Colleges Post Their 2015 Recruiting Classes
By Bo Carter
College Correspondent, sportsandoutdoors.guru
Steve Spurrier, aka The Ol’ Ball Coach and the only mentor in Southeastern Conference annals to win 100 career games at two different schools, put it aptly when talking about the lack of suspense in Signing Day news during the 21st Century.
“We didn’t have any ‘hat’ signings today (Wednesday),” he said with a smile. “We had 24 commitments sewn up before Signing Day, and it was just a matter of getting the paperwork.”
“Hat” signings are youngsters who save their decisions for the morning of Signing Day – usually 8 a.m. in the local time zones, the first allowable time for announcements – and put on the logoed cap of the university they chose.
Some even have 3-4 school caps on the dais to add suspense and boost ESPNU drama as the network is a veritable information fountain overflowing with news and expert analyses on the annual signing date.
In this week’s case 35,000-plus student-athletes, and this number does not count the junior college football signing period from Dec. 17-31. 2014, where several keys slots were filled, inked probable four-year (or more) grants. The probable element is for NCAA Division I/FBS football where full-ride scholarships now are scheduled for four years with school options to extend aid time if a student-athlete switches majors or has a year of playing eligibility left and opts to stay as a senior.
Some old-time football recruiting observers actually seemed to enjoy the intrigue of the pre-ESPN (1979) days. Those escapades included such on-the-spot ethics’ and downright lack of civility issues as these:
* One school in the Southeast had a ”spy” checking the blackboard at its rival school and began calling recruits who were signing at their homes later in the day with such facts and arguments as: School A just signed its fourth offensive lineman. You’ll never play there. They already have eight offensive lineman coming back from last year.”
* School C just signed a second quarterback, and they already told him he was going to be moved to defensive back. You don’t want to go there. You’ll never see the ball on offense.
* Parent calling a school recruiting her son (in the pre-cellphone and no-texting days): I can’t find my son. He said he was going to dinner with Coach D last night, and schools E and F have been calling all morning asking if he had made his decision (note: this is a true story, and a graduate assistant stood outside the door of a designated hotel room to make sure no “guests” appeared until the recruiting coach could get the necessary signing papers to the youngster who was in a virtual kidnap situation.
The American Football Coaches Association under the wise guidance of former Baylor head coach Grant Teaff joined the NCAA and National Letter of Intent Program, chaired for years by late Southwest Conference commissioner Fred Jacoby, later put an end to most of those practices.
Then the NCAA had to find a way to try an limit the number of Tweets or printed materials that could be sent to a hot prospect, and all parties could not come up with a final viable option. Common sense has gone out the window in most of those situations.
The 2015 version of Signing Day actually does contain much less intrigue than the 1970s and 1980s where some schools had simple chalkboards in booster club rooms to denote signings. The NCAA later changed the rules, but a head coach with a Learjet or the like could go to each student-athlete’s hometown, visit the high school, and (at one point) have his photo taken with the high school gridder and proud parents.
That was one of the first cost-saving and common-sense provisions the NCAA decided the implement in the middle 1970s to even the scholarship playing field. Smaller Division I schools could not put a head coach on a jet and go to all 30-35 (at the time) grant-in-aid recipients, and later measures called for no travel whatsoever by a head coach on signing day, no pre-planned “recruiting parties” with influential alumni and nearby signees at the signing schools’ sites and no “extraordinary” news conferences for signees arranged by schools.
With some oral commitments now being made as far out as there years for football student-athletes, the high schools (especially the ones loaded with prospects) now hold school-wide assemblies with the head coaches and student-athletes and parents/guardians signing the hard copies of Letters of Intent and whisking them away to administrative assistants to fax back to eager schools.
It now also is common practice for the head caches to hold news conferences almost any time after noon (local times) to make comments on the classes (in this case Freshmen Class of 2019) with all signees’ names enumerated with their oodles of honors and simultaneous Tweets and mass posting to official school websites.
Of course, ESPNU (the college-designated arm of the Disney megaprize and ABC/ESPN Family of Netwroks) has its highest ratings of the year traditionally with Signing Day coverage similar to a U.S. Presidential election. Correspondents stand by at virtually all the 128 NCAA FBS members and are granted rare, one-on-one interviews with head coaches such as Spurrier.
Another cloud that darkened Texas area recruiting for many years until the middle 1990s was the University Interscholastic League’s banning of university-sponsored summer football camps for kids as young as six or seven and going through junior years in high school. When that rule was rescinded, the Texas-based schools had a better chance of getting the solid local talent, which often escaped to SEC, Big Ten Conference, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, or Miami (Fla.) programs when the Hurricanes were independents.
The 2015 crop is among the finest in Lone Star State history, and again time will tell if No. 1 recruit nationally (Gatorade and Parade magazine 2014 Player of the Year) QB Kyler Murray of Allen HS and Texas A&M can duplicate his father Kevin’s efforts when he led then-coach Jackie Sherrill’s Aggies to the first two of a school-record three consecutive SWC crowns from 1985-87. There even is speculation that the multi-talented baseball shortstop-football quarterback might sign a pro baseball contract in the summer 2015 Major League draft and miss most of two-a-days while playing in the minors. Wait and see on that one.
Among the Nos. 2-10 high school prospects in Texas, No. 2 DT Daylon Mack of Gladewater was a late commitment and signee with coach Kevin Sumlin’s Top 10-rated national class, No. 3 CB Kendall Sheffield of Missouri City Thurgood Marshall HS inked with Alabama, No. 4 RB Soso Jamabo (who also is expected to play college basketball) of Plano West HS went with grid-hoops-tradition-rich UCLA, and No. 5 OLB Malik Jefferson of Mesquite Poteet HS signed with Texas (which was rated as the Big 12 Conference’s top recruiting class of ’15 and as high as No. 7 nationally in one survey).
No. 6 prospect from Texas RB Ronald Jones II of McKinney North is headed for “Tailback U” and Southern California, No. 7 QB Jarrett Stidham of Stephenville inked with Baylor and Stephenville HS coaching legend (current Bears’ chief) Art Briles, No. 8 WR DeMarkus Lodge of Cedar Hill (which had a single-day national record of 19 football signees Wednesday under head coach Joey McGuire) was a ‘hat’ signes while donning the Ole Miss red and blue logoed cap, No. 9 safety Deionte Thompson of West Orange-Starke HS went with Alabama, and No. 10 LB Anthony Wheeler of Dallas Skyline HS signed with Texas.
Among the local schools, SMU and new head coach Chad Morris made some strong turnaround inroads with the likes of newcomers wideouts James Proche and Kevin Thomas of DeSoto, KS Josh Williams of Rowlett, and LB Mitchell Kaufman of Highland Park. TCU, coming off a 12-1 season under coaching genius Gary Patterson, added five standouts at wide receiver where there are key 2015 season depth needs along with “big-uns” linemen Sam Awolope of Fort Bend Marshall HS, David Bolisomi, of Denton Ryan HS and Joseph Broadnax of Dallas Bryan Adams.
North Texas bagged another top recruiting class for head coach Dan McCarney, whose 2014 season was haunted by youth and key injuries. Among those set to bolster the 2015 Eagles are OL Jordan Murray of Coppell, DB Ashton Preston of Edmond, Okla., DB Taylor Robinson of Keller, and DB Kevin Smith of Spring Dekaney HS.
Baylor also found gold (and green) with inklings RB JaMycal Hasty, wideouts Blake Lynch and Devontre Stricklin, and highly-touted C-TE Sam Tecklenburg (HUDL). Texas Tech was rated as high as 27th in the nation by one recruiting survey thanks to sterling newcomers such as OL Conner Dyer of Mesquite Horn HS, OL Trace Ellison of Frisco Centennial HS, DL Breiden Fehoko of Honolulu’s Farrington HS, and WR Jonathan Giles of Missouri City Fort Bend Elkins HS.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State made their traditional southern reaches into Texas to come away with promising 2015 freshmen (OU) safety Kahlil Haughton of Waco Midway HS, OG Dominique Hearne of Lancaster, and WR
John Humphrey of League City Clear Falls HS, and (OSU) safety Bryce Balous of McKinney North HS, DE Louis Brown of Burton, and LB Jordan Burton of Kilgore HS.
One of the more interesting signings of the day was a 4-Star national wide receiver Cordell Broadus – son of the famed rapper Snoop Dogg who coached Cordell in youth football since the prospect was six years old – of Southern California. The Trojans did not have to venture very far to locate the talented Son of Dogg.
Yet another footnote is that the Southeastern Conference boasted 12 teams in the Top 25-rated 2015 recruiting classes and defending College Football Playoff champ Ohio State reloaded its already-deep lineup with QB Cardele Jones and RB Ezekiel Elliott and is projected by many early birds as a repeat winner.
And finally for those who wanted a bit of intrigue, here were five Top 10 national choices who waited until Wednesday to show their hats at signing time: OT Martez Ivey of Florida, DE Byron Cowart of Auburn, DB Iman Marshall of Southern California, DE CeCe Jefferson of Florida, and DE Terry Beckner of Missouri.
Now, let’s see if these prospects can play at the next level.
Bo Carter is former sports information director of the Southwest Conference and Big 12. He currently serves as secretary of the College Baseball Writers. Follow Bo on Twitter at #bcarter52 and Facebook at Bo Carter (Carrollton, Texas).