The BCS schools attract most of the attention on signing day, but with the recent success of teams such as Utah and Boise State, it's no surprise that non-BCS schools and their conferences are gaining more national respect than ever before in the world of college football recruiting.
Eight programs below from non-BCS conferences all held their own on national signing day, and that is a direct result of their success on the field. With solid classes in place, they should be in the hunt for BCS consideration when bowl season rolls around in 10 months.
Oh, and one other independent team did pretty well on signing day as well.
The rivalry between Notre Dame and USC got a little hotter as the Fighting Irish lured away two top recruits: No. 1 OLB prospect Manti Te'o (Honolulu/Punahou) and No. 4 WR prospect Shaquelle Evans (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood). Te'o should make an immediate impact because of his size, speed and often-underrated instincts, while Evans is a difference-maker at receiver and in the return game. These are off-the-field victories over USC, which might lead to some wins down the road over the Trojans. Aside from Te'o and Evans, the Irish boast two other top-five positional prospects in DT Tyler Stockton (Princeton, N.J./The Hun School) and OG Chris Watt (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard West). Stockton, the No. 3 DT, might lack ideal size but is extremely quick off the ball and good against the run or pass. Stockton, Watt and versatile S Zeke Motta (Vero Beach, Fla.) filled positions of need in South Bend, but the potential of ESPNU 150 ATHs Cierre Wood (Oxnard, Calif./Santa Clara) and E.J. Banks (McKees Rocks, Pa./Montour) could be the key to this class.
The Horned Frogs restocked their linebacker depth, with Justin Isadore (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and Tanner Brock (Copperas Cove, Texas). Although these two OLBs are physically different, they both have good range and play well in space. Don't think that the Horned Frogs ignored offensive talent. Arguably, their very best prospect in the class is Josh Boyce (Copperas Cove, Texas), one of Brock's high school teammates. Boyce is an explosive athlete with excellent speed and outstanding ball skills.
BYU produced another solid recruiting class, with four of its top five recruits coming from outside the state of Utah. It comes as no surprise that the Cougars' top two recruits line up on the offensive side of the ball. Richard Wilson (Spanish Fork, Utah) is the fourth-ranked tight end nationally. He is equally effective from the traditional tight end alignment or when flexed out wide. Wilson has tremendous concentration and can go up to catch the ball in a crowd. Another fourth-ranked positional prospect, center Terry Alletto (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa), is a big grab for the Cougars. Alletto is an undersized but quick center. He is consistent with his snaps when the quarterback is lined up under center or in a shotgun.
The Pirates' 2009 class was a bit of a disappointment for a program that is looking to create a national reputation. Four out of the class came from in-state, led by athlete Michael Dobson (Mount Airy, N.C.). Dobson doubles as a safety and a running back. He has great vision, balance and body control when carrying the football. At the same time, his athleticism and range would make him a very good collegiate safety. The toughest thing for the Pirates' staff will be deciding where to play him.
Eleven wins and a bowl-game victory are signs the Golden Hurricanes are for real and creating a storm. Their success on the field has transferred to the recruiting front. The graduation of senior quarterback David Johnson made that position crucial for the Tulsa staff to fill. It's only fitting that Tulsa's top recruit is the nation's 20th-ranked quarterback, Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider). Beaver is a BCS-talented dual-threat quarterback who displays awareness in the pocket and has the mobility to evade the rush.
OG Stetson Burnett fits well in the spread and has good size. He has the potential to come in and play right away, thanks to his fundamentals
Finishing as college football's second-best team has been instrumental in helping the Utes round up a very good class in terms of quantity and quality. Their top three signees are linemen -- two offensive and one defensive. Huge offensive guard Kapua Sai (Honolulu/St. Louis School) is a powerful run-blocker, while offensive tackle Percy Taumoelau (Salt Lake City, Utah/Cottonwood) is a stout pass protector.
The Broncos know how to win and, without a doubt, get the most out of their talent. The 2009 recruiting class reflects the success of the Boise State program. The Broncos are invading California; their top three recruits and six overall are from the Golden State, led by accurate and instinctive quarterback Joe Southwick (Danville, Calif./Ramon Valley) and high-motor offensive lineman Charles Leno (San Leandro, Calif.). Top-40 TE Trevor Peterson's success will be dictated by his ability to add size and bulk. He already possesses good hands and the ability to separate as a route-runner.
The Mustangs' class is top-heavy but lacks depth. Their top two recruits are from outside Texas, and there was a big emphasis on the offensive line with four of SMU's top five players on the offensive line. Although the class is heavy with offensive linemen such as Joey Fontana (New Orleans, La./Brother Martin), the quality is very good. The Mustangs needed to add some higher-caliber skill to the class, but were unable to pull it off.
The Cougars are putting a ton of effort into recruiting, and it paid off. It is a Texas-laden class with almost every signee coming from Texas. The Cougars increased their athleticism with QB Broderick Thomas (Houston) and TE Tyler Chambers (Houston). Houston needs to strengthen its defense, and safety Thomas Bates (Baytown, Texas/Robert E. Lee) is a prime example of what they needed to add. Bates excels at lateral movement and displays great range.