Heading into National Signing Day, the AAC has done well on the recruiting trail, even beating out Power 5 teams for recruits. As it stands now, five AAC teams have better recruiting classes than at least one Power 5 team (Memphis, Houston, UCF, ECU, and Cincinnati). Memphis and Cincinnati have already made splashes by signing one four star recruit each, but don’t be surprised if they or another team (Houston or UCF) add to that total.
So who’s doing well and who needs help? Memphis leads the way with the best Group of 5 recruiting class, while USF brings up the rear. We take a look at what we’ve seen and what to expect leading up to National Signing Day.
TOP OF THE CONFERENCE
*overall ranking according to 247Sports listed after name
Memphis (56th): The Tigers are at the top, and has their best recruiting class in school history. Four star offensive tackle Obinna Eze leads the way, but this class has a lot of depth too. The Tigers may not make much noise on National Signing Day simply because they’re getting recruits to commit before the deadline. With 24 commits and counting, this class figures to remain at the top.
Houston (66th): A year after signing a once-in-a-lifetime class, Houston found themselves in the middle of the pack. The loss of Tom Herman was the cause, but Major Applewhite has done well to improve his first incoming class. Applewhite should add a few more recruits come National Signing Day, but has already done well enough to move his team to the top of the conference in recruiting.
UCF (68th): Scott Frost’s second year has catapulted the Knights to the top of the conference in recruiting. With some great talent already on campus, Frost can add to his 19 recruits on National Signing Day.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
East Carolina (71st): The Pirates come in next as the surprise of the AAC. With 22 recruits (11 three stars), Scottie Montgomery’s staff has done extremely well despite finishing 3-9 last season. 10 recruits are early enrollees, so that takes a lot of pressure off having to add more to this class.
Cincinnati (72nd): The Bearcats received a surprise commitment, and has a gem in RJ Potts. Potts spurned Michigan, Notre Dame, and Indiana to become a Bearcat. If Luke Fickell can keep him, Potts can be a valuable selling point for other recruits considering the Bearcats.
Navy (78th): Service academies always have it tough to find players, but Navy has consistently been able to get quality athletes to come to campus. Recruiting does matter, but with the triple option, you can find a place for a player regardless of what position or system he played in during high school.
SMU (83rd): This is a big year for Chad Morris’ Mustangs. Year 3 is when a coach should be producing (if he lasts that long). Unless Morris can add more quality recruits in the next two days, this will be his smallest and worst recruiting class in his tenure at SMU.
Tulsa (87th): The bad news for the Golden Hurricanes: they lost a lot of talent heading into this year. The good news: this will be their best recruiting class under Phillip Montgomery. If they can add one more recruit, it will also be their biggest heading into his third year. Along with SMU, Tulsa is the other team I would like to see move up in recruiting due to their location. These two schools are in prime recruiting hotbeds and should be able to snag some recruits who missed out at Power 5 schools.
WORK TO DO
Tulane (93rd): Year two under Willie Fritz so far has slipped in terms of recruiting, but they have a couple days to change that. Fritz has added a good number of recruits (24), so quantity isn’t the issue. Like SMU and Tulsa, Tulane should look to steal some recruits out of their local stomping grounds in Louisiana to improve this draft class.
Temple (98th): With Matt Rhule leaving for Baylor, this dip in recruiting comes as no surprise for Temple. The Owls do have 18 recruits, however only six are three stars, so some work will need to be done if they want to move up in the conference.
UConn (106th): Randy Edsall Part 2 isn’t starting well. After rejoining the Huskies, Edsall pulled a scholarship from a committed recruit just 17 days before signing day. It will be tough sledding from the beginning, which isn’t something you want to hear after last season. The good news? The Huskies’ women’s basketball team is still good, so at least that will tide fans over until the football season starts.
USF (114th): This is the absolute shocker of the AAC. With the exit of Willie Taggart, Charlie Strong filled those shoes and has some work to do on the recruiting trail. The Bulls’ 2017 class is currently ranked 114th and last in the conference, but Strong should fix that. I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished in the middle of the conference by the end of signing day.
Overall, the AAC did well leading up to National Signing Day. Look for a couple teams to try and make a big push for some bigger names, while the rest look to add more recruits in general. Besides UConn and USF, there aren’t any big concerns heading into February 1st.