Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on National Signing Day topics every day leading up to Feb. 2.
What under-the-radar state churns out surprisingly impressive prospects?
Barry Every: South Carolina put out between 40-45 D-I prospects per year, but the top 20 players are always very talented and worthy of being recruited nationally. Arizona only produces about 25 D-I players a year but the top eight or so each year have been very good and could play in any conference in the country.
Mike Farrell: I'll give it up for New Jersey. Rarely does the Garden State boast a five-star and I don't think there has been more than one five-star from the state in the years I've been doing this. But the last few years Jersey has been rolling out first-rounders like crazy. Some of them such as Eugene Monroe and Brian Cushing, we knew quite a bit about. But there have been some major sleepers such as B.J. Raji, Devin McCourty and others. The Northeast doesn't get major respect, but if it keeps rolling out the NFL studs, it very well could.
Adam Gorney: Take a look at Oregon. Five-star Colt Lyerla is one of the best athletes in recent memory and four-star defensive end Brennan Scarlett had offers from across the country. Offensive lineman Alex Mitchell impressed at numerous camps and then there are a handful of three- and two-star prospects who have earned Division I scholarships. The last recruiting cycle was even better with five-star Owamagbe Odighizuwa and four-star recruits Curtis White, Gabe King and Keanon Lowe. The state isn't filled with stars but there are distinct pockets of very good talent.
Chris Nee: New Jersey produces some really good talent. Running back Savon Huggins is among the nation's best backs. As you go down the list of talent from the Garden State you find players such as Anthony Sarao, Damiere Byrd, Connor Wujciak and Josue Matias. The state's top 15 players in 2011 are all very good college prospects.
Keith Niebuhr: Mississippi and South Carolina would be solid picks, but I'll take Louisiana. The Pelican State always churns out its share of talent, but this crop is particularly good. Louisiana has produced three five-star players in 2011 and 14 four-stars. Nine of them, by the way, are committed to LSU.
Brian Perroni: Louisiana usually does a good job of producing a lot of talent and schools from nearby Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama like to go in and find diamonds in the rough. The class of 2011 is exceptionally strong in the Pelican State as there are three five-stars in La'El Collins, Anthony Johnson and Jarvis Landry. In addition to LSU's usual in-state haul, Auburn landed four-star offensive tackle Greg Robinson and TCU pulled a pledge from four-star defensive tackle Chuck Hunter.
What league overall has been the most disappointing?
Barry Every: It's easy to pick the Big East but it only has eight teams. I'm going to call out the bottom five in the Pac-10, soon to be Pac-12, with UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon State. Each of those schools needs to make a push toward the top 50 before Wednesday or you can say they had an underachieving signing class. Because the other five schools in the Pac-10 are killing it in recruiting.
Mike Farrell: The Big East has been disappointing. Pittsburgh was cruising toward a possible top 20 recruiting class and that got ruined with the decision to fire Dave Wannstedt and the disaster that followed. Now Louisville and Rutgers are battling it out for the top spot but there's a chance that the Big East might not have one team represented nationally in the top 25.
Adam Gorney: There is still some time to close strong but I'd say the Big Ten has been the most disappointing. No team has a five-star commitment although Curtis Grant likes Ohio State a lot so that might soon change. But there are still programs in that conference that have had lackluster recruiting cycles. Three teams in the conference have no four-star commits. Illinois only has one, Michigan State only has two. After playing in the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin only has three four-star pledges.
Chris Nee: The Big East. Not a single five-star prospect is bound for the conference and in total only 13 four-star prospects. Charlie Strong and Louisville have done a good job, as have Greg Schiano and Rutgers. Beyond that, there isn't a lot of headline-grabbing recruiting going on in the conference.
Keith Niebuhr: The Big Ten. Right now, the league has exactly one current team (Ohio State) and one future team (Nebraska) in the top 20 of the team rankings. The Buckeyes may be the cream of the crop, but they're not even in our top 10 at the moment. Surprisingly, Michigan State and Wisconsin haven't, as of yet, done more, especially after having such successful seasons in 2010.
Brian Perroni: The Big Ten seems to have struggled a bit this year. Even with the on-field woes, Michigan has usually recruited very well. That's not the case with this class. Penn State has had a very subpar year on the recruiting trail as well. Michigan State and Wisconsin had great years on the field but the success has not translated to the class. Nebraska's move to the conference strengthens the Big Ten overall, but I think it will still be considered one of the leaner years in quite some time for the conference.
What league overall has been a positive surprise?
Barry Every: I would say the ACC has been a bit of a surprise having eight teams currently ranked in the top 50 after a mediocre year on the gridiron. Florida State and Clemson are dominating the recruiting trail. North Carolina is doing well considering the off-the-field issues last season.
Mike Farrell: The Big 12 has surprised me. With Nebraska leaving, it still has four teams in the top 25 with Texas and Oklahoma boasting top 15 classes and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State having very strong, surprising years. Kansas and Texas A&M are also in or around the top 35. The conference has done a good job despite losing two members and shrinking to 10 teams.
Adam Gorney: Let's take a look at the ACC. Both Florida State and Clemson have two five-star commits and there is a good chance that five-star linebackers Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony will end up in the ACC as well. North Carolina, despite all its negative press off the field, has eight four-star commits and is still involved with five-star linebacker Curtis Grant. Virginia Tech always puts together a quality class and I've been impressed with what coach Mike London has done at Virginia, especially in the secondary by landing four-star pledges Demetrious Nicholson and Brandon Phelps.
Chris Nee: I think the pleasant surprise is the Pac-10. USC and Oregon are both among the top 10, but California has done a good job amassing 10 four-star commitments. Washington and Stanford also are competing for top 25 classes. Five schools have prospect ratings that average above three stars.
Keith Niebuhr: The Pac-10. Right now, it looks as if the league will have as many as five teams ranked in the final top 25 of the team standings. That Southern California and Oregon are doing so well isn't a shock. But California also currently is in the top 15, and has to be among the biggest surprises in the entire country. Additionally, the fact Stanford is doing well might be indicator that the Cardinal could be around for awhile, even with the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL.
Brian Perroni: The Pac-12, with the addition of Colorado and Utah, has been recruiting well this year. USC and Oregon always have top classes but Cal, Washington, Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State have all done tremendous jobs. All have managed to keep a lot of talent in-state. Utah has had very good classes the last few years and 2011 is no exception, especially in the state of Texas again. The Utes do a great job of finding what are, at the time, under-the-radar prospects.
What would you change about National Signing Day?
Barry Every: Move it to a Friday so family members and fans can have a long weekend and celebrate this like the holiday that it has become. It makes traveling and taking days off a lot easier for fans, prospects, analysts, reporters and family members.
Mike Farrell: I'd change it from one day to a week so that there can be more attention paid to the process and the players can choose to fax their letters over a period of seven days, rather than feel the pressure to send them all in one day. I know they have the option to wait and some will, but right now 98 percent of the letters will be faxed on one day and it just makes a year's worth of recruiting work get swallowed up in about 12 hours.
Adam Gorney: I always thought it would be a good idea for prospects to sign their letters of intent when they choose and not have to deal with the recruiting nonsense if they were certain of their school choice. Not only would it alleviate some headaches for recruits but it would save coaches and schools a ton of money they wouldn't have to waste on prospects with no inclination to change their commitment.
Chris Nee: I would create an early National Signing Period. I think it would alleviate a lot of stress for prospects and for colleges. Some kids know on Sept. 1 where they want to spend their college career, but they have to endure five months of additional recruiting before they can end it with a pen and piece of paper.
Keith Niebuhr: I wish players had a three-day return policy on their LOI. It would be nice if these 18-year-olds had a chance to evaluate their program's class after all the signatures are in. Then, if it turned out the program they signed with misled them, or if they simply had a change of heart, they could do so without penalty.
Brian Perroni: I don't think this would ever happen but I wouldn't mind seeing an early signing period for football. A lot of prospects, especially in my region, have been committed since the summer or even earlier. They have had to endure numerous coaches from other schools making last-minute sales pitches and it can become more than just a minor annoyance. It would alleviate a lot of the stress on prospects and college coaches having to "babysit" their commits until signing day.