February 8, 2009

Which school surprised most on Signing Day

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

This week's question: Which school's recruiting class surprised you the most (good or bad) this year?

Olin Buchanan's answer: A top-20 class at Auburn in most years might be taken for granted. But the coaching change, the disappointment of last season and the surge of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia raised doubts whether Gene Chizik's first class would be … well, first class. But the Tigers were able to pry four-star quarterback Tyrik Rollison out of Texas and away from Big 12 teams such as Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. They did the same with four-star WR Emory Blake. And they coaxed four-star WR DeAngelo Benton away from LSU, which I never saw coming. Maybe I should have. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn surely is a big reason the Tigers got those players.

Tom Dienhart's answer: I was impressed by the class Auburn signed. Despite undergoing a transition in coaches from Tommy Tuberville to Gene Chizik, the Tigers still assembled a top-20 class. Credit the staff Chizik built in a short period of time after arriving from Iowa State. Assistants such as Ted Roof, Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper and Tracy Rocker helped Auburn stay on course and sign a class that will keep the Tigers competitive in the SEC. Auburn didn't sign any mega-blue chippers, but the recruiting haul is dotted with high-quality three- and four-star players who will serve as a foundation that Chizik can build on in his chase to keep pace with LSU and Alabama.

David Fox's answer: Something doesn't look right when Stanford's signing class is ranked third in the Pac-10 and 20th in the nation. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at the Cardinal's recruiting success. Heck, I want to play for Jim Harbaugh; apparently, some high school seniors wanted to as well. He signed Stanford's first top-25 class since 2003, trailing only recruiting machine USC and UCLA in the Pac-10. The Cardinal grabbed four quality prospects out of Texas and scored an early victory with Shayne Skov out of New York. Stanford has come up just short of a bowl in two seasons under Harbaugh. This signing class could put it over the top.

Mike Huguenin's answer: I was surprised at Penn State's rather lackluster class. The Nittany Lions were two regular-season points away from playing for the national title and won the Big Ten. But their recruiting class was just 25th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten. The two most highly rated players in Pennsylvania went to Ohio State. Penn State only signed two of the top 20 prospects in Pennsylvania. Two. Rutgers did a better job in Pennsylvania. Penn State did do a good job in Maryland. Still, I would've thought an 11-win season and a Big Ten title would have given Penn State more juice on the recruiting trail.

Steve Megargee's answer: Mississippi State went 4-8 and changed coaches after the season. Those two factors rarely result in a successful recruiting year. Yet the Bulldogs somehow managed to sign a recruiting class that ranked 23rd in the nation. New coach Dan Mullen deserves plenty of credit for keeping together most of the players who had committed to Mississippi State before Sylvester Croom's departure. Mullen even gave his class some additional star power with the signing of Chad Bumphis, a four-star wide receiver who didn't commit until after Mullen's arrival in Starkville. This recruiting class should shore up a passing attack that ranked 94th in the nation this past season. Mississippi State signed seven wide receivers, but the most important newcomer is four-star prospect Tyler Russell, who could end the recent string of ineffective quarterback play that hampered Mississippi State during Croom's tenure.


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