Scouts Inc. breaks down and grades each team in the Big East, including two top-25 teams. Some of the other grades may surprise you.
Coach Greg Schiano knows the importance of defense, which is reflected in this year's recruiting class. Four of the Scarlet Knights' top-five recruits line up on defense, including No. 9 DT Antwan Lowery (Miami, Fla./Christopher Columbus). However, No. 8 QB Tom Savage (Philadelphia/Cardinal O'Hara) is their best prospect and one of the top pocket-passers in the nation. If it wasn't for decommitments from No. 3 C Mark Brazinski (Basking Ridge, N.J./Immaculata), No. 23 RB Desmond Scott (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and safeties Terrance Taylor (Miami/Archbishop Carroll) and Gerald Hodges (Paulsboro, N.J.), the Scarlet Knights would have been much higher on this list.
The Bulls land in the top 25 for the first time in the young program's history. Stealing versatile athlete Kayvon Webster (Miami, Fla./Pace) from Miami was significant, but the most impressive thing about South Florida's recruiting in 2009 is how the Bulls won some of the head-to-head battles against higher-profile universities, including other Florida schools. A perfect example of this is the signing of defensive end Ryne Giddins (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), the nation's fifth-rated player at his position with the pass rushing skills to eventually fill some of the void left by George Selvie. Teammates No. 19 RB Victor Marc (Hallandale, Fla./Hallandale) and No. 13 CB Ricardo Dixon (Hallandale, Fla./Hallandale) had their choice of major schools as well, but signed with the Bulls.
There is no doubt the recruiting game plan for the Mountaineers was to go after top offensive talent, especially at the skill positions. The mission has been accomplished, with seven of West Virginia's top-10 ranked recruits lining up on the offensive side of the football. Quarterback Eugene Smith (Miramar, Fla./Miramar) fits right in with the Mountaineer's spread offense, and may help ease the loss of quarterback Pat White. Wide receiver Logan Heastie will likely be a favorite target of Smith's, as he is a legitimate deep threat with outstanding leaping ability.
Pittsburgh is the best of the second tier of Big East recruiting, which is disappointing considering they signed a top-25 class a year ago. The group is solid, but it doesn't have the talent Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia are bringing into the conference. Tall and talented Todd Thomas (Beaver Falls, Pa.) is the best player in Pitt's class. He will probably line up at wide receiver for the Panthers due to his soft hands and ability to go up for the football. Tight end Brock DeCicco (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) will also bolster the passing game, as he has very good ball skills. Despite having some good young talent at the position, we thought Pitt still needed to bring in a top-tier back with LeSean McCoy declaring early for the NFL draft.
No one gets more out of his players than Brian Kelly. The Bearcats' 2009 class doesn't have any superstars, but they signed seven wide receivers and tight ends to fit the needs of their spread offense. Some very good defensive players are also in the fold. Outside linebacker Angel Clybourn (Richland, N.J./Blair Academy) is their top player and at a position in need of young talent. Another future player to watch for the Bearcats is tall and rangy athlete Chris Williams (Cincinnati/Winton Woods). Williams will more than likely line up in the secondary for Cincinnati.
Cardinals fans aren't used to winning only one game in the Big East, and the pressure is on the coaching staff to make major strides in 2009. The coaches know that giving up almost 30 points per game is not a formula for winning. The recruiting class is, therefore, heavy with defensive talent, including inside linebacker Mike Privott (Norfolk, Va./Lake Mary). The Cardinals have ventured south for players, including six from the state of Florida. One of these Floridians, safety Richard Lee (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson), is a top prospect in Louisville's class and has great instincts and anticipation skills from the secondary.
The Huskies' class is highlighted with five defensive ends. This is no surprise since the Huskies graduate five seniors on the defensive side of the football, including both starting ends and one defensive tackle. Versatile athlete Leon Kinnard (Baltimore/Loyola Blakefield) is a major get for Connecticut. Even though he was a highly productive high school quarterback, Kinnard will most likely line up at corner or running back for the Huskies. Former South Florida commit Dwayne Difton (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) is a true vertical threat and UConn's top prospect at a position we felt needed more youth.
New head coach Doug Marrone had his work cut out for him in terms of recruiting. The class is less than stellar; it lacks both quantity and quality. The Orange need a lot of help on both sides of the football, and the entire football program needs a makeover. The Orange were able to pry cornerback Rishard Anderson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) away from Wake Forest, and inked the quick, high-motor offensive lineman Zack Chibane (Paramus, N.J./Paramus) after he decommitted from South Florida. However, defensive tackle and inside linebacker were interiors positions in need of talented young bodies but were not addressed strongly.