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February 6, 2010

Roundtable: Who surprised on Signing Day?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport. Here is this week's question:

Which school's recruiting class surprised you the most (good or bad) this year?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
California's 11th-place finish in the rankings is a big surprise considering the Bears' lackluster success in recent recruiting classes. This year's haul was Cal's highest-ranking class since 2005 -- and 31 places higher than last year's. Cal signed just one five-star prospect (DeSean Jackson in 2005) in the previous eight years combined, but nabbed two five-star recruits this year to join USC, Florida, Texas, Auburn and Florida State as the only programs to sign multiple five-star prospects. Further, both five-star prospects -- DE Chris Martin and S Keenan Allen -- were out-of-state recruits. Cal had to beat national champion Alabama for Allen, who is from North Carolina. The Bears signed four players ranked among the nation's top 38. Planned improvements and upgrades in facilities had to have helped. Still, that's absolutely amazing for a program that hasn't played in a big-time bowl in 50 years and is coming off a rather disappointing season.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I was surprised Florida had a class that some ranked as the best in the nation. I felt Urban Meyer's flip-flop on resigning, then coming back, would impact his ability to sew up a killer class of recruits. I believed rival coaches would use Meyer's health issues against Florida, telling recruits that they couldn't count on Meyer being their coach for the next four or five years. But the recruits must have been convinced that Meyer is in it for at least the near future.

David Fox's answer:
Considering UCLA hasn't won more than seven games since 2005, the Bruins' signing class shocked me. Rick Neuheisel landed a top-10 class, led by five-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. If not for USC, UCLA would have had the best finish in the Pac-10. The Bruins received commitments from five key prospects on National Signing Day. UCLA probably could have used more than three offensive linemen, but the Bruins signed six in the '09 class and signed two four-star prospects in this class. UCLA didn't sign a quarterback, but signed four in the previous two classes. Instead, the Bruins added other offensive skill-position players such as Malcolm Jones and Jordon James. Remember, this team had to wait for Army to lose to Navy before getting a bid to the EagleBank Bowl. This signing class means Neuheisel will be expected to challenge for Pac-10 titles, not EagleBank Bowl berths.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I was surprised by the relatively lackluster classes of Arkansas, Cincinnati, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State. But to me, the biggest surprise was the class reeled in by Tennessee. Had Lane Kiffin still been in Knoxville, a top-10 class wouldn't have been a surprise. But a top-10 class with Derek Dooley in place for less than a month? Impressive. Dooley did a nice job convincing Tennessee's eight early enrollees to stay the course, then reeled in some top-flight talent in the final days -- most notably WR Da'Rick Rogers, a former Georgia commitment who was the No. 1 player in Georgia. Dooley also nabbed Nashville offensive lineman James Stone in a battle with Alabama. Stone was relatively quiet throughout the process, but his high school coach said Stone wouldn't have signed with the Vols had Kiffin still been coach.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I figured Miami would get more recruiting momentum out of its 9-4 season, but the Hurricanes instead placed only 24th in the team rankings and didn't sign a single five-star prospect. The most surprising aspect of Miami's class is its lack of south Florida flavor. When Miami landed the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class two years ago, 19 of its 33 recruits came from Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties. This year, 27 five-star and four-star prospects came from those three counties. Miami signed two of them -- RB Eduardo Clements of Miami Booker T. Washington (No. 26) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas OL Brandon Linder (No. 32).

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