As far as the national and Pac-12 rankings go, the Colorado football team didn't impress anybody with its 2016 recruiting class.
However, the 18-player class provided signals that the Buffaloes are improving their recruiting.
"I don't think it's as bad as it looks," said Brandon Huffman, national director of recruiting for Scout.com.
Huffman believes that a deeper look at CU's class reveals positive results for head coach Mike MacIntyre.
"At worst case, they are keeping pace (with the Pac-12)," he said. "Best case they are closing the gap. I think it's a little bit in between there."
Huffman said CU ranking last in the Pac-12 speaks less about CU's struggles and more about "how well the Pac-12 is recruiting across the board."
Scout.com ranked the Pac-12 as having the second-best class in the country, behind the Southeastern Conference. What Huffman likes about CU's class is that the Buffs not only filled some needs, but went toe-to-toe with Pac-12 schools and beat them for players such as running back Beau Bisharat, linebacker Pookie Maka and cornerback Trey Udoffia.
"Now (MacIntyre) is recruiting legit, Pac-12 level recruits," Huffman said. "They are slowly, but surely, closing the gap there."
Huffman said getting Bisharat was a great way for CU to finish strong in this recruiting cycle.
"He is one of the best pure, all-around football players on the West Coast," Huffman said. "He's one of those guys you can really use on either side of the ball. He can be a running back, a power back, or he can go play linebacker. He's just an all-around football player and a good student."
Landing quarterback Davis Webb, a transfer from Texas Tech, was big, too. That move does not register in the rankings, but if it did, Huffman said, "You would probably put this as a top-10 class in the Pac-12."
While CU did a solid job, plenty of work is to be done if the Buffs are going to start moving up the ladder. The work starts near home, Huffman said.
"When they start really closing the doors a little bit better in-state, that's going to help it, too, because when you can keep your in-state kids home and you can keep the top-end talent home, that allows you a little bit more freedom in recruiting outside of the state," he said.
CU typically struggles to sign the top local talent, and this year lost out on the two highest-rated in-state recruits, Carlo Kemp of Fairview (Michigan) and JoJo Domann of Pine Creek (Nebraska). The Buffs signed two in-state players this year (Denver South's Terriek Roberts and Legend's Hunter Vaughn), its lowest total since 2011.
Huffman said it's important for CU to start landing local players because Colorado typically doesn't have a lot of top talent to begin with.
"The problem that Colorado has is, of all the Pac-12 schools, they have probably the smallest amount of players from their state that are signing every year," Huffman said. "Their state turns out the least amount of FBS prospects each year, compared to even Utah and Arizona. They're always recruiting with one hand tied behind their back."
Despite that, Huffman said progress is clearly being made. In addition to signing Bisharat and Webb, he was impressed with the talent CU signed at receiver, and really likes quarterback prospect Sam Noyer.
During the past two seasons, CU has been close in a lot of Pac-12 games, and Huffman said the Buffs are building a roster that can finally get on top in those games.
"They're knocking on the door; now it's a matter of just taking that jump," he said. "It's a lot easier to do that when you've got experienced upperclassmen that are a little more talented than their predecessors were. But now you're getting some good younger talent that can come in and push some older guys."
As of Thursday, CU will go into the spring with 72 players on scholarship. They added 17 more to that list on Wednesday, putting them slightly over the 85-scholarship maximum. The Buffs plan to grayshirt a couple of recruits and expect some attrition to get down to 85 by August. ... CU signed five receivers, its highest total at that position since at least 1982. ... MacIntyre said that Bisharat's father, Charlie, was set to have heart surgery on Thursday.