Today, the best excuse to get drunk on a Wednesday in February, National Signing Day, took higher education institutions nationwide for a wild ride. Featuring some highly awkward and entertaining press conferences, shocking moves of treachery, and surprise revelations in commitment, ESPNU started broadcasting the festivities surrounding the country’s top high school prospects at 7:00am.
As expected, the SEC cleaned house in the recruiting realm, acquiring 11 of the top 22 recruiting classes in the nation, according to ESPN.
An unusual suspect in Ole Miss, was the school making headlines, though. At 7:35 this morning, Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top prospect who originally committed to Clemson, pledged his Rebel allegiance to kick off a historic day for the Hotty Toddy-faithful. If his dress was any indication of what’s to come, I’ll be the first to say this kid’s got a goddamn tremendous upside.
The prized defensive end will play alongside his older brother, and will be joined by Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell, the nation’s #1 OT and WR, respectively. The Rebels were able to ink five of the ESPN Top 150 and 28 players all together. The 2013 class is undoubtedly the strongest ever to come into Oxford, and is graded by ESPN to be the 5th strongest in the county.
No surprise, the nation’s consensus top recruiting class is Tuscaloosa bound to play under Saban. Alabama was able to score 17 of ESPN’s Top 300, including top ranked athlete, Derrick Henry, the nation’s preeminent MLB, Rueben Foster, and a kid that was clearly conceived to play defensive tackle, Dee Liner. Seriously, that’s his name. With 25 recruits signed as of 4:30pm on Wednesday, ten of them ranking in the top five at their position, the Tide is poised to roll into the 2014 season without missing a step.
Will Muschamp and Florida have secured the #2 class, with 11 recruits out of the ESPN’s 150, and 28 all together. The Swamp will be graced by ESPN’s #1 RB Kelvin Taylor, with the Florida native looking to get touches early on in his career. The already stellar performance by the Gators’ D will be bolstered by play from the nation’s #1 CB Vernon Hargreaves III, and four-star prospects OLB Daniel McMillan and DT Caleb Brantley.
Proving that it’s definitely easier to recruit without a sweater vest, Urban Meyer was able to attract five of ESPN’s Top 50 to the Buckeyes, earning the program the #3 national recruiting ranking. Undefeated last year, Ohio State looks to further bolster their dominance in the BIG10 and contend for a national title when eligible.
It’s assured that Notre Dame and Michigan will be looking to give them a run for their money, with the fourth and sixth ranked classes, respectively. The schools are slated to play in the forthcoming season and the following, renewing rivalry that began in 1847.
A few other notable takeaways from the day include:
This is only the 6th time in history a school has landed three players ranked #1 at their position (Alabama & Ole Miss). Florida State did it last year, Florida in 2010, and both LSU and USC in 2009.
The worst recruiting conference this year was the Big XII, landing only four teams in ESPN’s top 40, with Texas peaking at #15.
Texas A&M, undoubtedly still riding the Johnny Football Heisman Express, landed the largest recruiting class in the country: 34.
The USC Trojans were Signing Day’s biggest bust. Lane Kiffin was only able to field 13 recruits, albeit the nation’s #2 QB Max Browne. Surely his previous misguidances in recruiting policy saw any level-headed parent steer their son away from the maniacal former Vols coach.
The nation’s #1 QB prospect, Christian Hackenberg, was unwavering in his original commitment to the Penn State Nittany Lions – understandable as he’s likely to get first team snaps next year in Bill O’Brien’s prolific, Brady-breeding offense, that turned even Matt McGloin into possible NFL crop.
Even after going 0-8 in conference play this year and losing Rueben Foster to Bama, Auburn still secured the #11 overall class in the nation. To boot, Foster tattooed his loyalty to the Tigers before pulling one of college sports’ Judas moves and renounced his commitment, so you’ll always have that Auburn fans…
If this isn’t the best week of Ray Lewis’ life since he got off for double homicide, his son Ray Lewis III committed to his alma mater, the University of Miami. Coming off of a Super Bowl that boasted five former Hurricanes (Ed Reed, Bryant McKinnie, Frank Gore, Tavares Gooden and Lewis) who knows, maybe Deer Antler Jr. will provide a rebirth for Al Golden’s program.
Obviously not learning from history, Junior Seau’s nephew committed to Nevada.
In closing, despite being the nation’s 2nd best cornerback, Clemson commit Mackensie Alexander gave hands down the best press conference of the day. Kid took charge of everything involved with his “million dollar decision,” worked the crowd, and made sure he received more air-time than Dari Nowkhah, before making his announcement.
Well played, sir. Love the attitude – see you in the NFL.
To see where your team stacks up, ESPN’s comprehensive Top 40 Rankings can be found here.
Image via Rant Sports