National Signing Day viewer's guide
Jim Tressel is on course for a No. 1 class.
Jim Tressel is on course for a No. 1 class.
Director of Scouting
Posted Feb 3, 2009

By Wednesday evening, a national champion -- in recruiting -- will be crowned. Will it be Ohio State? Or USC? Or a dark horse from the SEC? Which teams have hauled in the most surprising recruiting classes? Director of Scouting Scott Kennedy answers the most important topics on the eve of National Signing Day.

Can anyone catch Ohio State?

The Buckeyes have held the No. 1 spot in the team rankings since they debuted in July. Ohio State has a nearly 900-point lead heading into the final days before Signing Day. Considering a five-star player is worth approximately 300 points and a four-star player is worth approximately 200 points, Ohio State's lead is large, but not completely insurmountable.

There are several teams in the SEC worth keeping an eye on. Should the stars align for Alabama, LSU, Florida, or Georgia, there's a chance that one of the SEC powers could catch up to the Buckeyes.

USC is lurking at the No. 5 spot with only 18 commitments. The Trojans might not have enough scholarships this year to push for the No. 1 overall spot.

Of course, Ohio State might not be done recruiting either. A late commitment from offensive tackle Marcus Hall extended the lead this week, and should the Buckeyes ink five-star wide receiver Marlon Brown, Ohio State will all but lock up the No. 1 spot. As it is, they're going to be tough to catch on Signing Day.

More drama at No. 1?

While Wednesday is known nationwide as National Signing Day, it's actually just the first day of the signing period for college football. After months and sometimes years of recruiting, nearly all prospects will put pen to paper on Wednesday. Last year's No. 1 overall prospect, Terrelle Pryor, waited until March 19 before signing his letter of intent.

This year's No. 1 overall, Bryce Brown, appears to be following a similar path. Despite being "committed" to Miami for almost a full year, the Brown entourage hasn't yet decided when and with whom they will sign scholarship papers.

Miami still appears to be the odds on favorite, but teams like Clemson, Oregon, Missouri, and Kansas State, USC, Tennessee and Auburn are still in the running.

Is *insert name here* worth the hype?


Lost in the hoopla of recruiting, is that most of these players are still 17 and 18 year old kids who will be mentally, physically and emotionally immature compared to their teammates when they arrive on campus. The vast majority of these players will arrive on campus and find themselves surrounded by last year's must-have all-americans.

Expectations heaped on these players are so outsized that a sophomore quarterback that threw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last season is being labeled as a bust by anyone rooting against Notre Dame.

How did the new coaches in the SEC make out?

Gene Chizik has hit the recruiting trail hard as Auburn's new leader. (Getty Images)
The SEC's annual coaching carousel claimed the two longest standing coaches this season. Tennessee's Phil Fulmer was sacked after 17 years, and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville briefly had tenure in the SEC before being dismissed at Auburn. Florida's offensive coordinator Dan Mullen took over at Mississippi State after Sylvester Croom was asked to step aside. Mark Richt at Georgia now has tenure in the SEC having taken the head coaching job before the 2001 season.

While most recruiting headlines are made by what player teams get a commitment from, new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin made early headlines by turning away five-star quarterback Tajh Boyd, who ended up committing to Clemson last week. While that move raised some eyebrows around the country, there's no denying the star power in the Vols' class. At 3.59 stars per recruit, the Tennessee class ranks eighth in the country.

Auburn's hire of Gene Chizik from Iowa State was met with mixed reactions, but a solid round of assistant coach hiring has helped calm the storm on the Plains and ignite the recruiting talk. Bolstered by two five-star junior college players and a highly ranked quarterback, Auburn's class has climbed as high as No. 15 in January and could still move up. Auburn and Tennessee seem to be in a fight for running back David Oku, who is currently committed to the Vols.

While the season didn't turn out the way he had hoped, Croom had done a good job of recruiting in-state at Mississippi State. Dan Mullen found a solid foundation when he arrived, and the excitement of the spread attack coming to Starkville helped the Bulldogs secure a commitment from four-star wide receiver Chad Bumpis.

Does the slipper still fit Cinderella?

Five-star linebacker Shayne Skov is a big catch for Stanford. (
The two biggest recruiting surprises on the year have to be No. 2 North Carolina and No. 11 Stanford.

Butch Davis and the Tar Heels have done a terrific job of securing commitments from the state's top players, including Scout's No. 1 defensive end Donte Moss. With 29 commitments and counting, North Carolina could have a freshman class impact similar to what the Miami Hurricanes saw in 2008.

Stanford has consistently stayed in the top 15 of the team rankings all year. The Cardinal's highest rated player, five-star linebacker Shayne Skov, was also its first commitment of the year. Stanford has remained highly ranked by continuing to add top recruits later in the process like four-star fullback Tyler Gafney who committed to Stanford last week.

Are there cracks in USC's armor?

USC hasn't so much "recruited" the last several years as they've "selected" players. It's hard to say that the No. 5 team in the country averaging a leading four-stars per player is showing signs of vulnerability, but teams have been able to chip away at USC this year.

It was inevitable that USC would face stronger local competition from Rick Neuheisel and UCLA, and that premise was evident when the Bruins plucked the nation's No. 1 tight end, Morrell Presley, off of the Trojan commitment list.

Committed prospects such as No. 1 linebacker Vontaze Burfict, four-star wide receivers Randall Carroll and Ashlon Jeffrey continued to take official visits through January.

It's a testament to the level of USC's successful recruiting in the past that in the same column I could mention the Trojans as a possible No. 1 ranking -- and the Trojans showing signs of vulnerability.

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