As most of you are aware, yesterday was National Signing Day for College Football. Its become fashionable for people to say that they find the obsession with the collegiate destinations of high school athletes seedy and despicable, and while that's true, if you truly give a damn about your college's football future then you'd better be paying attention to NSD. As Ron Zook was/is fond of saying, "Its more about the Jesse and Joe's than the X's and O's". While this is a convenient excuse for a coach my roomates and I once dubbed Towlie (I have no idea what's going on) it's also quite true. You can be Bill Walsh himself, but if you have a roster stocked with 2 & 3 star recruits it's highly unlikely you'll be participating in any BCS Bowls on a regular basis. So, with that said, I'm going to go through some of the more notable events from NSD in bullet point fashion.
- Urban Meyer is a recruiting machine. It's true. He recruits earlier and harder than nearly every coach in the nation. His Friday Night Lights event at Florida transformed the way major programs evaluate juniors early on and has spawned numerous imitations throughout the country. A result of this is that Florida has often wrapped up nearly all of its class prior to NSD. This is a far cry from the days of Zook where it seemed half the recruits on Florida's board were still up in the air when the sun rose on NSD. Furthermore, Meyer's staff has continually rolled up top 5 classes during his tenure in Gainesville. After consecutive top 2 finishes each of the last two years, Florida fell to 3 or 4 this year. That's not an indictment on the class as much as it is a commentary on how class size affects rankings. Florida only had 22 scholarships available this year, as opposed to schools like Alabama, who signed 35 total players yesterday. The Florida recruit I'm most excited about? Glad you asked, its 6'1, 315 lb DT Omar Hunter from Buford, GA. He's the #1 or 2 DT in the nation depending on who you ask and also happens to be the second blue chip D-Line prospect that Meyer has stolen from Notre Dame in as many years. For the full list of Florida signees, click here.
- Randy Shannon has laid claim on South Florida. Of the many gripes that Cane fans had about Larry Coker, chief among them was his inability to lock down the nation's most fertile recruiting territory, Dade and Broward Counties. That was one of the major reasons why Miami hired Shannon. He's from Miami, he's black and he's recruited the area for years. Shannon pulled in nearly every recruit he targeted in South Florida this year, including every single prospect off National Champion Miami Northwestern. Expect to see as many as 10 of his 2008 recruits on the field and contributing next season. One thing to keep in mind about this class though: Miami signed 7, yes 7 linebackers in this class. Recruiting is about talent, but its also about filling needs. Unless Shannon's cooking up a heretofore yet unseen defensive alignment for Miami, this could prove to be a problem in the future.
- Pete Carroll laughs at every other coach in the nation. He's the best at recruiting. It's that simple. People may see that USC isn't perched atop the rankings like each of the past five seasons and wonder why. Thats simple, USC only had 15 scholarships available. Yet, even with such a small number, Carroll and the Trojans still managed to grab enough talent to sneak into the top 10 by grabbing blue chippers from all over the map, including pulling the nation's #2 ranked corner, TJ Bryant, out of Tallahassee Lincoln which has always been an FSU pipeline.
- Get ready to hate Nick Saban even more than you thought was possible. Saban followed up his disappointing debut in Tuscaloosa with the best recruiting class that the Crimson Tide has seen in a decade. That's easier to do when you don't need sleep like the other mortals who lead SEC programs. The state of Alabama was loaded with high school talent this year, more than anytime in recent memory and Saban got nearly all of them to stay home (save for William Green) and commit to Bama, including everybody's #1 receiver Julio Jones. I wouldn't expect this to be a one time occurrence. Saban brought LSU back to prominence by recruiting the ever living shit out of the South and there's absolutely no reason to believe this won't happen at Bama.
- Tommy Bowden has discovered a magic recruiting potion. You know what its called? Christianity. Seriously, Clemson...fucking Clemson pulled in the nation's #2 recruiting class despite the fact that Bowden's teams are an inconsistent, underperforming mess nearly each year. You know how he's done this? By using the same strategy that George W. Bush used to get reelected 4 years ago. When in doubt, stress you strict adherence to and belief in the good book. With people seemingly more beholden to their love of Jeebus with each passing year (especially in the South), Bowden has used this formula to convince loads of parents that their children are better off under his watchful Christian eye than anywhere else. (Who cares if CJ Spiller has been criminally under utilized during his tenure in Clemson). This sort of thing isn't new to the Bowden family, just tweaked a little to fit the our times. If you think I'm fucking around here, just read the quotes from Tiger recruits about why they chose Clemson.
- Fat Phil is running out of time...I mean you can virtually hear the clock ticking. Tennessee was once the SEC recruiting juggernaut and that allowed Fulmer and his staff to survive through what was often average coaching and downright negligent player discipline issues. However, times have changed in the SEC. The arrival of Mark Richt in Athens signaled the end of the Vols' annual pilfering of the state of Georgia and things have only gotten worse since then. The SEC is busting with high level recruiters (Meyer, Miles, Saban, Richt and more) and Tennessee has not enjoyed a run of tremendous on field success lately. That, with a return to the long honored Tennessee tradition of off-season malfeasance (UT players were arrested on two separate occasions while hosting recruits this year) and finally, the loss of ace recruiter Trooper Taylor to Oklahoma State resulted in a truly awful class for the Vols. Another poor SEC season with a couple embarrassing losses like this past year might signal the end of Fulmer's run in Knoxville. (Knoxville area Krispy Kreme owners are reaching for Xanax as you read this)
- The SEC is better than every other conference because it recruits better than every other conference. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the various top ten recruiting lists from Rivals, Scout and ESPN. They all feature at least 4 SEC teams, and often times 3 of those are included in the top 5. Jesse's & Joe's...