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Signing day's winners, losers and surprises

Picking winners and losers on signing day is a little like throwing darts. Right now they're just signatures on letters of intent, and it might be a couple of seasons before some of these prospects have either boomed or busted in the college football spotlight.

Nevertheless, signing day has become something just short of a national holiday for college football fans, and everyone wants to know which programs came through and which ones whiffed. With that in mind, here's a look at the teams that finished the recruiting season strong and those that either stumbled down the stretch or were unable to capitalize on a strong season on the field last fall:

Winners

• South Carolina: Met needs and upgraded overall ability level across the board. Quarterback, wide receiver and defensive line were all addressed with top-tier players.

• Illinois: Expect five true freshmen in this class to see the field in 2007, headlined by DE Martez Wilson (Chicago/Simeon) and WR Arrelious Benn (Washington, D.C./Dunbar).

• North Carolina: Closed like Seabiscuit with seven ESPN 150 signees by the end the day. DT Tydreke Powell (Ahoskie, N.C./Hertford County) and DT Marvin Austin (Washington, D.C./Ballou) improve the defensive front, and WR Greg Little (Durham, N.C./Hillside) de-committing from Notre Dame to stay in state with the Tar Heels is huge.

Losers

• Arkansas: Recruiting effort did not match on-field success in 2006, and off-field distractions from the Class of '06 Springdale High School signees may have played a role.

• Notre Dame: Keeping everything in perspective, it was still an excellent class, but you have to question whether the defensive help it received is going to be enough. Two signing-day defections, from Greg Little and OT Chris Little (Jeffersonville, Ga./Twiggs County) certainly didn't help.

• Ohio State: This class is still strong, but like Arkansas, it didn't match the team's on-field performance. Of the four national championship competitors from last season -- Florida, Ohio State, USC and Michigan -- Ohio State brought up the rear.

Biggest Surprises

• Greg Little switching from Notre Dame to North Carolina.

• Florida State's late surge, landing WR Brandon Paul and WR Markish Jones.

• RB Antwain Easterling signing with Southern Miss over North Carolina and Rutgers.

• Safety Jerimy Finch (Indianapolis/Warren Central) signing with Florida instead of in-state Indiana, though Finch switching his commit is hardly a surprise, considering he had already switched from Michigan to Indiana.

• Miami's recruiting class, which was impressive considering all that happened there last fall.

Potential impact players next year

• USC RB Joe McKnight (River Ridge, La./John Curtis)
• Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian)
• USC LB Chris Galippo (Anaheim, Calif./Servite)
• Tennessee CB Eric Berry (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside)
• Illinois DE Martez Wilson (Chicago/Simeon)
• Auburn S Michael McNeil (Mobile, Ala./Davidson)

Potential position battles

• USC running back: Joe McKnight vs. Marc Tyler
• Florida backup quarterback: John Brantley vs. Cameron Newton vs. Bryan Waggener

Left unresolved

Noel Devine reportedly verbally committed to West Virginia on Tuesday but was not part of its class today. It remains to be seen if Devine will sign with anyone -- and qualify -- with this year's class or head to postgraduate Milford Academy or Hargrave Military Academy.

Scouts Inc. recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert and recruiting editors Henry Gola and Jamar Hudson contributed to this report.