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February 3, 2011

Signing Day Blitz: Best of the non-BCS

More Conferences: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

We've ranked the recruiting classes in every major conference, but some of the most talented classes belong to schools that aren't in a BCS conference. Here's a look at the best outside of those conferences.

Notre Dame

Headliner: There were questions about whether Ishaq Williams deserved a fifth star heading into the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and after seeing him for an entire week there's no doubt the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln defensive end is one of the nation's best. Notre Dame worked hard to land Williams, who was also looking at Penn State and Syracuse, and he's already on campus. Williams has the talent to make a difference immediately.

Sleeper: Chase Hounshell flipped from Florida to Notre Dame late after coach Urban Meyer left the Gators and they hired Will Muschamp. The offensive tackle from Kirtland (Ohio) Lake Catholic could have had a nice career in the SEC and now since he switched to the Irish he could be one that makes an impact.

Overview: Notre Dame's defensive haul is incredibly impressive with Williams, five-star defensive end Stephon Tuitt, four-star defensive ends Aaron Lynch and Ben Councell. The Irish have also added a bunch of capable defensive backs in this class. Coach Brian Kelly and his coaching staff landed a top 10 class and it's another move in the right direction.

TCU

Headliner: The only athletes rated higher than LaDarius Brown are Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla and USC's Marqise Lee. That is an impressive group to follow. Brown is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound prospect from Waxahachie, Texas, who could be an immediate impact for the Horned Frogs. He's only one of two four-star prospects in TCU's class and Brown is definitely a good one.

Sleeper: Three-star offensive guard Jamelle Naff from Del City, Okla., is the highest-rated prospect from the state of Oklahoma who didn't go to Texas or play for the Sooners. That says a lot about Naff, a 6-foot-4, 311-pound recruit who bring a lot of skill and physical ability to the table.

Overview: Brown and four-star defensive tackle Chuck Hunter from West Monroe, La., lead the class that Rivals.com ranked No. 26 nationally. Another bit of good news is that the other 24 prospects are all rated three stars. Coach Gary Patterson always does lots with his talent and this is another solid recruiting class.

UCF

Headliner: UCF fans followed the every move of Leilon Willingham on National Signing Day because they feared he might sign with Michigan, Colorado or perhaps another school but he didn't - he picked UCF and it was an important signing. Willingham is a four-star outside linebacker from Denver (Colo.) Mullen who could be a big-time player for years to come.

Sleeper: Cedric Thompson is a big, bruising running back who knows how to put the ball in the end zone and could be a productive player down the line at Central Florida. He might not be an immediate contributor but Thompson has the body to be a good blocker and runner in the offense.

Overview: It's not a spectacular class for UCF but landing Willingham and his teammate, wide receiver Rayshon Williams, from Denver Mullen were two big pickups. Coach George O'Leary and his staff also picked their spots in the state of Florida which is important when recruiting against all the state's powerhouses.



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