Rivals Roundtable: What school has the No. 1 selling point to recruits?
This week's Rivals Roundtable focuses on which schools are overachieving in recruiting the 2018 class so far, which schools continue to baffle with their lack of success in recruiting and which schools have the No. 1 selling point to elite prospects.
1. Which school is overachieving with the 2018?
ROB CASSIDY (Southeast): Miami isn’t really overachieving because of the geographic location and the program’s history. It is, however, overachieving if you consider the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of recruiting. UM hasn’t been nationally relevant in a long time, so the massive success it’s having this year is, in a way, surprising. I guess this one just depends on the prism through which you choose to view it. Mark Richt is selling the future and selling it well.
MIKE FARRELL (National): Virginia Tech surprises me the most simply because recruiting was a bit down at the end of the Frank Beamer era and I didn't know how Justin Fuente and his staff would do. With four four-stars already in the class and a larger recruiting footprint, this strong start bodes well for the Hokies as they continue to also work on keeping more kids home.
ADAM FRIEDMAN (Mid-Atlantic): This has been harped on a bit over the last week or two but Kentucky's recruiting success is very surprising. This is the team that lost to Southern Mississippi to start last season and now it has commitments from three four-stars while six of its 15 commitments are from Ohio. Surprising stuff from Mark Stoops and his staff. It's also a bit surprising that the Big Ten has more teams in the top 30 of the team rankings than any of the other conferences and the same number as the SEC and Pac-12 combined.
ADAM GORNEY (West Coast/National): I'm going with Notre Dame. I understand there is so much to love about the athletic and academic mix at Notre Dame and the school really sells itself but coach Brian Kelly and his staff have done an excellent job putting this class together. Especially since there are so many questions about Kelly's future in South Bend if he doesn't turn things around after a 4-8 season. First, the Irish got their quarterback in four-star Phil Jurkovec. Then Notre Dame went out and landed the Ademilola brothers from New Jersey, two four-stars to bulk up the defensive line. The Irish dipped into Pennsylvania for four-star LB Matthew Bauer, got a top-notch DB from Georgia in Derrik Allen and an outstanding four-star TE in George Takacs out of Florida. There are questions about Kelly's future there but it doesn't seem to be hurting recruiting one bit this cycle. If ND can figure out a way to lock up five-star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown - his brother already plays there - then that would be huge.
JOSH HELMHOLDT (Midwest): Kentucky is overachieving again in this 2018 class. Since Mark Stoops took over the program after the 2012 season, the Wildcats have a 19-30 record and played in just one bowl game. They have made positive strides every year during his tenure, but are punching well above their weight class on the recruiting trail. Their 2018 class is led by a trio of four-stars, and there are several more who I feel are strong candidates to move up with big senior seasons.
NICK KRUEGER (Texas): I’ll say Kentucky at this point. We’re still at a point of the year where teams can sit high in the team recruiting rankings simply with quantity of commitments rather than quality, but Kentucky has both right now and a top-20 ranking as of this week. The Wildcats were able to reel four-star quarterback Jarren Williams back into the fold after he decommitted earlier this spring and have given him support in this class by going into Michigan and plucking Marquan McCall (No. 115 nationally) away from the Wolverines and Rivals250 tight end Brenden Bates from nearby Cincinnati. Right now, the only two-star prospect in Kentucky’s class is its kicker, Chance Poore. Not too shabby for a team that is still trying to live up to the optimism that has surrounded the program under head coach Mark Stoops.
CHAD SIMMONS (Southeast): Miami. This has the look of what classes would have looked like on recruiting sites 20-30 years ago when the Canes were winning national titles on a fairly regular basis. Here we are early in July and they sit atop the Rivals Team Rankings with 18 commits. They have gone back to what makes that program successful — recruiting the homegrown talent. Of their 18 commitments, 16 are from Florida and 11 are from the metro area (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach) surrounding their campus. This school has not recruited at this level in some time, so its success in 2018 has caught many by surprise. Now the Canes just have to hold onto them through Feb. 7, 2018.
WOODY WOMMACK (Southeast): Oregon is overachieving right now on the recruiting trail. Obviously the new staff coming in is going to provide a boost in recruiting, but the Ducks' efforts to land commitments from prospects from all over the country shows that they are serious about taking a national approach to recruiting. Hanging on to them all the way until National Signing Day is going to be the key, but right now it's hard not to be impressed with what Oregon's new coaches have been able to do.
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2. Which school's lack of recruiting success in general, based on what should be built-in advantages such as an attractive location or storied tradition, befuddles you?
ROB CASSIDY (Southeast): I’ve never been able to figure out why Arizona State doesn’t recruit better. The state produces talent every year and you would think it would be able to supplement that talent with second-tier California players. Somehow, Nebraska is doing a better job recruiting there. Maybe ASU’s stadium renovations will help, but I’ve always seen them as recruiting underachievers because the school and program seem to be extremely attractive to an outsider.
MIKE FARRELL (National): Florida is a bit puzzling, losing another commitment this week but more importantl falling behind in some key recruiting races I though it would win or at least make more difficult. Tyreke Johnson is a good example of a kid many felt would end up as a Gator from the start of his recruitment and now he's headed elsewhere. Last year the Gators finished with a top 10 class but it was a bit misleading because many of their commitments down the stretch fell to them a bit. I think they can turn it around especially with a big Friday Night Lights push but they need some big recruiting wins.
ADAM FRIEDMAN (Mid-Atlantic): The state of North Carolina is one of the most talent-rich states in the country but the Tar Heels can't seem to capitalize on that. North Carolina has only finished in the top 25 of the team rankings two times since 2013 despite having a very nice campus and top-notch academics. North Carolina hasn't really broken through on the field either and that certainly doesn't help on the recruiting trail.
ADAM GORNEY (West Coast/National): Virginia has had some solid recruiting classes in the ACC during the Rivals era dating back to 2002 but it's strange that the Cavaliers just cannot attract higher-level prospects every single year to Charlottesville. It's in a great location about two hours south of Washington, D.C., two hours to the Chesapeake Bay, it has phenomenal history and tradition, the campus is absolutely beautiful and the academics are top-notch. Stanford gets kids. Notre Dame gets kids. Virginia should be competing for that type of upper-echelon talent every year but just is not right now. Virginia's basketball program is excellent, so why is football still a middling team?
JOSH HELMHOLDT (Midwest): In 2018, Missouri's lack of success is befuddling. Its move to the SEC was supposed to give recruiting a shot in the arm and the Show-Me State has the best collection of four-star talent in a decade. However, not one of those prospects is currently committed to the home-state school. In fact, no in-state prospects are committed, and the Tigers have just five total commits and a class that ranks outside the top 75.
NICK KRUEGER (Texas): This might not be a particularly provocative choice, but I’ll say Vanderbilt. In the final two seasons of James Franklin’s three years at Vandy, the Commodores finished 29th and 19th in the Rivals team recruiting rankings. In 2014 and 2015, after Franklin left, Vanderbilt finished 49th and 48th respectively, and in the last two seasons finished 59th and 56th. Nashville is a fun place and Vanderbilt’s campus is tucked into midtown with a lot of options for hanging out and cutting loose. Sure, the academic standards might be higher there than other SEC schools, but Franklin proved it’s possible to recruit successfully and win games in a conference many players still generally consider to be the premier league in college football. Maybe the stadium is smaller and doesn’t fill up quite as much as other SEC teams, but there are a lot of other selling points that I could get behind when it comes to Vandy.
CHAD SIMMONS (Southeast): Miami. Over the last decade, surprisingly, Miami only has two top 10 recruiting classes. We are talking about The U, the school with five national titles, the school surrounded by palm trees, the school right in the heart of one of the best, deepest recruiting pools in the country and its track record on the recruiting trail has not been up to par over the last decade. It should be fairly easy to the Hurricanes to land numerous blue-chip prospects each cycle, but they have missed on too many to be who they are and where they are. Mark Richt signed the No. 11 class in 2017 and he is on track to sign a top five class this cycle, so things could be swinging in the right direction for the 'Canes.
WOODY WOMMACK (Southeast): The city of Memphis has a lot of quality talent that sometimes flies off the radar and if the Tigers could lock down the city they would only add to what is a talented roster. The new staff has done a better job embracing the area but there's no reason to think that, given the uptick in the school's success on the field, that annual recruiting success isn't attainable.
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3. What is the No. 1 selling point that any school in your region has to offer right now?
ROB CASSIDY (Southeast): Florida State is the only school in Florida that can sell recent titles and a recent Heisman winner. Most prospects want to succeed on a personal and team level above all. And, as far as schools in Florida go, The Seminoles have the most recent hardware to show off. Combine that with a rabid fan base and FSU should, to some extent, recruit itself these days.
MIKE FARRELL (National): I don't have a region but hands down to me it's the NFL Draft and Ohio State and Alabama can sell that first-round success like no one else over the last couple of years. They produce first-rounders and kids notice, and it is an easy way to sell your program.
ADAM FRIEDMAN (Mid-Atlantic): The easy answer here is Penn State with its current success along with a great campus, facilities, resources, and fanbase. But take a closer look at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have excellent facilities, a diehard fanbase and resources to play with the big boys. Both Penn State and Virginia Tech have pretty young and energetic head coaches with exciting offenses and stout defenses. What gives Virginia Tech a slight edge in my mind is its conference and, more specifically, its division. Penn State plays in arguably the hardest division in college football with Ohio State and Michigan but Virginia Tech's ACC Coastal division is considerably weaker.
ADAM GORNEY (West Coast/National): I don't want to say USC has it easy with local kids, but yeah, it kind of does. The Trojans basically pick and choose who they want to seriously recruit and then a lot of those top prospects end up committing. Even kids who had other favorites and USC came in a little later, those guys end up playing for the Trojans. Not only do those kids get a chance to experience Los Angeles but they all talk about growing up watching Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart or Troy Polamalu, and they want to play on the biggest stage as well. UCLA does not have the history and tradition of USC and being in Westwood hurts them with kids who play or live closer to downtown LA. USC has the history and tradition, the glitz and glamour, now a turnaround story and Rose Bowl win under Clay Helton and the location. All those are tough to beat.
JOSH HELMHOLDT (Midwest): Ohio State's NFL Draft success is the best selling point on the recruiting trail right now. Having five first-round draft picks, and 12 drafted overall, in 2016 grabbed a lot of pub, and rightly so. But, putting three more players into the first round in 2017 may be even more impactful on the recruiting trail because it shows a trend, and that 2016 was not an aberration. Every college prospect wants to be an NFL Draft pick, and Urban Meyer has an easy job selling his program's ability to get players to the NFL right now.
NICK KRUEGER (Texas): Since my region is only one state, I could argue that SMU is in a pretty cool corner of Dallas, and Houston’s campus isn’t too far away from the metro area of its namesake. However, I think that the atmosphere at Kyle Field at Texas A&M on gameday is the consensus No. 1 thing that always impresses recruits and leaves them imagining themselves playing in that atmosphere. Texas is pumping a ton of money into facility renovation, as is Oklahoma - if I were to expand my scope to the Big 12 - and when those two projects are done, they may be what I hear about most from prospects. For now, the Aggies still have the mojo as an SEC program that gets a packed house and a rocking stadium week-in and week-out.
CHAD SIMMONS (Southeast): Alabama. It is all about two things when kids are recruited by Alabama — winning and getting to the NFL. Alabama does both as well as anyone in the country. Alabama sells itself. You look up right now around seven months away from signing day and you see the Crimson Tide at No. 11 in the SEC and No. 50 overall — you know that will change. You will look up in February and Nick Saban's program will be at or near the top. Possibly the biggest reason why is the rate at which Alabama sends players to the NFL. And, of course, how the Tide wins at an extremely high level.
WOODY WOMMACK (Southeast): Clemson's run of winning combined with upgraded facilities and a player's coach in Dabo Swinney seems to be the trifecta when it comes to a pitch to elite recruits. The Tigers' runs to back-to-back national championship games have shown recruits that their success is no fluke and given the campuses proximity to Atlanta it's becoming easier for them to recruit nationally.
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