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Preview: National Signing Day for College Football

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Once again, it’s that time of the year where hope springs eternal for almost every team in the country. The likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and the other college football juggernauts are fighting it out for the crème de la crème of the high school talent pool, while most other teams are hoping that the 2 or 3 star kids they recruit somehow end up being diamonds in the rough, ala Marcus Mariota.

While the amount of attention we pay to the hat selections of 18 year olds is more than a little ridiculous, the results cannot be argued with; to compete for National Championships, you have to recruit top-end athletes. Oregon has been the outlier for national success in recent years, and even they have averaged recruiting classes in the teens for the past 7 years. So if you want to see who will be competing for a playoff spot 3-5 years from now, pull up a chair and watch the national rankings.

What is Signing Day, Anyway?

“Signing Day” is the first (but not the last) day that incoming college freshmen can actually sign letters of intent with the schools that have been recruiting them. So for the past 6 months, whenever you hear about a kid “committing” to School X over School Y, it really doesn’t mean anything until they sign and deliver that letter.

What’s Going On When Someone “Flips?”

Schools have been pressuring these kids to commit to them for a very long time, some of them as early as their sophomore year of high school. A commitment helps the school’s recruiting ranking, and in return, helps them recruit other kids who like signing with the top schools. However, some of the players change their mind, even after “committing.” So when School X is able to convince a player who was committed to School Y to sign with them, it’s considered a “flip.” Some flips are not particularly surprising while others, like DeAnthony Thomas a couple years ago, were very surprising and can completely change the complexion of a recruiting class.

Which Teams Are Going to “Win” Recruiting This Year?

If history is any indication, it will be Alabama. Again. They have finished with the #1 ranked recruiting class each of the last 3 years, and once again look incredibly strong with 22 four-or-five star recruits committed. Florida State, USC, Tennessee, and Clemson are also looking to land very strong classes. Also, keep an eye on Ohio State and Texas A&M as possible sleepers to jump up into the top 5.

How Are the Oregon Schools Looking?

The Ducks are recruiting quite well this year, with most ranking services having them right around 15th nationally. They have picked up a couple of really exciting players, including Canton Kaumatule, a defensive end from Hawaii, Taj Griffin, a running back out of Georgia, and Travis Waller, a quarterback from Southern California. Currently, it’s shaping up to be Oregon’s highest-ranked overall recruiting class since 2011, when DeAnthony Thomas and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu were a couple of the headliners and a kid named Mariota was considered the weak link.  

Oregon State is struggling a bit this cycle, which is not all that uncommon when a coaching change occurs. Since leaving for Nebraska, Mike Riley has flipped three of his recruits from Oregon State to Nebraska, including a four-star receiver, and may target another one or two before the signing period is over. But Gary Andersen is no stranger to recruiting against higher-profile schools, and might surprise with a solid pickup or two by the end of the day. In particular, keep an eye on Mufi Hunt and Thor Katoa, a couple of kids from Utah who could really help out on the defensive side of the ball. 

What About the Rest of the Pac-12?

USC is going to land another top 10 recruiting class, and will end up loaded with talent again on both sides of the ball. UCLA is also looking fairly strong, and will probably end up ranked in the top 20, maybe even top 15 depending on whether Jim Mora can flip a couple of the top Southern California kids from USC. Arizona State and Washington are both sitting in the mid-20’s, with a couple of really solid players committed already. Stanford and Arizona both rank in the 30’s, while every other Pac-12 school falls outside the top 40. 

Final Thoughts

Oregon fans, keep an eye out for Rasheem Green and John Houston Jr., a pair of teammates from California. Both are likely to end up at USC or UCLA, but if one or both end up putting on the green of Oregon, it could turn what is already a very solid class into an exceptional one. 

Signing day is a little campy and a lot over the top, but it’s also a day of optimism and hope for every school in the country. It is also a critical stage for those schools who have their eye on a College Football Playoff berth.  So while I wouldn’t necessarily tune in to the internet feed of the fax machine that Alabama posts on their website, it’s a day worth keeping an eye on. Before the Ducks can beat the Ohio States and Alabamas of the world on the field, they have to start winning some of the battles for signatures first.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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