January 20, 2009

National Notebook: Early signing day shot down

At last week's American Football Coaches Association convention in Nashville, Tenn., the group forwarded a proposal for an early signing day for college football recruits. But just as quickly as the proposal was sent to Division I conference commissioners, it was shot down.

"It wasn't that close a vote," SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, who attended the vote at the NCAA convention, told The Associated Press. "I would say for now an early signing period is done. I wouldn't want to suggest there's not another idea out there. But there's not one that's been identified at this point."

The AFCA's proposal was for a three-year trial that would allow seniors to sign over three days during the third week of December, along with the current period that starts on the first Wednesday of February. Recruits who still are playing high school games would not have been eligible to sign early.

In the past year, SEC coaches voted 9-3 in favor of an early signing period, and the AFCA said 73 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) head coaches and 82 percent of Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) head coaches backed the plan. But the proposal was met with opposition from numerous conference commissioners, including those from the SEC, Pac-10 and Mountain West.

"When you start breaking it down and dissecting it, you say, 'That's not going to work. That's not going to work. That's not going to work,'" Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said. "I'm not sure our coaches have really thought it through."

A large number of coaches disagree.

"There are more than 1,100 verbal commitments right now, about 15 per school," said Notre Dame wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello, who heads the AFCA FBS Assistant Coaches Committee. "Why not go ahead and sign them and get them taken care of? What we're seeing is over signing and late switches. This would eliminate a lot of these headaches both for the player and for the schools."

And it's not just the coaches at bigger schools who are in support of it.

"I'm definitely in favor of an early signing period," North Texas safeties coach/recruiting coordinator Chuck Petersen said. "It takes kids and coaches out of the middle of the whole situation after they've been committed for months.

"It also saves time and money, which is a big deal when you recruit for a school that doesn't have quite the same budget as a [school] in the SEC, Big 12 or Big Ten."

OREGON STATE SCORES A BIG ONE

Four-star guard Michael Philipp said he would take all five of his official visits before making a decision, and he lived up to his word. After taking trips to California, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State, Philipp a 6-foot-3, 320-pounder from San Bernardino (Calif.) Arroyo Valley ended up committing after his final trip.

"I'm going to Oregon State," Philipp said. "I was comfortable with the players and I think the coaches are genuine. Coach Mike Riley is a genuine guy and so is my position coach, Mike Cavanaugh. I know Coach Cavanaugh will make me a better football player."

Philipp's decision is considered surprising by some analysts. Many considered Arizona to be the team to beat, as Philipp has two brothers at the school. And he recently gushed about his official visit to Stanford.

But Oregon State has done a tremendous job the past few seasons with Polynesian players, and Philipp said he felt truly comfortable with the players in the program.

JUNIORS ARE HOT TARGETS

After winning Rivals.com's defensive most valuable player honors at the recent U.S. Army National Combine, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa a 6-3, 235-pounder from Portland Douglas has become a wanted man.

With offers from Oregon and Oregon State already on the table, he added an offer from Tennessee late last week.

"That's my third offer, and it's a pretty big one," Odighizuwa said. "I think the Vols are a pretty good program traditionally, but they didn't have the greatest of seasons this year. I'm keeping all my options open to see which program is the best for me."

Another 2010 player shooting up the charts with college coaches is 6-5, 240-pound defensive end Blake Lueders, from Zionsville (Ind.) High. He received offers from Iowa and Purdue recently to go with those from Boston College, Indiana, North Carolina, Northwestern and Stanford.

C-USA IS CLOSE

Everybody knows the races for the top recruiting spots in the major conferences are fierce, but there's just as competitive a skirmish going on for the No. 1 spot in Conference USA.

Right now, Southern Miss is at the top, ahead of Tulsa and Houston. However, the margin between the Golden Eagles and the Golden Hurricane isn't large and could go either way - depending on how the teams close.

The Golden Eagles hold the edge mainly because they have three four-star commitments; Tulsa has one. Both schools have 11 three-star pledges.

Southern Miss has been on a tear the past few days, receiving commitments from four-star running back Kendrick Hardy of Monticello (Miss.) Lawrence County and underrated guard Ed Preston of Dickinson (Texas) High. Preston also was offered by UTEP and Arizona State.




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