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February 6, 2011

Best, worst surprises on signing day

MORE ROUNDTABLES: Jan. 27 | Jan. 28 | Jan. 29 | Jan. 30 | Jan. 31 | Feb. 1

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on National Signing Day topics.

What was the biggest positive surprise of NSD?

Barry Every: Watching a school such as TCU finishing No. 26 and finally receiving the recognition it deserves for the great job the coaches do in recruiting. That is 20 spots higher than TCU's previous high of 46, which it obtained twice since 2002.

Mike Farrell:I would have to go with the way Clemson finished with a top 10 recruiting class and four of the state's five-star prospects. It has to be one of the more remarkable recruiting jobs I've seen in the years I've been doing this.

Adam Gorney: I thought the biggest positive surprise on National Signing Day was how Clemson closed, landing four five-star prospects with three coming from the state of Florida. After an average season in which talk that coach Dabo Swinney might be on the hot seat emerged, he and his staff did a phenomenal job on the recruiting trail to land Sammy Watkins, Mike Bellamy, Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony. Those players should have a major impact at Clemson moving forward.

Chris Nee: Georgia closed strong. In recent years, Georgia has had a reputation of struggling to close down the stretch at times, but that didn't happen with the 2011 class. Five-star running back Isaiah Crowell, and his baby Bulldog, pledged to Mark Richt. The Bulldogs even got more good news after Wednesday, landing Johnathan Jenkins. It capped a very strong, and necessary, class for Richt and company.

Keith Niebuhr: Delvon Simmons to North Carolina. When the Rivals100 four-star defensive tackle signed with UNC on Wednesday, many were caught completely by surprise. Including the Tar Heel Nation. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, the country's No. 5 defensive tackle prospect and No. 1 recruit in Pennsylvania, never officially visited the school.

Brian Perroni: For the most part, it went off without a hitch. People thought the winter weather would cause all kinds of problems but most of the faxes came in on time and the day went smoothly.

What was the biggest negative surprise of NSD?

Barry Every: The coaches (adults) manipulating kids and their families, as in the Cyrus Kouandjio recruiting saga. Was the kid really torn about his decision or was he made to feel guilty? Either way, instead of fans blaming the kids, start blaming the actual culprits.

Mike Farrell:The Cyrus Kouandjio announcement on national television and then the immediate second thoughts and indecision after that. Maybe the pressure of television announcements is getting to be a bit much on kids as they prepare more about what they are going to say on TV than about the tough choice they actually have to make.

Adam Gorney: I thought the biggest negative surprise was the attention Kouandjio brought to himself and the day in general by announcing his commitment to Auburn on national television, then only moments later rumors started to swirl that he was rethinking his decision. It was just a bad move in general. If Kouandjio wasn't ready to make a decision then he shouldn't have announced anything. But after literally years of being recruited by these schools it's hard to believe that someone can't make a choice and stick with it.

Chris Nee: I have to go with Cyrus Kouandjio's announcement. It was another example of a young man getting caught up in the spotlight and rushing to a conclusion. If you aren't sure where you want to sign, don't announce for one school, especially on national TV. It isn't all on the young man. It's tough to handle the pressure built up by National Signing Day coverage and cameras in your face. Just makes you wonder how many prospects have made a rash decision they regretted after the ink was dry.

Keith Niebuhr: The Kouandjio drama. When a kid announces his pick on live television, it's a little shocking when only a couple hours later he already has had a change of heart. It was hard not to feel a little bit for the five-star offensive tackle, who was clearly confused. Unfortunately, many fans chose to make fun of him, rather than empathize with his dilemma.

Brian Perroni: Kouandjio went on national television and said he would be signing with Auburn only to change his mind minutes later and decide not to send in his letter-of-intent on Wednesday. Two rival fanbases were left waiting on edge until Saturday when the five-star offensive tackle decided to switch and join his older brother at Alabama.

Who was the biggest steal?

Barry Every: Watching a non-BCS school in Florida gain the signatures of the No. 2 player in Colorado (Leilon Willingham) and the No. 2 player in Kentucky (DaMarcus Smith). My hat goes off to UCF and its coaching staff.

Mike Farrell:Biggest steal to me was USC getting Aundrey Walker from Glenville where all the kids go to Ohio State. That was one where we kept hearing rumors he was going to pick USC but we still couldn't believe it. Great job by the USC staff there.

Adam Gorney: No doubt in my mind, De'Anthony Thomas was the biggest steal on signing day - perhaps in a long time. The five-star athlete is from Los Angeles, is a local legend in town and at the last minute - about 7 p.m. Pacific - when all the signing day buzz was dying down, the Crenshaw standout announced he was switching from USC to Oregon. The Ducks have made major in-roads in recruiting Southern California and this was a big one because Thomas had been locked in to USC for a long time.

Chris Nee: I think the biggest steal was Lane Kiffin and USC dipping into Kentucky and stealing linebacker Lamar Dawson. Down the stretch, most believed it was a battle between the Kentucky Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers, but when it came time to sign the Trojans won out. Despite dealing with NCAA issues, Dawson was just another example of kids still believing in the USC program.

Keith Niebuhr: I'll go with Georgia signee Ramik Wilson. Even though he's a four-star linebacker recruit, I'm not sure people realize how good this kid is. You really have to watch him in person to see how much he can impact a game. Wilson has outside linebacker quickness in a middle linebacker frame. And he also could potentially make an impact lining up at the line of scrimmage. Wherever the ball is, he is.

Brian Perroni: I still really like Euless (Texas) Trinity offensive tackle Nila Kasitati. He was my pick for top sleeper of the class and, when he switched from Baylor to Oklahoma on signing day, the three-star prospect was a huge get for the Sooners.



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