On a day when we find ourselves sitting on the edge of our seats
waiting for Punxsutawney (Sp. -5) Phil
to announce his decision as to whether or not there is a 39% chance he is right
about the coming of Spring (it’s coming early this year) many of the good folks
in Alabama rest their hopes for the next four years upon the words of 17 and 18
year-old boys. That’s right, it’s
National Signing Day.
While Punxsutawney Phil might not be the most reliable
source (see: the aforementioned 39% prediction rate), it is the pageantry and
suspense and build-up that make Groundhog Day so great. Much the same could be said for
National Signing Day. There is
something exciting and enthralling about watching these highly touted recruits
pull out the hat of the school they will be attending for the next three or
four years. The build-up. The suspense. The heartbreak. The elation. It is a great
feeling, probably only shy of winning the National Championship and your
Conference Championship, the rush of pride you get when you see your team’s
name on top of the list of Best Recruiting Classes. It can really be the icing on the cake for teams coming off
of great seasons – national championship seasons for Auburn and Alabama, the
past two years – or it can really help a program bounce back from a
disappointing year – FSU last year and Clemson this year.
Alabama continues its recruiting success under coach Nick
Saban with another Top 5 class (currently at No. 3 on ESPN’s Top 25). The biggest surprise of the day for the
Tide was when they were able to steal in-state talent Brent Calloway back from
Auburn in the Eleventh Hour. Calloway had decommitted from the Tide about a month ago in favor of the
in-state foe Tigers. But the
Crimson Tide has a solid class top to bottom led by S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, DE
Xzavier Dickson, and WR Bradley Sylve. No. 1 Overall player JaDaveon Clowney, the talented DE out of South
Carolina, still has Alabama on his list of potential collegiate destinations,
though home team South Carolina appears to be the favorite. Overall, Alabama signed 24 players,
including 10 from ESPN U’s Top 150.
Auburn currently sits at 2nd overall with a couple of signing day splashes, including the No. 1 OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Sp. -10), who picked the defending champs in a bit of a surprise over favorite Alabama, where his brother plays. The Tigers also landed in-state star S Erique Florence, picking close-by Auburn for the sunny coasts of LA and the USC Trojans. Maybe the most entertaining signee of the day was Gabe Wright, 4-star DT out of Carver High School in Columbus, GA, just 30 minutes down the road. When announcing his decision to go to Auburn, Wright put on a hat that had “Nick Who?” stitched into it. Wright stated that this was a reference to his desire and drive to replace Lombardi-winning DT Nick Fairley down on the Plains, rather than a poke at Alabama coach Nick Saban. Auburn targeted some serious needs, mostly notably the offensive line and defensive backfield. The Tigers landed the No. 1 and No. 2 Offensive Tackles, the No. 1 Center, and the No. 8 and 10 Offensive Guards to address the mass exodus of talent and experience on the offensive line. Then they went after some playmakers for the defensive backfield, easily the champs’ most glaring weakness from a year ago.
The SEC as a whole continues to dominate not only the polls
and championships, but on the recruiting trail as well. There are currently 9 SEC schools in
ESPN’s list of Top 25 classes, with Mississippi State and Kentucky on the cusp
of breaking in. If they are able
to do so, that would everyone in the conference except Vanderbilt was in the
Top 25. Not too shabby.
It promises to be another great few years for the SEC and the state of Alabama if things hold. But only time will tell.