The Annual Curmudgeonly Take on N.S.D.
By Paul Myerberg // Feb 1, 2012
Once asked whether he preferred his wide receivers to be fast or quick, B.Y.U.’s LaVell Edwards replied, “I’d like them to have both, but if they had both, they’d be at Southern California.” This is true: Yesterday, today and tomorrow, for as long as the weather remains lovely and the Trojans field a team, U.S.C. will win be the preferred landing spot for receivers who are fast and quick, not to mention for any five-star prospect who views the N.C.A.A. as a boarding school on the road to N.F.L. riches. What’s left to be said about national signing day? Those who are fast and quick are swooped by the national powers. Those who are fast but not quick, quick but not fast, fast but not big, big but not fast — those recruits go elsewhere.
Boiled down, national signing day again illustrates the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Cameras don’t show up to see a two-star recruit choose between Idaho and San Jose State; there are no hats on the table, just a phone call and a faxed letter of intent. But when it comes to a major program’s potential recruit — with whom the use of live props is now in vogue — local and national television crews bust out the bright lights.
And what is national signing day, anyway? For the vast majority of incoming recruits, it’s simply a day to make things official. After giving a program his verbal commitment in August, a prospect prints out his letter of intent, applies his signature and sends it in to his new school’s football offices. Signed, sealed and delivered, this recruit is now part of the family.
For a select few, national signing day is their time to shine — until they get a chance to prove their worth on the field, that is. A small slice of the nation’s uncommitted prospects get to flash a smile and mug for the camera, thereby milking a few more minutes out of the 24-7 world of recruiting coverage that makes celebrities out of high school seniors.
Three hats in a row, four in a diamond, five shaped in a pentagon. Cue the red light. Adjust for feedback. The plan, dreamt up in bed, in the shower and in class over the last week, is to reach for one cap — preferably your school-of-choice’s prime rival — before going for your actual pick. Bathe in applause. Scene. But you stammer. Mumble. The plan goes awry. You just grab the cap, put it on and stand up. The applause still comes.
Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell busted out a bulldog puppy when he made his announcement a year ago. Cute, but that’s setting the bar awfully high; at some point in the future, an L.S.U.-bound recruit is going to lift a curtain to unveil a live Bengal tiger. Where will it end? It won’t end soon, and we’re all just waiting for the next five-star prospect who bleeds out of his recruitment all the way through the summer, trumping Terrelle Pryor’s will-he-or-won’t-he waffling in 2008.
The reality of national signing day is that like these made-for-TV announcements, the pomp and hoopla is ultimately meaningless. Nick Saban once made an N.F.L. player — someone who played football for a living — cry on the practice field. Think he cares about the star beside your name during August two-a-days? Football is the great equalizer: come the fall, there’s nothing separating five stars from two stars.
Except talent, of course. Five stars are five stars for a reason: that exclusive designation is supposed to illustrate the prospect’s can’t-miss status. And more often than not, the five-star prospect lives up to his advance billing. And more often than not, a two star plays like a two star.
When it comes to the class of 2012, however, we’re still four years away from making a definitive ruling. All we have now is a hat picked off a table, a signature, a grainy highlight reel — though those tapes get better every year — and the promise of a college career months away from the starting line.
For now, the fast and quick guys are going to U.S.C., Alabama, L.S.U. and the like. The fast but not quick guys are going to B.Y.U., Kansas State, Missouri and the like, programs that seem to be doing fine with the hand they’re dealt. The not-so-fast and not-so-quick guys go to the Sun Belt. That’s signing day in a nutshell. Now we can ignore the recently-committed recruits until they step onto practice fields in August.
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Tags: B.Y.U., Isaiah Crowell, Recruiting, Sun Belt, U.S.C.
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