-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Athlon begins its look at the nation's top recruiting classes from 2011. Today, the countdown starts with classes 21-30. Individual names listed below were "nationally rated" recruits. A nationally rated recruit is anyone who received at least one Athlon Consensus 100 vote. There were 269 in 2011.
21. Virginia Cavaliers (26 signees – 1 AC100)
The Cavs finished 10th in the ACC in the recruiting rankings last year. They finished eighth in 2009 and 10th in 2008. This is the best class in recent UVa memory and London, along with former star safety turned secondary coach Anthony Poindexter, deserves all of the credit. The energized Virginia staff has done a remarkable job rebuilding the school’s image within the state. Of the 26 signees, as many as 19 could end playing on the defensive side of the ball – no shock for a head coach who played and coached on that side of the ball for every year of his career.
No. 76 Demetrious Nicholson, CB (Virginia Beach, Va.)
No. 157 Darius Jennings, DB (Baltimore, Md.)
No. 168 Clifton Richardson, ATH (Newport News, Va.)
No. 227 Dominique Terrell, DB (Manassas, Va.)
No. 244 Jay Whitemire, OL (Alexandria, Va.)
No. 252 Brandon Phelps, CB (Damascus, Md.)
22. Iowa Hawkeyes (24 signees - 1 AC100)
Kirk Ferentz went into 12 different states to put this excellent haul together - from New England out west to Nevada and back down south to Florida. AC100 running back/athlete Rodney Coe and a small but very talented three-man O-line group have the ground game in good shape for the forseeable future. A deep linebacking class isn't highly rated, but that seems to be the way Ferentz likes it. This might be Iowa's best class since that highly touted 2005 bunch.
No. 77 Rodney Coe, RB (Edwardsville, Ill.)
No. 152 Jordan Walsh, OL (Glen Ellyn, Ill.)
No. 246 Austin Blythe, OL (Williamsburg, Iowa)
No. 249 Ray Hamilton, TE (Strongville, Ohio)
23. Texas Tech Red Raiders (27 signees)
After a seventh place finish in the Big 12 recruiting rankings a year ago, Tommy Tuberville made big strides on the trail in 2011. Five nationally-rated recruits highlight a deep and talented group corralled by Big 12 recruiter of the year assistant coach Robert Prunty (according to Rivals). With Texas and OU dominating the Lone State State, it was important for Tech to reach outside of its borders. Tuberville used nine different states to fill out this class. That being said, the top five names in this class still hail from in-state.
No. 139 Jace Amaro, TE (San Antonio, Texas)
No. 204 Kenny Williams, RB (Pflugerville, Texas)
No. 226 Michael Brewer, QB (Austin, Texas)
No. 234 Le’Raven Clark, OL (Rockdale, Texas)
No. 256 Bradley Marquez, RB (Odessa, Texas)
24. Michigan Wolverines (20 signees)
Anytime a team has to deal with a coaching change, maintaining recruiting momentum can be very difficult. So Michigan fans will likely see Hoke's real recruiting ability in 2012. For now, a solid defensive-minded group should help to improve the Wolverines' biggest weakness. Four defensive backs, linebackers and defensive ends each can only help what has been a pathetic unit for the Maize and Blue. Two dramatic offensive scheme changes in less than four years will make fitting the right pieces into the right places interesting in 2011. Names like running back Justice Hayes and tight end Chris Barnett should be able find a home in any scheme, however.
As should be the case for Michigan, the states of Ohio and Michigan supplied a majority of the class. Thirteen of the 20 hail from one of those two states.
No. 131 Justice Hayes, RB (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
No. 172 Brennen Beyer, DE (Canton, Mich.)
No. 207 Blake Countess, DB (Owings Mills, Md.)
25. Ole Miss Rebels (27 signees – 2 AC100)
A nasty five-man wide receiver class leads another large haul for the Rebels.
No. 66 Nickolas Brassell, WR (Batesville, Miss.)
No. 92 C.J. Johnson, LB (Philadelphia, Miss.)
No. 158 Donte Moncrief, WR (Raleigh, Miss.)
No. 192 Tobias Singleton, WR (Madison, Miss.)
No. 263 Aaron Morris, OL (Jackson, Miss.)
26. TCU Horned Frogs (25 signees - 1 AC100)
Oh, so close should be the theme for 2010 TCU football. They did everything they could to win the national title - they won every game, what else were they supposed to do I suppose? And they came one spot away from cracking the top-25 in recruiting as well. This is the best class in recent TCU recruiting history, and like any good Horned Frog class, the Lone Star State provided most of the talent. Eighteen of the 25 signees hail from in-state - where Gary Paterson has made a killing recruiting under-the-radar prospects and turning them into stars.
Also to be expected was a focus on defense. At the moment, all but eight of the 25 are slated to play defense. Four athletes could slip into a variety of spots and give this class plenty of versatility. A seven-man defensive back class could grow to eight or nine and will give Paterson one of the best secondary classes in the nation.
No. 72 LaDarius Brown, ATH (Waxahachie, Texas)
No. 265 Brandon Carter, WR (Euless, Texas)
27. Oklahoma State Cowboys (27 signees – 1 AC100)
This is a versatile group with a large number of players projecting to either side of the ball. The defense got plenty of help with seven lineman (five defensive tackles), four linebackers and three defensive backs (along with any "athlete" converts). The wide receiver class is small in stature but can make plays in space. Running back Herschel Sims is the crown jewel of Mike Gundy’s haul, however. He may not be the biggest, fastest, strongest or toughest, but can do anything a coach asks him to do. He is a complete player who performed well against top-level competition and is future star.
No. 54 Herschel Sims, RB (Abilene, Texas)
No. 113 J.W. Walsh, QB (Denton, Texas)
No. 148 Desmond Roland, WR (Dallas, Texas)
28. Michigan State Spartans (21 signees)
The crown jewel of this class is linebacker Lawrence Thomas. Ranked in the top 10 (11) nationally by two services and No. 150 by ESPN, Thomas has one of the most interesting evaluation lines. His size could push his hand down into the dirt at D-end, but he could also end up as a tackling machine in the middle. Thomas leads a great front-seven class that includes three ends, two tackles and four linebackers. A deep and talented offensive line group adds plenty of depth to the offensive front as well. Mark Dantonio teams have always been strong at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, and this class should help continue that trend.
No. 34 Lawrence Thomas, LB (Detroit, Mich.)
No. 258 Brandon Clemons, OL (Milford, Pa.)
29. Arkansas Razorbacks (30 signees – 1 AC100)
Deep, balanced class headlined by stellar offensive line haul.
No. 52 Brey Cook, OL (Springdale, Ark.)
No. 120 Mitch Smothers, OL (Springdale, Ark.)
No. 238 Tevin Mitchell, DB (Mansfield, Texas)
No. 253 Lonnie Gosha, DE (Lake Butler, Fla.)
30. Penn State Nittany Lions (16 signees)
Size is what keeps this class from national prominence. But the names JoePa did land were of the high-quality variety. The offensive line, in particular, is strong. Three nationally rated recruits, headlined by AC100 talent Angelo Mangiro, help to remedy what has turned into a question mark on recent Nittany Lion teams. A three (or four) man collection of talent at defensive end restocks the pass rushers as well. Depending on where athletes Bill Belton and Shyquawn Pullium end up, the wide receiver class could eventually be viewed as underrated.
No. 84 Angelo Mangiro, OL (Succasunna, N.J.)
No. 109 Anthony Zettel, DL/OL (West Branch, Mich.)
No. 170 Bill Belton, ATH (Atco, N.J.)
No. 181 Donovan Smith, OL (Owings Mills, Md.)