Signing day is full of surprises
From Cyrus Kouandjio's indecisiveness to testy teleconferences, NSD is never dull
You want drama? Don't turn to TNT. There were plenty of shocking decisions, last-minute defections and players changing their minds more than once on national signing day to keep college football fans on the edge of their seats.
It's not unusual for a player to say he's doing one thing on signing day and then turn around and do something completely different before he has to send the letter of intent through the fax machine. But Cyrus Kouandjio is the No. 3 player in the ESPNU 150, and he made his declaration for Auburn in front of a live national television audience, so there had to be nothing to worry about, right?
In what will go down as the biggest headline of the 2011 national signing day, Kouandjio couldn't follow through with signing with the Tigers on Wednesday. The move sent shockwaves through all of college football. He later said on his Facebook page that he needs a little more time to be sure of his decision.
Disappointing day in Westwood
The stars seemed to be aligning perfectly for UCLA to make a big recruiting splash this season. Crosstown rival USC was placed on NCAA probation, and it was a good year for talent in Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel's backyard. But UCLA was not able to capitalize on the opportunity and finished with the 11th-best class in the Pac-12.
The down recruiting season is a surprise because the Bruins had appeared to turn the corner with many top prospects in Los Angeles the past few years. Plus, there were a lot of quality local recruits giving UCLA a close look early in the process, but it couldn't close and finished with a class that graded out as a C-minus.
Calloway flips -- again
Four-star athlete Brent Calloway was a longtime Alabama commitment, but at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he changed things up and switched to in-state rival Auburn. At the time, the move upset Alabama fans so much that some lashed out on Calloway on his Facebook page.
A few weeks passed before rumblings started to emerge that Calloway was again thinking about the Crimson Tide. He officially made the switch on signing day, sending his letter of intent to Alabama's Nick Saban instead of Auburn's Gene Chizik.
Everybody expects USC to do well in its own backyard, but Lane Kiffin showed again Wednesday that he's one of the best recruiters in the game. Kiffin played a big role in helping USC pull off surprising signings from players thousands of miles away from Heritage Hall.
It started with Kentucky linebacker Lamar Dawson picking the Trojans in front of a packed house at his high school. Most of the speculation leading up to the signing had him pegged for either Kentucky or Tennessee.
Then there was four-star offensive guard Aundrey Walker's decision. Players at Cleveland's Glenville High School almost always go to Ohio State if the Buckeyes want them, but that didn't stop Kiffin from putting on the full-court press. Walker balked at the Buckeyes in the end and instead signed with USC.
But karma can come back and bite you sometimes, as Kiffin lost a big one of his own when longtime USC commit DeAnthony Thomas, who's No. 16 in the ESPNU 150, flipped and committed to Oregon on signing day.
Staffing changes make news on signing day
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told reporters heading into his signing day teleconference that he wasn't going to talk about potential shifts in his staff. But when Indiana coach Kevin Wilson announced Hoosiers cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond was heading to Lincoln and that Huskers graduate assistant Brett Diersen would be joining his staff in Bloomington, all bets were off.
Reporters fired staffing question after staffing question at Pelini, who eventually reminded reporters what the teleconference was intended for.
"I'm not taking anything but recruiting questions today," Pelini said.
Miami in unfamiliar territory
New Hurricanes coach Al Golden knew he had his work cut out for him and that there were many obstacles keeping him from a top-25 recruiting class this season. But nobody would have pegged Miami as the seventh-best class in the ACC.
Finishing behind Florida State is understandable. The Seminoles have an established coach and made tremendous strides on the field this season. Some fans also could stomach finishing behind Clemson, but to fall behind North Carolina and Virginia was definitely shocking to many Miami faithful.
Jayhawks making jump
When you lose games 55-7, 59-7, 45-10 and 48-14 and finish with a 3-9 record, there is no way you're supposed to be able to finish with the fifth-best recruiting class in the Big 12. But that's exactly happened at Kansas on Wednesday. The Jayhawks finished ahead of traditional power Texas A&M and bitter rivals Kansas State and Missouri.
Out of blue
Three-star defensive tackle Elkino Watson (Miami/Booker T. Washington) told reporters heading into signing day that he was down to Florida, Miami and Louisville. So it was no surprise at his signing ceremony that he had hats from the three schools lined up in front of him. But when it came time to announce, he reached into the crowd and grabbed a South Florida hat.
Jeremy Crabtree is the senior coordinator for recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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