I've played Pollyanna with several of 2011's recruiting classes, searching out the most underrated players, the biggest Cinderella stories, the unsung heroes and fringe top-25ers.
Today, I'd like to look at which 2011 recruiting classes have let me down as a father, or, at least, as a distantly-related nephew.
These classes disappoint for a variety of reasons. Some don't live up to the caliber of play of their team. Others are business as usual for schools where business has been bad.
Each fall short for different reasons. Click through for an airing of grievances.
Note: This is NOT intended to be a slam against the recruits involved. They are innocent bystanders who cannot be held responsible for the shortcomings of the programs they are now tied to.
A year removed from being in contention for several top recruits, including five-star athlete Latwan Anderson (who actually committed to WVU, but eventually signed with Miami) and four-star WR Ivan McCartney (whose commitment to WVU stuck), there's little buzz around Bill Stewart's program.
Of the Mountaineers' paltry seven commitments, their best get is defensive back Vance Roberts, a four-star out of Washington D.C. whose twin brother, Vernard, also committed. He's a three-star RB.
WVU will need firepower to replace departing RB Noel Devine, and will also need some help restocking the offensive line, which lost productive yet unsung tackle Selvish Capers.
It's a darn good thing the Nittany Lions finished first for four-star guard Angelo Mangiro, or they would hold the most disappointing recruiting class relative to on-field success far and away.
PSU has only four commitments to its credit, a number so low compared to its competition that it prompted a response, however dismissive, from the Penn State AD.
Besides Mangiro, the other commitment of note is DE Shawn Oakman, Rivals' No. 20 strongside defensive end.
Penn State signed the top class in the Big Ten last cycle, but that would seem to translate better into recruiting momentum. I see them not too far from the top 15 by signing day, but they've gotten off to an awfully slow start if that is indeed their goal.
The Bruins were another team with a ton of recruiting momentum after signing a humdinger of a 2010 class, topped off by the strongest signing day performance in the country.
Four elite recruits—Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Dietrich Riley, Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Jefferson—chose the Bruins over competitive offers from all across the country at the stroke of midnight on NSD.
Between that and the tumultous summer UCLa's direct, crosstown rival is experiencing, and you would expect 2011's class to be shaping up a lot better than it is.
Let me say I think it's wise for UCLA to have four offensive linemen, and maybe more, in this class. The loss of freshman left tackle Nik Abele to injury, guard Stanley Hasiak to ineligibility, plus the ongoing spate of injuries plaguing center Kai Maiava all demand the Bruins once and for all gain solid numbers on the OL two-deep.
But when offensive lineman are four/fifths of your five-man class, you're not balancing things out right.
I also expect the Bruins to bounce back, but they've conceded an edge to USC that, in spite of everything, will be tough to overcome for the local talent. You can't win the war without picking up at least a few more battles along the way.
Many expected Skip Holtz to roll in to South Florida and give those elite in-state programs a run for their money on local talent.
That isn't happening...or, at least, not immediately. The Bulls hold eight commitments, none of whom held competitive offers from the big three schools. Top verbals now are from three-star QB Stephen Weatherford, LB Rontavious Atkins (Pahokee what), and LB Edsel Caprice.
The Bulls did host five-star defensive end Ray Drew on an unofficial (news in the comments section of that article), and their defensive line coaching has been such that I could see them making a serious run for him. But Drew has proven a slippery recruit not interested in naming an early favorite or even stemming the flow of offers.
Until the Bulls score a big one against Florida State, Miami or the Gators, it's business as usual in Tampa.
I know, I know, TCU wins without signing elite talent...but when you can recruit off of a BCS bowl appearance and promise, fairly, that it might have been the first of many to come, you can do better than what TCU has done so far.
The Horned Frogs have 16 commitments in the class, a healthy number and one that might only grow by another eight, nine tops. Outside linebacker Deryck Gildon and inside linebacker Laderice Sanders both look like great fits for the TCU defense...and hey, they don't have to switch positions, either.
But the Frogs fell short for five-star RB Herschel Sims and aren't on the radar for any big-time QBs, arguably the position of greatest need with Dalton graduating.
And you can't tell me you'd prefer to do it without elite talent, would you?
Like TCU, the Broncos can promise recruits a lot: an upwardly mobile program on the precipice of a major conference shift; a reliable shot at the BCS, and possibly the national championship; and one of the most faithful, sound coaching staffs in the country.
The Broncos can and have won with less. But once that switch is made, they'll need to do it consistently, not just in limited nonconference and bowl play. They'll need depth, athleticism and speed, and they'll need it at each position.
To be fair, three-star QB Jimmy Laughrea and DE Robert Ash are improvements on what the Broncos have taken in the past.
But to achieve the kind of success at the next level that Broncos fans have come to expect, this class isn't going to cut it.
The last thing Illini fans want to see is their coach's name dragged through the mud for the umpteenth time, so I'll be brief.
Ron Zook was hired for, among other things, his notable talent at "selling the program" to recruits. After a hot start in 2006 and 2007, the Illini's classes have declined steadily, ending with the ignominous No. 70 class in 2010.
2011's strongest verbal is from Tony Durkin, Rivals' No. 15 center whose next-best offer was from Arizona, or Air Force if you're into the military thing. Safety Zeph Grimes, another three-star, held an offer from Arkansas.
Past them, you can almost hear the wind whistling through Zook's ears. Sorry, I'm not above making a crack, either.
I'm talking a bit out of both sides of my mouth here, on the one hand giving South Carolina an outside chance of landing top in-state DE Jadeveon Clowney one day and harping on their subpar recruiting efforts in the other.
But fresh off a top 25, five-star-dappled 2010 effort, the Gamecocks are holding mostly sleeper prospects with few competitive offers.
Highlights now are three-star tackle Mike Matulis out of Lake Worth, Florida, who also held an offer from Florida State; and OLB Edward Muldrow, a local prospect who was hearing from Clemson and Florida State.
That won't cut it in this conference, unfortunately. The Gamecocks have to hope that a run at the SEC East title gets some momentum going on the trail.
It has to be difficult to recruit from the hot seat. But where Rich Rodriguez, Mark Richt and Les Miles have risen to the challenge, Dan Hawkins appears to have accepted his fate.
The Buffaloes have just four commitments in the fold and one to speak of. QB Brock Berglund is a fringe four-star recruit and in-stater who chose the Buffs over Kansas, Boise State and UCLA, among others.
Two things dampen this class for me even beyond sheer numbers. One, the Buffs let four-star offensive tackle and top in-state recruit Brendon Austin slip away to Stanford.
Two, they've had one of the most exciting offseasons of any school, announcing a new partnership with the Pac-10 that should put them in even better contention for California talent.
It's too soon to pass harsh judgment on whether Hawkins is exploiting that connection to its fullest. But so far, it hasn't led to much. Facing a desperate season, you have to hope Hawkins plays better with his back against the wall than he recruits.
Another example of a championship-winning team being held to a higher standard, Georgia Tech's class is still looking for a strong verbal to hang its hat on.
No commits crack the four-star barrier, though LB Jabari Hunt-Days is on the cusp. He held offers from Auburn and South Carolina before committing. I also like defensive back Darren Waller, a tall safety out of Suwanee, GA, who also was hearing from Auburn and Air Force.
The Yellow Jackets are this close to gaining a verbal from four-star defensive end and Rivals' No. 4 strongside end Stephon Tuitt. They've led for some time, and Tuitt just needs to pull the trigger.
Until he does, this class is not up to the standards set by Ga Tech's ACC championship run. They'll need more than numbers to make up for the loss of Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan, both four-star recruits back in the day.