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Where did these guys come from?

One of the more common criticisms of ranking college football recruiting classes is that you will find the same programs, cycle after cycle, ranked high nationally. With eight months to go in 2014, that scenario may very well play out when all is said and done. But at the moment, there are several programs littering the top 50 in the 247Sports team rankings, that were not expected to be assembling such highly-regarded classes.

Charlie Strong and his staff have recruited Florida quite well during his time at Louisville. The Cardinals have eight commits from the Sunshine State in the 2014 cycle and the No. 16 class nationally.

247Sports Team Rankings
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247Composite Rankings

There are programs who have not normally graced the top 50 of any recruiting class rank, programs who are led by first-year coaches who are burning up the road in recruiting in an attempt to infuse talent on their roster and also some programs like Baylor and Louisville, who have been very good of late (both recruiting and on the field), but who are taking it to the next level under coaches that are moving from “doing an excellent job” status to “among the country’s best” status. 

Here are seven that stand out...


National Rank- No. 4
Conference Rank- No. 2
Top recruit- Jalen Hurd, RB, Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech, No. 3 running back nationally per 247Composite
Top recruiter- Mark Elder, tight ends coach, No. 17 recruiter nationally
Overview- Under first-year head coach Butch Jones and staff, the Vols have used a combination of working in-state connections to land elite Tennessee talent (Hurd and Todd Kelly) and also showed improved reach (nine states represented) in assembling what has at times been ranked as the No. 1 class in the country. The way to turn Tennessee football around is to improve its roster, which has slowly eroded since the Phillip Fulmer era. Jones and staff are off to a great start doing that.


National Rank- No. 5
Conference Rank- No. 3
Top recruit- Denzel Ware, DE, Crestview (Fla.), No. 5 weakside defensive end nationally per 247Composite
Top recruiter- Vince Marrow, tight ends coach, No. 9 recruiter nationally
Overview- The Wildcats have been the biggest surprise of the 2014 cycle to date and one of the big reasons has been Marrow’s ability to corral Ohio talent. Eight of the 15 prospects currently committed to UK are from the Buckeye State (including four-star defensive back Darius West)- all Marrow commits. When Mark Stoops was hired in Lexington, his recruiting connections in Ohio and Florida were cited as a major positive. Thus far, that has proven true.


National Rank- No. 8
Conference Rank- No. 2
Top recruit- Davion Hall, S, Texarkana (Texas) Liberty-Eylau, No. 6 safety nationally per 247Composite
Top recruiter- Kendal Briles, recruiting coordinator/receivers coach, No. 17 recruiter nationally.
Overview- It should not come as a surprise that the Bears have a top 10 class. This entire athletics program has risen from the ashes and in football, momentum has never been higher. Baylor has 19 verbal commits, which is at or near the top of the country. In addition to Hall, Terence Williams, T’Kevian Rockwell and Ishmael Zamora all are big gets. Elite wide receiver KD Cannon also is said to be a Baylor lean. Texas teams like to do it with Texas talent and all 19 commits are products of the Lone Star State.

FIve-star running back Jalen Hurd was one of the biggest early recrutiing battles Butch Jones and staff has won during his short tenure at Tennessee.


National Rank- No. 16
Conference Rank- No. 1
Top recruit- Isaiah Ford, WR, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, No. 49 receiver nationally in the 247Composite.
Top recruiter- Ron Dugans, wide receivers coach, No. 29 recruiter nationally.
Overview- Talk about an athletics program with momentum- there is none greater than Louisville given the Cardinals success on the gridiron, basketball court and baseball diamond this past academic year. Football recruiting is going quite well, too. In addition to Ford, Michael Johnson, De’Eric Culver and Detric Dukes are steals from the Southeast while Louisville Trinity’s Reggie Bonnafon, regardless of if he plays quarterback or not, is a potential special player in college. Dugans has seven of the Cardinals’ 15 commits. Eight Floridians are represented in the class to date, a trademark of the Charlie Strong era.


National Rank- No. 19
Conference Rank- No. 4
Top recruit- Justin Jackson, RB, Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North, No. 2 all-purpose back nationally according to 247Composite.
Top recruiter- Matt MacPherson, running backs coach, No. 31 recruiter nationally.
Overview- The Wildcats have put together quite a class with the crown jewels being speedy playmakers Jackson and four-star Ohio athlete Dareian Watkins, along with fast-rising quarterback Clayton Thorson. Seven different states are represented in the class, which is a positive sign as Northwestern must recruit nationally to a certain extent. Pat Fitzgerald is well on his way to assembling a consistently formidable program from a talent/roster standpoint at his alma mater.

Boston College

National Rank- No. 21
Conference Rank- No. 4
Top recruit- Connor Strachan, LB, Needham (Mass.) St. Sebastian’s, No. 15 inside linebacker nationally per 247Composite.
Top recruiter- Ryan Day, offensive coordinator, No. 67 recruiter nationally.
Overview- As is the case with the Vols and Kentucky, Boston College also has a first-year coaching staff that is doing an excellent job of assembling athletic potential. Athlete Thaddius Smith is a speedy playmaker out of Pennsylvania, Delaware quarterback Darius Wade is a consistent passer with upside and one third of the class of 15 current commits is made up of in-state (Massachusetts) talent.

Texas Tech

National Rank- No. 21
Conference Rank- No. 3
Top recruit- Patrick Mahomes, QB, Whitehouse (Texas), No. 19 pro-style quarterback nationally per 247Composite.
Top recruiter- Sonny Cumbie, wide receivers coach, No. 35 recruiter nationally.
Overview- Red Raiders fans were a bit concerned last season when first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and staff did not finish with a bang on the recruiting trail. Those concerns have subsided as Texas Tech has assembled 13 commits that are (no surprise) heavy on talented skill players. Derrick Neal is a prospect our analysts at 247Sports love- he’s an explosive playmaker from Dallas Lincoln. Five prospects ranked among the top 100 in the state of Texas by 247Composite are included in 10 Lone Star State pledges.


Here are five more classes, which have an impressive rank to this point in the cycle, all things considered...

Duke- No. 28 nationally- David Cutcliffe and staff have recruited quite well at the skill positions during their time in Durham, but this class has several promising offensive line prospects at present.

N.C. State-No. 31 nationally- Another first-year staff that is getting it done early, seven of the 11 commits are in-state.

Western Michigan- No. 34 nationally- Quarterback Chance Stewart and offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor could easily play in the Big Ten or another FBS conference.

San Diego State- No. 38 nationally - The Aztecs staff has put together quite an early collection, especially impressive is having the foresight to go to Troup County, Ga., and offer athlete Daryl Dunlap.

Rice- No. 44 nationally- The Owls have 10 solid verbals thus far, including twin playmakers Austin Walter and Aston Walter from Crosby, Texas. 

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