For those of you who follow recruiting (including you, weird message board guy who tweets at every 18-year-old your school is chasing after), you all know that as usual, schools like Florida, Alabama and Notre Dame are having monster recruiting years. To the surprise of many, other programs like Ole Miss, Texas A&M and UCLA are pounding the pavement, and closing in on top classes as well.
Of course with the good, there is the bad, and in the 2013 recruiting cycle, there is plenty of ugliness as well. The reasons for each program’s struggles are different, varying from coaching turnover, to scholarship limitations and looming NCAA sanctions.
But with less than a week left until Signing Day, there are still a number of programs that need to pick things up.
Here are five who need to kick it into fifth-gear.
Oregon (No. 22 ranked class via Rivals.com)
There is both good and bad news for Oregon, which currently has the No. 22 ranked class overall according to Rivals.com
The good news is that even in his Pac-12-dominating, score-running-up heyday, Chip Kelly never had incredibly highly ranked recruiting classes. In his four years at the school, Kelly only had one class ranked in the Top 10, much preferring to recruit players who fit “his system” rather than those who impressed the online scouting services. For example, Kenjon Barner was ranked just the 89th player in his senior year.
Woops, Barner was ranked as the 89th ranked player… just in California his senior year. He went on to rush for over 3,000 yards in Ducks’ career.
With that said, Oregon fans still have to be concerned going into Signing Day. As was mentioned, not only are the Ducks ranked just 22nd nationally (trailing Pac-12 rivals USC, UCLA and Washington in Rivals rankings), other coaches are doing their darndest to poach the top players who remain committed to Oregon. Four-star wide receiver Darren Carrington will visit Ohio State this weekend and fellow four-star running back Dontre Wilson will visit Texas in a few days, after taking a trip to Columbus himself last week.
Also, don’t undersell what Kelly’s year-long flirtation with the NFL may have done to this class. One prominent recruit told Crystal Ball Run on Wednesday that he never seriously considered Oregon, simply because he assumed Kelly would be gone at the end of the season.
Looks like he, and several other recruits were correct in that assessment.
Wisconsin (No. 45 ranked class via Rivals.com):
Like Oregon, there are two ways to look at what’s going at Wisconsin, which currently has the 45th ranked recruiting class according to Rivals.com. On the one-hand, this is a program going through a coaching change, and one that has never measured out well in the Rivals recruiting rankings. Like Kelly, former Badgers’ coach Bret Bielema always ignored the national rankings, and preferred to recruit players that fit his system.
At the same time, doesn’t it seem like a program that has been to three straight Rose Bowls should be recruiting a bit better at this point? Especially when Big Ten schools like Illinois (which went 2-10 and winless in conference play) and Penn State (which is currently under HEAVY NCAA sanctions) are currently ranked higher than them?
Speaking of the Badgers, how about…
Arkansas (No. 53 ranked class via Rivals.com):
For Arkansas fans, it’s been a year to forget. It was one which started with Bobby Petrino running his motorcycle right off the road and into unemployment, went straight through John L. Smith’s jaunt through the SEC and now into the recruiting cycle. With just six days before Signing Day, the Razorbacks currently have the 14th ranked recruiting in the SEC. For those scoring at home, there are only 14 teams in the SEC, period. I’m no math major, but as best I can tell, that’s not very good.
Now of course, a few variables are at play here. We know that Bielema recruits to his system (as mentioned above) and as we learned on Wednesday, there was so much dissention throughout Arkansas’ football program all season that it’s hard to blame any recruit- even ones from Arkansas- for looking in another direction. Speaking of the state of Arkansas, it also doesn’t help the state barely produces much talent to begin with; running back Altee Tenpenny (an Alabama commit) is the only Arkansas high school player ranked in Rivals’ Top 100.
Still, even with all that said, and even when factoring in a coaching change, nobody expected Arkansas’ recruiting to be, well, to be…THIS bad. Let’s also remember that two of Bielema’s bigger assistant coaching hires- offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and linebackers coach Randy Shannon- are known in large part for their recruiting prowess, yet each has done little to pull top talent into Arkansas so far. Most of this team’s recruits are underdeveloped guys who will likely need years to hit the field.
The good news is that there’s still a chance Bielema and his staff will get a few top players to flip their commitments and pick the Hogs, including Tenpenny himself.
At the same time, the last thing Bielema needs is to fall behind his competition in the SEC West this quickly. Only it’s happening right in front of our eyes.
Stanford (No. 58 ranked class via Rivals.com)
Unlike the other programs above, there was no coaching change at Stanford in the off-season. There also wasn’t disappointment on the field either, where the Cardinal posted a 12-win season which finished with a Rose Bowl victory.
So with that said, it’s a little surprising to see Stanford ranked this low. Especially when you think back to last year and remember that the Cardinal finished No. 5 nationally, swinging several key offensive and defensive linemen toward Palo Alto on Signing Day.
That doesn’t appear as though it will happen this year, although to Shaw’s credit, there’s a pretty good reason for that: Stanford was one of the youngest teams in college football last year, and frankly, doesn’t have all that many scholarships to give out.
Assuming nothing drastic happens, we fully expect to see Stanford at the top of the recruiting rankings in 2014.
Miami (No. 64 ranked class via Rivals.com)
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t conclude with “The U.” Miami is currently ranked just 64th nationally according to Rivals, which puts them behind nine other ACC programs and only ONE spot ahead of, ahem, the Duke Blue Devils. But hey, at least they beat Duke in basketball the other week, right?!?!
(Cue every Miami fan looking around the room awkwardly)
In all seriousness, this is simply an unacceptable outcome for a program that has as much talent right in its own backyard as Miami does. To a degree outsiders can blame NCAA sanctions, but at the same time, don’t forget that with sanctions circulating around their program last year, Al Golden still managed to put together a Top 12 class nationally, with a pair of five-star talents. This year Miami only has 12 commits total, with four already on campus.
Safe to say that Golden has a lot of work to do in the final few weeks of the recruiting cycle.
At least he has the satisfaction of knowing he’s not alone.
For all his insight, analysis and opinion on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.