National signing day is just about a week away and there are several non-AQ teams that will be looking for the next great player to help their team to a conference championship or even a BCS bowl. The non-AQs are notorious for finding diamonds in the rough, but most teams are just looking to plug holes for positions depleted by graduation and the NFL Draft. Here’s a quick look at the non-AQ’s top areas of concern for this year’s class:
Defensive line: The Cougars took some big hits on the defensive line this year with the graduation of star end Jan Jorgensen and nose tackle Russell Tialavea. There’s some depth there for the Cougars, but it didn’t contribute much this season.
Linebackers: BYU graduates all of its starting linebackers from 2009 and the Cougars will have three seniors starting in that unit next year. The linebacking corps was a great strength for BYU in 2009 and building it back up will be the highest priority.
Running back: Star running back Harvey Unga is returning for his senior year and the Cougars will have two talented juniors in JJ Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya, but beyond that there isn’t much help. The Cougars have gotten used to rotating a few guys in the backfield, so adding some young talent will allow that trend to continue.
Wide receiver: The Horned Frogs had a lot of success spreading the ball around to several different receivers this past season, but enter 2010 with six seniors on the wide receiver depth chart, including playmaker Jeremy Kerley.
Secondary: The secondary loses both of its corners this season and will have three seniors starting next year. The secondary has been one of the few weak spots of the defense in the past, so shoring that up will be a major priority.
Offensive line: The O-line loses senior center Carl Bennett, but will have three senior starters in 2010 and many of the players on the depth will be seniors as well. With as potent as the Houston offense is, finding players to step in right away is a must.
Quarterback: Star Case Keenum is a senior and backup Cotton Turner is a junior. It would be good to get a couple young quarterbacks in to learn the system and have the benefit of learning from Keenum, who has essentially become the offensive coordinator on the field.
Athletes: In Houston’s offense, guys with great hands will be rewarded. The Cougars need athletes at both receiver and in the secondary and that should be a big focus in this class.
Wide receiver: All of Fresno State’s starting receivers are gone, including leader Seyi Ajirotutu. Ajirotutu was a dynamic player and finding someone to replace him, especially with a couple young quarterbacks waiting in the wings, should be the top priority in this class.
Secondary: The Bulldogs lose four seniors from the secondary and will lose two more in 2010. The secondary actually was the strength of an otherwise poor defense and the Bulldogs will want to continue to build on that momentum.
Running back: With Lonyae Miller lost to graduation and Ryan Mathews leaving early for the draft, Fresno State was left scrambling for some depth at the running back position. Running back has long been the strongest position for the Bulldogs and finding a back to complement sophomore Robbie Rouse would be key.
SAN DIEGO STATE
Linebackers: The linebacking corps was the strength of the Aztecs last season and with defensive coordinator Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 scheme, it probably will be the strength for some time. SDSU graduated three linebackers and will have two seniors on the depth chart next year.
Hybrid: The SDSU 3-3-5 defense uses a Warrior and Aztec position as its hybrids and finding the right athletes to play those spots will be key. Long used what he had last year, but with a full recruiting year under his belt, he should be able to find players that are specifically tailored to fit that hybrid role.
Running back: With Shawnbrey McNeal opting to leave early for the draft, the Mustangs will need a couple running backs to keep that a viable position on the team. McNeal was coach June Jones’ first 1,000-yard rusher and his presence took a lot of the pressure of the young quarterbacks.
Athletes: All-everything player Emmanuel Sanders is gone and the Mustangs don’t really have anyone to fill his role immediately. The run-and-shoot offense is successful because of playmakers and finding some of those players in this class will help SMU continue its winning ways.
Running back: The Golden Eagles picked up running back Kendrick Hardy in the last recruiting class, but he didn’t do enough to unseat the guys who were already on the two-deep. Coach Larry Fedora has gotten a big-name kid each season he’s been with Southern Miss, and with his top two running backs lost to graduation, that could be where he strikes next.
Offensive line: Southern Miss lost four starters off the offensive line and could lose three more after 2010. There are some competent guys waiting in the wings, but they need to start building that depth now.
Offensive line: The Knights lose two offensive linemen this year and will lose three next year, so adding more players to that unit in this class has become a priority. The O-line struggled mightily last season with 2.54 sacks allowed and the rushing offense ranked 82nd in the country.
Defensive line: Similar to the offensive line, the Knights defensive line also will need some fresh faces. The defensive line was a major strength in 2009 and should be again in 2010. After that, the Knights will need the youth to start contributing.
Playmakers: The UCF offense was better this year than it was a year ago, but it still wasn’t good enough to be a consistent threat in Conference USA. The Knights need to find some offensive playmakers to really push this team to the forefront of the conference again.
Quarterback: Sophomore Jordan Wynn is the future of Utah, but he doesn’t have a lot of depth behind him. Terrance Cain will be a senior in 2010, so the Utes will need a couple more bodies to provide a push for Wynn and some much-needed depth.
Secondary: The Utes lose five seniors off the secondary two-deep and while there is some young talent there, the secondary has consistently been the Utes best unit and much of that has been because of the ability to develop young players.
Running back: This position has consistently been riddled with injuries for the Utes and so stockpiling a few running backs, especially with both Eddie Wide and Shaky Smithson entering their final seasons, wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Athlete: Boise State lost one senior starter this year, so the Broncos needs aren’t as great as most other teams around the FBS. However, this squad can never have too many athletes. The secondary could use a little help, as could the receiving corps, which is riddled with young players.
Quarterback: Kellen Moore will be a junior next season and backup Michael Coughlin will be a senior. With Joe Southwick still a freshman, the need for a new quarterback isn’t pressing, but it might be good to get someone in to learn the ropes and give Southwick a challenge in a couple years.
Quarterback: The quarterback position hasn’t been the strong point of Marshall’s offense in quite some time, so finding a guy who can be a difference maker is key. Both Brian Anderson and Press Taylor will be seniors in 2010, so finding a young quarterback to challenge in this class would be the right move.
Wide receiver: Marshall’s leading receiver for most of last season was its now graduated tight end. While there is a lot of freshman talent on the two-deep, Antavious Willson was the only one that really made a lasting impression. If new coach Doc Holliday could get some high-level receiving talent, it would make his quarterbacks look better than they are.
Defensive line: The Herd lost three seniors this season and will have four on the depth in 2010. Marshall’s defense was one of the best in conference play and the reason why it was able to play in and win a bowl game.