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February 6, 2009

Signing Day Blitz: Best of the rest

Conferences Blitzes: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC

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.

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the non-"Big Six"
1. Notre Dame

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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.

2. Utah

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Headliner: Utah landed five-star junior college defensive end James Aiono.

Sleeper: Beau Burton is a strong running back who can break tackles and has deceptive speed.

Overview: The strength of this class is what the Utes are bringing in on both sides of the ball in the trenches. Aiono leads the way on the defensive line, but you can't forget about defensive tackles Latu Heimuli, Siosaia Tuipulotu and Jeremiah Tofaeono. On the other side of the ball the Utes are led by guards Vyncent Jones, Percy Taumoelau and Kapua Sai. Terrance Cain is a talented dual-threat quarterback prospect from the junior college ranks who is already enrolled. Conroy Black, Maxwell Lacy and Kamaron Yancy are all defensive backs who can run.

3. TCU

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Headliner: Running back Waymon James has a chance to be a big-time back for TCU.

Sleeper: He may be a tad undersized, but defensive tackle Ray Burns is quick and active.

Overview: TCU signed 20 players and 19 are from the Lone Star State. This is a solid class from top to bottom, from quarterback Casey Pachall to defensive backs Malcolm Williams and Jurell Thompson. James is a stellar back who is small but quick and terrific in space. Pachall, Williams, Thompson and James are all four-star prospects. TCU also did well on the defensive front with Burns, James Dunbar, Bryant House, Stansly Maponga and D.J. Yendrey.

4. BYU

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Headliner: Craig Bills is one of the top safety prospects from the West Coast.

Sleeper: Brad Wilcox is a huge offensive tackle prospect with a ton of upside.

Overview: Bills is a four-star recruit and leads a strong class along with Kyle Van Noy. A likely linebacker in Provo, Van Noy can really get to the football in a hurry. Other BYU standout recruits are defensive backs Lee Aguirre, Trevor Bateman and Jray Galea'i, linebacker Jordan Atkinson, defensive end Thomas Bryson, offensive linemen Fono Vakalahi, Tui Crichton and Terry Alletto, running back Peni Maka'afi and wide receiver Mitch Mathews.

5. Southern Miss

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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).

Conferences Blitzes: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC

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