Well, it’s here. That day so many college football fans view with a somewhat intoxicating mix of joy and anxiety, sort of a combination of Christmas morning and final exam time rolled into one.
Who’ll live up to their virtually worthless verbal commitment, and who will flip at the last minute? Will the most wanted names on UGA’s big board fax that all-important signature over to Butts-Mehre … or somewhere else?
As I said to a friend Tuesday evening, “Tomorrow we’ll find out whose heart some teenage boy has broken.”
But, sounding a rare note of pragmatism amid all the strong emotions that characterize this annual rite of passage, my friend answered, “Your heart can only be broken if you let someone break it.”
Me, I’ve never subscribed to the notion that signing day is the most important date on the college football calendar.
I recognize there are plenty of people who disagree with me, and many of them pay big money to keep on top of all the twists and turns of every recruiting saga as some high school kid plays the game, flirting first with this school, then with that one, making a commitment that will last only until he decides to withdraw it and look elsewhere.
I find the day-to-day, almost hourly updates on which way the wind is blowing with this recruit or that recruit and the debates over what might be meant by some sought-after recruit’s tweet or offhand comment to be overblown and even tiresome. I don’t care to base my happiness or state of mind on the will-o’-the-wisp whims of some kid who might not yet be old enough to drive after midnight.
If the courtship by big-name coaches isn’t enough to overinflate those young egos, there’s always the breathless coverage of the live television reports in which they reveal where they’ll play college ball. And that whole game of putting out multiple caps on the table at the announcement, building the anticipation of which one he’ll put on, reeks too much of some cheesy game show for me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the results of signing day don’t matter, and that recruiting isn’t worth covering. Obviously, if you consistently sign upper-echelon athletes, you improve your chances of success. It’s certainly notable that Alabama routinely wins both signing day and championships.
And I’m happy that Georgia goes into today’s signing day with most of the experts ranking it as having a Top 10 recruiting class, with the possibility of ranking even higher if some last minute pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
But, as our UGA beat writer, Chip Towers, noted, it’s all relative. As signing day arrived, six other SEC schools were ahead of UGA in those projected class rankings — so Top 10 can still translate to seventh-best signing class in the conference.
Or not. I think the horse-race mentality of ranking the various signing classes before they’ve even enrolled, much less taken the field, has been overemphasized. Frankly, it’s mostly an exercise in guesswork. Just like some of those spring practice wunderkinds don’t end up even as starters come the fall, so the stars of all the signing day drama don’t necessarily become the program saviors many might wish them to be.
Remember UGA’s Dream Team? No, it wasn’t a complete bust. No class that produced the likes of Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Amarlo Herrera, Ramik Wilson and Justin Scott-Wesley can be called that. But, considering the number of players who on that signing day looked to be world-beaters but aren’t even enrolled at UGA three years later, it wasn’t exactly the stuff of dreams, now, was it?
Today’s celebrated five-star signee, whose signing day announcement has the recruitniks dreaming of national championships, might wind up being tomorrow’s transfer to a FCS school. Some just won’t click with the program or will move on because they don’t get enough playing time. Some will flunk out. Others will be behavior problems and get kicked off the team (and probably wind up starring at Auburn).
Conversely, some of those unheralded players who the recruiting services didn’t think that much of might turn out to be gridiron heroes.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of signing day, whether you’re among those who’ll gather in the lobby of Butts-Mehre today or simply tune in to the live TV coverage or constantly keep updating your browser, waiting with bated breath to see who the latest future Bulldog is.
And I’ll be as happy as all those fans if Mark Richt and his staff sign a class that not only has highly rated prospects, but seems to address the program’s particular needs (which to me is much more important than how ESPN ranks the class in relation to other schools’ classes).
UGA may have a great day, even stealing a prospect away from a rival. Or one of those kids who’s professed for months that he’s a Dawg may turn around and sign with Ole Miss, or whoever turns out to be this year’s hot-new-recruiting magnet.
Either way, Georgia still will field a team this fall in the most beautiful college stadium. Thousands still will flood into the coolest college town in the country and enjoy the tailgating and the traditions and all the color and pageantry that is so much a part of college football.
No matter who signs today, at some point this fall, the Dawgs will thrill us by winning one they weren’t expected to win. Chances are, they also might dash our hopes by losing one (or two) they shouldn’t have lost.
And I’ll be just as wrapped up in the emotional ups and downs of Georgia football as I’ve been for more than five decades now.
Heartbreak? Yeah, I’ll probably experience that at some point during the season.
Just not today.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg