HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 04: Mack Brown head coach of the Texas Longhorns yells at the officials after a delay of game was called in the third quarter during a game against the Rice Owls at Reliant Stadium on September 4 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
College football's version of a draft -- National Signing Day -- is officially underway. Get yourself primed and ready to follow all the madness with SB Nation CFB experts Spencer Hall and Bud Elliott.
Spencer Hall: So, when was the last time a recruiting writer slept? December?
Bud Elliott: Yes. I got up and immediately took two 24-hour Claritin Ds and grabbed my double mug at 5:30 this a.m.
SH: Good on you. Let's talk individuals first. What big names sign first Wednesday?
BE: There are quite a few. Dorial Green-Beckham, the best receiver prospect since Julio Jones or A.J. Green. He's an Arkansas-Missouri-Texas battle. Eddie Goldman, a massive defensive tackle out of Washington D.C., will also be making his choice. He should sign before lunch on the East coast. That's a Florida State-Auburn battle, with a slight chance for Bama. Nelson Agholor is one of the top athletes in the country. The Tampa star will decide between Florida, USC and maybe Notre Dame or FSU around noon.
Shifting to the MTN time zone, offensive tackle Andrus Peat of Arizona is expected to sign with Nebraska. It would be a shock if Stanford or USC pulled this one out.
SH: Any late shifting going on with any of these? Everyone loves late drama.
BE: Yes. Kyle Murphy of San Clemente is a massive offensive tackle and a major battle between Stanford and USC. He's thought to be a Stanford lock, but closeness to USC, family pressure, and a late visit could make him a Trojan.
SH: Is any big class looking less stable than thought heading in?
BE: Notre Dame has lost some big commitments in recent weeks. Four-star defensive back Ronald Radby and four-star linebacker David Perkins come to mind. Cornerback Anthony Standifer also appears to be on the way out. Still, the Irish have a very good class. It's just not as good now as it was a month ago.
On the other hand, Florida State's class appeared to be shaky to some just a month ago. Five-star defensive ends Mario Edwards and Dante Fowler were both taking visits and stretching the bounds of the word commitment. Quarterback Jameis Winston was being pursued quite hard by Alabama and others, and it's never easy to take the top dual-threat quarterback in the country out of that state. But the 'Noles had all three reconfirm recently, and look to be in good shape there. Update: Rumors swirled again Wednesday morning that Fowler's commitment to FSU was again on shaky ground. We'll see around 10:30 EST.
SH: Which schools classes look the riskiest? The teams that could finish signing day top 10, or also in theory find disaster at their door around 3 p.m.? In other words, who's hoping to pull off the class project at the last second and still get an A?
BE: That's Auburn. As I wrote on Sunday, the Tigers have (had) a shot at an amazing nine of the remaining 25 uncommitted prospects. That's about double the number of prospects with which the Tigers were involved with as any other school. But Arik Armstead chose Oregon Sunday evening, and defensive end Leonard Williams reportedly narrowed his list to the Gators and USC.
Auburn can still put together a good class by signing three, four, maybe five of the remaining seven with which they're involved, but they were thought to be favorites for Williams, and that is a big loss. With Alabama coming off a national title and poised to land the top recruiting class in the country (though Texas and FSU will have something to say about it), Auburn needs a big finish to generate buzz and momentum within the state.
Auburn will need to grab Ricardo Louis, Stefon Diggs, Kwon Alexander, and one more to make this class a success.
SH: What teams are punching well above their weight? First, who's selling "playing time immediately!" (i.e. "we went 5-7 last year plz help")
BE: Easily Miami and USC. Both are taking enormous classes, and both are offering immediate playing time. The 'Canes already have 32 committed players, and are looking for more. They seem to be following the Supermarket Sweep plan, aka grab tons of stuff ASAP before the Buzzer (NCAA) limits how much can be had. There are some good players in the class, no doubt, but 21 kids are decidedly not blue chips.
SH: Just grabbing frozen turkey after frozen turkey, so to speak
BE: Yes. Because Al Golden would rather not have walk-ons in his two-deep come 2015. And Jim Mora inherited a roster at UCLA that many say just doesn't love football. He is bringing in a monster class and UCLA experts are predicting quite a few transfers.
SH: Now, the second part of that question: what teams are recruiting way over their heads? (i.e. who's just hired slightly corrupt new assistants?)
BE: Before Tosh left, I would have said Cal, as the Golden Bears were primed to have as many as five five-star players, which is pretty nuts for a team with a losing conference record over the last X years. You could say Texas A&M, but the class isn't other-worldly and they are in Texas.
I'll go with Vanderbilt. James Franklin has done a very nice job. This isn't a class that will make other SEC teams jealous, but it's a class that isn't decidedly the conference's worst. That honor goes to Kentucky. And that's a big improvement for the Commodores.
SH: Leading me to the delicious question of who's bringing in the worst class against expectation. Kentucky's supposed to have a bad recruiting class, for example.
BE: Wisconsin is not in a hotbed for talent, but they are coming off a Rose Bowl and have not been able to take advantage. I expected a bigger, and better class from the Badgers.
I'll also point to LSU here. The Tigers are coming off a 13-1 season. And most teams in the country would take this class, to be sure. But LSU is bringing in less than 50 percent blue-chip guys. That's surprising. They lost QB Gunner Kiel to Notre Dame, and before that, largely because Gunner Kiel didn't keep LSU in the loop about his decommitment, they lost Miller to Auburn due to a limited number of early-enrollee spots.
SH: So seriously, we've been really logical thus far. Detail potential insanities for me.
BE: How about this? Joah Harvey-Clemons headlined a radio show in Valdosta. On Tuesday night. To cut his finalists by one before deciding on ESPN on Wednesday. The show lasted two hours. Reporters came from Athens, Gainesville, and Tallahassee. They saved the announcement until the last minute, and it was held at a local restaurant. He told his entire life story, and then said he was eliminating nobody. Imagine selling that to your editor.
BE: Here's one for you. The Calpocalypse. I have copy/pasted "was set for Cal until defensive line coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi left for Washington" at least 10 times this week.
SH: How big an impact has that been, now that we're at signing day?
BE: At one point yesterday, all five of Cal's receiver COMMITMENTS were going to have an announcement. Commitments usually do not need to have announcements. Luckily for Tedford's health, one kid announced that he was sticking with Cal
Here's more on Cal. They lost five-star DT Ellis McCarthy, who flipped to UCLA. They lost five-star safety Shaq Thompson, who flipped to Washington. They essentially lost five-star lineman Arik Armstead, who flipped to Oregon. I say essentially, because Armstead was not a commitment, but everyone believes he was a Cal lock before Lupoi left
And I'm not done. They also lost four-star receiver Jordan Payton to Washington But wait there's more! They could lose even more today. Basically, Cal lost more top guys in a month than almost any team will sign in an entire cycle.
SH: Any individual surprises looming? Last minute shifts to track?
BE: Arkansas is probably going to go from having the top JUCO WR (Courtney Gardner -- Justin Blackmon Clone), and leading for Dorial Green-Beckham, to landing neither, as Gardner is expected to flip to the Sooners and most now believe Missouri leads for DGB. You know, it's weird this year. Because we have so many top kids still uncommitted, there are less opportunities for signing day flips.
BE: I have a three-monitor setup and have ESPNU on the tube in the background. If you look hard enough you can find streams for most of the top commitments on youtube, and I'll use one monitor to watch the commitments that aren't broadcast on ESPN
SH: You're going to have a seizure.
BE: Tweetdeck on another is a must, and I actually now have my recruit-specific columns ordered by signing time (EST, of course).
Let's talk about another team with a lot riding on signing day -- your alma mater, Florida
SH: Hold on. I need to grab drinks. Multiple drinks. [drinks all of them at once]
BE: The last time we talked, I didn't think there was any chance Miami would sign Tracy Howard. After all, he just recently started considering them and made a visit over the weekend. But a guaranteed starting job and peer pressure from some top local kids may be weighing on him. Some believe Miami is going to steal Howard.
UF had a shot at New Jersey defensive end and NFL legacy Darius Hamilton, but Rutgers kept that staff together and he chose Rutgers Tuesday night.
The Gators really need some playmakers at receiver. And if they don't get Tampa's Nelson Agholor (UF-USC battle), it is going to be a long couple of days waiting to see where Stefon Diggs (Washington D.C. receiver) goes. Diggs also sets up the awesome Auburn v. UF v. OSU w/ Urban recruiting battle. All on the up-and-up, of course.
And there's no telling where Palm Beach offensive tackle Avery Young (five-way battle between UF, Auburn, UGA, Bama and Miami) or Daytona defensive end Leonard Williams will go (he says he has narrowed it down to UF and USC. His coach apparently says otherwise and still includes Auburn and FSU).
The Gators are, of course, in for Mr. "two hour radio show w/ no announcement," Josh Harvey-Clemons. I'm not sure if that was the first time a kid has been the subject of a two hour radio show to narrow his list of finalists. I'm pretty sure, however, that it was the first time someone has done that and not eliminated anyone.
SH: Please satisfy the critics of oversigning by pointing out who, if anyone is oversigned?
BE: Technically, nobody is oversigned yet. We'll have to wait and see how many signed letters of intent each school gets. I could try to figure out who might be oversigned if all current commitments sign LOIs and qualify, but that's overly speculative. I will say that the new SEC rule is making a difference. It's not what the Big Ten guys want, but it seems to have stopped the 25+25+28+28=85 stuff. Now instead of oversigning by 8 or 10, they'll be oversigning by just a handful, and having a handful of kids leave the program is much easier to justify than losing 1/8th of your roster every year to post-draft attrition.
SH: So we can wink and say that at this point, at this instant, it does not appear that Alabama is oversigned?
BE: At this point (Ed. note: written Tuesday night), Alabama is just as oversigned as Northwestern. I am interested to see what happens to Ohio State and Urban Meyer. There are a lot of kids on that team, specifically on offense, that won't fit what he wants to do. And coaches in their first year are typically given more freedom to play with the roster. How much leeway does the Big Ten give to Urban Meyer? Of course, part of that depends on who else OSU signs.
SH: Two things. 1.) Has Urban really pillaged as hard as some people say he has, and 2.) Do stars even matter for an OK State team that's functioned so well with so little in recruiting hype?
BE: 1. Yes. Meyer has flipped pretty much every kid he wanted. He went in and immediately took Se'vonn Pittman (four-star defensive end) and Noah Spence (five-star defensive end) He also wrapped up five-star defensive tackle Tommy Schutt with a quickness. And four-star Joey O'Connor came shortly thereafter.
I think parts of the Big Ten were a bit behind when it came to recruiting tactics. Meyer is full-go all the time. This is the guy who admitted to texting recruits in church. If he is even 80 percent of what he was at Florida, with the disparity in resources he has at OSU compared to the rest of the Big Ten, it's scary.
2). If you're not going to recruit on an elite level, you really need to find kids with talent who have been unable to get in to some of the top schools. One way to do this is grades. Oklahoma State is good at getting some academically questionable kids into schools.
Another way is junior college transfers. They can be hit and miss, but if you have good JUCO connections, you can do very well. Oklahoma State definitely has good JUCO connections. They're not too far from Mississippi (lots of JUCOs), Boone Pickens isn't going to tell them no if they want to fly out to see all of the top Cali and Arizona JUCOs, and there are many in Texas and Kansas, as well. If I relied on JUCOs and couldn't be in a state with a great JUCO league, Oklahoma with a billionaire booster is not a bad option.
But even with all that said, Oklahoma State has to do better in the high school ranks.
SH: Can we talk about Texas getting desperate?
BE: Yeah. Let's talk about Texas getting a bit more desperate.
SH: Oooh, I like desperation.
BE: For the first time in forever, Mack Brown gave the green light to go get some impact JUCOs. And they got some good ones in massive four-star offensive tackle Donald Hawkins, who was an Oklahoma State commitment for a while, and (again, massive) four-star defensive tackle Brandon Moore, formerly of Alabama.
Side note: I wonder how much of Texas finally acquiescing and going into the Mississippi JUCOs has to do with the whipping Alabama gave them up front in January of '10.
Texas' class is very, very good. They've changed their approach and seem to realize that not every kid develops at the same rate. Saving a few 'ships for kids who develop later in the year has really paid off. Before, it seemed as if 23 of 25 spots were filled before the season.
They were leaving out an entire season of sample set. And THEY'RE TEXAS. Most schools cannot come in at the last second and take kids committed to other schools. They can, because they're Texas. And they finally realized that this season.
SH: And their dear neighbors to the north?
BE: Oklahoma is still doing quite well. It's not an elite class, but Mike Stoops, in the right situation, can be a good recruiter. I think being back with his brother is the right situation. Sooner fans are also really excited about this new linebacker coach who came over with Stoops from Oklahoma, as well as another young coach. Both names escape me, but they have been making some noise on the trail.
SH: Final predictions for today. YOU HAVE THE FLOOR
BE: Here goes.
1. Lane Kiffin beats out Stanford for San Clemente offensive tackle Kyle Murphy. Something seems strange there. He's been to Stanford a million times, and still no commitment to the Farm.
2. USC also lands Agholor. They were his first college offer and his last college visit.
3. Florida lands Leonard Williams, the excellent defensive end out of Daytona.
4. (...and I am scared to do this because I've heard he or people from his camp have said "yes" to multiple programs)... JHC spurns UGA and commits to FSU.
5. DGB to Missouri. and Gardner to Oklahoma. Petrino is not happy.
6. Tennessee, reeling after the loss of another top defender (six decommitments from quality defenders this year on rocky top! Six!), gets a commitment from A.J. Leggett and somehow convinces him they can get him into school. Leggett, of South Miami, attended four different high schools and committed to Miami and Florida State multiple times. He had an awesome senior season and if Tennessee can get him in to school, can totally make an impact.
7. Dallas receiver Thomas Johnson says yes to Texas A&M and no to Oregon.
8. Big day for Virginia Tech, and it happens early, with three four-star commitments before 11 EST
SH: That's more than enough. You are released from your duties. What happens on Thursday for recruiting types?
BE: The attention goes way up on the kids who didn't sign. Three big ones this year delaying announcements: Jordan Diamond, Stefon Diggs, and Davonte Neal.
Then you sort out who closed well and who did not on signing day, look at the needs for 2013. If you did poorly in 2012, claim it was a bad year in your state and you were being selective. If your team did great, proclaim the 2013 class as "a major step down from the great year for talent on-state that was 2012."