Second-year coaches at Ohio State, Miami and Virginia gave fans at Notre Dame and Florida something to look forward to.
While new coaches for the Irish and Gators had mixed results, the Buckeyes, Hurricanes and Cavaliers recruited loads of talent on national signing day Wednesday.
But there's no doubt which school signed the top class. All of the major analysts agreed that Texas hooked the nation's top football recruiting class.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown signed almost every player he pursued, keeping the best players from talent-rich Texas at home and picking up a few key out-of-staters.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressell, who replaced John Cooper in January 2001, signed seven of the top eight players in Ohio and finished in the top three nationally.
The Buckeyes' top recruits are All-Americans Maurice Clarrett (RB, Warren, Ohio), Derek Morris (OL, Huntersville, N.C.), and Mike D'Andrea (LB, Avon Lake, Ohio).
Larry Coker capitalized on his national title with Miami to bring in the No. 2 class in SuperPrep's ratings and a consensus top five pick.
The Hurricanes got four of SuperPrep's top 50 players: tight ends Eric Winston (Midland, Texas) and Curtis Justus (Perry, Okla.), and in-state wide receivers Ryan Moore and Devin Hester.
Virginia was one of the biggest surprises under former New York Jets coach Al Groh. His experience in the NFL helped attract some of the top in-state talent away from Virginia Tech, like linebackers Ahmad Brooks (Woodbridge Hylton, Va.) and Kai Parham (Virginia Beach).
"Overall it's a strong selling point," Allen Wallace of SuperPrep Magazine said of Groh's NFL experience. "A lot of kids say he coached guys in the NFL, he can teach me what he knows is necessary at that level."
The success of the three second-year coaches could bode well for Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham and Florida's Ron Zook, who had shortened recruiting seasons in their first years on the job.
Willingham closed well after taking over at Notre Dame on Dec. 31, following the firing of Bob Davie and George O'Leary's resignation for lying on his resume.
The Irish got commitments from two talented receivers in Marcus Stovall (Radnor, Pa.) and Rhema McKnight (La Palma, Calif.), but lost out on All-American running back Lorenzo Booker, who decided at the last minute to sign with Florida State.
The Irish got three top defensive lineman and four highly regarded offensive lineman.
"Notre Dame's class top to bottom is excellent. What it lacks a bit in skill positions, it makes up in big players," Lemming said.
Zook, the Gators' third choice, didn't have as much success after replacing Steve Spurrier at Florida, finishing around 20th nationally.
"He's had a tough go. He's had to really scramble," Wallace said. "Florida lost numerous prospects that were out of state that decided not to visit or seriously consider Florida once Steve Spurrier left."
Texas lost almost no one. The Longhorns signed USA Today All-Americans Justin Blalock (OL, Plano, Texas), Rodrique Wright (DL, Alief, Texas) and Larry Dibbles (DL, Lancaster, Texas), as well as quarterback Vincent Young of Houston, picked by some as the best player in the country.
In all, the Longhorns signed 11 of the top 75 players rated by Lemming. Texas also had the consensus top class in 1999.
"It means that people who try to follow recruits for a living have decided that this is a good group," Brown said. "There's no doubt about that. Does it mean they'll be great college and pro prospects? Absolutely not."
Other schools that did well were Tennessee, Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina and Southern California.
Tennessee got late commitments from quarterback James Banks (Indianapolis) and offensive lineman Brandon Jeffries (offensive lineman) to finish No. 2 in Burton's rankings. The Vols also signed Gerald Riggs Jr., the son of the former NFL star.
"Tennessee has closed very well," Burton said. "The combination of their offensive and defensive line is hard to beat. Add in Banks and Riggs, and you have the makings of an outstanding class."
BYU signed quarterback Ben Olson, rated the No. 1 player in the country by Lemming, but saw All-American defensive lineman Haloti Ngata switch at the last minute to Oregon.
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