National Signing Day is upon us once again. Or, as it might as well be known now, the day Nick Saban and Urban Meyer bash everyone’s head together one more time. The next class of All-Americans, of Heisman Trophy winners, of future stars and wacky headlines becomes official on Wednesday, and no one truly knows which players will ultimately belong where. And that’s the magic of it all.
Let’s dive right into some storylines.
– Nick or Urban? Urban or Nick? Heading into Wednesday’s festivities, Alabama and Ohio State are in a neck-and-neck duel for the best class according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Alabama holds a slight lead with 310.26 total points to Ohio State’s 308.78, but Ohio State (94.62) holds the edge over the Tide (93.01) in per-player average. Alabama owns five 5-stars and 14 4-stars among its 24 commitments, while Ohio State has landed five 5-stars and 13 4-stars among its 20 pledges.
– A Smart blueprint. The harbinger of Saban’s ultimate dominance came on Signing Day in 2008 when, after a 7-6 debut, Alabama inked a No. 1 class in its first full cycle under the new staff. Kirby Smart was there for that rise, and now he’s repeating the script in Athens. After an 8-5 debut campaign, Smart’s first full class has leaped from No. 8 to No. 3 nationally, per 247 composite. With two 5-stars and 18 4-stars among its 23 pledges, Georgia won’t likely catch Alabama or Ohio State but is a safe distance away from Michigan for the No. 3 ranking.
– Texas becomes the No Star State. In a year that should give longtime observers flash backs to the dark days of the 1990’s, only four of the top 20 players in the state of Texas are committed to in-state schools. In fact, Ohio State may sign as many Texas blue-chippers as the in-state schools combined, with No. 1 defensive back Jeffrey Okudah, No. 1 linebacker Baron Browning and No. 1 running back J.K. Dobbins already in the fold and an outside shot at landing No. 1 overall player Marvin Wilson. At present, only linebacker Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) and offensive lineman Jack Anderson (Texas Tech) are committed to in-state schools among the state’s top-10 players.
– Is Signing Day going to be… boring? Only 17 of the national top 100 players of the 247 composite ranking are uncommitted as of this writing. Among the top 25, only Wilson (an LSU lean) and Georgia linebacker Aubrey Solomon (Michigan or Alabama) remain uncommitted. Though the headliners may not offer much in the way of suspense, there are still plenty of second- and third-tier players lining up for our entertainment on Wednesday. If we’re lucky, perhaps one will announce his school choice while riding on the back of a dolphin.
A postseason injury has forced Shane Buechele to undergo an offseason medical procedure.
Buechele suffered a torn abductor muscle in his hip/abdomen in the first half of Texas’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri and didn’t return in the second half. Nearly a month later, the football program has announced that the quarterback will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the damage.
If rehab goes as planned, Buechele is expected to be on the field when the Longhorns kick off spring practice March 5.
As a true freshman in 2016, Buechele started all 12 games for the Longhorns. This past season was one marred by various injuries.
Buechele started the season opener for Texas, but ceded the job to Sam Ehlinger the next two games because of a bruised throwing shoulder. Returning to the starting lineup in Week 5, Buechele suffered an ankle injury in the win over Iowa State that allowed Ehlinger to start the next three games. In the last of those three games, Ehlinger suffered a head injury that left him in concussion protocol and opened the door for Buechele to start five of the last six games of the season.
Buechele and Ehlinger will be the two veterans battling for the starting job once spring practice kicks off in March.
It is going to take some more time to dive deep into the pros and cons of limiting the size of a football staff before the NCAA Division 1 Council decides what to do. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Division 1 Council has decided to table a legislative proposal focusing on setting parameters on the size of a football staff, meaning this topic should pop up again a year from now.
The proposal aims to cap the size of any football staff at 30 people and determine who may be eligible to participate in on-campus recruiting efforts. Those assigned recruiting duties, including head and assistant coaches, would then be required to pass an annual test on recruiting practices. At this time, however, there appears to be too much confusion and uncertainty about how the proposal would impact programs now. With so many questions about the proposal, it was best to put this one on the table and spend the next year examining how it could impact college football programs.
“I went to the American Football Coaches Association meeting, and there were a lot of questions about how this was going to work,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the chair of the oversight committee, said in a release shared by the NCAA. “The coaches wanted to know who was going to be included, how they would be certified and who was exempted.”
This topic has already been floating out there since last spring, and with recent adjustments from the NCAA to allow for a 10th full-time assistant coach, it appears this will be the next step in the evolution of ruling how large a football staff can be.
The Miami Hurricanes opened the new year with a loss in the Orange Bowl in their home stadium, but the Hurricanes marked the bowl game down in their records as a neutral site game. Not so fast, says the NCAA. That loss to the Badgers will go down as a home loss for the Hurricanes.
Because the NCAA officially records the Orange Bowl as a home game for Miami any time the Hurricanes happen to play in the bowl game hosted in their home stadium, the wins and losses are reflected on Miami’s home record. This is true for any team playing a bowl game in their home stadium, including any time UCLA appears in the Rose Bowl or San Diego State in the Holiday Bowl or Poinsettia Bowl.
Prior to losing to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl this past season, Miami was riding nine-game winning streak in Hard Rock Stadium dating back to November 5, 2016. Miami will get a chance to hit the reset button on their home winning streak on September 8 with a home game against Savannah State.
Former LSU running back Kevin Faulk could be set to return to the Tigers program in a new role if the SEC will allow it. According to a report from The Advocate, Faulk is being lined up to join the LSU football support staff, but his addition must be thoroughly vetted first.
Because Faulk is a high school coach, LSU and the SEC must be certain he has no direct ties to any LSU football players on the roster. This is to ensure the staff change complies with a new NCAA rule prohibiting schools from hiring high school coaches for a two-year period when any player from that associated high school enrolls at the university. As long as there are no players on LSU’s roster with any ties to Faulk’s high school coaching within the past two years, the staff change should become official.
Having Faulk associated with the program would be good to see considering how much Faulk meant to LSU during his college career. Faulk rushed for a school-record 4,557 yards and 46 rushing touchdowns. Both are records that stand today despite some extremely talented running backs over the years. Since Faulk’s final season at LSU in 1998, Leonard Fournette has come the closest to Faulk’s career rushing total with 3,830 yards in three years. Fournette is also the closest to Faulk since Faulk played to the school record for career rushing touchdowns, with 40.
Supposing the staff addition does go through, Faulk will not be involved with any off-campus recruiting efforts or on-field coaching assignments, but he will assist with player development.