Top CFB Teams with Lowest-Ranked 2023 Recruiting Classes

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 30, 2023

Top CFB Teams with Lowest-Ranked 2023 Recruiting Classes

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    Mike Gundy
    Mike GundyEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Few topics in college football are more divisive than recruiting, especially when a program doesn't have a top-ranked class.

    Stars undeniably matter. Year after year, the national champion boasts a roster stacked with blue-chip (4- or 5-star) prospects. Coaching is important, but there's no mystery as to how Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State have become College Football Playoff regulars.

    The lack of elite recruiting classes does not preclude a school from competing for the playoff. Still, the best recent examples—Cincinnati (2021) and TCU (2022)—both endured the difference in emphatic CFP losses.

    Each program highlighted has played well recently but is nearing the finish of the 2023 cycle with a low-ranked class.

Group of Five Programs

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    Willie Fritz
    Willie FritzGeorge Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    While programs such as Troy and Tulane enjoyed huge success in 2022, it's no surprise their recruiting classes aren't highly ranked.

    They—alongside a few others—fit the billing.

    Tulane is ranked 71st nationally with an 18-player haul, including a trio of top-1,000 prospects. The expected boost for the AAC champions and Cotton Bowl winners will theoretically arrive in the 2024 recruiting cycle.

    Troy, meanwhile, checks in 105th. Three-star cornerback Jack Tchienchou is the lone ranked player in the class.

    Mountain West front-runners Boise State (66th) and Fresno State (81st), the 2022 MWC winner, fall in the category, as well. Others of note are Conference USA and MAC champions UTSA (59th) and Toledo (94th).

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Scott Satterfield
    Scott SatterfieldDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Class Ranking: 74

    As you'd expect, Luke Fickell's departure played the main role in the fracturing of Big 12-bound Cincinnati's class.

    Following his late-November exit for Wisconsin, the Bearcats lost verbal pledges from 4-stars Braedyn Moore, Daeh McCullough, Khamari Anderson, Amare Snowden and six 3-star players.

    What had been a sturdy class understandably fell apart. Subsequently, new coach Scott Satterfield and his staff leaned on the transfer portal to replace UC's own departures, along with the once-committed recruits.

    Cincinnati scored a key victory in keeping 4-star quarterback Brady Drogosh (320th) as the headliner of the 2023 signees.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Mike Gundy
    Mike GundyBrian Bahr/Getty Images

    Class Ranking: 57

    While the program hasn't exactly recruited at a nationally notable level throughout Mike Gundy's tenure, Oklahoma State has continually landed a handful of blue-chip talents.

    That is, until 2023.

    Oklahoma State doesn't have a single 4-star in the class, although quarterback Zane Flores narrowly missed the billing. Flores (477th) and wide receiver Camron Heard (604th) lead the eight prospects with top-1,000 ratings among the class of 20.

    Gundy, who's overseen 17 consecutive winning seasons, has earned a substantial benefit of the doubt. But it's reasonable to cast a side-eye at OSU's lowest-ranked recruiting class in two decades.

Pitt Panthers

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    Pat Narduzzi
    Pat NarduzziDoug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Class Ranking: 49

    Pitt finds itself on the upper edge of this discussion, being the lone program included that holds a top-50 class.

    Four-star linebacker Jordan Bass (196th) is the featured player. In fact, he's the second-highest-rated prospect to sign with Pitt during the last half-decade, only trailing 2021 addition Elliot Donald (119th).

    Compared to 2022, Pitt has jumped 27 spots in the team rankings. Now, that's a function of intentionally taking a smaller group last cycle; the average rating of signees (86.56 to 86.64) is practically identical.

    Over the last two seasons, the Panthers have notched a 20-7 record with an ACC title. Pat Narduzzi has built the program into an annual bowl qualifier and occasional conference contender. To reach the next level of competitiveness, though, Pitt's recruiting must improve.

UCF Knights

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    Gus Malzahn
    Gus MalzahnG Fiume/Getty Images

    Class Ranking: 56

    Along with Cincinnati, UCF is headed to the Big 12 with an introductory recruiting class that is lagging behind new peers.

    Oklahoma State and Kansas are the conference's only current teams with a lower ranking than UCF. The promising note is the Knights have a legitimate shot at charging up a couple of spots in February.

    Four-star linebackers Andrew and Michael Harris, who decommitted in December, are still considering the program. If the in-state twins return to the fold, UCF could surpass West Virginia and/or Iowa State, depending on how those Big 12 competitors wrap up signing day.

    UCF should be a thorn immediately in the Big 12, but a recruiting surge in 2024 would bolster optimism for sustained success.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Luke Fickell
    Luke FickellChris Coduto/Getty Images

    Class Ranking: 60

    Wisconsin is known for identifying non-blue-chip prospects who are schematic fits and efficiently developing them.

    New coach Luke Fickell built a comparable reputation at Cincinnati, albeit in a smaller sample. Wisconsin is counting on him to continue the trend as he inherits the program's lowest-rated class in 11 years.

    Really, the ranking could've been even worse. Three of UC's many decommitments—4-star Braedyn Moore, 4-star Amare Snowden and 3-star Jonas Duclona—followed Fickell to the Badgers.

    The critical fact to remember is Fickell and his staff prioritized the transfer portal in this initial offseason. Adding more experienced players may allow Wisconsin to quickly recover from its disappointing year, but the Badgers undoubtedly need to be more effective on the recruiting trail in 2024.