Signing day roundup: Blue chippers go to Fla.; Auburn, Alabama score

Published 2:02 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — The blue chip recruits are still flocking to Florida.

Despite the uncertainty about coach Urban Meyer’s future with the Gators, Florida landed the top-rated class in the country Wednesday.

National signing day, the first and by far the busiest day of the period in which high school football players can sign letters of intent with colleges, was mostly about the rich getting richer.

Email newsletter signup

National champion Alabama and Texas, the team the Crimson Tide beat in the BCS title game, loaded up for future title runs. Southern California and Tennessee withstood late coaching changes to land highly regarded classes.

And Auburn showed it’s not about to concede the state of Alabama to coach Nick Saban and the Tide.

But the big winner had to be Florida, a program that seemed on the verge of disarray six weeks ago.

In December, Meyer first resigned, then decided instead to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues. That leave hasn’t happened yet, and any concern that Meyer’s decision would hurt the Gators’ recruiting this year have been dismissed.

At the top of Florida’s class is Ronald Powell, a 240-pound defensive end from California, rated the No. 1 prospect in the country by

Residing in maybe the most fertile football state in the country, the Gators always load up on homegrown talent. Fifteen of Florida’s 27 signees are from the Sunshine State. But Meyer and his staff showed they can reach outside far and wide to pull in top talent.

Powell is from Moreno Valley in southern central California and highly rated defensive back Joshua Shaw is from Palmdale, Calif., about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The Gators ventured into the Northeast and came away with two defensive linemen considered among the very best players in the country in Sharrif Floyd of Philadelphia and Dominique Easley of New York City.

Texas had already lined up a strong class when it received commitments of the nation’s highest-rated players in defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks.

Jeffcoat, from Plano, Texas, and the son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat, signed with the Longhorns, which was no surprise because coach Mack Brown rarely lets the Lone Star State’s best high school players get away. Of the Longhorns’ 25 signees, 22 were from in-state.

Hicks, from West Chester, Ohio, and considered one of the top players in the Buckeye State, was Texas’ only signee from outside the Southwest.

The big news in the state of Alabama didn’t come from Tuscaloosa. Sure, Saban restocked the Tide with another stellar class of recruits. No surprise there.

Instead it was Auburn and second-year coach Gene Chizik that made a big splash, securing a class the experts rated in the top five nationally.

Auburn’s best get might have come from junior college. Former Florida quarterback Cameron Newton, who left the Gators after getting into legal trouble off the field, could start for the Tigers this fall.

For nine years under Pete Carroll, Southern California became the king of recruiting. When Carroll jumped from USC to the Seattle Seahawks less than a month before signing day, there was concern among Trojans fans that this year’s class would fall apart.

Enter Lane Kiffin, the former Carroll assistant who left Tennessee to take over at USC.

Not only did Kiffin sign the top prospects who had given nonbinding verbal commitments to Carroll, but he strengthened the class by luring some players that seemed headed elsewhere.

One particular USC signee will no doubt have Volunteers fans cussing Kiffin — again.

Wide receiver Markeith Ambles from McDonough, Ga., had committed to the Vols, pulled back on that commitment after Kiffin bolted after one season for USC, and ultimately signed with the Trojans.

Kiffin’s departure sent Tennessee fans into a frenzy and caused a few Volunteers recruits to reconsider their commitments.

But much like Kiffin at USC, new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley made a late save. The Volunteers ended up with a top-15 ranking from all the notable recruiting services.