Turner Gill didn't have much time to recruit, and his first class is one of the University at Buffalo's smallest in recent memory.
But it's also one of the Bulls' finest.
Rivals.com ranks Gill's first class fourth in the Mid-American Conference and 81st overall after receiving commitments from two three-star players and St. Joe's quarterback and Connolly Cup winner Naaman Roosevelt. They highlight a 14-man recruiting class that was unveiled by Gill and his staff Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period.
"This is a great foundation," said Gill, who started at UB on Jan. 3. "For three weeks we were running around and trying to gather up some people and the guys did a great job finding guys. A lot of that has to do with our connections."
Recruiting analysts predict Gill will have larger classes, with better athletes, in the near future. Defending league champion Akron had the top-rated recruiting class in the MAC, according to Rivals.com, followed by Ohio and Ball State. The Bulls ranked in the league's top five only once since 2002.
"When you look back, this might be the worst class he ever signed because he didn't have a lot of time to recruit," said Jeremy Crabtree, a national analyst for Rivals.com. "But if you think about what he did at Nebraska and the quality players he recruited, he should do well for Buffalo. Florida didn't do as well under Urban Meyer in his first year and neither did Notre Dame with Charlie Weis. It's usually that second class where you see results."
Florida had one of the nation's top-three ranked classes, according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com, while Notre Dame was ranked in the top 10 by all three Web sites.
Gill traveled across the nation looking for talent, but didn't have to look far for the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Roosevelt, whom Gill said will be given an opportunity to play quarterback. Roosevelt joins 6-4, 289-pound lineman Peter Bittner from Williamsville North as the only players the Bulls signed from Western New York.
"I don't know if Roosevelt can play quarterback in college, but he's a tremendous athlete," said Bob Lichtenfels, an East Coast-based analyst from Scout.com. "Some of the larger schools were all looking at this kid. He was on the next list for a lot of those schools and if something would have fallen through, Naaman would have been the next player they looked at. That's a good pickup for Buffalo."
UB also landed 6-6, 305-pound offensive lineman Brian Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, from Richmond, Va., and 6-1, 242-pound middle linebacker Tom Drewes from Dunmore, Pa., whom Rivals.com rated as three-star players. The Bulls have never landed a player higher than two stars, and Lichtenfels said Kelly might blossom into the best player from the class.
Scouts also are high on Brandon Flanagan, a 6-2, 299-pound offensive lineman from North Reading, Mass., and 6-3, 255-pound defensive lineman Zack Williams from Erie, Pa., who was recruited by Syracuse, Cincinnati and Akron. The sleeper could be Jordan Jerrold, a 6-8, 285-pound offensive tackle from Fairless Hills, Pa.
"He's going to be a kid two years down the road people are going to say, 'Why didn't we offer him?' " Lichtenfels said.
Offensive linemen were needed and Gill signed four, the most of any position. The Bulls lost cornerback Kwaheen Smith from Milford Academy in New Berlin, who was unsigned as of late Wednesday, and still have four scholarships to offer. Gill seeks a linebacker, cornerback, defensive lineman and running back.
"But if he can play, it doesn't matter what position he plays," Gill said. "We want him."