Kouandjio says Auburn, but reconsiders

Updated: February 3, 2011, 2:41 AM ET
By Jeremy Crabtree | ESPN.com

Cyrus Kouandjio sat in front of a microphone Wednesday morning and told a national television audience he was going to play football at Auburn.

Shortly after, however, he couldn't put pen to paper to finalize his national letter of intent. So while the No. 3 player in the ESPNU 150, from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic, announced he was going to sign with Auburn live on ESPNU'ís signing day special, the fax machine at Auburn never got a confirmation.

His coach said later Wednesday afternoon that he had left school to "figure things out."

"Cyrus told me after the press conference that he was not 100 percent sure of his decision to sign with Auburn," DeMatha coach Bill McGregor said.

"I told him he doesn't have to please anyone with his decision, not his family, not his friends, not me. This decision is his and his only. I told him what makes him happy, makes me happy," McGregor said.

McGregor also said he told Kouandjio he needed to take his time to make sure he makes the decision he is happy with. Alabama, Auburn and New Mexico are still under consideration, the coach said.

On Wednesday evening, Kouandjio posted on his Facebook page that he needs space to come up with a final decision.

"Not completely sure," he wrote. "I just wanna be around the family for a while and just wait."

Kouandjio's decision to pick Auburn came as a surprise for many recruiting followers. Most assumed he would follow in the footsteps of his brother, who goes to Alabama, but when Kouandjio talked about Auburn earlier Wednesday, he said his brother supported the decision.

"It was lot of thinking to get to this result," Kouandjio said. "I talked to my brother a lot. He told me to go where your heart takes you to go. I love all the coaches at Alabama, but my heart told me to go to Auburn."

At the televised news conference, Kouandjio talked about playing against his brother next season.

"The Iron Bowl is going to be crazy," said Kouandjio, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound offensive tackle. "I can't even imagine what it's going to be like to look across the field and see my brother on the other side. I mean, it's Auburn versus Alabama. It doesn't get any bigger than that."

With Kouandjio, Auburn had a very solid day.

In a year in which offensive line was key for the Tigers, Kouandjio would have cemented Auburn's spot as the best offensive line class in the nation. He ranks as the nation's best tackle, and the Tigers had already landed the No. 2 offensive tackle in Christian Westerman, the No. 1 center in Reese Dismukes and the No. 8 guard in Thomas O'Reilly.

"One of the major reasons I picked Auburn was because of all the guys they already had on the line," Kouandjio said. "I got to play with O'Reilly, Westerman and Reese in the Under Armour Game, and I really connected with those guys. I think we're going to leave a mark in Auburn history."

Auburn's day also included the signings of two other marquee talents -- Gabe Wright, the No. 26 player in the ESPNU 150 and No. 3 defensive tackle, and Erique Florence, No. 52 overall and the No. 4 safety in the class.

Wright, a four-star defensive tackle from Columbus (Ga.) Carver, said he would sign with the Tigers after reducing his list to a final three of Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee.

Wright announced his decision by putting on a black Auburn hat that had "Nick Who?" in orange writing. Wright said his hat referred how this recruiting class will have to replace departing Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

"It's time for new players to step in," Wright said.

Fairley said via Twitter he was following Wright's announcement and loved the hat.

"I like it Gabe," Fairley wrote. "Nick Who? That's creative. War Eagle."

Florence, a 6-2, 185-pound defensive back from Valley, Ala., picked Auburn over USC and other national programs.

"I love USC, don't get me wrong, but I felt Auburn in my heart," Florence, the nation's No. 4 safety, said. "I love coach Gene Chizik. He was a big reason why I picked Auburn."

Clowney narrows field

Maybe the most heralded prospect in the nation, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, from Rock Hill, S.C., said in an interview with ESPNU he probably won't sign until his birthday, Feb. 14 -- Valentine's Day. He said his choices are South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.

Thomas picks Oregon over USC

Four-star athlete DeAnthony Thomas of Los Angeles Crenshaw was scheduled to announce his decision at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday. But when it came time for his news conference, he was nowhere to be found.

In the end, it was well worth the wait for the Ducks.

Walking in almost a full hour late for the signing ceremony, Thomas -- ranked as the No. 16 player in the ESPNU 150 -- was decked from head to toe in Oregon gear. He addressed the media on why he was heading to Eugene and breaking a previous commitment he had made with USC.

"I told coaches at both Oregon and USC yesterday I was going to be a Duck," Thomas said.

"It was an extremely difficult decision, but in the end the atmosphere in Eugene and the environment around the football program were the biggest keys. I'm happy to be a Duck and get everything behind me," he said.

In the days leading up to his announcement, Thomas' status had become one of the nation's top headlines. He had been a key piece in USC's recruiting class for almost the entire process, but on the final official visit weekend of the year, Thomas took a trip to Eugene.

It was on that trip that Thomas fell in love with the Ducks. However, instead of talking about Oregon and his status with USC after the visit, he went into seclusion.

The only contact with Thomas before his announcement was through his Twitter account. He posted a few random pictures of himself decked out in Oregon gear on Tuesday, but nobody officially knew whether he was going to stick with the Trojans or sign with the Ducks.

All the suspense ended, though, when he walked through the door Wednesday evening.

Oregon also got a commitment from three-star offensive lineman Jacob Fisher. The 6-6, 260-pound tackle was originally heading to Michigan before Rich Rodriguez's ouster in Ann Arbor. He opened things back up and looked hard at Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon and Florida before officially announcing for the Ducks on Wednesday morning. He's No. 82 at his position.

Georgia grabs Crowell to complete backyard sweep

Five-star running back Isaiah Crowell from Columbus (Ga.) Carver said he would sign with Georgia on Wednesday, making the Bulldogs' "Dream Team" a reality. Crowell joins Ray Drew and Jay Rome, giving Georgia a clean sweep of the top prospects in its own backyard.

Crowell is the nation's No. 4 player. Drew is No. 13 and Rome is No. 18.

"I think it's a great place," said Crowell, who announced his decision while holding a bulldog puppy. "I have a great relationship with the coaches. It truly felt like home to me. Mark Richt is a good man. He's a God-fearing dude, and I can't wait to play for him.

"The Dream Team is complete. I think we have a lot to learn still. We have to work hard and stay focused."

Clemson's day includes Steward, Anthony

In the end, linebacker Tony Steward -- the top-ranked player at his position in the ESPNU 150 -- had to do what was best for him. He signed a national letter of intent with Clemson.

Despite the pressure from everybody at his high school in St. Augustine, Fla., and questions from his family about leaving home, Steward announced his decision Wednesday morning on ESPNU's signing day special and shortly after signed with the Tigers.

He was joined later by four-star outside linebacker Stephone Anthony of Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson. The combination of Steward and Anthony, the nation's No. 32 player overall, gives the Tigers the nation's top-ranked inside and outside linebacker prospects and makes it a very good day for Clemson defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Kevin Steele.

The decision to leave the state of Florida was a tough one for Steward.

The moments leading up to his announcement were difficult as Steward spent a lot of time hugging his mother and trying to fight back tears. There was even speculation from people at the high school that he might delay his announcement, but in the end he went with what felt right.

"The biggest challenge was convincing my family that I was ready to do this," said Steward, a 6-1, 225-pound inside linebacker who is the No. 9 player in the nation along with being the No. 1 player at his position.

"I feel like I made the right decision, and I'm sure I'll be supported no matter what I do. Clemson is a different feeling. I feel like it's a place where I can grow up. It's close enough to home, and I can come back when I want to. But it's also far enough away for me to learn and be my own man.

"I felt like it was the right place for me. Being my age and leaving home, it might be tough at times because I'm still young. It'll be a new experience, but it'll allow me to grow into my own."

Anthony said his decision was made independently from Steward's.

"I didn't know about Tony's decision until I heard about it when I got to school," Anthony said. "I haven't talked to him about coming to Clemson, but that's huge for us. We're going to do some great things together. It's a great opportunity. We're bringing Clemson back."

Anthony, who is 6-2 and 220 pounds, picked Clemson over Virginia Tech and a host of other national programs.

Along with Steward and Anthony, the Tigers reeled in two other Florida-based ESPNU 150 prospects -- Sammy Watkins of Fort Myers (Fla.) South Fort Myers and Mike Bellamy of Punta Gorda (Fla.) Charlotte. Watkins is the 39th-ranked player in the country and the No. 4 wide receiver; Bellamy is No. 72 overall and the No. 6 running back.

That has helped Clemson moved into the Top 10 in the ESPN Recruiting rankings.

Florida State picks up Jernigan

Most prospects talk about playing time or academics when making a decision, but Lake City (Fla.) Columbia defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said it was important for him to stay close to home so he can be a role model for his family.

"I have a couple of nephews that call me 'Tim Magic,'" said Jernigan, the nation's No. 17 player and No. 2 defensive tackle in the nation. "I told myself I want to be a positive role model for them. So that's why I'm going to Florida State.

"I knew I had equal opportunities at LSU and FSU, and I told myself, 'Why go far away?' I can stay close to home and be a role model for everybody in my family and community. It was really important for me to be around them and set a positive example."

Grant adds to Ohio State class

Ohio State put the finishing touches on a top-10 recruiting class with the addition of four-star linebacker Curtis Grant. The 6-3, 220-pound inside linebacker ranks as the No. 46 player in the ESPNU 150 and is also the No. 3 player at his position.

"I knew I was going to end up at Ohio State the minute I stepped on campus for my visit," Grant said. "I love all of the players there, they've got a good recruiting class coming and there is a great opportunity for me to contribute."

Nebraska does it again in Arizona

Four-star defensive tackle Todd Peat Jr. of Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol announced at his high school Wednesday he was signing with Nebraska.

Peat, who ranks as the No. 24 defensive tackle, picked the Huskers over Arizona State, and his decision is considered a mild upset. Peat said in the days leading up to signing day that the Sun Devils were leading for his pledge.

The Huskers have had plenty of success in Arizona in the past. The 2007 class featured six players from the state, including 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Prince Amukamara.

USC flexes national muscles

When Lane Kiffin was hired at USC, he made it a point to make sure the Trojans not only recruited well in California but also had a national footprint with elite targets.

Two prospects from areas not normally hot spots for USC came on board early in the day.

Lamar Dawson, a three-star outside linebacker from Danville (Ky.) Boyle County picked USC over Kentucky and Tennessee. Dawson is the No. 20 outside linebacker in the class.

Then 6-5, 355-pound four-star offensive guard Aundrey Walker of Cleveland Glenville turned down Ohio State to sign with USC. He's No. 15 on the position list nationally.

"USC was my best visit, and I got along well with the players and especially the coaches," Dawson said at his news conference. "I got to know coach [Joe] Barry real well, and then he came out and met my mom on the home visit."

The signing of Walker was also significant because players from Glenville High School traditionally have always gone to Ohio State if the Buckeyes pursued them heavily. Walker said in the end that USC was his "dream school."

Other signee

• Another early national newsmaker was the announcement of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas four-star safety Marcus Roberson signing with Florida. The 6-foot, 170-pound safety picked the Gators after swaying between Auburn and Florida in the days leading up to Wednesday. Roberson is the No. 9 safety and No. 112 overall in the ESPNU 150.

Jeremy Crabtree

RecruitingNation, Reporter