College Football Programs on the Rise in Spring Recruiting Season
National signing day remains more than nine months away, but that date looms large in each college football recruiting department. Every phase of the year represents an opportunity to assemble a class that can take a program to the next level, so coaches stay busy scouting and targeting prospects.
We're in the midst of a pivotal stretch, as spring recruit evaluations are largely completed and scholarships have been sent to most junior high school athletes deemed worth of an offer. Spring camps give teams an opportunity to get players on campus, providing a personal setting to seal the deal on a commitment.
Several 2015 class standouts are still searching for the right fit, but many prefer to pledge soon in order to focus on their final high school seasons. We've seen a flurry of commitments this spring, which have altered the prospect landscape.
Here's a look at teams that have ramped up their recruiting efforts to build strong foundations for signing day.
Auburn has enjoyed a steady rise in national recruiting rankings this spring courtesy of a collection of key commitments. Head coach Gus Malzahn reeled in a trio of talented Georgia offensive linemen in April.
Auburn landed a commitment from coveted 4-star tackle Kaleb Kim (Hoschton, Georgia) on April 24. He chose the Tigers over in-state Georgia during an announcement ceremony.
Malzahn has also managed to add some offensive firepower to his class with the April acquisitions of athlete Kerryon Johnson (Madison, Alabama) and running back D'Anfernee McGriff (Tallahassee, Florida). Both 4-star prospects picked Auburn over defending national champion Florida State.
Penn State started to pick up steam in late February and maintained strong momentum through March and April, rising to No. 1 in national recruiting rankings at one point (the Nittany Lions are currently listed at No. 3). First-year head coach James Franklin has found plenty of talent on his home turf in Pennsylvania, but success across the mid-Atlantic region is what stands out the most.
Wide receiver Juwan Johnson (Glassboro, New Jersey ), linebacker Josh Barajas (Merrillville, Indiana) and defensive tackle Adam McLean (Gaithersburg, Maryland) are arguably the premier prospects in their respective state. These 4-star recruits are among the top-ranked members of Penn State's deep 2015 class.
Offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez (Union City, New Jersey) beefs up an impressive haul up front. Receiver Brandon Polk (Ashburn, Virginia) picked Penn State in late March over the likes of Stanford and Wisconsin.
Missouri has helped ensure a bright future on offense with key recent additions. Quarterback Drew Lock (Lee's Summit, Missouri), a Tigers legacy, follows in his father's footsteps to Columbia.
The 6'5" passer is rated No. 6 nationally among pro-style quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He chose Missouri over Michigan State, Texas, Ohio State and Tennessee in April.
The Tigers will team him up with a talented group of 2015 playmakers. Running back Natereace Strong (East St. Louis, Illinois), offensive lineman AJ Harris (Stilwell, Kansas) and tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (Suwanee, Georgia) also joined the class in April.
The defensive unit received a boost in April when safety Cameron Hilton (St. Louis, Missouri) committed.
The Hurricanes have made the most of in-state talent this spring. Several Sunshine State prospects picked Miami over other top-tier options in April.
Running back Dexter Williams (Orlando) committed to head coach Al Golden one week after visiting the Gators in Gainesville. Jordan Cronkrite (Miami), a 4-star athlete who has the makings of a standout safety, decided to stay home despite offers from Alabama, West Virginia and Clemson.
Defensive end Scott Patchan (Tampa) spurned offers from Florida State, UCLA and Stanford to join the Hurricanes' class. Miami added impressive tight end Bowman Archibold (Dade City), weeks after he added offers from Auburn, Oregon, Penn State and USC.
Golden reached beyond state borders for talented offensive tackle Hayden Mahoney (Malvern, Pennsylvania) in late March.
Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald has helped his alma mater make strides on the field. Those efforts are now being reflected more consistently in the recruiting spectrum.
He secured commitments from 4-star brother tandem David and Andrew Dowell (Lakewood, Ohio), who play receiver and running back, respectively. They both hold offers from West Virginia, Cincinnati and Illinois, among others.
The brothers were two of eight prospects who pledged to Northwestern between April 11 and 15. The dizzying stretch also included commitments from Northeast defensive ends Joe Gaziano (Westwood, Massachusetts) and Zach Allen (New Canaan, Connecticut).
Jim Mora made plenty of noise in Southern California when he picked up No. 1 quarterback prospect Josh Rosen (Bellflower, California). The coveted signal-caller committed to the Bruins over Cal and Michigan in March, giving fans plenty to be excited about when Heisman Trophy contender Brett Hundley departs for the NFL.
L.J. Reed (Elk Grove, California) didn't waste much time joining the class as a future downfield threat for Rosen. The 4-star receiver chose UCLA over several Pac-12 options in late April.
The Bruins balanced skill with size in a quality offensive haul by adding Tevita Halalilo (Moreno Valley, California) on April 18. The 4-star offensive guard will beef up the front line in the future.
The Crimson Tide have soared back to a familiar spot at No. 1 in national recruiting rankings. A sensational spring peaked on April 19, when Nick Saban received four commitment during spring game visits.
He picked up a pair of Sunshine State standouts in Monarch High School (Pompano, Florida) teammates Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker. Ridley rates No. 5 nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, while Burgess-Becker is listed as the No. 6 athlete.
Elite cornerback prospect Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, New Jersey), the team's first 2015 5-star commit, pledged on the same day. So did Leo Lewis (Brookhaven, Mississippi), who is rated the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker.
More good news arrived less than a week later when in-state defensive end Christian Bell (Birmingham, Alabama) chose Alabama over Mississippi State and South Carolina. The Crimson Tide collected commitments from 4-star offensive lineman Richie Petitbon (Washington, D.C.) and former Kentucky cornerback pledge Montrell Custis (Hampton, Georgia) earlier in April.