What Did We Learn About Conference USA On National Signing Day?

We are finally at the end of the 2017 recruiting cycle (thank God). It was a slightly boring end to the usually crazy recruiting season, but it allows us to move forward and start to take a look at some of these rosters for the 2017 season.

Also, welcome back to the football ranks UAB. They were recruiting up a storm last season, but are back at normal recruiting restrictions with a return to football this fall. I for one am very happy to get to 14 teams in Conference USA.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what we learned about Conference USA on national signing day.

Lane Kiffin, you magnificent bastard: Everyone said that bringing in a coach like Lane Kiffin would increase interest from the youths with their hippity hop, snapface, and instachat. Well, it worked. The Owls landed the top recruiting class in Conference USA, led by JUCO transfer and former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson.

The Owls went JUCO heavy from the onset with players like OT Joey Palmer and wide receiver DeAndre McNeal ready to start immediately. The most impressive recruit landed by Kiffin and company may be on the defensive side of the ball in safety Ahman Ross. The Jacksonville native held offers from Florida State, Miami, and West Virginia among others.

Now comes the hard part as FAU attempts to turn around a program that made going 3-9 look so easy under former head coach Charlie Partridge. This is likely Kiffin’s last chance to prove he can actually handle the pressures of running a program and become a successful head coach. If nothing else, FAU football will be interesting this fall.

A new direction for Western Kentucky: One of the mandates from former WKU head coach Brian Brohm was the need to go after in-state talent. He did not want to lose even one quality prospect to the ACC or SEC programs in the state, looking to become the defacto University of Kentucky for in-state recruits. He was able to land multiple talented players, building a roster that included over 40 players originally from the commonwealth.

A case can be made that the in-state talent was a bit down this season, but WKU only signed two players from Kentucky: OG Jordan Meredith and OT Cole Spencer.

Head coach Mike Sanford went heavy after Georgia with 12 of the 22 players signed hailing from the Peach State. A significant amount of talent came on the defensive side of the ball with Calder Marria, Juwuan Jones, and Kyle Bailey all ranking in the top four among signees for the Hilltoppers.

A player to watch on the other side of the ball is JUCO transfer Mik’Quan Deane. WKU came in and stole the three-star tight end that held offers from Oregon, Pitt, Nebraska, and Louisville among others. He will fill a much-needed gap at tight end after a somewhat down year for the position in 2016.

Excluding UTSA, Texas strikes out: I am not one to claim a complete knowledge of recruiting rankings and all that jazz. National signing day is one of my least favorite days of the year. For some reason, people are paid to come up with these rankings and I guess I should pay attention to them. North Texas, Rice, and UTEP should just keep on walking.

Out of the four Texas-based programs in CUSA, only UTSA ranked in the top 11. I am not a statistician, but that sounds bad. Rice is the most interesting as they were landing commitment after commitment early in the process, but flamed out in impressive fashion during the season and in recruiting. The Owls signed 15 players with only three rated three-star or higher.

At least they aren’t UTEP. The Miners are currently ranked #134 in the 247 sports team rankings. But, I thought there weren’t 134 FBS teams? Bingo, UTEP currently sits behing Austin Peay, Harvard, Yale, Mercer, Penn, and Coastal Carolina in the rankings. That is despite incomplete class listings from many FCS programs. The only player in their signing class that excites me is former Boise State and current JUCO transfer tight end David Lucero.

North Texas put together a solid class, but missed out on some highly rated players that would have moved the needle quite a bit. The Mean Green are slowly building something, but they are bringing in players they like for their system.

Finally, we have one success story in San Antonio. The Roadrunners ended today with the #2 ranked CUSA class. They got a quarterback of the future, a nice JUCO tight end and tackle, talent in the secondary, and bulk on the defensive line. All in all, it was a great day to end a quality recruiting cycle for UTSA.

*****

Here is a look at the CUSA rankings headed into today and where they finished.

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