Grading the MWC Recruiting Classes

There's a week left for college coaches to close the deal on recruits who will make or break their programs over the next few years. Here's a look at who else in the Mountain West Conference, besides BYU, is having success in getting key verbals…

With only seven days to go until Signing Day, here's how I see the Mountain West Conference lining up in terms of recruiting success (listed by highest grade)…

Like BYU's class, the CSU group isn't big… 15 right now, but it's got a lot of quality athletes. Sonny Lubick knows what he wants in a player to fit his program and he's got several excellent ones here. Greg Chatman from Carson, Calif. is a receiver with 4.5 speed who had trips set up with Washington and Oregon State before giving his verbal. BYU defensive lineman will have to contend with Adam Gabriel from Monrovia, a 5-11, 210 pound bruising fullback who was offered by Wisconsin (a school that knows a good big-back when it sees one!) as well as Colorado. To show how this program's getting more national attention, the Rams have commitments from players in seven different states.

This is a great class for filling holes (OL, DL, DB), but the balance is weak (no QBs, RBs, WRs). That's the only thing you can complain about, however, especially when you compare it to last year's class. Together the two would be a solid "A," but a class has to be rated on its own, an exercise that is obviously misleading. This much can be said, however: BYU has never had a more highly-touted line class coming in and that's even without Ofa. He signs and BYU is thinking BCS in 2-4 years. It's all about depth and the Cougars are getting it… the pipeline is getting loaded: taking offensive line, for instance. Soon, Junior Cato and Travis Bright will be back, followed by all the guys in this class, Reynolds, Speredon, Mohetau (hopefully), Willing and then the Cougars won't have to rebuild, they'll just have to reload.

It's apparent what the Aztecs want to do: keep the top players in their own backyard. This is the biggest class in the MWC at 28 commits right now and all but four are from California. The star of this class is Lynell Hamilton, a 6-0, 200 pound running back from Stockton (Calif.) Edison who picked SDSU over Oregon. Or at least his parents did; he wanted to be a Duck but his family was adamant he head south to San Diego. He also had offers from Nebraska, USC, ASU, Michigan, Ohio State, Miami, and Oklahoma among others. The Aztecs could also have the top linebacker class in the conference with Brett Martin of Corona (Calif.) Centennial and Lee Martin of Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure both having 4.5-4.6 speed.

The Utes obviously got a late start, but with several of the coaches having Notre Dame ties, they know how to recruit. Still, there aren't many franchise players in this class, although several could be impact players including two skill athletes with 4.4 speed: Ryan Smith from La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat, a 5-10, 150 pound DB, and Eric Weddle, a 6-0, 185 pound receiver from Alta Loma, Calif. I also like Kyle Gunther, a 6-4, 270 pound lineman with 5.3 speed who was also offered by Colorado. Obviously, Kyle Brady was a big political pickup and he's a definite playmaker, but you have to wonder how the 6-1, 203 pound athlete with 4.6 speed will do at receiver instead of safety.

Right now, only 9 verbals are known for the Rebels and three are from the JC ranks. Frankly, few of these players excite me, although Alvin Marshall, who is a bounce back from Nebraska, has great talent, but you always have red-flags on transfers. Ryan Welter from El Cajon (Calif.) Granite Hills is a promising 6-5, 230 pound TE/DE who had trips set up with Colorado State, Cal and Stanford at one time. Shane Steichen from El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Oakridge is underrated and was the batterymate of junior receiver/safety Austin Collie, who BYU will chase next year. His father, Scott, played for the Cougars.

The Lobos are trying to capitalize on a strong year and bowl appearance and are getting upgraded talent including La Crescenta (Calif.) La Canada linebacker who provides speed on the corner. The top player in the class, though, will be safety Jonathan Harrell from Everman, Texas, who's a bone-jarring hitter. TCU and Texas Tech also offered. This looks like a small class at this stage so the grade gets lowered a notch despite some fine talent.

Let's be honest: who really wants to go to Laramie and play college ball? What a hard place to recruit to and there's very little home-grown talent (only one of the dozen public commits at this point is from Wyoming). Most of these recruits are players other schools passed over, but that doesn't mean that can't develop into studs. The most promising to me are QB/ATH Zach Weidenaar from Bozeman, Mont., who is 6-2, 200 pounds and runs a 4.55 and DB Andre LaCaille from Denver (Colo.) Mullen who's 6-0, 155 pounds with 4.5 speed.

If you don't know this, you're not really into recruiting: the Cadet list isn't released until the spring when the players are admitted. We do know some of the verbals and they're excellent players, like 1st team all-state linebacker Chad Adams from Anchorage (Alaska) Dimond and defensive lineman Grant Thomas from Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan, who had interest from Pac 10 schools. Still, no list, no grade…

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