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February 3, 2013
Roundtable: Surprise parties
Each day leading up to National Signing Day, Rivals.com's analysts will convene at the Recruiting Roundtable and debate a current recruiting topic.
Today's question: Which program has surprised you most -- in a good way -- for where it currently sits in the team standings just a few days from NSD?
Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic: I am surprised that, even after losing three games in a row to end the season, UCLA is doing as well as it is in recruiting. Jim Mora and his staff have done an impressive job since he took over in December 2011. The Bruins finished 45th in the 2011 rankings, but in the 2012 rankings, Mora's first recruiting class, they had the 13th-best class. This year the Bruins are poised to have a top 10 class and, if the pieces fall into place, possibly a top five recruiting class. That's something few people thought was possible with powerhouse USC just down the road.
Woody Wommack, Southeast: It has to be Ole Miss. At this point, when I hear the Rebels are grabbing another big-time name, I'm not surprised. But to think back just a few months ago, when Robert Nkemdiche was committed to Clemson and there were just the occasional rumors, I never could have imagined that Ole Miss would land the class that it looks like it'll have on Wednesday.
Kynon Codrington, Southeast: I think you have to start with Ole Miss. The Rebels have done a phenomenal job so far, and signing day could be icing on the cake as the nation's No. 1-rated prospect, Robert Nkemdiche, is expected to sign. There is buzz around Laremy Tunsil leaning toward Ole Miss, too. If head coach Hugh Freeze can land both five-stars, look for the Rebels to have a chance to finish in the top three of the Rivals Team Rankings.
Jason Howell, Southwest: Without a doubt, the surprise has been Texas A&M. It's not surprising that moving to the SEC gave the Aggies some early juice. It's not even surprising that when they won they took things up a level. However, the Aggies took things up about 10 levels and Kevin Sumlin and that staff have not only hit Texas hard, but they broadened their search and were well received on a national level.
Adam Gorney, West: UCLA and Ole Miss are the major surprises in recruiting. The scary thing is neither is probably done yet. The Bruins are in striking position with Eddie Vanderdoes, Kylie Fitts, Asiantii Woulard and others, and Ole Miss is the favorite to land Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top player. Ole Miss is probably the biggest surprise, though, especially since it landed the nation's top receiver in Laquon Treadwell and many, many other top recruits after an average season.
Josh Helmholdt, Midwest: At the risk of stating the obvious, Ole Miss sitting at No. 11 with a chance to move well within the top 10, if a few big signing-day decisions break its way, is certainly surprising. The Rebels have won just four games in the Southeastern Conference over the last four years, yet head coach Hugh Freeze has his staff recruiting like a top-of-the-standings SEC program.
Rob Cassidy, West: Ole Miss is probably the easy answer here, but UCLA is my pick. The Bruins have one of the deepest classes in America and have positioned themselves well with a number of top uncommitted players. If UCLA lands five-star Eddie Vanderdoes on signing day, a case will be made that its class is the most impressive top to bottom. You can't say enough about how far this program has come since Jim Mora took over.