National Signing Day 2011: Ranking the 10 Biggest Surprises

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2011

National Signing Day 2011: Ranking the 10 Biggest Surprises

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    National Signing Day sure was interesting. If you were hoping for drama then you were surely satisfied with the outcome of recruits' decisions.

    We watched as recruits enjoyed the spotlight making the biggest choice of their lives on national television. Some results were expected, and others came as a shock.

    Many teams picked up great players yesterday that pushed them into the rankings. Others were spurned by recruits who made last-minute changes.

    Take a look at the biggest surprises from National Signing Day 2011.

10. Miami Falls

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    CORAL GABLES, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Former Temple University football coach Al Golden, 41, speaks to the media after being introduced as the new head coach at the University of Miami  on December 13, 2010 in Coral Gables, Florida.  Golden is replacing Randy
    Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    According to Rivals, in 2008 Miami had the No. 5 recruiting class. They were ranked No. 15 and 16 in 2009 and 2010 respectively. But this year the Hurricanes took a big hit. 

    They fired Randy Shannon and hired Al Golden. Golden was faced with a difficult task of keeping the recruits who already committed. Plus he had to try to sway some other kids who already heard a different pitch from Shannon.

    When NSD was over, Miami finished with the No. 36 recruiting class. They filled positions of need but didn't get the top players they're used to getting. ACC schools that don't normally finish ahead of Miami but did this year were Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia.

9. Nick Who?

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    One of the top defensive tackles in the 2011 class, Gabe Wright made his decision on ESPNU right after teammate and friend Isaiah Crowell.

    Wright put on an Auburn hat that read "Nick Who?" on the back. When asked what it meant, Wright explained it was about players leaving their legacy.

    ESPNU anchor Lowell Galindo, who obviously did not listen, asked if it was a shot at Nick Saban. You can tell Gabe just wanted to call him an idiot, but he just laughed it off and said it was meant for Nick Fairley.

    It's a strong pickup for Auburn, but it puts tons of pressure on Wright. He has some pretty big shoes to fill with replacing Nick Fairley, especially since Wright isn't as big or as strong as Fairley.

8. Isaiah Crowell Pulls Out a Puppy

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    People were unsure where the top running back in the country would sign. Would he stay in his home state and sign with Georgia? Or would he join Nick Saban's team and play for Alabama?

    Crowell made his decision on ESPNU, like most top recruits, and brought along a special guest. It took him forever to say where he was going. But he ultimately chose to play for the Bulldogs and was handed a little bulldog puppy during his interview. Crowell made Mark Richt's "Dream Team" a reality.

    No one had ever brought out a real live animal before. Crowell was the first to do so, and I'm sure next year someone will try to top it.

7. Trojans Win

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    PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 04:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin celebrates following his teams victory over the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on December 4, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  USC defeated UCLA 28-14.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    USC needed to have a strong class this year before its scholarship penalties were put in place. Going into the day they were ranked in the top 10, but they weren't sure if they could pick up some more big names.

    They shocked everyone when they grabbed Lamar Dawson. The linebacker from Kentucky never really talked heavily about the Trojans. People believed his top two schools were Kentucky and Tennessee. He stunned everyone when he chose the Trojans.

    USC also surprised people by signing 4-star offensive guard Aundrey Walker. It was thought that Walker would follow his high school's tradition of top players signing with Ohio State. He said no to the Buckeyes and signed with the Trojans.

    When NSD was over, the Trojans were ranked in the top five by all recruiting sites.

6. Then the Trojans Lost

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    The "Black Mamba," as he is called, was verbally committed to USC for quite some time. De'Anthony Thomas took a late visit to Oregon and fell in love.

    As National Signing Day went on, experts were telling us that Thomas was now leaning towards Oregon. Thomas must have been blown away in that last visit. Oregon has a beautiful campus, and I'm sure the whole Nike connection the Ducks have was a huge plus.

    The Trojans had a very strong class, but Thomas was undoubtedly the best athlete in the country. The speedster heads to Eugene next fall and not Los Angeles.

5. Alabama Steals

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    Alabama's in-state rival Auburn was signing top recruits left and right on NSD. The Crimson Tide was relieved when it stole two players away from other teams.

    Several people assumed Jeoffrey Pagan was headed to Georgia, but he proved that nobody knows anything but him by picking Alabama. The defensive end probably did not want to compete with Ray Drew.

    Another steal for the Tide was Brent Calloway. He originally committed to Alabama. He then changed his mind at the US Army All-American Game and decided to play for Auburn. NSD came around he flipped his choice again, going back to his original school all along.

    Great steals for Alabama, as Rivals has it ranked No. 1 overall.

4. No. 1 Makes Us Wait

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    The No. 1 recruit in the country did not pick a school on NSD. Not all recruits are required to sign on NSD. Yesterday was just the first day of the signing period when recruits must submit their letter of intent.

    Jadeveon Clowney is a beast of a player. The defensive end left teams hanging when he changed his mind and decided to make his decision later.

    Clowney will pick his college on February 14th. There's no question that he'll break a few teams' hearts on Valentine's Day.

3. Auburn Takes a Huge Leap

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers speaks to the media during a press conference for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn on January 11, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    When the NSD began, Auburn was barely ranked in the top 10. As the day progressed, the Tigers began signing more and more recruits and jumping up in the rankings. It certainly helps when you win a national championship.

    It all began with the switch by one of the nation's top offensive tackles, Christian Westerman. He was thought to be a sure thing for Texas but switched to Auburn earlier in the week. Then the dominoes began to fall, and the letters of intent were pouring in.

    The Tigers signed top recruits in Gabe Wright, Quan Bray and Erique Florence. They also signed the replacement for Cam Newton in 6'3" quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Many believe Frazier is the best dual-threat QB in the 2011 class.

2. Cyrus Kouandjio Reconsiders

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    The No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2011 class picked Auburn on national television. This came as a surprise to many because his older brother plays for Alabama.

    It's not too much of a shock though. He can now form a long-lasting rivalry with his brother. I understand—family battles over which school is the best in the state of Alabama.

    What did shock me and everyone else is that Kouandjio never sent in his letter of intent. NSD is the first day of the signing period. He has time to think things over and make up his mind. However, when most kids announce on national television, they tend to back it up by signing on the dotted line.

    Kouandjio announced to the nation his verbal commit. Don't be surprised if he changes his mind. If he doesn't, Auburn will climb the rankings once again.

1. Clemson Signings

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    Going into the day, Clemson already had verbal commitments from two of the top receivers in Charone Peake and Sammy Watkins, as well as running back Mike Bellamy.

    As the day moved on, they shocked a lot of people by signing the top two linebackers in the country. Tony Steward chose the Tigers over Florida State. Steward picked the out of state school and will travel seven-plus hours to move to Clemson. Florida State would have only been a three-hour trip.

    Steward was regarded as the top inside linebacker in the country, and later in the day the top outside linebacker decided to sign with Clemson. Stephone Anthony is a big boy at 6'2", 220 pounds. He and Steward both should be able to step in and help the Clemson defense right away.