College Soccer News examined the 2008 incoming recruiting classes throughout the country to arrive at its top 20 rankings.
The criteria College Soccer News used to rank the classes applied a lot of weight to the extent to which a recruiting class filled the perceived gaps a team needed to fill as well as the overall potential of the recruits to increase the competitiveness of the team. Individual players were evaluated based on a combination of their high school, club, ODP, and regional and national experience. Playing experience against top level competition was a key factor. Transfers were also taken into consideration in rating classes. The rankings factored in extra credit to a recruiting class if the class signaled a step upward for the program. Programs that overachieved, as several did in 2008, are recognized in the rankings.
Some classes may still not be finalized so the rankings were issued based on the best information available to us at the time. The 2008 season will feature a lot of freshmen throughout the USA who will make an immediate impact as well as more than the normal amount of transfers who look to play key roles. With that in mind, let's look at the nation's top recruiting classes for 2008.
1. Maryland -- A talented recruiting class at Maryland is expected but this one definitely stands out as extra special. Sasho Cirovski's team looks to be loaded in 2008, with the main gap to plug the one created by the graduation of All-American midfielder Stephen King -- who started every match during his tenure in College Park. Maryland's class is supersized with players who have the benefit of competitive national team play. The eight-member class features Parade All-American midfielders Kaoru Forbess from Benton, Arkansas, and Matt Kassel from Bridgewater, New Jersey, forward Casey Townsend from Traverse City, Michigan, and goalkeeper Zach MacMath from St. Petersburg, Florida.
2. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons are proof positive that winning a national championship is a big plus in recruiting. Jay Vidovich needed to shore things up on the defensive side of the ball due to the graduation of backs Julian Valentin and Patrick Phelan. Wake Forest's 10-player class, which includes six NSCAA All-Americans, does that plus much more. he class is full of impact players including two-time NSCAA All-America defenders Danny Wenzel from Federal Way, Washington and Nick Milligan from Raleigh, North Carolina, midfielder Luke Norman from Rochester, Michigan, and forward Shaun Haglund from Raleigh, North Carolina.
3. Indiana -- IU is tradition rich and that always pays dividends on the recruiting trail. Mike Freitag stated, "The 2008 Indiana University men's soccer recruiting class reflects all that we look for in our recruiting efforts." IU has some rebuilding to do on the defensive side of the ball. Fortunately for IU the rebuilding required was significantly reduced when junior back Ofori Sarkodie elected to remain in the collegiate ranks for another season. The IU recruiting class includes two-time NSCAA All-American defender Tommy Meyer from St. Louis, NSCAA All-American midfielder Nick Blevins from Carroll, Ohio, two-time NSCAA All-American forward Will Bruin from St. Louis, who some consider the top recruit in the country, and highly regarded goalkeeper Luis Soffner from St. Louis.
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4. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels need a jump start to get back on track after going 7-8-5 overall last year and being noticeably absent from the NCAA Tourney field for the first time since the 1996 season. UNC's five-member 2008 recruiting class should give the Heels the edge that they need to get back on track and into the thick of things. The loss of center back Andre Sherard, who was a four-year starter, is the major gap that Elmar Bolowich must address as he enters his 20th year as the Tar Heel head coach. Newcomers include forward Billy Schuler from Allenton, New Jersey, midfielder Kirk Urso from Lombard, Illinois, and defender Sheanon Williams from Monroe, North Carolina. They are prime timers who were members of the U.S. U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Florida. The trio enrolled in January and joined the program in the spring. Midfielder Chris Lebo is a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American who has played with the Red Bull Academy Team and the Baltimore Casa Mia Bays club team. Defender Jordan Gafa from San Diego, California, rounds out a very talented recruiting class.
5. Akron -- Caleb Porter again takes care of business on the recruiting trail by attracting to Akron a class that for the second consecutive year is turning heads on the national scene. Porter stated, "This group should make their presence felt immediately, complimenting our current players while bolstering certain aspects of our team." The marquee player of the group is defender Kofi Sarkodie from Huber Heights, Ohio, out of the Edison Academic Center in Bradenton, Florida. Sarkodie is a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American and has represented the U.S. youth national team at multiple levels. Forward Teal Burnbury from Prior Lake, Minnesota out of Shatuck-St. Mary's School is a member of the U-17 Canadian national team and is a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American. Forward Darlington Nagbe from Lakewood, Ohio, and midfielder Chris Barton from Twinsburg, Ohio, are among other members of what looks to be a very talented class with a ton of very competitive experience.
6. UC Santa Barbara -- Exit star midfielders Eric Avila and Ciaran O'Brien who departed early to enter the professional ranks and enter highly regarded midfielders Danny Barrera from Thousand Oaks, California, and Bryan Dominguez from Atlanta, Georgia. Barrera is a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American with extensive U.S. national team experience on his resume. He is considered by some to be the No. 1 recruit in the nation. Dominguez is also a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American with multiple years of starting experience with the U.S. national team program. Both Barrera and Dominguez were also Parade All-Americans. The12-man Gaucho class is solid from top to bottom.
7. Virginia -- The five-player Cavalier 2008 recruiting class has size, speed, and plenty of big game experience. Definitely qualities that lend themselves to a quick and successful transition to the collegiate game. The class is highlighted by forward Christopher Agorsor from Severn, Maryland, who was named the NSCAA High School Player of the Year. Forward Brian Ownby from Glen Allen, Virginia, is an offensive oriented player who has experience playing with the U.S. U-18 national team. George Gelnovatch may look to Agorsor and Ownby to help replace the offensive firepower that departed (forward Yannick Reyering and midfielders Chris Tierney and Jeremy Barlow). Defenders Shawn Berry from Miramar, Florida, Hunter Jumper from Plano, Texas, and Howard Turk from Falls Church, Virginia, are also all NSCAA All-Americans and should challenge for playing time from the get-go.
8. UCLA -- UCLA is synonymous with success and high-powered talent. So it should not be a surprise to anyone that a 9-9-3 overall record in 2007, put UCLA on the list of teams that need an infusion of talent to help right the ship. UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo responded with a very well-rounded 12-player class that may not be vintage UCLA but nonetheless is definitely noteworthy. The class features forward Eder Arreola from Chino Hills, California who is a member of the U.S. U-18 national team and midfielder Chris Cummings from Chatsworth, California who is a member of the U.S. U-17 national team and an NSCAA Youth All-American. Defender Victor Yanez from Riverside, California, and forward Prince Lapnet from Silver Spring, Maryland, are among others who add to the value of the class.
9. Santa Clara -- The news on the recruiting trail has been good for the Broncos. Help was needed since Santa Clara will be without four starters from the 2007 team that was 16-2-4 with a 10-0-2 mark in WCC play. Cameron Rast stated, "With a big group of players graduating, we needed to sign a big class." The Broncos have some very big shoes to fill due to the departure of All-American forward Peter Lowry who spearheaded the Bronco attack and All-American defender Jamil Roberts who anchored the defense. The marquee player of the class is midfielder Chance Bennett from Vallejo, California who was an NSCAA Youth All-American and member of the Cal-North and Region IV ODP teams. The class also boasts highly regarded Parade All-American defender Brandon Zimmerman. Midfielder Brian Brungger from San Diego and forward Peter Fitschen from Villa Park were members of the Cal-South and Region IV ODP teams.
10. Duke -- Transition may be the word at Duke in 2008. For starters, John Kerr takes over the reigns of the program replacing John Rennie who resigned last year after a very successful 29-year tenure as the Blue Devil head coach. Duke has always had a lot of success in recruiting, and there's no reason to expect that will change under Kerr. The Blue Devils will enter the 2008 season with plenty of gaps to fill due to the departure of six senior starters from the 2007 team that was 11-8-1 overall. However, Kerr welcomes a very balanced seven-man recruiting class to Durham that features Parade All-American defender Ian Kalis from Plano, Texas, who is a U.S. U-17 national team member, forward Temi Molina from Chandler, Arizona, who was named the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, highly regarded forward Graham Oxley from Great Falls, Virginia, and goalkeeper Jan Trnka-Amrhein from Brookline, Massachusetts who was an ESP All-Star.
11. Boston College -- The Eagles lost a lot of talent due to the graduation of forward Sherron Manswell and the decision of midfielder Reubin Ayarna to leave early to enter the professional ranks. However, Ed Kelly has added a small but extremely capable five-man recruiting class that will help the Eagles remain in the thick of things in the ACC and on the national scene. The class includes midfielder Nate Bourdeau from Baldwinsville, New York, forward Edwin Workey from Jensen Beach, Florida, and midfielder Conor Fitzpatrick from Coventry, Connecticut. Bourdeau, Worley and Fitzpatrick can shake and bake on the pitch and should contribute immediately. Defender Patrick Chin from Arcadia, California, and goalkeeper Max Zimmerman from St. Paul, Minnesota round out a very productive class. Boston College was the dominant team in the ACC last year winning both the regular season and tourney titles. The potential exists for a repeat in 2008.
12. Notre Dame -- It is almost a given that Notre Dame is going to be near the top of the recruiting rankings as long as Bobby Clark is at the helm of the program. The Irish have been consistently successful on the field of play since Clark came to Notre Dame from Stanford back in January of 2001 and that has translated into success on the recruiting trail. Clark stated, "That's the nice thing, we are now seeing a succession of very good recruiting classes coming to Notre Dame." The Irish will enter the 2008 season with a solid core of returning players but they also have some big gaps to plug due to the graduation of the likes of forwards Joe Lapira and Kurt Miller, defender Ryan Miller, and netminder Chris Cahill. There is some elite talent in Notre Dame's seven-member recruiting class beginning with midfielder Brandan King from Naperville, Illinois, who has as much potential as any incoming freshman in the country. King was a member of the 2007 U.S. U-17 World Cup team and is a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American who played club with the Chicago Magic. Midfielder Michael Rose from Severna Park, Maryland who was an NSCAA High School All-American out of Severna Park High School is among other members of the class who should make an impact. Goalkeeper Will Walsh from Chester, New Jersey looks to have all the tools to become a starting goalkeeper down the road.
13. South Florida -- George Kiefer again did an excellent job of attracting a talented and multi-dimensional 11-member recruiting class to Tampa. The class includes junior transfers Jorge Mora from North Carolina State and Zak Boggs from UCF who will make an immediate contribution. Mora was a starter for the past two season for the Wolfpack during which time he contributed a total of 14 assists. Boggs sat out the NCAA mandatory year in 2007. In 2006 he contributed five goals and one assist at UCF and was named an All-CUSA Second Team selection. The class also includes defender Aubrey Perry from Ocoee, Florida, who is a graduate of the U.S. U-17 residency program and competes with the U-18 and U-20 U.S. national teams.
14. South Carolina -- Once again, the Gamecocks have had a very successful recruiting year. Mark Berson's eight-manr class will join a very young South Carolina squad that returns 10 starters from the 2007 team that was 11-6-2 overall with a 4-4-4 mark in CUSA play that was good for a fourth-place finish. The three best prospects in the class are midfielder David MacVane from Saratoga Springs, New York, who has multi-years of top-notch competitive experience with various U.S. national teams, midfielder Brandon Tarr from Knoxville, Tennessee, who participated in the U.S. U-17 residency program, and defender Danny Cates from Irmo, South Carolina who was a two-time NSCAA High School All-American.
15. St. John's -- The 2007 season was not exactly a memorable one for the Red Storm by their own standards. St. John's had a 9-7-5 overall record last year that in effect precluded them from receiving an invite to the NCAA Tourney so their string of consecutive NCAA Tourney appearances came to a halt at 15. However, that didn't prevent coach Dave Masur from putting together what looks to be a very solid eight-player class. The impact player might prove to be speedy striker Walter Hines from Brooklyn, New York, who has a ton of competitive experience playing for the U-18 MLS Academy New York Red Bulls among others. Hines was named a Parade and NSCAA Youth All-American. Cristian Gonzales out of Miami Sunset Senior High School, and NSCAA Youth All-American Pablo Punyed out of Coral Park Senior High in Miami, are among other members of the group who are highly regarded.
16. Creighton -- The Bluejays add a ton of athletic ability plus some experience via the three transfers in their nine-member class. Bob Warming will field a relatively young team in 2008 but one that should be exciting to watch. The transfers include defender Akin Akinrinade, who has been a starter for the past two seasons at Central Florida, defender Kyle Deremer, who was a starter last year as a freshman at Saint Mary's College in California, and Tim Krueger from Hastings College. NSCAA High School All-American defender Steward Brown from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and NSCAA Youth All-American midfielder Ethan Finlay from Marshfield, Wisconsin, are among the freshmen recruits who should make an impact.
17. Furman -- The Paladins have added a nine-member recruiting class that has something to add on both sides of the ball. Of Furman's nine recruits, six hail for Georgia, one from Kansas, one from Texas, and one from Haiti. Doug Allison returns seven starters from the 2007 team that was a very impressive 19-4-0 overall with a 7-0-0 mark in Southern Conference play. The Paladins returned to the NCAA Tourney in 2007 for the first time since the 2002 season. The program appears to have momentum on their side but they are faced with finding a replacement for All-America defender Jon Leathers, midfielders Shea Salinas and Elliot Paschalis, and goalkeeper Bryan Amos who have graduated. The marquee prospects of the class are midfielder Coleton Henning from Shawnee, Kansas, defender Chris Klute from Grand Prairie, Texas and forward Fabien Vorbe from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Henning is a two-time NSCAA High School All-American who was a member of the U.S. U-17 World Cup team. Klute is an NSCAA Youth All-American and member of the U.S. U-17 national team. Vorbe played with Hati's U-17 World Cup team.
18. SMU -- Change is in the air at SMU. After serving as the head coach at SMU for 24 years, Schellas Hyndman was hired as the head coach of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas in June. Tim McClements, who most recently served as an assistant coach at SMU, but who previously did an exemplary job as the head coach at Vanderbilt for four seasons before the school dropped the sport, has been named to replace Hyndman. The Mustangs have announced the addition of a 15-man recruiting class. The class includes six players from the Dallas Texan club team and three players from the Andromeda club team that captured the U-18 national championship. Midfielders Arthur Ivo from Fort Worth, Texas, and Brian Farkas from Plano, Texas, are two of the more visible members of the class. Both played club for the Dallas Texans.
19. Denver -- Bobby Muuss knows how to recruit but this was still one of the surprise classes of the 2008 season. Muuss nicely carried out a nationwide recruiting initiative that netted a very solid 10-member class that included players from Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Washington and Texas. The group includes forward Sam Garza from Highland Village, Texas, who is an NSCAA Youth All-American and was named the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year, midfielder Matt Kirby from Beaumont, Texas, who played club for the Houston Dynamo and is a member of the Region ODP team, and midfielder Alex Decosta from Dallas, Texas who played for Solar SC and was a member of the Region III ODP team.
20. California -- Kevin Grimes stuck to his in-state recruiting strategy and landed a class that includes forward Michael Munoz who played club for the Pateadores and helped Santa Margarita High capture two CIF championships, midfielder Ted Jones who played club for Marin FC and was a Cal North and Region IV ODP team member, defender Kyle Lunt who was Region IV ODP team member and goalkeeper David Bingham who played club for Mustang United and was a two-year starter at California High School.
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