College Football: 10 Schools That Won't Top 2010 Class in 2011
Two weeks ago, I looked at 10 schools who will top their 2010 recruiting classes in 2011.
I either was impressed with the great start they're currently off to, or expected them to perform well enough during the season to grab some recruits' attention.
Now, I'd like to look at 10 programs that won't top their 2010 classes this year.
Some set the bar too high last year. Others are off to a slow start they may never recover from. However they got where they are, cracking the threshold set by last year's class looks out of reach from here.
For each I've included their 2010 ranking per Rivals and my projected ranking. Take a look.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 2 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 6
Florida has bounced back from a relatively slow start to 2011 recruiting with great commits at cornerback (Nick Waisome), wide receiver (Ja'Juan Story), and QB (Jeff Driskel, who should contend for a fifth star).
But if the James Wilder commitment to FSU sticks, I don't think the Gators have enough firepower to match their top-three finish in 2010.
Wilder was Florida's best chance of vaunting into the top five early. But they lost their lead with him once he decided to play running back and had questions about where he fit in the offense.
The Noles will now be able to use that commitment against the Gators for the foreseeable future. And there's just too many other recruiting powers to go up against (Alabama, Auburn, even Miami) for Florida to expect another class with the kind of depth (four 5-stars and 18 4-stars) of 2010's.
2010 recruiting ranking: No. 8 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 25
The Bruins are starting off year three of the Neuheisel experiment in miserable fashion, losing four starters on the offensive line to injury (Kai Mavaia, Jeff Baca), mission (Xavier Su'a-Filo) or suspension (Mike Harris).
Their recruiting hasn't been much better. Handed Lane Kiffin's head on a platter, Neuheisel has just one 4-star, TE WR Brandon Nelson, among UCLA's seven total commitments.
Now, UCLA did pull off multiple signing day switcheroos for last year's class, so I won't count them out of the top 25 until February 3rd of next year. But topping their No. 8 ranking seems quite out of reach from where it stands now.
They can start by getting 4-star LB Kent Turene out of his USC commitment, and maybe try and capitalize on DeAnthony Thomas, who now has the Bruins tied with Washington as his favorites.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 4 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 10
Try as Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper and Gus Malzahn might, the sheer talent and mass of Auburn's 2010 haul is impossible to top.
2010's 32-man class featured three 5-star prospects, RB Michael Dyer, OT Shon Coleman, and JUCO transfer Cameron Newton, plus 13 4-stars, among them DE Corey Lemonier, ATH Trovon Reed, and LB LaDarius Owens.
To even approach that number would be borderline Alabama-like, and the Tigers have vowed to keep 2011's class smaller. So far, 4-star CB Jonathon Rose and 4-star QB Kiehl Frazier balance the 15-man class.
While they're in on a lot of top prospects like Demetrius Hart, Kris Frost, and Mike Blakely, a final ranking at or above No. 4 would be unthinkable. But that's more praise of last year's class than anything negative about this one.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 10
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 18
With 2010 recruiter of the year Tosh Lupoi still on staff, Cal will have a chance with each of the top recruits they're chasing until singing day.
Lupoi was involved in one way or another in gaining verbals from 5-stars Keenan Allen and Chris Martin and 4-stars Cecil Whiteside, Gabe King, and Nick Forbes.
Allen and Martin were two of the most shocking late switches of the 2010 cycle. Martin was committed to Notre Dame but switched to Cal when Weis was fired (he has since transferred to Florida), while Allen was committed to Alabama until just a few days before signing day,
But a repeat performance from Tupoi is asking a lot. Depending on how Cal's season goes, they may have to answer for another middle-of-the-road finish in the Pac-10 against other programs looking upwardly mobile.
How close can they get? Top recruits like 4-star DT Todd Peat and TE Richard Rodgers seem to be favoring the Bears, and their 2011 class is shaping up nicely, with commitments from 4-stars QB Kyle Boehm, DT Mustafa Jalil, OG Jordan Rigsbee, and RB Daniel Lasco. In the end, I see them in the top 25, but still a few spots shy of the No. 11 finish they enjoyed last year.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 9
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 20
Tennessee's strong finish to the 2010 class was encouraging. UT snatched 5-star receiver Da'Rick Rogers from Georgia and landed OG Josh Stone over Alabama. They ended up with the No. 9 class in the country.
Yet Vols fans are fooling themselves if they believe there won't be a dropoff in recruiting after what looks like a 6-6 season at best.
Some recruits like signing on to rebuild, and they're often the ones most worth taking. But they're the exception, not the rule.
UT's class as it stands now is at 14 commitments and one 4-star, hard-hitting safety Pat Martin. QB Justin Worley and OT Alan Posey are on the verge of gaining a fourth.
But unless Derek Dooley is the second coming of 90s-era Phil Fulmer, the Vols will hope for a top 25-er (albeit one that approaches the 27-30 player range to account for the massive attrition).
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 12
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 26
Penn State's slow start to 2011 recruiting has been covered ad nauseum.
But while the Nittany Lions rebounded somewhat with commitments from a 4-star guard (Angelo Mangiro) and 4-star DE (Shawn Oakman), there's almost no chance they'll be able to match the lofty No. 12 ranking given to last year's class.
Paterno's age has been cited as the main reason, but I think more of the blame rests on the enormous amount of momentum Pitt has generated this year.
The Panthers have sewn up 4-star athlete Terrell Chestnut, DT Marquise Wright and 4-star defensive back Kyshoen Jarrett, all of whom held Penn State offers. What's more, Chestnut and Jarrett were in-staters, and Jarrett was at least 50/50 between Pitt and PSU a short while ago.
Five-star tackle Cyrus Kouandjio left Penn State off his final list, saying they were too strict for his tastes.
Plus, the Nittany Lions appear to be losing their grip on RB Savon Huggins, the lone RB on the board for Penn State in 2011. Huggins seems to be favoring Florida, and the Gators will probably turn the heat up now that James Wilder has committed to Florida State.
2010's class lays a solid foundation, and PSU's scholarship numbers are down, so the odds of topping 2010's class were low to begin with. But a concentrated class of top prospects now appears out of the question, too, and that's cause for concern.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 13 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 21
Oregon could bust its recruiting wide open with an awesome year in the Pac-10, but Kelly's system lives and dies with its quarterback, and I don't like Nate Costa or Darren Thomas at this point.
Between that and the fact that I don't see Oregon's name rolling off the tongue of a lot of top recruits, I suspect they may have a difficult time matching their No. 13 class ranking from Rivals last year.
That class had 5-star RB Lache Seastrunk and a whopping eight 4-star commitments on both sides of the ball.
As of now, the Ducks have three 4-star commitments: QB Jerrard Randall, OL Andre Yruretagoyena, and WR Tacoi Sumler. It's possible OL Tyler Johnstone or LB Tyson Coleman end up 4-stars with a good senior season.
Unless they land one or two 5-star defensive recruits, I don't see them topping 2010...but to be fair, I still see this being a strong class.
Some recruits that HAVE mentioned Oregon: 4-star DT Kevin McReynolds, 4-star athlete George Atkinson, 4-star RB, current Washington commit Brendon Bigelow, and 4-star LB Lamar Dawson.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 27 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 35
A few readers and fans of WVU have informed me that the Mountaineers are deploying a more conservative, low-key approach to recruiting, one that requires a recruit to visit Morgantown with his parents before he's able to announce his decision.
Whether that's an effect of losing Latwan Anderson to a sketchy post-signing day switch to Miami, or just a general skepticism towards having recruits from, say, Florida commit sight unseen, it is unlikely to help WVU chase down the top prospects.
With all due respect, WVU wasn't at the forefront of college football long enough for a low-key recruiting approach to be successful...at least with the top recruits. It's fine for the middle-tier, system players, but remember, Noel Devine didn't commit on Signing Day, and required the redoubled efforts of Rich Rodriguez and his staff to land in 2007. Big players and their big egos require big splashes...even if it doesn't seem worth it at the time.
That's why I believe it's unlikely WVU will top its 27th-place finish in last year's class. They're off to an OK start with verbals from 4-star DB Vance Roberts and 3-star RB Jermichael Selders. They have at least three more 4-star players to accrue before topping No. 27 becomes a possibility.
Texas A & M
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 17
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 32
Even after losing 4-star LB Corey Nelson to Oklahoma on the eve of signing day, 2010's was a banner class for Texas A&M.
The Aggies landed elite recruits on the offensive line (projected starting tackle Luke Joeckel, fringe 5-star Jake Matthews) and at running back (4-stars DJ Jones, Ben Malena, and Mister Jones) as well as 4-star defensive tackle Ivan Robinson, leading to their best recruiting finish (No. 17 overall) since 2005, when they finished No. 8 overall.
Right now, the Aggies have no 4-star recruits in their 11-man class, though LB Donnie Baggs, DB Devonta Burns, DB Josh Stewart, and OL Shayvion Hatten have a chance to move up in the rankings.
To my knowledge, the Aggies have missed on a lot of top prospects like Arizona QB Brett Hundley, who is down to UCLA and Washington, and DE Quincy Russell, who recommitted to the Longhorns after opening his recruitment earlier this year.
Four-star RB Tre Mason has expressed his interest in visiting A&M after a recent offer. But outside of him, diehard Aggie fans will have to leave some names of recruits the Aggies have a shot at, because I can't name any.
2010 Recruiting Ranking: No. 1 (Rivals)
Projected 2011 Recruiting Ranking: No. 11
One of the great ironies of 2010 recruiting is that, once Seantrel Henderson verballed to the Trojans, USC actually topped Florida and Texas for 2010's best class per Rivals.
Granted, Henderson transferred, as did JUCO signee Glen Stanley. Now, two other major signees, QB Jesse Scroggins and DB Demetrius Wright, may not academically qualify, robbing the 18-man class of almost a quarter of its talent.
But even after the transfers and torrid melodrama that surrounded it, I still don't think USC has a chance of topping 2010's class in 2011.
For one thing, the Trojans can sign 15 recruits maximum if the penalties stick. That means that with 11 current verbals, they have just four more to give from the 2011 class.
Second, I expect at least one or two de-commitments over the course of the season, whether from current Florida LB Kent Turene, who may be eyeing UCLA; from 5-star CB/RB DeAnthony Thomas, who is a soft verbal and will take other visits; or from one of the Trojans' two major QB commitments, Max Wittek or Cody Kessler. All of them would be difficult players to replace, Thomas most of all.
The Trojans could get a huge boost if their pitch to 5-star tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is successful—he's included USC in his final group and says they're recruiting him hardest. But even with his verbal, I don't think this class could possibly reach No. 1 overall.