National Signing Day 2014 has came, conquered, left grown men crying in the corner of their rooms from exhaustion, and went. So, now it's time to start examining what all these new faces mean. Not just on a team by team basis, but also on a conference perspective.
One way to make sense of stuff like recruiting classes, is to think of them as a competition, a race if you will. All races, or football seasons, have final standings, and so that's what we're here to do today, break down the MAC football standings, and see how the classes stack up. Rather than trying to achieve all of that in one mega post, we're doing several takes on the recruiting class rankings, starting with our own HUSTLE BELT MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL RECRUITING POWER RANKINGS!
*A little disclaimer: I'm not using things such as Rivals, Scout or 247Sports recruiting class rankings right now, I'm going off our own recaps, and my judgements about these classes*
The Golden Flashes put together a decent sized recruiting class with 20 signees, but overall it feels underwhelming. There's a real lack of name power, which I understand is a slightly ridiculous thing to say considering this is MAC recruiting, but if you actually follow MAC recruiting, it feels like a forced class. There are a lot of unknowns; players who could be good, but we just don't know anything about. While we've seen time and time again where a low-ranked player goes on to do great things in the MAC, we hardly ever say it about an UNRANKED player, and there's just too many of those in this class.
CMU's class is another interesting one to look at. The Chippewas class isn't awful, really no class was, but I wouldn't call it a good one either. Central signed 17, almost all of which are 2-Stars. So it's not that their aren't talented players here, but it would have been nice to see a few more talented players. Cooper Rush is CMU's quarterback, but would have going after a solid 3-Star option back there as well? The Chips did sign a 2-Star dual-threat QB in Zach Oakley, but with Alex Niznak leaving (which I'm sure the coaches at least had an idea of since giving Rush the job in the fall) bringing in more competition can only help, not hurt, Rush.
The Chips did add one of the more intriguing athletic prospects in this class, a 6-foot-8, 3-star defensive end named Alex Neering, but again, a few more impact players are required to get CMU up higher.
Chuck Martin put together another class with a lot of bulk. At 26 players deep (if you include transfers) it's not small, and there are players who can come in and play right away, but it still feels underwhelming. There is an insane amount of tight ends in the class, some of whom will have to slide over and learn to play line, but that is part of my issue with this class. Why not just sign offensive lineman? Yes, Chuck Martin had limited time to work, and Don Treadwell did him no favors, but a more balanced class would have been nice to see for a team that can use a little bit of everything coming off an 0-12 season.
I could have listed 12, 11, 10 and 9 a staggered tie for ninth place, because in some ways I feel like that's what it is, but that's cheating. We don't cheat. So, at the risk of pissing some people off, I opted to go with a tie breaker by looking at the number of 3-star players signed. EMU's class isn't large. But it isn't small either; and considering my comments about Martin, what Creighton was able to do is a damn near miracle. He started with just four players, and was hired later than Martin, and still managed to sign some of Michigan's better talent. Ka'John Armstong and Kyle Rachwal are two high-end Michigan products that should come in and contribute early on, or at least push the people ahead of them. Both have fantastic upside as well.
There's also Shaq Vann and Kenny Jones, two top-level prospects from Indiana who can come in and help the Eagle's offense by providing it with some playmakers, which it sorely lacked in 2013. But, the class could have used some high-level talent on the defensive line. EMU gets a bump for what Creighton did in a short time, but the class is far from perfect.
Akron's class is a head-scratcher, that's for sure. With just 13 players signed to Letter's of Intent, its the smallest one in the MAC right now. But, Terry Bowden is no chump. Surely he has some mater plan at work that we just don't see yet. It could be that Akron, unlike most of the other schools on this list, isn't including graduate transfers. It could also be that it hasn't finalized those transfers yet. Either way, there will be more new faces than what we see listed now, but we have to wait and see. But still, even with it's small size, Bowden managed to pack in some impact players. I really like Anthony Clark, a big defensive end, who is also a local product and could help Bowden establish a better track record of brining in Northeastern Ohio players.
Chandler Kincade has the tools to develop into a good quarterback, and could provide some competition for Kyle Pohl in a year. Brock Bozen is another bid body on the defensive line, an area the Zips needed help at, that can make an impact early. Overall it's about as solid of a 13-man signing class as you can expect, and while having a few more players in the fold at this point would have been nice to see, the players there are a good mix of talent and potential, especially at areas Akron needed to add help.
Mark Whipple is another one of those coaches who had adverse circumstances surrounding the recruiting process, but managed to put together a good class nonetheless. UMass added a lot of depth on its defensive line, and four quarterbacks. That's right, FOUR OF THEM. For a school that has had so many issues under center, bringing in that much competition could be just what it needs. One of those four is a transfer from Marshall who may end up being the starter by the start of the 2014 season.
Whipple managed to pull in four 3-star players, including J.T. Blyden, a Top-50 running back. Whipple's class has more size than the likes of EMU, Akron and Central, while also bringing in more talent top-level MAC talent than Miami or Kent State. It's a great first class for the second Whipple era, and one the will hopefully allow the Minutemen to finally start making strides in the FBS.
PODCAST: Breaking Down National Signing Day
Alex and Bryan wrapped up National Signing Day with a a digest of the days news. The two break down the day from the biggest news and best classes, to the most disappointing signings of the day.
Before you pull out your pitchforks and raid my home, hear me out. Bowling Green being seventh isn't a knock on the Falcons class, so much as it is a testament to how good the next few classes are. The Falcons signed one the the MAC's top two, or three players in the 2014 class with Nilijah Ballew, a high 3-star safety that was once committed to Louisville. They also added Roger Lewis, a one-time 4-star WR who had legal issues and years past and had to put his college football dreams on hold. Lewis may very well be the best freshman in the MAC if he still holds the talent that once had him offers from Ohio State and other big time schools.
Cody Galloway is a nice 3-star dual-threat QB, and Clint Stephens give BGSU another WR option for Dino Baber's high-octane offense. But, there was a lack of overall 3-star caliber guys. Granted BG brings back a lot of talent. But on the defensive side of things, the Falcons are losing some long standing pieces, and with a MAC Championship in their pocket, it would have been nice to see another two or three players along the likes of Ballew and Lewis. If Babers can convert the offense with little hiccups and keep BG at the top of the MAC in 2014, his 2015 class should be loaded with athletes.
Again, 7-5 are incredibly close. The classes were all successful for various reasons, and in the end the real deciding factor is sheer size of the class. Ball State signed 19 to its 2014 class, two more than Bowling Green. Pete Lembo's class is actually an interesting one for the sheer number of athletes in it. I'm not talking about big guys, I mean actual players listed as athletes. The kind of signings who typically go on to become offensive weapons. Players with speed, hands, and vision, who can line up behind the quarterback, in the slot, or out wide.
The Cardinals signed seven of those type players in all, headlined by 3-star WR Jordan Hogue. In a few years time, these players could be the base of an insanely up-temp, whirlwind offense that would make anyone dizzy. But, it's also the less sexy players they signed that make this class stand out. The Cardinals went hard after Indian's top talent and it paid off. Kevin Willis, one of the states top offensive lineman, is a great grab for Ball State. David Morrison, a 3star QB out of Fort Wayne, Ind. is another great pickup. The Cardinals had one of the more balanced classes, getting a little something from everywhere, while still managing to focus hard on key positions. It's an impressive haul in what will likely be Lembo's last class in Muncie, Ind..
There's no denying that Ohio put together a fantastic class this season. They grabbed players from almost every position, including a punter and kicker. The 'Cats hauled in a 3-star quarterback who could develop into a fantastic multi-year starter with the signing of Joey Duckworth. Running back was a main focus, and Ohio nabbed three players with immense upside, led by a Canadian power back (Maleek Irons) with stats, size and speed that video game players dream of.
It was yet another great year of offensive line pickups for the Bobcats as well. Jared McCray and Joe Lowrey are high 3-star tackles. Brennan Dudziak, Jake Pruhes and Steve Langenkamp are are all slightly rougher prospects that make a solid 5-man offensive line class with good potential. Potentially the best singing of this class though it Mitch Bonnstetter, the punter. Ohio's special teams was painful to watch for most of 2013, especially the punting. Bonnstetter brings in a a powerful leg, with accuracy, and should make an immediate impact on Ohio's special teams.
Clearly linebacker was an area of key concern for Buffalo with its 2014 class. The Bulls not only went hard after the position, they owned by signing three 3-star linebacking prospects at the top of their class. Mix in a fourth linebacker, a 2-star from Rochester, New York, and it's clear Jeff Quinn meant business. William White and Gary Hosey, teammates from Cass Technical in Detroit, are fantastic grabs. As is Corey Henderson from King George, Virginia. The three could form a dominate linebacking corps here in the near future.
Elsewhere, Buffalo also signed a pair of quarterbacks. 3-star pro-style prospect Chris Merchant (a Canadian product) and 2-star dual-threat QB J.R. Zazzara (that name is fantastic, by the way). These two offer plenty to be excited over, and it's always nice to bring in quarterbacks of various styles to allow your offense some flexibility in the future. The Bull Run guys came away impressed with this class, and for good reason. It's solid from top to bottom. A running back or two would have been great additions, but weren't necessarily required. Unlike most of the MAC, this class was heavily defensive focused, which in itself sets the Bulls' class apart.
On our podcast I said NIU's class was my No. 2, but like the recruits themselves, I'm allowed to flip and flop. I've since re-examined the classes, and feel that the Huskies' 2014 haul is better suited for No. 3. With the largest class in the MAC (31), NIU landed one of he top recruits in the conference with 3-star CB Deion Hallmon, a player that had more than 40 FBS offers. The Huskies also signed 3-star CB Mayomi Olootu, another defensive back with great upside.
With a class this large, you're bound to have a little bit of everything, and NIU did just that. Landon Root, a 3-star quarterback, headlines a nice group of offensive players, that include an excellent offensive lineman in Shane Evans. Wide receiver and the secondary were the two main focuses, and NIU added plenty of players in both areas. I personally think Ezra Saffold can be a great future weapon in the Huskies offense.
For the first time in what feels like forever, Toledo didn't have the top recruiting class in 2014. It wasn't for a lack of effort. The Rockets signed 22 to a class that is widely considered the second best in the MAC. Per usual, Matt Campbell and the Rockets had great success getting players out of Florida, and signing wide receivers. Defense was a main focus with this class as well, and Toledo went hard after impact players at several defensive positions. The Rockets signed six defensive backs, led by 3-star safety Marcus Whitfield, and 3-star cornerback Dedric Brinson, both of whome can have immediate impacts, and should develop into fantastic players. Toledo also added five linebackers, headlined by the class's top recruit, high 3-star outside linebacker prospect Anthony Davis.
Seven three stars were signed this year, according to 247Sports. While the class lacked the one true gem that 2013 had (4-star WR Rodney Adams) it certainly doesn't lack in talent. There are some concerns about the lack of a quarterback and punter in this class. Surely had Toledo been able to keep 3-star QB Travis Smith, this class would have been a fantastic one, but it's still a class that in any other year would likely have finished tops in the MAC. Dav'ion Riley, Mykale Rogers and Jon Vae' Johnson can all make immediate impacts in the passing game.
There's also several players in the secondary who could make some kind of impact in 2014. Players such as Noah Speilman carry some name recognition (yes, he's the son of former Buckeye Chris Speilman) that Toledo fans have come to expect.
Well, P.J. Fleck did it. The Kalmazoo Magician rowed his boat to what is being heralded as the greatest signing class in MAC history, at least on paper. Fleck, as he said on Signing Day, went after Big 10 caliber recruits, and not only got them to commit to WMU, but got them to sign to the Brown and Gold. Sure, Western Michigan as awful in 2014, and a lot of that is on him, but Fleck made up for it with this class.
Sixteen 3-star recruits. Several players at the top of their states. WMU signed the No. 3 inside linebacker, the No. 5 wide receiver, the No. 12 inside linebacker, the No. 25 quarterback, the No. 34 safety, the No. 32 running back, the No. 58 defensive end, the Np. 64 tight end, and a top 70 offensive tackle that was receiving strong offers from schools such as Ohio State in the final days. Not a single one of his commits deflected on Signing Day. All told he signed 27, with another player opting to greyshirt for a season.
The names to look out for are endless. Lonnie Johnson, a 4-star safety on 247Sports, headlines this class and will undoubtedly play right away. Actually, don't be surprised to see 11 to 12 of these players starting for WMU next fall. Not just playing, actually starting. Chance Stewart will compete for the quarterback position. Javonte Seaburry and Jay Harris join a stable of receiving options that already features some of the best mid-major wide outs in the nation. Jamauri Bogan could wind up with the starting running back position. JaKevin Jackson will get time at outside linebacker, along with Nathan Braster at defensive end, Jason Sylva at middle backer and Kenny Finley at defensive tackle. These players came to WMU to help build something, and they're going to get the opportunity to contribute from day 1.
The Broncos you new in 2013 will look noticeably different in 2014, and it's because of this class. Talent issues are no longer an excuse. Fleck has the weapons. If he can win four or more games in 2014, he should be able to repeat this recruiting success and have WMU competing for MAC Championships by 2015. If not, this class could be a one-hit wonder. But honestly, there's no reason for WMU fans to feel pessimistic. Fleck talked the talk on the recruiting trail and backed it up. He's on another level in terms of MAC recruiting, that even Terry Bowden and Frank Solich, coaches who had immense success at powerhouse programs such as Auburn and Nebraska, can't compete with him on the recruiting trail. That's something to be incredibly proud of Broncos' fans.
Next up, we'll take a look at how the scouting sites rank these classes, and how they compare nationally.
- PODCAST: Breaking Down National Signing Day 2014
- Miami Signs 26 to 2014 Recruiting Class
- Ohio Gets Back To Its Roots, Sign 24 To 2014 Class
- UMass 2014 National Signing Day Recap
- Ball State Signs 19 To 2014 Recruiting Class
- EMU Adds 17 With Class of 2014
- Akron Hauls In Painfully Small 2014 Class
- NIU Huskies Announce Class of 31 For 2014
- Kent State Signs 20 To Class of 2014
- Toledo Rockets Sign 23 For Class of 2014