Yesterday we brought you a not so indepth look at the current state of SEC football recruiting. As promised, this afternoon we'll be taking a look at the national picture. Just like last time, there are a plethora of schools that are not where you would expect them to be on the road to building their 2008 signing classes.
The prime example is still UCLA. While the Eric Scott incident created a firestorm in the Bruin Nation, Coach Dorrell seems to have weathered it with his usual grace and aplomb. OK, he may not have even known that anything was amiss. But he's still cruising around Westwood in a company car looking for an In-N-Out Burger, and that my friends is a victory for Senor Dorrell.
Just keep smiling. Reporters are like grizzley bears. They can sense fear. They will move along eventually. Just keep smiling. . .
Dorrell's Bruins are in good shape on the recruiting trail. Obviously, UCLA fans can still have their say in shaping the 2008 class by continuing to call for Dorrell's ouster, thereby opening the door for "There's some circumstantial evidence that he may cheatey a little beaty" Petey (moderately sarcastic ht: Conquest Chronicles) to swipe some of the SoCal talent that in a normal universe would flow toward him like so much Hypnotiq. We Georgia fans call the ability to put together a solid recruiting effort then watch it fall to pieces once you fire the guy who put it together "the Donnan maneuver". It hurts like hell in the short term, but is often necessary in the long run.
Something is also cooking in South Bend, and it's not bratwurst. It's tuna, baby. Or Baby Tuna. Whatever. The fat, I mean fact, is that Charlie Weis is pulling in players from across the country that even recruiting analysts not named Tom Lemming think are better than average, like the impeccably named John Goodman (who killed in Oh Brother Where Art Thou), qb Dayne Crist (who was clearly sent to save Notre Dame football from the sins of Tyrone Willingham and already has the same barber as little Jimmy Clausen). Rivals even ranks the Domers' incoming class as the best in the country so far.
What does this mean? I think it means that Weis, like Nick Saban, has proven that traditional powers with strong fan/alumni bases can always recruit well if they create the proper buzz around the program. Despite the fact that Weis has gotten thwacked by Michigan, spanked by USC and unmercifully throttled by LSU, Notre Dame still has some cache. Student athletes still believe the program is heading in the right direction.
I think it also means that Charlie has until about 2009 to deliver the goods. After signing the 8th ranked classes in the country in 2007 and 2006, there will soon be no excuses for not making at least a title game appearance, at least in the minds of Notre Dame fans who have the impression that they've been winning with inferior talent. 2007 will test the patience of Notre Dame fans (8-4 would be a minor miracle), but the question in my mind is whether early losses to Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan (all possible and maybe even probable) would derail the Irish recruiting train.
Another team that just shouldn't be where it is? Florida State. Bobby Bowden was supposed to be drooling away on the deck of a condo in Destin by now. Instead, he's got Rivals 4th rated class as of today. He's got versatile quarterback E.J. Manuel, tackling machine (and grillz spokesman) Nigel Bradham. Should the ROBC (Really Ole Ball Coach) need someone to fetch aft the prune juice, he even has his own British Footman.
Speaking of crotchety old bastards, Joe Paterno has been sitting around watching his assistants put together a better than average class for the Nittany Lions. While small, the class consists of guys who are pretty highly regarded. Joe Pa will of course fill in his class with better than average talent from western Pennsylvania, and call it a day by January 1. He will then spend the remaining month until National Signing Day by rising every morning, thanking God that he woke up, then unceremoniously turning south to flick off Papa Bowden from afar.
Playing the Walter Matthua to Bobby Bowden's Jack Lemon since 1904.
Also surprising is the performance put in by new University of Miami boss Randy Shannon. When not referring to his players as butt buddies, he's been putting together a class that includes one of the three best defensive tackles in the country, arguably the top defensive back in the country, and a whole host of south Florida players who want to carry on the proud tradition of Michael Irvin and Lieutenant Winslow. God help us.
If you're looking for a favorite to win the mythical "National Recruiting Title", I would offer you Southern Cal. At this point, Pete Carroll's class ranks 7th according to Rivals, but they are tied with Ohio State for the highest rating per player (4.0 stars out of a possible 5). Perhaps most interesting is the fact that 11 of Carroll's 13 verbal pledges are from the state of California. He's still waiting on a host of big name players from across the country who will fly out to L.A. in November and decide it's a whole lot nicer than November in South Bend, Ann Arbor or Madison. It's also entirely possible that USC could fail to draw another offensive lineman for the next 5 and a half months and still have the top offensive line class in the country.
That's about it for surprising factoids. Going forward, I predict we'll see a lot more decommitments, switched commitments and kids who just don't know what they want to do. This season has certainly seen more high profile players commit earlier than ever before, and some of them are going to have second thoughts. Don't be surprised to see at least one coach being accused of poaching someone's else's commitments. 'Tis the season for such things. I'll be back tomorrow with something strictly Dawgocentric. Until then . . .