Anyone who pays attention to recruiting knows that recruits dream of going to a big school. Competing at a high level is something they all covet, and it becomes a matter of which school wins their trust. When a player that’s listed as four or five stars decides to go to a smaller school, it’s front page news.
Since 2012, one five star and 36 four star recruits have committed to Group of 5 schools according to 247Sports. 15 Of those recruits have enrolled at American Athletic Conference schools. Keeping with that trend, two players have already committed to AAC teams heading into National Signing Day. Obinna Eze (Memphis) and RJ Potts (Cincinnati) are just the latest four star recruits to spurn Power 5 programs in favor of a “smaller school.”
Eze chose the Tigers over Ole Miss and Potts chose the Bearcats over Michigan, Notre Dame, and Indiana. Recruits in the past have made plenty of noise by choosing G5 schools, but with varying levels of success on campus. We take a look at the past 15 recruits to take their talents to the AAC.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Oliver was one of the best defensive players in the country, period. He headlined Houston’s recruiting class last year by choosing the Cougars over Texas and LSU and became the first five star prospect to end up at a G5 school.
Oliver dominated his competition from Day 1, and the Oklahoma Sooners can attest to that. He was named AAC Rookie of the Year, won the 2016 Bill Willis Award, and named to multiple All American teams. With two years of eligibility left, the accruement of accolades should continue.
Na’Ty Rodgers, OT, Houston
Rodgers’ path was through junior college after leaving South Carolina. His second round of recruiting led him to Houston, who beat out TCU to get the right tackle in 2016. Rodgers was second on the team with 34 knockdowns and helped the Cougars rush for 1,887 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. With a quarterback battle looming in 2017, Rodgers and a deep offensive line should ease that transition.
Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
Another Houston product, Greenberry had a stellar career with the Cougars from 2012-2014 under coach Tony Levine, accumulating 2,612 yards and 20 touchdowns in 37 games. The Fresno, CA, recruit passed opportunities to attend hometown schools USC and UCLA to go to Houston.
Sean Price, TE, USF
After choosing the Bulls over Georgia, Oklahoma and Arkansas, Price had a solid career. While his stats weren’t eye-popping, he still hauled in 76 passes for 907 yards and 6 touchdowns from 2012-2015. His senior year was his best, with 20 catches, 307 yards and five touchdowns, while helping the Bulls post their first winning season under Willie Taggert and first since 2010.
Tristan Payton, WR, UCF
Payton contributed on kickoffs the last two years, but his production decreased. His role expanded offensively, and we could see more in his third year as a Knight. Payton chose UCF over USC and Louisville in 2015. Like he did at Oregon, coach Scott Frost utilizes his receivers not only in the passing game but with the rushing attack as well, so Payton should see more touches in year 3.
Kyle Gibson, S, UCF
Gibson should fill a vacancy at safety after playing six games at corner for the Knights defense. After committing to UCF over Vanderbilt, Gibson played a limited role in the secondary. With 49 tackles in two years as a backup, his production should increase now that both starters have graduated.
Darnell Salomon, WR, USF
The good news for Salomon is that Rodney Adams graduated, and that means an open position up for grabs. The Miami native chose to stay close to home instead of entertaining offers from Alabama, LSU, and NC State, and has good size and ability to step in. While Adams played the slot, Tyre McCants could take that position and provide an opportunity for Salomon to compete with Ryeshene Bronson and Chris Barr for that open slot. Even if he can’t win the starting role, his catches and yards will rise with an increase in playing time.
Karamo Dioubate, DT, Temple
Temple was thrilled to get Dioubate over Penn State, Michigan State and South Carolina, and will be in competition from Day 1 under new coach Geoff Collins. The Owls typically have a stout defense and Dioubate is just the latest Owl who can fit the mold. He has the talent to take a starting spot, and should push the returners for more playing time.
Courtney Lark, WR, Houston
With multiple receivers returning in 2016, Lark saw limited action in his first year with the Cougars. Lark decided to make the nine mile trip to campus over committing to Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but may have to wait to play. With five players who produced more than him returning, it may be tough to see the field in 2017. However, with Chance Allen gone and a new coaching staff on campus, lark should still be in the mix.
Craig Watts, S, USF
After listening to offers from Ohio State, Florida State, and Wisconsin, Watts stayed home to play for USF. He did not see action in 2016, and will fight for playing time with three other returners. The good news for Watts is the two starters last year are both gone, and he has two chances to either start or see the field.
Tren’Davian Dickson, WR, Houston
Dickson’s story is well documented, and his saga doesn’t have an ending yet. Originally committing to Baylor, he changed his mind once the Bears endured a scandal and decided to reopen his recruitment. Committing to the Cougars over Texas A&M gave Houston another highly touted recruit to their 2016 class, but the hype was short-lived. Just one month after joining the Cougars in August, Dickson unexpectedly left Houston and has yet to land at another program.
Jae’lon Oglesby, APB, Memphis
Originally signing a Letter of Intent to Clemson, Oglesby decided to decommit from the Tigers and eventually sign with Memphis. He saw action in 13 total games and contributed as a receiver and runner. His future is foggy as he was suspended after a fight with a teammate left his car riddled with bullets. Now, he’s only a bust because he hasn’t played because of the suspension. Should he rejoin the team and contribute, he has a chance to be impactful, but as of right, his future is in jeopardy.
D’vario Montgomery, WR, USF
Montgomery played 11 games for the Bulls while producing 65 yards. He would transfer to Iowa State and have two decent seasons with the Cyclones, but ended up transferring to Toledo after that where he only recorded one catch for 14 yards.
With the AAC making a push to become the sixth Power conference, they will have to continue to bring in these highly rated recruits in order to continuously compete with the P5.
Eze and Potts are continuing the trend, but don’t be surprised if one or two more recruits choose a G5 school come National Signing Day. These teams don’t have the luxury of getting multiple four and even five star recruits, so the players they do get have to be home runs. Should this trend continue in future years, the AAC may really become a Power 6 conference.