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Signing day should be a regional holiday in the South.
No one is working. Everyone is frantically checking Twitter. That’s because signing day is uniquely made for the Internet and social media. There’s so much information rolling through so rapidly that signing day is a bit like sitting down in front of a slot machine and pulling the lever time after time. With every screen refresh the story changes, a great recruiting class can fade — I’m looking at you USC — and a less than sterling recruiting class can rise — props to the Kentucky Wildcats on their best football class ever.
YesterdayI ranked the SEC classes from 1-14, but today I’m going to give y’all my 11 favorite parts of signing day.
Yep, it’s a special out of season Starting 11.
1. Wide receiver Stacy Coley announced for the Miami Hurricanes by putting on this hat.
Yes, they really make a Miami Hurricane hat that doesn’t even have a Miami Hurricane name, logo, or identifying mark.
It just says Swag.
And of all the hats that Coley could pick to choose his school, he picked this one.
Coley also said he’d be going to Miami for three years.
Never change, Miami.
2. The number of kids who announce for universities that don’t exist.
The University of Auburn gets several top signees every year. This year the University of Clemson joined them as well. As did the University of Ole Miss.
Nothing says “student athlete” better than a student athlete who can’t even get the name of the school that’s giving them a scholarship correct.
Bonus: a local Knoxville radio station hired a lingerie model to announce Tennessee football signees.
3. Listening to Ole Miss fans argue that their class is completely on the up and up.
Look, I love Oxford, it’s a great place. The girls are beautiful, the school is probably the least academically challenging in the SEC, it’s basically one big party.
But this has always been the case.
I understand that you love your school and find it inconceivable that other schools could have better football histories, better facilities, more good looking girls — Ole Miss is relatively small in terms of students –, and be in cities or towns that are every bit as fun as Oxford, but all of this is indisputably true. The key tenet here is that no one who is a fan of their school ever believes their school cheats.
Kentucky basketball fans really, truly believe that John Calipari is getting those kids on campus completely within NCAA rules.
He’s not, but they believe it. (Of course they never believed that Cal got those kids on Memphis’s campus legally, but that was Memphis. Totally different story.)
Unless these kids are planning on studying William Faulkner’s personal papers for their own Joseph Blotner style biography, I’m not really sure why Ole Miss makes sense for them. Especially if you’re a minority from above the Mason-Dixon line.
Nope, this year Ole Miss stepped up its mastery of the recruiting dark arts. More power to Hugh Freeze and company. But let’s not pretend that Ole Miss suddenly started beating Alabama for recruits because Hugh Freeze is just a “better recruiter” than Nick Saban.
The whole “better recruiter” fallacy is incredibly overrated.
4. Alex Collins’s mom stole his paperwork to keep him from signing with Arkansas.
Ah, what would signing day be without a little drama?
Do you really blame the mom here? Her son is committed to Miami, just 45 minutes from home and a much better university, and then he up and changes his mind to commit to Arkansas, which is over a thousand miles away.
Have fun on that weekend drive, mom.
I’m going to also go out on a limb here and say there aren’t any direct flights between Miami and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
So now mom is completely left behind and will rarely be able to see her son play. Worse, she won’t be able to visit him very often during the school year. I’m kind of shocked stuff like this doesn’t happen more often. Hell, if I had a son who was turning down Miami to go to school in Arkansas I might refuse to sign his letter of intent too.
5. The Clemson coaching staff is filled with big Twilight fans.
No wonder Robert Nkemdiche decommitted.
He must have been a big Taylor Lautner fan.
6. 13 of the top 28 classes in the country were in the SEC.
I’ve been telling y’all for several years now that the SEC’s rise is lifting all boats. (With the possible exception of the Voltanic, which just hits one iceberg after another. Tennessee won’t be good in football again until all of Travis Henry’s illegitimate kids start hitting the recruiting lists.). That’s because the SEC brand is attached to all individual team success. This means when Alabama or Florida or LSU wins a title, the SEC’s brand is also rising; the Kentucky’s and Ole Miss’s and Vandy’s of the world can bask in the penumbra of greatness and sell the SEC brand to their own recruits.
There are only so many scholarships that “top” SEC schools can give out. And many more kids than this want to play in the SEC.
Because the SEC brand is selling that the conference is elite from top to bottom. While most other schools have been focusing on their own individual brands, the SEC has been building a collective brand like the NFL’s. As a result the SEC is now the second most valuable football brand after the NFL. Just as the NFL doesn’t really lose out no matter which teams play in the Super Bowl, the SEC isn’t losing out no matter which teams rise to the top of the conference heap. Just as many people will watch South Carolina play Auburn in the SEC title game as will watch LSU play Georgia or Alabama play Florida.
So why do SEC fans chant, “SEC, SEC, SEC,” because that chant works.
Top recruits want to play in the conference, not just go to a single school in the Big Ten, Pac 12, or ACC.
7. Texas A&M had five girls monitoring its fax machine.
Those same five girls also monitor Johnny Manziel’s Twitter feed.
This year represented the culmination of what I’ve been telling y’all for the past couple of years: Texas A&M is on its way to becoming a college football giant.
Why? Because A&M saw what I saw, wedding itself to the SEC brand was going to give the Aggies the leg up on Texas that they’d never had before. The Longhorns can’t sell the Big 12 at all, all they can sell is the fact that Texas is Texas. That’s a good selling point when everyone else is playing by the same rules.
But what about when Texas A&M goes and changes the rules by joining a new conference?
Baby brother just struck oil. Now he’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner in his own jet.
A&M plus the SEC is now a recruiting monster. Pretty soon the Aggies are going to be getting whoever they want in Texas and shutting the door on their recruiting classes earlier than anyone in the country. That’s because A&M is Texas’s version of the Florida Gators, the only SEC brand in a football crazy state that produces insane amounts of talented players.
It’s no coincidence that the Gators get the best players in the state of Florida and it won’t be any coincidence when A&M is getting the best players in the state of Texas either.
Put simply, the SEC brand is worth its weight in gold.
8. There are only eight schools in America that are consistently recruiting at SEC-like levels right now.
Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Florida State and Clemson.
That’s it. (There’s some possibility that UCLA under Mora, Jr. and Oregon under Helfrich will recruit at this level too, but that remains to be seen).
This means there are more good recruiting schools in the SEC than there is in the rest of college football combined.
These are the only eight schools that will be able to compete with the SEC schools as we move into a playoff era. The unfortunate thing for the SEC is going to be that these schools only really have one school to compete with in their conference. That is, Ohio State and Michigan are going to rule the Big Ten, Oklahoma and Texas will duel in the Big 12, USC or UCLA, and Oregon in the PAC 12, and FSU and Clemson in the ACC. So all of these schools will have easier routes to the playoff than the SEC teams will.
That’s why an eight team playoff is going to be needed in the future, because otherwise undefeated teams from inferior conferences will be rewarded over one-loss SEC teams that are clearly superior.
Remember that last season we came awfully close to an Ohio State vs. Notre Dame or Kansas State vs. Notre Dame BCS title game.
9. Missouri’s recruiting class was pretty bad.
If I’m a Mizzou fan I’m disappointed that the first year in the SEC didn’t translate to better results. Especially when you consider that Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky all four had substantially better classes than Missouri and they changed coaches at the end of the year.
A prediction: If Gary Pinkel doesn’t qualify for a bowl this year, I think the Tigers will offer him up as a sacrificial lamb and go get Bobby Petrino.
I really do.
10. ESPNU was outstanding all day.
Given that OKTC is not afraid to rip ESPN when they do stupid things, it’s only fair that we also hand out praise when it’s justified. ESPN’s signing day coverage was virtually flawless. Especially when you consider all the moving parts, the number of reporters, the number of kids picking schools, the amount of information to be processed, and the studio analysis.
We knew Derek Dooley would be good at signing day analysis, but Gene Chizik was the big surprise. He was very good as well.
ESPNU’s coverage was a solid five-star yesterday.
11. Auburn’s Montravius Adams brought back the airbrush.
That’s absolutely awesome.
It’s nice to know that airbrushed t’s are still getting it done even in 2013.