UF, USC roll; Signing Day Superlatives (cont.)
Don't go pushing buttons just yet, Seantrel. There will be plenty of others who have a say in that --- including the Gators' and Trojans' chief rivals.
Meyer and Kiffin certainly deserve proper due for their spoils (especially considering one semi-resigned in the middle of it and the other got a late start), but they already had more to sell than most. Tennessee and UCLA, though, were two of Wednesday's more surprising victors.
Dooley arrived in Knoxville on Jan. 16 in the wake of fans rioting in the streets following Kiffin's abrupt departure and a group of jilted early enrollees being pulled in two directions. Two-and-a-half weeks later, he landed a top 10 class.
"What he accomplished is pretty darn extraordinary," said Rivals.com analyst Jamie Newberg. "They filled needs, got big time players, kept early enrollees there. It's one of the most impressive things this entire recruiting season."
Dooley not only retained all eight committed players already on campus when he arrived, he added a slew of players previously thought to be headed elsewhere -- five-star receiver Rogers (a longstanding Georgia commit) and quarterback Nash Nance (Vanderbilt), high school teammates from Calhoun, Ga., joined the fold, as did four-star receiver Justin Hunter, four-star DB Eddrick Loften and four-star guard James Stone, who spurned national champion Alabama.
If Dooley can pull that off in less than three weeks, what might he accomplish over the next three years?
"It was an easy sell," said the former Louisiana Tech coach. "All I had to do was make them feel confident about the direction of the program."
UCLA's Neuheisel has been on the job two years longer, during which time the Bruins have gone just 11-14 -- but you'd never know it by the deluge of youngsters donning UCLA caps Wednesday. Within the span of about two hours, the Bruins landed Portland, Ore. defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Rivals' No. 8 overall prospect (who many expected to sign with Nebraska); four-star receiver Anthony Jefferson; four-star linebacker Josh Shirley and four-star safety Riley.
It was arguably the strongest finish of any team in the country, lifting UCLA to a top 10 class and putting the Bruins in better position to "end the football monopoly" in L.A., as Neuheisel famously pledged upon his arrival.
"The USC and UCLA programs as they exist now are not very friendly [toward each other]," said Wallace. "UCLA is doing a very good job of taking USC head on. They're taking recruits away from USC for the first time in a while."
Even then, it's no certainty that we're even talking about the strongest programs going forward within their own conferences.
As always, the SEC dominated the recruiting rankings, landing four of Rivals.com's top six classes. Auburn added to what was already one of the most remarkable classes of the season by staving off Miami and Alabama to retain five-star tackle Shon Coleman while adding four-star defensive back Corey Lemonier. LSU closed in typical LSU fashion, stealing four-star defensive end J.C. Copeland from Tennessee, beating Miami and others for four-star defensive tackle Ego Ferguson and adding four-star Florida receiver Kadron Boone.
But we've come to expect late pushes from the SEC's recruiting juggernauts. What we don't necessarily expect is to see four Pac-10 teams (USC, UCLA, Cal and Oregon) in Rivals' top 15, with Scout.com listing Washington just outside the top 10.
Jeff Tedford's Cal team pulled an 11th hour stunner by luring Rivals.com's No. 5 overall prospect, defensive back Keenan Allen, a former Alabama commit. Allen wanted to join his brother, quarterback Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo. And along with them came Allen's Greensboro teammate, four-star LB Chris McCain; and former North Carolina buddy and four-star defensive end Gabe King, since relocated to Eugene, Ore.
Cal had previously landed five-star defensive end Chris Martin from Aurora, Colo. Not bad for a Poinsettia Bowl team.
"[Allen] is a huge get for Tedford," said Newberg. "You could make a case for him as the top prospect in the country. He's an Eric Berry type."
While USC landed its customary star-studded class, its ascension back to the top of the Pac-10 no longer seems as certain as it did under Carroll. Kiffin is walking into a much tougher conference than the one he left in 2006, just as Meyer's SEC competition isn't getting any easier.
So which will it be? Is the continued dominance of Florida and USC predetermined? Or can suddenly renewed figures like Auburn and Tennessee, Cal or UCLA, change the coming course of history?
Check back in three or four years to find out.
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