Recruiting: Ranking the classes of new staffs

Recruiting: Ranking the classes of new staffs

Auburn's Gus Malzahn landed's No. 1 recruiting class among new coaching staffs. (Photo: Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn landed’s No. 1 recruiting class among new coaching staffs. (Photo: Robin Trimarchi/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver the 2012-13 offseason, there have been an even 30 coaching hires around the Football Bowl Subdivision sphere, including 14 first-time head coaches.

Given that none of them has yet had a full season to prepare a recruiting class might make many of them inclined to put an asterisk in their journals next to this National Signing Day installment. Nevertheless, some territory has already been marked and some heated recruiting battles have been won by new regimes eager to establish their brand as they trailblaze the country.

Here are’s 2013 Recruiting Class Rankings for the best hauls by new coaching staffs:

1. Auburn

New Coach: Gus Malzahn
Total Signees: 23 (3 early enrollees)
Positions of Strength: DL, WR, RB, DB
Headliners: 5* DT Montravius Adams (Dooly County HS, Vienna, GA); 5* WDE Carl Lawson (Milton HS, Alpharetta, GA); 5* SDE Elijah Daniel (Avon HS, Avon, IN); 4* WR Jason Smith (McGill Toolen HS, Mobile, AL); 4* WR Tony Stevens (Evans HS, Orlando, FL); 4* QB Jeremy Johnson (Carver HS, Montgomery, AL); 4* RB Johnathan “Rudy” Ford (New Hope School, New Hope, AL)

The Scoop: Malzahn, who rose to national acclaim as Auburn’s coaching MVP during the 2010 national title season, wasted no time in securing “The Future” of his offensive system. In Johnson, Malzahn has a homegrown blue-chipper suited to assert his no-huddle attack along with an incoming fleet of as many as five wideouts who are each at least 6-1, led by Smith and Stevens. Meanwhile, Malzahn again burned the school from which he once spurned a head-coaching offer by flipping Ford, previously the crown jewel of Vanderbilt’s class, to be his new bell cow. Defensively, he’s reinforced the edges of the Tigers’ attack. Bookends Lawson and Daniel should each see early playing time while four defensive back signees bolster depth in the secondary. Adams, who was high on Auburn before ex-coach Gene Chizik’s disastrous 2012 campaign, could be the next Nick Fairley on the Plains.

2. Oregon

New Coach: Mark Helfrich
Total Signees: 19
Positions of Strength: ATH, WR, OLB, S
Headliners: 5* RB Thomas Tyner (Aloha HS, Beaverton, OR); 4* WR Darren Carrington (Horizon HS, San Diego, CA); 4* ATH Tyree Robinson (Lincoln HS, San Diego, CA); 4* OLB Tyrell Robinson (Lincoln HS, San Diego, CA); 4* S Chris Seisay (American Canyon HS, American Canyon, CA); 4* WDE Torrodney Prevot (Alief Taylor HS, Houston, TX); 4* OT Cameron Hunt (Centennial HS, Corona, CA)

The Scoop: Jonathan Stewart, LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner…meet Thomas Tyner. For Helfrich, who has just been passed the mantle of Oregon’s organizationally pervasive “Next Man Up” philosophy, Tyner is his first signature cog in Phil Knight U’s running back factory. When you are already inheriting a record-setting freshman QB in Marcus Mariota, that’s not a bad place to start. Apart from the homegrown Tyner, Helfrich raided San Diego this cycle by poaching the Robinson twins to lead their defense and Carrington as their next big weapon for Mariota.

3. Arkansas

New Coach: Bret Bielema
Total Signees: 23 (4 early enrollees)
Positions of Strength: RB, OL, LB, S
Headliners: 5* RB Alex Collins (South Plantation HS, Ft. Lauderdale, FL); 4* CB Carroll Washington (Hartnell College, Salinas, CA); 4* TE Hunter Henry (Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, AR); 4* OG Denver Kirkland (Booker T. Washington HS, Miami, FL); 4* QB Austin Allen (Fayetteville HS, Fayetteville, AR); 4* QB Damon Mitchell (Egg Harbor Township HS, Egg Harbor Township, NJ); 4* OG Reeve Koehler (St. Louis HS, Honolulu, HI); 3* OT Dan Skipper (Ralston Valley Senior HS, Arvada, CO)

The Scoop: By now, you can rest assured that SEC neophyte Bielema knows he’s not in Wisconsin anymore…or Big 10 country, for that matter. Regardless of how many Rose Bowl berths to which he’s accustomed, you can’t win in the SEC (especially the cannibalistic SEC West) without bruisers in the trenches. If the recruit’s mother ever lets him sign the scholarship papers, Bielema may have landed his own Marcus Lattimore-esque workhorse to build around in Collins, whom many consider the top back in the country. He also landed a top-flight tight end in Henry, whose size helps him function as basically a sixth lineman. Kirkland, Koehler and the 6’10 Skipper, who flipped from Tennessee, provide promising glimpses of strength on the offensive side of the trenches for the brutal divisional slate. Perhaps Bielema will focus on building the defensive side in the next cycle?

4. Tennessee

New Coach: Butch Jones
Total Signees: 21 (5 early enrollees)
Positions of Strength: WR, S, OT, ATH
Headliners: 4* QB Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta HS, Alpharetta, GA); 4* SDE Jason Carr (White Station HS, Memphis, TN); 4* OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Northeast HS, Clarksville, TN); 4* WR MarQuez North (Mallard Creek HS, Charlotte, NC); 4* WR Ryan Jenkins (Lassiter HS, Marietta, GA)

The Scoop: Ex-Cincinnati coach Butch Jones found out quickly just how hard it is to recruit in the SEC. Jones struck out on nearly all his major targets (most notably 5* S Vonn Bell, who signed with Ohio State) on National Signing Day. As for silver linings, the Vols staff feels it’s found a hidden gem in Dobbs, who should compete immediately with Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman to replace departing QB Tyler Bray. Four of Tennessee’s five early enrollees are on defense, which should be Jones’ stronger side of the ball as he rebuilds the offense following a flurry of NFL exits. North and Jenkins step in to fill the shoes of star WRs Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter as ably as they can.

5. Kentucky

New Coach: Mark Stoops
Total Signees: 22 (1 early enrollee)
Positions of Strength: DE, WR, RB, OL
Headliners: 4* WDE Za’Darius Smith (East Mississippi C.C., Scooba, MS); 4* ATH Marcus McWilson (Cardinal Mooney HS, Youngstown, OH); 4* RB Ryan Timmons (Franklin County HS, Frankfort, KY); 4* WDE Jason Hatcher (Trinity HS, Louisville, KY); 3* CB Nate Willis (Arizona Western College, Yuma, AZ); 3* WR Javess Blue (Butler C.C., El Dorado, KS)

The Scoop: Both of his older brothers have been successful Big Six coaches, so why not Mark Stoops? If nothing else, we already know he’s resourceful: he locked down the state’s top running back in Timmons, the top Bluegrass defensive end in Hatcher, and Stoops even returned to his hometown to nab McWilson over strong overtures from fellow Cardinal Mooney teammate and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. Smith headlines a spate of four jucos that should help Kentucky level the playing field in the SEC East. Overall, this class is incredibly balanced, with a signee at nearly every position; a good start from rock bottom. As of NSD press time, it is widely believed that Stoops leads for 4* ILB James Hearns (Lincoln HS, Tallahassee, FL), whom he’d be poaching directly from Florida State’s backyard, where he was defensive coordinator last season.

6. Wisconsin

New Coach: Gary Andersen
Total Signees: 21 (2 early enrollees)
Positions of Strength: ATH, CB, DE, QB
Headliners: 4* RB Corey Clement (Glassboro HS, Glassboro, NJ); 4* WDE Chikwe Obasih (BrookfieldCentral HS, Brookfield, WI); 4* QB Tanner McEvoy (Arizona Western College, Yuma, AZ); 4* ATH Austin Ramesh (Northland Pines HS, Eagle River, WI)

The Scoop: Badgers athletic director (and ex-coach) Barry Alvarez most likely brought in Andersen as coach for two important reasons: he runs a system which is similar to Alvarez’ efficiency-minded style and, having worked as a top lieutenant under Ohio State chief Urban Meyer, Andersen might provide Wisconsin an effective foil to the SEC legend. Nonetheless, Andersen has stockpiled skill position talent in his first haul to Madison. While his staff hopes Clement can fill Montee Ball’s large shoes, McEvoy arrives from the juco ranks ready to compete with redshirt sophomore Joel Stave and ex-Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien for the starting QB job. Ramesh leads a group of five incoming “athletes” whose role in shaping Andersen’s brand is yet to be determined.

7. Cal

New Coach: Sonny Dykes
Total Signees: 27
Positions of Strength: DE, LB, OT, WR
Headliners: 4* WDE Takkarist McKinley (John F. Kennedy HS, Fremont, CA); 4* QB Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Greenbrae, CA); 3* CB Cameron Walker (Loyola HS, Los Angeles, CA); 3* OT Erik Bunte (Mission Viejo HS, Mission Viejo, CA); 3* RB Khalfani Muhammad (Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA); 3* OLB Edward Tandy (Tustin HS, Tustin, CA)

The Scoop: Fresh off finishing his first head-coaching stint at Louisiana Tech with 2012’s No. 1 FBS offense, Dykes arrived in Berkeley and decided there wasn’t enough speed on the defensive edges, evidenced by the five weakside defensive ends and two outside linebackers in this class. Of the four juco players Cal signed, three are on the defensive line. Dykes beat out Boise State to land his signal-caller of the future in Goff, and Bunte should be a nice complement to the program as he protects Goff’s blindside in the coming seasons. Muhammad is your typical Cal all-purpose scatback.

8. Texas Tech

New Coach: Kliff Kingsbury
Total Signees: 24 (1 early enrollee)
Positions of Strength: WR, CB, ATH, OL
Headliners: 4* WR Gary Moore (Clarksville HS, Clarksville, TX); 4* OT Cody Hayes (Eastern Hills HS, Ft. Worth, TX); 4* WR Devin Lauderdale (Bellaire HS, Bellaire, TX); 3* QB Davis Webb (Prosper HS, Prosper, TX); 3* CB Maurice Chandler (Lawton HS, Lawton, OK)

The Scoop: Since the 33-year-old Kingsbury returns to guide his alma mater hot on the heels of developing the first freshman Heisman winner (Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel) and the NCAA’s all-time leading passer (Houston QB Case Keenum) in his last two gigs, early enrollee Webb would be stupid not to feel like he won the lottery this spring as Kingsbury’s inaugural “Air Raid” protégé. Once fall camp comes, he will add two weapons to develop alongside him in Moore and Lauderdale. Hayes and OG Baylen Brown (O’Connor HS, Helotes, TX) should serve as a solid tandem of pass protectors for incumbent QB Michael Brewer and Webb in the seasons to come.

9. South Florida

New Coach: Willie Taggart
Total Signees: 23
Positions of Strength: DT, ATH, OLB, CB
Headliners: 4* ATH Lamar Robbins (Miami Southridge HS, Miami, FL); 3* DT Derrick Calloway (Manatee HS, Bradenton, FL); 3* DT Deadrin Senat (Immokalee HS, Immokalee, FL); 3* QB Michael White (University School, Ft. Lauderdale, FL); 3* DT Dominique Threatt (Tri-Cities HS, Atlanta, GA)

The Scoop: USF may have landed the coaching steal of the offseason when they convinced former Western Kentucky turnaround king Willie Taggart to leave his inaugural bowl-bound squad at his Bowling Green alma mater for the lush beach recruiting climes of South Florida. In addition to convincing Robbins to sign over Big East champion Louisville, Oklahoma and West Virginia, he stacked the middle of the Bulls’ defensive line for years to come by securing the services of Calloway, Senat, Threatt and fellow DT Bruce Hector (Robinson HS, Tampa, FL). Taggart showed strong signs of being able to lock down the south Florida region in future classes: 18 of his 23 commitments are from Florida, with three others from nearby Georgia.

10. N.C. State

New Coach: Dave Doeren
Total Signees: 22
Positions of Strength: RB, OL, OLB, DT
Headliners: 4* OLB Johnathan Alston (Bunn HS, Bunn, NC); 3* OG Tyler Reagan (Bartram Trail HS, Jacksonville, FL); 3* RB Matt Dayes (Cypress Bay HS, Ft. Lauderdale, FL); 3* RB Josh Mercer (South Effingham HS, Guyton, GA); 3* S Joshua Jones (Walled Lake Western HS, Walled Lake, MI)

The Scoop: Another turnaround king and a keen defensive mind, Doeren has a solid piece on D to start building with Alston along with several other potential cogs he raided from Florida. With Mercer already on board as a “lightning” back, Doeren added a “thunder” complement when he nabbed Dayes late in the recruiting cycle over Vanderbilt, Central Florida and Cincinnati. He also has a pair of solid defensive tackles with whom to build in Kenton Gibbs (Cass Technical HS, Detroit, MI) and Monty Nelson (Plantation HS, Ft. Lauderdale, FL).

Other Classes Considered: Purdue (Darrell Hazell); Cincinnati (Tommy Tuberville); Syracuse (Scott Shafer); Colorado (Mike MacIntyre); Temple (Matt Rhule); Southern Miss (Todd Monken)

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