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February 2, 2012

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the Big East

MORE: Top 25 teams | Signing Day Central

More Conferences: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell ranks the Big East recruiting classes coming out of National Signing Day.

Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

Big East Blitz
1. Rutgers

Commit List
ScarletNation.com
Message Board
Headliner: Considering Darius Hamilton of Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep was the first five-star signee in the program's history, he is the obvious headliner in this class. What made his commitment even more impressive is that it came five days after coach Greg Schiano suddenly bolted for the NFL. Hamilton is a technician of the game and equally impressive physically. He should have no problem making an immediate impact for the Scarlet Knights.
Sleeper: Derrick Nelson of Washington (D.C.) was overshadowed by the commitments of Chris Muller and J.J. Denman, but he deserves to be noticed. Nelson is a bulldog of an offensive lineman who also has the athleticism to be a traditional pulling guard in the Rutgers pro-style offense. Nelson may end up having just as much of an impact for Rutgers as the other offensive linemen in this class.
Overview: This class would have been impressive if Schiano didn't leave for the NFL, but considering he left six days before National Signing Day, keeping this class together was borderline amazing. Then on top of that to add Hamilton, three-star wide receiver Ian Thomas and three-star athlete Jevon Tyree to close things out was even more impressive. The Scarlet Knights also did well in-state, keeping eight of the top 15 home, and in Eastern Pennsylvania, where they took advantage of the upheaval at Penn State. Hamilton joins Savon Huggins as the second consecutive No. 1 rated player in New Jersey to stay at home.
2. Louisville

Commit List
CardinalSport.com
Message Board
Headliner: Coach Charlie Strong is known as a dynamic recruiter, especially in Florida, but he truly proved his talents by landing linebacker Nick Dawson from Charlotte (N.C.) Phillip O' Berry. Dawson, at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, moves extremely well for his size, especially laterally, closes very well to the ball and has impressive instincts.
Sleeper: Defensive end Pedro Sibiea committed to Louisville in December but had kept his mind open to other options. After listening to a handful of schools and taking an official visit to Minnesota, Sibiea signed with Louisville on Wednesday. After a tough showing at a few camps this summer, Sibiea turned it up a few notches during the fall and was able to show his true potential.
Overview: While the Cardinals may have missed out on their expected Signing Day surprise with coach Strong at the helm, it was still a an impressive class. Leading the way is the linebacker duo of Dawson and Keith Brown, while the duo of Larry Jefferson and Sheldon Rankins adds much-needed depth to the defensive line. On offense, Abraham Garcia, DeAndre Herron and T.C. Klusman give the Cardinals a young, talented nucleus on the offensive line, while quarterback Will Gardner, running back Brandon Radcliff and wide receiver Brandon Snell form a potentially dynamic trifecta of skill players.
3. Pittsburgh

Commit List
Panther-Lair.com
Message Board
Headliner: Being able to grab in-state four-star running back Rushel Shell was a huge victory for the Panthers. The record-breaking Shell has the talent to make his mark this fall if necessary.
Sleeper: Defensive back Jahmahl Pardner committed to Pittsburgh without a great deal of hype, but he is the type of player who has the potential to shine early. Possessing the versatility to play either cornerback or safety in college, Pardner also excelled in the return game in high school, which should put him in line to be an early contributor.
Overview: Even while dealing with yet another coaching departure this off-season, new coach Paul Chryst pulled the class together at the end and produced a solid product. Helping the class on Signing Day was the addition of four-star linebacker Deaysean Rippy, who picked the Panthers over West Virginia. Adding Rippy to in-state stars Shell and offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty, as well as four-star quarterback Chad Voytik from Tennessee, laid down the groundwork for future recruiting success at Pittsburgh.
4. West Virginia

Commit List
WVSports.com
Message Board
Headliner: Ignoring late overtures from Ohio State, wide receiver Deontay McManus of Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar brings another explosive weapon to the West Virginia passing attack. However, unlike many of the smaller, quicker receivers they currently have, McManus will bring size and strength to the position and an additional weapon in the red zone.
Sleeper: Cornerback Nana Kyeremeh of Worthington (Ohio) Thomas Worthington was a very nice addition for the West Virginia coaching staff. 5-foot-11 and 170-pounds, Kyeremeh needs to improve his overall body strength, but he already has good athleticism, shows natural instincts and plays with impressive field smarts.
Overview: As can be expected with coach Dana Holgorsen, obtaining more offensive firepower is always a priority. Aside from McManus, Travares Copeland, Devonte Mathis and Devonte Robinson will add even more depth to the receiving corps, while Will Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound tight end, should add a new element. Defensively, Karl Joseph is a hardnosed cornerback from Florida, and should help on special teams immediately. On the defensive line, Christian Brown and Imarjaye Albury are powerful tackles who have the potential to be productive contributors against the run, while Korey Harris is a prototypical speed rushing end who loves to get after the quarterback.
5. South Florida

Commit List
USFBullseye.com
Message Board
Headliner: The coaching staff had to work overtime to keep his commitment solid, but grabbing the services of four-star tight end Sean Price was a huge victory for the Bulls. After committing back in June, Price received serious interest from many of the top regional programs, most notably Georgia. Finally signed, Price gives the Bulls a reliable pass-receiving threat at tight end and also an improving run blocker.
Sleeper: While still considered raw, there is no denying the potential in defensive end Daniel Perry of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School. Measuring in at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Perry has to work on his upper body strength and needs time to fill out his frame, but he has shown surprising quickness and burst for someone his size.
Overview: While he was overlooked by some because of Price, four-star wide receiver D'Vario Montgomery of Winter Park, Fla. will definitely make a name for himself in the Bulls offense. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Montgomery is a physically impressive receiver who should become an immediate threat in the red zone. Defensively, both defensive tackle James Hamilton and defensive back Chris Bivins also have the ability to become early contributors. One of the more intriguing prospects in the Big East is athlete Guito Ervilus. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds Ervilus can play either defensive end or tight end, and he hopes to get up to just under 250 pounds by the time summer camp begins.
6. Cincinnati

Commit List
BearcatReport.com
Message Board
Headliner: Bennie Coney will be counted on by Cincinnati fans as being the probable quarterback of the future for the Bearcats. Considered one of the top quarterbacks in Florida, Coney has a strong arm, makes good decisions and is also elusive in the open field. Already enrolled, Coney will have a jumpstart on making a positive impression on the coaching staff and fans.
Sleeper: Listed as a defensive end, Alex Pace of Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville will most likely end up at defensive tackle down the road. Already at 6-foot-2 and 284 pounds, Pace possesses surprising quickness and agile feet for his size. After a year or two in the strength and conditioning program at Cincinnati, he should be able to combine this athleticism with his improved strength to become a very good interior defensive lineman.
Overview: The loss of four-star running back Dennis Norfleet to Michigan on Wednesday was definitely a blow to the recruiting class, but even without Norfleet the Bearcats still brought in a very deep class. The quarterbacks, Coney and Trenton Norvell, both have all of the tools to run the Cincinnati spread offense, while offensive lineman Caleb Stacey has the potential to be an important part of the line for several years. Defensively, Ey'Shawn McClain is a hard-hitting linebacker, while defensive lineman Ryan Leahy (6-foot-6, 256 pounds) is an imposing presence coming off the edge.
7. Syracuse

Commit List
CuseConfidential.com
Message Board
Headliner: Defensive back Wayne Morgan from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall is a big name in-state and a great get for the Orange. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder can play cornerback or safety and chose Syracuse over Big East rival UConn.
Sleeper: Coming from Staten Island, wide receiver Alvin Cornelius slid under the radar for a lot of schools. But he was identified early by Syracuse and committed during the summer. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cornelius possesses a nice combination of size, speed and fundamentals, which should make him a candidate for playing time in 2012.
Overview: With help needed on the defensive line, the Orange hit the JUCO ranks for two prospects. Defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster and defensive tackle Zian Jones will be counted on to contribute immediately. Help was also brought into the secondary with Morgan and Julian Whigham, who should get long, hard looks during summer practice. Offensively, running back George Morris of Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett will bring a skillset to Syracuse that should give him an opportunity for early playing time. Cornelius and tight end Ron Thompson have potential, while Devante McFarlane has game-breaking abilities and can play several positions.
8. Connecticut

Commit List
UConnReport.com
Message Board
Headliner: Grabbing in-state quarterback Casey Cochran was an important victory for the Huskies. Aside from keeping the record-setting player in state, it also gives the Huskies another possible answer to their lingering quarterback concerns. Having enrolled for the spring semester, Cochran will surely be allowed to showcase his talents during spring practice with the hopes of maybe getting him early playing time this fall.
Sleeper: Defensive end Brendan Battles may be known more as a wrestler than he is a football player at the moment, but he should be able to flourish once he is able to concentrate all of his time to the gridiron. Possessing fantastic athleticism, toughness and quick feet, Battles may take a little time to make the transition fully, but he has a chance to be a major contributor.
Overview: Despite a couple of late losses to the recruiting class, this is still a group that should answer a lot of the needs for UConn. Cochran and Chandler Whitmer are quarterbacks with potential, and with both already enrolled, watching that battle through the spring and summer should be interesting. Another early enrollee is running back Joseph Williams, who slipped under the radar for some programs at Fork Union Military Academy. At 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, he is game-ready and should be able to contribute. Defensively, a stable of talented linebackers were brought in, plus several athletic defensive backs, such as Jhavon Williams and Obi Melifonwu. Not to be forgotten, one of the best kickers in the Southeast, Bobby Puyol should help continue the Huskies' solid special teams play.

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