Buckle up gents, we're going to have a fast-paced couple of days. Starting first thing in the morning, we will have wall-to-wall recruiting coverage here at timesfreepress.com. We're dealing with a lot of stuff.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let's light this candle.
With the Super Bowl in the rearview — did you see the story that Vegas made a record $20 million on bettors in Sunday's blowout that had the underdog (Seattle) and the shortside on the the total (over) hitting? — let's talk the future.
The future of college football could be shaped in the next 24 hours as national signing day arrives. The painful trend of the "Hat dance" in which uncommitted players put three ball caps with college logos on a table and fake and feign and finally pick one is fading some. This is a good thing. No, it has not affected the dramatic status of the event, rather there simply are more and more players making their decisions before signing day.
That is as true this year as any. In fact several of the area schools of interest will have relatively quiet signing days. Still, the import of this day is self-evident and the issues are real in terms of the now and the tomorrow. Let's explore:
In Knoxville — There's a very fair argument that this is the high-water mark for the Butch Jones era in Orange. He will have been the head coach of UT for 14 months come Friday, and this will signify the most relevant the program has been since 2007. Read that again. The Vols are a player nationally in the recruiting rankings and this has been a source of pride and hope for the last year for Johnny Vols Fans everywhere who have been starved for good news. With 33 commitments — and only Cory Thomas seems in doubt — and a real chance to add four-star defensive lineman Michael Sawyers, the Vols will finish with a consensus top-five class.
In Tuscaloosa — The Tide have assembled one of the best all-time classes. Seriously, it's that good. And not only is this bunch loaded with stars, it directly fills needs, considering what was Bama's two biggest weaknesses last year. Alabama has the best offensive line group in the country and arguably the best secondary group in the country. Heck, there's a real chance freshman Cam Robinson will be in the mix to start at tackle next year. He's that good. This class is that good. Good grief.
In Athens — Georgia could close with one of the nation's biggest finishes. The Bulldogs likely will get a signing-day commitment from Lorenzo Carter, a five-star defensive end, and are in the mix for a slew of other announcements Wednesday, including Andrew Williams and current South Carolina-commit Bryson Allen-Williams. This is noteworthy considering the Bulldogs have the No. 8 class nationally with only 19 commits and could quickly move up. Also of note here is that Georgia has recruited two of the nation's top five running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
In Auburn — The Tigers have maximized the turnaround miracle of 2013 and have a top-10 national class according to most of the services. This class could improve with five-star linebacker Rashaan Evans, Andrew Williams and Braden Smith expected to make signing-day decisions and Auburn being in the mix for each.
There are a few big-time prospects in our coverage area this cycle, including Rafeal Gaglianone, the Baylor kicker who has committed to Wisconsion, and East Hamilton cornerback Tre Herndon, who has been a longstanding Vandy pledge.
The large chunk of the rest of the cream of the local crop has been scooped up by UTC, including Northwest Whitfield defensive tackle Isaiah Mack and the talented McCallie duo of Cam Walker and C.J. Fritz. (We believe each of these three are very good gets for the Mocs. Very good.)
And locally, the crew of area high school recruits will be better even next year, highlighted by Notre Dame athlete Kareem Orr and Signal Mountain offensive lineman Harrison Moon, each of whom figure to have a host of SEC offers from which to pick.
For this year's class, we must tip our cap to the job done by Russ Huesman and staff, especially recruiting coordinator Will Healy, for putting together a recruiting haul that is so well-assembled that keeping the talent in the fold is the only chore left. In fact, we talked to a friend who is a college coach somewhere in the South, who, since he can't speak on players directly, requested anonymity, and he said, there are no fewer than five kids in UTC class that are mid-FBS-level players, including two from the Atlanta area that are legit.
As UTC continues its ascent, there are a couple of names in this class that could be an exciting part of the next few chapters of Mocs football. And that's the beauty and joy and goal of signing day.
AP hoops poll and foreshadowing
Last year, if memory serves, friend of the show StuckinKent made mention that, barring injury, the best college basketball teams in February are more times than not the best teams in March. The more we've thought about this the more sense it makes, especially when you factor in that we have roughly one month left in the regular season.
When the conference tournaments come around, we all will spend way too much time and energy looking for Cinderella rather than noticing the beauty of the teams we know. We want to be the super smart one in the office pool that had Valpo in the Sweet 16 or George Mason in the Final Four, so we search and scour for the upsets and the team du jour (hmmmm, that sounds good, we think we'll have that).
With that, and we touched briefly on this Monday here and on Press Row with Paschall on 105.1 FM, we're picking Syracuse. Period. We are not going to get conned by trying to figure out if Duke can shoot 43 percent from 3 for six straight games or whether UNC is going to play hard or whether UK will be mature enough or whatever.
We're all in and all Orange, man.
This and that
— Keith Law, ESPN baseball prospect guru, has ranked his 100 best prospects in the game, and three of the top 35 them are in the Dodgers system and could spend time with the Lookouts this offseason. Good times.
— Oh the humanity. Jared Lorenzen was trending on Twitter earlier this week, and the 320-pounder is playing quarterback for some team in Kentucky in some league that before now we were unaware of — here's a clip, and know that it's tough to stop watching the video. Enjoy. And dude, mix in a salad.
— On Monday night, SI honored it's top swimsuit model cover shots in the 50 years it has had the famous Swimsuit Edition. (Side note: We can remember when there was a ton of moral outrage in the Letters to the Editors of SI about the 'porn' that was the SI swimsuit edition. Wow, that seems like an eternity ago.) The top five on SI's list was Kathy Ireland in 1989, Kate Upton a few years ago in the arctic, followed by Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley and Heidi Klum. What's your top five (and it's hard to see Christie Brinkley anywhere outside of the top three)?
There's some interesting items to discuss in the wake of the Super Bowl.
Have at it. Here are a couple more:
How far are the Falcons and Titans from being in the big game? Watching the Super Bowl, it magnified the distance between the elite and simply the good (Atlanta, despite its struggles in '13, can be viewed as a good team with a solid foundation) and the mediocre (Tennessee). It's crazy to think the Falcons beat a very similar version of these Seahawks in the playoffs 13 months ago.
Doug Baldwin is a Seattle receiver with a very pedestrian name, and apparently he is not a fan of being called a pedestrian receiver — or even an appetizer — as he was before the NFC title game two weeks ago by ESPN analyst Cris Carter. After having a big game against the 49ers, Baldwin politely called Carter and Kewshawn Johnson out for their analysis, saying that Baldwin respected what they did on the field, but proved that he and the Seahawks receivers proved they were better than they were getting credit for.
OK, Carter, a world-renowned trash-talker, did not let it go and told Baldwin to "Google him and see if [Carter] was in the Hall of Fame" as part of his retort. Baldwin did not say anything else until after Seattle won the Super Bowl, when he had five catches for 66 yards and a TD. And then Baldwin answered with this hammer to CBSSports, "That dude [Carter] who said that we were appetizers, he told me to Google him, and I did Google him, but I didn't see any Super Bowl appearances, and I also saw two losses in conference championships. I have a Super Bowl ring, and I would gladly show that to him. And if he doesn't have time to come see it, tell him he can Google it."
Game, set and match Baldwin. This got us thinking, who are on the Rushmore of trash-talkers? Discuss, and remember, don't start none won't be none.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...