Before National Signing Day, there was still plenty that AAC teams could do to improve their classes. UCF and Cincinnati made the most noise by moving up 14 and 11 spots, respectively. For the most part, the conference improved by signing extra recruits or were satisfied with their classes and stayed put.
*Rankings according to 247Sports*
Memphis: The Tigers added some lower rated prospects, but addressed needs for their roster. This was their best recruiting class in over a decade and finished second to UCF in the conference. Four star Obinna Eze’s name will be heard quite a bit when you hear about this class, and it won’t be a surprise if he competes for playing time right away. While they dropped to to 59th overall, there was plenty to be thrilled about as Mike Norvell’s staff did well in their second year.
Houston: Houston didn’t have much change in their class. They only added two recruits, and fell to fourth in the conference after UCF and Cincinnati moved past them. This Cougars class is still solid for Major Applewhite’s entering his first season, and it added depth to multiple positions. There may not have been any Ed Oliver-type signings, but defensive end Bryan Jones signed along with three other defensive ends.
UCF: All signs were pointed towards the Knights relaxing for the rest of signing day, but apparently they weren’t done. Scott Frost added the best prospect to sign with the Group of 5 in Cordarrian Richardson, vaulting the Knights to the top of the Group of 5 and the AAC. Richardson is the eighth best running back from the class of 2017, and gives the Knights a big reason to celebrate.
ECU: With star Zay Jones leaving campus, many wondered who would fill his shoes. Scottie Montgomery added four future options to his class, and kept his class balanced offensively and defensively by signing 11 recruits to each side of the ball. Five of Montgomery’s top six recruits will play offense, including receiver Leroy Henley, dual-threat QB Kinglsey Ifedi, and running back Trace Christian.
Cincinnati: Luke Fickell got right to work when he joined the Bearcats, but he wasn’t done until signing day was over. Cincinnati was set to sign the 72nd best class in the nation and fifth best in the conference, but Fickell snagged a handful of recruits late to boost the class. Adding offensive tackle Vincent McConnell and defensive tackle Ben Hutch just days before signing day was thought to be the finishing touches, but Fickell added more. With five recruits (safety Noah Hamline, receivers Javan Hawes and Trent Cloud, runningback Michael Warren, and athlete Marquese Taylor) all committing and signing with Cincinnati on signing day, the Bearcats shot up to 61st in the country.
Navy: Recruiting at service academies is just different. They have to be extremely selective about who comes to campus, and even then, there isn’t a guarantee the kid will get there. Since recruits don’t sign National Letters of Intent, coaches won’t know who they have until practice begins. Navy did well despite these restrictions, signing the 83rd best class in the nation. They added three quarterbacks, a key position in the triple option offense, and finished eighth in the AAC.
SMU: Even though the Mustangs dropped to seventh in the conference, they still managed to improve nationally. Chad Morris ran all over Texas to get his recruits, and for the third year in a row, every high school recruit to sign with the Mustangs was from the Lone Star State. Morris also brought in one graduate and two junior college transfers to round out the class.
Tulsa: Phillip Montgomery utilized Tulsa’s home state as well as their neighbor to the south to fill their class. 21 of their 22 recruits were from either state. Six three stars headline the class, led by receiver Sam Crawford and offensive guard Dante Bivens. Montgomery lost some experience on both sides of the ball heading into 2017, so it will be interesting to see which incoming freshmen can compete to see the field this season.
Tulane: Willie Fritz used all 25 of his scholarships, and covered 10 different positions in doing so. Athlete Khalil McClain has tremendous size, and OLB Michael Scott and DE Will Wallace could compete immediately to replace starters at those positions. The Green Wave went for quantity in this class, and still got a few quality recruits out of it while staying in SEC territory to get recruits.
Temple: Transition classes are so difficult to maintain. Many of the recruits leave with the exiting coach, making things harder on the coach who comes in to repair what is left. Temple is in a transition period in the coaching staff, offensively, and defensively, so they will need time to get on their feet. Their recruiting class was relatively small, with just 16 recruits signing (smallest in the AAC), which was a big reason why they finished last in the conference and 113th overall.
UConn: The Huskies added a few last minute recruits to their class to improve from 106th to 100th in the nation. They also jumped to 10th in the conference over Tulane and Temple. Randy Edsall has plenty of work to do on the field, but did a nice job to get a decent recruiting class together.
USF: As predicted, Charlie Strong went to work on the recruiting trail and put the Bulls in the middle of the AAC and the nation. With the exit of Willie Taggert, Strong had plenty of work to do with just a handful of commits in the class. He was able to sign all but one recruit from Florida, and many were in South Florida territory. Two big additions on signing day were safety Naytron Culpepper and receiver Kevaughn Dingle, and they ended up being the top two recruits in the class.
Overall, the AAC added plenty of talent to their recruiting classes. UCF, Cincinnati, and USF all improved significantly on signing day, and almost every other team improved their classes as well. With four of the top five Group of 5 recruiting classes, the AAC has again set itself up to compete with all of college football as they continue to be the class of the G5.