Feb 2

National Signing Day Review

Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC  Tags: BCS, college football

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Fans 25 combined recruiting rankings.....Inked up! Across America Wednesday, young men signed National Letters of Intent to play college football. Growing up, at the playground or in the backyard, we were all a part of neighborhood football games. And usually, whichever team landed the neighborhood bully would win the game. College football recruiting is similar, only there are more defined rules (er, sorta). Whichever teams land the best players  - the bullies between the white lines - are usually the teams you see in the major bowls a couple of years later.

I wrote that paragraph a year ago. 2011 is no different.

We all know that there is no exact way to predict which players will pan out and which ones won't. And we also know that with so many good prep players out there, there is no way any one single class can really be that much better than other classes that "trail" just behind. But still, there are people who make a nice living rating the talent levels of players, and it is fun to see who gets the guys that they see as the best out there.

The last six national champions have come from the SEC. And if you check back through the recruiting rankings over the last six years, you will see a few familar names: LSU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama. Guess which four names are in the top ten again this February? Yep.

And along with those four (in most of the recruiting services' top 25s) are conference-mates Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee. Even Ole Miss got in on the fun, checking in at #20 (at the time I wrote this) according to Rivals.com. Yes folks, like them or hate them, the conference from the Deep South is going to continue to be the focus of the national title scene in one form or another for many years.

Auburn, the defending national champion, made a huge move on Wednesday, going from a top 10-ish type class to nearly having the national recruiting title, as well, once the signing day dust cleared. They average out to having the nation's third best class.

As an ACC fan, I am hardly the guy that is wanting to go on and on and on about the SEC and its dominance. But, this conference has - according to whichever service you are looking at - eight or nine of the top 25 classes in the nation. Like I said before, like them or hate them, and like the way they recruit or not, the SEC will be in the national title race for years to come.

Florida State and ACC also have big day. Those of you who grew up loving college football in the '90s have to have some love (or hate) for FSU. Well, after a few down years near the end of legendary Coach Bobby Bowden's career, it looks like second-year head man Jimbo Fisher is poised to put the 'Noles right back in the center of the college football map. This is another Deep South team ready for big things.

According to nearly every recruiting service out there, FSU landed the most talent in 2011. Big names for the Seminoles include 5-stars James Wilder Jr (RB) and Karlos Williams (DB). The chop and chant will be seen and heard across the land in the coming seasons.

Another ACC team that had a big day was Clemson, who stole a 5-star player from the 'Noles on National Signing Day, landing Tony Steward, the nation's top rated linebacker. The Tigers landed the most 5-star players in the nation (4), with the others being Mike Bellamy (RB), Charone Peake (WR) and Sammy Watkins (WR). Now, Clemson needs to pass this success on to actual numbers in the win column in the fall.

North Carolina and Virginia added a nice group of players, as well, giving the league four legit top 25 teams in the recruiting rankings.

Out West, the Trojans still get the talent. Southern California also had a nice day. Thanks to Fans25 regular CaliforniasGold for this information via forum post: " So far things look pretty good... I woke up this morning to see some new commits who were very high on USC's "must get" list: OL Aundrey Walker from Ohio and LB Lamar Dawson from Kentucky, RB Buck Allen from Florida and DT Christian Heyward from San Diego.

"The only concern, sour note, stinger, etc. would be De'Anthony Thomas. He would be USC's most prized recruit if he stays committed, but since last weekend some are saying he's leaning towards Oregon or Washington. It would be great if he stayed committed, but you win some you lose some. Either way, it's still a great class. Positions of need have been addressed, particularly OL and LB.. 6 new OL for this class (2 of whom JUCO transfers), and at least 3 new high rated LBs. That being said, one more year is still needed to load up on the OL. There might be one or two more surprises for this class, but so far that's it."

"OL Aundrey Walker has much needed size for USC's offensive line, which has been getting thin in number and overall size per player the last 2 years. He would be the biggest guy on the roster... What a great day for the guy to commit. While there's a blizzard sweeping the northeastern region of the country, it's sunny and warm in Southern California, welcome to USC, Mr. Walker!"

Thanks to CaliforniasGold.

Also out West, Oregon showed that they are going to continue to be a force to be reckoned with as they come in with a class that is ranked right at the edge of most folks' top 10. The Ducks have an excellent game-day coach in Chip Kelly. If he can keep the talent coming in, I see the Pac 10 as a perennial three team race: USC, Oregon, and someone else as a surprise each season.

California, Washington and Stanford are the three top choices to be that surprise team. The three schools each had top 25 programs ink up Wednesday.

Big Ten welcomes Huskers and their top-15 class. Ohio State is currently the class of the Big Ten, but contenders are abound. Newcomer Nebraska had the best class in the Big Ten outside of Ohio State's top 10 group.

SkullandBones - a moderator on Fans25 - had this to say about what Nebraska will bring into the Big Ten next year:

"Nebraska lands 5-star Aaron Green who will most assuredly see time as a true freshman with the absence of Helu. Green is the first 5-star RB to commit to NU since Marlon Lucky, who turned out to be average at best at the next level.  Count players, not stars.  Problem is, nobody knows who the players are going to be yet.

Bubba Starling QB.  A complete waste for Nebraska.  Look for Starling in the Spring Training camp of whoever has the first round pick in the MLB draft, not at Memorial Stadium.  Tough to understand why this coaching staff went after him in the first place; he's not as good as Jr. Cody Green who, as we've seen, doesn't get to play even if Martinez is on the field in a wheel chair in an important game (say for example the last Big12 Championship Nebraska will ever play in). 

Todd Peat DT.  He was a four star or something like that, who cares, this guy could be the gem of the class.  He'll play next year, too much talent not to, and I can see a Blackhirt in this guy's future...sooner rather than later.

Mauro Bondi K.  Yes, K.  Believe it or not this kid may be one of the most important of the class.  Think about it, the most acurate kicker in NCAA history just graduated...he was also our punter, and our kick-off specialist Kunalic also graduated.  It's tough to estimate how big a touch back is on over 60 percent of NU's kick-offs.  So Bondi could indeed be huge.

Nebraska also did alot to beef up the O-line.  Overall I think Pelini and company showed they can compete very nicely on the National stage when it comes to recruiting, 15th with this class by Rivals."

Thanks to SkullandBones.

Iowa is another Big Ten team who will look to challenge to stay in the BCS picture. The Hawkeyes check in right at the edge of the top 25 in most polls. Michigan, who had a shaky recruiting season with a head coaching change, saw new Head Coach Brady Hoke sign a nice group that will be ranked 20-25 by the gurus. 

TCU Horned Frogs. To me, TCU is a school where I would really want to play football. Great coach in Gary Patterson, great fans, great location in Texas. The only reason I can think that the Horned Frogs didn't score a top 25 class is that the schedule still needs a upgrade. Moving to the Big East will certainly help, but until some teams out there are ready to grow some nads and play TCU at TCU, then the Frogs will be limited on big games.

I honestly thought TCU would have a big day and be a top 25 type class, but for some reason this didn't happen. Still, with the players that Patterson does get, you can expect this program to continue to be in the real top 25.

Top recruit holding out. Considered by many to be the top overall recruit in the nation, 6'-6" DE Jadevean Clowney of Rock Hill, SC is holding out until his birthday - Valentine's Day - to announce his decision. He is considering LSU, South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina, FSU and Alabama.

And while these kinds of holdouts are totally the right of the player, they put a serious strain on the system, and I don't like how some guys do this. Clowney is not the first nor last to do this, but it keeps several teams (the ones who will not get him) from being able to offer a scholarship to someone else. When you go after the best, sometimes this is what you deal with, but I think it is a selfish move on the part of the player. That said, maybe Clowney really is struggling to make up his mind.

Chances are, Clowney chooses the Gamecocks. So I want it to be known that I'm not knocking Clowney because of this (heck, he could still choose Clemson). I just wish these guys would have the respect to sign on National Signing Day like everyone else. These guys are about to be a part of a real team - time to lose the attitude, in my opinion.

Urban Meyer and Jenn Brown. This ESPNU 10-hour marathon coverage of recruiting Wednesday was supposed to be Urban Meyer's big "coming out party" (I really hate that phrase)...Have I mentioned before that I think Meyer is a strange cat? Why did he spend all of this effort talking about health issues when it is so obviously apparent he wanted to retire to the booth? There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in the booth - but why didn't he just say so?!

He has two national titles at Florida and also went unbeaten at Utah in 2004. I respect his opinion. I just don't understand why he didn't just say the whole time that he would rather be an analyst than a coach. Nobody would have cared. If he does have health issues, I wish him all the best. I still think ESPN should just leave the whole thing to Jenn Brown, though!

The final vote for 2011. With each recruiting service having their own feelings, I decided to take the top three recruiting service rankings (Scout, ESPN and Rivals), and combine them into one final ranking of the top 2011 talent. Here are the results:

(Scout rank, ESPN rank, Rivals rank) - average

1. Florida State Seminoles (2, 1, 2) - 1.67

2. Alabama Crimson Tide (7, 2, 1) - 3.33

3. Auburn Tigers (1, 3, 7) - 3.67

4. Texas Longhorns (4, 5, 3) - 4.0

5. USC Trojans (5, 4, 4) - 4.33

6. Georgia Bulldogs (6, 6, 5) - 5.67

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (3, 7, 11) - 7.0

8. LSU Tigers (9, 10, 6) - 8.33

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8, 9, 10) - 9.0

10. Clemson Tigers (12, 8, 8) - 9.3

11. Oregon Ducks (10, 14, 9) - 11.0

12. Tennessee Volunteers (11, 13, 12) - 12.0

13. Oklahoma Sooners (15, 11, 13) - 13.0

14. Nebraska Cornhuskers (23, 16, 15) - 14.67

15. Florida Gators (21, 12, 14) - 15.67

Tie 16. California Bears (14, 17, 17) - 16.0

Tie 16. North Carolina Tar Heels (17, 15, 16) - 16.0

18. South Carolina Gamecocks (13, 24, 20) - 19.0

19. Arkansas Razorbacks (16, 18, 24) - 19.33

20. Texas Tech Red Raiders (18, UR, 19) - 21.0  

21. Washington Huskies (19, 23, 23) - 21.67

22. Stanford Cardinal (22, 20, 22) - 21.33

23. Washington Huskies (19, 23, 23) - 21.67

24. Oklahoma State Cowboys (20, 22, UR) - 22.67

Tie 25. Ole Miss Rebels (24, 25, 20) - 23.0

Tie 25. Virginia Cavaliers (25, 19, 25) - 23.0

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