-by Braden Gall
National Signing Day elicits one of two responses from sports fans. One is a ravenous, insatiable desire to tie day-to-day happiness to the decisions of teenage boys. The other is an aloof, antiquated view of the reality of college football.
Neither is better nor worse than the other. Ether way, National Signing Day is a polarizing afternoon of pseudo-sport.
The truth likely lies somewhere in-between. To those who send death threats to 17-year-old kids who have decided not to sign with YOUR team and instead with an in-state rival, the word “relax” comes to mind ((strangely, said recruit actually went running back to the first team). And to those who sit in their ivory sports tower and look down their noses at recruiting rankings and the importance of NSD, I say, join the 21st century.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football. It always has been. There just weren’t message boards back when Woody Hayes had a 200-man roster. There weren’t star ratings when Bear Bryant pulled Sam Cunningham into his locker room after Alabama got rocked at home by USC in 1970. Yet, having good players was no less important to Bryant or Switzer or Osborne or Schembechler or Majors.
There wouldn’t be seven different full-time recruiting services even available to compile the Athlon Consensus 100 if recruiting didn’t matter. The key, like most things in life, is moderation (something the media has a tough time with, occasionally). Can we not simply sit back and enjoy the pouring of college football’s foundation? Does NSD have to be filled with either animosity or condescension?
The aged, fuddy-duddy fans of college football need to learn that recruiting matters and that the rankings, by in large, are about as good as we can do at attempting to project teenagers' “earning potential” at 16 years of age.
The other, crazier, end of the spectrum also needs to realize that there is still hundreds of hours of weight lifting, practice drills, film study and actual coaching that has to take place before a short list of signatures turns into wins and losses.
And The Winner Is...
Auburn. No, Cyrus Koundjio has yet to officially send in his LOI. Alabama. No, it could still whiff - or connect - on both of the top two recruits in the nation. I know, Florida State! Well, not if Jadeveon Clowney and Koundjio both go to the same school in the Yellowhammer State. USC? Texas? Georgia? Ohio State?
With the top two players in the nation still unsigned, one of the closest races in recruiting history has yet to come full circle. Six, maybe even seven, teams have a legitimate claim to the 2011 recruiting National Championship. But with Auburn, Alabama and Florida State's classes so evenly matched, how can anyone award a recruiting crown without knowing where the top two players in the nation are playing football?
If both Clowney and Koundjio end up signing with the Crimson Tide, they will deserve the crown with a nation-best nine AC100 signees. If neither ends up in the state of Alabama, then Florida State's impressive haul will likely be the best collection of talent. If one goes to South Carolina (or Clemson) and one stays with Auburn, then the Tigers might have the best group.
What does all of this conjecture mean? That after years of effort and millions of dollars spent recruiting - and 10 hours of mothership coverage later - National Signing Day 2011 will end without a clear recruiting champion.
ESPN has Florida State atop its rankings, Rivals has Alabama and Scout is giving it to Auburn. But until Clowney and Koundjio finally make-up their minds, us recruiting fans are in a holding pattern.
Where did the AC100 land?