Every recruiting cycle, there are programs that surprise. These programs didn’t exactly set the world on fire on the field, but the future is bright given the amount of projected talent they are adding to their roster. The Class of 2013 is no different.
Top247 lineman Darius Latham is the highest-ranked prospect in Indiana's 2013 class.
Here’s a look at five surprise classes to date in this cycle.
The key to building a successful program in college football, no matter how thin the in-state talent base is, is to sign the best players from your state when they are present. That’s what makes this Hoosiers class, which ranks No. 43 nationally according to 247Sports, impressive. Two-way lineman Darius Latham (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central), safety Antonio Allen (Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis) and defensive end David Kenney (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) are three of the top 10 in-state prospects for the 2013 cycle. Sleepers like running back Myles Graham (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna) and cornerback Noel Padmore (Flowery Branch, Ga.) round out a nice class for Indiana.
Even with the current list of commits, the Rebels already stand to add significant talent to their roster. It’s quite a resourceful class, which is the key to recruiting at an in-state Mississippi program. You have to work the junior colleges, take late enroll prospects and get qualified (academically) talent any way you can. Ole Miss will get Nickolas Brassell back from East Mississippi Community College, they have former LSU signee and jumbo athlete Jeremy Liggins (Northwest Mississippi C.C.) committed and swiped four-star defensive tackle Jarran Reed (East Mississippi C.C.) from North Carolina. Those are just the instant impact prospects that are currently committed. Ole Miss is in the ball game, if not the leader for the nation’s top high school prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson), 247Composite five-star receiver Laqun Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) and four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind.), among others. Head coach Hugh Freeze and staff did a tremendous job this year leading the Rebels to a 6-6 record and a bowl berth (with a three-point loss to Texas A&M and a six-point loss at LSU) and adding this type of talent infusion makes the future bright in Oxford.
Offensive tackle Andrew Nelson recently moved into the Class of 2013 Top247. He is committed to Penn State.
It probably should not still be a surprise, but with crippling NCAA sanctions and the stain of a scandal still lingering, Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and staff have been able to not only have success recruiting, but have excelled. The Nittany Lions currently have the nation’s No. 16 class, led by five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military). Tight end Adam Breneman (Camp Hill, Pa./Cedar Cliff) is the nation’s No. 2 tight end prospect and has future All-Big Ten potential. Offensive lineman Andrew Nelson (Hershey, Pa.) is a senior riser that recently moved into the Top247 and Penn State was able to reach into Virginia and snag wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (Stafford, Va./Mountain View) from in-state Virginia Tech. Even if the class ends up being just the 18 who are currently committed, this recruiting cycle has been a surprising success for O’Brien and company.
The Green Wave, who recently joined the Big East (we know that is now precarious) currently has the nation’s No. 65 overall class, but they’ve secured commitments from a number of solid prospects. Offensive tackle Kenneth Santa Marina (New Orleans, La./McDonough 35) is a massive offensive line prospect that had attention from a number of Southeastern Conference schools during the cycle. Defensive end Corey Smith (New Orleans, La./O. Perry Walker) is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound defensive end with an outstanding frame that has big-time potential. Earlier this week, the Green Wave landed a commitment from former Washington quarterback Nick Montana, the son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Given the relative lack of on-field success in New Orleans, the fact that the Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson and his staff are able to recruit at this level comes as a surprise and will build a solid foundation for the future, regardless of what conference the Green Wave plays in.
The Huskies are no strangers to recruiting at a high level under Steve Sarkisian, but they currently have the nation’s No. 14 class (No. 2 in the Pac-12) and have some of the top prospects on the West Coast this recruiting cycle committed. Simply put, this class could be a program booster. Four-star receiver Demorea Stringfellow (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde) is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound big-play threat that’s a potential game-changer as is fellow four-star receiver Darrell Daniels (Oakley, Calif./Freedom). Quarterback Troy Williams (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) has one of the strongest arms in the country and a trio of future defensive linemen- ends Marcus Farria (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) and Daeshon Hall (Lancaster, Texas) and future tackle Elijah Qualls (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande)- make for one of the better defensive line classes in the country.
JC Shurburtt is the National Recruiting Director for 247Sports. Follow him on Twitter @jcshurburtt