Notre Dame led the non-"Big Six" schools in recruiting, finishing at No. 20 in the Rivals.com team rankings after National Signing Day. Here's a look at the top five recruiting classes outside the "Big Six" conferences.
Headliner: Future linebacker prospect Zeke Motta is an aggressive player with a great motor.
Sleeper:E.J. Banks is a talented athlete who could play on either side of the ball.
Overview: Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is bringing in some more pieces on both sides of the ball for the Irish. Running back Cierre Wood should have a chance to make a quick impact, and he looks like a nice fit for the Notre Dame offense. Another California standout who could help out the Fighting Irish early is Shaquelle Evans. A trio of offensive linemen – Chris Watt, Alex Bullard and Zach Martin – should bolster the Irish front. Notre Dame beat USC and UCLA for a monster Signing Day get in linebacker Manti Te'o. Two other talented 'backers headed to South Bend are Dan Fox and Motta. Tyler Stockton was one of the most sought-after defensive tackles.
Headliner: The Eagles held off Tennessee to land running back Kendrick Hardy.
Sleeper:Octavius Thomas is an athletic defensive end prospect and a steal from Georgia.
Overview: Once again coach Larry Fedora showed why he's one of the top recruiters in this region. Headlining this class is Hardy, a strong runner who could help USM immediately. Quarterback Chris Campbell will have a chance to shine in the Fedora fast-break offense. Mujahid Assad and Ryan Hanks should help out the offense at wide receiver and tight end, respectively. The strength of this class could lie in the secondary, where USM signed five players. Just how would this class have ranked had USM been able to keep Jamar Travis and John Sullen? The Eagles also lost two very good recruiters in Tony Hughes (Mississippi State) and Frank Wilson (Tennessee).