Signing Day blog
My analysis of Wednesday's decisions, developments
Posted: Wednesday February 6, 2008 9:52AM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 11:10PM
SI.com's Andy Staples will weigh in on the latest Signing Day news throughout the day. To provide your own commentary on the day's events, click here.
Thirteen members of UCLA's recruiting class gathered today at the Serving Spoon, an Inglewood, Calif., restaurant run by the parents of receiver signee Jerry Johnson, to sign their letters of intent. The show of unity blew away first-year Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel. And it may surprise you who Neuheisel thanked for helping the members of the class bond together.
That's right, Neuheisel thanked the guy whose firing led to his hiring.
"That's what I was pointing to in terms of congratulating Karl and thanking Karl and all the guys who were on Karl's staff," Neuheisel said in a teleconference. "That's unique when kids bond like that. ... It's a unique class in that regard, and I think it's off to a great start in terms of the kind of chemistry it'll need to be as successful as we want to be here at UCLA."
Neuheisel declined to answer a question about the Seattle Times series that ran last week that laid bare the many transgressions of his 2000 Washington team, but it doesn't seem as if the series had any negative effect on the Bruins' recruiting efforts. Neuheisel signed almost every player who had committed to Dorrell's staff, and the new staff added several more players. One of the new additions is Lake Balboa, Calif., tailback Milton Knox, who signed with the Bruins tonight. Knox chose the Bruins over Florida and Notre Dame.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said he planned to allow Gainesville (Fla.) Sun columnist Pat Dooley to sit in the Gators' offices and chronicle signing day.
"I said, 'It would really be a neat story to come up here, have a cup of coffee and watch the fax machine turn on and watch 43-year-old men act like 2-year-olds when they get a new toy at Christmas,'" Meyer said.
Apparently, it's not so neat when things go wrong. Tuesday night, when it appeared Florida was going to lose Lakeland, Fla., offensive lineman Ricky Barnum and Melbourne, Fla., defensive back Ramon Buchanan, Meyer changed his mind. He said he fired off a text message to Dooley saying the story might not be the best idea.
"Tuesday got a little rough," Meyer said, "with who's coming, who's not coming and coaches firing cell phones across the office when you lose a guy."
Breathe easy, Michigan fans. The Wolverines football staff has received a letter of intent from Cypress, Texas, tailback Sam McGuffie. Michigan will put out an official announcement on its Web site as soon as compliance officials give the go-ahead (nothing to worry about; this is standard procedure).
While the Wolverines were waiting on McGuffie, they signed Michael Shaw, a 6-foot, 185-pound back from Trotwood, Ohio, who previously had committed to Penn State. Shaw is one of a trio of Trotwood-Madison High teammates (receiver Roy Roundtree and tight end Brandon Moore are the others) to sign with Michigan.
I've always thought that if Miami could sign the best 25 players every year from Dade (Miami), Broward (Fort Lauderdale) and Palm Beach counties, the Hurricanes could compete for the national title every year. So let's look at the breakdown of Miami's 2008 class, the school's best in years.
Of Miami's 32 signees (seven already have enrolled), 19 hail from the three counties that make up South Florida proper. Coach Randy Shannon, who grew up in Miami and played for the Hurricanes, understands the value of home-grown talent. Playing for the U means more to those guys, and they'll prove it with their effort.
Maybe I'm jaded from all the Super Tuesday coverage, but it looks as if Rivals.com has called the nation for Alabama with about 75 percent of precincts reporting. The signing of Gadsden, Ala., linebacker Jerrell Harris this afternoon pushed the Crimson Tide past Notre Dame in the team rankings. As ranked by Rivals, Bama landed three five-star players, 19 four-star players, eight three-star players and two two-star players. For the journalism majors in the crowd, that's a whopping 32 signees.
So how is Alabama going to get everyone in when schools are allowed to add only 25 new scholarship players a year? With an assist from Birmingham News Bama beat writer Ian Rapoport, here's how the Tide can squeeze a few more into the class.
Receiver Chris Jackson and kicker Corey Smith have already enrolled, so they can count back toward last year's total. Bama coach Nick Saban also addressed the issue during his signing day press conference.
"We have a plan for how we're going to handle our numbers, but I think there were like 14 or 15 teams today that signed more than 30 guys," Saban said. "I'm not going to expound on this or be specific about it, but some guys grayshirt, some guys have academic issues you might have to place [in junior college or prep school], so we have a way to manage the future of that, but that's not something we're going to address publicly or make a public issue, nor is it something I think people need to be worried about."
For those unfamiliar with the term, a player takes a grayshirt when he signs a letter of intent but delays his enrollment until the spring term. That way, his scholarship can count either forward or backward, depending on which suits the program best. For example, a player who takes a grayshirt this year would count either toward his school's 2008 total or its 2009 total.
Now comes word out of Fernley, Nev., that Kevin Hart, the Fernley High offensive lineman who committed to Cal despite no scholarship offer, made it all up.
"I wanted to play D-I ball more than anything. When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality," read a statement sent to the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal by Teri White, assistant superintendent of the Lyon County School District, on behalf of Hart. "I am sorry for disappointing and embarrassing my family, coaches, Fernley High School, the involved universities and reporters covering the story."
This is sad in a lot of ways. First, for the folks in Fernley who got duped. Second, for Hart. While what he did was reprehensible in every way, he's going to have to deal with the fallout from it for a long time. That's a punishment I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Southern Miss Steps Up
First-year Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said the first step in convincing a five-star recruit to come to a non-BCS school is realizing you actually have a chance at landing him. In a few moments, Fedora will greet a grateful fan base at a school-sponsored Signing Day party. More than likely, most of the questions will be about Ocean Springs, Miss., receiver DeAndre Brown.
Brown, a 6-foot-6, 208-pounder, picked the Golden Eagles over the likes of LSU, Auburn and Tennessee. He did it because he believed when Fedora, the former Oklahoma State and Florida offensive coordinator, explained that those schools aren't necessarily better for Brown just because they play in BCS conferences.
"You have to make kids understand that's not really what it's all about," Fedora said, referring to the BCS leagues. "We can prepare guys for the next level. We can play in bowl games every year. We can win championships."
Fedora, who said he expects Brown to qualify academically, thinks Brown's choice might be the best recruiting tool he'll have at his disposal when he meets players in the class of 2009.
"It helps tremendously," Fedora said. "Here's a kid who could have gone anywhere in the country. He chose Southern Miss."
DB Johnson Picks LSU After All
Patrick Johnson may have delayed his announcement, but he didn't change his mind. The Pompano Beach, Fla., defensive back signed, as planned, with LSU. Still, the swirling rumors spooked LSU coach Les Miles enough to inquire as to whether Johnson had a change of heart.
"He's cool, though," Johnson told The Miami Herald. "I sent him the letter of intent early this morning. They knew, though. They knew I decided."
Sorry to get your hopes up, Miami fans.
McGuffie Torn Between Michigan And Cal
They're still waiting in Ann Arbor for a letter of intent from Cypress, Texas, tailback Sam McGuffie, who became something of a YouTube legend thanks to several mindbending clips of the Cy-Fair High star hurdling defenders. Michigan coaches may have to keep waiting. Cy-Fair coach Ed Pustejovsky told me that McGuffie had not yet signed his letter. McGuffie told Rivals.com that he is torn between Michigan and Cal.
McGuffie committed to the Wolverines in June, and he said previously that Michigan's coaching change would not be an issue with him, but he took an official visit to Cal this past weekend. Was it enough to flip McGuffie? We may not know today. McGuffie told Rivals he isn't sure if he'll make a decision today.
Couple this with Terrelle Pryor's delay, and Michigan coaches (and fans) have to be on the verge of a collective heart attack.
Good News For The Gators
Florida finally got some good news. Receiver T.J. Lawrence from Lakeland, Fla., picked the Gators over Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Besides, no one at Florida should get too upset about today's events. The Gators still have safeties Will Hill and Dee Finley coming in, and they've already got offensive lineman Matt Patchan and receiver Carl Moore on campus. Plus, the NCAA cleared Florida coach Urban Meyer on Tuesday of any wrongdoing for those telephone chats he had last year with Moore's girlfriend, who now attends Florida on a gymnastics scholarship.
No. 1 RB Scott Chooses Colorado Over Texas
From the blood-is-thicker-than-national-titles department: Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure tailback Darrell Scott, the nation's top-rated back, is going to Colorado. Scott's uncle, Josh Smith, is a sophomore receiver at Colorado. That got the Buffaloes in the door, and Coach Dan Hawkins and his staff did the rest, beating out Texas to land Scott.
This is the type of signing that can help shift the balance of power in a conference. The Big 12 North could get very interesting if Colorado begins stockpiling talent and Missouri and Kansas build on their 2007 success.
Julio Headed To 'Bama
Alabama fans have got to be loving this. Julio Jones just announced that he would sign with Alabama, and Auburn seems to be missing on just about every target. Depending on how the rest of the day unfolds, the Tide could wind up with the nation's best recruiting classes.
When he was at LSU, Nick Saban stockpiled talent this way. We all know how that worked out. Tide fans shouldn't get impatient, though. One class won't win Bama an SEC title. But if Saban keeps up this pace -- and he proved at LSU that he can -- the balance of power could shift.
Of course, if Auburn fans feel bad about today, they can think about the fact that they've won the past six Iron Bowls.
Julio Will Wear A Shade Of Red
Bad news, Florida fans. Though Foley (Ala.) Julio Jones has a Florida hat on the table, Foley coach Todd Watson just told WJOX-FM in Birmingham that Jones likely will wear some shade of red next season. That could be Alabama crimson, Florida State garnet or Oklahoma crimson.