Athlon pinpoints some of the biggest surprises of the 2013 football recruiting cycle
National Signing Day is just a few weeks away and six of the top 10 players in the Athlon Consensus 100 are still left uncommitted. In fact, 14 of the top 100 still have yet to make the most important decision in their life. The team, conference and national rankings will be shifting and moving all the way through National Signing Day 2013.
So needless to say, there is still much left to be determined. So teams with disappointing classes could still surge up the rankings while teams in the top 10 could find themselves dropping. But here are a few teams that have been the biggest surprises on the recruiting trail — on both sides of the ledger.
2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Up
Ole Miss Rebels
Team Ranks: Rivals: 11th, 247Sports: 14th, Scout: 13th
The biggest surprise on the recruiting trail in 2013 has to be the Ole Miss Rebels because whatever Huge Freeze has put in the water in Oxford is working. The Rebels are on a furious run after landing the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation Laquon Treadwell (No. 14) as well as AC100 defensive end Elijah Daniel (No. 51). The recruiting coup for Freeze, however, would be landing the nation’s No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. The big defensive end will pick between LSU and Ole Miss. To finish in the top 10 nationally after winning four total SEC games the last three seasons is absolutely remarkable.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Team Ranks: Rivals: 35th, 247Sports: 22nd, Scout: 35th
No head coach has more to overcome on the recruiting trail nationally than Bill O’Brien. With Christian Hackenberg, the No. 2-rated quarterback prospect in the nation, leading the way, the Nittany Lions have to be ecstatic about landing the Big Ten’s No. 3 class. Ohio State and Michigan will land first and second in the rankings this year, but the Nits have a chance finish third in the Big Ten and possibly in the Top 25 nationally. In the face of heavy-handed NCAA sanctions and the worst scandal in the history of college sports, the job O’Brien has done has been masterful.
Team Ranks: Rivals: 18th, 247Sports: 28th, Scout: 18th
It’s one thing to get fans excited about football in Nashville with some smooth talking and entertaining personalities. It’s an entirely different thing to take the Dores to back-to-back bowl games and land a top 20 recruiting class. But that is what James Franklin is poised to do after two seasons on West End. The 2013 haul is a deep class (23 commitments) that is headlined by elite four-star skill talents like quarterback Johnathon McCrary, running back Johnathan Ford and tight end Mitchell Parsons. To finish ahead of Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas or South Carolina in recruiting is nothing short of miracle at Vanderbilt.
Others that have been impressive:
This class could be the No. 1 class in the Pac-12 and easily end up in the top 10 nationally.
A top 50 class in Bloomington has to be considered a mild upset.
Cal Golden Bears
To land a top 25 class following a coaching change and a 3-9 season is impressive.
More: View the complete Athlon Consensus 100
2013's Biggest Surprises: Three Down
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Team Rank: Rivals: 85th, 247Sports: 91st, Scout: 74th
The Red Raiders are ranked dead last in the Big 12 team recruiting rankings by all three recruiting websites. This is a team with one losing record since 1992 and the state of Texas to pull talent from. No, fans can’t expect Texas Tech to land Top 25 classes each year or press the Longhorns, Sooners or Aggies for talent, but it should be able to out-recruit Iowa State and Kansas with ease. Bowling Green, UAB and Tulane should not have better classes — especially, with an influx of energy surging through the program with new coach Kliff Kingsbury now leading the way.
Team Rank: Rivals: 62nd, 247Sports: 54th, Scout: 54th
Landing James Quick at the US Army Bowl was a big get for Charlie Strong, but this team needs to capitalize more on its 11-win season and BCS bowl victory over Florida. The Cardinals are a young team and don’t have extra room for a huge class. But Strong has only two four-star prospects in the fold thus far. Ranking fourth or fifth in the Big East means making the top 50 nationally will be virtually impossible. Strong's first two classes were ranked 34th (2011) and 38th (2012), so anything in the 60s would be a major disappointment considering the upward trajectory of the program.
Team Rank: Rivals: 57, 247Sports: 27, Scout: 39
Al Golden did a miraculous job landing the No. 8 class in the nation last year in the face of swirling NCAA issues. It was one of the biggest hauls in the nation. One year later, he is bringing in one of the smallest groups in the nation. Much like Louisville, the overall lack of size will have an impact on where this group will be ranked. Miami, a young team, does not have a ton of scholarships to offer. The Canes are still in the mix with some high-level prospects (Matthew Thomas, for example) so they could still move up, however, finishing ninth in the ACC or outside of the top 50 nationally would have to be considered a disappointment.
Others that have been disappointing:
A great class but half a dozen defections is a concerning trend for Lane Kiffin.
Could finish strong but two coaching changes and a 4-8 season have hurt the brand.
After signing elite classes the last two seasons, David Shaw’s group won’t crack top 50