5 New Head Coaches Who Finished Strong in 2014 Recruiting
Among the toughest things to do in college football as a head coach is assemble a good recruiting class right after being hired.
Most schools hire their new head coach in December or January, which means the coach only has a matter of weeks to put together a class to keep up with rival schools.
However, some new head coaches who were just hired several weeks ago actually assembled impressive 2014 recruiting classes, especially under the circumstances. A pair of Pac-12 coaches rallied to finish strong, while an SEC school's new head coach replaced several commitments with quality players.
Plus, a Big 12 program's new head coach did a better recruiting job than many think.
Note: Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
Charlie Strong, Texas
Hired only a few days after the start of the year, Charlie Strong had a solid finish to the 2014 recruiting cycle for Texas.
The Longhorns naturally lost some commitments when Mack Brown resigned, but Strong kept most of the class intact. He then added quality 4-star recruits such as linebacker Edwin Freeman and defensive tackle Poona Ford after he was hired.
Strong also plucked 3-star JUCO tight end Blake Whiteley while convincing 3-star prospects such as defensive tackle Chris Nelson and offensive linemen Elijah Rodriguez and Alex Anderson to sign with Texas, which finished No. 17 in the 247Sports recruiting rankings.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt lured Derek Mason away from being Stanford's defensive coordinator to be its head coach in the middle of January. He replaced James Franklin, who bolted for Penn State.
Franklin took more than four recruits with him to Happy Valley, but Mason didn't flinch. After being named head coach, he added more than 15 prospects to the Commodores' recruiting class.
The headliner of Vandy's class is 4-star defensive lineman Nifae Lealao, who committed after Mason arrived. Don't expect Vanderbilt to see a drop in recruiting under Mason, who's a solid and competitive recruiter.
Chris Petersen, Washington
Washington wasn't having its best recruiting cycle with Sarkisian at the helm, and things didn't go well during the first few weeks of Petersen's tenure.
U-Dub saw several recruits decommit, but Petersen began to rally. He ultimately finished with a 24-man class headlined by 4-star athlete Budda Baker, 4-star quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, 4-star cornerback Naijiel Hale and 4-star offensive tackle Kaleb McGary, who all committed to Washington late in the process.
James Franklin, Penn State
Penn State named James Franklin as its head coach on Jan. 11, and that's when he got to work on assembling his 2014 recruiting class.
He flipped 4-star receiver Saeed Blacknall from Rutgers while also taking five recruits from the class he put together at Vanderbilt. Franklin convinced underrated 3-star safety and California native Koa Farmer to spurn several Pac-12 schools and sign up to play in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions finished with the No. 24 class in the 247Sports recruiting rankings.
Steve Sarkisian, USC
No new head coach finished stronger than Steve Sarkisian, who was generally viewed as an underwhelming hire by USC in December.
That perception has changed now, as he signed the No. 11 class in the 247Sports recruiting rankings.
He also added 4-star JUCO defensive lineman Claudeson Pelon, 4-star offensive lineman Chris Brown and 4-star tight end Bryce Dixon to the Trojans' class. Plus, he flipped 3-star defensive back John Plattenburg Jr. from rival UCLA.
Then, on national signing day, Sarkisian (thanks to receivers coach Tee Martin and offensive coordinator Clay Helton) signed 5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson, 5-star athlete John Smith, 4-star guard Damien Mama and underrated 3-star cornerback Lamont Simmons.
Per USC athletics' official website, Sarkisian said at his national signing day press conference on Feb. 5: "First of all, I am really proud of our coaches who handled the coaching transition so well during the recruiting process and were able to put together such an outstanding class. To finish the way we did today was tremendous."
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