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story.lead_photo.caption The family of five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., a defensive back from the football team at American Heritage High School, holds up photos of him on a stick on national signing day, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Plantation, Fla. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Have you ever opened Christmas gifts ahead of time and was left with very little under the tree on Christmas Day?

That’s what last Wednesday felt like after most of the nation’s top football recruits signed during the early signing period in December. But whatever national signing day lacked in drama, the usual amount of silliness from some hardcore fans did not disappoint.

Take Alabama, rulers of everything football related, and the consensus from those who rank recruiting classes that Georgia, not Alabama, had the No. 1 recruiting class this year.

One caller to The Paul Finebaum Show protested Alabama’s lowly No. 6 ranking by ESPN and described Georgia coach Kirby Smart, a former longtime assistant coach at Alabama, as a traitor.

“He’s a traitor because he took the head coaching job at his alma mater?” Finebaum asked.

“Yeah, and a punk,” the caller said.


Hard to listen to nonsense like that.

LSU fans were upset after Patrick Surtain, Jr., the nation’s top-rated defensive back, signed with Alabama when most recruiting analysts had him headed to Baton Rouge.

So, why did Surtain switch to Alabama when he had favored LSU for so long?

“They win championships,” Surtain said, simply.

Hard to argue that.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron drew more criticism the next day after defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson withdrew his commitment to the Tigers. Never mind the fact Jackson is a sophomore who has 22 months left before he can sign a binding letter of intent with any college.

“After much prayer and talks with God I am decommitting from LSU,” Jackson said in a statement. “I made my decision to become a Tiger too early and would like to ensure my recruitment process is well thought out.”

I’ll put the over/under at 14 the number of times he’ll change his mind on a school before he can actually sign.

Closer to home, Arkansas fans received good news on Friday when the Hogs landed Dorian Gerald, the nation’s top-rated junior college defensive end. That should move the Razorbacks up in the recruiting rankings after initially being placed behind Vanderbilt and barely ahead of schools like Western Michigan and Marshall that can’t afford a nearly $12 million buyout for a football coach.

Either way, coach Chad Morris and his staff gets a pass after only being on the job since December.

Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson does not get a pass after his fourth team at ASU finished 7-5 with a disappointing 35-30 defeat to Middle Tennessee State in the Camellia Bowl. But Anderson eased the concerns of ASU fanatics with a recruiting class ranked among the best of teams outside the Power Five Conferences. Anderson signed six in-state players, including quarterback Layne Hatcher of Pulaski Academy, offensive lineman Jax Galloway of Star City and wide receiver/ defensive back Nathan Page of Joe T. Robinson in Little Rock. Hatcher is the state’s all-time passing leader in yards (15,483) and touchdowns (185).

“He’s not tall enough, not fast enough, not million things enough, but he’s a winner,” Anderson said of Hatcher, who is also a state champion in wrestling.

Sounds like another undersized quarterback, John Stephen Jones, who signed with the Razorbacks after leading Dallas Highland Park to consecutive state championships in Texas.

“He’s a Doug Flutie type,” longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of Jerry Jones’ grandson. “Small, but very talented.”

And so it goes on national signing day, where griping, sniping, and hyping are intertwined.

“We’re so much closer than we’ve been,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Matt Viator told fans of the War Hawks last week. “We’re getting the right kind of players in here and that’s exciting to see.”

Louisiana-Monroe has had only one winning season since 1998. Its recruiting class was ranked No. 99 out of 100 by last week.

Rick Fires can be reached at or on Twitter@NWARick.

Print Headline: National Signing Day full of griping, sniping and hyping

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