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January 30, 2009

Top recruiting surprises and disappointments

MORE: Counting Down to Signing Day | Announcement Watch | Expert Commit Predictions

Every year it happens. A school unexpectedly emerges as a recruiting surprise and races up the top 25 chart. On the flip side, a team with a strong recruiting pedigree in the past struggles for some reason. Rivals.com takes a look at the top five recruiting surprises this season and five teams that disappointed.

Top Five Surprises
ARKANSAS | Commit List
The past few weeks have been kind to the Razorbacks. Plenty of elite recruits, including top junior college defensive back Rudell Crim and four-star athlete Ronnie Wingo Jr., have called the Hawgs down the stretch. This has helped Arkansas shoot up the charts into the top 15 nationally. Bobby Petrino has plenty of critics and his classes at Louisville were never top 20 caliber, but he's opened up a lot of eyes with this class in Fayetteville. There's plenty of talent coming to The Hill, which will make the SEC West even more exciting.
MISSISSIPPI STATE | Commit List
It seemed like the stars were aligned against the Bulldogs this season. Bad season. New coach. Two in-state programs that were on the upswing. But that hasn't stopped Dan Mullen and his staff from going out and reeling in a group that should finish just inside the top 25 come Signing Day. MSU did a nice job of keeping many of the kids that were committed under Sylvester Croom, but a mid-January flurry of pledges from talented prospects like Dennis Thames and Chad Bumphis gives this class plenty of punch.
NORTH CAROLINA | Commit List
Tar Heel fans are used to seeing top 10 recruiting classes in basketball, but not in football. It's no surprise that Butch Davis and Co. can recruit, because he's a good recruiter and he's surrounded himself with a great staff. However, nobody would have predicted at the start of the season the type of group that UNC has reeled in this year. Carolina landed five-star defensive end Donte Moss and 13 four-star prospects and 10 three-recruit recruits. Also watch out for quarterback Bryn Renner in the future.
STANFORD | Commit List
The Cardinal average the past three seasons was 51st in the nation, but Jim Harbaugh has Stanford in line to sign a top 25 class for the first time since 2003. That year Stanford finished 25th, but this year the Cardinal have done a tremendous job not only in California and nationally. Stanford expects to sign eight four-star players and at least 12 three-star recruits next Wednesday. The Cardinal has to expect big things from star linebacker Shayne Skov, receiver Jemari Roberts and running back Tyler Gaffney.
UTAH | Commit List
The Utes finished the season ranked as the nation's No. 2 team, so it might be a little unfair to label them as a major surprise. Utah has never been known nationally to be one of the elite national recruiting programs, but this class has the ability to firmly cement the Utes as the premiere non-BCS Conference program. With a few major players like Xavier Su'a Filo still on the board and the nation's top junior college recruit (James Aiono) already committed there is plenty of star power coming to Salt Lake City. Utah did well in its own backyard, but where the Utes really shine is in their ability to recruit Texas and California. The success there has paid off with what could end up being a top 30 class and the best of the best from a team in a non-BCS Conference.
Five Disappointments
BOSTON COLLEGE | Commit List
The Eagles finished last in the ACC this recruiting year despite a second consecutive appearance in the ACC title game and 20 wins in the last two seasons. Firing your head coach in a public manner in January is certainly a contributing factor, but BC was striking out on top targets including local four stars Arthur Lynch and Brennan Williams before any coaching issues.
EAST CAROLINA | Commit List
The Pirates were the darlings of college football early in the season after upsetting Virginia Tech and then setting sail on a record-breaking season that saw them finish with a 9-5 record. However, ESU wasn't really able to capitalize on the on field momentum with a highly-ranked recruiting class. Heading into the final week, the Pirates are in the bottom half of Conference USA just ahead of Marshall and UTEP and well behind Southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston. Michael Dobson, Giavanni Ruffin and Will Simmons are three of six three-star prospects on board, but the rest of the class is full of sleepers.
LOUISVILLE | Commit List
When the Cardinals hired Steve Kragthorpe there were monster expectations both on the field and off the field in the recruiting front. Kragthorpe had proven to be one of the best mid-major recruiters in the nation when he was at Tulsa and his Golden Hurricane teams developed into one of the best programs in Conference USA. However, success hasn't come on the field yet and the Cards are likely going to finish outside of the top 60 in recruiting for the second straight season. What's even more damaging is that Louisville will also finish in the bottom part of the Big East again.
OLE MISS | Commit List
In Houston Nutt's first season at Ole Miss, he led the Rebels to a 9-4 season, a bowl victory over Texas Tech and a 45-0 stomping of in-state rival Mississippi State. It would seem that that success teamed with Mississippi State's 4-8 season and coaching change would translate to a dominating recruiting season within the state borders. However, the Rebels have only secured three of the top 30 in-state prospects while Mississippi State has landed 13. Mississippi State also looks likely to finish in the top 25 nationally, while Ole Miss sits near the bottom of the SEC. Ole Miss could still make a major surge with some late commitments, including Patrick Patterson, but the marginal impact within the state is hard to ignore.
WASHINGTON STATE | Commit List
Washington State has never been a recruiting hotbed, but if there was any year that WSU could make a move up the charts in the Pac 10 it was going to be this year. It was year two of the program under coach Paul Wulff and there was plenty of turmoil in Seattle as the Husky program was going through a transition. In the end, Wazzu did finish with three of the top five players in state, but outside of the state the Cougars were not able to capitalize on a lot of top-flight talent. Heading into the final week of the recruiting season, WSU is just ahead of UDub in the Pac-10, but that could change as the Cougars could get passed and finish in the cellar of the conference for the third straight year.



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