Recruiting report card: Grading how new coaches fared
The faxes are in and the ink is dry. The frenzy of National Signing Day is behind us, and it's time to evaluate which first-year coaches attracted the most talent to their respective new programs.
With the clock ticking, new coaches are thrown into an accelerated recruiting cycle, tasked with both locking up old commitments and actively pursuing new ones. Following the model of SI's Stewart Mandel, who last month graded this season's biggest hires, here is my recruiting report card for each of the new AQ-conference coaches' classes.
• Auburn's Gus Malzahn: A. Malzahn is hardly a new face in Auburn, having orchestrated the Tigers' BCS title run in 2010 as the offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik. But Malzahn recruited like he'd never left the SEC, hauling in a top-10 class after returning from a one-year stint at Arkansas State. Auburn inked perhaps the most impressive group of defensive linemen in the country -- headlined by five-star defensive end Carl Lawson --- after finishing 11th in the league in sacks (22) in 2012. Malzahn also brought in two talented quarterbacks, Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall, and a duo of four-star receivers, Earnest Robinson and Tony Stevens, to improve last season's sluggish passing attack.
• Kentucky's Mark Stoops: A. Despite its 0-8 conference record in 2012 and its history of subpar recruiting classes, Kentucky locked up an impressive crop of signees. Stoops managed to lure 6-foot-8, 270-pound defensive end Jason Hatcher away from USC, effectively putting a bow on the highest-rated Kentucky class in more than a decade. Four-star safety Marcus McWilson also added to the haul, and the Wildcats' class came in No. 28 in Rivals.com's final rankings; Kentucky finished no higher than 50th in any of the previous three cycles. It's too soon to tell if the program is primed for a renaissance under Stoops, but this freshman class will certainly be intriguing to watch.
• Tennessee's Butch Jones: B+. Stability has been an issue in Knoxville over the last four seasons, but Jones still managed to assemble a solid class in his first Signing Day with the Vols. The crown jewel is four-star wideout Marquez North, whose size (6-3, 205) could immediately bolster Tennessee's depleted receiving corps. Jones also convinced three-star quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a former Arizona State commit, to flip late in the process, giving the Vols a potential centerpiece to build around. The loss of five-star defensive back Vonn Bell to Ohio State hurts, but Jones deserves due credit for landing a top-20 class following a 5-7 season.
• Cal's Sonny Dykes: B+. The emphasis of Dykes' first recruiting class at Cal was clear: Thirteen of the Bears' 25 signees are offensive or defensive linemen. Those players will be especially key on defense as Dykes transitions to a 4-3 scheme in Berkeley. The coach also signed four-star quarterback Jared Goff, a polished pro-style passer who could develop into the program's future leader under center. Dykes' class won't jump off the page, but he landed a group ranked in the middle of the Pac-12 -- no easy feat after Cal's ugly 3-9 campaign under ex-coach Jeff Tedford in 2012.
• Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury: B+. The architect of Johnny Manziel's Heisman-winning offense at Texas A&M, Kingsbury did his best to hold things together after Tommy Tuberville bolted Lubbock for Cincinnati. And the first-year coach did an admirable job of bringing new talent to his alma mater. Kingsbury retained four-star receiver Devin Lauderdale as one of a handful of playmakers, and he helped compensate for three graduating offensive linemen by signing five prospects to fill the void.
• Oregon's Mark Helfrich: B. Helfrich was promoted to the top job at Oregon on Jan. 20, so the former offensive coordinator had just three weeks to hold together Chip Kelly's recruiting class after the latter left for the NFL. But in perfect Oregon style, the Ducks loaded up on offensive recruits, led by five-star running back Thomas Tyner from Beaverton, Ore. Helfrich also flipped four-star offensive tackle Cameron Hunt from Cal and four-star defensive end Torrodney Prevot from USC. Twin athletes Tyree and Tyrell Robinson and receiver Darren Carrington could also become big names in the Ducks' high-flying offense.
• South Florida's Willie Taggart: B. Taggart wasn't able to hold onto dual-threat quarterback Asiantii Woulard, who eventually signed with UCLA, but he might have inked a sleeper in Fort Lauderdale signal-caller Mike White. White went undefeated as a high school starter, won a state title at University School and could emerge as the replacement for the departed B.J. Daniels under center. Four-star cornerback Lamar Robbins should be a big addition to the Bulls' secondary, and four-star defensive tackle Derrick Calloway was a late flip from Louisville. Taggart could have used another passer, but he should be pleased with his first haul in Tampa.
• Wisconsin: Gary Andersen: B-. Andersen's class took a major hit when three-star athlete Marcus Ball flipped to Arizona State on National Signing Day. But with the help of two holdovers from Bret Bielema's staff -- running backs coach Thomas Hammock and secondary coach Ben Strickland -- Andersen brought in five prospects to fill the vacant spots in the Badgers' defensive backfield. Four-star running back Cory Clement could be the next bruising back for Wisconsin, and juco quarterback Tanner McEvoy could make an immediate impact for the offense. But one part of the class left something to be desired: Andersen admitted the roster might need more depth on the offensive line.
• Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville: B-. Tuberville hit the recruiting trail hard in Florida, and he plucked five prospects from the state. That includes three-star quarterback Tyler Cogswell, a former Arkansas commit, and four-star tight end Travis Johnson, a onetime Miami pledge. Johnson is one of three incoming tight ends for the Bearcats, who were without a signee at the position in 2012. Still, Tuberville failed to land many local recruits, signing just three Ohio players after coming over from Texas Tech.
• Arkansas' Bret Bielema: C+. Bielema and his staff made unusual headlines on Signing Day, as running back commit Alex Collins scuffled with his mother over signing his National Letter of Intent. Eventually the four-star prospect sent his fax to Fayetteville, cementing his name as the gem of Bielema's first class. Highly touted tight end Hunter Henry of Little Rock, Ark., also joins the Razorbacks, and prized offensive tackle Denver Kirkland spurned Miami for the Hogs. But Arkansas' class ranks next to last in the conference, according Rivals.com. The question will be whether Bielema can build on his recruiting haul to compete in the vaunted SEC West.
• Purdue's Darrell Hazell: C. Former coach Danny Hope's roster possessed depth at quarterback, but the departure of two passers (Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush) could open the door for a Hazell signee. Terre Haute, Ind., native Danny Etling boasts plenty of potential, and he could receive help from Purdue's three incoming running backs. The Boilermakers could have used some help on the offensive line, however; landing only a single offensive line recruit could cause problems if Hazell decides to break in a new quarterback.
• NC State's Dave Doeren: C-. Doeren inherited an NC State squad lacking for playmakers, but the new coach wasted little time addressing that issue with his 2013 class. The Wolfpack secured four athletes, three running backs and two receivers, including Matt Dayes, an elusive tailback out of Weston, Fla. Also keep an eye on pro-style quarterback Bryant Shirrieffs; he could turn out to be a surprise for the former Northern Illinois coach. Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett could play immediately in Raleigh, but that might not make up for NC State's biggest shortcoming: Doeren was unable to sign any player with a four- or five-star rating.
• Temple's Matt Rhule: D+. The Owls' new coach brought in a crop of players not recruited by former headman Steve Addazio, including three-star running back Zaire Williams, a former West Virginia commit who could become Temple's next Bernard Pierce. Rhule also inked Elizabeth, N.J., quarterback PJ Walker and four physically imposing offensive linemen. But there's no getting around it. The lack of incoming starpower could keep this class near the bottom of the Big East.
• Boston College's Steve Addazio: D. Balance is the key to Addazio's inaugural class at Boston College. The former Temple coach brought in 17 signees who should fill a number of holes for the Eagles. Quarterbacks James Walsh and Mackay Lowrie provide the program with fresh options under center, and Addazio's son, Louie, a tight end transfer from Syracuse, will add another element to the offense. Boston College was also able to snag former five-star offensive tackle Matt Patchan, a Florida transfer, as part of a crop of five linemen. But this class doesn't come with much firepower. Rivals.com lists Addazio's group as the 87th-ranked haul in the nation.
• Colorado's Mike MacIntyre: D-. MacIntyre faced as difficult a recruiting situation as any coach in the country. The Buffaloes went 1-11 in 2012, marking a program-worst seventh consecutive losing season. The former San Jose State coach managed to bring in three-star quarterback Sefo Liufau from Tacoma, Wash., and six offensive linemen with hopes of bolstering an offense that finished last in the Pac-12 in scoring last season, but there isn't much help coming to Boulder on defense. MacIntyre secured just two defensive linemen to improve a Buffaloes' unit that ranked last in the FBS in scoring defense.
• Syracuse's Scott Shafer: D-. The departure of Doug Marrone took a major toll on Shafer's first class at Syracuse. A handful of longtime commits flipped on National Signing Day, including linebacker Malik Brown (Tennessee) and fullback Augustus Edwards (Miami). Shafer did keep some key offensive weapons in the fold, including quarterbacks Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson, but he'll have to do a better job recruiting in New York City in the future. Only one Big Apple native (defensive tackle Wayne Williams) elected to sign with the Orange.
• Kent State's Paul Haynes: B+. Haynes impressed the Kent State faithful by holding onto the majority of former coach Hazell's recruits. Ten of 11 previously committed players went on to sign with the Golden Flashes. Haynes also successfully plucked several players from Ohio, including three-star quarterback Nathan Strock from Zanesville.
• Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino: B+. Petrino hauled in a whopping 33 players -- 25 signees and eight mid-year enrollees -- as the coach began his college football comeback tour with the Hilltoppers. He snagged three in-state prospects from the Louisville area, and Western Kentucky finished in the top half of the Sun Belt recruiting rankings. Petrino also brought in six wide receivers who could help expedite the Hilltoppers' transition to a completely revamped offense.
• Louisiana Tech's Skip Holtz: B. The Bulldogs should benefit from some experience up front in this class, as Holtz lured in two juco offensive linemen -- Georgia Military College guard Tre Carter and Navarro Junior College guard Mitchell Bell -- who could see the field immediately. Holtz added some SEC experience to the receiving corps as well, with LSU transfer Paul Turner joining Louisiana Tech's roster.
• Southern Miss' Todd Monken: B-. The Eagles' new coach landed six defensive linemen, including Macon, Miss., defensive tackle Dylan Bradley and Dadeville, Ala., defensive tackle Rod Crayton. Both players were selected as the Class 4A defensive players of the year in their respective states. Monken also flipped Tylertown, Miss., athlete Tyre'oune Holmes from Mississippi State after Holmes' official visit to Hattiesburg in late January.