National Signing Day 2013: Schools Under Immense Pressure

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National Signing Day 2013: Schools Under Immense Pressure
Butch Jones needs to make a name for himself on national signing day 2013. Via Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

National signing day has a way of turning up the heat on college coaches across the nation as teams posture for position on the recruiting totem pole.

With less than a 24 hours until national signing day, I’ll provide a look into the schools under the most pressure to bring home big-time recruits on college football’s equivalent to Christmas.


University of Tennessee

The Volunteers, famous for the “Vol Navy,” have more closely resembled a sinking ship over the past five years, producing only one winning record over that time frame in the form of a 7-5 season under Lane Kiffin.

After he skipped town for Southern California and the Derek Dooley experiment flopped, former Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Butch Jones was hired to clean up the mess.

Although Butch didn’t impress in terms of recruiting while at Cincinnati, he did pull in Big East Coach of the Year honors.  Even if that’s akin to winning The Biggest Loser, there’s something to be said for how the Bearcats played with limited talent last season.

Regardless, Jones hopes limited talent won’t be an issue with his news duds in Knoxville, as UT boasts some of the nicest facilities in the nation (as they should, considering the athletic department is $200 million in debt), but he will need to close out big on national signing day if he expects the Big Orange to compete in the SEC this year.

Despite the Vols sitting comfortably with the 24th-ranked class, according to Rivals.com, losing Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Bray will do nothing to improve their chances at besting last season’s 5-7 record.

Von Bell has a tough decision to make between signing with Ohio State or Tennessee. Via 247Sports

To make matters worse, Darrington Sentimore, a lone bright spot on an otherwise putrid defense, decided to pledge for the draft despite being rated the 24th-best defensive tackle in the class.

With only five 4-stars in the fold, and Carl Lawson recently reaffirming his commitment to Auburn, Butch Jones and the Vols hope to add 5-star defensive back Von Bell, while also looking to flip 4-star receiver Tyler Boyd (committed to Pitt) and 4-star linebacker E.J. Levenberry, Jr. (committed to FSU).

If they can pull these three guys, in addition to a couple of defensive linemen for depth purposes, the Vols can make the splash they need this signing day.

 

University of Oregon

While the Ducks never seem to light the world on fire in terms of recruiting, they are consistently involved with some of the top players in the nation, finding their way into the top 25 recruiting classes seven of the past 10 years.

The departure of Chip Kelly, however, appears to have thwarted their recruiting success, as the Ducks’ class checks in at 36th in Rivals.com’s team rankings for 2013.

With 5-star running back Thomas Tyner in the fold, one would think Oregon’s class would be rated higher, but with only 15 other prospects committed, eight of which are rated 3-stars or lower, there’s little to be excited about as a Duck fan.

Can new Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich pick up where Chip Kelly left off? Via Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian

Throw in the de-commitment of all-purpose speedster Dontre Wilson as well as his re-commitment to Ohio State, and one can see why the Ducks may be in meltdown mode.

Is this a sign of things to come under a new regime in Eugene?  That’s what recruits are going to think unless Oregon closes out with a bang.

While some commitment turnover is expected when a coach bolts for the NFL, especially the way Kelly bolted, promoted offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will have to do more than sign in-state prospects and flip commitments from mid-majors if he wants to win on the national stage.

Furthermore, Helfrich will need to field a defense, which he doesn’t seem intent on doing considering the Ducks have only five defensive prospects committed and only appear to be in the running for a maybe one or two more, including 4-star linebacker Zach Cunningham and 3-star linebacker/athlete Johnny Ragin III, who is currently committed to Cal.

Cunningham will decide between Vanderbilt and Oregon after Auburn reneged his scholarship due to lack of room in the class. 

As for Ragin III, there was speculation that he would flip to the Ducks, and he still may, but The Oregonian believes that he will honor his commitment to Cal coach Sonny Dykes.

As of now, the Ducks trail the likes of Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona and TCU in the recruiting rankings.  Unfamiliar territory for a team just a month removed from a BCS bowl victory.

 

University of Miami

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Miami is in big trouble, and I’m not talking about the impending NCAA sanctions that, for one reason or another, haven’t come to fruition yet. 

The Hurricanes limp into national signing day eve with 12 commitments, good enough (or bad enough) for the 64th -ranked class, according to Rivals.com’s team rankings.

To put that into perspective, they trail Southern Methodist, Houston, South Florida, Washington State and Kansas, amongst others. 

Unfortunately for Miami, things don’t appear to be looking up, as 4-star running back Alex Collins made his commitment to Arkansas last night, choosing the Hogs over the ‘Canes and the Wisconsin Badgers.

Furthermore, Al Golden and company appear to be trailing in the running for the services of 4-star defensive lineman Jaynard Bostwick, who has been speculated to join Will Muschamp in Gainesville next season.

As a result, Miami definitely needs to sign former commit, 4-star defensive tackle Keith Bryant, who will chose between “The U” and Florida State, among others.  Golden will also hope to add fullback Augustus Edwards and 4-star receiver Stacey Coley, but neither are a sure bet, and it will take more than a couple of recruits to salvage an otherwise lackluster class littered with unheralded recruits.

Maybe Al Golden should have gone to Wisconsin after all, but at least the ‘Canes have basketball to fall back on this season.

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