10 College Football Recruits Who Picked the Underdog School
College football recruiting is becoming more and more a rich man's game.
The bigger schools are outspending the smaller in every facet of the game, and recruiting resources are one of the places where money—towards travel, accommodations and flashy facilities—shows through most.
With that in mind, I'd like to look at 10 recruits who ignored the big money programs and chose the underdogs. Most of these programs are still BCS institutions, but they're certainly not the forerunners of their conference.
Only a special breed of player can commit themselves to the selfless act of joining the rebuilding program. Here's where we get to say thanks.
Brandon Phelps, ATH & Clifton Richardson, ATH (Virginia)
Virginia coach Mike London's biggest landing so far is Maryland athlete Brandon Phelps.
Virginia is the very definition of underdog recruiting in 2010-11. Attrition, transfers, and underdeveloped talent have kept UVA in the bottom tier of the ACC. But new head coach Mike London has successfully found 22 players that want to be a part of the bare bones rebuilding project.
Athletes Brandon Phelps and Clifton Richardson will be a big part of that plan. The versatile Phelps will either play receiver or cornerback/safety at the next level. He chose Virginia over offers from Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and UCLA, among many others.
Richardson (still a soft commit, but things are looking good) will add a spark of UVA's offense on the ground and slipping out of the backfield. He's another versatile player with 4.4 speed and a host of competitive offers from Miami, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee and interest from Penn State. Check his highlights here.
Brian Miller, TE (Boston College)
Tight end Brian Miller chose the Boston College Eagles over Michigan, Penn State and UCLA.
Boston College is quietly putting together a very good 2011 recruiting class, headlined by four-star Rivals250 tight end Brian Miller.
Miller found the right fit in Boston College and chose to remain close to home, committing to the Eagles in April of this year.
But his offers suggest a national recruitment was warranted: Clemson, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Penn State, Stanford, and UCLA extended offers to him. And his film suggests that his athleticism will be a major boon for Boston College's pro-style offense.
He shows very good balance and speed, as well as the ability to gain a lot of yards after catch, punishing defensive backs for poor tackling. I could see him being very successful in that offense.
Chevelle Buie, APB (Rutgers)
All-purpose back Chevelle Buie chose Rutgers over the in-state Florida schools that had offered him.
Cocoa, FL all-purpose back Chevelle Buie dismissed distance, weather, and other...um...social differences when he pledged to Rutgers over offers from in-state powerhouses Florida and Florida State as well as Oregon and Michigan in late June.
The explosive player loved Rutgers' summer camp so much he committed on the spot.
The Scarlet Knights are getting one of the most explosive players in the class, a compact but sturdy back who can run inside or outside or split out wide.
He joins defensive back David Rowe as the second Rutgers commitment to come out of Cocoa in the past few classes. Rowe was a two-star defensive back in the 2008 class, and the likely starter for the Knights this fall.
Davon Moreland, DE (SMU)
Four-star defensive end Davon Moreland is going cross-country to SMU.
SMU convinced Los Angeles, CA defensive end Davon Moreland to forgo his USC and UCLA offers (as well as Washington, Texas A&M and Oregon State) and pledge to the Mustangs in July.
Moreland's very motivation in choosing SMU was to keep his continuing education small and private, and to be a big fish in a small pond. Not a bad idea considering NFL players still come from every conference.
At 6'3", 225 lbs, he's still growing and learning the position after starting his football career as a high-school junior. But his upside was enough to place him among the top 20 strongside defensive ends. I'm excited to see his impact for SMU in the future.
Bishop Sankey, RB (Washington State)
Four-star running back Bishop Sankey pledged his much-needed talents to the Washington State Cougars.
Four-star Spokane, WA running back Bishop Sankey was claiming interest from every top Pac-10 school (and an offer from Washington) plus Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Notre Dame when he committed to Wazzu in December of 2009.
The 5'9", 184 lb all-purpose back is a compact, durable runner with good balance and 4.4 speed. I was really impressed with his tenacity and surprised that he's only 5'9"—he plays a lot bigger.
Cougars fans don't have a ton to look forward to at the moment. But if they can survive this season and get this dynamo in the backfield, he could be Wazzu's answer to Jacquizz Rodgers and LaMichael James.
Zack Shaw, LB and Raymon Taylor, ATH (Indiana)
Athlete Raymon Taylor is expected to wind up at cornerback.
Indiana landed not one but two Rivals250 commitments so far in linebacker Zack Shaw out of Coschocton, OH and athlete/cornerback Raymon Taylor out of Detroit, MI.
Shaw is a combine freak who claimed interest from Michigan and Ohio State. Taylor, projected to move to cornerback, also reported interest from Michigan and offers from Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Illinois. Check out his highlights playing across from top Midwest receiver DeAnthony Arnett.
Both are two of the best commitments at their positions that the Hoosiers have landed since Bill Lynch took over at Indiana. The Hoosiers have been one of the best recruiting storylines to follow so far, with Lynch's son, Billy, putting on a top 10 performance as an individual recruiter.
Spencer Drango, OT (Baylor)
Texas tackle Spencer Drango is a good fit for Baylor's blocking scheme.
Baylor is one of my favorite programs not named Michigan. Their coach, Art Briles, is a strategic contemporary of Rich Rodriguez.
So I was glad to hear of four-star tackle Spencer Drango committing to Baylor in July, over offers from UCLA, LSU, and Cal and interest from Oklahoma.
He fits Baylor's scheme as an up-and-coming pass-blocking tackle who can also pull across the line and get second and third-level blocks out of a spread set.
The Bears should field one of the most exciting offenses to watch this fall...and their defense, with touted freshman safety Ahmad Dixon, might show up, too.
Lawrence Thomas, LB (Michigan State)
Detroit, MI linebacker Lawrence Thomas shows outstanding speed and blitzing ability.
Perhaps the highest-profile underdog commitment of the class is five-star linebacker Lawrence Thomas, who chose the Michigan State Spartans over offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, Penn State, and USC back in March.
The Spartans have set up a great pipeline to Detroit talent both because of the struggles of their in-state rival and because of renewed effort on the recruiting trail.
Thomas was an early lean to the Spartans and never really wavered, visiting East Lansing several times and establishing a great rapport with the coaches.
Thomas' film is impeccable. He shows unreal downhill speed, good lateral coverage and the hitting power that will supersede current Spartan linebacker Greg Jones.
He's good enough to spot the field as a true freshman, joining five-star 2010 commit Will Gholston on MSU's suddenly impactful defense.