-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Athlon begins its look at the nation's top recruiting classes from 2011. Today, the countdown starts with classes 41-50. 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.
41. Utah Utes (19 signees)
Landing nine in-state talents - Utah is an underrated state for talent nationally - Kyle Whittingham put together an admirable first Pac-12 class for the Utes. Nine others came from Texas or California, so he clearly knows where to find quality talent. The skill group of this class is outstanding as four wide receivers and three running backs replenish the offense - along with four offensive lineman. With only seven of the 19 pencilled in for defense, the offense was the clear area of focus for this class.
42. Mississippi State Bulldogs (22 signees)
Solid, balanced class which could have been better without Facebook. The offensive skill positions should be well-stocked with three wide receivers, two running backs, a tight end, a quarterback and three athletes who could play anywhere. Dan Mullen's teams have always been strong along the line of scrimmage and this class should keep that trend going in Starkville. Four O-lineman and four D-lineman help balance the LOS.
No. 216 Darion Arrington, DT (Wiggins, Miss.)
43. Cincinnati Bearcats (24 signees)
Butch 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.)
44. Oregon State Beavers (24 signees)
Deep class headlined by massive eight-man defensive end class.
45. UCLA Bruins (16 signees – 1 AC100)
Small class is built mostly of offensive prospects, including four O-lineman.
No. 97 Brett Hundley, QB (Chandler, Ariz.)
46. 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 No. 1 or No. 2 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.)
47. Missouri Tigers (17 signees)
Disappointing and small class by recent standards, but Gary Pinkel always finds talent.
48. Kentucky Wildcats (24 signees)
Excellent haul offers tremendous balance at all positions.
No. 167 Darrian Miller, OL (Lexington, Ky.)
No. 219 Glen Faulkner, DB (East St. Louis, Mo.)
49. Baylor Bears (19 signees)
Art Briles put together a great year for the Bears – as in, not last in the league. All but three players in this class hail from the Lone Star State. A strong defensive back group leads a defensive-minded haul (11 of 19). A solid five-man offensive line collection bolsters the Baylor front line on offense.
50. SMU Mustangs (27 signees)
June Jones has quickly elevated Mustang recruiting back to relevance (not Pony Excess style). After a strong first couple of classes, Jones has compiled another deep haul built almost entirely from Texas (17) and California (6). Nine defensive line recruits proves that addressing the defensive front was key for this class.