Tiger Prowl Auburn closed extremely well and they still may not be done. Grabbing Erique Florence early this morning was expected, getting Jermaine Whitehead away from Ole Miss and Mississippi State may have surprised some, and holding Gabe Wright from Tennessee was something that could have gone either way. Cyrus Kouandro is still out there as well. He committed to them, but never signed his letter of intent. Alabama is still in the mix, but even if Kouandro goes elsewhere, Auburn really fed off their success in 2011 on the football field in this class.
How does Clemson do it? They pull Tony Steward, Mike Bellamy, and Sammy Watkins out of Florida and end up with one of the top classes in the ACC. The biggest surprise for me in the south was Steward going to Clemson over Florida State. The Noles have been in the lead for over a year and all felt it was just a matter of putting the ink to the paper to make it official. Dabo Swinney and his staff put together a staff full of playmakers, so the Clemson offense should be fun to watch in the coming years.
No Second Year Slump Jimbo Fisher is off to a good start at Florida State. He took his team to the ACC Championship game this past season and they will end up with one of the top two classes in America when all is said and done. He recruited needs, athletes, and they did an outstanding job in south Florida racking up guys in Dade and Broward Counties. FSU appears to be on their way back.
Tennessee and the staff in Knoxville did an excellent job on the recruiting trail. They did not land that five-star and they missed on Gabe Wright on Wednesday afternoon, but they cleaned up in state with Cameron Clear, Antonio Richardson, and Kyler Kerbyson, and then went out of state get guys like Marlin Lane, DeAnthony Arnett, A.J. Johnson, and Curt Maggitt. They grabbed a couple of Junior College prospects in Byron Moore and Maurice Couch as well. I am very impressed with what Derek Dooley and the Vols did in 2011.
Always Recruiting Two schools that did not have the type of seasons they hoped for in 2011 are Georgia and North Carolina, but their recruiting classes both came out very good. Georgia has been known for cleaning up early and having a boring month of January, but not this year. Since early January, they picked up 10 commitments and over the last couple of weeks, they landed Jay Rome, Malcolm Mitchell, Ray Drew, Kent Turene, and Isaiah Crowell. All but Turene is in the top 100 in the country. They will finish with a top 10 class. North Carolina will finish with a top 20 class in 2011 and they went through a lot of adversity. Getting five-star Delvin Simmons was big on Wednesday. They beat out Oregon and USC for his signature and he joined Kiaro Holts as the five-star prospects in this class. Butch Davis is known for finding sleepers and making them all-conference type players and Keeon Virgile and Alex Dixon (both out of Florida) could be those type of players. Both Georgia and North Carolina really did a fine job this year after not having picture perfect seasons on the field a couple months ago.
Mamba Flips The biggest news out West on Signing Day, and quite possibly in many Signing Days, was the decision of Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw athlete DeAnthony Thomas to sign with Oregon. One of the most prominent players to ever come out of Los Angeles, “The Black Mamba” had been a commit to USC since last spring. But over the weekend, he took an official visit to Oregon (rather stealthy, in fact), sending off alarms that perhaps Thomas was going to Eugene. Then Monday, rumors started swirling that Thomas might be going to Washington- and other commits could follow. Those rumors started quieting on Tuesday and then Wednesday, those said other commits signed with their original schools. But Thomas didn’t send a fax to Heritage Hall, instead sending one to Oregon, giving Chip Kelly the most high profile recruit in Oregon’s history.
Big Trojan Day It wasn’t all bad for the Trojans though. Despite losing Thomas, they gained several out of state studs on Signing Day, including Kentucky linebacker Lamar Dawson, Ohio lineman Aundrey Walker and Florida running back Buck Allen, while stealing Ryan Henderson from Utah and pulling in a couple more Scout 300 guys in George Farmer and Junior Pomee on Signing Day. For all the talk about scholarship limitations, the Trojans 2011 class had 30 prospects in it.
FLIP-FLOPS The biggest story all around the country was the amount of players flipping from one team to another, but in the East Region and Big East specifically it was really bad. Rutgers signed three players Marquise Wright, Max Issaka and Gary Nova who were at one time committed to Pittsburgh. West Virginia signed Marquis Lucas who flipped from Rutgers and Terrell Chestnut who flipped from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh signed Lafayette Pitts who was committed to them and then committed to Rutgers, only to flip back to the Panthers on signing day. The most interesting flip could be running back Jameel Poteat who was committed to Pittsburgh and then changed to Cincinnati and then running back Malcolm Crockett flipped from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. Early signing period anyone?
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER McKeesport (Pa.) five-star defensive tackle Delvon Simmons was another very interesting story as he chose North Carolina. Several weeks ago, Simmons canceled an official visit to Chapel Hill and all but wrote off the Tar Heels. The Tar Heel coaching staff made a few trips to see Simmons and then within the past week they reentered the picture. Rutgers and Pittsburgh also entered the mix late after being eliminated previously.
No Decision The biggest story in the East though belonged to Hyattville (Md.) DeMatha five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio who seemingly wanted to go to Auburn, but noone else around him seemed to want the same thing. As soon as I start hearing "Well his advisors and trainers and mentors", enough said just a recipe for disaster. This was one of the first times in my years of covering recruiting that I genuinely just felt bad for a kid.
Bouncing Around Chris Barnett, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end from Texas made his third commitment of his recruitment on signing day when he signed with Michigan. He had previously committed to Oklahoma and then Arkansas. Barnett, a 3-star recruit, has also bounced around at a few high schools. In the past couple of years he has spent time at Dallas Smith, Euless Trinity, L.D. Bell and he is finishing things out at Garland.
Aggie Win Texas A&M was able to beat Texas and Arkansas for the signature of Scout.com 4-star defensive end Brandon Alexander, a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder. Alexander was one of the hottest recruits down the stretch and it was a big coup for A&M to beat UT on this one. He is the third player from Brenham High to commit to the Aggies in a matter of hours as Class of 2012 standouts Troy Green and Adrian Bellard pulled the trigger just before signing day.
Shirt Changes Everything One of the weirder recruiting stories of the season was that of Nila Kneubuhl (Kasitati), a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end from Euless Trinity High. He had a hard time deciding on to where to send his letter in at. He had a Bayler LOI in front of him, but his mother wanted him at Oklahoma, but the Sooners had only offered a grey-shirt. But when they lost a recruit to Texas Tech early in the morning that opened up a batter opportunity for a full ride and that is when things got tough. In the end, he did what momma wanted him to.
Headed West The big news in the Midwest were two four-star linemen heading West. Jake Fisher and Aundrey Walker were the top Midwestern guys left on the board and both pulled surprises when they chose Oregon and USC respectively. Fisher, at one time a Michigan commitment, took an official visit out to Eugene last weekend cited the facilities and relationship with the coaches as factors. For Walker, it was also about the official visit, as he visited Southern Cal the same weekend Fisher visited Oregon. While many felt it was a near lock Walker would be going to Ohio State, he marched to a different beat and committed to Lane Kiffin and company.
Staying Home Iowa landed four-star defensive tackle Darian Cooper today and Ohio State picked up five-star linebacker Curtis Grant and quarterback Cardale Jones. Illinois made a big splash with four-star tight end Jon Davis, a former Kentucky commitment. Michigan, who had been coming on strong in recruiting, continued that with linebacker Frank Clark and tight end Chris Barnett, a former Arkansas verbal.
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU Maybe Austin Beck could be a coverboy for the U.S. Postal Service. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night could keep the 6-foot-8, 300 pound offensive tackle from hopping on a tractor and heading through the inches of snow in his Nowata, Oklahoma hometown to find a fax machine and send in his letter-of-intent to Arkansas.
Take A Picture Thanks to the incliment weather around the country, the NCAA changed things up and allowed some new technology into the LOI transmission business with photograph copies of the signed letter being emailed to college coaches. Several college coaches received their future by way of cellphone cameras. If only twitter had a button for that.
You Did What? When Louisiana defensive back Floyd Raven's letter-of-intent arrived at Ole Miss, the school's compliance director could not read the handwriting and called young Mr. Raven to attempt a second signature with hopes of this time being a little more legible. That second fax never came through.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the signature was actually that of Floyd's mother who decided she wanted her son at Ole Miss instead of at her son's favorite - Texas A&M.
She relented and the officially signed, and presumably legible, LOI arrived around 3 o'clock at Texas A&M.
It Was A Sign Arizona defensive tackle Todd Peat was truly torn on his decision between Arizona State, Nebraska, and Oregon State until Tuesday night.
"I went back and forth between those two," Peat said. "I was at a basketball game tonight and I really felt like I was going to go to ASU. Then when I was driving home, the car in front of me had a Nebraska license plate and it just hit me that Nebraska was where I wanted to go."
Quick Check Before it is announced on every message board around January 1 of next year, just wanted to let everyone know that the final team rankings for Virginia Tech is in 40th position, TCU came in at number 28, and Boise State finished up at number 64.