Just about everybody agrees that the best part of "National Letter of Intent Day" for aspiring college football players is that when these student-athletes sign on the dotted line, the colleges are getting "a sure thing."
That's to say, this is the cream of the crop, ready to excel at "the next level."
It's not like what happens 'round NASA where the astronaut you fell in love with might turn out to be the astroNUT with a B.B. gun in her car.
While some of us are shocked and dismayed (and others of us pretend that we are), the story of the wacky "she"stronaut makes us feel a lot better about the days when our own obsession with 15-, 16-, 17- or 18-year-olds caused us to lose our minds and semi-obsess in a quasi-predatory manner (the laws in your state may vary, so check the penal code at a dept. of corrections near you).
Now that most of us have either beaten the rap or pleaded out and, thereby, gotten our lives squared-away, we've re-directed our focus toward those exciting teenaged boys who put on the helmets n' the pads and prepare their developing bodies for battles on the gridiron. For the best of those prep warriors, they will turn it up a notch in college, remembering to avoid player agents while remembering to embrace masking agents.
There exists probably more than a dozen recruiting publications, media outlets, NFL Combine-style meat markets and off-season camps by which these kids (or their parents and/or legal guardians) can peddle their flesh to college programs.
With so many options, what was once an uncivilized recruiting/signing jungle is now a Recruiting Safari, USA theme park.
Best of all, the "process" is highly-scientific. It's not like the ol' days when we'd scope out that 15-year-old who was the best friend of the 15-year-old who was atop your recruit list, which seemed like a waste of time given that you'd spent that Friday afternoon -- hours before the season opener -- doin' some serious mashing with that 18-year-old who'd already graduated from your rival high school.
Lancers are 'sposed to kill Panthers, not mate with them. You simply cannot let the green n' white intermingle with black n' gold and ... "enough already!" about the ol' Pitchfork's senior year of high school.
Instead, we should be discussing what's on the football horizon for Paul McCoy -- and how he could put a college program "over the top" in the recruiting wars.
As you'll recall, McCoy rushed for a national record 661 yards last Sept. 29 while leading Matewan High (W.Va.) to a 64-0 win over Burch. In eclipsing the previous record of 619 yards set by Ronney Jenkins of Hueneme (Ca.) in '95, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound McCoy had 10 TD runs which totaled 447 yards -- scoring from 69, 1, 52, 56, 52, 20, 31, 84, 87 and 25 yards.
That HAD to be a fun night for the Burch Bunch.
What makes 661 fascinating to ponder is A) It forces us to find "Matewan" on the map of West Virginia B) It makes us remember the problems which plagued Ronney Jenkins, who actually spent roughly 3 or 4 games performing electrifying kick-return feats for the San Diego Chargers and C) It causes us to flash back to the time when the Mrs. attempted to pronounce "Hueneme" (it's "wy-NEE'-mee" not "HUE'-nemmy" .. and those bastards ended our season in the CIF Southern Section 3A baseball semifinals when that son of a b ...).
Again ... this is supposed to be about Paul McCoy.
As it was, McCoy opened his senior season with a 537-yard game and, although his 661 put him at 1,820 through the first five games, it's doubtful that he averaged more than 500 ypg during the final five regular-season games (and/or playoffs) to shatter Tyler Ebell's national record 4,494 set in '01 for Ventura High (just up the Calif. coast from Port Hueneme).
It's fun to bring up Tyler Ebell's name just because A) Tyler Ebell's one of the few people alive to go alphabet soup w/ his colleges -- UCLA and UTEP and B) Tyler Ebell was one of the Big Three -- along with ex-UCLA'ers/current-NFL'ers Maurice Jones-Drew and Ricky Manning, Jr.(Ebell was not drafted in '06) -- who were charged with assaulting that guy who was working on his laptop at 2 a.m. at a SoCal Denny's last year.
It's sad when Brutalized Bruins go all beatdown on civilians just because the Trojans spent eight consecutive USC-UCLA games playfully violating their rivals from Wuss-wood.
But, these are the life lessons to be learned once a hot-shot recruit lands at a big-time program (or a top-flight JC ... or what some still refer to as a "juco" ... isn't that right, Paul McCoy?).
Despite all the pageantry of "the process," there's no way anyone should've touched with a 10-foot pole the Espy Network's coverage of Signing Day.
Well,for starters, Mike Gottfried was one of the hosts. Mike Gottfried used to be a head coach for the Pitt Panthers -- and Mike Gottfried used to sit in the living rooms of recruits and say a lot of interesting things to the recruits (and to the parents/legal guardians/kin/posses of recruits).
Mike Gottfried and the Pitt Panthers eventually parted ways, but that hasn't kept Mike Gottfried from doing a less than "bang-up" job for EspyTime.
So, with EspyTime performin' a hatchet job on the process, some of us embraced the moment as we do every year at this time -- by stepping inside the college-football-magazine vault here at the Pitchfork Compound and exploring what Signing Day '02 (five years ago) and Signing Day '97 (10 years ago) had to offer.
Betcha we find some "misses" to go along with the "hits" -- or, if you prefer, a proportionate amount of "suspects" to match the "prospects."
Come along for a ride-along, Paul McCoy.
You got shotgun ...
First, let's peek at the Recruiting Report (compiled by Bill King ... whoever he is -- or thinks he is) which appeared in the '02 edition of the Athlon Sports Football National Edition (Vol. 8).
If you have it, the nostalgia is delicious ... Miami's Ken Dorsey and Notre Dame's Julius Jones grace the front cover while, on the back cover, there's an ad for Gillette's Mach 3 Turbo.
Dang! Remember when we were shaving with only three blades back in the Dark Ages of '02?
That was before Schick came along with its 4-bladed Quattro ... and before Gillette invented the 5-bladed Fusion.
Five years from now, we'll all be shaving with Nike's 8-bladed razor.
Right ... back to Athlon's "Top 100" freshmen for '02.
Here's a sampling of the top one-fourth of that hot hundred:
1. Vincent Young QB -- Houston TX -- TEXAS
2. Ryan Moore WR -- Orlando, FL -- MIAMI
3. Lorenzo Booker RB -- Ventura, CA -- FLORIDA ST.
4. Rodrique Wright DL -- Alief, TX -- TEXAS
5. Gerald Riggs, Jr. RB -- Chattanooga, TN -- TENNESSEE
6. Chris Davis WR -- St. Petersburg, FL -- FLORIDA ST.
7. Ciatrick Fason RB -- Neptune Beach, FL -- FLORIDA
8. Ben Olson QB -- Thousand Oaks, CA -- BYU
9. Max Jean-Giles OL -- Miami, FL -- GEORGIA
10. Mike D'Andrea LB -- Avon Lake, OH -- OHIO ST.
11. Larry Dibbles DL -- Lancaster, TX -- TEXAS
12. Reggie McNeal QB -- Lufkin, TX -- TEXAS A&M
13. Pat Watkins DB -- Tallahassee, FL -- FLORIDA ST.
14. Dejuan Robinson DL -- Hernando, MS -- MISS. ST.
15. Nathan Rhodes OL -- Bakersfield, CA -- WASHINGTON
16. Brandon Jefferies OL -- Shelby, NC -- TENNESSEE
17. Michael Johnson RB -- Newport News, VA -- VIRGINIA
18. Ahmad Brooks LB -- Woodbridge, VA -- VIRGINIA
19. Haloti Ngata DL -- Salt Lake City, UT -- OREGON
20. Leon Washington ATH -- Jacksonville, FL -- FLORIDA ST.
21. Winston Justice OL -- Long Beach, CA -- USC
22. Derek Morris OL -- Huntersville, NC -- OHIO ST.
23. Ricardo Hurley LB -- Greenwood, SC -- SO. CAROLINA
24. Brian Pickryl DE -- Tulsa, OK -- TEXAS
25. Dishon Platt WR -- Punta Gorda, FL -- FLORIDA ST.
Other glamor boys included:
27) RB Jerious Norwood -- Miss. St. ... 32) WR Devin Hester -- Miami ... 33) QB James Banks -- Tennessee ... 34) QB Gavin Dickey -- Florida ... 35) Trent Edwards -- Stanford ... 39) QB Marcus Vick -- Virginia Tech ... 40) QB Justin Zwick -- Ohio St. ... 42) WR Ben Obomanu -- Auburn ... 44) RB Maurice Clarett -- Ohio St. ... 47) QB Tyler Palko -- Pittsburgh ... 55) RB David Richard, Jr. -- Michigan St. ... 58) DE Tamba Hali -- Penn St. ... 59) RB DeShawn Wynn -- Florida ... 70) Darnell Bing -- USC ... 71) DL Kamerion Wimbley -- Florida St. ... 72) DE Chase Pittman -- Texas ... 77) LB Kai Parham -- Virginia ... 78) WR Devin Aromashodu -- Auburn ... 83) DL Quinn Pitcock -- Ohio St. ... 84) QB Anthony Martinez -- Virginia ... 87) QB Matt Gutierrez -- Michigan ... 97) QB Isaiah Stanback -- Washington ...
Lorenzo Booker, jeez ... remember how he was tearing up Ventura (for St. Bonaventure) one season after Tyler Ebell was tearing it up for the Ventura High Condors?
On the other hand, this list is a little misleading when we look at No. 72 ... Chase Pittman. Pittman was NOT an "incoming" freshman in '02 -- in fact, he signed on Letter of Intent Day in Feb. '01. Three weeks later, Chase Pittman's older brother, Cole Pittman (who was already a Texas Longhorn), was killed in a car accident.
Pittman eventually transferred to LSU to avoid reminders of his brother -- and now his fate in the '07 NFL Draft is in the hands of Mel Kiper, Jr.'s Bouffant.
Nitpicking aside, Young, Ngata, Wimbley and Hali all ended up as first-round selections in the '06 NFL Draft. Yet, it's more enjoyable to imagine Auburn fans/boosters/alums as they tried to say the names "Obumanu" and "Aromashodu" on Signing Day '02.
And, it's fascinating to ponder what the reaction was in C-Bus on that very same days when the Buckeye faithful were drooling over the national championships the Scarlet-and-Gray were going to win in '05 and '06 with Zwick and Clarett as the one-two-punch in the Buckeye backfield.
That is ... if neither of them turned pro after the '05 season.
As it turned out, each of 'em spent their final game as a Buckeye in a national championship in the state of Arizona (albeit, in different cities ... and with different outcomes ... in the game ... and in the game of life).
Zwick's story isn't THAT much different than a lot of other kids on Signing Day. Their hopes are sky-high.
Sometimes, though ... reality sets in and mediocrity invades the body, like some sort of cancer.
It happened to Ben Olson ... he, the 6-foot-5 southpaw slinger from the football factory known as Thousand Oaks High. Five years earlier, some of us were there when TOHS and a QB named Scott McEwan blew a lead against Camarillo -- as QB Joe Borchard rallied his Scorpions to victory to spoil TOHS Homecoming '96.
Joe Borchard eventually went to Stanford, did an adequate job as a fill-in QB and hit the bejeezus out of the ball as a switch-hitter for the Cardinal baseball team (although, in parts of five seasons, '02-'06, Borchard's MLB batting avg. is .209).
McEwan? Well, he landed at UCLA and backed up Cade McNown for two years, then he backed up Cory Paus for two years (although none of us who saw it will ever forget how McEwan came off the bench and engineered a drive which resulted in a FG at the outset of the third quarter in the Bruins' 21-20 loss to Wisconsin in the '00 Sun Bowl).
You simply don't forget a Scott McEwan field-goal drive.
So far, he doesn't appear as though he's on the fast track to breaking any of Drew Olson's UCLA passing records (if Drew Olson actually owns any).
Olson began his college career at BYU, departed on his Mormon mission, then ... transferred to Wuss-wood -- whereupon his mediocre '06 season was derailed by a knee injury, which precipitated the emergence of a very-ordinary Patrick Cowan into coach Karl Dorrell's ho-hum attack (you can't call it "vanilla" because, "ahem" ... ).
Still tryin' to use his 4.32 speed to catch on as a Bengals receiver (after he lost his job in his senior season to freshman Stephen McGee).
Was switched to WR at Rocky Top (after he got himself outta trouble) so that Casey Clausen could share his mediocrity with the Knoxvillians.
Arrived at Stanford with coach Buddy Teevens at the beginning of '02. By the end of the '04 season, Teevens was out.
By the middle of the '05 season, Trent Edwards was in Walt Harris' doghouse.
By the middle of the '06 season. Trent Edwards was on crutches with a broken foot (and according to something we heard a few weeks ago, Mel Kiper's Bouffant has Trent Edwards listed as the No. 5 QB on Mel's "big board" -- proof again that Kiper drinks more Vitalis than he dumps over his scalp every morning).
Let's see ... Marcus Vick/Ron New Mexico ... what ever happened to that guy after he stomped on Elvis Dumervil's leg in that bowl game?
The white left-handed QB who replaced the black, left-handed QB (Rod Rutherford) ... soooo enigmatic.
He was so mediocre at UVa. that he probably took 23 meaningful snaps in relief of Matt Schaub and Marques Hagans ...
Ya had to feel for the kid. He went to Ann Arbor from a De La Salle program in Calif. which won a national-record 151 consecutive games -- and then, when he was dinged up and couldn't start the '04 opener, Chad Henne got the nod and never gave the job back ...
Again ... "Gavin Dickey?"
That was definitely fodder for "fireronzook.com."
There's a dozen or more stories like that from Signing Day '02 -- escpecially when we take into account the RB talent, such as two prime targets on Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report which weren't on the King list.
That's right -- T.A. McLendon and J.R. Zwierzynski.
T.A. McLendon's real first name was "Tristan" and he set a gazillion rushing records in Albermarle, NC. He said that the "T.A." stood for "Touchdowns Anytime," and the boast seemed to hold some water when he rushed for more than 1,101 yards as an NC State Wolfpack freshman in '02 (aided by the passing of junior Philip Rivers.
The future couldn't have looked brighter in Raleigh when that 'Pack team was 9-0 in late October.
It was all downhill after that. Since that 9-0, era-of-good-feelings in Raleigh, the 'Pack went 25-28 ... missing a bowl game in '04 with a 5-6 record (despite having the nation's No. 1-ranked defense) and losing their final seven games of '06 to finish 3-9 and get squeaky-voiced Chuck Amato pink-slipped.
In '03 and '04, McLendon rushed for a combined 1,300 yards.
Well, maybe he didn't turn out to be the most top-notch Penn State signee of all-time, but he's been quite a catcher for the Twins, Giants and White Sox.
WAIT! That's A.J. Pierzynski, not J.R. Zwierzynski.
Never mind ...
Waste cases aside, the coolest stat that gets included in each player's dossier is, of course, that prospect's time in the 40.
For example, did you know that Scott McEwan's time in the 40 was 4.65 while Ben Olson was clocked in 4.6?
Of Lemming's hot hundred for '02, the fastest 40 times were turned in by McNeal (4.32), FSU signee Thomas Clayton (4.32) and LSU recruit Justin Vincent (4.33).
Gavin Dickey ran a 4.4.
To repeat: "Gavin Dickey?"
Although the exposure of the modern-day signee is greater than ever, the machinations of "the process" remain constant. Ten years ago, Steve Superior was the toast of Gainesville, basking in the January glow of Gators winning the national championship with Heisman Trophy-winning Danny Waffle pitching passes to Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green.
A month after that triumph, the Ol' Ballcoach restocked his talent cupboard by signing QB Jesse Palmer from Nepean, Ontario in Canada (a city which Detroit Red Wing soon-to-be Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman put on the map), QB Tim Olmstead from Binghampton, NY, and WR Steve Shipp of Charlotte, NC.
All three players were ranked in the Top 25 of PrepStar's Recruiting Report of the Top 100 Incoming Freshman for 1997.
Wait a sec ... Jesse Palmer?
THAT Jesse Palmer? From ABC's The Bachelor? The NFL benchwarmer with less testosterone than most Bachelorettes?
Yessiree, Bob ... one in the same.
Prep Star's Top 25 went like so:
1. David Warren DE -- Tyler, TX -- FLORIDA ST.
2. LaVar Arrington LB -- Pittsburgh, PA -- PENN ST.
3. Andre Carter DE -- San Jose, CA -- CALIFORNIA
4. Randy Fasani QB -- Granite Bay, CA -- STANFORD
5. Alex Brown DE -- White Springs, FL -- FLORIDA
6. Kareem McKenzie OL -- Willingboro, NJ -- PENN ST.
7. Steve Shipp WR -- Charlotte, NC -- FLORIDA
8. Billy-Dee Greenwood DB -- Stamford, CT -- NO. CAROLINA
9. Jesse Palmer QB -- Nepean, Ontario; Canada -- FLORIDA
10. Rod Perry, Jr. ATH -- Irvine, CA -- USC
11. Domonique Williams ATH -- Upper Marlboro, MD -- NO. CAROLINA
12. Levron Williams RB -- Evansville, IN -- INDIANA
13. Jamal Lewis RB -- Atlanta, GA -- TENNESSEE
14. Travis Minor RB -- Baton Rouge, LA -- FLORIDA ST.
15. Ken-Yon Rambo WR -- Long Beach, CA -- OHIO ST.
16. Brian Scott WR -- Darlington, SC -- SO. CAROLINA
17. Terrence Metcalf OL -- Clarksdale, MS -- MISSISSIPPI
18. Roylin Bradley LB -- Lemarque, TX -- TEXAS A&M
19. Tyrone Robertson DL -- Danville, VA -- VIRGINIA TECH
20. Romaro Miller QB -- Shannon, MS -- MISSISSIPPI
21. Kenny Smith DL -- Meridian, MS -- ALABAMA
22. Andre Lott DB -- Memphis, TN -- TENNESSEE
23. Chris Chambers WR -- Bedford, OH -- WISCONSIN
24. Cosey Coleman OL -- Clarkston, GA -- TENNESSEE
25. Tim Olmstead QB -- Binghamption, NY -- FLORIDA
Other glamor boys included:
33) RB Cooper Rego -- Notre Dame ... 40) QB Bobby Newcombe -- Nebraska ... 41) QB Ed Stansbury -- UCLA ... 52) RB Tony Driver -- Notre Dame ... 55) QB Kenny Kelly -- Miami ... 57) QB Eric Crouch -- Nebraska ... 60) RB Travis Henry -- Tennessee ... 61) LB Napoleon Harris -- Northwestern ... 64) QB Daniel Cobb -- Auburn ... 77) DL Guenter Kryszon -- Georgia Tech ... 81) ATH Antwaan Randle El -- Indiana ... 83) QB Marques Tuiasosopo -- Washington ...
Gadzooks! Cooper Rego and Tony Driver were in the same Farting Irish recruiting class? That could've spelled two or three national championships had not Cooper Rego transferred to WVU.
Probably a better athlete than Heisman-winner Eric Crouch, but Bob never found true happiness in Lincoln.
Changed his name to "Ed Ieremia-Stansbury," swtched to FB and became a blocking back for DeShawn Foster.
Probably woulda QB'ed those 'Canes national championship and national championship-contender teams of '01 and '02 if he hadn't signed a pro baseball contract.
Somebody gave Julius Peppers' '01 Heisman to the Nebraska QB.
Rushed for 4,000 yards in his senior season at Frostproof High. What's noteworthy about that -- that there's an actual Frostproof High.
Once he signed with Northwestern, he became a money-back guarantee to be drafted by the Raiders (following Napoleon McCallum and Napoleon Kaufman) -- which ... he was!
Was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after his senior season in '01 after it was learned that he was afflicted by Paget von Schrotter Syndrome (no lie).
NOT related to Paget von Schrotter.
Let's recap that QB situation.
PrepStar's top 30 QBs of Signing Day '97 were the upper tier of Fasani, Palmer, Miller, Olmstead, Newcombe, Kelly, Crouch, Cobb, Randle El, Tuiasosopo ... and the "almost-upper-echelon" dudes which follow:
Spencer Brinton (San Diego St.), Greg Cicero (Texas), Meiko Collier (Auburn), Woodrow Dantzler (Clemson), Rohan Davey (LSU), Philip Deas (North Carolina), James Dougherty (Missouri), Lorenzo Guess (Michigan St.), Joey Harrington (Oregon), Zak Kustok (Notre Dame), Scott McEwan (Thousand Oaks), Drew Miller (BYU), Labronne Mitchell (Georgia), Austin Moherman (Ohio St.), Craig Nall (LSU), David Priestley (Ohio St.), Jarrod Reese (Oklahoma), Matt Schobel (Texas A&M), J.K. Scott (Washington), B.J. Tiger (Oklahoma St.), Madei Williams (Syracuse).
Sometimes, it just doesn't work out for some coaches n' kids -- just as Steve Superior's master plan of having Palmer and Olmstead receive some tutelage from Doug Johnson as DJ tossed TD passes left n' right to Steve Shipp, ummmm ...
So many hits, so many misses ... right, Randy Fasani?
A bad piece of guesswork by Nick Saban at MSU.
He could've had the best name of any QB ever to play at Okie State -- 'cept that a few years later, Asoteletangafamosili Pogi came along and led the 'Pokes in passing in '00 and '01.
The running back crop was interesting once you see Hodges Mitchell's name and realize that he actually started at Texas for a brief time ahead of Ricky Williams and Priest Holmes.
That's 5-foot-7 Hodges Mitchell, who might've actually been 5-5 or 5-6.
Watch out for Dulymus McAllister.
You'll know him as "Deuce" one day.
Watch out for Nejah (sic) Davenport.
He might leave a deuce in your laundry hamper one day.
Dominic Rhodes ... signed with Texas Tech ... ended up at Midwestern State in scenic Wichita Fall, TX.
However, one of our all-time faves in the '97 frosh RB crop is the hero from Cedar Cliff High in Camp Hill, PA (across the river from Harrisburg) ... COY WIRE.
After playing LB at Stanford, Coy Wire was a DB for the Bills.
Here's the kicker: There is a Coy Wire bobblehead in plain view here at the Pitchfork Compound that is known as the Haystack Hideaway.
It's not the ceramic bobblehead from yesteryear ... it's a lightweight, plastic Coy Wire bobblehead which was a Tops Markets giveaway from back in the days ('02) when Coy Wire Mania gripped the greater-Buffalo region (see: Tonawanda, Cheektowaga and Lackawana) when the ex-Stanford LB who wore #22 was wearing #27 as a Bills rookie who started 15 games.
Speaking of the white-boy studs who might've escaped from our consciousness, of those "top 350" frosh for '97, only one was listed as sub-4.3 in the 40 -- WR Joy Getherall (4.23) from Bishop Amat in LaPuente, CA.
4.23? Is that a typo?
If it's not a misprint, 4.23 could serve Joey Getherall when he's hauling in 80-yard TD passes and returning punts 90 yards for TDs.
The last we heard from Joey Getherall, he'd concluded his Notre Dame career and was in Steelers rookie camp as a free agent.
He's probably an insurance agent now.
That is ... an insurance agent who, nowadays (in his late-20's) probably clocks a 4.43 in the 40.
Nobody in account payable can cover Joe during pickup games.
Speaking of Notre Dame's mega-publicized recruits, Jimmy Clausen of Oaks Christian in Agoura, CA is the newest Farting Irish QB wunderkind.
Better yet, Coach Weis' new QB coach for '07 will be Ron Powlus, the Lou Holtz recruit who didn't win the two Heismans that Beano said he would.
EspyTime, as usual, amused us with the tagline that Clausen has the QB "pedigree" -- simply because Jimmy's older brothers, Rick and Casey, came outta Woodland Hills (where some of us spent the first 7 years of our lives) and showcased their immense mediocrity.
Rick, aas you'll recall, was a Saban recruit at LSU before he transferred to UT so that he could play backup to Casey.
Pedigree? That's a term reserved for canines ... and if someone is saying that the Clausens are "pure-bred, blue-ribbon winners" ... F that!
The Clausens come from a puppy mill where they spend weeks at a time in cages, lying in their own feces.
This ain't the Manning brothers, boys n' gals.
Casey Clumsy sucked -- and, if Brady Quinn (a legit QB) could go 0-4 vs. USC and 0-3 in bowl games, how is Jimmy Clumsy "an upgrade"?
USC is a mere 45 minutes from the Clausen QB Compound -- yet, Jim's goin' to ND, not 'SC.
Jimmy Clausen will make them PAY!