After spending six hours on the tarmac waiting for my plane to New York to take off, then grinding out nine hours on CBS College Sports' signing day special, how do I unwind and chill out? I'm driving through New York State, interviewing and watching film on high school prospects in the class of 2010. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?
I guess my most pressing memory of Wednesday's signing period was, like last year, how many kids changed their minds at the last minute and chose to sign with other schools. De-commiting has become a national disease that infects hundreds of players. It has come to the point where a kid's word isn't worth spit.
Critics argue that it is OK, that is a trend, a common practice that can be excused, for kids to make an early commitment, then continue to visit other schools. I would argue that a kid who makes a commitment, then visits other schools, hasn't made a commitment at all. And since nothing is binding until signing day, it makes no sense to commit unless you mean it. In my view, it only makes the kid look bad.
But kids keep doing it. Proviso East's Corey Cooper, one of the leading prospects in the state for 2010, committed to Illinois a few months ago. But he continues to visit other schools. To his credit, Fremd's Christian Lombard, who committed to Notre Dame, has indicated he isn't interested in continuing his recruiting.
What else will I remember about 2009?
Manti Te'o, the nation's top-rated linebacker. The Hawaiian visited the Notre Dame campus in the snow. I thought Notre Dame's chances of getting him were slim and none. No way Te'o would go from Honolulu to South Bend in the winter, right? Well, coach Charlie Weis persisted and Te'o eventually chose Notre Dame over USC. He is the best defensive player recruited by the Irish in 30 years, a real difference-maker, just what the Notre Dame defense so desperately needs.
The rich keep getting richer. It isn't surprising to see that LSU, Ohio State, USC, Texas, Alabama, Florida and Georgia continue to recruit the best talent in the country.
They control their own states, literally putting a fence around the borders to keep in-state talent at home. Per capita, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi produce more Division I prospects than any other state. Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Florida don't have to recruit outside their borders. USC dominates southern California. Meanwhile, even Penn State has to deal with Pittsburgh.
One major question still remains. Where will Bryce Brown go? Brown, in my view, is the best running back in the country. The senior from Wichita, Kan., committed to Miami a long time ago. But there have been rumors that his brother, who attends Miami, is dissatisfied with the school and, consequently, Bryce might be looking elsewhere. He is said to be considering USC and Oregon. He is on a family vacation at the moment--does he got to school?--and is expected to make a decision upon his return.
Obviously, Brown could have an impact on the recruiting sweepstakes. USC already has a dozen top 100 players. Brown could push the Trojans over the top, past LSU in the team rankings. He is the No. 2 player in the country. USC already has the No. 1 player, quarterback Matt Barkley.
If Brown chooses to stay at Miami, the Hurricane could supplant Michigan as the No. 10 team in the recruiting ratings.
Considering the lack of talent in the Midwest during the 2008 season, the Big 10 did better than expected with Ohio State and Michigan in the top 10 and Michigan State, Illinois and Penn State in the conversation. In fact, all 11 conference schools should end up in the top 60, a very commendable accomplishment indeed considering what they had to work with.
Illinois coach Ron Zook has to be wondering what might have been if he hadn't lost three of his top four recruits. But he scored a major coup by persuading Justin Green to switch from Ohio State to Illinois. Green is a superb athlete and will make Illini fans forget that East St. Louis' Kraig Appleton spurned Illinois for Wisconsin. Appleton's teammate, Terry Hawthorne, will be a difference-maker at Illinois whether he plays wide receiver or safety.