Throughout Signing Day, SI's Andy Staples will chime in with analysis and observations -- and updates on Pete Carroll's Twitter status.
7:51 p.m.: Curious case of VT
Before you pop the screw top on that bottle of Two-Buck Chuck you've been saving to celebrate your team's finish in the annual recruiting rankings, do me a favor. Grab Metallica’s Black album, crank Enter Sandman and consider the curious case of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
According to Rivals.com's system, which averages the number of "stars" assigned to each signee, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and his staff are average recruiters at best. The Hokies' past six recruiting classes have an average rank of No. 26, including a dismal No. 41 in 2004. In four of those seasons, at least three of the Hokies' ACC brethren ranked higher.
Here's what's funny. For all their perceived failures on the recruiting trail, Beamer and company seem to have little trouble winning on the field. From 2004-08, Virginia Tech won 52 games. That's more than everyone else in the ACC and more than every BCS-conference school except USC, Texas and Oklahoma. The Hokies won three ACC titles and played for the title four times in that span, yet Miami, which has yet to beat Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title, has been ranked higher every single year -- and usually by a lot.
It's easy to blame Miami's coaching and praise Beamer's get-the-little-things-right, block-a-punt-every-game style, but the fact is that Virginia Tech has had some very good players. Those players just didn’t have as many stars by their names when they signed to go to Blacksburg.
Here's a list of Virginia Tech's recruiting rankings for the past six years. Next to Virginia Tech's ranking is a list of every ACC team that ranked higher.
2009: 24 (No. 6 FSU, No. 8 North Carolina, No. 11 Miami)
2008: 18 (No. 5 Miami, No. 12 Clemson)
2007: 29 (No. 16 Clemson, No. 17 UNC, No. 18 Georgia Tech, No. 19 Miami, No. 21 FSU)
2006: 32 (No. 3 FSU, No. 4 Miami, No. 15 Clemson, No. 30 UNC)
2005: 14 (No. 2 FSU, No. 7 Miami)
2004: 41 (No. 3 FSU, No. 4 Miami, No. 17 Maryland, No. 24 Boston College, No. 28 N.C. State, No. 36 UNC, No. 40 Virginia)
Clearly, Virginia Tech recruits don't get the same bump as the players being recruited by fellow 10-win-a-year clubbers Florida, Ohio State Oklahoma, Texas and USC. The Hokies, for whatever reason, aren’t considered sexy. Now, take a look at a list of the six winningest ACC programs from 2004-08.
1. Virginia Tech 52
2. Boston College 48
3. Florida State 40
4. Georgia Tech 39
5. Miami 37
6. Wake Forest 36
It seems that, at least as far as the ACC is concerned, the recruiting gurus need to take off their star goggles.
6:39 p.m.: Undecided? Flip a coin
Sometimes, the merits of two schools mirror each other so closely that a prospect just can’t choose. So what’s a tormented blue-chipper to do? He can pull a Terrelle Pryor or a Bryce Brown and delay signing until the heavens align properly, or he can do what Winslow Township, N.J., linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud did.
He flipped a coin.
Glaud was so conflicted by his choice -- Rutgers or West Virginia -- that when Winslow Township principal Glen Jackson handed him a quarter as a joke, Glaud took it as a sign. He assigned heads to West Virginia and tails to Rutgers. Then he tossed.
The coin landed on tails, and Glaud slid a Rutgers cap over his dome seconds later. "Mr. Jackson asked me if I wanted to flip a quarter," Glaud told The (Camden, N.J.) Courier-Post. "I guess he thought I was joking, but I was serious."
5:12 p.m.: Profitable recruit
College football fans who follow the NCAA's other big-money sport should have little trouble with this little exercise. I'm going to list a few traits. Tell me what kind of person I'm describing.
- He doesn't work at a high school, but he coaches high school-age athletes in a sport they also play at their high school.
- He may or may not profit financially from this arrangement, but he certainly has the opportunity to profit.
- Through his relationships with college coaches, he helps steer players toward particular schools.
- He may or may not profit professionally from the arrangement (e.g., get a better job), but he certainly has the opportunity.
That's pretty easy, isn't it? I've just described a travel-team basketball coach.
Now read this fantastic story by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans in Wednesday's New York Times. It's a profile of Brian Butler, a former T-Mobile call center manager from Wichita, Kan., who has emerged as the central figure in the recruitment of Wichita East High tailback Bryce Brown. Brown is considered the nation's No. 1 overall prospect by Rivals.com, and he may wait as long as another month before he picks a school. That's a move more common among hoopsters. Butler, it seems, has brought the sensibilities of a travel-team basketball coach to the gridiron.
According to the Times story -- as well as this story by CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd and this story by ESPN The Magazine's Bruce Feldman -- Butler charges players to train them. He also asks fans to subscribe to his Web site for inside information on the players' recruitments. He also has used his relationship with Miami, which signed Brown's brother, Arthur, last year and hopes to sign Brown this year, to help other players he trains draw interest from other schools by touting real and fictional scholarship offers from the Hurricanes. And like some travel-team coach, Butler also has managed to royally tick off his star player's high school coach.
So is Butler crooked? Depends on who is judging. While he has ridden the talent of the Brown brothers into a new career, he also has helped players who might otherwise never have drawn interest from big-time schools. Also, plenty of prospects claim scholarship offers they don't actually have to drum up interest; it's dishonest, but it's also how the game has been played for a long time.
When I mentioned travel-team basketball coaches, a wave of nausea probably shot through you. But we write mostly about the unsavory ones; the vast majority are interested only in helping young people. So which is Butler? That remains to be seen. If he was completely crooked, though, he could have operated in the shadows like the "street agents," who leech off talented high schoolers with the hope that, if the player makes the NFL, they can ride his coattails to a payday. Butler does his business in the open. Whether schools and the NCAA will allow that to continue is another question.
And even if the NCAA doesn't rewrite its rules to hamper Butler, the law of supply and demand might drive him out of business. The Brown brothers drew tremendous interest from schools, but few others have since Barry Sanders -- who didn't get as much interest as he should have because he didn't play running back until the fourth game of his senior season -- graduated from North High in 1986.
Between 2004-08, only 77 players from Kansas signed with BCS-conference schools. Of those, few would inspire a fan to fork over $9.95 a month to read about their recruitment. So if Butler wants to maintain his influence and his profitability, he may want to consider moving to California, Florida or Texas. If he just wants to help football players get scholarships, he should stay right where he is.
3:01 p.m.: L.A. Monopoly?
Rick Neuheisel may be on the way toward fulfilling the promise he made in a full-page ad in The Los Angeles Times in August. Neuheisel promised to end USC's football monopoly in the city, and there are only two ways to do that. Beat the Trojans on the field -- that didn't work; UCLA lost, 28-7 -- or beat the Trojans for players so the Bruins can someday win on the field.
Wednesday, Neuheisel notched a head-to-head win when Timpview (Provo, Utah) offensive lineman Xavier Su'a Filo announced he would sign with the Bruins. Also, the Bruins signed Carson (Calif.) receiver Morrell Presley, who committed to USC in summer 2007 only to decommit and pledge to UCLA on Dec. 18, 2008.
Two players do not a paradigm shift make, but Neuheisel has made some headway. No one should cry for the Trojans, though. They're still bringing in quarterback Matt Barkley, offensive tackle Kevin Graf, safety Jawanza Starling, linebacker Frankie Telfort and a host of fellow blue-chippers. So, while Neuheisel and UCLA are on the right track, this version of the ad remains the most accurate.
2:29 p.m.: Randle to LSU
Reuben Randle, the nation's top-rated receiver, has picked LSU, but did the Tigers have to nudge Randle's former high school teammate out of the class to land Randle?
Follow the bouncing links...
Tuesday, the Monroe (La.) News-Star reported that former Bastrop High star DeAngelo Benton -- who signed with LSU out of high school in 2007 and out of prep school in 2008 but never qualified academically -- would try to make the third time the charm in Baton Rouge.
In the same story, the News-Star referenced a radio interview Randle's father, Emmett, gave on Tuesday expressing concern over the number of receivers LSU planned to sign. Randle also was quoted by Monroe television station KTVE, according to a story in The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate as saying "It's nothing personal. It's just a depth chart issue."
Tuesday, Reuben Randle told the Bastrop Daily Enterprise he might not choose a school on national signing day.
Wednesday, Reuben Randle announced at a press conference that he would sign with LSU. Benton signed with ... Auburn?
12:38 p.m.: Te'o on a prayer
Manti Te'o prayed on his decision until 5 a.m. Hawaii time. A couple of hours later, the best Mormon player in America made a bunch of Catholics really, really happy.
Many recruits mention praying about their decision, but in Te'o's case, religion was a key factor in his recruitment. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Te'o is considering serving a two-year mission following his freshman season. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was on board with that plan from the start, and his willingness to help a member of another Christian denomination feel comfortable at the nation's most prominent Catholic school may have helped him land Notre Dame's most important signee in years.
The past few USC-Notre Dame games proved the Fighting Irish simply didn't have the athletes to compete at an elite level. Winning the signature of Te'o, one of USC's priority recruits, proves that Notre Dame is serious about closing that gap. Notre Dame has not had a first-team All-American on defense since cornerback Shane Walton in 2002, but college coaches who recruited Te'o believe he could reach that level.
Some say the Irish chose to play in the Hawaii Bowl strictly to court Te'o. That may be true, but the way Weis handled the personal and spiritual sides of Te'o's recruitment is why this thoughtful, intelligent tackling machine is headed to South Bend.
"Charlie Weis is a great man," Te'o told me Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-American Bowl. "On my official visit, he took me to the LDS church over there. They're very welcoming of athletes from different faiths." Te'o's father, Brian, also thought Manti would fit in well in South Bend. "I've noticed with Manti that those environments that are faith-based are the ones he feels more comfortable in," Brian Te'o said.
Now, the question is when Te'o will make an impact. Should he choose to serve a mission, it may be 2012 or 2013 -- if he redshirts upon his return -- before Te'o plays his sophomore season. Wednesday, Te'o told ESPNU the mission would come after the 2009 season. He turns 19 (the youngest at which Mormon men can serve a mission) in January 2010. "I'll play one year, and after my freshman year, if I decide to, I'll leave," Te'o told ESPNU.
If he does, the Irish will be more than happy to wait for his return.
Mormons face unique issues [SI.com]
11:33 a.m.: Myles a Volunteer
It's on like Donkey Kong in the SEC. Carver (Atlanta) High safety Darren Myles just went on ESPNU, tossed aside an Alabama hat and an LSU hat and slid a Tennessee hat on his head. Myles is only one player, but his denial of Alabama and LSU in favor of Tennessee is proof of what we expected when Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin assembled his gold-plated staff -- another shark has jumped into the SEC tank.
Myles' choice is a big deal, especially considering the fact that the Tennessee staff has been together for only a month. LSU coach Les Miles probably doesn't feel so bad, because his team just beat Kiffin's for Greenwood (S.C.) defensive end Sam Montgomery, but this could only be a preview of rockfights to come. When Kiffin assembled a staff that included his dad, Monte, former USC recruiting coordinator and Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron, former Alabama assistant Lance Thompson and former South Carolina assistant David Reaves, the sheer incest of it all signaled a new era of ugliness in the conference.
Get ready for more drama today. The Vols are poking another elite rival with a stick, actively courting Pahokee (Fla.) receiver Nu'Keese Richardson, who has been committed to Florida since May, and Paris (Tenn.) athlete Marsalis Teague, who committed to Florida in December. Richardson has moved his announcement from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Teague is scheduled to announce his choice at 1 p.m.
9:11 a.m.: Carroll tuning up
There may be no better window into the mind - or at least the ears - of a football coach suffering from a full-blown case of recruiting fever than the Twitter feed belonging to USC's Pete Carroll. For the past few days, Carroll has posted the soundtrack for his recruiting endeavors.
At 1:42 p.m. on Jan. 28, Carroll thumbed the following message into TwitterBerry: "Currently playing on my ipod (aka the song of the day): "barracuda" by Heart. Great song!!!" Presumably, Carroll, distraught over Arizona State's continued attempts to poach five-star linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Tennessee's attempts to poach receiver Alshon Jeffrey, turned to the Wilson sisters in his time of distress. He had to be thinking of Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson and Volunteers coach -- and former USC assistant -- Lane Kiffin as he sang along: "You're lying so low in the weeds/I bet you're gonna ambush me/You'd have me down, down, down, down on my knees/Now wouldn't you, barracuda?"
Either that, or Carroll really wanted to rock out to Alone and he click-wheeled one song too far on his Heart playlist.
The next day, at 11:23 a.m., Carroll posted this: "Loving Bob Marley's "stir it up" right now... Awesome song! Let's go get it today!!" That day, Carroll hosted official visitor Manti Te'o, the Laie, Hawaii, linebacker we chronicled last week. Te'o's other two finalists are Notre Dame and UCLA -- two USC rivals -- so Carroll needed inspiration. Marley, as he always does, came through with this verse: "It's been a long, long time, yeah!/(stir it, stir it, stir it together)/Since I got you on my mind. (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh) oh-oh!/Now you are here (stir it, stir it, stir it together), I said/It's so clear/There's so much we could do, baby, (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh). Hopefully, Carroll repeated this verbatim, right down to the last ooh-ooh-ooh.
Friday, at 12:10 p.m., Carroll posted this: "Shoutout to Troy Polamalu with today's song of the day: Bob Marley's [Redemption Song]... Troy loves Marley... Go get em, troy!" Since Carroll explained it, I can't fabricate a reason for this song choice. That's fine, since I'm loathe to poke fun at my all-time favorite tune.
That said, you can emancipate yourself from mental slavery today and learn the destinations of the nation's top recruits by checking SI.com regularly. If you don't feel like pressing F5 all day, just sign up for my Twitter feed. I'll send out signing news as it happens, and I'll send out a link every time I post an analysis piece or an interview with a coach or a signee.
Team-by-team commitment lists [Rivals.com]
Ranking the top 100 prospects [Rivals.com]
Live updates for Signing Day [Rivals.com]
Top 25 2009 college classes [Rivals.com]
Highlight video of top 25 recruits [Rivals.com]