February 6, 2008

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big East

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Rivals.com breaks down every class and takes a look at the headliners and sleepers each school signed in the special Signing Day edition of the Big East Blitz.

Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big East
1. Pittsburgh

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Headliner: Five-star wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin of Aliquippa (Pa.) High could bring back the good ol' days of Larry Fitzgerald. Baldwin, a 6-foot-6, 233-pounder, will create matchup problems for every Big East defender. He is an incredible athlete with outstanding speed and hands. Baldwin likely will see time immediately this fall.

Sleeper: Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell guard Ryan Turnley fell a bit under the radar because of a shoulder injury. Turnley, a 6-5, 296-pounder, has the tools to be an outstanding lineman in the future: large frame, solid footwork and good strength.

Overview: A great deal of Dave Wannstedt's focus was adding offensive firepower. Running back will get needed depth with the additions of Chris Burns and Cameron Saddler, and both can line up in the slot. Further help was brought in at quarterback with Tino Sunseri and Greg Cross. The receiving corps was upgraded with Baldwin and 6-4 receiver Mike Shanahan to go along with tight ends Mike Cruz and Justin Virbitsky. Lucas Nix is an impressive specimen on the offensive line and the second five-star in this class (along with Baldwin). The defense picked up some power and speed with the additions of linebacker Shayne Hale and defensive back Jarred Holley.

2. West Virginia

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Headliner: Vienna (W.Va.) Parkersburg guard Josh Jenkins staying home is a big deal for new coach Bill Stewart. Jenkins committed to WVU when Rich Rodriguez was coach but de-committed to look at Ohio State and Florida State. In the end, Jenkins decided to stay home and will be a huge part of West Virginia's offensive line in the future.

Sleeper: Winchester (Va.) John Handley athlete J.J. Dorsey could be a steal out. A 6-1, 190-pounder with impressive speed, Dorsey will get consideration at a variety of positions, including quarterback. He could be next in line behind Pat White.

Overview: The coaching change was supposed to do a number on the Mountaineers' 2008 recruiting class, but recent additions have helped. Stealing defensive end Tyler Urban from Maryland helps, and landing junior college stud Tevita Finau is huge. Much of the recruiting focus was on defense as West Virginia got some help up front with six linemen, including three-stars Larry Ford at end and Jeff Braun and Christopher Palmer at tackle. Further help was added at linebacker with Virginia's Donovan Miles, and the secondary got nice additions with speedy safety Jermaine Robinson and cornerback Brantwon Bowser. The major addition on offense was Terence Kerns, a prep-school running back who could impact early.

3. Rutgers

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Headliner: Four-star offensive tackle Art Forst provides much-needed help up front. Forst, who is 6 feet 8 and 288 pounds, is a beast, not just because of his size but also his strength, footwork and speed. Forst could see the field early as he already is enrolled.

Sleeper: Middle Island (N.Y.) Longwood offensive tackle Devon Watkis could be the dominant tackle opposite Forst for years. He certainly looks the part with his massive frame (6-8, 325 pounds). Watkis has decent athleticism, which could make him a force in the years to come.

Overview: Greg Schiano acquired some major help on offense, particularly at quarterback: pro-style passers Stephen Shimko and D.C. Jefferson along with dual-threat athlete Wayne Warren. Speed was added to the running game with tailback Rashad White. Further help was added on offense with wide receivers Keith Stroud and Malcolm Johnson. The defense filled a major void at tackle with Scott Vallone, and linebacker Eric LeGrand is a solid addition. Further speed is provided by three athletes, including Morgan Carter and Timothy Wright.

4. Syracuse

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Headliner: Syracuse's class is highlighted by stud tailback Averin Collier, a 5-11, 195-pounder out of Churchville (N.Y.) Churchville-Chili who will be in the picture for early playing time because of his impressive speed, vision and elusiveness. Collier enrolled at Syracuse last month in order to participate in spring practice.

Sleeper: Hanover (N.H.) High tight end Carl Cutler is an unknown entity. That doesn't mean he doesn't have talent. Cutler (6-3, 230 pounds) has good athleticism and runs well 4.55-seconds in the 40. He should be able to stretch the field for the Orange.

Overview: Syracuse upgraded its defense significantly starting with five linemen, including end Dan Vaughan. Four-star linebacker Romale Tucker joins the mix. And there are four defensive backs, including Pennsylvania's Mike Jones and New Jersey's Grant Mayes. The offense got help along the line with four newcomers and at tight end with three. Big-time local receiver Marcus Sales, a four-star prospect, will help, and further speed is added with athlete Trey Fairchild.

5. Louisville

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Headliner: Junior college cornerback Josh Wiley is the star of the class. Wiley, a four-star prospect, has prototypical NFL size (6-1, 200 pounds) and also has impressive speed. He should be able to make a significant impact this fall.

Sleeper: Mission Viejo (Calif.) Saddleback Community College wide receiver Maurice Clark could be a playmaker as soon as this fall. Already enrolled at Louisville, Clark is a big target (6-3, 200 pounds) with good speed and quickness. He's a playmaker, too, with eight touchdown catches last season.

Overview: Louisville got some major help via junior colleges. Leading the way is Wiley; he'll be joined by talented athlete Justin Matthews, who could play linebacker or safety. Further help was added to the defense in tackles Randy Salmon and Tyler Jessen and by linebackers Jon Dempsey and Dexter Heyman. The offense picked up four linemen, including three-star prospects Mario Benavides and Charles Millenbah. The Cardinals further solidified their receiving corps with three tight ends and two receivers. Damion Dixon is the star of the group, a 6-4, 186-pound target. Louisville also added speed in undersized tailback Darius Ashley. Quarterback Zack Stoudt was a late addition; at one time, he had committed to Pitt.

6. South Florida

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Headliner: Independence (Kan.) Community College defensive end David Bedford, the No. 10 junior college prospect in the nation, is the next star on defense for the Bulls. Bedford is a beast off the end with his frame (6-5, 240 pounds) and speed (a 4.7 guy in the 40). He will likely get a chance to be a significant contributor as soon as he steps on campus.

Sleeper: Tampa Wharton tight end Andreas Shields could be a steal when it is all said and done. He fell under the radar because of military obligations and a knee injury. But Shields is 6 feet 6 and 210 pounds, and can grow into the position and be a huge target in the future.

Overview: It wasn't hard for USF to pull in line recruits to join a solid defensive front. The Bulls picked up four lineman, including Bedford and huge end Craig Marshall, to go along with tackle Corey Grissom. Speed was added to the secondary in Jon Lejiste, while the offense got an upgrade with some help at receiver and running back. Demetris Murray is a speedy tailback, while Daniel Bryant is a significant threat in the passing game. In addition, the offensive line got a boost with three signees to protect B.J. Daniels, USF's quarterback of the future.

7. Cincinnati

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Headliner: Cincinnati took the battle for its top target all the way to Signing Day. Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor running back Isaiah Pead turned out to be worth the wait when he committed to the Bearcats Wednesday afternoon.

Sleeper: Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High athlete Travis Kelce fell under the radar for much of his recruitment, but he could be a steal. At 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, Kelce would be an impressive specimen at tight end or even along the line, but the Bearcats are looking at him as a quarterback. With his impressive 4.68-speed, he has the chance to be a unique threat for Cincinnati.

Overview: Cincinnati hauled in a ton of talent on offense. Two big quarterbacks lead the way in Kelce and Brendon Kay. Cincinnati added three speed running backs, including Darrin Williams out of Detroit, as well as four receivers. The stars of the group are Woods and 6-7, 215-pound Nick Truesdell. The defensive front added four prospects and the secondary added six. The secondary added significant speed, most notably three-star prospects Patrick Lambert and Dominique Battle.

8. Connecticut

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Headliner: Massive offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett (6-8, 270 pounds) is the star of the class. Bennett is a superb lineman with good footwork, speed, strength and power. He could lock down the edge of Connecticut's line for years.

Sleeper: Chesapeake (Va.) Great Bridge quarterback Casey Turner might be a humongous steal. Turner has terrific size (6-4, 215) to go along with impressive pocket presence, good decision-making and solid footwork. Turner broke nearly every state career passing record in Virginia, including touchdowns and yards.

Overview: Connecticut got help across the board. Turner was brought in as the quarterback of the future; he is joined by Jordan Todman at tailback along with two receivers and two tight ends, including big wideout Gerrard Sheppard and massive tight end Ryan Griffin. The Huskies got some of their biggest help on the offensive line with Bennett and fellow three-star Erik Kuraczea. The defensive line got an overhaul with four ends, including speedy prospects Jerome Williams and Ryan Wirth. Two defensive backs, including three-star corner Dwayne Gratz, round out a solid group for UConn.

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