Fuquay-Varina, N.C. – “FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW,” the sports talk radio show that places major emphasis on HBCU sports, released its fifth annual national rankings of the top 10 HBCU football FCS recruiting classes for 2011.  FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW first ranked the top classes in 2006. The rankings are based on the talent that was brought in and research that we did based upon school releases, local newspaper articles and recruiting boards. This is not an exact science, but an opinion. In this article we rank the top five.

Year in and year out, South Carolina State continues to be ranked among our top four or five recruiting classes and for the second year in a row they have the top class.  The recruiting that Buddy Pough and his staff put in shows, as the Bulldogs have won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title each of the last three years. What the Bulldogs do well is recruit in South Carolina.  That has been proven with gems like quarterback Malcolm Long, the two-time Palmetto Player of the Year, and a guy from tiny Traveler’s Rest by the name of Will Ford, who only became the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher a year ago.  Pough and his staff were at it again when they picked up three-star running back Julius Pendergrass (Chester), who received offers from Kentucky and Arkansas.  They also picked up offensive lineman Jairon Harrison (James Island) from Charleston who is a scout.com two-star recruit.  But what the Bulldogs also continue to do well is recruit North Carolina.  In addition to Pendergrass, the Bulldogs picked up a pair of three-star running backs in Jalen Simmons (West Charlotte) and Deion Walker (Butler).

Bethune-Cookman was fourth in our rankings last year and with a strong 10-2 record, a share of the MEAC Title and an appearance in the FCS Playoffs, and with a whole year under his belt, head coach Brian Jenkins and staff were able to get some good talent to come to Daytona Beach. The Wildcats had a nice size class of 28 players which included 20 high school players, five JUCO transfers and three Division I transfers. Quarterback Qunetin Williams from Tampa Jefferson was named Mr. Football in the state of Florida. Their prize recruit may be defensive back Nick Addison, a three-star Rivals recruit from Spoto in the Tampa area.  Addison turned down offers from Iowa State, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington State. Other key high school recruits include Rivals two-star recruits running back Breon Allen of Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona who was offered by Pitt, Eastern Michigan and Marshall.

Rod Reed took over the duties as head football coach at Tennessee State last year, but had always been the lead recruiter. TSU perennially has been ranked in the top five of our class including a No. 1 ranking two years ago. This was one of the most versatile classes as a lot of needs were filled.  Recruits come from eight different states. The Tigers quarterback situation just became a little cloudier when the Tigers signed Imonni Carswell from Plantation in Florida, a two-star recruit who received offers from Maryland, Marshall, and Central Michigan.

North Carolina Central’s new head football coach Henry Frazier‘s Prairie View A&M classes have always been in the top five since we have been ranking the classes.  This year is no different and in a short amount of time he was able to get some solid commitments to the Durham school.  With initial recruiting classes you never can tell how the class will play out but with Frazier, who usually redshirts almost all of his freshmen, the proof is in the pudding with what he did at PVAMU. It will be hard for Frazier to redshirt defensive back Alex Cole from Sherwood in Olney, Md., who is an explosive player, a great athlete, a hard hitter, is a textbook tackler and has a knack for the ball and has good speed.  He was a Rivals two-star recruit. A Washington, D.C. native, Frazier has always recruited his hometown area well (seven recruits to NCCU are from the area) and he went back home to get defensive tackle Josh Wade from McKinley Tech. 

Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor is in a select class of coaches that have won MEAC titles with two different schools. Taylor’s Rattlers won a share of the title last year and also won in recruiting this year. Taylor and his staff signed 22 of the 25 prospects they coveted and he calls this class his best since arriving at FAMU three years ago. Offensive line has always been a key for Taylor as he signed eight linemen this year. Rivals three-star recruit La’Donte Gibson (Madison, Fla.) may be able to see action immediately. One of the prize recruits may be Kawika Pieper from Honolulu’s Moanalua who turned down Marshall and Duke.

Donal Ware

Special to the AFRO