My recruiting coverage this year was curtailed a little bit by the need to focus on other pressing issues. Let's face it, my day job often goes into the evenings, and what time I have had to write lately has been focused on Georgia's search for a defensive coordinator and then the aftermath of that search.
That doesn't mean I won't be covering recruiting. Oh, we'll be feeding you a steady diet of the stuff over the next week (with a schedule to follow in the Fan Posts later).
But for now, let's consider where things stand on the eve of National Signing Day, including some of the relevant storylines. Caveat: go ahead and insert all cautions and/or complaints about recruiting rankings being 100% hooey right here. That being said, here's where things stand:
1. The SEC is still the place to be. According to Rivals the conference currently has 6 of the top 10 classes in the country. Curiously, none of the other 6 SEC teams is currently ranked in the top 25, demonstrating the divide between the conferences current haves (Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia) and the rest of the group.
Georgia currently sits 10th in the rankings after the decommitment of LB Deon Rogers. With 18 players pledged, Georgia could move either up or down significantly depending on the decisions of several prospects who will be announcing on Signing Day, a marked departure for a staff known for wrapping up classes before Christmas.
2. Gene Chizik, I'm sorry. Look, I had as much fun as anyone watching Auburn's coaching search tilt from one windmill to another before settling on a guy even the Auburn faithful had trouble believing in. And I thought caravanning around the Yellowhammer State in limousines was at best harmless and at worst worthy of Nick Saban's derision. But that was before Chizik led the WarPlainsTigerSociologists to the Outback Bowl, and before I realized that Auburn's class is currently ranked 4th, right behind Alabama's. And they're still in it for several big name players who could push the class ahead of the Crimson Tide group. All of which means that if Auburn stinks next year it won't be because Chizik can't recruit, but instead because he can't coach.
3. Derek Dooley deserves some credit as well. On the night General Peachfuzz left Knoxville they were burning things in the streets and crafting obscene rock paintings. But Derek Dooley has largely held Tennessee's class together and even picked up some additional pledges to stake the Vols in the #7 position nationally. As we're all keenly aware, he's even trying to snag the top player in the state of Georgia, and has at least gotten him to listen. That takes cajones, and he's done it all without making a fool of himself on the national stage. Who knew it was possible?
I continue to believe that Derek Dooley was a lot better hire than some on Rocky Top initially realized. I also think the corn from a jar crowd is coming around to the same conclusion, to their credit.
4. The Aggies have been Giggin' 'Em. Texas A&M has the 11th ranked class in the country, and perhaps the deepest offensive line class in the country. Anyone who watched the Independence Bowl knows that this is a good sign for an Aggie team that isn't that far from being competitive in the Big 12 South. Sherman's class also includes exceptionally named tailback Mister Jones. As Adam Duritz (rabid Cal Bear fan and sideline celebrity) sang, he's going to be a big star.
5. Some things are impossible to screw up. Even for Rich Rodriguez and Charlie Weis. Arguably the two most underachieving coaches in America still managed to put together top 25 classes, Even whilst one of them was immersed in a long, slow and mildly embarrassing goodbye. Michigan checks in at #19 (though to be fair their class of 26 appears thoroughly mediocre on a player-by-player basis), and Notre Dame checks in at #21. And new Head Irishman Brian Kelly still has the Irish in the hunt for some of the midwest's remaining bluechippers.
All of which goes to show that even when your proud football program has been mismanaged into a smoking shambles, it can still look like a proud program when you're pitching to the right people. Rodriguez probably has one more year at Michigan to show some kind of improvement. Kelly on the other hand just needs to show some sparks on the field in 2010 to convince recruits that the Irish are in fact back. I don't know how they'll do longterm, but I'm predicting that Notre Dame puts together a top 10 recruiting class in 2011 based solely on he type of optimism that can only come from not totally gacking it up in Year 1. Sometimes in life, bare competence is all that's required to gain recognition. At Notre Dame, this is one of those times.
6. And not all situations are hopeless. Just ask Jim Harbaugh. Stanford
I'll be back with more Georgia-centered recruiting coverage as the week progresses. Pull for the Hoop 'Dawgs tonight. As always . . .