In nearly every recruiting cycle there are a handful of classes that you look at and say "this is a good class" despite it not ranking among the best in the country. For the 2014 cycle, here are five that jump out as being in that category (listed in alphabetical order).
Though Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema flatly dismissing recruiting class rankings as "the biggest joke in college" was over-the-top, he has every reason to be excited about this class because of the strength at positions of need. Arkansas continues to build its offensive line behind the excellent work of assistant Sam Pittman, who landed Frank Ragnow (Chanhassen, Minn.), Brian Wallace (St. Louis, Mo./Christian Brothers) and Jovan Pruitt (Dallas, Texas/Bishop Dunne Catholic) from out-of-state and Sebastian Tretola (Iowa Western) from junior college. Combine this group with the 2013 group that included promising Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland and you have the makings of the types of offensive lines that facilitated Bielema to so much success at Wisconsin. Quarterback Rafe Peavey (Boliver, Mo.) is a coaches son that could compete for snaps this season (he's already enrolled) and don't sleep on running back Juan Day (North Little Rock).
Though the Jayhawks have been at the bottom of the Big 12 in recent memory, a scanning of this recruiting class reveals versatile athleticism and potential, particularly in terms of players that can make things happen with the ball in their hands. Athlete Derrick Neal (Dallas, Texas/Lincoln) could be a star on either side of the ball. Running back Traevohn Wrench (Gardner, Kan./Edgerton) is a good in-state get as is local star Joe Dineen (Lawrence Free State), another study in high upside because of versatility. Watch out for cornerback Matthew Boateng (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) and JUCO all-purpose back De'Andre Mann (Salinas, Calif./Hartnell College) as well.
This 30-prospect class features 16 in-state prospects and seven early enrollees and is similar to those signed at Tennessee and Virginia Tech this recruiting cycle in terms of roster impact. Germaine Pratt (High Point, N.C./Central) is one of the most versatile defensive prospects in the country and could end up at one of five positions (he's one of the early enrollees). Quarterback Jalan McClendon (Charlotte, N.C./West Mecklenburg) is a 6-foot-4 passer with a big arm and good feet. He and Pratt both were among the best prospects at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game in December. The Wolfpack proved to be opportunistic and persuasive late in the cycle- cornerback Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore, Md./Gillman) was a late defection from Penn State and offensive tackle Will Richardson (Burlington, N.C./Cummings) flipped from Virginia.
Pat Fitzgerald and company finished this class early and in all honesty it's not ranked higher because of the numbers (only 15). There's no doubt, however, it's an excellent group. Quarterback Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./North) has the type of potential to be the best signal caller in the entire 2014 class when all is said and done. He is 6-feet-4, 205 pounds with an excellent arm and enough mobility to make things happen with his feet. Justin Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North) is explosive and also has good hands. Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic) can be elite at tight end but also has high upside on defense and cornerback Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill.) was the highest-rated prospect in the class. In a recruiting cycle deep with talent in the Land of Lincoln, the Wildcats landed three of the top seven in-state.
The Beavers signed 29 including receiver Datrin Guyton (Manor, Texas), who the recruiting industry vastly underrated as a three-star prospect (0.8666 247Sports Composite rating). Guyton has size at 6-3, speed and hands. A pair of in-state prospects- Ryan Nall (Portland Central Catholic) and Tanner Sanders (Corvallis) are excellent athletes with versatility and size who can be potentially elite once they find a position. Cornerback DeMarlon Morris (Mesa, Ariz./Mesa Community College) arrives from junior college with the potential to compete for snaps right away.