CFB: Tide, Tiger tussle for blue-chips on signing day

Alabama and Auburn were at it again on national signing day.

The Iron Bowl rivals tussled for blue-chip recruits on the first day high school football players could make their college choices official.

The Crimson Tide and Tigers, who have won the last two national championships, each landed recruiting classes the experts adore and went head-to-head for several top prospects - none bigger than offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio from DeMatha High School in Maryland.

Rated one of the top-10 recruits in the country by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPNU, Kouandjio on Wednesday said he was picking Auburn over Alabama, where his brother plays, Arie, plays.

But just because a recruit makes an announcement on national television, doesn't mean he's made up his mind. Cyrus Kouandjio still had not signed a binding letter of intent with Auburn or Alabama - or for that matter with New Mexico, his odd other finalist - and there is no clear indication when he will make his decision official.

Seantrel Henderson, the top-rated offensive lineman coming out of high school last year, pulled a similar move, committing to Southern California on television but not signing on the first day of the signing period. He ultimately ended up at Miami.

Maybe the most heralded recruit in the nation this year, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, from Rock Hill, S.C., has said he probably won't sign until his birthday, Feb. 14 - Valentine's Day. Clowney said in an interview with ESPNU he has narrowed his choices to South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.

Generally, signing day is about the rich getting richer. The top-rated players tend to flock to the traditional powers. So it was no surprise to see Texas, Florida State, Southern California, LSU, Ohio State and Notre Dame come away with classes that were highly ranked by the recruiting gurus.

Oregon, fresh off its first appearance in the national title game, also got high marks for its class.

A couple of teams that had mediocre 2010 seasons, Georgia and Clemson, gave their fans reason to believe better days are ahead with classes packed with top prospects.

And in a day full of tiresome what-hat-will-he-pick news conferences at high schools all over the country, running back Isaiah Crowell of Columbus, Ga., might have started a new trend.

After declaring that he was staying close home and going to Georgia, Crowell pulled out a bulldog puppy in a red sweater. No going back on that.

A look around the nation at some of the other top stories of signing day.

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SUNSHINE STATE SHUFFLE

Florida State is rolling under Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles are coming off 10-win season and the first recruiting class Fisher can truly call his own drew rave reviews.

Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPNU all had Florida State's class rated in the top three in the nation.

Running back James Wilder Jr., son and namesake of the former NFL star who played for Tampa Bay, and defensive back Karlos Williams from Davenport, Fla., were two of the Seminoles' biggest scores.

With new coaches at rivals Florida and Miami, Fisher was able to clean up in state.

While Urban Myer was spending his day on the set of ESPNU's marathon signing day coverage, his replacement, Will Muschamp, was securing a class that didn't crack the top 10 of any of the most prominent national rankings.

New Miami coach Al Golden had lots of catching up to do in a short time when he arrived in Coral Gables, Fla., from Philadelphia, where he had been the coach at Temple. The Hurricanes were generally ranked in the 30s nationally.

"There is a sense of accomplishment because we only had about 15 actual days on the road," Golden said.

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SANCTIONS? WHAT SANCTIONS?

Nothing, not even NCAA sanctions, can stop Lane Kiffin from racking up on signing day.

The Southern California coach landed a top-10 class, despite the fact that his program couldn't play in a bowl game last season and won't be eligible for the postseason in 2011.

The sanctions also stripped USC of 30 scholarships, 10 per season, over three years, but because the Trojans are appealing the penalties handed down by the NCAA for violations involving former star Reggie Bush, they had a full complement of scholarships to work with this year.

Kiffin, who was one of Pete Carroll's top recruiters when he was an assistant at USC, went about trying to replenish a roster that was well under the 85 scholarship minimum last season by signing a big class this year.

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PUTTING D IN THE DOME

Notre Dame needs to restock a defense that has been short on playmakers in recent years and that's just what coach Brian Kelly tried to do with the first Fighting Irish recruiting class he can truly call his own.

The jewels of Kelly's class, which received a top-15 grade from the experts, were defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt of Monroe Ga., and linebacker Ishaq Williams of New York.

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SO, HOW DO YOU LIKE THE OFFICE?

Former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, a guest analyst on CBS College Sports for its signing day show, helped interview new Wolverines coach Brady Hoke.

Awkward? Well, maybe a little.

Rodriguez asked Hoke if players such as Denard Robinson were helpful in recruiting new players and Hoke gave a positive response, praising the players as expected. No problems there.

Next Rodriguez asked Hoke if the upgraded facilities at Michigan helped recruiting. Again, Hoke's response was as expected, touting the greatness of all that is Michigan and finishing with this: "There are no excuses for us not to compete at a high level every time we take the field."

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