published Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Paschall: January not what it used to be

It wasn't long ago when Southeastern Conference football fans reserved each Monday in January for discussing the new commitments that followed weekends filled with prospects visiting league schools.

Not anymore.

This past weekend did not yield a single commitment from a player who graced an SEC campus. Another weekend with visitors is on the way, but will it be any different?

"The dynamics of recruiting have changed so much because of the acceleration of the process," ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said Tuesday. "You don't have the big-visit weekends in January every single week for every school. Back in the day, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and the Florida schools would be sitting at five, six or seven — 10 at the most — commitments at this point, and they would be having these big weekends.

"Everything evolves, but it's just surprising that this has evolved this quickly."

Once the most exciting month in recruiting, January has become more of a mundane bridge between the early rush of commitments and national signing day, which is the first Wednesday in February. Ten of the 12 SEC schools already have at least 18 commitments, including seven with at least 21 and three (Arkansas, South Carolina and Ole Miss) with at least 25.

Prospects who commit also have more public avenues in which to announce compared to years past, such as all-star games or ESPNU.

"I think that has an effect, but the biggest thing is that teams are offering earlier, kids are visiting earlier and they're committing earlier," Newberg said. "Therefore you lessen the pool this time of year, which lessens the number of commitments."

Two of the top prospects in Georgia, Valdosta High tight end Jay Rome (6-foot-5, 255) and safety Malcolm Mitchell (6-1, 187), have scheduled announcements for Thursday. Rome, the No. 56 recruit nationally according to Rivals.com, will reveal his decision among Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee on ESPNU. Mitchell, the No. 30 prospect, will give his choice between Alabama and Georgia at a hometown restaurant.

Of the top 60 prospects nationally, a whopping eight are from the Peach State.

"Even as we were mapping it out a year ago, because you are looking that far down the road, we thought this class in particular was going to be extremely strong," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "It's not only strong in athleticism and ability, but very strong in character from what I'm seeing. I really like the young men we've been dealing with as people, too. It's been a very encouraging year in that way, too, which is kind of nice."

The commitments of Rome and Mitchell will leave three of the top 15 Peach State prospects undecided — Thomasville defensive end Ray Drew (6-5, 243), Columbus running back Isaiah Crowell (5-11, 210) and Columbus defensive end Gabe Wright (6-3, 273).

Tennessee picked up a commitment Monday night from East Mississippi Community College athlete prospect Izauea Lanier, while Florida is down two commitments after losing defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan of Asheville, N.C., and offensive tackle Chase Hounshell of Kirtland, Ohio.

Pagan committed to Clemson and Hounshell pledged to Notre Dame, with each citing the coaching changes in Gainesville as a reason for switching.

Florida has 15 commitments in a crop that is rated 19th nationally by Rivals.com, which would be the lowest ranking for the Gators since Ron Zook's first class was tabbed 20th in 2002. Urban Meyer had three consecutive top-three classes from 2006 to '08, including the No. 1 class in '07 that was headed by defensive end Carlos Dunlap, quarterback Cam Newton and the Pouncey twins.

"It's a typical coaching transition," Newberg said. "You can't judge Will Muschamp or [Miami's] Al Golden with this class. There are sharks in the water like Florida State and some others that are going to recruit kids you have committed. This happened to Southern Cal last year with their coaching change. It happens everywhere."

Rivals.com rates Alabama's class as the best nationally, followed by Texas and LSU.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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