February 3, 2006

Ten who overachieved on Signing Day

The top signing classes get the headlines and attention, but several programs brought in hauls that will help maintain success or lay the groundwork for the future. Whether it's a coach on the hot seat, a lackluster season or recruiting in the shadow of a rival, these signing classes bring the remedy.

After winning in-state battles, fighting off other schools or picking up the pleasant Signing Day surprise, each of these schools brought in a class better than its 2005 record or status would indicate.

Many teams put together surprising signing classes, but these are the Top 10 Signing Day overachievers:

Top 10 Signing Day Overachievers
1. Clemson National Rank: 15th
There was no shortage of talk about the class after five-star running back C.J. Spiller shocked Florida and Florida State by signing with the Tigers. But don't forget about Clemson's other solid pickups like four top-ranked defensive backs and five-star Ricky Sapp, the top player in South Carolina.
What made the difference? Spiller's announcement was big, but keeping Sapp from switching his commitment was quite the task for both Tommy Bowden and primary recruiter Ron West. Sapp, who committed in June, has a lot of potential to play in several positions.
One to watch: The Clemson coaches have to be just as excited about the future of defensive end Jamie Cumbie as they were when he made an early verbal. He recorded 25 sacks as a senior, closing in on a state record for Illinois.
2. Arizona National Rank: 18th
The Wildcats were one Signing Day surprise away walking away with the top class on this countdown. Regardless, coach Mike Stoops has to be happy with landing the nation's No. 1 junior college prospect in Louis Holmes and raiding California with big pickups from four-stars like Devin Ross.
What made the difference? Holmes' picking the Wildcats meant more than just adding to their point total in the team rankings for Stoops. It also was a big battle won against recruiting power Southern Cal. Success in Texas, California and Arizona made the class very well-rounded.
One to watch: Future signal caller Tyler Lyon can be just as good as current quarterback Willie Tuitama, the true freshman who took over the starting job this year. Many felt Lyon's big frame was a reason to call him one of the top quarterbacks out West.
3. Oklahoma State National Rank: 22nd
Considering the first year for Mike Gundy was rocky on the field, it certainly didn't have any effect on recruiting. Gundy and his staff hit Texas hard and showed plenty of success for it. That included a late switch from four-star former LSU commitment Perrish Cox.
What made the difference? The Cowboys signed 20 players from the Lone Star State, including three four-stars. The pickup of defensive backs like Terrance Anderson and linebacker Patrick Lavine helped vault OSU upward.
One to watch: Running back Dantrell Savage filled a big void when long-time commit Michael Goodson pulled out on his pledge for OSU. Savage is expected to do big things come fall.
4. UCLA National Rank: 17th
Despite UCLA's position in Southern Cal's shadow, don't look past what the Bruins did down the stretch with January commitments from top receiver Terrence Austin and Hawaii's top prospect Micah Kia.
What made the difference? Signing a stellar group of eight offensive linemen not only filled a big need but definitely added to the star power of this class. Along with Kia, four-stars Sean Sheller, Andy Keane, and Jake Dean led the big group.
One to watch: Even though he missed most of the season due to injury, defensive end Jeff Miller will be one to watch as a future star for the Bruins. His big frame and impressive junior season is just a taste of how good he'll be at the next level.
5. Texas Tech National Rank: 26th
Mike Leach knows all about filling needs. As a result, his classes may not look as big on paper as they will be in his system at Tech. But, in a class of 34 with several high-profile recruits and numerous potential, plenty of new personnel is available to fill some gaps.
What made the difference? Hanging on to and signing defensive back Leonard Hewitt and quarterback Taylor Potts helped soften the blow of Greg McElroy heading to Alabama. Both players are expected to compete early and increase depth.
One to watch: Leach can mold a lot of guys into solid contributors, so it makes finding just one player tough. Defensive tackle Richard Jones exploded during his senior year and should grow more at the college level.
6. Rutgers National Rank: 45th
A Signing Day switch by four-star wide receiver Kenny Britt should keep the offense moving forward for the Scarlet Knights. The solid class had a lot to do with six signees from the state of Florida.
What made the difference? Britt's signature along with four-star running back Kordell Young gave the Knights added offensive weapons. Receiver Shamar Graves is a prototypical target standing around 6-foot-3.
One to watch: The signees from Florida have potential written all over them. Miami athlete Chris Paul-Etienne could be used all over the field whether at quarterback or at another offensive skill position.
7. North Carolina National Rank: Tied for 30th
All year long, the Tar Heels made the state of North Carolina and surround states its main priority. Top linebacker Jarrell Miller and Hargrave defensive end Darrius Massenburg should give the defense some flash.
What made the difference? Landing half of the top 10 players in state says a lot about the kind of class that UNC put together. Four-stars from in-state landed include Deunta Williams, Vince Jacobs and Shaun Draughn.
One to watch: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was impressive at the Shrine Bowl and came away as one of the biggest surprises of the all-star season. Nicks has the ability to be a super player somewhat early.
8. Kansas National Rank: 38th
With a good mix of junior college and high school talent, the Jayhawks had a better than expected recruiting season. Coach Mark Mangino locked up some top players from the state of Texas that helped to push this class upward in the conference.
What made the difference? Four-star Dallas defensive back Anthony Webb is going to be special in Lawrence with the ability to play on either side of the ball if needed. His 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame is the new standard for college corners.
One to watch: Tight end Bradley Dedeaux was an under the radar prospect, but KU evaluated early and jumped in right away. That helped in earning his signature and the ability to harness his raw ability.
9. Michigan State National Rank: 33rd
Even though Michigan State did not sign a running back, the Spartans put together a balanced class that included an array of top talent at almost every position. Getting close-to-home talent from prospects like Charlie Gantt and Eric Gordon helped.
What made the difference? The mix of junior college players from stars like four-star Devin Thomas and defensive back Nehemiah Warrick should fill early needs.
One to watch: The battle for the nation's No. 18 rated prep player Jason Diehl was well worth it for Michigan State. He's a big, physical kid who can jump in and make a difference.
10. Kentucky National Rank: 36th
Adding two of the top three players from inside the state of Kentucky is good for any program, but it certainly helped add stars to the defensive line for the Wildcats.
What made the difference? The Signing Day decision for Corey Peters, Kentucky's No. 3 rated player in the state, was huge for UK to cap off a strong recruiting year that had it's twists and turns. Joker Phillips did a solid job going up against a host of top teams in the SEC, Big East and ACC.
One to watch: Speaking of defense, Florida defensive end Jamil Paris has amazing speed for his huge frame. The three-star prospect has great athleticism and the ability to grow into a big player in the SEC.

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