-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
This was easily one of the more entertaining National Signing Days in history.
And in stark contrast to years past, the dramatics had nothing to do with the nation’s top class. In fact, there was a noticeable absence of hype, conversation and overall excitement surrounding the reigning national champions’ No. 1-rated class. It’s almost as if Nick Saban has turned recruiting into a business or something? Alabama's ho-hum collection of five-star future All-Americans aside, there was still plenty of interesting, bizarre, baffling and intense happenings from coast to coast.
Here are the most memorable moments from Signing Day (with a distinct west coast feel):
Deontay Greenberry Shocks The Nation
Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union wide receiver Deontay Greenberry is ranked as the No. 52 player in the nation. He was a long-time Notre Dame commitment whose best friend and cousin, fellow Athlon Consensus 100 talent Tee Shepard, is already enrolled in class in South Bend. All signs pointed to the duo continuing their friendship on the football field as Irish teammates. But after a very late visit to the Houston Cougars, Greenberry pulled the biggest shocker of National Signing Day by signing with the CUSA-turned-Big East program. The 6-3, 190-pound wideout is the first AC100 signee in Cougars’ program history and the twittersphere nearly exploded when his LOI arrived in Houston. New head coach Tony Levine was one of the toasts of NSD '12.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was apparently as shocked as the rest of us at the news. Kelly likely regrets letting his emotions get the better of him with this commentary on Greenberry, "I used to have a saying about players like that and that was I'd rather play against him for four games than with him for four years," he told UND.com. Sounds an awful lot like message board trolls who scream sour grapes when star recruits sign elsewhere.
The Great Tosh Lupoi
Washington hired former California defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi on January 16. The Bears featured the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12 and were ranked just outside of the top-10 in recruiting after landing Shaq Thompson, Ellis McCarthy and Jordan Payton at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl two weeks earlier.
Since Lupoi was hired in Seattle, Washington has stolen Thompson, the No. 1 defensive back in the nation (and rightly so), and landed nationally-rated SoCal athletes Jaydon Mickens and Brandon Beaver. The Huskies also held onto the No. 4 quarterback in the nation Cyler Miles and stole Patterson (Calif.) defensive end Pio Vatuvei from USC. McCarthy and Payton (more on him in a moment) switched to UCLA and the No. 8-ranked player in the nation, Arik Amstead, sited the loss of Lupoi as part of the reason he landed elsewhere. Armstead signed with Oregon on Wednesday.
Cal is currently ranked outside of the top 25 in recruiting by every major service and is leaking water on the talent trail. It's hard to see how one young, energetic defensive line coach could have such a huge impact on a conference, but that is exactly what the 30-year old Lupoi has done to the Pac-12. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau probably deserves some credit too.
Stanford’s New Recruiting Cachet
Jim Harbaugh is still rubbing off on the Stanford Cardinal. After landing AC100 star tailback Barry Sanders Jr. (No. 80) back at the start of the 2012 calendar year, head coach David Shaw landed Puyallup (Wash.) offensive lineman Josh Garnett (No. 30). He hasn’t slowed down either as he has convinced the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston to rethink his Florida State commitment and signed a trio of AC100 lineman on Wednesday.
Tempe (Ariz.) Corona Del Sol’s Andrus Peat is the No. 3 offensive lineman in the nation and his older brother just finished his first collegiate season on the Nebraska roster. Yet, somehow Shaw overcame the legacy factor and lured the stud blocker to Palo Alto. Late Wednesday afternoon Stanford also got signatures from the No. 4 offensive lineman in the nation, San Clemente (Calif.) High’s Kyle Murphy, and the No. 6-ranked defensive tackle in the nation, Atwater (Calif.) Buhach’s Aziz Shittu.
This is a top-10 class that features three of the top five offensive lineman in the nation. Toss in Sanders, star linebacker Noor Davis and top-100 defensive back Alex Carter, and Shaw has assembled a Cardinal class of unprecedented proportions. Only Alabama’s 10 top-100 signatures top the seven Stanford signed. The Cardinal's national appeal has never been higher.
Kiffin’s Quality over Quantity
Lane Kiffin is picking up right where Pete Carroll left off and NCAA sanctions appear to have had little effect on the USC's ability to recruit. The Trojans entered National Signing Day with 13 commitments. There were only two three-star prospects in the group, one of which is fullback Jahleel Pinner — who is rated as the No. 1 blocking back in the nation. The quality of USC's classes has been astounding for over a decade and the 2012 group is no different.
Despite losing Vatuvei to the Huskies, USC once again won the day by landing Sunshine State talents Nelson Agholor (No. 26) and Leonard Williams (No. 68). Additionally, the Trojans stole Inglewood (Calif.) cornerback Devian Shelton from Oregon State. Kiffin has built an entire staff full of former recruiting coordinators who know how to pound the trail and it shows. Only Alabama has more AC100 signees than the Trojans’ seven.
The offensive line class is one of the best in the nation. Three of USC's seven top-100 signees will play along the offensive line with Zach Banner (No. 50) leading the way. The 6-9, 310-pound Lakewood (Calif.) Lakes product is the son of former NFL star Lincoln Kennedy and could compete for playing time at left tackle right away now that Matt Kalil has moved on to the NFL.
Texas Actually Closes Strong
This is much less of an indictment on Mack Brown’s ability to close as much as it's a testament of his talents for locking down an incredible class earlier than everyone else, but the Texas Longhorns closed on NSD better than they have in years. Brown offered and landed Daje Johnson and Dalton Santos very late in the process and then pulled one of the biggest upsets of the day by stealing Louisiana's own Torshiro Davis away from LSU. It appears that maybe Brown and his staff is beginning to realize that they can now slow the process down a bit — which is strange coming from the program that has accelerated the recruiting calendar more so than any other university in the nation. Brown is showing his ability to adapt and it could lead to a 10-win season in 2012.
Jordan Payton Better Be Good
There are always a few recruiting stories that simply take the cake. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton announced on national television at the U.S. Army All-American on January 7 that he would be attending Cal. On Tuesday, however, Payton switched his verbal commitment to Washington following star recruiter Lupoi to Seattle. However, where did he send his signed letter of intent the very next day? Yup, you guessed it, the UCLA Bruins? There are few stories that have had as many twists and turns as Mr. Payton’s and he better be prepared to put his head down and work hard because there will be more than a few fanbases watching his development over the next few seasons.
The nation’s No. 1 athlete, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel star Stefon Diggs, is the latest on a long list of recent recruits who decided to postpone their signing until well after National Signing Day. He is the No. 5 player in the nation, is considered a strong Florida lean, has friend and former teammate Jelani Jenkins in Gainesville and would be a perfect fit on a roster that is in desperate need of a play-maker on offense. What is left to decide? Why does he have to wait until Feb. 10 to sign? Fellow AC100 prospects Davonte Neal and Jordan Diamond also failed to sign on Wednesday.
Bryce Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Latwan Anderson, Seantrel Henderson, Orson Charles, Cyrus Kouandjio and Vidal Hazelton are just a few of the names that delayed their signings. And for the most part, it has appeared like a mistake as Charles, Pryor, Brown, Hazelton and Anderson have failed to live up to the recruiting hype — or got kicked out of school prematurely. Is signing late a serious issue that indicates the maturity and focus levels of young kids? The evidence, at least in a broad sense, certainly points in that direction.
The biggest name still waiting to sign, however, is the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Jameis Winston. The Hueytown (Ala.) passer is also a stellar baseball prospect and has gotten cold feet after being committed to Florida State since the first week of August. He is considering a late push by Stanford and could wait until Friday to make his decision.
I understand it is an incredibly complex decision, but if 18 years isn't enough time to make up your mind, I can't imagine how an extra week will help. And a late signing is not the same thing as a flip-flop...
The Flip Flops
Every year there are loads of names that seem to be destined for one location only to land on another campus. Athlon Consensus 100 talents Dante Fowler (Florida State to Florida), the aforementioned Greenberry (Notre Dame to Houston), Torshiro Davis (LSU to Texas) and apparently Josh Harvey-Clemons (Georgia to ??? - all in one day) are just a few. Nationally-ranked Bralon Addison (Texas A&M to Oregon) and Jordan Payton (everywhere to UCLA) are just a couple of other highly-touted names to switch on NSD.
At first glance, it can be easy to get frustrated with the flip-flopping and waffling involved with some recruitments. But fans need to remember that this is the single most important decision most of these 17-year olds have ever made and that maybe a touch of patience is necessary.
I think Compton (Calif.) Dominquez cornerback Brandon Beaver said it best at 1:09 p.m. ET Wednesday on his twitter account (@B_2times): “Never been so unsure in my life.” Beaver committed to Washington roughly six hours later.