We signed 26 players yesterday. Under the 85/25 rule, that will mean one of those guys won't be enrolling in the Fall, unless they can play a game with Kellen Theriot's enrollment date to add him to last year's class. This is no big deal as almost every class has some initial attrition due to academics.
It is widely believed that some of our commitments have a little ground to make up in order to qualify. If they all should qualify, someone will have to be pushed back to the 2009 class (the oft-mentioned "greyshirt".)
It is true, in my opinion, that this class is not as strong on paper as some previous classes were, particularly last year's class. It is very solid, however, and is far from "the beginning of the end" as some would have you believe.
The keys to this class are, I think, first to have all the key players get academically qualified. The key players are, at this point, Chris Tolliver (WR), DeAngelo Benton (WR), Jordan Jefferson (QB), Chancey Aghayere (DE), Patrick Johnson (QB), Ryan Baker (LB), Chase Clement (DE), Brandon Taylor (DB), and Greg Shaw (OL). I think all these guys are going to be serious players if they qualify. Some will contribute right away (Tolliver, Benton, Aghayere, and Baker are good candidates for that).Some of these guys aren't in danger of failing to qualify, but some of them are. It does no good to sign a great player if he doesn't make it to campus.
Second, I think some of the non-key players are going to have to emerge as quality players. Our national championship teams had a lot of substantial contributors who were not 4- and 5-star players. Think of Jonathan Zenon, Ciron Blake, Jacob Hester, Tyson Jackson, Chevis Jackson, Curtis Taylor, and Lyle Hitt. All of these guys were starters. Some of them were All-SEC. All of them were 3-star players. This class can become, in retrospect, a special class if some of the 3-star type guys emerge the way those guys emerged. Guys like Thomas Parsons, Kellen Theriot, Cordian Hagans, Ryan St. Julien, and Rocky Duplessis all have the opportunity to come in and show they were underrated from the beginning, much like Ciron Black and Tyson Jackson did.
It is usually the emergence of less-heralded players as solid contributors that makes the difference between a decent team and a great team.
Of course, no signing day retrospective is complete without . . . looking ahead to the next recruiting class. Unlike for the 2008 class, the in-state 2009 class is expected to be very studly. Already, wide receiver Reuben Randle, defensive tackle Chris Davenport, athlete DJ Banks, running backs Eddie Lacy and Michael York, and RB/LB Montrell Conner look to be 5-star or high-4-star national prospects that could go wherever they want to go in the country. Texas also looks like it could be fertile ground for us as well.
The only problem is that it will probably be a short class. With our big classes we've gotten lately, we're going to be bumping into the "85" part of the 85/25 rule next year. We can likely expect a signing class of around 20 instead of the 25-28 we typically see.
We will have substantial needs at running back, quarterback, defensive line, and linebacker. Fortunately, there appears to be some quality at those positions. The coaches have already started working these kids, as recruiting is now a year-round business.