SAN JOSE -- A 6-6 record and being left out of a bowl game apparently wasn't enough to keep San Jose State from thriving during the recruiting season.
Coach Ron Caragher's first full recruiting class stands to be one of the best in school history.
SJSU enters national signing day on Wednesday with the Mountain West Conference's third-highest rated class and second-highest average star rating by Scout.com, which ranks the class No. 74 nationally. That would be an all-time high for the Spartans since Scout began extensively ranking recruiting classes in 2003.
Rivals.com sees things a little different and places the Spartans' class eighth overall in the conference, but does credit SJSU with the fourth-highest average star rating. Both recruiting services have San Diego State and Boise State pulling in the top two classes.
Brandon Huffman, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, praised SJSU's class while also noting it had potential to be even better. The Spartans lost one-time commits Aisea Tongilava to Cal, Darren Gardenhire and Sidney Jones to Washington and Charles Wright to Vanderbilt.
"This class had a chance to be really, really good and, not unexpectedly, they lost a lot of guys to Pac-12 schools," Huffman said. "I think that kind of shows the ability of this staff to recruit and identify that talent early on. They did lose some key guys, but at the same time, they've held on to a lot of key guys. That's probably the most encouraging aspect of it."
The Spartans took an aggressive approach to the recruiting cycle, throwing out lots of offers and securing plenty of commitments early. That can naturally lead to recruits changing their mind because, as Huffman said. "a lot of BCS coaches aren't doing their homework and will say 'OK, this guy has an offer from a San Jose State or a Boise State, now let's go look at them.' "
But even losing players to bigger schools isn't all bad.
"I think because they were offering so many guys and did get guys to commit, San Jose State is now being talked about and being mentioned by a lot of big-time recruits," Huffman said.
The class is big on defensive backs, which is no surprise with defensive back coach Donté Williams doing much of the heavy lifting on the recruiting trail. Huffman called the Spartans' second-year assistant "one of the top two or three recruiters" in the Mountain West.
The biggest jewel of the class figures to be Maurice McKnight, a 6-foot, 170-pound defensive back from San Bernardino ranked as a top-50 cornerback nationally. Safety David Williams, a 6-1, 180-pound safety from Los Angeles, and Andre Chachere, a 6-0, 170-pound cornerback from Fresno, are fellow three-star recruits.
In all, Scout.com credits SJSU with eight three-star pickups, just one more than the Spartans signed the past four years combined. Wide receiver Tyler Winston, the Mountain West Freshman of the Year, was the lone three-star last year.
The biggest offensive pickup may be Roseville wide receiver Justin Holmes, a player who fits the Winston mold and could team up with him to give SJSU a standout receiving duo. The 6-2, 185-pounder won MVP honors last spring among a talented crop at the Oakland Nike Camp and Huffman raved about him.
"He's a big-bodied kid," Huffman said. "He's not ridiculously fast, but he's a long-strider, he gets the separation, has some of the softest hands of any receiver I've seen in this class."
Two quarterbacks will join the competition to replace record-setter David Fales, who is now preparing for the NFL Draft. Junior college transfer Malik Watson is already enrolled at SJSU and will participate in spring practice and the Spartans expect to add Mission Viejo High's Ian Fieber.
Fieber, who is 6-1 and 180 pounds, spent the past three years being coached by former NFL quarterback Rob Johnson and his father Bob Johnson, the longtime Mission Viejo coach.
"You're taking a kid that's coming from essentially a college program at Mission Viejo," Huffman said. "He's been getting great hands-on quarterback training for the last three years."
Huffman thinks Fieber likely needs a redshirt year, meaning Watson will be the player to provide immediate depth at the quarterback position as the Spartans look to identify a new starter. Senior Blake Jurich and junior Joe Gray are the top two returning quarterbacks.
The Spartans also remain in the mix for Deer Valley-Antioch's Nsimba Webster, the Bay Area News Group's East Bay Offensive Player of the Year. He'll announce his decision Wednesday afternoon. SJSU is his only Football Bowl Subdivision offer and he'll choose between the Spartans, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State.
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.