Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Breaking down who won and who lost in the SEC on National Signing Day:
Mike Slive. Anyone who doubted Missouri's conference cred had to fall silent for at least a day as the Tigers introduced the nation's No. 1 recruit into the SEC East. The rest of the Tigers' class may not be as deep as many of their new league rivals', but when said class also includes a star as overpoweringly bright as Dorial Green-Beckham, it's hard to see any flaws.
Alabama. Yawn--just another No. 1-ranked class of 25-plus blue-chips for Nick Saban's perpetual recruiting motion machine, with the surprise signing of highly regarded Virginia defensive tackle Korren Kirven the icing on a cake the Crimson Tide had baked long before Wednesday. By his own admission, Saban said they "didn't have any surprises," for worse or -- this being Alabama -- better. Once Kirven had declared and top safety Landon Collins had finally gotten his mother on board, the drama in Tuscaloosa was over.
In fact, after a big Junior Day haul, Saban and Co. are already off and sprinting for 2013. Come next February, it's likely there won't be any surprises then either. It may not be exciting for anyone hoping for stunning announcements, big rankings swings, and overheated speculation -- the Tide may have used it all up in last year's Cyrus Kouandjio saga -- but it's the same lethally efficient formula that's netted Saban two national championships in three seasons. Nothing much changed for Alabama on Signing Day, but unfortunately for the rest of college football, that means nothing much has changed when it comes to the difficulty of knocking the Tide off their perch, either.
James Franklin. When Franklin's blazingly hot start last summer netted him a commitment from All-American running back Brian Kimbrow, the nation's no. 52 player, the response from many observers around the SEC was "That's impressive. It'll be even more impressive if he actually signs."
Not every one of those early Vanderbilt commitments made it across the finish line. But Kimbrow did, along with 20 other quality players that had the 'Dores in the CBS Sports National Signing Day Top 25 a week beforehand. Vandy couldn't quite hang on to that lofty ranking, but even having the SEC's eternal doormat in a "top 25" conversation is an achievement for Franklin arguably on par with Saban's in Tuscaloosa.
Steve Spurrier's nerves. South Carolina isn't traditionally the first team you'd think of when looking for a comparison to Alabama when it comes to recruiting success. But the Gamecocks might be this year, thanks in part to joining the Tide in the team rankings top 10 (believe it or not, Carolina quietly finished third in the SEC). But like Alabama, the Gamecocks also enjoyed a pleasantly uneventful Signing Day, with 19 of the 25 Gamecocks who signed today having already committed before the 2011 season started.
“It’s been a peaceful Signing Day today, which was kind of nice,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said. And when you peacefully land players like Shaq Roland and Jordan Diggs, doubly so.
Mark Richt's nerves. On the other side of the spectrum from Alabama and South Carolina, there was Georgia's National Signing Day. The day started with the disappointment of missing out on receivers Cordarelle Patterson (Tennessee) and JaQuay Williams (Auburn) (leaving the Bulldogs with just one wideout in the class), then picked up with a commitment from Maxpreps top 100 linebacker/safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. But that a.m. joy dissolved into p.m. worry as Harvey-Clemons grandfather and legal guardian reportedly refused to sign Harvey-Clemons' letter of intent. Adding insult to injury, Richt's premature public comments on Harvey-Clemons may have even constituted a minor NCAA violation.
With or without Harvey-Clemons, the Bulldogs are still going to boast a star-studded class with nearly as many top 100 recruits (five, or six) as any team in the country. But the potential of losing Harvey-Clemons to hated Florida with the Gators already sitting some 15 spots ahead in the team rankings is likely to cause a restless evening (or evenings) in Athens all the same.
LSU's in-state clout. There's about 105 FBS teams or so that would gladly trade classes with LSU's, especially after the addition of out-of-state gems like Oxford (Ala.) linebacker Kwon Alexander. But in a somewhat down year for talent in the Pelican State, the Tigers had to lock down the borders to put together a truly elite class, and that didn't happen--not only did Collins and highly-regarded linebacker Denzel Devall stick with their Alabama commitments, Texas shocked Les Miles by snatching away the Tigers' blue-chip linebacker Torshiro Davis. (Davis rubbed salt in Miles's wound by saying LSU's players "don't seem that happy.")
Those were the top three players in the state by many accounts, and LSU didn't land any of them. It's not the end of the world, but for a program built on an annual harvest of blue-chippers from the bayou, it's a worrying sign all the same.
Arkansas. As usual under Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks signed a respectable-but-not-spectacular class that Petrino will no doubt turn into something far more than the sum of its parts once it comes together in Fayetteville. But to come as close as they reportedly did to signing the player that would have helped cement their status as a national power and come up short has to sting.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN
Auburn. On the good side: wide receivers JaQuay Williams and Ricardo Louis each stuck with their original commitments to the Tigers, offensive lineman Will Adams flipped from Georgia Tech, and top tackle Avery Young gave Auburn a top-100 cornerstone at Georgia and Florida's expense. On the not so good side: Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby, Leonard Williams, Alexander and Jordan Moore all had Auburn as one of their finalists and all went in a different direction. Gene Chizik's boom-or-bust Signing Day somehow managed to neither quite boom nor bust.