Recapping National Signing Day

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We have to ask. Did you get what you wanted on National Signing Day?

Yes? No?

Actually, you’ll probably find out in the next two to four years, and whether your school’s class was ranked first, or 50th, it matters not; most of the National Letters of Intent have been faxed in — a prehistoric method — and now it’s up the recruits and coaches to make a successful marriage.

In the meantime, here’s what we learned — or, remembered — from a busy and hectic signing day.

Just remember that everyone’s recruiting classes are like babies. No one’s going to say they have an ugly one.

Alabama wins recruiting title, too 
This year, Alabama came away with the top-rated recruiting class according to two of the three top recruiting sites. Rivals and 247Sports had the Tide ranked No. 1, with Scout placing ‘Bama just behind leader Texas. We could spew a cliché of something along the lines of “the rich just keep getting richer”, but with recruiting and impermissible benefit violations being the sensitive subjects they are, we’ll just say the Tide keep replacing great athletes with more great athletes.

Put it all together like Nick Saban does so well, and there’s no reason to think Alabama won’t be contending for more BCS championships in the foreseeable future.

Anyway, below is how the top sites rate the Top 5 teams at the end of signing day. You can also see the Top 25 rankings for 247Sports.com  HERERivals.com HERE and Scout.com HERE.

To see the sites’ top players: 247Sports.com HERE, Rivals.com HERE and Scout.com HERE.

Wait… i’m noticing a theme here  
As you all are either very proudly or nauseously aware, the SEC has won the last six BCS championships; it’s no coincidence that in the past six signing periods, no fewer than two SEC teams have finished in the Top 10 nationally in recruiting rankings from Rivals.com (incidentally, the lowest number, two, being this year). But no matter how you rank the classes, there’s no denying that the most highly regarded high school athletes are in the south, and most of them choose to stay nearby.

It’s been great for Clemson, Florida State and Miami, too.

Recruiting well without making a splash 
On signing day, the focus tends to drift to a handful of schools who are having big days. Here are some programs who quietly put together solid classes: Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech.

Doing more with less
Sure, USC has spent the last two seasons watching bowl season from home thanks to NCAA sanctions, but the real kick to the groin, scholarship reductions, began this signing class. In all, the Trojans signed just 12 players today (USC had three early enrollees that counted toward the 2011 recruiting class), meaning they have three more scholarships available for next year. Give Lane Kiffin credit, though, for putting together a pretty solid class. And, he seems to have a plan in place over the next few years. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for the Trojans, but if they can be competitive at all in the Pac-12, it would undoubtedly be Kiffin’s best coaching — and recruiting — job in his young career.

Mizzou bends it like Beckham 
Much like conference realignment, the thought of Missouri being the choice for top-ranked athletes is, well, unexpected. But Gary Pinkel reeled in the No. 1 recruit in the country in receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Missouri as a state has produced a few decent athletes in its day, but none in recent memory as big as DGB. Whether it was the “M-I-Z!… D-G-B!” chant at a basketball game, or the school’s move to the SEC, I don’t think anybody at Mizzou cares. They grabbed a recruit who could make an immediate impact.

Stanford sets itself up for life without Luck
Stanford started out quietly having a solid signing day, but by day’s end, had one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Specifically, the Cardinal concentrated on landing three elite offensive lineman and grabbed linebacker Noor Davis out of Florida. Obviously, there will be focus on David Shaw to see how well he does without Andrew Luck, but Stanford’s 2012 class was a resounding reflection of the type of football the Cardinal want to play.

Urban theft 
Perhaps no single team had as dramatic a shift for the better over the past few months in terms of their recruiting class as Ohio State. You can thank Urban Meyer for that. The former Florida coach already plucked some recruits from other Big Ten schools before Wednesday; today, he stole one more from Wisconsin — offensive lineman Kyle Dodson.

Landon Collins signs his LOI without drama
The mother of safety Landon Collins didn’t get her wish today, as Collins officially sent in his signature to Alabama over LSU with, as far as we’re aware, few to zero dishes thrown at any walls. April Justin has publicly voiced her opposition of Collins going to the Tide since his announcement at the All-American Bowl last month and later accused Alabama coach Nick Saban of “stereotyping” her and making decisions for Collins that weren’t in the teenager’s best interest.

In the end, it all went down according to Collins’ plan.

Meanwhile, Josh Harvey-Clemons makes Georgia wait 
Valdosta (Ga.) linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons was one of the first big announcements on signing day, telling ESPNU he would sign with Georgia over Florida and Florida State. By evening, Harvey-Clemons’ signature still hadn’t come through the fax machine. The hold up? Something about an unhappy grandfather and going AWOL. Also, there was a tweet from JHC, but it appeared to be written in Pig Latin … or Egyptian hieroglyphics … or Wingdings. In any case, I think it meant he was still committed to Georgia.

Miles finally makes his move
One of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country, Cyler Miles, had a case of what appeared to be cold feet when he didn’t appear for his signing day ceremony at Mullen (Colo.) High School. Reports were that the No. 35 overall recruit (Rivals) was wavering on his commitment to Washington and considering USC. A few hours later, though, Miles reaffirmed his commitment to the Huskies.

Other unsigned heroes 
We’ve covered a lot of recruits who turned in their letters of intent today, but a few high-profile athletes chose to wait a little longer before making their choice. Among those big names still available to sign are receiver Stefon Diggs, quarterback Jameis Winston and athlete Davonte Neal.

Strangely, signing day was relatively normal
You’d think that when you’re talking about the futures of 17 and 18-year-old kids, there’s bound to be some strange happenings on signing day. Last year, there was the story about the mother forging her son’s signature on a letter of intent, not to mention the kid who made his college decision from a license plate. This year? Nothing so far, not even over-the-top commitment announcements. While personally I’m more thankful for a low-key signing day, it’s obviously far more interesting when a recruit decides to dress three greased pigs in school colors and make the respective head coaches tackle their pig first for that coveted signature.

Phillip Fulmer says he’s ready to help Tennessee recruit again

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Former Tennessee head coach and recently-named athletics director Phillip Fulmer is ready to get back in the mix on the recruiting trail on behalf of the Vols. With a  new head coach in place (Jeremy Pruitt) and a new staff coming together in Knoxville, having Fulmer provide a couple nuggets of insight every now and then can come in handy. After all, Fulmer was recruiting as Tennessee’s head coach for a long time and he has come to learn a thing or two about the recruiting pipeline in Knoxville.

But Fulmer is preparing himself to go another step farther in the recruiting efforts, should he be needed. According to Michael Bratton of Saturday Down South, via Twitter, Fulmer says he has already passed the necessary NCAA testing to be cleared to officially recruit football players to Tennessee.

That is certainly interesting to see because it is not the norm for an athletics director to get involved in the recruiting efforts of a school beyond approving recruiting budgets and events. But if there is any doubt Fulmer has been itching to help get Tennessee back on track as an SEC contender, his move to land the AD role and quick action to clear himself to be able to recruit for the program should speak volumes about his commitment to improving the Vols on the football field even if he is no longer the head coach.

The only question left to answer here is just how involved Fulmer will actually be in the recruiting efforts, or if this is a short-term play as Tennessee builds a new staff just before an early signing period in college football.

Peach Bowl still in doubt for Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway

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The game is still a few weeks away, but Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway‘s availability will be in question every passing day until the Tigers kickoff against UCF in Atlanta. Asked about the possibility of having Pettway retrun from injury to play in the Peach Bowl against the undefeated AAC champions, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said he simply cannot predict what will happen.

“I don’t know the answer to that quite yet,” Malzahn said last week, as noted by Gridiron Now. “It’s hard for me to answer that right now. Maybe as it gets a little closer, I can be a little more accurate.”

Pettway has been sidelined by a shoulder injury, which was expected to cost him a significant amount of playing time for the remainder of the season. However, Auburn never officially ruled Pettway’s season to be done as a result of the injury, which leaft the door open for a possible bowl appearance if Pettway is able to recover in time and be cleared to play.

Pettway has rushed for 305 yards and six touchdowns out of the Auburn backfield this season. Kerryon Johnson has carried the running game for Auburn this season, and Pettway’s potential return would be more of a complimentary role in a bowl game.

Division II, Division III and NAIA title games set while FCS heads into semifinals

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Outside of a thrilling Army-Navy game and the Heisman ceremony, it was an empty Saturday at the highest level of college football.

But no so at the lower levels.

The divisional playoffs are cranked into high gear. Let’s take a brief look at where everything stands in each division.

FCS

Top-seeded and defending champion James Madison needed a last-second field goal to survive visiting Weber State, 31-28, on Friday night, while No. 5 seed South Dakota State routed New Hampshire, 55-14.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed and winner of five of the last six national titles North Dakota State walloped Wofford, 42-10 in Fargo. No. 6 seed Sam Houston State outlasted upstart Kennesaw State, 34-27, to send the Bearkats into their fifth semifinal game in the last seven years.

Semifinals: No. 5 South Dakota State at No. 1 James Madison — 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPNU; No. 6 Sam Houston State at No. 2 North Dakota State — 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2.

Division II

No. 4 seed West Florida traveled north and upset top-seeded Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 on Saturday, to send the Argonauts into their first championship game. No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce fended off the option attack of No. 3 Harding (Ark.), 31-17, putting the Lions in their first title game as well.

National championship: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce vs. No. 4 West Florida — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

Division III

In a similar dynamic to FCS, the defending champion is on a collision course with the traditional champion. In the first semifinal, defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) blanked Brockport (N.Y.), 24-0. The Crusaders will make their third trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, looking to win their second title.

In the other semifinal, Mount Union (Ohio) overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 43-40. The Purple Raiders will play in their 20th Stagg Bowl — all of them coming since 1993, and 19 of them since ’96 — with a shot at their 13th national championship. However, Mount Union has won just — “just” — two national championships since 2009.

National championship: Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) vs. Mount Union (Ohio) — 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN at Salem Stadium in Salem Va.

NAIA

The NAIA was off this weekend, taking a break in between last week’s semifinals and Saturday’s national championship. Defending champion Saint Francis (Ind.) out-gunned previously-undefeated Morningside (Iowa) 43-36 in the first semifinal, while Reinhardt (Ga.) held off undefeated Southern Oregon, 37-34 in double overtime.

National championship: Saint Francis (Ind.) vs. Reinhardt (Ga.) — 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Minnesota lands commitment from 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle

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P.J. Fleck is going to need a bigger boat.

Minnesota has landed a commitment from the largest recruit on record, as 6-foot-8, 395-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele has committed to the Gophers. Faalele made the announcement on his Twitter page on Saturday night.

A 3-star recruit, Faalele is rated as the No. 29 offensive tackle in the country, according to 247Sports. He listed 20 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

As the story goes, Faalele did not find football; football found him. He was discovered by a recruiter from Hawaii working out at a gym in his native Melbourne, Australia. He attended a Michigan satellite camp in Australia and played this season — his first season in pads — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

In making the trip from the Land Down Under to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Faalele will be joined by a pair of IMG Academy teammates in offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, Jr., and quarterback Zack Annexstad, who also committed to Minnesota on Saturday.

Those pledges now give Minnesota the 26th best recruiting class in the country and the sixth best in the Big Ten — but the No. 1 class in the Big Ten West — in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Minnesota’s class may not be the best in the country, but it’s among the biggest — both in size (the Gophers have 25 pledges thus far) and stature.