Commentary

Fast starts yet to pay dividends for some undefeateds

Originally Published: October 3, 2007
By Henry Gola

There's no formula at a coach's disposal that will get every top prospect to accept a scholarship offer with his school on national signing day, but there is one element that makes recruiting easier -- winning.

Here's a look at if the undefeated teams are using their hot starts to their advantage on the recruiting trail:

Boston College, 15 commits
The skinny: If football games were won based on recruiting classes, Boston College wouldn't do too well. Even after moving from the Big East to the ACC, a switch many saw as doomsday for the BC's tough, grinding style, it looks like the class of the conference this year.

Of its 15 commits, none are in the ESPN 150. However, the class features the usual crop of late bloomers and guys who can be coached up. A perfect example is quarterback Justin Tuggle, son of former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Jesse Tuggle. He's an athletic pocket passer with a big arm, and while you probably won't see him right away, after two or three years in the program, he should be a good one.

UConn, 7 commits
The skinny: The school known nationally more for its men's basketball program and within its own state for women's hoops has suddenly made football part of the discussion.

The biggest coup for the Huskies could be the transfer of former Notre Dame quarterback Zach Frazier. He bolted South Bend after being buried on the depth chart, a trendy change these days. Down the stretch, UConn will need to win some recruiting battles with Boston College, Rutgers and Syracuse to make this a legit class.

South Florida, 9 commits
The skinny: As geographically confusing as its name may be (since when is Tampa take over for Miami as South Florida?), South Florida's recruiting mantra has been straightforward -- recruit Florida hard. The only problem with that is having to compete with Florida, Florida State, Miami and every other school worth its salt for recruits, but winning and national exposure are great selling points.

Eight of its nine commits are in-state kids, and the one who isn't -- talented running back Demetris Murray (Buford, Ga.) -- could end up being the steal of the class.

Cincinnati, 18 commits
The skinny: They're sixth in points per game (46.4) and allowing only just more than 10 points per game. Who dey? Certainly not the Bearcats' NFL brethren.

Eighteen commitments are a lot at this point in the game for Cincy, and its attacking the offense with four running backs and two athletes. Of its two quarterback commits, Brendon Kay is a gigantic pocket passer and Domonick Britt is a dual threat better with his legs. Plus, Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones is on the way.

Missouri, 14 commits
The skinny: Recruiting Texas is never a bad idea, and the Tigers have managed to snare six Lone Star Staters. Athletes and offense is the stress so far; Gahn McGaffie, a 5-foot-10 high school quarterback, will give coaches the option to play him either at wide receiver or corner.

Kansas, 8 commits
The skinny: Beating Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International will neither scare anybody nor make recruits come wanting. However, a win this weekend over Kansas State may force in-state and surrounding area kids to take a second look.

Tight end Tanner Hawkinson, at 6-foot-6, has the hands and passing game experience to contribute right away.

Ohio State, 11 commits
The skinny: If it weren't for recruiting and NFL Draft coverage, publicity for offensive linemen would be limited to holding penalties and John Madden's telestrator. Lucky for ESPN 150 linemen Michael Brewster, J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams, collectively known as "Block O," this is one of those times.

Any good offense begins with the guys doing the dirty work, and having three of the top six offensive tackles in the class is a good place to start. Ohio State's six ESPN 150 commits is tied for sixth most in the country.

Purdue, 19 commits
There are only so many years a team can load up through junior college players, and with already 19 commits, 17 of them graduating high school this year, the Boilermakers seem to be turning the corner.

It's not the most talented class in the country, but players like shifty 5-10 RB Ralph Bolden have promise.

Wisconsin, 19 commits
The skinny: Though rarely in the discussion for elite players, Wisconsin routinely unearths a few gems in each class. In 2008, there's top-20 quarterback Curt Phillips (Kingsport, Tenn./Sullivan South), who chose the Badgers over Middle Tennessee State, East Carolina, Kentucky and Duke.

Also, as it did last year with Josh Oglesby and in 2006 with Lance Kendricks, the state's top-rated player, Menasha's Tyler Westphal, will sign with the home team.

Arizona State, 7 commits
The skinny: Dennis Erickson's return to the top 25 this soon is surprising, but so is the fact that so far none of his 2008 commits are from California. His powerhouse West Coast teams were built on Golden Staters, but early on at his new post, he's made it a point to secure his own border; of the state's top 13 positional prospects, five have verbally committed to ASU.

Cal, 9 commits
The skinny: Games against UCLA and USC may do more than determine Cal's fate this season; they may determine how recruits feel about it in early February.

UCLA and USC both already have great classes, so Cal needs to close with a late splash of Pac-10 ready playmakers at the skill positions to remain a part of the upper echelon three years from now.

Arthur Brown
Wichita EagleArthur Brown, the top defensive player in the Class of '08, has his pick of schools.
USC, 14 commits
The skinny: You need a certain swagger to go after almost every elite recruit nationwide, and when you walk the walk like USC does, most kids find it hard to say no. Already with seven ESPN 150 prospects, the Trojans are also in the conversation for No. 1 inside linebacker Arthur Brown (Wichita, Kan./East), No. 2 ILB Etienne Sabino (Miami/Dr. Krop), No. 1 tight end Jonathan Baldwin (Aliquippa, Pa.), No. 2 cornerback T.J. Bryant (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln) and No. 2 running back Darrell Scott (Moorpark, Calif./St. Bonaventure).

Though the class is heavy on California kids, the current two top-rated commits are Georgian WR Brice Butler and Arkansan ATH Joe Adams.

Kentucky, 6 commits
The skinny: Storybook seasons seem to affect subsequent -- not current -- recruiting classes, and that's the case with Kentucky. With only six commits, and none of them highly touted, this class reflects its usual SEC doormat status rather than this year's success.

If the Wildcats can keep winning and carry some momentum through bowl season, some talented kids should look their way come national signing day.

LSU, 16 commits
The skinny: In a state that has overcome so much in the last two years -- and still has plenty more rebuilding to do, LSU's perseverance and success should be admired.

Despite surprisingly having no ESPN 150 commits so far, this class is solid top to bottom if unspectacular. Not surprisingly, it's heavy on Louisiana and Texas kids, and with many of Louisiana's top prospects still undecided, it can get even better. The Bayou Bengals are also in the mix for Arthur Brown and No. 3 running back Jamie Harper (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian).

Hawaii, 10 commits
The skinny: If you could get over being homesick, why wouldn't you want to play in paradise? Also the lone non-BCS team to be undefeated and featuring a wide-open offense, don't be surprised if Hawaii gets a few eye-opening recruits in this class before it's all said and done on national signing day.

Henry Gola is the Insider Recruiting editor for ESPN.com.