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American Athletic Conference Signing Day Round Up

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The American Athletic Conference has been battling a perception problem on the recruiting trail since its inception, and this year was no different. What was different about this class was that AAC programs were better able to combat that perception. Here is a quick run down of the recruiting of the other AAC schools in the class of 2015.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

*Quick note: All of the star based rankings, as well as the team rankings, come from 24/7 Sports composite system. In the plainest terms it takes the evaluations of prospects from the four major recruiting services (Rivals, Scout, ESPN and 24/7) and aggregates and ranks them on a zero to 100 scale. It's messy, yes, but it is the easieest way to filter out the noise from so many different opinions

Connecticut

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 11
  • Total Signers -- 23
  • AAC Rank -- 9th
  • Top Player -- Defensive End, David Ryslik

Bob Diaco is figuring out what Randy Edsall figured out, that recruiting to Storrs is never going to be easy. There simply aren't that many high quality players available in New England. That doesn't mean that you abandon your home region, there are five players in the class that hail from New England. But the Huskies spent far more time in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida than they did in their home region and that is what they have to do to survive. This class is heavy on linemen on both sides of the ball, which was by far the Huskies biggest weakness a year ago. Thirteen of the 23 signee's will start their careers with the Huskies on the line of scrimmage. The only question with this class is the same one that generally exists around the UConn program. Can Bob Diaco find some of the development magic that fueled the Edsall era? Consider that question open for a few more years.

Central Florida

  • Consensus **** -- 1
  • Consensus *** -- 16
  • Total Signers -- 18
  • AAC Rank -- 3rd
  • Top Player -- Wide Receiver, Tristian Payton

The Knights class is heavy on the defensive front seven as a full half of the class is made up of front seven defenders. Included in the group is former Bearcat commit Quintin Hampton. It's that kind of attention to the defensive front that allows George O'Leary to continually field such excellent defenses. Of course the biggest loss from last years Knight defense was corner back Jacoby Glenn, and the Knights only signed a pair of defensive backs. The Knights didn't have much room for offensive skill position guys in this group, but they did get four star Tristian Payton to headline a trio of receivers, to go with running back Taj McGowan (already on campus) and quarterback Bo Schneider. On a side note its shocking that UCF had more signee's from Georgia than they did from Florida.

East Carolina

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 11
  • Total Signers -- 13
  • AAC Rank -- 10th
  • Top Player -- Wide Receiver, Deondre Farrier

East Carolina never had much room at all in this class because their senior class was very small. Because of the numbers crunch they had to be very judicious with their commitments, and they had to concentrate on a few areas of need. Wide Receiver was one, and it always is with a team that runs an Air Raid variant. To meet that need they picked a pair of highly regarded receivers, Farrier being one Junstin Strozier being the other. They also got two quarterbacks to come and try and fill the Shane Carden shaped hole in the offense. One is James Summers of Hinds CC in Mississippi, the other is John Jacobs who has an amazing highlight tape. Other than that it seemed to be very much a one of each policy as Ruffin McNeil and staff hit on almost every position group in their small class.

Houston

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 7
  • Total Signers -- 19
  • AAC Rank -- 7th
  • Top Player -- Running Back, Tyreik Gray

Tom Herman did not have much time at all to put together his first staff, and recruit his first class at the University of Houston. Considering the time constraints he did an amazing job for the Cougars. The headliner is without question Houston's Tyreik Gray a really dynamic play maker who will call to mind former Cougar Charles Sims who did a little bit of everything in the offense. Gray fits very well into the confines of Herman's offense. The other big emphasis in this class is the line of scrimmage, and the Cougars really loaded up with  5 of their 19 signings slated to play along the line. Really solid showing in a short period for the Cougars.

Memphis

  • Consensus **** -- 1
  • Consensus *** -- 17
  • Total Signers -- 28
  • AAC Rank -- 4th
  • Top Player -- Running Back, Jae'lon Oglesby

32 is the number of commitments that the Tigers took into signing day, but only 28 inked letters of intent for the Tigers. The two things that jump out to you about this class, the first is that they are finally putting some weapons around Paxton Lynch. Oglesby is a kid that everyone wanted out of high school, he committed to Clemson but didn't make it academically. He went the prep school route this year to get his grades up, but when he did Dabo said nope, and he landed in Memphis. They also nabbed explosive guys lake Darrell Henderson out of Mississippi power South Panola and Tre Humble out of Texas. That will give the Tigers much more talent at the back end of their depth chart offensively than they had a year ago.

South Florida

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 18
  • Total Signers -- 20
  • AAC Rank -- 1st
  • Top Player -- Offensive Tackle, Glen Bethel

Eventually, Willie Taggart is going to have to win on days other than the first Wednesday in February. For now Taggert will continue to ride his bus to success on national signing day before abandoning it for a clunker like Gone Girl at some point in each and every July. The Bulls are still searching for play makers on offense, they have Marlon Mack now, but they need more weapons on the perimeter (like receiver Malik Vaccaro-Dixon) and in the slot (like Jordan Reed). This class has plenty of help in the trenches as with Bethel and guys like Marcus Norman, Marlon Gonzolez and Danny Thomas. Again, this is all great for the Bulls and all. But Taggart has to start winning now, he can't very well fire all his coordinators again.

SMU

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 12
  • Total Signers -- 24
  • AAC Rank -- 6th
  • Top Player -- Quarterback, Ben Hicks

Chad Morris is the new hire that I am most intrigued about. Part of that is the infrastructure that he has at SMU which is seriously, seriously undervalued in all of this. There is a reputation that has to be overcome, in the distant past of scandal and in the more recent past of abject failure, only recently raising to mediocrity. June Jones was never able to fully overcome the inertia built into that job, which is the downside of the Mustangs history. Morris will have a much better chance to, because he isn't an outsider in the way that Jones was. Morris is of that environment, and it shows in his first class. Not only did he managed to sway Ben Hicks (#2 finisher at the Elite 11 and a former Houston commit) to enroll early at SMU over overtures from Florida and Michigan. He also managed to do something that June Jones never did, sign an entire class exclusively from Texas. I will continue to think that Morris is the perfect fit for SMU until proven otherwise,

Temple

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 12
  • Total Signers -- 18
  • AAC Rank -- 5th
  • Top Player -- Defensive Tackle, Greg Webb

Matt Rhule just signed his best class ever as the Owls head coach. The Owls were aggressive in adding defensive line help, and Webb should be a contributor from the jump. They also signed five other defensive lineman that should help replenish their ranks and keep the greatest strength of the Owls, their defense strong. Rhule also added a cadre of running backs to help generate some explosiveness for an offense that so often to devolved into "let P.J. Walker make a play mode."

Tulane

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 8
  • Total Signers -- 19
  • AAC Rank -- 8th
  • Top Player -- Guard, Leeward Brown

Curtis Johnson has really done an amazing job with the Tulane program when you think about it. In a state with one dominant recruiting player that is also recruited heavily by every other SEC school it can be hard to make an impact. Johnson has done so by branching out to Florida a bit, where he found Brown* and offensive lineman Keyshawn McLeod. What he is doing really well is taking the Miami approach and spending a great deal of time and resources in the city of New Orleans, and it payed off as eight of the Green Wave's 19 commits hail from New Orleans

*A high school teammate of the newest Bearcats Kahlil Lewis

Tulsa

  • Consensus **** -- 0
  • Consensus *** -- 3
  • Total Signers -- 19
  • AAC Rank -- 11th
  • Top Player -- Quarterback, Chad President

Strange that the lowest ranked class in the AAC would also have it's only recruit ranked in the top 250 nationally by any of the major services. Phillip Montgomery coaxed President over from he previous job at Baylor. He also signed highly regarded Sooner state athlete McKinnley Whitfield and Reggie Robinson from Texas. Those are the headliners in Montgomery's first class, but there isn't much in the way of depth below them. But this kind of top heavy outcome can happen with a coaches first class at a school. It will be fascinating to see where the Golden Hurricane go from here.

*Omitted from this post is Navy and that is not an oversight. Navy  doesn't have national signing day the way that other schools do. The recruiting process is the same up until the point of commitment, and then it's completely different. Candidates for the Naval Academy have to formally apply to the academy, and they have to secure a nomination for admission, usually from a member of congress. That process continues long after signing day, and even the signing period are live. So at this point Navy's coaches know, more or less who they want to get into the program, but there are no assurances that everyone they want in will be allowed in.