For the second year in a row, WKU has finished with the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt Conference according to Rivals.com. But this year, the Toppers outdid themselves.
WKU signed 26 players, 11 of which gained three-star Rivals rankings, the most in school history and the most in the 2011 class for the SBC.
But it wasn't until the final moments when the Toppers could truly celebrate the top spot in the conference. Hot on their heels was Florida International, who finished with ten three-star players, four of which were nationally ranked at their positions. In the final rankings, WKU finished with the No. 90 class nationally, while FIU was close behind at No. 91.
The Toppers spread out their riches, with six defensive linemen, six offensive linemen, three running backs, three tight ends, two defensive backs, two wide receivers, two quarterbacks and two linebackers.
The top two rated players for WKU were three-star Dillard (Fla.) linebacker Daerius Washington, a 5.6 rated player and three-star Warren Central (Ind.) safety Eric Robinson-Berry. The latter is a 5.5 rated player, but rated No. 17 overall in Indiana.
But what truly makes this class special enough that it earns the top spot in the conference? InsideHilltopperSports.com asked Rivals.com national analysts Chris Nee and Mike Farrell to break down the class:
Nee: "It is obvious that Florida was an area of major focus for the staff and they had a great deal of success in the Sunshine State. Among their top players from Florida is linebackers Daerius Washington and Terran Williams, defensive back Champ Lewis, and running back Marquis Sumler."
Daerius Washington: Washington is a player that Syracuse was very heavily involved with and wanted to lure to the Big East. He is a solidly built outside linebacker with good speed and the ability to cover a lot of field. He can make an immediate impact.
Terran Williams: Williams chose the Hilltoppers over options such as South Florida and Iowa State. He is a tall, lean linebacker with good speed. He can play either the Will or Sam position and lend support in both the run and pass game. He is a physical tackler who can be a double-digit tackler regularly throughout his career.
Champ Lewis: Lewis is a rangy safety that can cover a lot of ground. He also has the size that you look for in a safety. His greatest attribute though is that he is a punishing downhill hitter who loves to play going towards the line of scrimmage
Marquis Sumler: Sumler's nickname is 'Tank' and it is fitting as he is a punishing running back who runs hard with his shoulder down and will take on opposing defenders. He has good speed and can stretch a play outside and then turn the corner. He will also be an asset in the passing game as he possesses soft hands.
Lawrence Campbell: I think the sleeper of the class is defensive end Lawrence Campbell. Campbell is nicknamed 'Stretch' and it is fitting as he has long, wiry arms that allow him to get his hand on the ball carrier and make a play. Last season was his first heavily focused on the football field and he produced good results, but his best days are ahead of him.
Eric Robinson-Berry: (Farrell): Robinson-Berry is a kid I've seen in person and he has a lot of talent, he's a big, tall corner with good hops and excellent speed. He looked like a BCS corner to me when I saw him so WKU is getting a steal and a guy I think can play from day one.
IHS: But the big question is what makes WKU's class the top 2011 recruiting class in the Sun Belt Conference?:
Nee: "Overall, I am very impressed by what Willie Taggart and the Western Kentucky staff did with regards to their recruiting efforts in the 2011 class. The Hilltoppers addressed needs and also added some BCS level prospects in a well-rounded class."
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