Michigan, USC, Penn State among Joel Klatt’s biggest recruiting surprises

As college football’s National Signing Day wrapped up Wednesday, it was no surprise to see the likes of Alabama and Georgia sitting atop the 2023 class rankings.

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have reeled in the top-ranked recruiting class in seven of the past 10 years, while Georgia has recorded a top-10 class every season over the past decade, including the No. 1-ranked class in both 2020 and 2018, per 247Sports.com.

While Alabama and Georgia cleaned up once again during this year’s recruiting cycle, the same can’t necessarily be said for USC and Michigan.

FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt released a list of programs that surprised him during the 2023 recruiting cycle on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show,” with Lincoln Riley and Jim Harbaugh’s programs leading the way.


Let’s get to it!

*All rankings are from 247Sports.com.

The “not so good” surprises


2023 class ranking: No. 12 overall (Second in Pac-12)
Average player rating: 91.33

Klatt’s thoughts: “Seeing them where they were in the recruiting rankings was jarring. I look at USC and I thought, ‘Lincoln Riley, in this state, should be able to have a top-five recruiting class easily. It wasn’t even close.’ When I look at what you need to do if you’re USC, you need to put a fence around the state of California because if you do that, you’re gonna get a nice class. Basically, there were about 20 players in California in the top 300, and USC got three of them. That’s not enough. They should be doing much better with those players in their own backyard.”


2023 class ranking: No. 18 overall (Third in Big Ten)
Average player ranking: 88.97

Klatt’s thoughts: “Michigan landed 18th, despite two straight playoff appearances, despite two straight Big Ten titles, despite two straight wins over their rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes. That should translate into more momentum. We’ve seen them have much better classes than this under [Jim] Harbaugh. It’s kind of strange.”

The biggest surprises from National Signing Day

Penn State brought in a good 2023 class and was a “pleasant surprise” for Joel Klatt, while USC and Michigan were “not so good surprises.”

The “pleasant” surprises

Penn State

2023 class ranking: No. 13 overall (Second in Big Ten)
Average player ranking: 91.15

Klatt’s thoughts: “They’ve started to own their own state, and I think that’s really imperative for any program. Even if you’re not going to have great players from your state, you’ve gotta get the best players from your state. They were struggling in this regard in 2021 and 2020. They lost the top player in their state in those years to Ohio State. They have fixed that. That was a positive from Penn State’s perspective.”


2023 class ranking: No. 4 overall (Second in Big 12)
Average player ranking: 91.48

Klatt’s thoughts: “I thought Oklahoma had a really great class. … This is their best high school class since 2005, so Brent Venables did a great job. Six of their best seven recruits are either defensive players or offensive linemen. How do you get good going into the SEC? You better play good defense and better play good on the line of scrimmage. I loved what Oklahoma did.”

[Oklahoma, Texas load up on prospects ahead of final Big 12 season]


Recruiting ranking: No. 19 overall (Third in Big 12)
Average player ranking: 88.81

Klatt’s thoughts: “TCU signed a heck of a class, and also did well in the transfer portal. They had slipped a little bit in recruiting, and then they come back after this great year they had. They jump up there and recruit at a high level, capitalizing on the momentum of that great year there for Sonny Dykes.”

Texas Tech

Recruiting ranking: No. 26 overall (Fourth in Big 12)
Average player ranking: 87.67

Klatt’s thoughts: “Joey McGuire is working it. I really love what he’s doing. They hadn’t finished higher than seventh in recruiting in the conference in six … seven … eight years. When you’re finishing fourth in the Big 12 now, that means that when Texas and Oklahoma leave, you’re finishing second in the Big 12. They are recruiting on par with TCU.”


Recruiting ranking: No. 30 overall (Fifth in Pac-12)
Average player ranking: 87.56

Klatt’s thoughts: “I know we shouldn’t be surprised because of what Deion [Sanders] is and what he’s doing, but this was a 1-11 team that just pulled in a top-30 class. That’s pretty special. That is a quick turnaround. Colorado has not been relevant very much for two decades. One year in which they won a division and played for a Pac-12 title, that’s it. For Deion to do what he’s doing is pretty amazing. This guy can get in any living room in the country. He pulls in a five-star transfer and a five-star high school recruit. That’s pretty special.”

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