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October 31, 2010

Top 10: Most surprising teams so far

MORE: Top 10 most versatile | Most disappointing

Last week, it was the teams that should be in panic mode after a disappointing start to its 2011 recruiting. This week, it is the teams that should be thrilled. From Starkville to Seattle, things are going well.

Rivals.com's recruiting analysts break down the top 10 most surprising teams so far in recruiting the 2011 class.

Top 10 Most Surprising Teams

10) Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are coming off a Big 12 title game appearance and are ranked highly in the BCS poll, but they were down much of the last decade. It was thought that next year's move to the Big Ten would hinder recruiting, especially in Texas, but it has not seemed to have made an impact so far. Nebraska has nine four-star commits, with three coming from the Lone Star State.

It secured a commitment from an Oklahoma legacy and a lifelong Arkansas fan in the state's No. 1 defensive back, Tevin Mitchel. The Huskers also scored a pledge from Kansas dual-threat quarterback Bubba Starling, who many considered a Notre Dame lock. Nebraska was also able to go into Florida and grab a pledge from Rivals100 offensive tackle Tyler Moore. The recent commitment from Aaron Green has Nebraska moving toward the top 10 and the Huskers will push Oklahoma for No. 2 in the Big 12 before they leave.

9) Virginia

Mike London's team is outside of the top 25 in recruiting, but ranks No. 4 in the ACC trailing only North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State and ranking ahead of Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and others.

UVA finished No. 11 in the conference rankings in 2008 and was No. 10 last year, so any finish in the top six in the ACC would be a huge boost. Four-stars Brandon Phelps and Clifton Richardson lead a class loaded with three-stars. With 21 commitments, 13 are rated as three-stars, a good start for a program that faltered in previous years. And the fact that the Cavaliers are going toe-to-toe with the Hokies in state makes this battle exciting again for the first time in years.

8) SMU

With the program still feeling the effect of the "death penalty" in the 1980s, June Jones is starting to build a contender in Dallas and it is showing up on the recruiting trail. The jewel of the class is California four-star defensive end Davon Moreland, who picked the Mustangs over USC and UCLA, but SMU is doing very well in-state as well. It has commitments from highly-regarded prospects such as K.C. Nlemchi, Stephon Sanders and Carter Wall, who all had double-digit offers. The Mustangs also received an official visit from and are considered one of the leaders for four-star Oregon offensive guard Alex Mitchell.

7) Ole Miss

Despite the Rebels struggling on the field, they have had some great success off of it in recruiting. They went to the Sunshine State and got a pair of great four-star defensive backs in Andrew Johnson and Gerrod Holliman. They went to Louisiana for four-star offensive line Ethan Hutson. They have also had a solid amount of success in-state, keeping players like four-star wide receiver Donte Moncrief home. Ole Miss is inside the top 15 and ahead of other programs like Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn.

6) Indiana

Indiana is barely in the top 40 in the national rankings so why so high on this list? Because it's Indiana. This still is a basketball school but yet the Hoosiers rank ahead of Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State and Purdue in the Big Ten recruiting rankings right now.

Four-stars Zack Shaw from Ohio and Ramon Taylor from Michigan lead a strong group of out-of-state commitments for the Hoosiers, a team that hasn't finished higher than ninth in the Big Ten since 2003.

5) Mississippi State

No one would have expected Mississippi State to be ranked in the Top 25 or beat Florida on the field. Few others would predict that the Bulldogs would be ranked in the top 25 in recruiting heading into November. Thanks to commitments from in-state studs Nickalos Brassell, C.J. Johnson and Jermaine Whitehead, players for whom MSU beat Alabama, Auburn, USC, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee and Ole Miss, the Bulldogs are ahead of Tennessee and just behind South Carolina in the SEC rankings. They have a chance to finish higher than ninth in the conference for the first time since 2003.

4) Texas Tech

With new coach Tommy Tuberville and his SEC ties at the helm, the Red Raiders are recruiting a little bit more nationally than ever before. They have commitments from Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico and Arizona. However, they are doing a great job of recruiting in-state as well. Four-star commits Jace Amaro, Kenny Williams and Michael Brewer were courted by many other programs and Tony Morales is the No. 1 center prospect in the country. Derek Edwards and Jon Lewis continue to receive attention from many other schools but they all maintain they are solid pledges to Texas Tech.

3) Stanford

The Cardinal have more commits than any Pac-10 school and eight of them are four-star prospects, also a conference high. Coach Jim Harbaugh loaded up early and often - all commits were in before the season started - and Stanford's class is just looking for one or two more. It will be interesting to see if players jump if Harbaugh's name gets linked to bigger jobs but for now Stanford is in tremendous position. Running back Amir Carlisle and linebacker Anthony Sarao lead this class.

2) Pittsburgh

After being dominated in Western Pennsylvania by Penn State last year, this year Pitt has hurt the Nittany Lions more than any other program. Four-stars Marquise Wright, Bill Belton, Terrell Chestnut, Kyshoen Jarrett and Jameel Poteat all chose the Panthers over offers from major programs, including Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma, USC and others.

1) Washington

Four-star prospects Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brendon Bigelow and Kasen Williams lead a class that's ranked higher than California, Oregon, Arizona, UCLA and others. Bigelow might jump at some point but the Huskies are showing more interest in Washington State four-star pledge Bishop Sankey as either a complement or replacement.

Coach Steve Sarkisian has brought a lot of excitement back to Washington and it's paying dividends in recruiting. Washington has beaten Texas, Florida, USC, Auburn, Oregon, UCLA, Oklahoma and many others for recruits.









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