10 College Programs Who Will Top Their 2010 Recruiting Classes In 2011
For true followers, recruiting classes are just like seasons of college football. You can have memorable classes;poor classes; classes where you started strong and slumped at the end; or classes that came from behind to exceed all expectations.
Therefore, it's only reasonable to compare classes just as one compares seasons.
Some of these 10 teams have gotten off to a hot start. Some are shaping up for a top 10 finish. Others are just beating the pants off of last year's class. And a few might look like long shots whom I predict will finish strong.
All 10 are in one way or another in good shape to beat last year's class. Take a look and see if your team is in such good shape.
The Cavaliers will top their 18-man 2010 class both in terms of numbers and of talent.
Their top signee for 2010, Morgan Moses, was a four-star tackle whom Al Groh had plucked from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. (He's been impressing folks in practice, for what it's worth.) Past him, only RB Kevin Parks was in range for a fourth star.
For 2011, Mike London has already passed the 18-man threshold, landing 20 verbals. He's also exceeded the predicted talent level of the 2010 class by grabbing four-star athletes Brandon Phelps and Clifton Richardson, the latter a soft commit.
DT Vincent Croce, ATH Anthony Harris, DE Rob Burns and QB David Watford are all in range for a fourth star with solid senior seasons.
To top it off, London has five-star in-state linebacker Curtis Grant taking a serious look at the Cavaliers.
Even with a season bordering on the catastrophic, I think London can keep these players and intact and maybe convince a few more to be part of the rebuilding effort. And he's a good enough X's and O's coach that I think the Cavs will avoid catastrophe.
Alabama's 2010 class was star-studded, a full 26 commitments headlined by five-star defensive back DeMarcus Milliner on defense and four-star QB Phillip Sims on offense. The Tide finished fifth overall to Rivals...so how can you top that?
Yet the Tide should enjoy the same historic spike in their 2011 recruiting that the Gators did for their 2010 class—appropriately, a year after UF won the national championship, too.
They've already received solid commitments from five-star linebacker Brent Calloway, four-star linebacker Trey DePriest and four-star receiver Marvin Shinn.
I fully expect them to land 2011's top prospect, five-star defensive end JaDeveon Clowney, who has named Alabama and in-state South Carolina his leaders. Other five-stars with their eye on Tuscaloosa: RB Isaiah Crowell, for whom the Tide are battling Georgia, and tight end Nick O'Leary.
If the season goes well, Alabama can say no rebuilding was necessary. If they struggle, they can sell recruits on the reloading effort. Either way, they have a pitch. Plus, their stable and tight-knit coaching staff appeals to recruits and is becoming a rarity in the poach-happy SEC.
All reasons to believe they'll end up neck-and-neck with Texas at the finish line.
Amazingly,the Wolverines are in on more major recruits than they've been in contention for in any other class. Five-star defensive end Ray Drew, four-star safety Avery Walls, five-star cornerback DeAnthony Thomas and five-star linebacker Curtis Grant are just a few names who have stated serious interest in Michigan beyond just the pleasantries of a surprise offer.
Must-get all-purpose back Demetrius Hart has named Michigan his leader over Alabama, and the Wolverines have locked up tackle Jake Fisher and linebacker Kellen Jones, two dynamic recruits at positions the Wolverines needed most.
Rich Rodriguez and his staff have done an outstanding job remaining upbeat despite the losing record and the sanctions debacle...and his ability to flip a few kids close to signing day is a known quantity.
Athletic director David Brandon has been a big help, scheduling a night game against Notre Dame in 2011 and, if rumors are correct, a neutral-site game in Dallas to face the Crimson Tide in 2012. Both will be huge selling points to recruits now and in the near future.
Topping Michigan's 2010 class might be easier than it sounds. While I've personally come to appreciate all 27 of the signees, recruitniks felt this class underperformed compared to the lofty standards of the Maize and Blue. And that was before five-star safety Demar Dorsey, LB Antonio Kinard and ATH Conelius Jones failed to qualify.
I'm not dumb enough to predict the outcome of the season in wins and losses, but I think Rich Rodriguez will survive this year and actually build some momentum heading into signing day. After two long years, he'll finally be able to say the rebuilding effort is complete and the chase for the Big Ten title is back on.
As with Michigan, the Buckeyes' 2010 class was considered by some to be disappointing.
There were bright spots, like four-star cornerback Christian Bryant, four-star athlete Corey Brown and four-star tackle Andrew Norwell.
But the Buckeyes missed on a few key recruits (four-star athlete Dominique Brown to Louisville, and four-star tackle Matt James, who committed to Notre Dame before tragically dying in a fall this summer), and it was generally felt that, off of their confidence-building Rose Bowl win, they could have done better.
Fast forward to the present, and OSU has easily surpassed 2010's class already. They have 17 commitments so far, nearly matching 2010's 19.
Five-star QB Braxton Miller, four-star safety Jeremy Cash, top 2011 center Brian Bobek and top 2011 defensive tackle Michael Bennett headline a class that should contend for top five, maybe top three honors when all is said and done.
Though they've missed out on LB Trey DePriest at a key position in the class, they're in good shape for No. 1 cornerback Doran Grant and four-star tackle Aundrey Walker.
And, while it may have been a foregone conclusion for the in-stater, the Buckeyes landed their must-get quarterback in Braxton Miller. The rest should take care of itself, especially if the Scarlet and Gray have the season many are predicting.
Notre Dame's 2010 recruiting class belonged to neither Charlie Weis nor Brian Kelly. It had skill at many positions, particularly wide receiver, defensive back and offensive line. But it was a hodgepodge effort that had many Irish faithful questioning the wisdom of the Kelly hire from the beginning.
With his first class all to himself, Kelly has silenced the doubters. He's accruing ideal system commitments at tight end (five-star TE Ben Koyack) and all-purpose back (four-star Justice Hayes) and stocking up the offensive line with athletic guards (Tony Springmann, Conor Hanratty) and tackles (Matt Hegarty, Jordan Prestwood)
More importantly, Kelly is reloading on the defensive front (four-star DE Aaron Lynch, three-star Anthony Rabasa), the linebacking corps (four-star LB Jarrett Grace) and in the secondary (four-star safety Eilar Hardy).
While Weis was guilty of understocking the defense, Kelly understands that's still where championships are won and lost.
The Irish are still in need of a quarterback, and names on the big board are running low. But Kelly, a notable QB guru, has coached up lesser QBs than Dayne Crist and four-star 2010 signee Andrew Hendrix.
North Carolina's 2010 class capitalized on some coaching changes late in the season, as Butch Davis and company convinced RB Giovanni Bernard and DE Anthony Willis to switch their commitments from Notre Dame and Tennessee, respectively.
Outside of those two, little fanfare was directed at UNC's class despite the Tar Heels also gaining a commitment from fringe five-star tackle James Hurst. They ended up 29th overall to Rivals.
This year, the Tar Heels have been tearing up recruiting along the offensive line. They have no less than five linemen who will finish at or above the four-star mark to Rivals, headlined by top 100 recruit Landon Turner.
Four-star athlete T.J. Thorpe and underrated two-sport star Everett Golson add good depth to the offense.
This class is already sitting above No. 29. Should the Tar Heels have the breakthrough season many are expecting, another strong finish could find them in the top 10.
A commenter took me to the woodshed—justifiably—for calling TCU's 2011 class disappointing.
For a program that has now broken into the top ranks, I expected more, but my understanding of TCU's depth chart at QB and RB was fundamentally flawed. But according to one commenter, TCU's No. 18 ranking to ESPN and its commitments at QB (Dominic Merka) and linebacker (Deryck Gildon, Laderice Sanders) far surpassed anything the Horned Frogs had done before.
The Horned Frogs finished No. 49 overall to Rivals on the 2010 rankings, with two four-star commitments (Curtis Carter and RB Ethan Grant). Let's see if, off of their BCS trip and the upward conference mobility the Frogs can promise, the recruiting coaches can crack the top 25 like their on-the-field counterparts.
Undeterred by those setbacks, Jim Harbaugh has the Cardinal up to 20 commitments already, tops in the Pac-10 in both quantity and, in my estimation, quality.
QB Evan Crower, RBs Amir Carlisle and Remound Wright, DE Charlie Hopkins, OL Brendon Austin and LBs James Vaughters and Anthony Sarao are ranked at or above four stars to at least one recruiting site.
The Cardinal must have sent out a record number of offers, because you see Stanford on almost every "X also considered..." list out there. Though such a tactic risks more trouble with Stanford's admissions office, it was successful in getting recruits to take notice of the Palo Alto school.
They'll need better talent in the secondary, but if they can avoid the wave of decommitments that cost them nearly a full class' worth of players last year, they should be able to crack the top 20 or better.
Pitt's class was about at the level fans have come to expect from Dave Wannstedt and his staff: 24 commitments, two big-time commitments on the defensive line (DE Bryan Murphy and DE T.J. Clemmings, who was a five-star to Scout) and a boatload of local, Ohio and Jersey talent.
If that's the status quo, the Panthers are ahead of the curve this year, courtesy of commitments from DT Marquise Wright, ATHs Terrell Chestnut and Bill Belton and RB Jameel Poteat.
It's possible Pitt's 2011 class reaches no higher than this point, which would put them maybe slightly above the No. 33 class, their ranking last year.
But at the very least, I could see lLB Ben Kline cracking the four-star mark. And with a good season, the Panthers might be able to capitalize on more Pennsylvania talent. On their current momentum, I would wager they'll crack the top 20.
Nebraska's 2010 class featured eight four-stars, including two big-time signing day switcheroos in QB Brion Carnes and safety Corey Cooper. But Huskers fans were disappointed not to land five-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighuziwa, who chose UCLA, and there were concerns Nebraska wasn't doing enough to address the QB position.
For 2011, the Huskers look to break through on multiple fronts.
The Huskers have the top QB pairing in the class in four-stars Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling
And they're in good shape to land a five-star recruit in running back Aaron Green, a jitterbug who has the ability to take the offense to the next level.
Add to that their four great verbals along the offensive line, and this class should well surpass the No. 22 benchmark of its predecessor.