 in a few years.

    Grade: B-

23. Wisconsin

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    Many at Wisconsin felt Gary Andersen didn't have to fix much with the program, and it appears he agreed. The Badgers still play big-boy football, run the ball down their opponents' throats and have their eyes on the Big Ten championship.

    On the trail, Andersen has gathered a class of 13 commitments led by 4-star prospects Jaden Gault, an offensive tackle, and quarterback D.J. Gillins. Defensive tackle Craig Evans is also a 4-star prospect, but Andersen may have some more convincing to do if Evans is to commit.

    A sleeper in this class is 3-star defensive lineman Conor Sheehy of Milwaukee. This is another ho-hum solid recruiting class full of tough football players for Wisconsin. 

    Grade: B

22. Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame has not looked as good as expected this season. The Irish are 3-1, and probably should have lost to Michigan State last week.

    However, head coach Brian Kelly is doing another great job on the recruiting front. Notre Dame has 16 commitments, and 11 are 4-star recruits. More than 10 players in this class play close to the line of scrimmage, so it's clear size, strength and toughness has been an emphasis for the Irish during this cycle.

    Quenton Nelson, a 4-star offensive lineman is the headliner. Also, keep an eye on 4-star quarterback DeShone Kizer, and 4-star receiver Corey Holmes.

    Grade: A-

21. Ole Miss

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    The Rebels want to show the country that they're on the rise. Well, the best way to do that is to gut out a victory over Alabama this weekend.

    Head coach Hugh Freeze has a 21-man class that features six 4-star prospects. Ole Miss has two stud offensive line commitments in 4-star guard Roderick Taylor and 4-star right tackle Andy Bauer.

    Safety C.J. Hampton, a 4-star recruit, could make a great tandem with freshman safety Tony Conner. D.K. Buford is another 4-star commit who has the speed to get him snaps at both receiver and running back. Also, 4-star JUCO athlete Jeremy Liggins could play almost anywhere.

    Grade: B+

20. Florida

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    Although quarterback Jeff Driskel is out for the season with an ankle/leg injury, head coach Will Muschamp will not change the Gators' approach. Florida wins with defense, and will continue to do so.

    It also has a great recruiting class, as three of its 14 pledges are 5-star recruits. Running back Dalvin Cook, receiver Ermon Lane and quarterback Will Grier are all among the finest players in the nation at their positions.

    Plus, the class also has 4-star recruits such as defensive tackle Khairi Clark, cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Duke Dawson, along with receiver J.C. Jackson. The Gators routinely have one of the most talented teams in the country, this class will do nothing to change that.

    Grade: A-

19. Baylor

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    The Bears are 3-0 and look like a team ready to win a Big 12 title this season. Head coach Art Briles has done an excellent job in Waco, and his hard work is starting to pay off.

    Briles has also put in a great deal of time on the recruiting trail. Baylor has 23 commitments, including a pledge from 5-star receiver KD Cannon. Outside linebacker T'Kevian Rockwell is a future cornerstone defender, while 4-star athlete Davion Hall could be a 2-way player.

    Outside of 3-star JUCO guard Jarell Broxton of Pennsylvania, Briles has built this class with all Lone Star State talent.

    Grade: B

18. Michigan

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    Big Blue is off to a 4-0 start, but barely survived for a win over lowly UConn last week. Michigan has 16 commitments. One is a 5-star recruit and seven are 4-star prospects. 

    The Wolverines have one of the top classes in the country, as 5-star athlete Jabrill Peppers is the clear-cut headliner. He is a rare talent who can be a force at several different positions. The group also boasts elite 4-star recruits such as receiver Drake Harris, defensive tackle Bryan Mone and tight end Ian Bunting.

    Michigan still has some big fish to catch before all is said and done, but if today was the end of the recruiting cycle, it would still have an elite class.

    Grade: A

17. Northwestern

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    The Wildcats are playing good football for head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and are 4-0 this season. However, these next two weeks will tell us who Northwestern really is, with Ohio State and Wisconsin on tap.

    Fitzgerald has 13 commitments, and three are 4-star prospects. Justin Jackson is the top player, as the 4-star Illinois native is one of the quickest running backs in the country. Dareian Watkins is a 4-star athlete who could make his mark at receiver, cornerback, running back or safety.

    Plus, 3-star safety Jordan Thomas of Texas has good ball skills and athleticism in the secondary.

    Grade: B-

     

16. Washington

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    Head coach Steve Sarkisian has his team sitting with a 3-0 record. However, Washington has tough waters ahead due to its next four games being against Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.

    To make matters worse, recruiting is not going too well for the Huskies. They have just eight commitments, although three are from 4-star prospects. Rahshead Johnson and Erik Brown, who both hail from California, are 4-star receivers who headline the class. 

    Cornerback Jonathan Lockett, another Golden State resident, is also a 4-star prospect. An interesting note for this class is that three players are from Idaho, which is a state that doesn't always produce an abundance of talent.

    Grade: D+

15. Miami

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    Miami has been outstanding on the recruiting trail. The Hurricanes have 25 commitments, and eight are rated at least at a 4-star clip.

    Kc McDermott, A 5-star offensive tackle is the highest rated player in the class. However, the most talented recruit head coach Al Golden has landed is 4-star running back Joseph Yearby. He has terrific speed, quickness and is a dynamic player.

    Quarterback Brad Kaaya is a 4-star passer with good skills, plus defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, offensive tackle Trevor Darling and defensive end Chad Thomas are equally rated recruits who have great talent.

    Grade: A

14. Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma has questions at quarterback, and the next three games could make or break its season. The Sooners are slated to face Notre Dame this weekend, then TCU and rival Texas will follow.

    On the recruiting side of things, Oklahoma has a 14-man class, and four commitments are 4-star recruits. With the Sooners recently known for scoring points, it's no shock that their top players are offensive prospects.

    Mark Andrews and Dallis Todd are 4-star receivers who stand 6'6" and 6'5", respectively. Quarterback Justice Hansen has great arm strength, accuracy and solid mobility for a 4-star passer. Plus Samaje Perine is a 4-star running back with a 5'11" frame who already weighs 233 pounds.

    Grade: B

13. UCLA

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    The Bruins' biggest recruiting job may be to convince quarterback Brett Hundley to come back for his junior season. The signal caller is among the top NFL prospects in the country, and likely will be a first-round pick if he declares for the draft after this season.

    UCLA has only nine commitments at the moment. The Bruins have only two 4-star recruits. Things have been slow for them on the trail. However, with a 3-0 record and talented staff of recruiters, they could get hot at any moment.

    Adarius Pickett, a 4-star cornerback is the top player in the group. He can effectively play man and zone coverage, and should become one of the best cover corners in the Pac-12. Austin Roberts, a 4-star prospect, and 3-star recruit Barry Ware make up a great receiver tandem.

    Grade: D+

12. South Carolina

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    South Carolina has a small, but solid class of 12 prospects. Receiver Shaq Davidson is the headliner, as the 6'0", 170-pound 4-star prospect has good speed, agility and big-play ability.

    Another player to watch is linebacker and defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams. A 4-star recruit, Allen-Williams has excellent first-step quickness to fire upfield, attack the pocket and burst to finish on the quarterback.

    JUCO defensive tackle Abu Lamin, a 3-star recruit, is 6'4", 305 pounds and physically ready to play right away. Joe Blue, a 3-star linebacker is a sleeper, plus 4-star tight end Kevin Crosby can also play fullback, H-Back and maybe even receiver.

    Grade: B

11. Oklahoma State

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    The Pokes have a 3-0 record, and the offense is now led by quarterback J.W. Walsh. Head coach Mike Gundy has 20 commitments, four 4-star recruits and is flirting with a No. 1 class in the Big 12 class rankings.

    Devon Thomas, a 4-star running back is the top recruit for Oklahoma State. Thomas may not be supreme at one category at his position, but does just about everything well. Justin Phillips is a 3-star linebacker who is a tackling machine, while 3-star prospect Josh Mabin and 4-star recruit Gyasi Akem will join him.

    Gundy has another quarterback commitment in 3-star player Mason Rudolph. Also, although he is just 5'8", 4-star cornerback Chris Hardeman has natural cover skills.

    Grade: B

10. Texas A&M

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    The Aggies have a 3-1 record, and their aspirations for an SEC and national title are not completely finished. If Alabama loses game, the Aggies beat LSU on November 23rd and finish with just one loss, things could get interesting in College Station.

    On the recruiting front, Texas A&M has constructed a terrific class. The Aggies have just 14 commitments, but boast players such as 5-star quarterback Kyle Allen, and 4-star players Nick Harvey, a cornerback and Hoza Scott, a linebacker.

    Although he's a 4-star linebacker, Josh Walker is an underrated player. He has good initial quickness at the snap, speed and he can fly around to make plays. Also, 4-star running back Varshaun Nixon is a good fit in the Aggies' spread offense.

    Grade: A

9. Georgia

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    Head coach Mark Richt has class full of quality. Georgia has 16 commitments, but 10 are 4-star prospects, plus 5-star running back Sony Michel  also is part of the group.

    Michel gets a ton of the spotlight, but other great players are in this class. Defensive tackles Lamont Gaillard and Dontavius Russell are 4-star prospects who both stand 6'3", weigh at least 300 pounds and are rock-solid in the trenches.

    Running back Nick Chubb is not far behind Michel, as the 4-star runner has good speed on a 5'11", 216-pound frame. Jacob Park is a scrappy 4-star quarterback who plays better on the big stage. Also, 4-star tight end Jeb Blazevich will make an impact in the Bulldogs' passing game.

    Grade: A

     

8. Florida State

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    Florida State has a 3-0 record, and redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston looks like a future superstar. The 'Noles not only have their eyes on the ACC crown, but there's national title talk in Tallahassee.

    That talk is not going to die down anytime soon, especially after Florida State signs its 24-man recruiting class. The group has 10 players who are rated as 4-star prospects, and could grow even more.

    Big, nasty and tough 4-star linebacker Kain Daub is the headliner. Also, 4-star receiver Markell Pack has good speed, Trey Marshall is a 4-star safety who could be the next good Seminole defensive back and 4-star athlete Treon Harris can play quarterback, receiver or defensive back.

    Grade: A

7. Louisville

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    The conversation about the Cardinals begins and ends with all-world quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who will be the first quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL Draft. Louisville is 4-0, and has put together perhaps its best recruiting class is recent years.

    The Cardinals have 25 commitments, led by 4-star defensive tackle Poona Ford. Fullback Daniel Gresham is a 3-star prospect who will add another dimension to Louisville's offense, while 6'3" safety Michael Johnson and cornerback De'Eric Culver are 3-star defensive backs from Florida with good skills. 

    Also, keep an eye on 3-star receiver Isaiah Ford, and 3-star quarterback Reggie Bonnafon.

    Grade: B  

6. LSU

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    The story in Baton Rouge has to be the revolution of the offense. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is pushing all of the right buttons, and seems to have worked wonders with quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

    Head coach Les Miles is looking to capitalize on LSU's hot start with another elite recruiting class. So far, he's on the right track, as his 14-man class has nine 4-star recruits. The group features 4-star prospects such as defensive back Edward Paris, receiver Trey Quinn, guard Will Clapp and safety Devin Voorhies.

    If things go well, LSU has a chance to have the No. 1 recruiting class.

    Grade: B+

5. Stanford

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    Stanford has 17 commitments, with five being 4-star-or-higher prospects. Quarterback Keller Chryst, a 5-star player, is the leader of the bunch.

    Chryst is the best quarterback Stanford has landed since Andrew Luck. Nifae Lealao, a 4-star defensive end, is an excellent fit for Stanford's 3-4 base defense.

    Athletic 4-star running back Christian McCaffrey can also make an impact as a receiver, plus 4-star safety Brandon Simmons could be an All-Pac-12 defensive back one day.

    Grade: B+

4. Ohio State

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    The Buckeyes could get starting quarterback Braxton Miller back this week, but if not, back up Kenny Guiton appears more than capable to fill in.

    Head coach Urban Meyer has Ohio State among the elite programs in the country, on the field and in recruiting. The Buckeyes have an outstanding class, as 13 of their 18 commitments are 4-star recruits.

    Prospects such as linebacker Dante Booker, athlete Curtis Samuel, cornerback Damon Webb, offensive tackle Jamarco Jones and running back/receiver Parris Campbell are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Grade: A

3. Clemson

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    Clemson has a 3-0 mark, including a signature Week 1 win over Georgia. Head coach Dabo Swinney is one of the more active head coaches in the country when it comes to recruiting, and it shows.

    The Tigers have 18 commitments, and eight are 4-star prospects. Clemson boasts a pledge from 4-star passer Deshaun Watson, who is the quarterback of the future. He will be throwing to 4-star receivers Artavis Scott and Demarre Kitt.

    Korie Rogers and Chris Register are 4-star linebackers who lead the defensive class.

    Grade: B+

2. Oregon

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    Well, it appears that the questions about whether the Ducks would sustain their offensive success after head coach Chip Kelly bolted for the Philadelphia Eagles have been answered.

    Oregon's offense is still virtually unstoppable, and the defense is underrated. Head coach Mark Helfrich has picked up right where Kelly left off. 

    However, Helfrich hasn't made a big impact on the recruiting trail. Oregon has just eight commitments, and is off to a slow start. Running back Royce Freeman and cornerback Arrion Springs are 4-star recruits who top the group.

    Also, 3-star quarterback Morgan Mahalak is an enigma due to his lack of experience. The Ducks have to immediately increase their recruiting efforts.

    Grade: D

1. Alabama

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    Alabama has 20 commitments, and 13 are 4-star prospects. However, the crowing jewel is 5-star left tackle Cameron Robinson. The 6'5", 330-pounder has NFL talent, size and athleticism.

    Elite 4-star recruits such as linebacker Christian Miller, athlete Bo Scarbrough, cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent and quarterback David Cornwell are fine talents. 

    Other 4-star notables include offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher, receiver Cameron Sims, guard Viane Talamaivao and linebacker Shaun Hamilton.

    Alabama's class is fully loaded, as always.

    Grade: A

2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map

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    Do not forget to check out the 2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map. This is an excellent way to track all of the top recruits from around the country in an interactive way!

    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.