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College Football: National Signing Day 2013, A Decade Of Cautionary Tales

Ah, signing day.....
Ah, signing day.....

Beginning bright and early Wednesday morning, 18-year-old football players far and wide will finalize in writing their plans on where they will ply their trade for the next three to five years, causing high blood pressure in adults three times their age coast to coast and dragging the fax machine into relevance for a day.

It's National Signing Day for college football, Christmas morning for college football junkies with websites like rivals.com serving as the online version of the tree.

By end of day Wednesday, college football coaches, ALL of them, will tout the merits of their class and how delighted they are with their haul. Coaches with actual stellar classes will say as much, coaches with less than stellar classes will talk about how they were able to "fill needs."

Heading into Wednesday morning, here are some of the highlights of 2013:

(NOTE: All references to ratings are those of rivals.com.)

-- The top four teams in 2013 recruiting as of Wednesday (Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame) were the same top four teams in the AP poll at the end of the 2012 regular season. The rich will get richer.

-- Texas A&M is capitalizing big time on the three-way buzz of Kevin Sumlin, Johnny Manziel, and their success in the SEC. They have the 7th-rated class heading into Wednesday morning.

-- Mack Brown has built virtually an entire legacy on his ability to turn the first Wednesday in February into Mardi Gras on the Forty Acres. This year, the party will be muted as the Longhorns sit at 20th in the recruiting rankings (which, given the importance many 'Horn types place on recruiting, may as well be 120th) and have seen bits of notable attrition in their class (Ricky Seals-Jones, anyone?).

-- Eleven of the top 24 classes are in the SEC. ELEVEN. Jeez. Even Vanderbilt has secured the 19th-rated class heading into signing day.

-- Among schools dealing with scholarship reductions, USC is sitting at 10th, but was at one time in first and has seen a gradual exodus from the class with UCLA being a likely beneficiary, and Penn State is at 43rd, but with a five-star quarterback (Christian Hackenberg out of Virginia) in the fold.

Inevitably, the process and hype lends itself to overreaction. While there is some direct correlation between the rankings in recruiting and the final rankings on the field, on a per recruit basis, the processes of evaluation and projection are an educated crapshoot, at best. So to temper expectations and celebrations for all of you Aggies, and to help you Longhorns keep your collective chin up, here are the top 10 recruits from each class during the rivals.com era (back to 2002).

Enjoy this trip down memory lane!

(NOTE: I didn't include last year's class since it's way too early to say who's good, who's a bust, etc.)

2002 1. VINCE YOUNG, QB (Houston-Madison), Texas 2. HALOTI NGATA, DT (Salt Lake City-Highlands), Oregon 3. LORENZO BOOKER, RB (Ventura, CA-St. Bonaventure), Florida State 4. BEN OLSON, QB (Thousand Oaks, CA), UCLA 5. REGGIE MCNEAL, ATH (Lufkin, TX), Texas A&M 6. CHIRS DAVIS, ATH (St. Petersburg, FL-Catholic), Florida 7. RYAN MOORE, WR (Orlando, FL-Dr. Phillips), Miami (FL) 8. MARCUS VICK, QB (Newport News, VA-Warwick), Virginia Tech 9. LEON WASHINGTON, DB (Jacksonville, FL-Andrew Jackson), Florida State 10. CIATRICK FASON, RB (Jacksonville, FL-Fletcher), Florida

2002 COMMENTS: Rivals nailed it on the top two guys in this class. Yeah, go ahead and nod along with me Houston, you know you want to. I got it, Vince is your boy. He was the man in high school. This was one of the last classes before Miami and Florida State dropped into a decade-long abyss. Five of the top ten wound up with Florida schools. Marcus Vick easily qualifies as the biggest bust in this group, unless you count taunting Andy Reid on Twitter as part of your evaluation.  

2003

1. ERNIE SIMS, LB (Tallahassee, FL-North Florida Christian), Florida State 2. REGGIE BUSH, RB (San Diego-Helix), USC 3. WHITNEY LEWIS, ATH (Ventura, CA-St. Bonaventure), USC 4. ANDRE CALDWELL, WR (Tampa, FL-Jefferson), Florida 5. KYLE WRIGHT, QB (Danville, CA-Monte Vista), Miami (FL) 6. PRESCOTT BURGESS, DB (Warren, OH-Harding), Michigan 7. TONY HILLS, JR., TE (Alief, TX-Elsik), Texas 8. JORRIE ADAMS, OL (Jasper, TX), Texas A&M 9. PAUL OLIVER, DB (Kennesaw, GA-Harrison), Georgia 10. GREG OLSEN, TE (Wayne Hills, NJ), Miami (FL)

2003 COMMENTS: The crown jewel of this class wound up being Reggie Bush, whose rivals.com high school film is still the most impressive four minutes of high school footage I've seen since Jim managed to prematurely ejaculate twice in a four-minute span with Nadia in American Pie.

2004 1. ADRIAN PETERSON, RB (Palestine, TX), Oklahoma 2. TED GINN, JR., DB (Cleveland, OH-Glenville), Ohio State 3. EARLY DOUCET, WR (St. Martinville, LA), LSU 4. RHETT BOMAR, QB (Grand Prairie, TX), Oklahoma 5. KEITH RIVERS, LB (Lake Mary, FL), USC 6. WILLIE WILLIAMS, LB (Miami-Carol City), Miami (FL) 7. BRANDON MILLER, DE (Colquitt, GA-Miller County), Georgia 8. DERRICK HARVEY, DE (Greenbelt, MD-Roosevelt), Florida 9. JEFF SCHWEIGER, JR., DE (San Jose, CA-Valley), USC 10. XAVIER LEE, QB (Daytona Beach, FL-Seabreeze), Florida State

2004 COMMENTS: Forget about Adrian Peterson being the consensus top player then and now, this class was all about Miami recruit Willie Williams, and his groundbreaking recruiting diary that he wrote for the Miami Herald. Here are just a few excerpts:

Florida State: I ordered a steak and a lobster tail. The lobster tail was like $49.99. I couldn't believe something so little could cost so much. The steak didn't even have a price. The menu said something about market value. I was kind of embarrassed so I didn't order a lot. But then I saw what the other guys were ordering, I was like, `Forget this.' I called the waiter back and told him to bring me four lobster tails, two steaks and a Shrimp Scampi. It was good. I took two boxes back with me to the hotel.'

They had jerseys with our names on it. They even had my No. 17. I told them `Isn't that number retired for [Heisman winner] Charlie Ward? Coach [Bobby] Bowden was like, "For you Willie, we'll bring it back.''

Miami: Coach Larry Coker picked him up at his Carol City home in a white Cadillac Escalade, then put Williams up at the Mayfair House Hotel in Coconut Grove. Williams' room featured a jacuzzi on his balcony. Following the campus visit, the recruits boarded a bus with the coaching staff and headed for the Orange Bowl ... ''We'd get to a red light and I would hold on because the bus driver would just take it,'' he said. "I was thinking the bus driver was crazy. Coach Coker was like, "Willie, we've got police escorts."

Auburn: ''The girls at the party were much better than the farmer girls we'd see all day around campus,'' Williams said. "I was kind of worried all Auburn had to offer was those farmer girls that talked funny. But the girls at the party weren't farmer girls at all. I thought they must have bused them in from Miami.''

Florida: ''I ate so many meatballs, the people there started looking like meatballs ... The first night I was OK with eating at the stadium. But when they told me we're going to eat there again, I was a little disappointed. I was like, `Take us to Red Lobster or something.' That's when I pretty much made up my mind. I can't live in a place that don't have any restaurants. What am I going to do -- fly home to eat shrimp?''

Not surprisingly, Williams wound up going to five different schools and eventually going to jail for burglary. Shocker.

2005 1. DERRICK WILLIAMS, ATH (Greenbelt, MD-Roosevelt), Penn State 2. PATRICK TURNER, WR (Nashville, TN-Goodpasture), USC 3. EUGENE MONROE, OL (Plainfield, NJ), Virginia 4. MELVIN ALAEZE, DE (Randallstown, MD), Maryland 5. REY MAUALUGA, LB (Eureka, CA), USC 6. FRED ROUSE, WR (Tallahassee, FL-Lincoln), Florida State 7. MARK SANCHEZ, QB (Mission Viejo, CA), USC 8. MARTELLUS BENNETT, TE (Alief, TX-Taylor), Texas A&M 9. REGINALD YOUNGBLOOD, OL (Houston-Washington), Miami (FL) 10. JONATHAN STEWART, RB (Lacey, WA-Timberline), Oregon

2005 COMMENTS: This was the first layer of foundation of the "USC jumps the shark" era being poured. A bunch of talented players, but just not good enough to win the whole thing.  

2006 1. PERCY HARVIN, WR (Virginia Beach, VA-Landstown), Florida 2. ANDRE SMITH, OL (Birmingham-Huffman), Alabama 3. CHRIS WELLS, RB (Akron-Garfield), Ohio State 4. GERALD MCCOY, DT (Oklahoma City-Southeast), Oklahoma 5. SERGIO KINDLE, LB (Dallas-Wilson), Texas 6. MATT STAFFORD, QB (Dallas-Highland Park), Georgia 7. VIDAL HAZELTON, WR (Chatham, VA-Hargrave Military), USC 8. C.J. SPILLER, RB (Lake Butler, FL-Union County), Clemson 9. ALLEN BRADFORD, LB (Colton, CA), USC 10. MITCH MUSTAIN, QB (Springdale, AR), Arkansas

2006 COMMENTS: Pretty impressive that six of the top eight wound up as first round picks. Way to go, Rivals! Almost enough for us to forgive completely overshooting on Mitch Mustain!

2007 1. JIMMY CLAUSEN, QB (Westlake Village, CA), Notre Dame 2. JOE MCKNIGHT, RB (River Ridge, LA-Curtis), USC 3. ERIC BERRY, DB (Fairburn, GA-Creekside), Tennessee 4. RYAN MALLETT, QB (Texarkana, TX), Michigan 5. CARLOS DUNLAP, DE (North Charleston, SC-Fort Dorchester), Florida 6. EVERSON GRIFFEN, DE (Avondale, AZ), USC 7. MARVIN AUSTIN, DT (Washington, DC-Ballou), North Carolina 8. RONALD JOHNSON, WR (Muskegon, MI), USC 9. TORREY DAVIS, DT (Seffner, FL-Armwood), Florida 10. JOSH OGLESBY, OL (Milwaukee, WI-St. Francis), Wisconsin

2007 COMMENTS: The beginning of the college years of the "Everybody Hates Jimmy Clausen" Era, an era which pretty much started the day Clausen was born. Clausen and Ryan Mallett as the top two quarterbacks, like having two complete psycho chicks as the final two on The Bachelor.

2008 1. TERRELLE PRYOR, QB (Jeanette, PA), Ohio State 2. DAQUAN BOWERS, DE (Bamberg, SC), Clemson 3. MIKE ADAMS, OL (Dublin, OH-Coffman), Ohio State 4. JULIO JONES, WR (Foley, AL), Alabama 5. PATRICK JOHNSON, DB (Pompano Beach, FL-Blanche Ely), LSU 6. DARRELL SCOTT, RB (Ventura, CA-St. Bonaventure), Colorado 7. MARCUS FORSTON, DT (Miami, FL-Northwestern), Miami (FL) 8. BAKER STEINKUHLER, OL (Lincoln, NE), Nebraska 9. A.J. GREEN, WR (Summerville, SC), Georgia 10. WILL HILL, ATH (Jersey City, NJ-St. Peter's), Florida

2008 COMMENTS: Remember when losing Darrell Scott was a huge deal for Texas? Also, Rivals nailed it on Jones, Green, and Johnson (who you might know better under his name he uses when he wears a mask, Patrick Peterson).

2009 1. BRYCE BROWN, RB (Wichita, KS-East), Tennessee 2. RUEBEN RANDLE, WR (Bastrop, LA), LSU 3. D.J. FLUKER, OL (Foley, AL), Alabama 4. SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT (St, Louis-Gateway), Missouri 5. MATT BARKLEY, QB (Santa Ana, CA-Mater Dei), USC 6. TRENT RICHARDSON, RB (Pensacola, FL-Escambia), Alabama 7. RUSSELL SHEPARD, QB (Houston-Cy Ridge), LSU 8. DEVON KENNARD, DE (Phoenix, AZ-Desert Vista), USC 9. VONTAZE BURFICT, LB (Corona, CA-Centennial), Arizona State 10. JELANI JENKINS, LB (Olney, MD-Our Lady), Florida

2009 COMMENTS: Poor Russell Shepard.

2010 1. RONALD POWELL, DE (Moreno Valley, CA), Florida 2. SEANTREL HENDERSON, OL (St. Paul, MN-Cretin Durham), Miami (FL) 3. KYLE PRATER, WR (Hillside, IL-Proviso West), USC 4. SHARIFF FLOYD, DT (Philadelphia, PA-Washington), Florida 5. KEENAN ALLEN, WR (Greensboro, NC-Northern Guilford), Cal 6. ROBERT WOODS, ATH (Gardena, CA), USC 7. DOMINIQUE EASLEY, DT (Staten Island, NY-Curtis), Florida 8. OWAMAGBE ODIGHIZUWA, DE (Portland, OR-David Douglas), UCLA 9. DA'RICK ROGERS, WR (Calhoun, GA), Tennessee 10. MARCUS LATTIMORE, RB (Duncan, SC-Byrnes), South Carolina

2010 COMMENTS: My favorite story in this class was Seantrel Henderson picking Miami, as rumor had it, because it would help his father's fledgling hip-hop career. You can't make that up.

2011 1. JADEVEON CLOWNEY, DE (Rock Hill, SC), South Carolina 2. CURTIS GRANT, LB (Richmond, VA-Hermitage), Ohio State 3. GEORGE FARMER, WR (Gardena, CA), USC 4. CYRUS KOUANDJIO, OL (Hyattsville, MD-DeMatha), Alabama 5. DE'ANTHONY THOMAS, ATH (Los Angeles, CA-Crenshaw), Oregon 6. LA'EL COLLINS, OL (Baton Rouge-Redemptionist), LSU 7. HASEAN CLINTON-DIX, DB (Orlando, FL-Phillips), Alabama 8. KARLOS WILLIAMS, DB (Davenport, FL-Ridge), Florida State 9. RAY DREW, DE (Thomasville, GA), Georgia 10. MALCOLM BROWN, RB (Cibolo, TX-Steele), Texas

2011 COMMENTS: Jadeveon Clowney? Yes, Jadeveon Clowney.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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