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How did the class of 2011 shake-out in the Big East?
Since conference realignment took place back in 2004, either Pitt or West Virginia has won every Big East recruiting crown. In fact, in four of those six years since, the Panthers and Mountaineers claimed the top two spots in the team rankings. But 2011 is a different year and for the first time someone other than those two will claim the recruiting conference championship.
Greg Schiano’s bunch dramatically underachieved on the field this fall, but his staff excelled off of it. Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals had a similar season – although the red birds from Kentucky clearly had a better season on the field than Rutgers. Strong made it pay off by landing one of the best UL classes in recent memory. These two classes are very even, each claiming one star Athlon Consensus 100 recruit. Both have a solid claim to the No. 1 spot. However, Rutgers running back Savon Huggins is easily the best signee in this conference and the Knights class was much bigger. Schiano gets the edge.
Another surprise sits at No. 3. One would expect Pitt or WVU to land in the three-hole, but the Cincinnati Bearcats put together one its best hauls in recent years as well. After never performing “well” on the recruiting trail – and winning multiple league titles anyway – Butch Jones put together a better class in 2011 than any during Brian Kelly’s tenure.
Editor's Note: A nationally rated recruit is a anyone who received at least one AC100 vote. There were 269 in 2011.
2011 Big East Recruiting Team Rankings:
1. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (24 signees – 1 AC100)
Schiano has made a living reaching into neighboring states and dipping down into Florida to land talent during his stay in Piscataway. But with over half (13) of this class hailing from inside of New Jersey, it appears his focus this session was directed inwards. Huggins was the state’s top prospect and Rutgers also landed the No. 3 and No. 6 players in the state. The surrounding area, and the Sunshine State, still helped out. Pennsylvania (3), Virginia (3) and New York (2) shipped talented players to Rutgers while Florida sent two up North.
The defensive line was a clear area of focus. Three ends and four tackles replenish the D-line with excellent depth. A pair of quarterbacks and a trio of talented running backs help the offensive backfield. This was an excellent year for Rutgers’ recruiting as it appears Schiano has some of his momentum back after a poor season on the field.
Nationally rated recruits:
No. 28 Savon Huggins, RB (Jersey City, N.J.)
No. 156 Marquise Wright, DT (Paramus, N.J.)
No. 215 Miles Shuler, WR (Long Branch, N.J.)
No. 240 Al Page, DT (Bronx, N.Y.)
2. Louisville Cardinals (19 signees – 1 AC100)
It doesn’t take long to see just what type of value and experience Strong brings to the recruiting trail. His connections in Florida paid huge dividends this recruiting rotation as the three nationally rated recruits that signed with the ‘Ville all hail from Miami. The next three best prospects each come from Florida as well. In fact, 12 of the 19 signatures originated from the Sunshine State. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the jewel of this class and might be the most highly touted signal caller to ever sign with Louisville (who wasn’t a legacy from inside the city limits at least). With six of the 19 signees slated to play in the secondary, defensive back was clearly a big need. Three receivers and four offensive lineman highlight the offensive side of the ball.
No. 96 Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Miami, Fla.)
No. 110 Gerod Holliman, DB (Miami, Fla.)
No. 200 Eli Rogers, WR (Miami, Fla.)
3. Cincinnati Bearcats (24 signees)
Jones clearly knows where the good players reside. The states of Florida (6), California (3), Georgia (4) and Ohio (8) make up nearly 90-percent of this class. A loaded offensive skill group is headlined by star tailback Jameel Poteat – who rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 40 TDs over the last two seasons. Jones channeled his inner Kelly as up to 13 (six WR, three RB, two QB, two ATH) new faces could play an offensive skill position.
A strong pair of quarterbacks should be the future of the Bearcats signal calling. Local product Patrick Coyne and Land O’ Lakes, Fla., native Stephen Weatherford give the Cats a great future at the QB position.
No. 201 Jameel Poteat, RB (Harrisburg, Pa.)
4. West Virginia Mountaineers (22 signees)
As usual, the Mounties did well in Florida as they landed six talented Sunshine State prospects - including the gem of the class in running back Andrew Buie. West Virginia has finished one or two in the Big East recruiting standings in five of the last six years, so this was certainly not the type of class fans are accustomed to seeing. But most of this class hails from high-level states Texas, Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania, so Mountaineers fans need not worry too much.
No. 165 Andrew Buie, RB (Jacksonville, Fla.)
5. Pitt Panthers (20 signees)
It has been an interesting year for the Panthers. On the field, Pitt lost five times but split the conference title three ways. Then fired their head coach only to hire someone else that needed to be fired. Now on its third coach of the year, Pitt limped home to Signing Day. That being said, this class has clear areas of strength. Defensive and running backs should be well-stocked after this haul. Five pass-catchers bolster the receiving corps as well. Interestingly, only three total prospects will play along either line-of-scrimmage – a place that Pitt is normally very strong.
No. 254 Lafayette Pitts, ATH (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
6. Syracuse Orange (26 signees)
The biggest class in the league should help Doug Marrone continue his own agenda.
7. South Florida Bulls (21 signees)
Underwhelming class but took advantage of a loaded year in the state of Florida, signing 14 from in-state.
8. UConn Huskies (16 signees)
Right where they have been in recruiting every year and it hasn't affected them much.