National Signing Day is a college football holiday, and after many recruits officially signed their National Letters of Intent yesterday, fanbases across the country are celebrating the prospective futures of their respective programs.
While few supporters ever believe that their classes are below par, some teams surged ahead of where they were at this time last February, while others have seen significant drops in recruiting level, according to the major recruiting databases.
Using average team rankings from Scout and Rivals, we’ve compiled a list of the teams who most improved on their 2013 recruiting, as well as those whose recruiting has tailed off the most:
Here are the top 15 programs who improved the most in 2014.
Coaching changes are a common theme on these lists. After losing Bret Bielema to Arkansas following the 2012 season, Wisconsin brought in Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. Andersen took the job on December 19, 2012, giving him little time to work on last year’s class. Despite the transition, Andersen’s Badgers looked a lot like those of Bielema and Barry Alvarez, and Wisconsin finished second in the Big 10 Leaders division at 9-3, earning them a trip to the Capital One Bowl, where they lost to South Carolina.
Wisconsin is the model of consistency, winning at least seven games every season since 2002, and after a successful first season for Andersen, the rebound in recruiting was to be expected.
Texas Tech has long been thought of as a school that plays an extremely fun brand of football, and Kliff Kingsbury brought that image back in his first year as head coach. Texas Tech wasn’t the best team in the Big 12 by any stretch, but the Red Raiders put up points at a level that’s reminiscent of the Mike Leach years. He also seems to have an energetic personality that players love in coaches.
Kingsbury got a lot of press this year for his youth and his “cool coach” persona, and that undoubtedly helped spur Texas Tech’s ascension in the rankings this year. A blowout of No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl doesn’t hurt either.
How Temple secured Rivals’ 60th ranked class after going 2-10 under first year head coach Matt Rhule is a bit of a mystery, but credit Rhule and his staff for doing a great job of locking up local talent. Philadelphia native offensive lineman Aaron Ruff (four stars on Rivals) headlines a class that pulled in nine players from Pennsylvania and five from New Jersey. Locking up local talent is immensely important for a regional school like Temple, and Rhule did just that in his first full recruiting cycle.
Between the lifting of some scholarship limitations by the NCAA and the surge of talent that came along with the hiring of James Franklin this winter, it should come as no surprise that Penn State saw great gains in recruiting in 2014. Former coach Bill O’Brien did a very good job of keeping the Nittany Lions afloat during very trying times, and his classes were incredibly impressive given the circumstances, but Franklin really helped Penn State kick it up to a new level this year. Sorry, Vanderbilt fans.
Army is an incredibly difficult job, but it seems like the hiring of new coach Jeff Monken has paid dividends so far. Monken, the former head coach of Georgia Southern, comes from the Paul Johnson coaching tree, and like arch-rival Navy, that complex triple option offense is Army’s best chance to compete at the D1 level.
Monken was able to grab a few recruits with big time offers. Offensive lineman Isaiah Holland claimed offers from Pac-12 schools Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State, while defensive end Jarvis Polu had them from Colorado, Washington State, and Wisconsin.
Scott Shafer had difficulty holding down some commits after former Orange head coach Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills following the 2012-13 season, especially those from his New York City, where Marrone’s staff did very well.
Shafer exceeded expectations in his first year, going 7-6 with a bowl win, and a very solid 4-4 record in the ACC, and that has paid dividends in this recruiting cycle. Syracuse has gone away from New York State a bit, as the Philadelphia, Chicago, and Miami areas were very beneficial to the Orange. ESPN has both of SU’s quarterback commits, AJ Long and Alin Edouard, rated four stars, while wide receivers KJ Williams, Steven Ishmael, and Adly Enoicy are all well-regarded prospects as well.
Dave Doeren’s first year in Raleigh was quite difficult, as the Wolfpack went 3-9 while adapting to his unique system. His first full recruiting class has to have NC State fans excited, especially with talents like quarterback Jalan McClendon, defensive end Kentavious Street, and cornerback Troy Vincent aboard.
Doeren’s offense is quite different from that of his predecessor Tom O’Brien, so a few years of transition to get the appropriate players in place is to be expected. This class is definitely a step in the right direction for NC State.