6 Teams Struggling on the 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail
Recruiting is the lifeblood of every college football program, and success on the recruiting trail can often be an indicator of whether a team is heading in the right direction.
With national signing day a little more than six months away, a few marquee programs have work to do in order to put together a strong class for the 2015 cycle.
A few schools that made coaching changes highlight the list of schools who fit this category, while other powers are just off to a slow start.
Which notable schools are in danger of landing a 2015 class that ranks below their usual standards?
James Franklin resurrected the Vanderbilt program mostly due to his prowess as a top-notch recruiter, and he’s carried that reputation to Penn State—where he’s off to a hot start.
His replacement—former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason—is familiar with recruiting at a school that has tougher academic restrictions.
However, with just nine commitments for 2015, the Commodores’ class ranks 62nd nationally and, perhaps more importantly, last in the rugged SEC.
Couple their slow start with the resurgence of in-state rival Tennessee—whose class ranks eighth nationally—and it becomes clear to see that Mason and his staff need to recruit with a sense of urgency over the final stretch of the 2015 cycle.
Chris Petersen never built the Boise State program off of top-ranked signing classes, but he was able to evaluate players at a high level while finding his share of diamonds in the rough along the West Coast.
After moving on to take the Washington job, Petersen and his staff are now competing toe-to-toe with Pac-12 heavyweights such as Oregon, USC and UCLA for the top West Coast talent.
The Huskies' 2015 class ranks 58th nationally, which places them 14 spots behind in-state rival Washington State and eighth overall among Pac-12 schools.
While Petersen is a proven evaluator and coach, the Huskies will need to capture some momentum heading down the stretch toward signing day.
Since taking over as Stanford’s head coach in 2011, David Shaw has gotten it done on the recruiting trail by reeling in Top 25 recruiting classes in three of the last four years.
The outlier in that period was the 2013 class—which finished No. 51 in the nation, mostly because it only included 13 recruits.
This year, the Cardinal’s nine-man class currently sits at No. 57.
Shaw has made a habit of closing strong in recent years, and that’s the challenge facing his staff over the final six months of the 2015 cycle.
3. Ole Miss
After landing the nation’s No. 47 class in 2012, the Ole Miss Rebels landed the No. 8 class in the country in 2013 in the first full cycle under head coach Hugh Freeze.
Last year, the Rebels followed up with another strong group that finished No. 15 nationally.
However, the current Ole Miss class sits at No. 47—which is only better than Vanderbilt among peers in the SEC. To make things a little more interesting, rival Mississippi State has been on a tear in compiling a class ranked No. 13 nationally.
With only 10 commitments to date, the Rebels have plenty of room to make a run toward a third consecutive Top 25 class.
Over the last three years, Baylor can make the argument of being the most consistent program in Texas on the field. Their 29-10 mark in that span bests Big 12 rivals Texas, TCU and Texas Tech, and is slightly better than SEC power Texas A&M.
Despite their steady rise under Art Briles, the Bears haven’t made a huge splash with a Top 25 recruiting class in that period. The Bears’ last three classes finished ranked 26th, 27th and 26th nationally—which is certainly respectable.
As they sit with 12 pledges in the 2015 cycle, the Bears’ 43rd-ranked class is a bit of a disappointment because they have failed to take advantage of the changing landscape in their home state.
The Aggies have dominated the last two cycles in the Lone Star State, and they are doing so again in 2015 with a class currently rated second only to Alabama. TCU (33rd nationally) is ahead of the Bears. So is Texas, despite replacing Mack Brown with a coach in Charlie Strong who is largely unfamiliar with the recruiting landscape in-state. Texas Tech (44th nationally) sits just one spot behind them
With a talent pool among the deepest in the entire country, Briles and his staff need to capitalize on the program’s on-field success by closing strong in the 2015 class.
After a rough 4-8 campaign last season, it appears that many recruits are taking a wait-and-see approach with Florida.
The Gators have never had problems attracting some of the nation’s top talent on an annual basis. However, as Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated noted, the tone is admittedly different in Gainesville when talk of Will Muschamp’s future is brought up.
“We’re going to be better, and we’re excited about the future under Will. [We] feel the same way about him as the day we hired him,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley told The Paul Finebaum Show last month, via Rickman.
On the recruiting trail, the Gators have 11 commitments and the nation’s No. 26 class.
However, if the Gators struggle again in 2014, the wheels could begin to fall off with regard to their 2015 class.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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