Signing day delivers next crop of college stars

1/31/2006 - College Football

It's finally here. The months of waiting for players to ink their names to a National Letter of Intent are almost over for coaches and fans. It's finally here for more than 2,000 high school seniors who get to realize their dreams by signing their names to play Division I-A football.

What people tend to forget about in recruiting is that we're dealing with 17- and 18-year-old kids. Choosing a college is a tough task for most high school seniors, but it's even harder to make that decision under a national spotlight, after months of being wooed by numerous suitors.

That's why so many prospects have changed their initial verbal commitments. Even in the last few days, several players have changed their minds, such as ESPN 150 CB Jai Eugene, who switched from Michigan to LSU; ESPN 150 WR Damian Williams, who changed from Florida to Arkansas; and ESPN 150 WR London Crawford, who changed from LSU to Arkansas.

Several of the top-ranked players will keep the nation in suspense until the last moment. ESPN 150 OT Andre Smith, ESPN 150 DT Aleric Mullins and ESPN 150 RB/LB Marcus Sims will reveal their choices on ESPNU on Wednesday.

Based on verbal commitments, a few schools have put together excellent classes. Florida, which has recruited well to its philosophy on offense and defense, is hoping to hold on to the top spot. In-state ESPN 150 QB Tim Tebow fits the bill, as do top wide receiver Percy Harvin and high school teammate Damon McDaniel, but both wideouts might be considering last-minute commitment changes.

USC has filled holes on defense with verbal commitments from Taylor Mays and Antwine Perez, two of the country's top three safeties. They Trojans have filled holes in their backfield with ESPN 150 RBs Stafon Johnson, Emmanuel Moody and C.J. Gable. Vidal Hazelton, the school's top wide receiver commit, also might be considering a last-minute commitment change, though.

Texas, Georgia and Notre Dame round out my top five classes right now. Texas has done a tremendous job of recruiting the top talent in its own state, although QB Matthew Stafford from Highland Park, Texas, is headed to Georgia. Notre Dame has improved by landing the athletes and team speed it has lacked for several years.

Teams looking to make a push into the top five on national signing day are LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, Auburn, Florida State and Ohio State.

Although one recruit changing a commitment or announcing his commitment doesn't make or break an entire class, the announcement of Andre Smith, the top-rated offensive tackle, certainly will boost any program's class. He's one of the few players in this class with the ability to step on campus and be an impact guy, which is something very rare for an offensive lineman. Smith is deciding between LSU, Alabama, USC and Florida. He'll be announcing his decision live from Huffman High School in Birmingham, Ala., on ESPNU at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Two other players to watch are ESPN 150 DT Gerald McCoy, who is deciding between USC and Oklahoma, and ESPN 150 S Reshad Jones, who is deciding between Georgia and LSU.

Keep an eye on signings for two other schools Wednesday, as well. Nebraska relied on many junior college players last year, and after Wednesday, it could have as many as 11 juco commitments in this year's class. The Cornhuskers need to land more top high school talent to secure long-term success.

Michigan lost the nation's top-rated corner, Eugene, to LSU, but the Wolverines are on the final lists of DT Jason Kates, ESPN 150 S Jonas Mouton, DE Adam Patterson, DE McKenzie Mathews, OT Daron Rose and DT Corey Peters.

From last-minute switches to shifts in the top five, signing day is always full of surprises. This year should be no different.