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June 27, 2013

Team recruiting rankings stock market watch

RECRUITING NEEDS: Filling holes | Work to do

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The season for coming to premature conclusions in sports is summer.

The time between spring and fall practice creates too big a gap to fill with logic, and the dog days drag on with idle chatter.

Rivals.com used the previous two days to sift through the conferences and break down the current recruiting classes into two groups: Those that were best meeting recruiting needs, and those that had yet to add the key commitments that were needed.

Today we take a look at what the final recruiting rankings could look like some seven-plus months before National Signing Day.

In an effort to widen the scope, programs that have had multiple Top 10 finishes over the past four recruiting classes -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, UCLA, and USC -- have been eliminated from this stock watch, but each has proven that it will play a major role in the final Top 25 recruiting rankings.

What has happened to date: The Aggies have continued to capitalize on all of the positive momentum and attention being paid to the program, which in return has led to the No. 11 recruiting class in 2013. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have proven capable of putting together a solid message to recruits, as well as a winning product on the field. The current class has moved into the No. 4 spot in the national recruiting rankings and has the third-best ranking-per-recruit average of teams inside the Top 10.

Outlook: The average ranking category is often a good indication for the long-term viability of a class, with Texas A&M trailing only Notre Dame and Alabama in that metric. With only 14 commitments and a rankings system that accounts for the top 20 players per class, it is likely that the class becomes more impressive as Zach Ledwik -- the lone two-star in the group -- will not factor into the points scale. The next round of evaluations could be good for the program as the Rivals.com's team of analysts will be discussing moving Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen to a five-star -- if not the top quarterback in the country -- based on his performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour. If Allen does climb to that top spot, then it will add bonus points to the scoring system automatically. The Aggies still have nearly 30 offers extended to players who are rated as four-stars or higher, and while there are varying levels of interest for each prospect, it is likely they will add at least three or more four-star prospects to this class.

Quotable: "Texas A&M has always been a good recruiting program and the Aggies have had some hot starts before, but this is different. In a way, Texas A&M has become the Alabama of that state and it is the offer that every kid wants, passing Texas for that distinction. I think that they will have a solid season and close out strong again and that is important. The SEC is a different animal and you are only as good as your last season, so to continue being the 'it' team in the state, the results will have to match the hype."
-- Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell.

What has happened to date: The ability to get players into the NFL has certainly helped Baylor's recruiting effort. The coaching staff is taking advantage of a lot of positive press to compete with TCU, Texas Tech, and many others in the conference for legitimate prospects instead of hoping to clean up late in the game. The current class already has 19 commitments and is inside the Top 15 nationally, featuring three players listed as four-stars. Surprisingly, the highest-rated players in the class are on defense, which could provide for program growth as the Bears' offense has been hard to slow down.

Outlook: This class is nearly complete, so as long as Baylor fends off poachers, the Bears should be in good shape. The problem with that stability is there is likely nowhere for this group to go but down in the national rankings. Baylor has 1,249 points and a 2.68 ranking-per-recruit, so if that is extended to National Signing Day, it means that the program is likely to slide into the 50-60 range. By comparison, the class of 2013 averaged a 2.95 and finished No. 31 nationally, while also receiving a boost from multiple four-star commits later in the year. If those spots are not available, the slow drop toward the middle of the pack is expected.

Quotable: "Considering that the program has to deal with Texas and Texas A&M getting pretty much whoever they want in the state, and also having to battle with Texas Tech having a new, cool coach, it is impressive what Baylor is doing right now -- but it is success in a vacuum. Baylor already has 19 commits and is moving up the national rankings based on raw numbers, not because of a stellar class. I don't know if there is much more that they can expect to add to boost the point total and I don't think Baylor will be in that top 20 for very long."
-- Mike Farrell.

What has happened to date: As a day trader, the Pitt recruiting class would have been a major buy over the two weeks as 11 of the 12 commitments came between June 14-22. For the long-term investor, all that happened was the needle moved from a market bottom back toward its natural trend. Pitt currently has the No. 34 class in the Rivals.com national rankings after its recent flurry of activity, but still maintains just a 2.58 ranking-per-recruit. The cumulative average for Pitt from the class of 2005 through the current commitment is 36, which makes its slot exactly where it figures to be.

Outlook: With 12 commitments already on board, there is room for this class to go either way. However, the safe bet is that the program will finish in the same neighborhood that it always does. The highest-ranked prospect in the group is four-star offensive lineman Mike Grimm from Bethel Park (Pa.), but his performance at the Rivals Camp Series stop at Montour (Pa.) High was not what was expected. That makes people wonder whether he will keep his current status. The four top-ranked players in the state are still uncommitted and three are from the Western half of the state, which could play in the favor of the Panthers. If the staff is able to pull a major victory by keeping Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway defensive back Montae Nicholson close to home, it would go a long way toward creating upward movement. The No. 127 player in the Rivals250 said that he was only ready to cut his list to 15 teams, so the road to the finish line is a long one.

Quotable: "Pitt really was expected to get a pop from its move to the ACC but that really hasn't happened. The Big East was such an anchor that the program freed itself from, but I don't think it is has capitalized. Ultimately, though, this is more of a reflection of the leadership. Paul Chryst was a big part of the recruiting style at Wisconsin and those guys looked for players that fit the system and players that they could coach and develop. Wisconsin was never in the Top 25 for recruiting but it was always in the Rose Bowl. I think that Pitt could turn into that type of program under Chryst -- without major recruiting wins but a lot of victories on the field."
-- Mike Farrell.

What has happened to date: Not too much, and that is the concern. Purdue has just five commitments, and even with three of them coming in the past 10 days, there is little positive momentum. The highest-rated prospect is offensive lineman Denzel Ward from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. The 6-foot-9, 285-pound prospect is not ranked in the Top 100 players from the state of Florida. The program is only ranked ahead of Oregon State and Wake Forest among programs in the major five conferences, and it is a slim lead, despite having two more commitments than each of those two schools. The 2.4 ranking-per-recruit puts the program behind Temple, Arkansas State, and Colorado State -- all teams that have finished lower than 100 nationally in the last five years.

Outlook: Using history as a guide, the odds are that Purdue will bounce back and finish with a level of measured success. The program has had a ranking-per-recruit score over 2.6 each of the past four classes and pushed to No. 33 nationally with a 3.00 ranking-per-recruit in the class of 2012. Purdue has always had to deal with Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State taking the majority of the best players, but now it is also fighting off Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky for players in its region. Having a new coach in Darrell Hazell provides for some intrigue, but it also adds to the worry.

Quotable: "There are some teams with fewer commitments but we know what they will do. Washington will close strong. Oregon State will get its pieces, and so on, but we don't really have a handle on Purdue right now. The number of commitments isn't really that big of a concern because it is so early, but what is more worrisome is that message isn't really out there. Kids really aren't talking about Purdue. When the talk isn't happening, it is usually a bad sign."
-- Mike Farrell.

What has happened to date: Like many in the Pac-12, Arizona State is slow out of the gate. The program only has four commitments and its highest is a three-star quarterback from Novato (Calif.) San Marin in 6-foot-3, 185-pound Manny Wilkins. The program lost out on the top-ranked player in the state when Kyle Allen chose Texas A&M, but only three other players inside the Top 20 of the state have made their college choice known.

Outlook: Arizona State is actually tied with Purdue right now at No. 78 in the national rankings, but the Sun Devils have a much better shot at moving up. One of the major additions for the Sun Devils is transfer Christian Westerman. Westerman was the highest ranked player from Arizona in the class of 2011 and chose to go to Auburn before returning home. Both in-state programs have a well-documented history of not landing the top players from the state, but having Westerman choosing to return could provide a boost to recruiting. If Westerman is enjoying his time on campus and the program is winning, it could help in landing his former teammates Casey Tucker and Qualen Cunningham -- who have both said that ASU is in their final two choices -- and are both four-star prospects. Additionally, Tyler Whiley, Ismael Murphy-Richardson, and J.T. Gray have said they are seriously considering the program.

Quotable: "This is the most talented group of kids in the state in at least the last decade and the time to take advantage of that is right now. What needs to happen to start getting those players to actually choose Arizona State is for the program to win and become a hot name. Oregon, Boise State, and UCLA have come into Arizona each of the last few years as the hot program and got kids out of there, but with a big season, I think ASU could keep them. Winning has to happen so that there is a buzz and kids want to stay there, otherwise it won't happen. If ASU is able to land half of that top 10 and pull some kids out of California like it usually does, then there is no reason why this class wouldn't be in the Top 25."
-- Mike Farrell.

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