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February 5, 2009

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big East

More Conferences: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | SEC | Pac-10

West Virginia lost its spot in the Rivals.com top 25 after National Signing Day, ending up at No. 27, but the Mountaineers remained No. 1 in the Big East.

Check out the breakdown of the conference in a special edition of the Big East Blitz.

Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big East
1. West Virginia

Commit List
WVSports.com
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Headliner: Pat White has taken his last snap in Morgantown, so West Virginia knew going into this class that it would be looking for a long-term solution at quarterback. The Mountaineers may have found that in Eugene Smith, a Miramar, Fla., QB who can beat defenses with his arm as well as his legs.

Sleeper: Hoover, Ala., cornerback Pat Miller committed to West Virginia in late January, and the talented defensive back has great playmaking ability. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and found himself around the ball throughout his high school playing career, recording 11 interceptions in his final two seasons.

Overview: All eyes were on first-year coach Bill Stewart throughout the season, both in terms of monitoring how the team performed under his watch and how he would fare on the recruiting trail. He and his staff responded with an excellent haul that is especially heavy in skill-position talent. The Mountaineers picked up commitments from three four-star wide receivers in Stedman Bailey, Logan Heastie and Deon Long. A trio of talented running backs is headlined by Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar standout Tavon Austin, one of the top all-purpose backs in the nation and a perfect fit for the West Virginia offense. The class should also provide depth on the offensive line and in the defensive backfield for years to come, although losing Michael Carter at the last minute certainly hurts.

2. South Florida

Commit List
USFBullseye.com
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Headliner: USF fans have become accustomed to exceptional defensive end play because of George Selvie, a two-time All-American at the position. The coaching staff hopes it found another elite prospect on the end in Seffner (Fla.) Armwood pass rusher Ryne Giddins. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder turned down offers from just about every school in the SEC and ACC to play with the Bulls and is ranked the No. 15 prospect in Florida.

Sleeper: Quarterback Isaac Virgin was a relatively late addition for the Bulls, but he has a versatile skill set that should fit USF's offense very well. The 6-4, 232-pound prospect has a solid arm and has only begun to tap into his potential. He has spent only about two years at quarterback but led his squad to a 10-2 record as a senior.

Overview: Not surprisingly, the Bulls are bringing in a lot of speed. Jim Leavitt's classes have continued to improve the longer he has been coach of USF, and this year is no exception. Most of the damage was done in state. Athlete Bradley Battles has the potential to contribute at a number of different positions, while running back Adaris Bellamy is a bulldozer at 5-9 and 214 pounds. He could be the answer at running back, where he figures to carry a big load early in his career. There's plenty of talent on the other side of the ball particularly at defensive end, where the Bulls signed six prospects. In addition to Giddins, keep an eye on defensive end Julius Forte, another speed rusher who should be disruptive once he puts on more weight. The Bulls also stole away safety Kayvon Webster from Miami on Signing Day.

3. Rutgers

Commit List
ScarletNation.com
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Headliner: Mike Teel was a huge reason Rutgers managed to put together a nice 2008 campaign despite a slow start, and now Scarlet Knights fans are expecting four-star quarterback Tom Savage to be a big part of their future success. The 6-4, 217-pound passer from Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara is being heralded by some as the biggest recruit in the history of the program.

Sleeper: At 6-3 and 210 pounds, South Brunswick, N.J., prospect Mohamed Sanu looks a lot like a linebacker and could grow into one, but he has the skill set to play safety - his position in high school. Sanu picked up offers from Penn State, West Virginia and others throughout the recruiting process and is one of the most physically imposing defensive backs you will come across.

Overview: Despite losing four-star prospects such as running back Desmond Scott to Duke and center Mark Brazinski to Cal, the Knights managed to put together one of the better classes the program has seen in its history. That's largely due to the fact that coach Greg Schiano is one of the best recruiters in the country. Savage is obviously going to be the recruit everyone talks about in this class, but he will have some help. Woodbridge, Va., running back De'Antwan Williams is explosive and Vorhees (N.J.) Eastern four-star cornerback Logan Ryan is the kind of prospect who probably would have left the state a few years ago. Late additions Isaac Holmes, Ka'lial Glaud and Malcolm Bush are all excellent late additions. Interestingly enough, Rutgers was able to sign three of the top five prospects from Delaware this year, including twins Jamil Merrell and Jamal Merrell.

4. Pittsburgh

Commit List
PantherLair.com
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Headliner: Todd Thomas, a 6-3, 200-pound wide receiver from Beaver Falls, Pa., has all the makings of a superstar at the college level. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and if he can overcome some academic hurdles and get on campus, he'll make an immediate impact next season. During his senior year Thomas averaged nearly 30 yards per catch and should be an excellent deep threat in the Big East.

Sleeper: Running back Kevin Adams isn't as highly ranked as a few of the other running backs in this Panthers class but could emerge. He is a big back who can move the chains and breaks tackles. He could end up as a short-yardage back or possibly an every down workhorse.

Overview: While this may not be coach Dave Wannstedt's most highly rated class, it should help the program continue to improve in several key areas. Running backs Raymond Graham and Dion Lewis could be replacements for LeSean McCoy down the road, and there are a few offensive linemen with potential who could help pave the way after they spend some time developing. Six-foot, 220-pound linebacker Dan Mason and 6-3, 243-pound defensive end Jack Lippert are both four-star prospects who give the class star power. Some of the skill position talent is unheralded, but there are a lot of talented athletes at those spots.

5. Cincinnati

Commit List
BearCatLair.com
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Headliner: Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods cornerback Chris Williams is an example of what coach Brian Kelly wants to do keep the city's top talent at home. The 5-11, 185-pound defensive back could have attended West Virginia or several other programs, but he opted to stay in the Queen City. Williams is ranked the No. 25 cornerback in the nation and the No. 12 overall prospect in the Buckeye State.

Sleeper: Linebacker Angel Clybourn didn't create much of a buzz during the recruiting season but it's hard to understand why. The 6-1, 225-pound prospect runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and bench presses 315 pounds. He excelled on both sides of the ball for Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy, scoring seven touchdowns on the ground while sacking the quarterback nine times.

Overview: The Bearcats followed up their Orange Bowl appearance and Big East championship season with a solid recruiting effort. At wide receiver Cincinnati will receive help from four-star junior college transfer Jamar Howard, a 6-4, 210-pounder who is ready to contribute right away, and three-star receiver Josh Jones. The defensive backfield will be greatly aided by five prospects, including three-star prospects Everett Horne of Cincinnati (Ohio) North College Hill and junior college cornerback Malik James of Torrance (Calif.) El Camino C.C., in addition to Williams. Cincinnati did a nice job of keeping a lot of top talent at home, with seven commitments from their home city.

6. Connecticut

Commit List
UConnReport.com
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Headliner: Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas wide receiver Dwayne Difton is the biggest name recruit to commit to coach Randy Edsall since he took over the program. The 5-11, 166-pound prospect is ranked as the No. 39 wide receiver in the nation and held offers from Minnesota, Purdue, Rutgers, South Florida, Boston College and several others. His speed and playmaking ability will make an instant impact for the Huskies next season.

Sleeper: Leon Kinnard made a lot of noise throughout his playing career at Baltimore (Md.) Loyola and the home-state Terrapins wanted to keep him nearby for college. The 5-9, 182-pound athlete committed to the Huskies very early and stuck with them throughout the process. Kinnard could conceivably line up at running back, wide receiver or defensive back once he reaches the college level, and his 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds is impressive.

Overview: It's always tough for UConn to pull in a nationally recognized class because of the lack of a big recruiting base, but the coaching staff has done an excellent job of finding diamonds in the rough and developing them once they get into the program. This class should be similar. At wide receiver Difton will be complemented by three-star prospect Malik Generett, who at 6-4 and 197 pounds can stretch defenses and make the tough catches over the middle. Trevardo Williams could end up being a speed rusher at defensive end or a linebacker, while offensive lineman Steve Greene has a college-ready frame at 6-4 and 302 pounds.

7. Louisville

Commit List
CardinalSport.com
Message Board
Headliner: Santa Clarita (Calif.) College of the Canyons transfer Joe Evinger should provide instant depth at offensive tackle. The massive 6-7, 340-pound four-star prospect had offers from Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa State but elected to wear the red and black. Evinger has a big wingspan and depending on his conditioning, he could compete for a lot of playing time immediately.

Sleeper: Safety Champ Lee isn't just an intriguing prospect because he shares a first name with one of the NFL's top defensive backs. The 6-1, 190-pound prospect from the Sunshine State has good speed and ball skills that could help him figure into the rotation immediately. Lee recorded nine interceptions over the past two seasons at Lake Gibson.

Overview: Louisville wanted defensive help and they found plenty of candidates willing to apply in this class. Three-star linebacker Mike Privott is solidly built, and while undersized, he has a motor that just does not stop. Defensive tackle Joseph Townsend could become a menace to opposing offenses. Three-star defensive backs Preston Pace, Isaac Geffard and his twin brother, Jacob Geffard, should help that unit improve in the coming years.

8. Syracuse

Commit List
CuseConfidential.com
Message Board
Headliner: Syracuse was scouring the nation for a defensive back late in January and stumbled across Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline cornerback Dale Peterman. The 5-10, 155-pound prospect runs the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds and is ranked the No. 58 cornerback in the nation. He ultimately chose Syracuse over Wisconsin.

Sleeper:Justin Pugh has all the things a coach loves to see in a lineman. At 6-5 and 285 pounds he has great athleticism and the ability to pack more weight onto his frame. While the coaches are leaning toward keeping him on offense there is a chance he might get a shot at defensive tackle.

Overview: It has been a rough past few years for fans of the Orange, and they are hoping this recruiting class is the start of a new era. With the coaching change there was little time to put the class together. However, coach Doug Marrone and his staff will get after it in 2010. And in the class of 2009, there are some talented prospects who may be called on to contribute early in their careers. Peterman will be complemented by fellow three-star defensive backs Phillip Thomas of Miami (Fla.) Edison and Rishard Anderson of Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage. Anderson had received offers from Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Groton (Mass.) Lawrence Academy quarterback Charley Loeb has a good arm and ideal size at 6-4 and 218 pounds. Offensive lineman Andrew Tiller decided to head to Syracuse instead of Miami. Is that a sign of things to come?

More Conferences: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | SEC | Pac-10



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