JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's become a scene we're accustomed to seeing: A packed auditorium, players sitting at a table with several college hats sitting in front of them. After a few maneuvers and sliding of the hats, the players pick one, the crowd goes wild and Signing Day is officially here.
While it's not only for football players, it is that sport that gets the most attention. Recruits are rated by national services and classes are ranked across the nation.
Some of the top talent in the country is here in north Florida and south Georgia, so it's no surprise that signing day starts early, and it's not just about the guys. At First Coast this morning, six softball players signed letters of intent. They were part of 16 different signees the Bucs had this morning. Raines and Atlantic Coast had their signing ceremonies before 9 a.m. Mandarin defensive tackle Kingsley Opara signed his letter of intent at 9 a.m. as well. While he had been verbally committed to Maryland for a while, he had a Georgia Tech hat on the table in front of him.
"For dramatic effect," he told Channel 4's Michael Kelly, after staying with the Terps.
While the morning signings were going on locally, the buzz nationally was about the commitments to Ole Miss. The Rebels grabbed five of the top 15 players ranked nationally, including the No. 1 player and OL Laremy Tunsil of Lake City's Columbia High. And as Rivals' Brent Beaird noted this morning, Ole Miss did not win a SEC game from October 2010 until October 2012.
As the 2A state champs, you'd figure University Christian had some solid commitments, so it was no surprise when three players signed this morning, including Marquis Haynes to North Carolina.
There are a lot of coaches relieved today that those letters of intent are being signed. No verbal commitment is binding, so until pen meets paper, it's not official. And there's been an issue in the past where a player has signed then changed his mind before faxing (yes, still fax) it to the school (coaches can't be present, according to NCAA rules). But the signing makes it official whether the fax machine works or not!
As the afternoon signings started, Bolles had six signees including Arterious Mitchell, headed to the Air Force Academy. Mitchell said he's not concerned about the cold in Colorado, "It's the altitude I'm worried about," says the Florida based senior. Wolfson had seven signees with Jasper Sasser sticking with South Carolina. He's back from a leg injury and coming off the bench for their highly regarded basketball team. But the day was made for the Wolfpack when Sasser did his imitation of the "Ol' Ball Coach." (see twitter.com/samsportsline). Bishop Kenny had one of the top recruits in the nation, WR Ahmad Fullwod. He has been a Florida commitment all along and will no doubt bolster the Gators claim to the number one recruiting class in the nation.
Nease had six signees, Trinity Christian's Nick Washington headed a class of 4 for the Conquerors, he's headed to Florida to play football and baseball, something that shaped his decision. St. Augustine had 4 players sing letters of intent, Creekside's Tommy Openshaw signed with Vanderbilt. Ponte Vedra's class was seven, with 4 more potential signees this week. And Bartram Trail is sending 6-6 295 lb Tyler Regan to N.C. State. He had his choice of where to go.
You can see that all of the Duval County schools had their signings this morning because it's an early release day and they're gone by noon!
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