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Looking Beyond National Signing Day

Christmas comes on February 1 for college football coaching staffs. It is the day that schools receive the official letters of intent from the high school students that they have spent years recruiting. For many of these athletes, Signing Day is the pinnacle of their football experiences to date; some quietly fax their letters of intent while others go live on TV to tell the country where they are going. Many assume that these recruits go off to their respective schools, compete for four years, and then the best go pro. However, a recent ESPN article looked at the ESPN Top 150 from 2006 and provided brief recaps of their careers since National Signing Day.

The first page of the Top 150 is impressive: multiple first-round draft picks and current NFL stars (Percy Harvin #2, Matthew Stafford #5), as well as a Rhodes Scholar (Myron Rolle #1). Many took a fifth year and finished their eligibility. The rest of the list, though, doesn’t compare. Some dropped out, some never played, some transferred to smaller schools, and some found success and made the NFL.

I was asked recently if the 1-5 star rankings actually mean anything. In short, yes, they do. They’re simply the way that recruiters judge who is the best at each position in high school. The better question: are they accurate? That’s a different discussion.

It’s really impossible to tell who will be a star and who will be a bust. Guys like Stafford and Harvin make immediate impacts on the field and live up to the hype surrounding their names. Others have a more difficult time making the adjustment to college life, for whatever reasons. Example: Sam McGuffie.

McGuffie came to Michigan as a freshman in 2008 and was supposed to be a great replacement to Mike Hart. Unfortunately, McGuffie was far from his home in Texas, constantly injured, and didn’t have the size to compete in the Big Ten. He quickly transferred to Rice University in Houston, closer to home.

Long story short, it’s Signing Day. Coaches can finally begin to put a face to their upcoming seasons. These players are the best of the best in their positions around the country. There’s no telling, though, how they will translate over to the college game.

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