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February 3, 2011
NSD: Look back, look ahead
While most prospects made things official on National Signing Day, some are still waiting to put ink to paper.
One prospect who announced but has yet to send his letter of intent was Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio. The five-star offensive tackle committed to Auburn during a ceremony held at his school, but never sent his letter-of-intent.
"All I know is he is not 100-percent sure of his decision and he wants more time. He has not faxed his letter of intent," McGregor said. "(Cyrus) finally called me back and said he's going to talk it over tonight, call me later and let me know something."
As for those waiting to announce, that group is led by Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 prospect. The five-star defensive end said during a television interview on Wednesday that he was down to a trio of schools - South Carolina, Alabama and Clemson. The Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe product is expected to make his decision on Feb. 14, which is his birthday.
Similar to Clowney, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer quarterback Jacoby Brissett didn't make an announcement on Wednesday. The four-star signal-caller is expected to announce on Friday, during senior day festivities for his high school basketball team. His decision is expected to come down to Miami, Florida and Wisconsin.
A third situation that exists is the scenario that Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek wide receiver Damiere Byrd is dealing with. The four-star wide receiver did not sign with South Carolina on Wednesday, but it is simply a matter of a scheduling conflict. Byrd was travelling internationally to participate in a track meet and wasn't able to send his letter of intent. He is still expected to sign with the Gamecocks in the near future.
Clemson closes with a bang
Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers entered Signing Day with a good class, but by the time the dust settled on Wednesday, they were ranked No. 8.
Clemson made the move by landing a pair of five-star linebackers in Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson linebacker Stephone Anthony and St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez linebacker Tony Steward on Wednesday. The addition of the two five-star prospects gave Clemson four five-star prospects in the class, as the Tigers had already landed Punta Gorda (Fla.) Charlotte running back Mike Bellamy and Fort Myers (Fla.) South Fort Myers wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Anthony, who chose Clemson over Virginia Tech, believes that the class will help to turn Clemson around after a disappointing season.
"I think it's a great class," Anthony said. "All I can say is Clemson is coming."
As for Steward, who chose Clemson over Florida State in a very tight battle for his services, he attributed his decision to a gut feeling.
"It felt like the right place for me," Steward said at his press conference at St. Augustine (Fla.) Menendez High School.
Steward is ranked the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker prospect.
Auburn continues great month
Entering Wednesday, Auburn had landed six prospects ranked four stars or better. Even without Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio not included among the total, that number increased to nine when all the papers were received by Gene Chizik and company.
The new additions on the final day was a trio of four-star prospects - defensive tackle Gabe Wright, defensive back Erique Florence and defensive back Jermaine Whitehead. Whitehead, a Greenwood, Miss., native, switched his commitment from Mississippi State to the national champions. Auburn was in the No. 7 spot after Wednesday.
Florida State wraps up excellent class
While the Seminoles took a hit when St. Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez linebacker Tony Steward announced for the Clemson Tigers, Florida State continued success in the Sunshine State by adding Lake City (Fla.) Columbia four-star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. FSU finished No. 2.
Jernigan chose Florida State over LSU and Tennessee, as well as childhood favorite Florida. He said the decision was tough.
"I was confused, I can't even lie to you," Jernigan said. "I just prayed on it Sunday night, prayed on it Monday night. Then Tuesday morning, that's when it hit."
Alabama closes with a familiar face
While Alabama holds out hope it may add Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, the Tide were able to claim the No. 1 spot in the Rivals team rankings with the additions of four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, from Asheville (N.C.), and a familiar face, four-star linebacker Brent Calloway from Russellville (Ala.).
Calloway was a long-time Alabama commitment before flipping to Auburn during the U.S. Army All-American Game. Less than a month later, he was back with the Tide.
"My heart never left Alabama. I had to do some soul-searching, and while I appreciate Auburn for recruiting me, Alabama has been my home since I started this process," Calloway said. "I had the full support of my father and mother and family. They knew that I had to work out some things, so they gave me space the last few days to do just that. In the end, it always came back to Alabama."
Dream Team is a reality
Mark Richt and Georgia knew they had to hit a home run in recruiting after a subpar season in Athens. The plan was to land a majority of the top Peach State targets, a group that quickly became known as the "Dream Team."
The group began to come together earlier this month when the Valdosta (Ga.) duo of four-star defensive back Malcolm Mitchell and four-star tight end Jay Rome committed. Then it was Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County Central five-star defensive end Ray Drew last week.
The final piece to the squad, Columbus (Ga.) Carver five-star running back Isaiah Crowell. In front of a packed room and a national television audience, Crowell completed the scenario pledging his services to the Bulldogs.
Needless to say, Richt was pleased after signing the fifth-best class.
"Although I can't say they will have that immediate of an impact, but over the course of their career I would hope that this is the best class that we've signed to this point since I've been at Georgia," Richt said. "It looks pretty good.
"I just came with the idea that this is my Dream Team - this is Georgia's Dream Team - to where we literally had names and pictures targeted that we would shoot for and we nailed it pretty good. We didn't get them all, but we came pretty darn close and I certainly think the dream came true today."
USC's wild day
Southern Cal is known for finishing strong, and its close in 2011 did nothing to hurt that reputation. Lane Kiffin and company landed six prospects on Wednesday, including four four-star athletes from around the nation.
The Trojans dipped into Danville (Ky.) Boyle County for four-star linebacker Lamar Dawson, who most believed was a Kentucky- Tennessee battle. Then USC went to Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville and secured the nation's No. 1 offensive guard, four-star Aundrey Walker, who was expected to be a Buckeye. It also landed Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln three-star athlete Javorius Allen, continuing the strong run at the Sunshine State powerhouse.
The Trojans then returned to the friendly confines of California and locked up San Diego (Calif.) Point Loma four-star defensive tackle Christian Heyward and Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra athlete Marqise Lee before wrapping up with Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde teammates Junior Pomee, a four-star wide receiver, and Ryan Henderson, a three-star defensive back.
The only bit of bad news on the day for the Trojans was that Oregon was able to use the final official visit to sway Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw five-star athlete De'Anthony Thomas away from his home state and up to Eugene. Had USC secured Thomas, it would have been No. 1 after National Signing Day. Without him, the Trojans fell to No. 4.