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Teams on the rise in 2014

The final team rankings for the class of 2013 features some usual suspects within the top 10 with Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida all in their typical role as leaders of the pack. But who saw Ole Miss landing at No. 6 a year ago? Who saw UCLA sneaking into the top 10? Or USC and Texas both outside of the top 15?

Art Briles looks to be in line for his best recruiting class yet at Baylor.

As we point our attention towards the class of 2014, we take a look into the crystal ball and predict ten programs that will finish higher in the 2014 team rankings than they finished in the 2013 cycle.

Teams are listed in order of their 2013 finish. All rankings reference the 247Composite team rankings.

UCLA

2013 ranking: No. 9

Reason for optimism: It’s hard to deny that the USC and UCLA programs look to be heading in opposite directions. Not only did UCLA beat the Trojans on the field in 2012, but a late 2013 surge in recruiting supplanted the Trojans as the top recruiting class in the Pac-12. Suddenly after a coaching staff overhaul at USC, the Bruins are the most stable program in Los Angeles and whoever wins LA, wins the Pac-12 in recruiting. Even with a top 10 finish in 2013, UCLA hasn’t reached its ceiling.

Baylor

2013 ranking: No. 27

Reason for optimism: Art Briles is proving that the Baylor program is more than just RG3. The program has maintained sustained success on the field and it is beginning to carry over into recruiting. In each of the past two signing classes, Baylor has landed one five-star prospect. Already for 2014, two four-stars are committed and one of the fastest players in the state in Chris Platt is commit No. 3. With Baylor also sitting in a strong position for Top100 wide receiver KD Cannon, this could be the year that Baylor lands one of its all-time great recruiting classes.

Denzel Ware's recent Kentucky commitment was a shot across the bow to the SEC.

Vanderbilt

2013 ranking: No. 30

Reason for optimism: James Franklin has landed two of the best recruiting classes in the history of Vanderbilt football over the last two seasons. What’s amazing is that the bulk of that recruitment came off of nothing more than a promise of what’s to come. Just imagine what he’ll be able to do in 2014 when instead of a promise, Franklin will have the longest win streak in the SEC and a coaching staff fully intact from Vanderbilt’s winningest season in almost a century. Even with a small class in 2014, expect that ranking to improve significantly.

Kentucky

2013 ranking: No. 36

Reason for optimism: It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Mark Stoops improving the recruiting situation in Lexington. All you have to do is look at what he’s already done in a short period of time. After a strong close that included the signing of in-state standout and former USC commit Jason Hatcher, Stoops has jumped out to a fast start in 2014 with the commitment of Top100 defender Denzel Ware. The Kentucky coaching staff’s mix of Florida and Ohio roots looks to be the perfect combination for recruiting success at Kentucky.

TCU

2013 ranking: No. 40

Reason for optimism: TCU is no longer the mid-major spoiler turning three-stars into giant killers. The Horned Frogs are a Big 12 member now and we expect they’ll recruit in kind for the class of 2014. Already Gary Patterson has landed an early commit from talented cornerback Nick Foster out of Keller (Texas) Fossil Ridge and there is more to come.

Louisville

2013 ranking: No. 42

Reason for optimism: There was a common sentiment among Louisville targets in the 2013 class following the Cardinals’ dismantling of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Numerous major prospects took notice but at that late point in the recruiting process, Louisville couldn’t get the four-stars and five-stars turned. With a bigger class in 2014 and an entire year to show that Sugar Bowl film, Charlie Strong will do some serious damage over the next several months on the recruiting trail.

South Florida

2013 ranking: No. 54

Reason for optimism: Willie Taggart took a lifeless Western Kentucky program and immediately began to recruit it to a Sun Belt contender. With the staff that has been assembled at South Florida and with access to significantly more talent geographically, the task should be even easier his second time around.

Stanford

2013 ranking: No. 63

Reason for optimism: Stanford’s 2013 class really shouldn’t give much reason for pessimism from Cardinal fans. With only 12 signees, the ranking can be misleading and a bigger class in 2014 alone should significantly improve that No. 63 ranking. Any thought that Stanford was a Harbaugh-Luck, flash-in-the-pan success story was turned on its head with the 2012 season’s success and that should mean a significant rise in the recruiting rankings.

Louisiana Tech

2013 ranking: No. 84

Reason for optimism: The hiring of Skip Holtz was criticized by many but no one criticized one of Holtz’s first hires. Jabbar Juluke, former head coach at New Orleans’ Edna Karr High School has taken over as running backs coach for Holtz and he should pay immediate dividends on the recruiting trail. All Louisiana Tech needs to do is recruit the LSU scraps effectively in the state of Louisiana and they’ll be well above that 84 ranking this time next year. With the hiring of Juluke, Holtz has proven that he understands that.

Western Kentucky

2013 ranking: No. 95

Reason for optimism: At No. 95, Western Kentucky doesn’t have anywhere to go but up and with the most recognizable name in the country among non-BCS coaches in Bobby Petrino, there’s plenty of reason to expect the 2014 recruiting class will respond. 2013 featured a lot of need-filling by Petrino out of the JUCO ranks. 2014 should see him with the time and ability to chase some bigger names and significantly improve that modest class rank.

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