I can't help but chuckle at how big signing day has become in the college football world.
There is no denying that recruiting and signing the best players are the lifeblood of college athletics. Those fortunate to have boast the best talent often win -- in college football, sports and in most situations in life.
Last year offered as great of proof of this as any. Auburn received as a dominant a performance as we've ever seen from a first-year signee with JUCO addition Cam Newton. South Carolina, which met Auburn in the SEC Championship game, did so largely due to the play of their true freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.
According to MaxPreps.com, the recruiting website featured by CBSSports.com, Notre Dame, Florida State and Alabama currently rank 1-3 as the top rated recruiting classes this year. Other recruiting organizations - such as ESPN's Scouts Inc. (FSU, Alabama, Auburn) and Rivals.com (Alabama, FSU, Texas) had slightly different rankings. It is easy to see why these teams are expected to either maintain their perch among the elite programs in the country or, as in the case of Notre Dame and Texas, re-emerge as such.
The numbers of high school All-Americans signed to a class, however, certainly doesn't translate into immediate success. Many of these players will, of course, never pan out.
As a point of comparison, I took a peek in the rearview mirror at the 2007 recruiting winners.
Most had USC as a big winner, based largely on the signings of RB Joe McKnight, DE Everson Griffen, LB Chris Galippo and QB Aaron Corp. McKnight and Griffen wound up in the NFL and Galippo and Corp may do the same, but none of them became the dominant players expected considering their hype.
This is hardly just an issue at USC.
Others tabbed Florida as the big winner. They certainly found a star in Joe Haden, but what became of WR Deonta Thompson and RB Bo Williams -- the two higher rated prospects the Gators signed?
Now, perhaps this is simply an example of the pot calling the kettle black - after all, I'm a guy who is asked to assign grades to NFL teams on draft day before any of their new players get a chance to prove themselves - but let's remember than these are teenagers. Their bodies, minds and levels of commitment are going to be tested in a way they can't imagine. Let's do them all a service by tempering our expectations.
Perhaps there is never a better day than this one to remind us all of the message the NCAA has used in the past: "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports."
My advice to the thousands of recruits signing yesterday? Focus on your academics. Virtually all of you dominated in high school. A tiny percentage of you will do the same at the collegiate level, winning an opportunity to play professional football. You may win that NFL lottery someday, but yesterday you won a free education. Don't lose out on that guarantee simply because someone tabbed you an elite recruit destined for the NFL.