Posted: Tuesday February 7, 2012 12:04PM ; Updated: Wednesday February 8, 2012 5:59PM
Ben Glicksman
Ben Glicksman>INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Recruiting report card: Grading how new coaching hires fared

Story Highlights

UCLA coach Jim Mora shocked many doubters by landing a great recruiting class

Larry Fedora brought talent to UNC despite the threat of NCAA sanctions

Rich Rodriguez got a jump start on other new hires, but failed to execute

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Despite being an NFL lifer, Jim Mora showed great recruiting chops in helping UCLA land the nation's No. 12 class.
Despite being an NFL lifer, Jim Mora showed great recruiting chops in helping UCLA land the nation's No. 12 class.
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Three weeks ago, SI.com's Stewart Mandel graded college football's coaching hires, assessing how schools strengthened or weakened their transitioning programs. Ohio State earned high marks, Kansas failed.

With nearly seven months remaining until kickoff, it's far too early to alter those preliminary judgments. But with National Signing Day in the books, so too is the first test for each regime. Following Mandel's model, here's a recruiting report card for the newly hired BCS coaches.

Ohio State's Urban Meyer: A+. Meyer has been nothing short of exceptional during his two-month tenure in Columbus, wooing high school prospects and infuriating Big Ten rivals. Since Meyer's Nov. 28 introduction, the Buckeyes landed 10 recruits (nine ranked four-stars or better), and turned an area of weakness into an area of strength. In 2011, the Buckeyes averaged just 1.77 sacks per game, 72nd nationally. In 2012, blue-chip defensive linemen Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Se'Von Pittman and Tommy Schutt will enter the fold. Expect a rapid turnaround.

UCLA's Jim Mora: A. Despite NFL lifers' historical proclivity for flailing in recruiting circles (see: Gailey, Chan), Mora has thrived since taking the reins Dec. 13. The Bruins landed the No. 12 class in the nation (they ranked No. 44 in 2011), and half of that haul committed after Mora's hiring. Among the headliners: U.S. Army All-Americans quarterback Devin Fuller, defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy and wide receiver Jordan Payton -- the latter two of whom flipped from Pac-12 rivals on or before Signing Day.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin: A-. If Sumlin does intend to bring his pass-first attack to the traditionally ground-and-pound SEC, he now has the weapons to do so. Wide receivers Thomas Johnson (a former Texas pledge), Edward Pope, Sabian Holmes and Derel Walker all committed after Sumlin was hired, and quarterback Matt Davis, a four-star dual-threat out of Houston, stuck with the Aggies. Then there's Trey Williams, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound running back who rushed for 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior, posting even better numbers than fellow Texas phenom Johnathan Gray. Williams should be the centerpiece of Sumlin's offense of the future.

Arizona State's Todd Graham: B+. How's this for a stunner? Not only did Graham finagle his way out of Pittsburgh following one disappointing 6-6 season, but he also managed to attract some of the nation's premier recruits to join him in Tempe. Saguaro, Ariz., athlete D.J. Foster, Rivals' No. 71 recruit, accumulated 3,058 rushing yards and 60 touchdowns as a senior, while Marion Grice, Rivals' top-ranked JUCO running back out of Blinn College (Cam Newton's former school), earned NJCAA All-America honors. Both should serve as key cogs in the Sun Devils' soon-to-be high-octane attack.

North Carolina's Larry Fedora: B+. Despite the looming threat of NCAA sanctions, and despite fronting a team coming off a subpar season in a second-tier BCS league, Fedora did an admirable job of bringing talent to Chapel Hill. He signed his aerial tandem of the future in quarterback James Summers (a four-star former N.C. State commit) and wideout Quinshad Davis (South Carolina's Gatorade Player of the Year) and locked up eight three- or four-star prospects since taking over Dec. 8. Though the class isn't huge (23 recruits), it's quality. The Tar Heels' 3.04 average star rating, according to Rivals, ranks 30th nationally.

Washington State's Mike Leach: B. Since Rivals began keeping track in 2002, Washington State has landed a top 50 recruiting class just once (No. 24 in 2004). It's no small feat, then, that Leach signed 12 three- and four-star prospects following his Nov. 30 introduction. He even convinced wide receiver Gabriel Marks, Rivals' No. 87 recruit in 2012, to come to Pullman. Consider the 6-foot, 175-pounder the first piece of a budding Pac-12 offensive power.

Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst: B-. Chryst didn't stock up on talent -- adding just six prospects, headlined by four-star linebacker Deaysean Rippy, since his Dec. 22 hiring -- but he kept all of Pitt's top recruits from jumping ship. Offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty, quarterback Chad Voytik and, most importantly, Aliquippa, Pa., running back Rushel Shell (the all-time WPIAL rushing leader with 9,078 yards), all signed their letters of intent to play for the Panthers.

Kansas' Charlie Weis: C+. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. At least, that appears to be Charlie Weis' mantra. Though the newly christened Jayhawks' frontman failed to sign prominent high school talent -- his top-ranked recruit, three-star linebacker Schyler Miles, might be best known for being USC commit Nelson Agholor's teammate -- he did attract some big-name transfers. Notre Dame's Dayne Crist (who can play immediately), BYU's Jake Heaps and Oklahoma's Justin McCay are all headed to Lawrence.

Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze: C. Freeze attracted a pair of four-star talents, defensive end Channing Ward (Rivals' No. 51 recruit) and running back I'Tavius Mathers, but otherwise couldn't overcome his late start and Ole Miss' superior conference competition. After recording a top 20 class in each of the last three seasons, the Rebels finished with Rivals' No. 43 crop in 2012, besting only Kentucky in the perennially loaded SEC.

Illinois' Tim Beckman: C-. Illinois lacks the clout of many programs on this list, but Beckman finished with just 19 recruits (average star rating of 2.74). The top-ranked prospect of the bunch, three-star running back Dami Ayoola, is Rivals' No. 59 prospect in the state of Florida. It's a bit of a letdown after the Illini signed 28 recruits (average star rating of 2.86) in 2011.

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez: D. Despite being hired Nov. 22 (earlier than every other coach on this list), Rodriguez wasn't able to sign even one four- or five-star recruit. And he missed on some big names. Fuller -- a seemingly perfect candidate to serve as RichRod's West Coast Denard Robinson -- spurned the Wildcats in favor of UCLA. That's especially brutal given the Bruins already had T.J. Millweard, a three-star pro-style quarterback out of Fort Worth, in their class.

Penn State's Bill O'Brien: F. To be fair, this is more a reflection of the program's shortcomings than O'Brien's. But landing 19 recruits, only two with a four-star rating, leaves a lot to be desired, particularly considering the heralded hauls by Ohio State and Michigan. West Roxbury, Mass., teammates Camren Williams and Armani Reeves were formerly committed to the Nittany Lions, but flipped to the Buckeyes before Signing Day. Their decisions cap a season Happy Valley would soon like to forget.

Other high marks

Houston's Tony Levine: A. If nothing else, Levine deserves high praise for flipping wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, Rivals' No. 49 recruit, from Notre Dame. Greenberry hauled in 105 receptions for 2,108 yards and 32 scores as a senior and immediately becomes the highest-ranked prospect the Cougars have ever pulled. That's quite a statement for Levine, and a ringing endorsement for future recruiting success.

Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn: A. The former Auburn offensive mastermind did wonders at Arkansas State, landing 21 of the Red Wolves' 28 commits following his Dec. 14 hire. The haul includes 16 three-star recruits and dynamic quarterback Fredi Knighten, who accumulated 3,920 passing yards, 824 rushing yards and 72 touchdowns as a senior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock. That's quite a coup in the Sun Belt.

Washington assistant Tosh Lupoi: A. Not only did Washington experience a recruiting boon after acquiring Lupoi in late January, but rival Cal suffered a colossal drop-off. The Huskies added five-star safety Shaq Thompson, four-star athlete Jaydon Mickens and four-star defensive end Pio Vatuvei, among others, while the Golden Bears lost Thompson, defensive end McCarthy and wide receiver Payton. It all but solidifies Lupoi's reputation as one of the nation's most influential assistant coaches.

 
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