We all recognize Hail to the victors, dotting the “I”, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Big Game, the Iron Bowl the Apple Cup, etc. These games clearly gain their mystique from the storied programs that define them. However, it is on National Signing Day that these programs reload and maintain their prolific reputations. Yes, that day that Terrelle Pryor tried to trick us all two years ago when he said he would be playing at the “The University of Ohio State,” while any true Buckeye knows that they arrogantly call it “The Ohio State University.”
Enough on that little rant. So, National Signing Day came and went two weeks ago, without many surprises, honestly. The source you check may alter some of the class rankings, but the schools that came away with the best class were the typical college football powerhouses. According to Rivals.com, the top five classes are: USC, Florida, Texas, Auburn and Alabama. According to ESPN and Scouts Inc. the top five classes are Florida, Texas, Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma. This is pretty typical for the college football ranks over the past few years, considering how the SEC has utterly dominated college football, producing the last four national champions. In addition to having three of the top five recruiting classes, the SEC landed eight in the top 25. It looks like the SEC is going to continue to dominate college football like they have in the 2000s. Get ready for some intense Iron Bowls, and for Florida and Alabama to probably continue their dominance of the conference like they have the last two years.
The Pac-10 also had a strong showing, as USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford and Washington all had top 25 classes. Cal was able to land Keenan Allen, the top defensive back in the class of 2010, and Chris Martin, the second rated defensive end this year. Jim Harbaugh continued the turnaround at Stanford, as they were able to land another class in the top 25 for the second year in a row. Things are also starting to look promising at Washington, as the Huskies landed a top 25 class, only two years removed from a winless 2008 year in the PAC-10.
On another note, a 13-year old committed to USC last week. At that age, I was consumed about where I was going to high school, with college a distant concept. Lane Kiffin even offered the kid a scholarship. I guess this does not violate recruiting violations because it is so public that the NCAA probably would have taken action by now. But how is it not a violation? This is also not even the first time Kiffin has offered a 13-year old a scholarship, as he gave one to standout safety Eric Berry’s little brother, Evan Berry, last year. This goes to show just shows how aggressive of a recruiter Kiffin is, which got him into hot water at Tennessee, and one can’t help but wonder if he’s headed for similar trouble at USC.
One thing that always amazes me is how these kids are about my age, now even younger than I. Me, being 6 feet tall, 165 pounds with pretty average athletic ability can only wonder what it would be like to 6’4″, 230 and run a 4.4 40-yard dash. The stresses of the typical college process are no more, but then again, there are probably some added pressures brought on these kids. The need to perform game in and game out, or the risk of possible injury weigh on these student-athletes more than the SAT and the Common App essay did on me. There are different kinds of pressures, but they get to experience having Joe Paterno, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles come into their living rooms and pitch them a program. Then there’s the rumored story about Eric Dickerson and his recruiting process that had him winding up at SMU. The story goes that Dickerson drove a maroon Corvette to SMU to sign his letter of intent, that Corvette had been given to him by boosters at Texas A&M. Granted, SMU then got the “death penalty”, in that they were sent down to D-II, and they lost all of their scholarships, and the program is just now recovering.
Despite the fact that I want to think that college recruiting is done exactly as the NCAA says, I am sure that egregious recruiting violations occur every single year. Some universities even self-report small recruiting violations themselves, but these usually do not warrant huge penalties. The added benefit of a more intimate or constant contact of a highly touted recruit might outweigh the punishments. While a lot of it comes down to who has the better coaching, programs, offensive style, etc. for a given recruit I am sure there is a darker side of recruiting to which the average fan does not get exposed.
Contact Stephen Urban at [email protected]