Signing Day wrap (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday February 6, 2008 7:40PM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 3:03PM
By both his and others' accounts, Weis, who lost several significant commitments at the 11th hour last year, was much more careful and explicit with this year's pledges.
"He gave a speech to them that he's not taking a commitment unless you're 100 percent committed, and that if they even hear you're looking at other schools, they're going to look for another player," said Farrell.
Anyone who watched a Notre Dame game last year knows the Irish can use help at nearly every position, but most followers expect 6-foot-3 Minneapolis receiver Michael Floyd, ranked sixth at his position, to make an immediate impact. U.S. Army All-American QB Dayne Crist will be given the opportunity to compete with thus-far disappointing incumbent Jimmy Clausen, and any number of Notre Dame's 12 defensive signees could provide immediate help.
In light of last season's debacle, Weis called Wednesday's class "a significant boost." It also marked the third straight Rivals.com top-10 class for Weis, a claim that only three other schools -- Florida, Georgia and USC -- can make. All those excuses about Tyrone Willingham leaving the cupboard bare officially go out the window next season. By any objective measure, Notre Dame now has the talent to compete at the highest level.
Alabama and Miami may soon be able to say the same.
Signing Day Awards
Biggest surprise: Minnesota.
It requires a double-take when you're scanning Rivals.com's top 20 classes. Somehow sitting there at No. 17 amidst the likes of Texas, Virginia Tech, Oregon and Auburn, are the Golden Gophers -- they of the 1-11 record last season, that awful domed stadium and the subarctic temperatures.
Those that knew him hailed second-year coach Tim Brewster as a master salesman (he recruited Vince Young to Texas) when he was tapped to replace Glen Mason -- and apparently they weren't kidding. He managed the lure the likes of U.S. Army All-America QB MarQueis Gray from Indianapolis, top-25 safety Keanon Cooper from Dallas and four-star receiver Brandon Green from Chicago.
"There's a lot of athletic players with good speed in that class," said Farrell. "It reminds me of Ron Zook's first big class at Illinois, with Juice Williams."
Biggest surprise II: Southern Miss.
Newly hired head coach Larry Fedora, and in particular ace recruiter Tony Hughes (formerly on Ed Orgeron's staff at Ole Miss) took the recruiting world by storm in a short amount of time, landing five-star receiver DeAndre Brown, four-star offensive lineman Bo Tillman and, in total, signing more top-25 in-state players (eight) than SEC counterpart Ole Miss (four), which hired its own new coach, Houston Nutt, earlier than Southern Miss hired Fedora.
"It's the type of class you don't expect from a non-BCS school," said Farrell.
Biggest disappointment: Tennessee.
The Vols, normally a fixture in the recruiting top 10 (just last year, they finished No. 3), fell completely off the radar this year -- and nobody can figure out why. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Rivals.com had Tennessee's class ranked 36th, and they signed just four players ranked four stars or higher.
One possible explanation is staff attrition -- offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe left to become the head coach at Duke and top recruiter Trooper Taylor recently replaced Fedora as co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Perhaps that prevented the Vols from closing as strong as they'd hoped. Season-long rumors about head coach Phillip Fulmer's job security probably did not help, either.
Strongest finish: Clemson.
Actually, it was probably Miami, but Clemson comes in a close second. Signing Day pledges from four-star Jacksonville, Fla., running back Jamie Harper, four-star tight end Jamie Allen and four-star offensive lineman Antoine McClain pushed the Tigers' class to the brink of the top 10 and reasserted superiority over arch-rival South Carolina, whose high-profile coach, Steve Spurrier, had dominated the state the past couple of seasons.
A year ago, Signing Day was something of a sore spot for Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who criticized the school's administration for 11th-hour denials of several prospects' admissions applications. This year, he was all smiles.
How do they do it?: USC.
Pete Carroll's program continues to amaze in its ability to lure players from nearly anywhere in the country. Wednesday, the Trojans' relatively small class rose into the top 10 thanks to signatures from a four-star Detroit defensive end Nick Perry, who seemed destined for Michigan, and a four-star defensive back, T.J. Bryant, who plays in Florida State's backyard (Tallahassee's Lincoln High).
Unlike previous seasons, however, USC didn't get everybody it wanted. Little Rock, Ark., defensive back Joe Adams, despite visiting L.A. little more than a week earlier, decommitted to sign with home-state Arkansas, and cornerback Vaughn Telemaque, from traditional USC feeder school Long Beach Poly, spurned the Trojans to sign with Miami. This marks the first time since 2002 that USC did not finish with a top-two class. However, part of that may be due to the fact the Trojans, for once, did not load up on flashy skill players. "In terms of offensive and defensive linemen, they couldn't do much better," said Wallace.
Biggest potential impact freshman: Colorado RB Darrell Scott.
The nation's No. 1 running back prospect waited until Signing Day to announce his choice between the Buffs and Texas, which had made a late push following star Jamaal Charles' defection to the NFL. Ultimately, Scott chose the school where his uncle (you read that right), Josh Smith, is a sophomore receiver. "Family comes first," Scott said in announcing his decision.
Colorado made significant strides in coach Dan Hawkins' second season -- improving from 2-10 to 6-7 and an Independence Bowl berth -- but the Buffs were still notably lacking in offensive playmakers. Scott, a purported sub-4.4 speedster from Ventura, Calif., certainly fits the bill.
Biggest potential impact freshman II: Georgia WR A.J. Green.
If he can become academically eligible (no sure thing), the nation's No. 2 receiver could be the missing piece for a Bulldogs squad already projected to start next season No. 1.
We know Georgia has the quarterback (Matthew Stafford), running back (Knowshown Moreono), offensive line and defense to make a championship run. The one thing they've been missing the past couple of seasons is a big-time receiver who can stretch the field. The 6-4 South Carolina native figures to be just that.
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