Marshall: A Look At Football Signing Day

Phillip Marshall writes about football and the Auburn basketball team in this column.

What does recruiting mean to college football? Almost everything.

What do recruiting class and player rankings mean? Not so much.

Anyone who questions how inexact the whole process needs only look at who was in the field Sunday night when the Indianapolis Colts played the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

Start with the Bears' defense. Free safety Danieal Manning played at Abilene Christian. Cornerback Charles Tillman played at Louisiana-LaFayette, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher at New Mexico and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer at Vanderbilt.

On offense, fullback Jason McKie played at Temple, wide receiver Bernard Berrian at Fresno State and right tackle Fred Miller at Baylor.

On the Indianapolis Colts offense, right guard Jake Scott played at Idaho and right tackle Ryan Diem at Northern Illinois.

On defense, Robert Mathis played at Alabama A&M, tackle Raasheem Brock at Temple, left cornerback Nick Herring at Fort Valley State and strong safety Antoine Bethea at Howard.

It would be a pretty safe bet to say none of those guys were five-star recruits out of high school. They weren't even four-star or three-star recruits.

All over the country Wednesday, players headed to big-time schools will sign with much fanfare. They'll do it on national television. They'll be interviewed like conquering heroes.

Those who go to Abilene Christian, Alabama A&M, Fort Valley State and Howard will be far from the spotlight when they sign their names.

What does it all mean? It means that nobody knows what the future holds for the young men who cast their lots with the teams of their choice on Wednesday.

Some who are supposed to be can't-miss prospects will miss badly. Some who were overlooked by major programs will play in Super Bowls.

That's why it is misguided to get overly excited by a recruiting class ranked among the nation's best or a class that is widely dismissed. No one knows what the future holds.

It is the skill players who get the most attention on signing day, the ones who do spectacular things that can be caught on tape, who run fast and jump high.

But there are a lot of those guys, as the aforementioned Super Bowl starters attest. The real key to recruiting is getting players who can get it done in the trenches. That's where the building of any football team begins.

Auburn's coaches believe this recruiting class has the kind of talent it takes to win championships. Other coaches, no doubt, feel the same way about their classes. Are they right?

Check back in two to three year ears. That's when we'll all know.

Moving on...

Saturday started badly and got worse for Auburn's basketball team.

First, the Tigers were greeted by a shockingly small crowd, one liberally estimated at more than 6,000, for their game against Ole Miss at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum,

After two wins in three games, one a rout of Alabama and one a win at South Carolina, it seemed reasonable to expect a large crowd on a Saturday afternoon. It didn't happen.

But that was just the start. Those who showed up sat through the Tigers' worst performance of the season.

Ole Miss played with more passion and more energy from the start. Auburn players must have set some sort of record for unforced turnovers. And Ole Miss romped to an 82-59 win.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo is looking for more consistency from his basketball Tigers.

Ole Miss has a decent team, not a great one or even a real good one. It took a woeful performance for Auburn to be blown out at home. What happened? It was another painful lesson for a young team still trying to grow.

Don't be surprised if the Tigers go to Arkansas on Wednesday and give a much better account of themselves against a better team.

The consistency for which third-year coach Jeff Lebo yearns has yet to be achieved, and it might not be achieved this season.

Lebo said when he arrived the rebuilding of Auburn's program would require patience. His team is better than it was a year ago or even a month ago.

But, as Saturday showed, there is still much to be done.

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