National Signing Day storylines to watch
And here we go.
Welcome to National Signing Day, where high school football prospects across the country will sign national letters of intent to play at the colleges of their choice.
At the end of the day, most of the usual suspects will have compiled the best crop of talent. But there will be some upstart programs making headway, as well.
There are plenty of intriguing storylines ready to unfold, but here are some of the biggest things to keep an eye on throughout the day as teams look for renewed energy and a burst of momentum heading into spring practice.
Disappointing seasons haven’t affected Texas, Georgia and USC
The Longhorns, Bulldogs and Trojans will always have the advantage of operating in fertile recruiting areas, and the prospects that they recruit more likely than not grow up wanting to play for their state or hometown university.
ICONTexas' Mack Brown will have a loaded Class of 2011 coming off of a 7-loss season.
Despite a 5-7 season, Mack Brown was able to get 21 of 22 commitments from players within the great state of Texas — including stud running back Malcolm Brown and shutdown cornerback Quandre Diggs.
Mark Richt has compiled just a 14-12 mark the last two seasons, but he is in midst of assembling a “Dream Team” of talent from the state. His 2011 class is currently a top-10 group, and 18 of the Bulldogs’ 23 committed players are home-grown — including defensive end Ray Drew and the best tight end in the country, Jay Rome. If running back Isaiah Crowell — arguably the best running back prospect in the country — chooses the Bulldogs over Alabama, Richt will have pulled the ultimate coup after a losing 2010 campaign.
And as I wrote about on Tuesday at the NFP, Lane Kiffin is working wonders as USC appeals the sanctions placed on the program by the NCAA. While the process continues to play itself out, Kiffin and his staff focused their recruiting efforts inside the talent-laden state of California. And, thus far, USC is positioned to land receiver George Farmer, who is already enrolled at the school; athlete DeAnthony Thomas, who visited Oregon last weekend; and potentially safety Marqise Lee and defensive tackle Christian Heyward.
Which program will finish with the top class?
It looks as though Alabama and Florida State will battle for the No. 1 overall class. Although both are assured of top-5 and likely top-3 classes, Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher have a chance to vault to the head of the line. If the Crimson Tide can get Cyrus Kouandjio and Brent Calloway into the fold, they’d be tough to top. However, Tony Steward and Timmy Jernigan could tip the scale in the Seminoles’ favor. It may take a surprise — keep an eye on Jeoffrey Pagan for ‘Bama and Jermauria Rasco for FSU — to help determine which program comes out on top. The Tide is the leader entering the day.
Tentative announcement times
This is the schedule — as of now — of announcement times for some of the major uncommitted prospects. All times are Eastern.
10 a.m.: Tony Steward, LB, St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez (Considering Florida State and Clemson)
11 a.m.: Tim Jernigan, DT, Lake City (Fla.) Columbia (Considering Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee)
11:30 a.m.: Stephone Anthony, LB, Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson (Considering Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, NC State and Virginia Tech); Christian Heyward, DT, San Diego Point Loma (Considering Oregon, San Diego State and USC)
Noon: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic (Considering Alabama, Auburn and New Mexico)
ICONWill Isaiah Crowell stay in-state and become a Bulldog?
1:30 p.m.: Curtis Grant, LB, Richmond (Va.) Hermitage (Considering Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State and Virginia); Isaiah Crowell, RB, Columbus (Ga.) Carver (Considering Alabama, Auburn and Georgia)
3 p.m.: Marqise Lee, ATH, Gardena (Calif.) Juipero Serra (Considering Cal, Miami, Oregon and USC)
8 p.m.: De'Anthony Thomas, ATH, Los Angeles Crenshaw (Considering Oregon and USC)
How committed are these recruits?
Year after year, big names make a last-second switch to a new school on National Signing Day. Who could decide to change his mind on Wednesday? Here are a few names to keep an eye on — and this is purely speculation.
Jermaine Whitehead: Whitehead is currently committed to Mississippi State, but head coach Dan Mullen has already seen a few big-name commits switch allegiances. Auburn could be a destination after Marcus Roberson decommitted on Tuesday.
De’Anthony Thomas: As I mentioned above, he made a visit to Oregon last weekend. Known as Black Mamba, he has been a USC commit for awhile with godbrother Victor Blackwell and buddy Max Wittek. But what if Ducks head coach Chip Kelly sold him on how effective he could be in the up-tempo spread attack? Keep an eye on Washington here, as well.
Stephon Tuitt: I don’t think Tuitt will change his mind again, but he had shown a strong interest in staying home at Georgia Tech. However, Paul Johnson doesn’t mess around, and the Yellow Jackets head coach has likely shut the door. Well, maybe not. Still, this is the one recruit whom Brian Kelly is likely most worried about changing his mind despite his mom loving Notre Dame.
Brent Calloway: When the decision is between Alabama and Auburn, all bets are off the table. Calloway flipped from the Crimson Tide to the Tigers at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Now, he is having second thoughts again and recently revisited Tuscaloosa. Unless you were born into a die-hard Auburn or Alabama family, this decision is brutally difficult.
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