With signing day just days hours, ChippewaCountry takes a look at the Mid-American Conference and each team's respective classes.
Overview: The Zips are once again doing much of their damage through the state of Ohio and prep schools. They have a total of 15 commits thus far and have signed two quarterbacks and four wide receivers.
Top Player: Akron was fortunate to grab running back Erick Howard from Canton, Ohio. Howard was Mr. Football in Ohio and has drawn plenty of rave reviews about his playing ability…problem has been academics. If he qualifies at Akron, he's going to be a big time player. DB Seth Cunningham was also a big pickup for Akron as he chose them over offers from Iowa, Cincinnati and North Carolina.
Sleeper: While it's hard to classify a three star prospect as a sleeper, wide receiver Keith Sconiers has a chance to develop into a very solid wideout in the future. He received loads of interest from the Big Ten, but never got that BCS level offer. Both Eastern and Western Michigan coveted Sconiers, but it was the Zips who ultimately signed the 6-foot-3 Illinois native.
BALL STATE CARDINALS
Overview: Just a year removed from their magical season, the Cardinals have quite a solid class set up. They have 21 commitments as of now and have addressed needs on both the offensive and defensive lines. There is a large Midwest feel to this class and Ball State does not have a committed player south of Kentucky.
Top Player:Defensive back Quintin Cooper isn't the biggest or fastest corner out there, but he is a very talented player and chose the Cardinals over the likes of CMU, Marshall, Kent State and Air Force. He committed early and would have drawn more offers had he not.
Sleeper:DT Nathan Ollie. Ollie is the type of undersized defensive tackle that gets passed over by schools, but like so many examples before him, he has a chance to be a productive defensive lineman in the MAC.
BOWLING GREEN FALCONS
Overview: Look at the Falcons current class of 24 commitments and you see three prominent states were targeted: Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Of those 24 verbal commitments, only two don't hail from one of those three states. Dave Clawson and his staff did a tremendous job of locating talent and they snagged around five or six players who were targeted by every school in the MAC.
Top Player: Running back Jamel Martin will give Bowling Green the powerful runner they have lacked in their spread offense. Martin chose the Falcons over offers from Ball State, Colorado State, Miami (OH) and Indiana.
Sleeper: Has to be athlete Jerry Gates from Middletown (OH). Bowling Green was able to snag his teammate, quarterback Caleb Watkins early in the recruiting game, but Gates was still undecided up until recently. Gates is an explosive athlete who really came on as a senior and projects at a number of positions as the collegiate level.
Overview: The Bulls took a step back in 2009 and still lost their head coach as Turner Gill departed for Kansas. In steps former CMU and Cincinnati assistant Jeff Quinn and the tough task of salvaging Buffalo's 2010 class. With only 8 known commitments, the Bulls class is small in size but features some talent nonetheless.
Top Player: Without a doubt it's running back James Potts. The 5-foot-11 speedster from Florida is an early bet to replace James Starks who is off to the NFL. Potts chose Buffalo over offers from Vanderbilt, Indiana and Louisville among others, and is ranked as the No. 24 all-purpose back in the nation.
Sleeper: Look no further than quarterback Rudy Johnson. The dual threat quarterback was overlooked by many programs due to his 6-foot-1 size, but he has speed (4.6 forty), and a proven track record as a winner and leader.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS
Overview: The Chippewas took some recruiting losses when Butch Jones left for Cincinnati. Jones was able to successfully poach a few CMU recruits in Cody Kater and Montrel Robinson to the Bearcats, but new Chippewas head coach Dan Enos has been able to soften the blow as he kept most of the previous commits on board and added additional talent. Off a 12-2 season and a No. 23 finish in the polls, the coaching change robbed CMU of what could have been a stellar class, but Enos has put some finishing touches on and the Chippewas will once again rank in the upper half of the MAC in recruiting.
Top Player: Really a tossup between linebacker Nores Fradi and defensive lineman Kevin Henry. Both opted to stick with CMU through the coaching change and both have future All-MAC written all over them. Fradi is an instinctive and explosive playmaker at linebacker while Henry has the talent to play anywhere on the defensive line and make an impact.
Sleeper: Quarterback Kyle Smith didn't get the recognition he deserves in the recruiting rankings as the 6-foot-4 and 215 pound lefty has just about everything you could ask for in a top quarterback prospect. He holds the Pennsylvania state records for career passing yards and career touchdowns over the likes of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Joe Montana, but didn't draw any major offers until late in the game. Georgia thought enough of Smith to offer him a preferred walk-on spot, but he ultimately chose the Chippewas.
EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES
Overview: It's been another tough go around for the Eagles on the recruiting trail as head coach Ron English attempts to turn around one of the worst programs in Division 1. According to the Rivals.com rankings, EMU currently has just 9 verbal commitments and have added only one of those from the state of Michigan. Regardless, recruiting and changing the culture at Eastern Michigan is no easy task and immediate dividends are not expected.
Top Player: It's no secret that if linebacker Darrius Moffett ever makes it to Ypsilanti, then he's going to be a player. Moffett was ranked as the No. 52 inside linebacker in the nation last year but had to attend prep school for a year to get his academics in order.
Sleeper: Quarterback Tyler Benz from Maine South (IL) has all the tools to become a very successful QB in the Eagles system. He was overlooked by schools in his home state, but Illinois has been known to provide some of the top quarterbacks in the MAC.
KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES
Overview: Another year and another class full of recruits from prep schools and military academies. Of Kent State's 19 current commitments, five hail from Hargrave Military Academy. It's always a risky strategy to go that route because recruits usually end up at prep schools or military academies for a reason, such as academics. Outside of their usual recruiting grounds, the Golden Flashes have made a serious effort to recruit Ohio with seven current commitments from there.
Top Player: Linebacker Steve Mehrer from Dublin (OH) was one of the top linebackers in the state of Ohio this season and drew interest from just about every school in the MAC. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds with a 4.66 forty, Mehrer has the potential to play early on for Kent State.
Sleeper: Kent State may have stumbled upon a diamond in the rough in 6-foot-4 and 295 pound defensive tackle Terrell Johnson from Archbishop Spalding High in Severn, Maryland. He has the size and athleticism to develop into a impact player in the interior defensive line.
MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS
Overview: Years removed from their glory years, the Redhawks are in rebuilding mode and it all starts with recruiting. Miami (OH) has one of the more diverse recruiting classes in a geographical sense, receiving commitments from recruits in seven different states, including three from Texas. Defensive back was a major need and the Redhawks have five defensive backs as verbal commitments.
Top Player: While quarterback Robert Partridge may not end up as a QB at the next level, he is a tremendous athlete who is physically ready for the college level already. Defensive back Allen Veazie is another high level recruit who hails from the talent rich state of Texas. Veazie spurned Minnesota and Louisiana-Monroe for Miami (OH) and could factor in for immediate playing time in the secondary.
Sleeper: It seems like every year the state of Ohio produces some underrated offensive line recruits, and in Justin Stumph, the Redhawks have found one. The 6-foot-4 and 280 pound Stumph chose Miami (OH) over offers from the likes of Louisville, Indiana and Northwestern, and also reports a 4.0 in the classroom. Don't be surprised to see his name among the MAC's best offensive lineman in a few years.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES
Overview: Head coach Jerry Kill may have awoke a sleeping giant in Dekalb as the Huskies program continues to transform back into the program that was the class of the MAC for years. Despite the on field success last year, the Huskies have struggled a bit on the recruiting trail. They currently have only 12 commitments, but there is some tremendous talent coming in and the Huskies have tabbed their home state of Illinois as a major priority.
Top Player: Remember the name Mike Hellams. The undersized linebacker drew offers from Wyoming and Colorado State before committing to the home state Huskies, but he is a future playmaker that is ranked as the No. 32 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 20 player in the state of Illinois.
Sleeper: Athlete Jasmin Scott from Fort Scott C.C. in Kansas is the type of small, speedy playmaker that has become a staple in the MAC. Scott has already enrolled at Northern Illinois and he should make an impact in the return game as well as the receiving game.
Overview: It's hard to argue with head coach Frank Solich and his recruiting tactics as the veteran coach always seems to identify talent. But, Ohio has been unable to capitalize on their 2009 MAC Championship appearance and bring in top talent thus far.
Top Player: Defensive back Omar Leftwich is a top level talent from Fort Scott C.C. and is enrolled at Ohio after de-committing earlier in the year to visit some other schools. At 6-foot-2 and over 190 pounds, he is the type of physical defensive back in the mold of former Toledo safety Barry Church that can wreak havoc in the MAC.
Sleeper: Defensive lineman Jamaal Tarrent is just another example of a talented defensive lineman who falls under the radar due to his size. Given a few years of a college weight lifting program and he could develop into a solid MAC defensive lineman.
Overview: The Owls have done a great job of capitalizing off a bowl game and a tremendous season, although they fell just short of a MAC Championship appearance. They currently have 24 commitments for 2010 and have once again done a terrific job of recruiting their pipeline states. If this class stays intact, it has all the makings of one of the MAC's best and will only push the Owls further up the MAC ladder.
Top Player: Running back Myron Ross chose Temple over offers from Northwestern, Boston College and Vanderbilt. What that means is that the 6-foot-1 and 205 pound runner has talent both on the field and in the classroom. The three star Ross is ranked as the No. 59 running back in the nation and could factor in with current Temple freshman Bernard Pierce to form a dynamic duo in the backfield.
Sleeper: Tight end Tyler Johnson committed to the Owls way back in June and his firm commitment stymied some of the interest he may have received from other programs. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds with a 4.7 forty, Johnson has the size and athleticism to create mismatches and could develop into a major weapon in the passing game. It may not happen immediately for Johnson, but he has intangibles you cannot teach.
Overview: Where to start with Toledo and head coach Tim Beckwith. Well…up until now they have assembled on of the top recruiting classes the MAC has ever seen. Their 26 current commitments are highlighted by 12 three star prospects and 1 four star recruit. The Rockets also have seven players enrolled early and able to partake in spring practice. They've added size, they've added speed, and they've added plenty of talent, and the rest of the MAC should be very worried. But, with all that talent, also comes some question marks, and it's no secret Toledo took a few "risks" in this class. Seeing how Toledo's 2010 class progresses will be one of the more interesting story lines in the MAC the next few years.
Top Player: Picking a top player among this class is like picking your favorite Ferrari. There are plenty of options and none of them are bad. Wide receiver James Green was a former Tennessee commit and later went to sign at Minnesota before they ran out of scholarships. He eventually ended up at Toledo and is the former teammate of the Rockets quarterback of the future, Austin Dantin. Ranked as a four star prospect, Green has some rare physical skills and if he can keep his academics in order, he has a bright future in the MAC. Linebacker Jayrone Elliott also has the makings of a top notch player.
Sleeper: Defensive tackle Phillip Lewis was an absolute monster at Grand Rapids Community College, but he comes to Toledo with little fan far. At 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds and enrolled for spring practice, Lewis has the size and experience to factor into the defensive tackle rotation immediately.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
Overview: As has been a staple of the Broncos recruiting under Bill Cubit, there was a major focus to recruit the state of Florida. While that recruiting style has yet to win the Broncos anything in the MAC, they certainly bring in some talent. Their 19 member class is highlighted by a bunch of out of state players and Western Michigan also did plenty of damage in Illinois. But for a program and staff that has been in the state of Michigan for so long, the Broncos currently have just two players committed from their home state. Despite ignoring their home state, the Broncos have assembled a very talented recruiting class.
Top Player: Due to his 5-foot-5 stature, running back Dareyon Chance was overlooked by programs across the country despite consistently proving he was on the most talented runners in the state of Florida. Other schools loss is the Broncos gain, and in an era where diminutive running backs flourish from college to the NFL's Pro Bowl (Just look at the 2010 roster), Chance has an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of plenty of other running backs without prototypical size.
Sleeper: People may look at 6-foot-4 and 270 pound defensive tackle Pat Driscoll and think he lacks the athleticism and size to be an effective collegiate defensive tackle. But Driscoll is exactly the type of hardnosed player who has been cemented in the trenches at Western Michigan for years. Look for him to beat out some of the Broncos more highly rated defensive tackles during his career.
ChippewaCountry's MAC Recruiting Rankings
4) Bowling Green
5) Central Michigan
6) Western Michigan
7) Miami (OH)
8) Northern Illinois
9) Ball State
12) Kent State
13) Eastern Michigan