AAC Signing Day Round Up – Underdog Dynasty

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The first Wednesday of February is the traditional signing day. That doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but there is still plenty to take away now that 2022 classes are settled.
National Signing Day used to be a national holiday. From the moment you woke up until the very end of the day, recruiting news was constant. Who is signing where? What program flipped a top commitment? It was incredibly entertaining.
That’s changed now, though. The early signing day was added in mid-December, and everything changed with that decision. The idea of that was to allow players to sign early, so recruits didn’t have to deal with being recruited as long and could get to campus sooner. This makes things much harder for first year coaches, who only have a couple of weeks, at the most, to recruit their entire class. Add in the transfer portal and the world of recruiting is in another galaxy.
Still, National Signing Day is a landmark day. Players do sign on it, and teams finish up their classes. At this point, the players a class has are the ones who they’re bringing in this year. Trends can be found, and conclusions can be drawn. So, let’s dive into takeaways from each AAC team’s recruiting class.
According to 247 Sports, four of the last five Cincinnati classes have been the top class in the AAC. Being able to do that, as well as develop an identity, is what got Luke Fickell and company where they are today.
ECU isn’t an easy place to recruit to, especially given that their 2021 campaign was the first that ended in bowl eligibility since 2014. Since Mike Houston has been there, he has put together a 7th ranked (2019), 6th ranked (2020), and 8th ranked (2021) classes at ECU. This year, the Pirates are 8th again. That’s not exactly trending up, but Houston has made it work so far.
Holgorsen’s time in Houston hasn’t been easy, between gambling on redshirting the team’s seniors in 2019, then the pandemic in 2020, things didn’t look good. Recruiting struggled too, as the 2020 class was 5th, while the 2021 class was just 7th. The consensus is that the Cougars brought in the third ranked class this year, with their Big 12 peers.
Fourth is pretty good in the AAC right now. That means they’re the top team not leaving for the Big 12. It does still feel like a step back from Ryan Silverfield’s first two classes, though, which were both second in the conference.
You really can’t judge Navy against the AAC. You have to judge them against the other academies. In 2022, for instance, Air Force finished ahead of Navy overall, but Army came in behind.
It’s hard to judge trends with a first year head coach. However, there are a few keys to look out for going forward at SMU. Can Rhett Lashlee wall off Dallas-Fort Worth and get key recruits from the area? Will he continue to use the transfer portal liberally? As conference realignment takes off, can SMU rise to the top of the AAC?
Right now, it’s impossible to say what direction recruiting is trending at Temple. There just isn’t enough information to even get an idea of how Drayton wants to build the roster. It would only make sense to add more transfers after Spring practices when players will want to look for new homes again.
Tulane has a ton of great natural recruiting advantages, but it also has its own challenges that other AAC schools don’t deal with on the same scale. That’s part of where their lack of historic success comes into play. Fritz has been in New Orleans for a while now. So, there are no excuses in recruiting. Other than 2020, when Tulane finished third in the conference, the middle of the pack is where you can expect the Green Wave to finish up.
Tulsa is a small school in a state without a ton of recruiting talent. That’s not easy to recruit to, but recent success should help. It hasn’t, though. In 2021, they were 11th in the AAC, 10th in 2020, and 10th in 2019. The last time they had a class better than 100th, it was 2018 and they were 97th. Imagine how good Tulsa could be if they figured out how to recruit?
This is only the second class Malzahn has had anything to do with at UCF, and it’s his first class that he recruited entirely on his own. So, trends are hard to find, but this was a good class compared to a lot of recent classes and it was much better than Heupel’s classes.
Jeff Scott has been with USF for two seasons now. 2022 represents his second fully recruited class. It was a step back from 2021, which had been a major step forward from 2020. That leaves them in the middle of the AAC pack. That’s probably about where USF belongs too. After all, The Bulls are still catching up in terms of facilities, but have a great location.
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