Surprises at Minnesota, K-State and elsewhere

GOPHERS STRIKE GOLD
Despite coming off a 1--11 season, Minnesota's Tim Brewster beamed like a champion on signing day. "It's truly amazing," said the second-year coach after he landed a consensus top 20 class at a school that hasn't reached a New Year's bowl since 1962.

Brewster, who spent 13 years on Mack Brown's staffs at North Carolina and Texas (and recruited Vince Young for the latter), was hailed as a master salesman when Minnesota hired him 13 months ago. He lived up to the billing with his first full class, which includes U.S. Army All-America QB MarQueis Gray (right) of Ben Davis (Indianapolis) and Skyline (Dallas) first-team All-Texas safety Keanon Cooper.

Brewster signed players from 16 states and estimates his staff traveled an average of 35,000 miles a week in the month leading up to signing day. (Still, there was one top recruit he missed out on—his son Nolan, a four-star safety from Mullen High in Denver, chose Texas.) Brewster also had a key selling point: The Gophers will move to a new on-campus stadium in 2009, and prospects were treated to a virtual tour of the facility on their visits.

JUCO BOUNTY
While it's not uncommon for teams to sign a handful of junior college transfers, Kansas State's 32-member class includes a staggering 19. Citing his team's youthful returning roster and a daunting 2008 schedule that includes Kansas (12--1 in '07), Missouri (12--2) and Oklahoma (11--3), third-year coach Ron Prince (right) defended the approach by saying he needed "an older and more mature team."

Prince's predecessor, Bill Snyder, relied heavily on J.C. players to build top 10 teams in the late '90s. His 1997 class featured 12 juco transfers, including quarterback Michael Bishop, the Heisman runner-up who helped the Wildcats go 22--3 over two years. Prince, 12--13 in his first two seasons, could gain a similar boost if his signees turn out as advertised; 10 of them are on SuperPrep's juco top 100 list, topped by RB Daniel Thomas (Northwest Mississippi Community College).

CHANGE IS GOOD
Of all the recent college coaching hires—including such big names as Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and Rick Neuheisel at UCLA—no one recruited as aggressively in a short amount of time as Larry Fedora at Southern Miss. From the time of his Dec. 12 hiring the former Florida and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator reeled in 27 prospects, including five-star WR DeAndre Brown (right) of Ocean Springs (Miss.) and Franklin County (Meadville, Miss.) four-star DT Bo Tillman.

The more high-profile coaches also made strong first impressions. Rodriguez finished with a top 10 class for the Wolverines by stealing away Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood, Ohio) RB Michael Shaw from Penn State and Lake Gibson (Lakeland, Fla.) OL Ricky Barnum from Florida. Petrino landed Michigan transfer QB Ryan Mallett and beat out USC for Central Arkansas Christian (Little Rock) CB Joe Adams. And Neuheisel held on to UCLA's early signings by retaining defensive coordinator and top recruiter DeWayne Walker and attracted Crespi (Encino, Calif.) QB Kevin Prince.

PHOTOJOE VITTI/INDIANAPOLIS STAR (GRAY) PHOTODARREN CARROLL (PRINCE) PHOTOJOHN ALBRIGHT/ICON SMI (BROWN)

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