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Signing Day controversy

Battle over USC recruit's signature intensifies

Posted: Wednesday February 1, 2006 11:03AM; Updated: Wednesday February 1, 2006 11:33PM
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Will top-ranked wideout Vidal Hazelton head to L.A. or Happy Valley?
Will top-ranked wideout Vidal Hazelton head to L.A. or Happy Valley?
Scott Kennedy/Scout.com
C.J. Spiller will be running the ball for Clemson, rather than the 'Noles or Gators.
Scott Kennedy/Scout.com

On this, the first day college football prospects could sign official letters-of-intent with their chosen school, the biggest drama involved another kind of signature.

Vidal Hazelton, the nation's No. 1-ranked receiver, announced last month he would be attending USC, but in the weeks since had been considering changing to Penn State. On Wednesday, Hazelton, who played his senior season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, faxed his letter-of-intent to the Trojans, but, according to Scout.com, it did not have the consent of his guardians, which is required of prospects under the age of 21.

"My son needs to learn some discipline," his father, Dexter Hazelton, told Scout.com early Wednesday afternoon in explaining why he did not sign the letter. "I know if he signs today, he could change his mind tomorrow."

Hazelton was not included among USC's 21 signees when the school released its official list late Wednesday. Hazelton's situation may affect whether the Trojans or Florida finishes No. 1 in Scout.com's class rankings. The signing period remains open until April 1.

Wednesday's first major wave came when C.J. Spiller, the nation's No. 4 running back and No. 16 overall prospect according to Scout.com, stunned many in his hometown of Lake Butler, Fla., by announcing Wednesday morning he'll leave the state and sign with Clemson.

Meanwhile, the nation's No. 2 overall prospect, Birmingham, Ala., offensive limeman Andre Smith, delighted the locals by choosing Alabama. At a televised news conference, Smith milked the suspense, laying out USC, LSU and Florida baseball caps in front of him before pulling a Bear Bryant houndstooth hat out from under the table.

Smith was long believed to favor the Crimson Tide. Spiller, however, was assumed to be leaning toward Florida State and was also considering Florida. The Seminoles entered the day ranked unusually low by their standards in Scout.com's team rankings (20th) but are known for traditionally closing with a flurry. Though they lost out on Spiller, they picked up signatures from two players previously committed to arch-rival Florida, cornerback Patrick Robinson (No. 16 at his position) and receiver Damon McDaniel (No. 29), as well as linebacker Marcus Ball (No. 10), offensive lineman Daron Rose (No. 32) and receiver Preston Parker, enough to jump seven spots in the team rankings. The Gators, meanwhile, added Texas running back Mon Williams (No. 18).

It was also a big day for the Oklahoma Sooners, who landed signatures from the nation's No. 4 overall prospect, Oklahoma City defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and another top-100 player, tight end Jermaine Gresham. McCoy had been considering USC and LSU as well. The pair should bump OU's class into Scout.com's final top 10. 

Elsewhere, top-50 prospect Jonas Mouton, a safety from Los Angeles, signed with Michigan over USC and Texas. And an already loaded class at Georgia got even stronger when Atlanta safety Reshad Jones (No. 13) chose the Bulldogs over LSU.