JOE BIDDLE: Recruiting takes on life of its own

I haven't seen a final count, but it seems to me an inordinate number of high school football recruits reached National Signing Day and freaked.

A number of them changed their minds and backed out of verbal commitments to sign a binding letter of intent with another school.

Brentwood Academy defensive back Jalen Ramsey has been committed to Southern Cal forever. Or so it seemed. On signing day, Ramsey signed with Florida State.

It was not an uncommon occurrence.

But how can we expect high school athletes to be rational on signing day when thousands of adults act like two-year-olds when a teenager switches allegiance at the last minute.

UT fans thought new coach Butch Jones had 5-star safety Vonn Bell in the fold. But smooth talking Urban Meyer pulled the rug out from under the Vols and got Bell's pledge to join Ohio State. You could hear the sighs from Mountain City to Memphis.

Bell grew up in Chattanooga, went to high school in Georgia and was a Vols fan growing up, but said former Vols Coach Derek Dooley didn't show him much love when he was recruited and that if he had met Butch Jones earlier in the process, he likely would have been a Vol.  Mark another one up for Dooley.

Bell's high school coach in Georgia tweeted Wednesday morning Bell was signing with the Vols. It was fool's gold.

That wasn't half as weird as what new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema faced with 4-star running back Alex Collins from Plantation, Florida.

Collins chose the Hogs and was eager Wednesday morning to sign the letter of intent. Ah, but Collins' mother marched into his high school and walked out with the unsigned papers in her possession. She said her baby boy wasn't going that far away from home. So there.

Bielema must have wondered what in the Sam Hill happened. Actually, Sam Hill did sign with Arkansas. He is a juco kicker from City College of San Francisco. The Hogs reached far and wide for their recruiting class. They got players from Miami, San Francisco, Hawaii, New Jersey and Mike Tavarres, a 6-2, 220-pound juco linebacker from the College of Sisklyous in Weed, located in the northernmost part of California.

Four of the most recognized recruiting services have posted where they believe teams rank in the pecking order. Beauty is in the eye of the highly subjective.

Vanderbilt fans are rightfully ga-ga over the national No. 19 ranking given them by and They shake their heads when seeing 24/7 Sports dropped them to No. 35 and ESPN puts them at No. 22. Which service is more accurate? Check back in four years. Needless to say, it's the highest ranked class in Vanderbilt history.

Tennessee fans saw their team ranked all over the map. has the Vols at No. 20. has them at No. 32. 24/7 puts the Vols at No. 27 and ESPN slides the Vols in at 29.

Once again, the SEC dominated. It was basically the SEC and everyone else, like it has been the past seven years on the field.

The SEC placed six of its teams in the top 10, with defending champion Alabama No. 1 in all but, which had the Tide at No. 3. Safe to say Scout subscriptions will drop like a concrete anchor.
Coach Nick Saban rounded up 25 recruits, four of them 5-stars, 13 4-star players and eight 3-stars.

Ole Miss is the team that has college fans across the country, raising a suspicious eye. Coach Hugh Freeze landed the school's best recruiting class in history. That should pack the Grove in the coming seasons.

Freeze signed three 5-star recruits, three 4-star players, to join 15 3-star classmates.

Ranking players and teams is an inexact science at best. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin inherited wide receiver Jordan Matthews two years ago. Matthews was a 2-star rated recruit out of Madison (Ala.) Academy.

Look at him now. If he remains healthy and has another great season, he will be a highly coveted NFL draft choice this time next year.

In the same class, Da'Rick Rogers was a highly touted 5-star recruit out of Florida. He was a can't-miss prospect with all the tools for greatness. He was signed by Lane Kiffin, played for Dooley and was in and out of trouble before being booted off the team and playing last season with Tennessee Tech. He will now test the NFL waters.  
Like or loathe recruiting, it's always interesting to see just how these high school Harrys pan out at the next level.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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