The Razorbacks and Cornhuskers missed on key five-star recruits on NSD.
-by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on twitter)
We all know recruiting rankings are very subjective, but it is also true that every fan base would like a highly-ranked class. A star-studded haul is no guarantee of future success, but the odds increase greatly with the more talent your team inks on National Signing Day. Here is a look at some teams that finished with a whimper at the end of the long recruiting process. These teams may end up with good classes, but they barely scratched or completely missed the AC100 and/or a top 25 class ranking.
The Hogs could have crept into the top 25 of most ranking services if they could have landed the top prospect in the nation, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Instead, the country’s top-rated pass catcher stayed in-state with the Missouri Tigers. Bobby Petrino’s signing class is still fairly solid, but Arkansas fans would have liked to have finished better after an 11-win season and a Cotton Bowl victory. The Hogs will rank in the bottom half of America’s toughest conference, looking up at division rivals Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Arkansas did get some good news with the last-minute flip of Louisiana linebacker Otha Peters, but the lack of star power stands out in the rough and tough SEC.
The Cornhuskers also have a fairly solid class, but it was definitely a disappointment to miss on five-star offensive lineman Andrus Peat. The top tackle, whose brother Todd plays for the Huskers, opted for Stanford over NU. Bo Pelini could have also used some secondary help with Devian Shelton, who also went to the Pac-12 with USC. We should recognize that Nebraska did not always have top-rated recruiting classes when Tom Osborne’s clubs were dominating in the ‘90s, but this class will be on the cusp of the top 25 while Legends rival Michigan will be in the top 10. The Huskers did fairly well but signing a Peat or Shelton would have helped greatly.
3. Michigan State
There was just not much recruiting buzz around Lansing this year despite an 11-win season and Big Ten Legends Division crown. The Spartans got a couple of the state’s top prospects in receiver Aaron Burbridge and pass rusher Jamal Lyles, but they saw the hated Wolverines winning most of the in-state battles. Despite the quality season and holding on to defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, this MSU class is not anywhere near the top 25 of the team rankings. That fact especially hurts when Michigan will be in the top 10 and seems to have much more momentum around the program.
No team’s recruiting effort was affected more by a coaching defection than the Bears. Tosh Lupoi, the defensive line coach and ace recruiter, severely damaged the Cal’s class with his move to Washington in January. At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, three highly-rated prospects —safety Shaq Thompson (whose brother Syd'Quan starred at Cal), defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy and receiver Jordan Payton — committed to the Bears. However, that trio as well as top defensive end Arik Armstead, who had once had Cal as his leader, all signed elsewhere in the Pac-12. Those changes are especially painful in light of Bay Area and Big Game rival Stanford vaulting into the top 10 classes with an amazing close on National Signing Day.
5. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys failed to capitalize on the school’s best season ever, a 12-1 campaign that resulted in a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford. OSU will rank in the bottom half of the conference, and that’s even with Missouri and Texas A&M moving on to the SEC. Mike Gundy’s staff tried to flip top Texas safety LaDarrell McNeil to no avail and also struggled within the Sooner State. Much like the Spartans above, the Cowboys might not crack the top 30 classes while their rivals, Oklahoma and Texas, will be in the top 10.