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Roundtable: Recapping National Signing Day

Rivals.com’s football recruiting analysts weighed in on a different question each day for a week leading into National Signing Day. Today, they take a look back at the day in a roundtable format.

What college coach are you most impressed with following National Signing Day 2012?

Mike Farrell: David Shaw at Stanford. What the Cardinal did on National Signing Day and overall in this class with its academic restrictions was nothing short of remarkable. I don’t think people truly understand how hard it is to put together a top 5 class at Stanford in football.

Adam Gorney: UCLA didn’t have the top class in the Pac-12 but the Bruins put together an outstanding class under some tough circumstances. Coach Jim Mora did a great job assembling a group of assistant coaches around him that can recruit and who had some strong relationships with top players on the West Coast. What I liked most about Mora is that he realized he couldn’t manage everything so recruiting became a main focus for his assistants and they got the job done. Getting five-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy is huge because he could be an immediate contributor.

Josh Helmholdt: It is hard not to be impressed with what Ohio State coach Urban Meyer did in just two months to sign the No. 4 class in the country for 2012. Some questioned whether Meyer could rekindle that fire for recruiting after a year out of the game, but he came out with guns blazing and reeled in nine Rivals250 prospects in two months, including several who had previously been committed to other BCS programs.

Chris Nee: I am extremely impressed with what USC head coach Lane Kiffin did at Southern Cal. The Trojans were dealing with limited numbers available and some probation issues, but yet they reeled in a 15-player class that is nearly unequaled. The Trojans did very well in-state, landing eight of the top 30 players in the state. They were also able to go to Florida and Washington to land five-star prospects in wide receiver Nelson Agholor of Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep and offensive tackle Zach Banner of Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes. It isn’t a class where you look and see a single questionable take.

Keith Niebuhr: James Franklin of Vanderbilt. There is a buzz about the Commodores’ program right now, particularly the recruiting. And Franklin is the reason for that. He has done something I don’t recall any previous Vandy coach doing; He has made people who cover and follow recruiting care about Vanderbilt. Only time will tell if this is the start of something in Nashville or a peak. Right now, though, people are talking about Vanderbilt and saying positive things. It’s doubtful any of us would have predicted this a year ago.

Brian Perroni: Stanford is one of the toughest schools in the country to recruit to since the Cardinal has much higher academic standards than most schools. Considering that, you have to marvel at the job that head coach David Shaw was able to do with this class. He landed three five-star prospects on signing day, something that would have been completely unheard of for the Cardinal even just two years ago. Stanford finished with the No. 5 class in the country and I don’t think anybody would have predicted that happening.

Who changed his mind at the last minute and you think he made a wise decision?

Mike Farrell: Gunner Kiel made the right choice. He would have been a fish out of water at LSU in an offense he’s not familiar with. Now he gets to play close to home in a spread offense. It’s a much better fit on paper.

Adam Gorney: I actually think Jordan Payton made a pretty smart decision by signing with UCLA. His recruitment got out of hand with commitments to USC, California and then Washington but think about this: Payton now gets to stay close to home, play with teammate Ishmael Adams, start something new with a first-year staff at UCLA and he fits in well with the Bruins. I think Payton will be a very good fit for the Bruins and even though his recruitment was out of control in the last few days he probably ended up at the right place.

Josh Helmholdt: Although Gunner Kiel’s recruiting process turned into a weird and dramatic odyssey, in the end I do believe he ended up at the program that gives him the greatest chance to succeed. It was obvious the five-star passer wanted to stay closer to home, and Brian Kelly’s offense is ideally suited for a player of his abilities.

Chris Nee: Detroit (Mich.) Martin Luther King four-star all-purpose back Dennis Norfleet kicked off National Signing Day switching from Cincinnati to Michigan. Norfleet wanted to be a Wolverine. The option came, and while it was tough for him not to honor his long-time commitment, he went with his heart and decided to stay in his home state. He will provide immediate help on special teams and will find a role in the offense as an all-purpose back or slot receiver.

Keith Niebuhr: Sheldon Dawson, a cornerback from Memphis Ridgeway, who flipped from Memphis to Georgia. To me, he has the type of talent that is best suited for a bigger conference. Dawson is an electric player who has big-time potential. This is no knock on Memphis, by the way. To their credit, the Tigers recruited quite well and did a very good job keeping top players at home. But while it would have been huge for Dawson to stay at home, he’s an SEC talent in my opinion.

Brian Perroni: Even though LSU losing Torshiro Davis to Texas on signing day was a big blow to the Tigers, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Rivals250 defender probably fits in better with what the Longhorns are doing on defense. LSU liked Davis as an outside linebacker but he will likely play rush end at Texas. Davis looked a bit out of place playing linebacker during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but he is a guy that can likely excel when he is able to pin his ears back and go after the quarterback from the defensive line.

And who changed his mind late but did not make the best decision?

Mike Farrell: I know he’ll probably catch a ton of passes at Houston but Deontay Greenberry should have stuck with Notre Dame and challenged himself more athletically and academically. First he turned down both Army and Under Armour, and chose not to compete against the best at the end of his high school career. Now he shies away from the spotlight at Notre Dame as well? Not sure he wants to compete as much as I thought.

Adam Gorney: There’s no question it would be Deontay Greenberry for me. Why would the four-star receiver flip to Houston from Notre Dame especially when five-star Gunner Kiel is going there and he has a chance to get one of the best educations possible? It makes me wonder what happened in his thinking in the final days of his recruitment. It is really a strange move that I cannot comprehend. I understand Greenberry has a good relationship with wide receivers coach Jamie Christian but, come on. I just don’t understand it.

Josh Helmholdt: It wasn’t necessarily a change of mind, but Devin Fuller’s decision had me scratching my head. Fuller has professed a strong desire to stay at quarterback in college, and one of his final two was Arizona, where new head coach Rich Rodriguez landed. In Rodriguez’s last stop at Michigan his offense allowed for quarterback Denard Robinson – a quarterback with similar attributes as Fuller – to become a star, but Fuller opted instead for UCLA, which already had quarterback TJ Millweard on its commitment list.

Chris Nee: Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union four-star wide receiver Deontay Greenberry made a head-scratching decision. He decided against Notre Dame to choose Houston. Notre Dame had a major need at wide receiver and from all accounts, Greenberry was going to see immediate playing time. He decided to take his own path and go elsewhere, but when you compare the two programs that were options it is tough to say Houston was the right choice.

Keith Niebuhr: I honestly don’t believe anyone made a truly terrible decision. Here’s why: It’s the player’s choice. A player has to be comfortable. Sometimes what makes him comfortable will baffle the media and fans. But again, if he’s happy, then I’m perfectly OK with that.

Brian Perroni: It was huge news when longtime Notre Dame wide receiver commit Deontay Greenberry decided to sign with Houston at the last minute. Nobody thought the Cougars had a shot with the Rivals100 prospect from California. The one concern I would have with him headed to Houston is that he could be labeled a “system” receiver if he puts up huge numbers. Also, with record-breaking quarterback Case Keenum out of eligibility there are some questions marks regarding the quarterback situation at Houston next year.


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