The early signing period has been full of surprises and late decisions. We break down the seven BCS schools that benefited the most from last-minute decisions this week:
It wouldn't be hard to argue that Syracuse had as big of a week as anyone in the country. At the start of the week, the Big East school had two four-star verbal commitments in Taylor Ford of New York, N.Y., and No. 73 Cornelia Fondren of Memphis, Tenn. Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman also had a commitment from a high-level athlete with good upside in Pachiayanna Roberts of Powder Springs, Ga., who has a three-star rating. It was a solid class as all three players fit well together and brought different skills to the table. Ford is an active forward with the ability to play in the post or facing the basket, while Fondren is a playmaker at the point and Roberts a slashing wing with elite athleticism. This week, Syracuse added two elite guards. First, the Orange scored a verbal commitment from No. 30 Brittney Sykes of Newark, N.J., an athletic wing, and then just a day later scored a second verbal from No. 13 Brianna Butler of Brooklyn, N.Y. The two combo guards gave Syracuse one of the best backcourts in the country as the early signing period got under way.
A last-minute addition of Alexis Prince of Maitland, Fla., the No. 16 player in the 2012 ESPNU HoopGurlz 100, gives Kim Mulkey the missing signature piece to a very good five-player class. A 6-foot-2 wing, Prince provides a legitimate All-American candidate and perimeter scoring option to a class that will play alongside current Baylor center Brittney Griner for a year and point guard Odyssey Sims for two. Prince actually waited until Day 2 of the early signing period to declare her collegiate intentions. The class was already the No. 10 ranked nationwide before adding Prince, making the Big 12 program a certified winner this week.
When she got to Westwood, UCLA first-year coach Cori Close began actively pursuing pieces that would fit her read-and-react motion offense. Earlier in the summer, Close picked up verbal pledges from Kari Korver and Lauren Holiday. The additions gave UCLA two solid perimeter options that would complement each other well. Korver is a very good perimeter shooter with the ability to stretch a defense and make the occasional play off the bounce, while Holliday is more of a slasher who is known as an elite perimeter defender. As signing week approached, UCLA was still looking for a dynamic offensive weapon to solidify its class. Two UCLA targets, Jordan Adams and Katie Collier made pledges to opposing Pac-12 schools, USC and Washington, increasing the importance of Close's pursuit of Nirra Fields. This week, Fields made her verbal pledge to the Pac-12 school and in the process gave the Bruins the signature perimeter scorer that they were lacking.
Going into the week, Rutgers had a single commitment from Precious Person of Rex, Ga., a four-star swing forward. On Monday, they added No. 8 Rachel Hollivay from Columbus, Miss., immediately giving the Scarlet Knights a class with some real punch. Hollivay's commitment was especially big for a Rutgers program that was looking at a class without a single All-American candidate after signing three of those in the class of 2011. Person, who stands 6-2, and Hollivay, who is a legitimate force on the interior at 6-4, will help replace a five-player senior class that features Chelsey Lee and April Sykes.
5. Michigan State
With 16 players listed on its online roster, Michigan State has a full squad this season. The Spartans only graduate three players, so in theory there wasn't a lot for the Spartans to address in the class of 2012. They got a pre-summer pledge from three-star guard Mariah Harris out of Springfield, Ohio. Earlier this week, the class received a big boost when No. 27 Branndais Agee of Detroit, Mich., decided to stay in state and play for coach Suzy Merchant. Originally a Penn State commit, the 6-0 wing reversed course while staying in the Big Ten, making the Spartans a winner in the process.
The Tigers scored big on the football field with a win over Alabama Saturday night, and coach Nikki Caldwell's staff has followed that up with two in-state four-star prospects deciding to stay home on the first day of the early signing period. Derreyal Youngblood, a 6-4 post from Harvey, La., and Kuaneshia Baker, a 5-10 guard from Gretna, La., give a loaded LSU roster even more depth. Youngblood provides a post presence for a roster that graduates three senior posts and should complement current freshman posts Sheila Boykin and Krystal Forthan very well for three seasons. Baker is ranked No. 96 in the class nationally and will be in a position to learn from current juniors Bianca Lutley and Adrienne Webb in the backcourt for a season.
In the past couple of years, Auburn has done an excellent job of recruiting quality perimeter players. This year is no different. The Tigers landed four-star point guard No. 77 Chadarryl Clay from Chattanooga, Tenn., early in the calendar year and turned their focus to the post in an effort to solidify the middle. With a verbal from three-star post TraCee Nicole Tanner of Hoover, Ala., in hand, Auburn was able to score a pledge from forward Cabriana Capers of Glenview, Ill., after her official visit in October. As Auburn continued to put its class together, adding a true post presence became a major area of importance for the SEC school. This week Auburn scored its post of the future when Nariah Taylor of Indianapolis, Ind., committed. At 6-4, Taylor gives Auburn a top-shelf post presence it has lacked since KeKe Carrier graduated. Taylor will fit well with junior Blanche Alverson for a season and freshman wing Hasina Muhammad for three.
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Brandon Clay is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the publisher of the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report and the owner of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001 as a recruiting analyst, event operator and trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com.