Florida finishes well despite new coach
One of the toughest things to do as a head coach is try and put together that first recruiting class, no matter what school you are at. Recruiting is hard enough as it is, let alone having a short recruiting window to work with. Typically, when a program goes through a coaching change the new coach only has a mere few weeks to build a class.
Here is a look at how some of the teams who went through head coaching changes fared on signing day. Schools are in alphabetical order.
New Colorado head coach Jon Embree signed 19 prospects and his first Buffaloes' class had to be built quickly. Three-star OT Marc Mustoe (Arvada, Colo./West) highlights a class that signed four offensive linemen. The Buffaloes also landed four linebackers, including Will Harlos (Somerset, Texas/Somerset), which was another need. Cornerback Sherrard Harrington (Washington D.C./Woodson), running back Rashad Hall (Oak Ridge, N.C./Oak Ridge Military Academy) and defensive end Juda Parker (Honolulu, Hawaii/St. Louis) were also good gets.
Of course the key to recruiting for any college football program is to try and work ahead. Embree believes that they are already building the foundation for 2012.
"We have a great head start. I think we have about 30 offers out already to next year's class," said Embree. "And out of those 30 I bet I've talked to 12 of them. There's going to be great opportunity next year for a lot of people because we have a big senior class."
Maybe new Florida head coach Will Muschamp didn't make quite the noise most Gators fans were hoping for, but he still reeled in a class filled with quality players. After inheriting a super group of recruits, the biggest battle for Muschamp was to keep them committed.
"We did a nice job of securing the class we had, which we had to re-recruit all of those guys because of all of the changes, the mass changes with our staff," Muschamp said. "And the staff did a nice job of securing those guys. Just really pleased with what we had, and Urban (Meyer) and his staff did a great job with those guys that were already committed to the university. And then coming back and supplementing some other guys to our football team."
In all, Florida finished with the No. 12 overall class by landing seven ESPNU 150 members including top quarterback Jeff Driskel (Orlando, Fla./Hagerty), wide receiver Ja'Juan Story (Brooksville, Fla./Nature's Coast), tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian) and running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee). On signing day the Gators pulled a good one in defensive back Marcus Roberson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas).
There's a new football regime in Bloomington with head coach Kevin Wilson, who was able to reel in 21 prospects. The Hoosiers got the small but explosive athlete in Shane Wynn (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville) and are also getting help at running back with local star D'Angelo Roberts (Bloomington, Ind./North). Athlete Tre Roberson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence Central) will likely be a receiver for the Hoosiers and defensively, they filled needs at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety.
"Good class, solid class. I appreciate the way the thing came together," Wilson said. "Maybe we'll add here late, but there is no panic or anything imminent here in the days and weeks to come."
Randy Edsall's first class for the Terrpains consists of 20 prospects. This is a pretty athletic group and the Terrapins hit on need areas like wide receiver, led by Marcus Leak (Monroe, N.C./Parkwood) and Nigel King (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield). The Terps did well at linebacker with Alex Twine (North Potomac, Md./Orchard) and Cole Farrand (Sparta, N.J./Pope John Paul XIII). Edsall also bulked up the offensive line by adding five offensive line prospects and Quinton Jefferson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills) is one to watch at defensive end.
Al Golden made some noise with his first recruiting class by signing defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Tampa, Fla./Alonso), cornerback Dallas Crawford (Fort Myers, Fla./South Ft. Myers), athlete Kevin Grooms (Hollywood, Fla./South Broward), wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), linebacker Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, Fla.) and defensive end Jalen Grimble (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman). The Hurricanes also landed some special teams help with kickers Dalton Botts (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark College) and Matt Goudis (Chatsworth/Chaminade College Prep School).
"I feel like we accomplished our specific targets, namely we secured a kicker and punter to compete in the coming year," Golden said. "Specifically with the defense we have to make sure we have linebacker depth. Cornerback and defensive linemen were obvious with our depth. This was a heavy defensive class, which gives us an indication of our offense relatively to our defense right now."
Brady Hoke signed 20 new Wolverines as he tries to revamp the Michigan roster. He landed 12 players on the defensive side of the ball highlighted by four-star cornerback Blake Countess (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) defensively, cornerback Delonte Hollowell (Detroit, Mich./Cass), outside linebacker Kellen Jones (Houston, Texas/St. Pius) and defensive end Brennen Beyer (Canton, Mich./Plymouth). Running back Justice Hayes (Grand Blanc, Miich./Grand Blanc) is one of the top running backs from the Midwest and Michigan flipped tight end Chris Barnett (Hurst, Texas/L.D. Bell) from Arkansas.
"We took five defensive backs, four defensive linemen and three linebackers," Hoke said. "All those guys have the right stuff when it comes to being physical and tough. We think they fit what we need here at Michigan."
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Jerry Kill signed 23 players with his first Gophers class. The big need was offensive linemen and Minnesota landed six, including four-star guard Tommy Olson (Mahteomedi, Mich./Mahtomedi) and three-star offensive tackle Kyle McAvoy (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington). Kill also landed a trio of linebackers and a three-star wide receiver in Quentin Gardner (Denton, Texas/Guyer).
After the dismissal of Dave Wandstedt, followed by the hiring and subsequent firing of Mike Haywood, and then the hiring of Todd Graham could have been a disaster for the Panthers. Pitt went from a top 20 class (and best in the Big East at the time) to scrambling with Graham. Overall, Graham and his new staff did a very good job getting back in the game and signing a good haul under extraordinary circumstances. Three-star tight end Sam Collura (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha), running back Malcolm Crockett (Washington D.C./ Collegiate Acadmy), safety LaQuentin Smith (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and safety Roderick Ryles (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips).
Jim Harbaugh set the table nicely for new head coach David Shaw. The Cardinal has a top 25 recruiting class and that's not the easiest thing to do in Palo Alto, especially considering their stringent academic standards. Leading the way is defensive back Wayne Lyons (Ft.Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) and linebacker James Vaughters (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), two ESPNU 150 members. In fact, Lyons committed to Stanford during its coaching search. The Cardinal also did well at running back and across the defensive front.
"This signing class is one that will play a big role in the success of Stanford football," said Shaw. "Our coaches and staff have worked a lot of long hours over the last year or more with most of these young men, and they fill a lot of voids for our football team. We wanted to get faster and more athletic. At the same time, we wanted to bring in players who demonstrate a certain level of toughness that has been established throughout our program. I feel we have successfully met all of our goals with this recruiting class."
Did anyone outside of Nashville, Tenn., notice the very strong close to James Franklin's first recruiting class for the Commodores? Vanderbilt really came on strong, especially very late to finish with a solid effort, despite not much time to work with. Athlete Lafonte Thourogood (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), safety Larry Franklin (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach), defensive end Barron Dixon (Chattahoochee, Ga./Chattahoochee), tight end Dillon van der Wal (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and athlete Josh Grady (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) all committed to the Commodores at or near the end of this short recruiting cycle for Franklin.
"It's a good day for me today. Things have gone extremely well," Franklin said. "It's amazing the things you can do with a positive attitude and a little hard work. I couldn't be more proud of what this staff was able to accomplish. It was an exciting couple of days and I'm amazed at this staff. Recruiting ordinarily takes two years, or a year and a half. What we were able to do was amazing. The last 48 hours were very exciting."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.