Conference USA Football Recruiting Class Ranks

The 2011 football season just ended, but it seems like the 2012 season is nearly upon us. With national signing day in the rearview mirror, MinerRush will go over each and every school's recruiting class, highlighting the major signees, and ranking them among the rest of the Conference USA schools. Here's what we found.

Class Rank School Four Star Athletes Three Star Athletes Two Star Athletes Total Commits
1 Marshall Thundering Herd 3 10 6 34
2 Houston Cougars 3 5 5 25
3 SMU Mustangs 1 8 11 22
4 Southern Miss Golden Eagles 1 7 7 27
5 UCF Knights 1 7 6 19
6 ECU Pirates 1 5 3 20
7 Tulane Green Wave
1
3
8
17
8 Tulsa Golden Hurricane 0
5
7
21
9 UAB Blazers 0 4 10 30
10 Rice Owls 0 5 6 24
11 Memphis Tigers 0 5 5 27
12 UTEP Miners 0 1 9 24

1. Marshall Thundering Herd - 34 commits - 2011 Results: (7-6, 5-3) Won St. Petersburg Bowl

Marshall's 2012 recruiting class turned out to be not only the largest in C-USA, but also the best. Sure some of these recruits were part of the 2011 high school class, but considering they've never played college football, they qualify for 2012. And, with a solid young nucleus, this team could be in for a great year. With 3-4 star athletes, and 10-3 star athletes, this class is extremely talented. Headlining the group of signees are 4 star athletes Kevin Grooms, Kent Turene, and Amos Leggett.

Kevin Grooms, a 5'10 170 lb ATH (CB/RB), was one of those that was a 2011 high school graduate. He originally signed to play with the Miami Hurricanes, but never qualified academically. Grooms is currently enrolled at Marshall, and will be eligible for the 2012 season.

Per ESPN:

"This kid is a missile of an athlete. Grooms possesses some of the best sudden quickness and stop/start ability of any prospect in this class. He is an undersized running back/scat-type on offense, but his future in our opinion is as a cover cornerback."

Kent Turene, a 6'3 230 lb OLB, is another class of 2011 prospect that never qualified academically. The LB originally signed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs, but has since enrolled at Marshall and should be eligible in the fall.

Per ESPN:

" Turene shows the playing strength to dominate as a run stopper. Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. Displays very good flexibility, agility and balance; does a good job with K&D recognition skills against both the run and pass. Will step up and take on blockers, showing the upper body strength to defeat blockers vs. inside run."

Amos Leggett, a 5'11 175 lb CB, is Marshall's lone 4 star recruit that is actually a part of the 2012 high school class. Leggett, who is out of Miami, FL, held offers from Florida St, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio St., UCF, Miami (FL), South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Per ESPN:

"Leggett is a quick and competitive corner with a lot of ability. He does not have great size or speed but possesses few physical or technical flaws on film and is just a baller who makes a lot of plays. Very instinctive with great coverage and overall awareness skills. Consistently puts himself into the correct position to make plays. Tough, physical and scrappy."

Overall, the Thundering Herd have brought in some great talent that should be able to provide an immediate impact on the field. The vast majority of offensive skill players from the 2011 team were only freshman or sophomores, so a great recruiting class defensively like this one here should translate into a solid 2012 campaign. Of course, only time will tell how this all comes together, but the future is extremely bright here.

2. Houston Cougars - 25 commits - 2011 Results: (13-1, 8-0) Won TicketCity Bowl

The Houston Cougars have experienced tremendous success in recent years, capped by a 13-1 run in the 2011 campaign. However, they will lose quite a bit from the team on both sides of the ball, most notably QB Case Keenum, RB Michael Hayes, and WR Patrick Edwards. With a move to the Big East coming in another year, a solid recruiting class was much needed. This year's class is highlighted by 4 star athletes Deontay Greenberry, Donald Hopkins, and Mac Long, as well as 5-3 star athletes.

Deontay Greenberry, a 6'2 185 lb WR, is a tremendous athlete that was actually considered one of the ESPN top 150 athletes in the nation (106th). Greenberry, ranked the 17th best WR, originally committed to play football for Notre Dame, but surprised a ton of people, and decided to sign with Houston last Wednesday. He was also offered by Arizona St., Cal, UCLA, Boise St., Washington, Washington St., Alabama, and UNLV.

Per ESPN:

"Greenberry is a very athletic and rangy prospect on both sides of the ball, but his demeanor in our opinion does not really lend to him ending up as a safety at the next level, but rather as a big, long armed redzone and jump ball target at wide receiver. Has a very wide catch radius. Comes off the ball with purpose and can threaten the deep field. His size and quickness make him a downfield guy along the sideline, but his speed is just adequate."

Donald Hopkins, 6'2 275 lb DT, is a solid athlete with decent size. Hopkins is considered the 19th best defesnsice tackle in the nation, and was a participant in the Under Armour All-America Game.

Per ESPN:

"Hopkins is not the biggest dude, but he can be an explosive and disruptive defensive tackle. He has solid height, but does need to try and add more good bulk to a frame that shows signs of possibly not being able to support much more good size. He may lack ideal bulk, but he can cause problems flashing good explosiveness off the ball. He will move around the line and overall gets off the ball well, but when lined up over the center he displays very good snap anticipation and is able to explode out of his stance low and quickly get under the centers pads and knock him back."

3. SMU Mustangs - 22 commits - 2011 Results: (8-5, 5-3) Won BBVA Compass Bowl

The Mustangs had a successful 2011 campaign that was capped by their win over Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. They started the season with junior Kyle Padron at QB, but quickly made the switch to senior JJ McDermott. Padron has now asked for, and been granted a release from his scholarship, opening up a huge hole for the Mustangs' offense. While other skills position players like RB Zach Line and WR Darius Johnson will be returning, there are still some spots to be filled. SMU's 2012 class is highlighted by 4 star Neal Burcham, and 8-3 star recruits. Also worth mentioning, former Texas QB Garrett Gilbert has "committed" to SMU, and could be available this coming season.

Neal Burcham, a 6'3 185 lb QB out of Greenbriar, AR, was rated as the 20th best QB in the 2012 class, and was also offered by Arkansas St., Central Arkansas, and Cincinatti.

Per ESPN:

"This kid has a chance to really blossom at the next level. Burcham is long and lanky, but has the frame and physical tools to become a very crisp, polished passer with enough athleticism to buy time and get out of trouble. He has very good height and a frame that can carry a lot more weight and bulk and he needs significant time in the weightroom. What stands out about him is his release and savvy feel for the game. Has the quick, smooth delivery to consistently beat the pass rush with his arm. Gets rid of the ball quickly and can change ball speeds with touch, zip and RPMs."

Daijuan Stewart, a 5'10, 175 lb ATH out of Baldwin, LA, plays both WR and S, while also taking snaps as a Wildcat QB. Stewart was also offered by New Mexico, Pitt, Memphis, Houston, ULL, La Tech, Southern Miss, and Tulane.

Per ESPN:

"Stewart is a very talented overall prospect that could without question play on either side of the football at the FBS level of play. Has possesses adequate size and shows an athletic, but lean frame with nice overall flexibility. Will likely project as a wide receiver or safety. Sees a lot of snaps as a Wildcat QB when employed as a designated runner. He is explosive with the ball in hands on offense. Is elusive and quick when he gets out in space and a playmaker with his ability to reach top speed quickly. Will surprise you with his toughness and ability to break initial contact. Runs with good balance and lean."

4. Southern Miss Golden Eagles - 27 commits - 2011 Results: (12-2, 6-2) Won Hawaii Bowl

The Golden Eagles had a great 2011 campaign in which they won the Conference USA championship, and beat Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. But, senior QB Austin Davis is gone, as is his top target, and number of other players who filled significant roles. Southern Miss' 2012 lass is highlighted by 4 star athlete Anthony Alford, as well a as 7-3 star recruits.

Anthony Alford, a 6'0 210 lb ATH, was considered the 10th best athlete in the 2012 class. He participated in the ARMY All American game, and was considered the 95th best prospect overall. Alford is a dual threat QB, and can also play WR and CB.

Per ESPN:

"This guy is a really good athlete and a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but he would need to be in the spread offense to flourish and maximize his talents under center. If Alford does not sign with a spread team he will likely get moved to wide receiver or corner because he is very gifted with his feet and would not see his talent exposed in a pro-style set. He has adequate height, not great and is built like a wide receiver -- moves like one too."

USM's other top recruits included:

Keithon Redding, a 6'1 200 lb WR out of Decatur, Ga, was given a recruiting grade of 79, and was also offered by UCLA, Ole Miss, Penn St., Alabama, and Tennessee among others.

Dalvin Craft, a 6'3 285 lb DT, was rated the 47th best DT in the 2012 class, and was also offered by Kentucky, Duke, and Memphis.

5. UCF Knights - 19 commits - 2011 results - (5-7, 3-5)

The Knights had a disappointing 2011 campaign. After being crowned league champs in 2010, the falloff was severe in 2011. The Knights only managed 5 wins, and missed out on a bowl game. The good news for UCF is that they return a good core from the 2011 team, including all leaders at the offensive skill positions. The 2012 class is about fillng some gaps, rather than replacing entire units. UCF's class is highlighted by 4 star athlete Colby Watson, as well as 7-3 star athletes.

Colby Watson, 6'5 300 lb OG from Pensacola, FL, is considered the 20th best offensive guard in the 2012 class. Watson was also offered by Louisville.

Per ESPN:

"Watson is a tough run blocker who can out muscle opponents with his superior playing strength; presently is effective at the tackle spot however we feel his size and athleticism are better suited for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition."

UCF's other top recruits included:

Jeremy Davis, a 6'0 170 lb CB from the Milford Academy in New Berlin, NY, is a 3 star athlete according to ESPN, and was offered by Louisville, Miami (FL), North Carolina, and Pitt among others.

Jared Henry, a 6'1 190 lb S from Jacksonville, FL, was actually part of the 2011 high school class, but will play for the Knights in 2012. He also gave a verbal commitment to South Carolina, but eventually signed with UCF.

6. ECU Pirates - 20 commits - 2011 results - (5-7, 4-4)

The Pirates experienced some great disappointment in the 2011 season, finishing with a 5-7 mark, and missing out on a bowl game. The season started with some promise, losing some competitive game against top 15 teams South Carolina and Va Tech, but they could just never get the ball rolling. Aside from having to replace QB Dominique Davis, the Pirates were also looking to sure the defensive line and secondary. Their 2012 class is highlighted by 4 star athlete and ESPNU top 150 prospect Lucas Thompson, as well 5-3 star athletes.

Lucas Thompson, a 6'1 190lb S out of Wesst Garden, FL, is rated the 7th best safety in the country, as well as the 136th best overall prospect. He was offered by South Carolina, Miami (FL), West Virginia, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin, among many others.

Per ESPN:

"Thompson is one of the bigger sleepers heading into the spring evaluation period out of the state of Florida. This guy has safety size and physicality with cornerback breaking quickness and anticipation skills. Tall, well-built with a high-cut frame that allows him to cover a lot of ground. Acceleration and makeup speed are very good and his underneath burst and explosion on the football are in an upper-tier category."

ECU's other top recruits included:

Jabril Solomon, a 6'1 180 lb ATH, who can play both WR and S. The three star prospect is praised for having a great blend of size, speed, and athleticism. He was also offered by, North Carolina ST., Wake Forest, Clemson, and Nebraska.

Reece Speight, a 6'2 217lb DE out of Wilson, NC, was given a recruiting grade of 77, and was considered the 37th best prospect in the state.

7. Tulane Green Wave - 17 commits - 2011 Results: (2-11, 1-7)

The Green Wave had a dismal season going 2-11 overall, and 1-7 in conference play in 2011. They also saw their head coach get fired mid-season. The good news for new coach Curtis Johnson is that the Waver were an extremely young team in 2011. They will return their QB, RB, and top WRS, among many others. The main concerns for the 2012 recruiting class were to sure up the offensive line, and a few skill positions. Tulane's class is highlighted by 4 star athlete Darion Monroe, as well as 3-3 star star recruits.

Darion Monroe, a 5'10 165lb ATH, originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his commitment to Tulane late in the recruiting season. Monroe, rated the 19th best athlete in the 2012 class, plays WR, CB, and QB, but may have a future at QB with the Wave. He was also offered by Arizona, UMASS, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Baylor, and Texas A&M among others.

Per ESPN:

"Monroe is a speedy and explosive athlete that will make the transition to wide receiver or cornerback at the next level. He is an undersized, very thin athlete with terrific feet and outstanding initial quickness as a shotgun spread dual-threat QB. He is actually a pretty savvy passer with a pistol for an arm and is a dangerous run/pass threat on any given play. His run skills are outstanding."

Tulane's other top recruits included:

Devon Breaux, a 5'11 175 lb ATH out of Donaldsonville, LA, is a 3 star athlete given a recruiting grade of 78. Breaux can play a number of positions including RB, WR, or possibly even CB. He was also offered by Indiana, Minnesota, Memphis, Baylor, and Arkansas St.

Walker Van Hooser, a 6'1 170 lb WR out of Montgomery, AL, is rated the 122nd best WR in the 2012 class, and was given a recruiting grade of 76. Van Hooser has decent size with great hands and high 4.4 speed. He should be a great pickup.

8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane - 21 commits - 2011 Results: (8-5, 7-1) Lost in Armed Forces Bowl

The Golden Hurricane had a solid 2011 campaign that produced 8 wins and an appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl against BYU. After losing star WR Damaris Johnson prior to the start of the season, there were many questions about how the offense would perform. They did just fine, surviving a brutal non-conference schedule and winning its first 7 conference games before losing to Houston in the finale. Tulsa will need to replace star QB GJ Kinne as well as a handful of players on the offensive and defensive lines. The Hurricane's top recruits include 5-3 star athetes.

Joshua Atkinson, a 6'2 185 lb WR out of Arlington, TX, is the top recruit for the Hurricane. He was given a recruiting grade of 78, and was considered the #69 WR in the 2012 class. He was also offered by Rice, and recruited by Houston, SMU, and North Texas.

Per ESPN:

"This guy is a highly productive receiver that is deceptively fast due to his long stride and penchant for building up to top speed. We are not convinced Atkinson is a burner, but he is fast enough and with his combination of ideal size, long arms and quick hands he is capable of making plays at all three levels of the field."

Michael Thomas, a 6'0 205 lb S out of Lawton, OK, was also a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 78. He was considered the 29th best S in the 2012 class, and 9th best prospect in the state. Thomas was also recruited by Stanford, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Kansas St.

Dane Evans, a 6'1 185 lb QB out of Sanger, TX, was the Hurricane's top QB in the 2012 class, receiving a recruiting grade of 78 by ESPN, and considered the 48th best QB in the nation. Evans was also recruited by Houston, North Texas, and La Tech.

9. UAB Blazers - 30 commits - 2011 Results: (3-9, 3-5)

The Blazers had an extremely disappointing 2011 campaign. They entered the season with high hopes after ending 2010 strong, but they just never got things going. They started the season 0-6, before finishing 3-9. The good news in Birmingham is they'll return their top QB, top 2 RB's, and their top WR. They will, however, have to replace a number of players from the defensive secondary, and offensive line, among other positions. But, new coach Garrick McGee seems up to the challenge. His first class is highlighted by 4-3 star recruits, and 10-2 star recruits.

Eduardo Garcia, a 6'1 271 lb C from Miami, FL, is the Blazers top commit. Garcia is ranked the 11th best C in the 2012 class, and given a recruiting grade of 77. He is a 3 star athlete according to ESPN.

Per ESPN:

"Garcia may not be the biggest O-Line prospect or the most naturally athletic, but the kid is a pretty solid football player. He lacks some in ideal height and will need to try and pack on some more good mass to his frame, but he does look to have a thick and sturdy lower body. He is a high school offensive tackle, but will need to slide inside at the next level."

UAB's other top recruits included:

Destin Challenger, a 5'11 215 lb S out of Birmingham, AL, is rated as a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 76. At his size, and with 4.6 speed, he could easily be transformed into a LB. He was also offered by the Citadel.

Ben Craft, a 6'1 200 lb QB out of Birmingham, AL, is rated 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 75, and is considered the 87th best QB in the 2012 class. He was also offered by Southern Miss.

10. Rice Owls - 24 commits - 2011 Results: (4-8, 3-5)

The Owls were another team that didn't exactly live up to expectations in 2011. Rice will return QB Taylor McHargue who started the first half of the season, but will lose QB Nick Fannuzzi, who was the more productive of the two, as well as RB Tyler Smith, and a handful of players throughout the defense, and offensive line. The Owls' recruiting class is highlighted by 5-3 star recruits, as well as 6-2 star recruits.

Alex Lyons, a 6'2 205 lb OLB out of DeSoto, TX, is a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 78. He is rated the 52nd best OLB in his class. Lyons was also offered by Arkansas, Cal, Iowa, Kansas St., and Texas Tech.

Per ESPN:

"Lyons is very active and productive defending both the pass and run; displays good playing speed from sideline to sideline. Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition; his frame might be able to handle additional bulk over time. The well balanced wrap tackling skill we see should be beneficial as a special team's coverage defender"

Connor Patterson, a 6'3 265 lb OG from Tomball, TX, is a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 76. Patterson played tackle in high school, but is seen as better suited at the guard position at the collegiate level. He was also offered by ECU, Louisiana Lafayette, Air Force, La Tech, Western Michigan, and Wyoming.

Zach Espinosa, a 6'1 195 lb S out of Cedar Park, TX, is a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 75. He is said to have good range and speed, and plays with the intesity of a LB. Espinosa was also offered by Arizona, Missouri, Army, and Wyoming.

11. Memphis Tigers - 27 commits - 2011 Results: (2-10, 1-7)

The Tigers followed a poor 2010 campaign with a mirror image in 2011. The two bad seasons cost Larry Porter his job, and opened up the spot for new head coach Justin Fuente. The Tigers 2012 class is comprised of mostly offensive linemen, tight ends, and defensive backs. Fuente does have a young nucleus to build around so the right pieces could give this program a much needed spark. The Tigers' 2012 recruiting class is highlighted by 5-3 star athletes, and 5-2 star athletes.

William Gross, a 6'2 185 lb QB out of Memphis, TN, is considered a 3 star athlete by ESPN with a recruiting grade of 79. He is considered the 39th best QB in the 2012 class, and was also offered by Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi St., and Arkansas St.

Per ESPN:

"Gross is a good looking prospect on the hoof with a live arm and the ability to make all the college level throws you want. He is built like a receiver and throws the ball with the presence of a true pocket passer. Is calm and poised with a balanced set up and fluid drop speed away from center. Works from the shotgun and under center and is involved in a healthy dose of play action which he executes well."

Memphis' other top recruits included:

Kerwin Harrison, a 6'3 222 lb TE out of Lakeland, FL, is a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 78. He's a solid pass catching TE who has good speed, but will likely need to put on some more weight to be a true TE at the college level. Harrison was also offered by South Florida, Iowa St., Louisville, Cincinnati, FAU, and FIU.

Carl Mitchell, a 6'3 225 lb DE out of Memphis, TN, is a 3 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 75. He also may need to put on a little weight, but has all the tools necessary to be productive at the next level. He was also offered by Arkansas, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, and Tennessee among others.

Gross is a good looking prospect on the hoof with a live arm and the ability to make all the college level throws you want. He is built like a receiver and throws the ball with the presence of a true pocket passer. Is calm and poised with a balanced set up and fluid drop speed away from center. Works from the shotgun and under center and is involved in a healthy dose of play action which he executes well.

12. UTEP Miners - 24 commits - 2011 Results: (5-7, 2-6)

It pains me to put the Miners here, but considering the other recruiting classes, this is exactly where they belong. The Miners entered the 2011 season having to replace nearly their entire offense, while plugging a couple of holes on defense. Now, they return their starting QB, and his top target will need to figure out how to replace a 3 headed monster in the backfield. On the defensive side of the ball, the Miners will need to replace nearly all of their top LBs, as well as a couple spots in the secondary. Luckily for us, some solid reserves and redshirts will help to fill those holes, as well as a nice recruiting class in 2012. That class is highlighted by 1-3 star recruit, as well as 9- 2 star recruits.

Devonte Richardson, 6'2 290 lb DT out of Arlington, TX, is the Miners' lone 3 star athlete. He is given a recruiting grade of 75, and is considered the 91st best DT in the 2012 class.

Per ESPN:

"Richardson demonstrates the ability to be a stout run defender. He possesses good overall size and may even carry a little more bulk than what is listed. He displays a solid get-off though could work to improve on getting off the ball a little quicker. He displays the ability to come out of his stance low and play with some bend and maintain good pad level. Demonstrates good playing strength. When he shoots his hands which he does a solid job of doing he is able to press blockers off of him and hold his ground."

Other players of note:

Glen Antoine, a 6'1 273 lb DT, is a 2 star recruit with a recruiting grade of 74 according to ESPN. Antoine was the Miners' first verbal commit of 2012, but he has yet to sign an LOI. It's not clear what the reason is, but for now we play the waiting game.

Dashone Smith, a 5'11 180 lb S out of Spring, TX, is a 2 star athlete who was also offered by Minnesota, La Tech, Texas St., Western Michigan, and Nevada.

Per ESPN:

"Smith is a ball hawking strong safety that takes some risks in order to make plays. Shows average size at the strong safety position, needs to add more playing strength. Willing hitter that will front up the ball carrier, good form tackler."

Darnell Murray, a 5'11 208 lb OLB from Perris, CA, is rated as a 2 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 72. He was also offered by NMSU and Utah St.

Per ESPPN:

"Murray is very effective lining up as a strong safety in the box, quite often getting a free run at the ball carrier; gets off the mark with good initial quickness and anticipation, showing a nose for the football."

DaCarlos Renfro, a 5'9 175 lb CB out of Orange, TX, is a 2 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 72. He was also offered by Iowa St., Memphis, North Texas, UTSA, Louisiana Lafayette, Houston, and Tulane.

Per ESPN:

"Renfro is productive as both a wide receiver and defensive back. Has the size, athleticism and playing speed for either position however we feel his athletic skills are best suited for the defensive corner position at the major level of competition."

Ernest Hawkins, a 6'0 215 lb OLB out of Baltimore, MD, is a 2 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 72. He was also offered by Purdue.

Per ESPN:

"Hawkins is productive as a tight end and defensive end however his size and athleticism appear better suited for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His frame appears capable of handling some additional bulk, provided playing speed isn't compromised."

Autrey Golden, a 5'11 185 lb RB out of Willis, TX, is a 2 star athlete with a recruiting grade of 71. He is considered the 184th best RB in the 2012 class, and was also offered by Colorado St. and North Texas.

"Golden is a well-rounded running back with a quick-hitting, elusiveness running back prospect. Runs with a decisive style but is limited in stature; he could add bulk but would need to keep his speed and agility competitive . Possesses good vision and quickness when in tight areas, showing good cut back ability."

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