Spent a lot of the day Thursday catching my breath after national signing day. But, in case you didn’t see a print edition of the newspaper Thursday, here’s an analysis piece I was asked to write for it. I’d love to get your thoughts. . . .
Thumbs up: To the “Dream Team” theme. Rival recruiters and a lot of media-types scoffed at the notion of placing a hokey name on UGA’s recruiting class in a year in which the state was supposed to be stocked with talent. But there is no denying the effectiveness of the tactic as the Bulldogs inked eight of the state’s top 12 players, including three who were ranked No. 1 in the nation at his position (running back Isaiah Crowell, defensive end Ray Drew, tight end Jay Rome).
Thumbs down: At this point at least, there does not appear to be any immediate help on either line of scrimmage. That will be remedied somewhat if the Bulldogs land junior college nose guard John Jenkins (6-4, 340), who will choose among UGA, Florida, Auburn and Miami on Saturday. In the meantime, their only interior defensive lineman, Spalding’s Chris Mayes (6-5, 295), has played football for only two years and won’t be ready to help next season. And the five offensive linemen coming in all are likely redshirt candidates.
Thumbs up: For athleticism and versatility. The Yellow Jackets team is filled with recruits who are designated as “athletes” (four) or “linebackers” (eight), and in many cases it is unclear whether they’ll play defense or offense. That’s gives Tech coaches the flexibility to fit a large number of players to fill in wherever there is a deficiency. Guys like Corey Dennis (6-2, 205) and Tyler Marcordes (6-4, 215) played quarterback in high school but are more likely to play defense or receiver with the Yellow Jackets. Quarterback Vad Lee and linebacker Jabari Hunt-Daysare players who could play for any team.
Thumbs down: For perception. There’s no denying the Jackets’ class unraveled a bit toward the end. The reasons for their decisions can be debated but, the fact is, five players who were committed to Tech over the last three weeks signed somewhere else on national signing day. The Jackets recovered nicely, even getting a quality player like Anthony Harrell of Tampa to flip their way in the 11th hour. But, right or wrong, the perception is that Tech stumbled to the finish line.
Thumbs up: To Alabama and Auburn. The bitter rivals emerged once again as the class of the conference and were battling into Wednesday night over the final pieces that could put one over the other. Scout.com is going to rank the Tigers No. 1 in the nation if they actually sign five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, who committed to them but didn’t sign Wednesday. His brother Arie already attends Bama.
Thumbs down: To Florida and new coach Will Muschamp. Granted, the Gators have had to weather a coaching change and were coming off a No. 1-ranked recruiting class just a year ago. But when’s the last time they didn’t sign a single player from the state of Georgia? And with a new, young coach from Georgia, no less? They also didn’t close strong, contrary to tradition. And they had their hands on some good ones late.
Thumbs up: Florida State is generally getting credit for doing the best job in the league — and arguably in the country — but it’s hard to think of anybody doing a better job than Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Coming off a disappointing season and with Swinney’s job security in doubt, the Tigers managed to sign three out-of-state, five-star prospects and five overall. Most surprisingand unexpected was stealing five-star linebacker Tony Steward from FSU. . . . North Carolina’s Butch Davis did pretty well despite the chatter of NCAA violations.
Thumbs down: While they were burdened with late-year coaching changes, neither Maryland’s Randy Edsall nor Miami’s Al Golden were able to rally and distinguish themselves with their first recruiting classes. And Duke and Wake Forest were unable to overcome the constraints of higher academic standards to land a class that would appear to lift them toward the top of the league.
Thumbs up: To the Southeastern Conference. There’s a reason why the league has won five consecutive BCS titles and it starts on the first Wednesday in February every year. Concentrating mainly on players from the South — a great deal of them in Georgia — Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU are all going to end up with consensus top 10 recruiting rankings nationally. It would appear that the strong only got stronger this year.
Thumbs down: To the Big Ten. Outside of Ohio State, which cleaned up in-state as usual, no team really stood out with its 2011 recruiting effort. Penn State had a small class devoid of any real star power and Michigan appears to have waited too long to make a change at head coach and didn’t get the players it will need under new coach Brady Hoke.