Five under-the-radar recruiting classes
With National Signing Day less than two weeks away, the focus of the National Football Post's college football coverage has turned to recruiting.
While some of these schools won't make a lot of Top 10 or even Top 25 team rankings by the end of Signing Day, they certainly are primed to bring in quality talent that may end up developing quite well and help the programs ascend their conference standings.
Oklahoma: The Sooners picked up a commitment from 6-1, 175-pound athlete Jordan Thomas from Klein, TX, which helped continue the program's upward trend as we head to NSD. Thomas, who had offers from Oklahoma State and Nebraska, has the quickness and athleticism to make plays at receiver and on special teams but also has experience at corner and safety. Bob Stoops and his staff have assembled a class with a ton of skill players on offense, highlighted by Joe Mixon. Mixon is a national Top 5 to 10 running back from California. Wide receivers Dallis Todd and Jeffery Mead as well as tight ends Carson Meier and Mark Andrews are also in the mix. It will be interesting to see if OU can snag some defensive help, though. The Sooners remain in the mix for defensive back Steven Parker II, who is one of the best uncommitted prospects in the country. LSU commitment and local product Deondre Clark, meanwhile, could be a big "get" along the defensive line.
Stanford: David Shaw continues to pick up where Jim Harbaugh left off by bringing in much-improved talent to Palo Alto. The Cardinal recently landed a commitment from Dalton Schultz, who is one of the country's best tight ends. He helped lead his high school team to an undefeated season and a state title in 2013. He will be paired with quarterback commit Keller Chryst, one of the best pocket passers in the country. Athlete Christian McCaffrey has a chance to emerge as a nice slot receiver after showing very good pass-catching ability as a running back. Of course, no Stanford class would be complete without standout defenders, particulary at linebacker. The Cardinal have a nice group with Joey Alfieri, Bobby Okereke and Lane Veach. They are still in the mix for defensive end Solomon Thomas, who has already been admitted academically.
US PRESSWIREDave Doeren is putting together a very good crop of talent for his 2014 class.
NC State: The Wolfpack are having a phenomenal cycle under second-year head coach Dave Doeren. With outstanding defensive lineman Kentavius Street already having pledged, the program received a commitment from fellow in-state product William Richardson, an offensive guard, and Baltimore cornerback Troy Vincent Jr., both of whom who flipped to the Wolfpack following Street's commitment. Doeren also has Charlotte quarterback Jalan McClendon, who has a chance to become a starter sooner than later. And Maurice Trowell could make an impact at slot receiver. Defensively, Georgia defensive tackle Justin Jones and safeties Kalen McCain and Germaine Pratt lead what is shaping up to be a real nice haul on that side of the ball even outside of Street.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have the increasingly tough task of remaining competitive in the SEC West with the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. So no matter who Dan Mullen is able to bring in, the talent will always fall behind that of those power programs. But Mullen, entering a big season in 2014, has been able to put together a very solid haul heading into NSD. Getting wide receiver Jesse Jackson to remain in-state was a nice coup for Mullen, while exciting athlete Jamoral Graham could be dangerous as a slot receiver or stick with the fastest receivers as a defender. Dual-threat quarterback Elijah Staley is a Georgia product who is very raw but has very good measurables. Overall, this is a nice class, which also features in-state running back Aeris Williams. Defensively, the Bulldogs lost outside linebacker Keith Holcombe to a flip for Alabama, but can they pick up JUCO cornerback Tee Shepard, a one-time Notre Dame enrollee?
Western Michigan: Second-year head coach P.J. Fleck did not have a very successful first season in the W/L column (1-11, 1-7 MAC), but he is paying huge dividends for the Broncos on the recruiting trail. While this is not only the best haul in the conference, it is one of the best non-BCS hauls as well. The crown prizes of the 2014 class are pro-style quarterback Chance Stewart and safety/wide receiver Lonnie Johnson. Stewart is a Top 10 Michigan player and arguably a Top 30 national QB. Johnson, meanwhile, is one of the best players in Indiana and actually flipped from Ohio State. Fleck also has pledges from offensive pieces Jay Harris at wide receiver as well as Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan at running back.
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.