Signing Day Superlatives (cont.)
Signing Day superlatives
Strongest finish (not previously mentioned): Florida State. Just how Bobby Bowden used to do it in his prime, Jimbo Fisher saved some of his biggest fish for last -- four-star receiver Christian Green, four-star linebacker Christian Jones -- to slip into the top 10.
Fisher truly began closing the class upon his official ascension in late November, when he immediately landed commitments from five-star cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and similarly heralded linebacker Jeff Luc. "We may look back on Luc and Joyner and say they started the whole thing," said Fisher. "They understand the importance of what they did."
Biggest disappointments: Georgia and Miami. For whatever reasons -- last year's down season; a defensive staff overhaul; the buzz at rivals Tennessee and Auburn -- prospects seemed to be running away from Athens. Tennessee defector Rogers, four-star linebacker Telvin Smith (Florida State), four-star DB Nickell Robey (USC) and several others either decommitted or spurned the Bulldogs' 11th-hour overtures. Mark Richt's team finished outside Rivals.com's top 10 for the first time since 2001 and toward the middle of the SEC pack.
The 'Canes, meanwhile, "have got to be the biggest story nobody's talking about," said Newberg. "We had 28 players ranked four stars or higher in Dade or Broward Counties. How many [signed] with Miami? Two. It's a head-scratcher." Fourth-year coach Randy Shannon seemed to be reclaiming the school's backyard in recent years but took a major step backward, barely finishing among Rivals' Top 25 classes.
Mr. Consistency: Mack Brown. Every year, Brown lands a top five class (this one checks in no lower than No. 3), and every year, he leaves little to talk about because Texas' recruiting is so ridiculously suspense-free. Case in point: According to Brown, Texas offered 30 scholarships, had 25 official visits ... and signed all 25 players.
"Of our 13 classes at Texas, this group addresses every position more so than any other class we've had," said Brown, who clearly gets more time to golf than his counterparts. "We were fortunate enough to sign a talented young player at every position."
Disappearing act: The Big Ten. Did they have a Signing Day in the Midwest this year? Just one conference team, Penn State, finished among Rivals' top 15, and just one top 40 recruit, defensive end William Gholston (No. 21), signed with a Big Ten school (Michigan State). Usual behemoth Ohio State struck out on its top two remaining targets, Henderson and Cincinnati linebacker Jordan Hicks. (Cleveland safety Latwan Anderson, previously committed to West Virginia, could still defect to the Buckeyes.)
Part of the league's poor showing was unavoidable -- Ohio State and Iowa had fewer scholarships to give this year -- but there's no avoiding the fact that most schools whiffed on their top targets. Most notably, the top players in the states of Illinois (USC's Prater), Indiana (North Carolina OL James Hurst) Minnesota (USC's Henderson), Pennsylvania (Florida's Floyd) and possibly Ohio (Anderson) are headed to other leagues.
Under the radar surprise: Louisville. New coach Charlie Strong immediately put to use the same recruiting prowess he showed at Florida, landing four-star Miami receiver Michaelee Harris (so that's where the Miami kids went), stealing away linebacker Deon Rogers and defensive end B.J Butler from Georgia and four-star athlete Dominique Brown from Cincinnati
"We want to get back to the top in the Big East," said Strong, "and with the players we have assembled we feel like we can make that run."
Even more under the radar surprise: Marshall. The school hired former West Virginia assistant Doc Holiday in the hopes he could tap into his South Florida pipeline, and he immediately delivered, landing Boca Raton quarterback Eddie Sullivan (previously committed to Wake Forest) and Pahokee receiver Fred Pickett Jr. (previously West Virginia) among 21 players who committed after his hiring.
Most intriguing class: Notre Dame. These are not your Charlie Weis-era Irish anymore -- at least based on the recruiting rankings. New coach Brian Kelly didn't snag a Jimmy Clausen or Michael Floyd in this class. His highest-ranked signee on Rivals, defensive tackle Louis Nix, checks in at No. 85. But he did go out and find several under-the-radar types who closely fit the profile of his Cincinnati standouts, like Florida defensive end Bruce Heggie, who had literally no scholarship offers prior to Kelly's late-January discovery.
"At this point in time, you have to give Brian Kelly the benefit of the doubt," said Wallace. "All of us who've watched his career can tell he knows how to evaluate talent. He's doing things his way. I admire it."
Definitive proof why Illinois stinks now: When Ron Zook's offense imploded last season en route to a 3-9 debacle, many pinned it on offensive coordinator/ace recruiter Mike Locksley's departure to New Mexico. On Wednesday, four-star defensive tackle Calvin Smith from Hialeah, Fla., went on national television and announced his commitment to ... New Mexico. The ESPNU host interviewing him nearly choked on the air.
But hey, give credit where credit is due. Smith, who chose the Lobos over Florida State, credited his close relationship with Locksley. And for his part, Locksley landed one more four-star prospect than Illinois, which, two years after landing consecutive top 20 classes with Locksley on staff, finished ... 69th.
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors