Derek Dooley and UT have big day
Obviously any team finishing in the Top 5 should be considered a winner on Signing Day, but who are some of the less obvious teams who made noise, good and bad to wrap up the Class of 2011?
Winner: #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Yeah he can coach, but can Brian Kelley recruit nationally at Notre Dame? Let's
say this question has been answered. Notre Dame's defensive line haul alone
would be reason to celebrate with three of the nation's Top 10 defensive ends in
Aaron Lynch (6'6/255) of Cape Coral, Fla., Ishaq Williams (6'5/225) of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Stephon Tuitt (6'5/255) of Monroe, Ga. Add a Signing Day decision by Top 10
offensive tackle prospect Troy Niklas (6'5/260) of Anaheim, Calif., and Kelley answered any question about
his recruiting prowess.
Loser: #55 Pittsburgh Panthers
Pittsburgh made a risky move by moving on from a proven recruiting head
coach like Dave Wannstedt (42-31), and that move backfired when Mike Haywood was
dismissed before ever coaching a game. Pittsburgh dropped out of the Top 20 like
a rock, settling in the 80's before Todd Graham was able to come in and stop the
bleeding. Pittsburgh had finished in the Top 25 four of the last seven years
before its finish out of the Top 50 this year.
Winner: #11 Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee and Derek Dooley have done a remarkable job of rising from the
turmoil that was left behind when first year head coach Lane Kiffen abruptly
left for USC. The Vols closed on nearly all of its top targets to finish the
year and built a proverbial fence around the state of Tennessee signing three of
the four 4-Star rated prospects including jumbo athlete Cameron Clear (6'6/260)
Loser: #43 Mississippi State
It wasn't supposed to be like this for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs had
their best season in years. Their coach seemed like a mortal lock for the mighty
Florida Gators but signed an extension instead. Their commitment list was full
of instate players and a few out of state gems. Then the wheels came off. Three
of the Bullodogs' top commitments ended up inking with other teams, including
wide receiver Nickolas Brassell (6'1/176) and linebacker C.J. Johnson (6'2/235) who added insult to injury by signing with Ole Miss.
Winner: #12 Clemson Tigers
Clemson was having a good year before Signing Day, but with the
announcements of two linebacker ranked in the Top 3 at their respective
positions, Tiger fans felt like it was Christmas and a Birthday wrapped into
one. Stephone Anthony (6'3/220) of Wadesboro, N.C. and Tony Steward (6'1/215) of
Saint Augustine, Fla. may have upstaged a talented offensive class that included
two Top 10 receivers in Sammy Watkins (6'1/180) and Charone Peake (6'3/175) and
the No. 7 running back Mike Bellamy (5'10/190).
Loser: #37 Miami Hurricanes
A coaching change is a common theme amongst the top teams that are normally
dependable Top 15 recruiting teams that fell outside of the Top 25, and Miami
was no exception. New coach Al Golden did what he could in the short time that
he had, specifically keeping stellar defensive line commitment Anthony Chickillo
(6'4/235) and adding former USC commitment defensive tackle Jalen Grimble
(6'3/255). But no one expects Miami to finish 37th in recruiting, and this year
should look like an aberration once Golden gets a full year in Coral Gables.
Winner: #14 Cal Golden Bears
Cal has typically been known for wide open offense and quarterback play
under Jeff Tedford, but with the nation's best defensive line haul, the Golden
Bears may develop a new reputation. Viliami Moala (6'3/340) of Sacramento, Calif. is a force. He can push double teams
backwards and he can chase down running backs headed for the corner. Cal is
bringing in four running backs including Brendon Bigelow (5'10/180) who could be the steal of the class if he can recover
from knee injuries.
Loser: #55 UCLA Bruins
The season started with UCLA's arch-rival having crippling sanctions
announced. This was the year UCLA could take a step past USC who has
overshadowed them over the last decade. Then the season started. UCLA limped to
an uninspiring 4-8 record and replaced both coordinators. Worse, recruits didn't
seemed to prefer playing for a sanctioned USC team. Only Signing Day
announcements from 4-Star receiver Devin Lucien (6'0/190), an off again on again
signature from offensive tackle Torian White (6'6/280) and 3-Star defensive
tackle Kevin McReynolds (6'3/280) kept Signing Day from being a complete
disaster for UCLA.
Winner: #18 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech closed with as big a bang as anyone on Signing Day, getting
decisions and signatures from seven players. Particularly impressive was Texas
Tech's ability to reach out of its normal recruiting area to get two stars of
the Keystone State. Athlete Desimon Green (6'5/220) of Clairton, Pa. and
linebacker Branden Jackson (6'4/225) of McKeesport, Pa. are 3-Star and 4-Star
athletes respectively. The running game should get an infusion of talent as well
with three 4-Star running backs including Kenny Williams (5'10/206) of
Loser: The Big East
Pittsburgh has already taken its hit discussing the winners and losers, but the
Panthers weren't alone. No team from the Big East finished in the Top 30.
Rutgers and Louisville signed respectable classes at No. 31 and No. 36
respectively. Each signed potential stars including 5-Star running back Savon Huggins (6'0/200) of Jersey City, N.J. for Rutgers and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (6'3/195) of Miami, Fla for Louisville. Recruiting rankings don't
mean everything, but the conferences remaining six members signed only three
players rated 4-Stars or better. That's less than 28 teams.
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