Anyone who has been through a high school graduation heard a different spin on the same thematic elements from a class valedictorian: graduating is an end, but not the end. Through it is a beginning. Got that? Not exactly profound stuff — the producers of Friday the 13th grasped it, gleaned in consecutively released The Final Chapter and A New Beginning.
Still, because a sentiment is cliched doesn’t mean it’s without merit. National Signing Day is a milestone on an arduous road for the high school talents committing to colleges. It’s a major milestone at that. One shouldn’t begrudge a recruit his moment in the spotlight, that figurative stretching out of the legs that is the signing announcement. Years of impressing scouts at camps, agonizing through two-a-days, fielding thousands of phone calls come to a head. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate?
But National Signing Day is not the final destination; nowhere near it. It’s a tangible watershed moment of a young man having to take that next step of maturity.
There exist those cautionary tales of players who, for various reasons, failed to meet expectations. Isaiah Crowell basked in the attention of one of the more creative signing announcements.
But thus far, National Signing Day is Crowell’s collegiate apex. Just a year after producing that puppy for the television cameras, he’s playing out of the limelight at Alabama State after run-ins with the law.
For every recruit mapping his future on National Signing Day, I hope it’s a springboard and not an apex.
Five High Impact Potential Signing Classes
Plenty of pundits will dole out grades in the coming weeks, but National Signing Day is just the handing out of the blue books. The test is yet to come. Obviously, some are better prepared for success than others. Plenty of highly touted classes in the past have fallen short of expectations; Texas has routinely ranked in the top 10 of signing classes, for example, yet suffered through a three-year drought on the field.
But there’s a direct correlation between on-field success and recruiting success.
The most obvious choice is Hugh Freeze’s confoundingly impressive incoming class at Ole Miss. Should consensus No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche fulfill expectations and join Laquan Treadwell, Quincy Adeboyejo and Lavon Hooks among others, the Rebels will be the big winner of this recruiting period.
NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions put USC in a precarious position. The Trojans lacked depth in 2012, and will continue to for the next few years. That leaves Lane Kiffin with a thin margin for error on recruits to pan out. And those who do sign must be able to contribute both positively, and immediately.
Kiffin has responded with what is one of the most impressive signing classes in recent memory. USC goes with quality over quantity. The Trojans signees average a ridiculous 4.42 stars — and that’s without Eddie Vanderdoes.
The Fighting Irish take a major step toward returning to past glory in 2012, reaching the program’s high watermark for wins and first national championship game since 1988. Still, Notre Dame isn’t truly back; Alabama proved that in its thorough shellacking of the Irish at the BCS championship game.
The highly regarded 2013 Notre Dame signing class has the potential of pushing this program over that hump back to the highest tier of college football. Greg Bryant, Max Redfield and Jaylon Smith lead a group averaging 3.87 stars per player.
Urban Meyer brings to Big Ten country the aggressive, take-no-prisoners recruiting philosophy that has led to seven consecutive BCS championships in the SEC. Meyer’s firsthand knowledge of building a title team the SEC way just might be the secret weapon to counteract the conference’s dominance.
The Buckeyes return Heisman Trophy contender quarterback Braxton Miller from the only undefeated Div. I football team. Joining him is one of the highest rated signing classes in the country, comparable to the hauls being inked at SEC schools.
With five star linebacker Mike Mitchell, four star linebacker Trey Johnson, four star defensive end Joey Bosa and four star quarterback J.T. Barrett, Meyer has successfully mined talent pools in SEC and Big 12 country. Should his plan play out and the Buckeyes successfully loosen the SEC’s grasp on the crystal ball
Penn State’s signing class of 2013 will be the first crop of Nittany Lion seniors eligible for the postseason once the devastating NCAA sanctions leveled against the program. Bill O’Brien had one of the most difficult recruiting pitches on which to sell prospects imaginable. Penn State’s sanctions are the most severe since SMU was given the death penalty in the late 1980s — it took SMU over two decades to return to respectability.
And SMU’s NCAA infractions didn’t come with the same overwhelmingly negative connontations that linger at Penn State. O’Brien is building a completely new program, virtually from scratch.
The coach’s skill working with quarterbacks is evident in Matt McGloin’s performance last season. Perhaps recognizing that, and O’Brien’s NFL credentials, five star quarterback Christian Hackenberg headlines a class that could set a strong foundation for this massive reconstruction project.
Ode to The Fax Machine
Abe Simpson best described the fax machine, a piece of technology that grows increasingly archaic — except on National Signing Day.
Fax machines are akin to your mother’s family heirloom china. For 364 days out of the year, it goes unused, collecting dust. It’s ignored, save those moments you see it and think, why don’t I take that to Goodwill?
But for one day, its presence is a necessity.
Thanks to Alabama, the fax machine is more than just a tool of National Signing Day — it’s a star. The Crimson Tide’s use of a fax runner on the official athletic site web cam caused quite a stir in 2011 and 2012.