Wednesday, February 2, 2011


This is a big day in college athletics, but if you're a relatively sane person, you probably aren’t going to give it  more than a casual glance.

No, it isn’t the day of the national championship football game. That was nearly a month ago.

And although there are many basketball games tonight, they aren’t what makes this a big day.

What makes this a big day is that it is “national signing day.”

This is the day that 18-year-old kids who have been courted like they were some kind of football god are going to find out they really aren’t all that. They are going to put their names on pieces of paper committing them to play football whatever school’s name appears on that paper, at least for a year. Next fall most of them, the ones many fans are slobbering over right now as we-got-to-have-him-to-save-the-program, will be on the scout team helping the starters prepare for the next opponent. Maybe in two years you’ll hear from them again. Maybe you won’t.

For many fans, this day ranks right up there with bowl games and season openers in excitement. They want every bit of information they can find about how their school has done and how it stacks up with others.

You think I’m kidding? I just tried to sign on to the website of one of those services and couldn’t do it. The server was overloaded.

I always tried to avoid getting involved in all this hoopla, even when I was the sports editor of a newspaper in Mississippi.

The thing is, you just never know how these recruiting classes are going to work out. Three years ago Randy Shannon’s first full class at the University of Miami got No. 1 rankings from at least one scouting service that will go unnamed. All that group did was get Shannon fired last November.

So you won’t get any analysis from me today about what team really won out in the recruiting race. But here is a look back at a few of the top signees of 2007 and how their careers have gone, as listed by one recruiting service:

1. QB Jimmy Clausen: A program savior? Hardly. He left Notre Dame a year early and his coach was fired. He’s now on the bench for the Carolina Panthers, which is kind of like being in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program.

2. RB Joe McKnight: Became the subject of an NCAA investigation into his use of an SUV while at USC. He, too, left school early to enter the NFL draft and played in nine games for the Jets last year.

3. DB Eric Berry: He, too, left Tennessee early for the NFL draft. Do you detect a trend here? He was the second-leading tackler for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.

4. QB Ryan Mallett -- Started out at Michigan, transferred to Arkansas. He took the Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl this past season and now has put his name in the NFL draft, though he had another season of eligibility.

5. DE Carlos Dunlap: After capping his 2008 year by winning defensive MVP honors in Florida’s national championship game victory over Oklahoma, he returned for his junior year in 2009. He was suspended for the SEC Championship game after being charged with DUI, and, you guessed it, he decided to pass up his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

(If you wonder why some of this class would have been seniors in 2010 and others will, or would have been, seniors this fall, it’s because some of them played as true freshmen, others sat out a year as a redshirt.)

I could go on, but I won’t.

Some other names from that 2007 class you will recognize today, like Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. He was No. 28 on the list when he signed with Florida, where he lasted two years before running into problems and transferring to a junior college and then onto Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy.

Others you probably won’t.

Remember that when you hear fans talking up today’s signees.

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