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February 9, 2008

Who had the most surprising recruiting class?

Today, we introduce a new offseason feature - Rivals.com's College Football Roundtable.

At the Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a specific topic from the past week in college football. We expect the opinions to vary widely and perhaps even wildly.

Which school's recruiting class surprised you the most (good or bad) this year?
Olin Buchanan, Rivals.com Senior Writer: Kansas State
Junior college players certainly can provide a quick fix for a program in need, but Kansas State seems to have gone to extreme measures by signing 19 of them in a 26-player class.

No doubt the Wildcats need some fixing after going 5-7 last season. That disappointing season apparently compromised coach Ron Prince's job security, and it seems he feels doesn't have the luxury of developing players.

Prince pointed out that previous coach Bill Snyder used junior college players to build the Kansas State program into a national power and noted that 11 years ago, the Wildcats went 11-1 after signing a 12 juco players, including quarterback Michael Bishop.

But what if that was just an unusual class? There is no guarantee of duplicating the success of a decade ago.

Give Prince the benefit of the doubt. By next December, he may look shrewd and have the Wildcats in the Big 12 championship picture. But if they falter, the future will have been mortgaged and Prince's position figures to be even more precarious.
David Fox, Rivals.com Staff Writer: Miami
Miami didn't have a winning season nor the Orange Bowl mystique to sell to the class of 2008, but Randy Shannon and the Hurricanes ended National Signing Day with the nation's No. 4 class. It's the best class in Coral Gables since 2004 (a class headlined by disappointments like Lance Leggett and Willie Williams).

When Miami was struggling, other programs picked off players from Miami-Dade's rich talent base. Not this year. In building this class, the Hurricanes reconnected with "The State of Miami" recruiting plan that put them in the national elite in the 1980s. Miami signed 23 in-state players, 13 from Dade County alone. Shannon built a wall around south Florida, signing more Miami-Dade recruits in this class than the past three combined. He also kept Florida, Florida State, USF, Rutgers and Pittsburgh out; those schools signed a combined two recruits from the Miami area. Mythical national high school champion Miami Northwestern turned into a feeder school for UM. Shannon and linebacker coach Micheal Barrow signed eight players from Northwestern, including one five-star and six four-star recruits.

Miami has had a tough time on the field of late, but Shannon proved his head coaching mettle on the recruiting trail this season. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, Miami appears to be building the foundation to return to its glory days.
Mike Huguenin, Rivals.com College Sports Editor: Southern Miss
No, new coach Larry Fedora and his staff didn't reel in a top-20 class. However, they did bring in the best group of any non-"Big Six" program beating more than a few of those programs along the way. The Eagles signed a five-star wide receiver (DeAndre Brown, from Ocean Springs, Miss.) who was recruited by a who's-who of schools in the Southeast.

Think about that: A five-star player signs with Southern Miss.

On National Signing Day, Southern Miss got touted players who had been committed to Arkansas (CB Marcal Robinson) and Ole Miss (DB Bud Barksdale and OL Bo Tillman).

Fedora and his staff, particularly secondary coach Tony Hughes - who was hired by Fedora after the Ole Miss coaching staff was let go - were far more aggressive on the recruiting trail than predecessor Jeff Bower and his guys.

Where Bower's staff shined, though, was in player development. The new staff must prove it can do that. No question, though, that on paper, at least Fedora will have more to work with than Bower.
Steve Megargee, Rivals.com Staff Writer: Minnesota
It was surprising enough to see Notre Dame finish second and Miami fourth in the final recruiting rankings after losing seasons, but Minnesota's appearance in the top 20 was an even bigger stunner.

Minnesota lacks Notre Dame's tradition and doesn't have Miami's wealth of local talent. But in his first full recruiting season at Minnesota, coach Tim Brewster persuaded seven four-star prospects to sign with a team that won once last season.

The Gophers' 17th-place finish in the Rivals.com recruiting rankings is even more impressive when you realize that the state of Minnesota produced one five-star prospect (wide receiver Michael Floyd) and two four-star recruits (defensive end Willie Mobley and linebacker Sam Maresh). Maresh was the only player in that trio to stay at Minnesota Floyd signed with Notre Dame, and Mobley ended up at Ohio State but Brewster made up for the lack of home-grown talent by recruiting nationally.

Minnesota signed four-star prospects from California (cornerback Traye Simmons and athlete David Pittman), Illinois (wide receiver Brandon Green), New York (wide receiver Vincent Hill), Texas (safety Keanon Cooper) and Indiana (quarterback MarQueis Gray).

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