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• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale
Watching Ink Dry
Richard L Gale rounds up the highlights from college football's National Signing Day
So with the playoffs over and the Steelers atop the NFL throne once again, our attention turns to the Pro Bowl. Like so many of you I'll be staying up into the night, on the edge of my seat to see who wins.
Or I might not be. Maybe I'll just watch it on Monday. If I have time. And can't think of anything else to do.
Actually, I'm just monitoring Hawaii for any meaningful injuries that might occur, and any sound bites that give a hint of future free agent moves or trades. The game itself? I'm more interested in National Signing Day.
As snorting at National Signing Day in a disparaging manner is as trendy amongst sports writers as downplaying the relevance of the Pro Bowl, let's get this in perspective: the Pro Bowl's relevance can't be downplayed — it is irrelevant. But for true football fans, NSD is very relevant — it's the day when college football fans can count up the commitments, preview the stars of the next few years... and dream. Right at a time when the NFL champs have been crowned, and the college champs have been assigned, it's a chance to ignore the reality and say 'hey, we're doing well'. NFL fans have draft day, college fans have NSD.
It doesn't involve any meaningful football, of course, but that's the story in Hawaii this week too.
One gripe I do have, however: publications that insist on ranking colleges in a specific numerical order, as if that has any value. As one online recruiting site had it, 'it comes down to this: if Trent Richardson signs with the Crimson Tide, they will be crowned the national recruiting champ'. He did, so apparently they are, beating out LSU on points. What?! What points? What crown? (I hear LSU have conceded their next three meetings with the Tide on the strength of the signing, and the BCS have already granted Alabama a bye to the National Championship Game in 2010).
• Whether they had the best class or not, Alabama is enjoying year–on–year recruiting of a Southern Cal standard, landing half a dozen names of note on NSD alone, including RBs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, out–of–staters from Florida and Louisiana respectively. Of 27 Tide signees, only 10 were Alabamans, and those were all good ones.
• LSU was right there with Alabama (No.1 according to some sources — I believe Rivals.com and Sporting News are seeking a playoff sometime before the next semester). The Tigers already had one of the QBs in the class in Russell Shepard, plus some defensive blue chippers, but secured the commitment of WR Rueben Randle and DE Sam Montgomery on the day.
• Neither Ohio State nor Texas had reporters grabbing the phones on NSD, but both finished with top classes again thanks to a slate of solid earlier verbal commitments. QB Garrett Gilbert may be the successor to Colt McCoy eventually, with OL Mason Walters to protect him. The Buckeyes' best recruits were Xs and Os guys.
• North Carolina and Ole Miss will be celebrating their classes more than most. The Tar Heels — already climbing the football ladder as far on the field — landed one of the top classes, although OL Morgan Moses signing with Virginia on NSD keeps it from being 'elite'. They defended their state border well to land DE Donte Moss and WR Jheranie Boyd, two players who could contribute early. Ole Miss had a great finish in most fictional top 25s, and may have had the most impressive close of anyone, gaining OT Bobby Massie and QB Ray Cotton on signing day. DE Craig Drummond was already aboard, having been poached from Illinois during the final stretch.
• Prior to NSD, Notre Dame's class was looking good but not special, and might even have caused the now annual questions about whether the university still has an elite football program. None the less, explosive RB Cierre Wood, WR Shaquelle Evans, and three noteworthy linemen give ND a new lease of offensive life, and a sound class of linebackers became special when the Fighting Irish landed the coup of the day, recruiting Top LB Manti Te'o from under the noses of USC and UCLA. With UCLA's Norm Chow and USC's Ken Norton Jr amongst the rival recruiters, ND special teams coach Brian Polian looks to have inherited the personnel touch of his father Bill. A word of warning for anybody expecting Te'o to transform the Notre Dame defense any time soon: as an LDS member, Manti will be undertaking his church mission before continuing his football life.
• Bobby Bowden's time with the Seminoles may not last the next four years, but that didn't put many recruits off Florida State. Signing Day switch OT Aubrey Phillips, stunning DT Jacobbi McDaniel, and former Florida commitment DB Greg Reid were highlights from a class that outperformed recent success on grass.
• USC is often sometimes portrayed as having their exclusive pick of the Pac–10 talent, with the rest of the conference fighting over the scraps. However, the Trojans didn't have it all their own way on NSD. As well as losing Te'o to Notre Dame, OT Xavier Su'a Filo signed with UCLA, outstanding linebacker Vontaze Burfict switched to Arizona State, and WR Alshon Jeffery signed instead with South Carolina. USC staunched their wounds by signing OL Frankie Telfort (who had been considering Stanford amongst others), regained Byron Moore after a Colorado visit, and lured safety Jawanza Starling from Notre Dame. DE Jarvis Jones also committed on the day. The Trojans have such high recruiting standards that it was a relatively disappointing day at times, but they still finish with one of the best classes in the nation.
• Stanford had a great class for a team coming off another non–bowl season, with a rash of high quality skill position players signed from within the highly competitive state of California, and LB Shayne Skov signed all the way from New York state. None of the players were eye–poppers, but the Harbaugh era continues to go from strength to strength.
• The most interesting place on Signing Day was Tennessee. It seemed that barely an hour went by without Tennessee losing or gaining somebody in dramatic fashion. OT Aubrey Phillips decommitted to Tennessee to sign with Florida State, QB Tajh Boyd confirmed with Clemson over a previous commitment to the Vols, but WR Nu'Keese Richardson and ATH Marsalis Teague both switched from the Florida Gators to Tennessee on NSD. Even after Wednesday, Tennessee snatched top DB Janzen Jackson away from LSU, and are now waiting on RB David Oku, who is expected to be a Volunteer, but could yet escape to Auburn. Making things spicier, new Vols coach Lane Kiffin erroneously accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of breaking recruiting rules and was subsequently forced to apologize by the Southeastern Conference. All of which made it less than a great recruiting week, but sparky enough an entrance to put Lane Kiffin's football team back on the map whilst stoking the coals in a rivalry with Florida that has been a little one–sided recently.
• Although some got away, Florida naturally hooked some big fish, including LB Jelani Jenkins, OLs Nick Alajajian and Xavier Nixon, and on signing day itself, DT Gary Brown, ATH Joshua Evans and WR Andre Debose.
• And yet another SEC team doing well: South Carolina lost out on local OL Quinton Washington to Michigan (who also had a good recruiting drive), but nabbed WR Alshon Jeffery from USC, and mugged Clemson for three players. A huge class of 29 commitments lacks superstars, but RB Jarvis Giles and DB DeVonte Holloman will both make themselves known. Overall, it was a fine job of soaking up disaffected recruits in the aftermath of coaching changes elsewhere.
BIG EAST LACKING BITE
Even with a bad Signing Day, teams still have recruits to show for their efforts, so it's hard to point at a class and declare them a bunch of bums. But certain teams have expectations, and a certain level of conference (i.e. BCS) expects a standard of recruiting class. At a time when the Mountain West has its sights set on BCS parity with the likes of the ACC and Big East, the ACC responded with some powerful recruiting. The Big East? Could have done better:
• Rutgers, USF and West Virginia all did pretty well: Although West Virginia let a couple slip, they were the class of the classes in the Big East; South Florida soaked up the third–tier in–state talent (which is arguably equivalent to first–tier talent in some other states); and Rutgers' red hot run late last season translated into a solid class they could only have dreamt of a few years ago. Beyond that, the conference was ho–hum, and there wasn't a consensus five–star prospect to be seen between the eight teams.
• Pittsburgh was particularly pale. It might seem that I'm often on Dave Wannstedt's case, as with last preseason, when others picked Pittsburgh as a top 25 team, and I ranted on how much Wannstedt's teams underwhelm me (they did finish outside the top 25 in the end). And I'm on his case again now. While they didn't recruit badly, I just expected more from a prominent BCS team — second in their conference — whose head coach boasts NFL credentials. Wannstedt declared the class 'outstanding', but what looks to me to be a 'useful' class rather than outstanding simply wouldn't get a pass grade in the SEC or Big 12.
• Syracuse can only dream of a haul as good as Pittsburgh's, however — only 14 commitments for a BCS conference team that was once a contender but this year recruited little better than an FCS team. Syracuse signed just three players from New York State. However, there is still a chance RB David Oku might switch from Tennessee. That wouldn't save the class, but it would be a major skill position signing on a team which has 11 linemen and defensive backs among its present 14.
NOT A BUNCH OF BUMS, HONEST
• Boston College deserved everything they got — which wasn't that much. After firing head coach Jeff Jagodzinski for daring to interview for a job with a professional team, BC's new head coach Frank Spaziani was left to secure the commitments of players who had verbally committed to the coach who'd committed to going somewhere else. If top recruit DT Dillon Quinn can replace departing BJ Raji, it may prove to be the save of the year, but there were a lot of two–stars amongst the player evaluations. With Florida State landing a real haul, and Maryland landing a host of three–star prospects, Boston College looked like the ACC dud, especially in their own division.
• At Washington, new coach and former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian did have some NSD moments, bringing DB David Batts and ATH James Johnson aboard. The rest of the class, while full of capable talent, lacks the destiny–changer Washington is in desperate need of. For the time being, Washington — along with Washington State — remains in the Pac–10 basement.
• Fresno State started last year as one of the teams tipped as a possible 'BCS–buster', and is one of the non–BCS schools who seem perennially strong. In that regard, their recruiting may be judged in comparison to Boise State, BYU, TCU, and Utah. In those terms, this Fresno class looked a lot like a misfire, with almost no impact outside their usual haunts. The best they signed included LB Travis Brown (of Fresno) and former Bulldog David Carr's little brother, Derek.
• The MAC is hardly a marquee conference, but the recruiting classes of Ball State, Bowling Green and Buffalo might have expected a late lift after the way they finished last season. Instead, not only did none of these three acquire a player of even four–star standard, but they all finished with classes near the bottom of the MAC. All three will now be looking to make an impact again during the 2009 season to see if they can translate last year's results into some solid verbal commitments for 2010.
• No recruiting class disappointed me more than East Carolina's. There was some decent three–star talent here — and upper three–star talent at that — but considering the Holtz name and heritage, and the results Skip Holtz has been getting at East Carolina (21–11, going from 5 to 7 to 8 to 9 wins, with a C–USA title this past season), I was expecting a better result this time around.